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Google Ad Revenue Threatened by Amazon

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Google is facing a frightening trend, as users are beginning to go directly to the shopping app or website of their choosing, rather than searching for it first. The company makes a significant amount of money from ad revenue, but this income could be in jeopardy if users continue to go directly to commercial sites, such as Amazon, to make their purchases.

Currently, commercial searches make up 20 percent of all Google searches, which is where the money-making ads appear. However, a lot of customers are using Amazon as their search tool, instead of taking that extra step through Google. In fact, Amazon’s search rates are up 73 percent just this year.

More people than ever are using their mobile devices to shop online, and Amazon’s mobile app cuts out the need for a search engine all together. You don’t need to open up your browser when there is an app readily available.

Google is an extremely powerful company, and will likely continue to be in the future, but it cannot be denied that Amazon is proving to be quite the fierce competitor.

Apple Wins Decade-Long Suit

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A U.S. federal jury has sided with Apple in a class-action lawsuit which could have cost the company up to $1 billion. The case, which had been going on for nearly a decade, dealt with Apple allegedly blocking songs downloaded from rivals from playing on iPods.

The lawsuit, filed in 2006, claimed Apple locked users into its ecosystem by blocking songs from competitors and charging more for songs than others would have. The trial, which took place over two weeks at a U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, ended in a unanimous verdict amongst the eight jurors.

“We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

“I think the jury had a really tough decision,” said Patrick Coughlin, lawyer for the plaintiffs. “We at least got the case to a jury and we hoped for a different result, but you have to always respect the jury process.”

This verdict ends a series of antitrust claims against Apple dating back to 2005, relating to its monopoly of the MP3 industry.

Skype Translator Preview Goes Live

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The Skype Translator preview is now available, allowing users to get first-hand experience with the company’s long talked about real-time translation tool. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to use the universal translator from Star Trek, now is your chance.

Skype’s new Translator tool might not be quite as sophisticated as the one used by the Federation, but it’s definitely a good start. The Skype Translator project allows two people who speak completely different languages to communicate with virtually no barriers, providing almost-real-time translation for both the spoken and written word. The preview currently supports English and Spanish spoken translation, as well as 40+ languages for text chat.

The preview is currently limited to users of Windows 8.1 software. Microsoft has already been testing out the Translator tool at schools in the U.S. and Mexico, and the language in the classroom test videos involves fairly rudimentary translation. Advanced machine learning is involved in the technology behind the translation, meaning it will become smarter with increased use. It will certainly be interesting to watch how this tool develops over time.

If you wish to participate in the preview, you can “make it so” by signing up here.

Facebook Unfriends Bing in Favor of Own Search Tool

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Facebook dropped Bing as its primary search provider over the weekend, as the social networking site is planning to launch its own search tool this week.

The new search experience will allow users to filter through old comments and other information from friends. For years, Facebook searches have been targeted towards helping users connect with friends and find other relevant information, but have also included links to standalone websites provided by Bing.

A spokesperson for Facebook said, “We’re currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook. We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

This decision is likely a reflection of the importance Facebook sees in Web search technology. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg sees search as a key to the company’s future growth. With more than 1 billion search queries occurring everyday amongst its 1.35 billion users, it is possible Facebook could be used to find answers to certain questions instead of searching the Web.

World Wide Web Creator Thinks the Internet Should be a Basic Human Right

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, believes the Internet could be the great equalizer in an unequal world, and access to the internet should be a basic human right.

The Internet could help to create equality in society “if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access, and net neutrality into the rules of the game,” said Berners-Lee.

The Web Foundation, created by Berners-Lee, released its annual Web Index report this week, focusing on issues such as privacy, censorship, gender-based violence, equality and more recently net neutrality, across 86 countries. The report revealed nearly 40 percent of countries are now censoring politically or socially sensitive content. This number has risen six percent from 2013.

“It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right,” Berners-Lee said in a statement. “That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

It does not come as a shock that wealthier countries with better civil liberties and less discrimination – such as Denmark, Finland and Norway – have benefited most from the Web. However, Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation believes it can close that gap by suggesting more net neutrality protections, better public education, and the promotion of press freedom and civil liberties.

The Web Foundation’s CEO Anne Jellema said, “Extreme disparities between rich and poor have been rightly identified as the defining challenge of our age, and we need to use technology to fight inequality, not increase it.”

Instagram Passes Twitter in User Count

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Popular photo-sharing site and Facebook subsidiary Instagram recently announced it has reached 300 million users this December, up from 200 million in March. That number is now higher than Twitter, who reached 284 million in October. Even more impressive, the accounts Instagram are counting do not include spam or fake profiles.

Instagram is promising to delete spam accounts, following Titter’s lead by verifying celebrity and brand accounts.

“We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the Web,” Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, said in a statement.

Over the past year, Facebook has been committed to promoting its separate mobile apps, like Instagram and Whatsapp. This may account for the influx of new users. Additionally, advertising through Instagram was introduced around this time last year.

“Instagram is adding an average of 360k new active users per day; For comparison Twitter is adding 160k new users per day,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W Baird & Co., said today in a tweet.

Instagram revealed that approximately 70 million photos are shared per day on Instagram, and that over 70 percent of its users hail from outside the United States. As well, a total of more than 30 billion photos have been shared on Instagram since its creation.

The Pirate Bay Raided by Swedish Police

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Popular BitTorrent indexing site The Pirate Bay has been offline since Tuesday morning when its server room in Stockholm was raided by Swedish police, who seized servers and other equipment. Any attempt to load the site currently results in a timeout in all browsers.

“There has been a crackdown on a server room in Greater Stockholm. This is in connection with violations of copyright law,” said Paul Pintér, national coordinator for the Swedish Police, in a statement.

The Pirate Bay is not new to being shut down and has been forced to change its top level domain on several occasions due to it being seized. However, until now, the site itself has had no visible brushes with the law this year.

Svartholm Warg, one of the site’s creators, was sentenced to three years in prison this past October for hacking. Back in 2009, Warg and The Pirate Bay’s other founders were sentenced to a year in jail, but the site remained operational.

In addition to The Pirate Bay, torrent sites TorrentFreak, Zoink and EZTV are also down, indicating this is a larger scale attack against multiple file-sharing sites.

Yahoo Announces 2015 Mobile Development Conference

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Yahoo recently announced its first development conference, to be held on February 19 in San Francisco. The Mobile Development Conference will be a one-day event where Yahoo and mobile analytics firm Flurry will be focusing on what they call the next step in mobile development.

Earlier this year, Yahoo acquired Flurry for a reported $200 million. This conference further confirms the company’s desire to be viewed as a mobile development leader.

Since CEO Marissa Mayer took the helm in 2012, Yahoo has acquired numerous mobile tools and apps. The company’s push to be seen as a “mobile-first” organization seems to be working as mobile use rose 115% in 2013.

Yahoo Employees and developers will speak at the conference, and Flurry’s Simon Khalaf will deliver a “State of Mobile” address. The conference will also include sessions for mobile developers to attend.

Developers interested in attending the conference can request an invitation on Yahoo’s official conference Tumblr.

BlackBerry, NantHealth Launch Cancer Genome Browser on Passport

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BlackBerry and NantHealth, a cloud-based healthcare data provider, have launched a secure cancer genome browser, allowing doctors to access patients’ genetic data on their BlackBerry Passport smartphones.

BlackBerry bought a minority stake in NantHealth earlier this year, with an eye towards developing its presence in the healthcare sector. The company’s immense networks can manage and secure data on mobile devices, which will prove advantageous in the healthcare industry due to its heightened focus on patient privacy.

The BlackBerry Passport’s wider screen is ideal for physician use, allowing for better viewing of X-rays, scans and documents. The genome browser is fully encrypted to allow physicians to securely access patient data as soon as it becomes available, regardless of their location.

“Our partnership with BlackBerry has really been able to create a scalable super-computer in the palm of the hand of the doctor,” Said Patrick Soon-Shiong, chief executive of NantHealth.

The browser will be shown at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas in January. It will be pre-loaded on BlackBerry Passport devices and made available to the professional community in early 2015. The browser will also be available on certain alternate platform devices, but will still be secured by BlackBerry’s network.

Polaroid Creates Social Media Camera

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Polaroid’s new camera, the Socialmatic, instantly posts snapshots to various social networks such as Instagram or Facebook, allowing the physical and the virtual to instantly connect.

At a price of $299, the Socialmatic camera connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi, or to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. The camera runs on Android and will be compatible with any social media application available in the Google Play Store.

The 14-megapixel camera is accompanied by a 2-megapixel camera in the back for selfies. But what makes this a Polaroid? The camera instantly prints 2 by 3 inch photos as you take them, staying true to the Polaroid experience.

The Polaroid Socialmatic will hit stores in January, and is currently available for pre-order.