Instagram’s First Ad Hits Feeds Amid Mixed Reviews

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Instagram‘s first ad hit feeds on Friday, offering the first official glimpse at what users can expect from advertisers moving forward

The ad comes from fashion designer Michael Kors, and features a gold watch on the table next to delicate macarons. Instagram promised last week that ads were coming, and offered up a preview ad of its own to show users what to expect, but Friday’s sponsored image is the first real ad to come across the platform

As of mid-morning on Friday, the ad had more than 65,000 Likes and more than 540 comments. Despite Instagram’s heads-up last week (and another announcement earlier this month that ads were on the way), however, users took to the comments to voice their displeasure over the introduction of ads Read more…

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Facebook Rolls Out Zero Data Charge Access in the Philippines

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Facebook is offering free access to Philippine smartphone users, effective October 31.

The launch marks the first time Facebook has granted Asian smartphone users full access to the network without data charges. Subscribers will be able to access and share Facebook content for free through mobile browsers and its designated app for an initial three-month testing period. The company’s partnership with Philippine network provider Globe Telecom (a regional associate of the SingTel Group) could indicate a more aggressive push to capture the Asian market.

SEE ALSO: Users Log in With Facebook Instead of Creating New Accounts Online Read more…

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Google’s Barge Likely A Modular, Floating Retail Space To Feature Glass

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Google caught some attention this past week for mooring a huge barge in SF Bay for mysterious purposes. Rumors have been flying about what that barge could be used for, with some suggesting it’s a floating data center, which Google does indeed have a patent for. But reports from a Bay Area local CBS affiliate and CNET suggest it’s a retail play, and now CBS is reporting (via 9to5Google) that as confirmed from multiple sources.

According to our sources the various reports about the barges being showcases for Google’s Glass retail efforts are correct.

The sources we spoke to were still uncertain about the exact uses that all of the barges would be put to in the end, but aiding Google in showcasing Glass for its eventual retail run is the likeliest fate of the units docked behind San Francisco’s Treasure Island.

The CBS story outlined a luxury showroom with a ‘party deck’ up top and spaces below for retail stores that could showcase Glass and other Google products. This report was said to be ‘pretty accurate’ by our sources.

CBS affiliate KPIX 5 says that the barge will eventually include luxury showrooms for gadgets such as Google Glass, as well as a party deck, and provide hands-on experiences to select potential clients by invitation only. It’s the brainchild of Google X, the skunkworks at Google designed to build some of that company’s more experimental products and services, including Google Glass and self-driving cars, and it’s overseen by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Brin is reportedly the driving force behind this retail barge experiment, and the purpose of the plan is to compete with Apple’s dominating retail presence, according to the CBS report.

While the barge doesn’t look like a luxury showroom at the moment, it’s built out of modular 40-foot shipping containers and is designed to be quickly torn down and put back together easily. It’s not a strictly seaborne affair, either – Google could reportedly assemble it on trucks or on freight trains, too, adding new meaning to the term “road show.”

CBS says that the barge’s launch has been delayed because of how it’s been designated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which is so far complying with Google’s apparent request that its purpose be kept secret.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that suggested Google would begin opening its own retail stores in time for this year’s holiday season. A splashy launch of a naval retail outlet aimed at high-value clientele would definitely be an interesting way to kick-off wider retail efforts, and this will help Google do more to evangelize established lines of business like Chrome OS and Nexus devices, as well as more experimental projects like Google Glass, which will need plenty more consumer exposure if it ever hopes to be a more broadly appealing device.

Image credit: CBS KPIX 5

Will the Government Monitor Social Media for Snowden-Like Risks?

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The U.S. government is studying whether it can scour social-media websites for clues about potential risks from workers such as Edward Snowden and the Washington Navy Yard shooter.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked government secrets, and Aaron Alexis, who shot and killed 12 people, had security clearances. The cases have exposed a flawed system of vetting such employees, some of whom are slipping through the cracks.

The pilot studies, which looked at the feasibility of using automated records checks as well as social-media websites, turned up “actionable information,” Brian Prioletti, an assistant director in the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, said in testimony prepared for a Senate hearing Thursday. Read more…

More about Social Media, Monitoring, Us Government, Facebook, and Twitter

Tech Giants Urge Senate to Reform NSA Surveillance Powers

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Tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Apple, have sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to reform the NSA surveillance programs

The letter, sent on Thursday to top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, implicitly endorses a specific bill, the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA program that collects U.S. phone call records

Tech companies have been asking for permission to be more transparent in the months following the revelations fueled by Edward Snowden, but this time, they’re taking one extra step. Read more…

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Apple, Microsoft-Backed Rockstar Consortium Sues Google, Samsung Over 7 Nortel Patents

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The Rockstar consortium is an organization backed by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony. It purchased patents off of the defunct telecommunications company Nortel in 2011, in a bidding war with Google.

Now, the consortium has filed suit against Google, ASUSTek, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech and ZTE over those patents. The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas today.

“Google placed an initial bid of $900,000,000 for the patents-in-suit and the rest of the Nortel portfolio. Google subsequently increased its bid multiple times, ultimately bidding as high as $4.4 billion,” the filing states. “That price was insufficient to win the auction, as a group led by the current shareholders of Rockstar purchased the portfolio for $4.5 billion. Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.”

Google famously bid some not-so-random numbers before the end, including ‘pi’. The suit also involves a licensee of the ‘Associative Search Engine’ 6,098,065 patent, NetStar, Inc.

The other patents are US 7,236,969, 7,469,245, 7,672,970, 7,895,178, 7,895,183 and 7,933,883. They’re mostly fairly dry stuff related to database searches, relevance in advertising presentation and data sorting, but exactly the kind of stuff that makes Google’s special sauce work. We can’t speak to the strength of the patents, but they certainly appear to be relevant.

Google lost out in a heated bidding war against Rockstar and went on to acquire Motorola, a move that many attributed to a patent grab, but that was also about hardware in a lot of ways.

Notably, HTC has a cross-licensing agreement with Apple on some patents, but apparently not these. News of the suit was first reported by Reuters today.

Internet Both Helps and Harms Teens at Risk of Suicide

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The Internet can be both a positive and negative influence on teens and young adults who are at risk of harming themselves or committing suicide, a new review suggests.

On the one hand, some studies show that Internet forums — where users post questions and comments, and interact with each other — provide support for youth who engage in self-harm or are suicidal, or help them to cope. But other studies show the Internet can have a negative influence on this vulnerable group, such as by providing information on how to self-harm, or how to hide their behavior.

Overall, very few rigorous studies have explored how the Internet affects young people at risk for suicide and self-harm, so much more work is needed on the topic, the researchers said Read more…

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Google’s Search Results Can Deep-Link To Your Android Apps

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It should be clear by now that there’s much more at play in Android 4.4 KitKat than some early reports alluded to, and one of the more interesting (to me, anyway) tidbits managed to escape the early leak treatment.

Tucked away toward the tail-end of Google’s Nexus 5/KitKat presentation was a mention of a feature called App Indexing that should get companies (and the Android app developers that work for them) a little worked up. That’s because Google has developed a way to deep-link to the contents of an app from within a user’s Google search results with a feature it calls App Indexing.

Here’s how it works. Say you’re using the Google Search app to dig up some dirt on that Ender’s Game movie that doesn’t look very good. If you happen to have the IMDb app installed on your device while you search, you’ll be treated to an info card in that results stream that includes an “Open in app” button. Give it a quick tap and the IMDb app will spring to life and immediately direct you to its Ender’s Game listing.

Naturally, the feature isn’t just limited to showing off movie details – so far the full list of supporters includes Allthecooks, AllTrails, Beautylish, Etsy, Expedia, Flixster, Healthtap, IMDb, Moviefone, Newegg (yes!), OpenTable, and Trulia.

The way Google sees it, the move is all about providing these companies with a choice. If they think their mobile interfaces are enough to keep users engaged, they can simple go about their business. But if they already have an Android app (or are in the process of building one) that can do a better job of engaging with its users, a little extra work to implement those deep links may be well worth it.

It’s not hard to look at this as a move to bolster Android app development, either. There’s little doubting that Android is a global force – which may be only compounded by the fact that Android 4.4 KitKat may drive device sales in developing markets by bringing a more advanced feature set to cheap hardware – and in many cases the Google Search app is going along for the ride. That means that with any luck, huge swaths of the global Android community will be searching for stuff using the Google search app and seeing those deep-linked “Open in app” buttons when they’ve got the right apps installed. Tell me that’s not a compelling reason for a company to develop an Android app if they haven’t already.

Despite the buy-in from all those app partners, it’ll be some time before users like me will actually start getting those results in the wild. Google is testing the feature with those previously listed partners, but the updated cards that will display that information won’t actually roll out until some time in November.

Google Opens Glass Accessory Store and Other News You Need to Know

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Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world.

Today, we’re looking at three particularly interesting stories. Facebook announced its third-quarter earnings. The company reported $2.02 billion in revenue, up from $1.26 billion in Q3 of last yearGoogle’s continuing to sprout its Google Glass project, this time launching an accessory store for the device. Lastly, The Washington Post reports the NSA is scooping up information from Yahoo and Google’s data center connections around the world

Check out the video above for more on these stories. Read more…

More about Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Features, and First To Know Series

Nexus 5 Launch Likely Coming Today, Here’s What We Know So Far

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Google’s Nexus 5 is not a real thing yet, but at this point it’s a foregone conclusion; Google will update its Android reference smartphone, which comes with the clean stock version of its mobile operating system, and it’ll probably do it today. Which is why it makes perfect sense that the leaks are now flying fast and furious.

The Nexus 5 will reportedly be unveiled later today, sometime around 8 AM PST according to a report from GottaBeMobile, and it’ll begin shipping tomorrow, November 1 with orders starting immediately. Whether or not it happens right at that time, the case remains that we’re probably going to see the phone today at some point, since a number of earlier reports also indicated Oct. 31 as the time for its official debut.

Google’s Nexus 5 is likely sourced from hardware partner LG, just like the Nexus 4, and it is said to have a 4.95-inch, 1080p display, with a Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage, an 8 megapixel rear camera/1.3 megapixel front, and Android 4.4 KitKat. It’ll likely be the first KitKat device, which is a software update that brings a lot of refinements, along with replacing the stock SMS app with Google Hangouts now that it has SMS integration, we’re hearing.

According to one T-Mobile employee, the Nexus 5 will be available at that carrier the same day it’s announced, and will cost roughly the same as the Nexus 4 did on T-Mo last year (which is to say, at a considerable markup). Google has also updated the look and design of the Play Devices web store, prompting some to note that this could be in preparation for a Nexus 5 listing.

Google’s Nexus 5 seems like it’ll be a match for the current crop of top Android smartphones, at least on paper, and it’s a handsome device if early render and photo leaks are to be believed. Price and international availability remain the biggest question marks at this point, as well as the exact timing of availability, but we’ll be sure to bring you more as soon as we get any official info from Google.

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