Posts tagged Aims
The majority of bitcoins in circulation aren’t used for actually buying stuff. A Bitcoin entrepreneur is looking to change that with Bitcoin Black Friday, a set of deals offered to users of the world’s most famous cryptocurrency the day after Thanksgiving.
It’s the second such event organized by Jon Holmquist, currently a community liaison at digital-payment startup Ripple Labs. Last year, he held the event—then known as Bitcoin Friday—on November 9, a second anniversary of sorts for Bitcoin, and a moment when many people were first realizing that most bitcoins were just sitting in digital wallets.
“With news reports of 78% of bitcoins not being spent, we need to do something,” Holmquist wrote last year in a Bitcoin forum. Seventy-five merchants participated in the event. This year, Holmquist moved the event to Black Friday to encourage a larger turnout.
“We wanted to show Bitcoin is going mainstream,” said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of the Internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, which is also backing Bitcoin Black Friday. ”Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and it’s a great way to start.”
Second Time’s A Charm?
Last year, the most prominent participants were themselves Bitcoin businesses or other niche concerns such as providers of DSL services. This year, more than 500 Bitcoin-accepting merchants are supposedly poised to join the event, at least according to a Bitcoin Black Friday press release.
At the moment, though, there aren’t anywhere close to 500 merchants listed on the Bitcoin Black Friday site—on Tuesday, I counted 19 companies with deals and 12 charities accepting Bitcoin donations. But the company roster does include a few more recognizable names than last year—outfits such as Reddit, CheapAir.com (which bills itself as the world’s first online travel agency to accept Bitcoin), and Gyft, which offers gift cards to mainstream retailers like Amazon and Target.
Of course, some of these retailers may be offering similar deals for customers paying in dollars. Bitcoin users, for instance, can get $10 off flights booked on Friday at CheapAir.com by using a coupon code; the airline is also currently running a $10 off coupon promotion for all users through November 30.
Theoretically, Bitcoin should be cheaper for merchants to handle, which at some level might translate into discounts or lower prices for users paying with the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin transaction fees are usually a fraction of a cent, and sometimes even zero. Credit cards typically skim merchant fees amounting to 3% to 5% of transactions, which retailers usually account for with higher prices.
It’s not clear how often retailers’ Bitcoin savings actually translate into savings for buyers, although it does happen in some cases. Gyft, for instance, currently offers Bitcoin users extra “Gyft points” equivalent to 3% of their purchase price; those points can be turned into discounts on future purchases.
Unlocking The Bitcoin Wallets
But the big question is whether Bitcoin Black Friday will have a lasting impact on the Bitcoin economy. The majority of bitcoins are still hoarded, researchers from the University of California-San Diego and George Mason University recently determined. A full 64 percent have never been spent; many have probably been lost by their owners. And roughly 60 percent of the bitcoins in circulation are spent at the gambling site Satoshi Dice.
Furthermore, a single bitcoin is now worth nearly $900. When the price of your bitcoin rises every day you don’t spend it, why would anyone who believes in Bitcoin choose to part with it?
Holmquist insists that these concerns are nothing new, and parallel the skepticism Bitcoin Friday faced last year.
“Before Bitcoin Friday, in early 2012, people were wondering whether Bitcoin could even exist as a currency, whether people would ever spend their hoarded bitcoins,” he said in a press release. “Last year’s wildly successful event alleviated those fears.”
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Once the leader and innovator in online mapping, MapQuest has fallen pretty far from that perch. While the brand survives and the site is still widely used, it has for several years been overshadowed by rivals including Google and more recently Apple. According to recent comScore data…
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Coding collaboration tool GitHub wants to make government more of a collaboration and less of a one-way street. So it’s launched a portal dubbed Github and Government aimed specifically at helping governments all over the world to open source datasets, legislation and information so that citizen programmers can help solve local problems.
See also: It’s Time To Hack City Hall
Government budgets are always under pressure, and that’s motivating more government executives to consider the power of open source. Philadelphia city employees use GitHub to store their public-facing code and accept edits and tweaks from citizen developers. Chicago released bike routes on GitHub so local entrepreneurs can use them for apps that make it easier to get around the city. To promote transparency, San Francisco hosts its entire municipal codebase on GitHub.
There are at least two big benefits when citizens and city employees collaborate on GitHub. First, it makes government more transparent and approachable for citizens. And second, it lets elected officials faced with stretched budgets do more work with fewer resources.
The U.S. government is beginning to recognize the value of open source on a national level. The White House has been a member of GitHub for over a year; the Defense Department has also long been a supporter, even sponsoring its own open-source conference.
Unfortunately, the new portal won’t help the U.S. government fix its most pressing GitHub bug report: Government occasionally shuts down. However, it will give citizen coders the ability to help fix other bugs once it’s back.
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The Google+ for Media: ATL Summit brought some big news today, as Google announced its launch of Google Media Tools, a website designed to help journalists find all the available Google tools they can use for research, organizing stories, and even getting found online. Google mentions the following services they provide that are useful to […]
The post Just Launched Google Media Tools Aims to Help Journalists by @wonderwall7 appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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Since David Marcus took over as CEO of PayPal last year, the payments arm of eBay Inc. has been busily pumping out new products such as its revamped mobile app.
But as he pulls out a small device, hardly bigger than a flash-memory drive, from a cloth pouch, he grins: “This is the launch I’m most excited about.”
What has Marcus so stoked?
A Shopper Detector For Stores
It’s PayPal Beacon, a night-light-sized piece of hardware that aims to detect when one of PayPal’s 140 million users is near a store that takes PayPal. The primary goal is to make it easier for users to pay for real-world purchases using their PayPal app, since merchants will be primed for them at the register.
It’s not a new concept in the mobile-commerce world. Square, a rival payments service, has a similar feature. And Shopkick, a rewards service that offers discounts and promotions, detects when its app users walk into a store using a device that emits high-frequency audio.
But Marcus believes that PayPal’s approach, which takes advantage of the newest version of Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology, is the only one that will scale to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of locations. Which speaks to PayPal’s designs on the market for real-world, in-store payments.
Existing smartphone location technologies drain users’ batteries and are limited in the number of venues they can track, Marcus argues.
A Hardware Fix Waiting For Better Software?
PayPal Beacon is an elegant, even subtle piece of hardware, with a triangular shape that echoes PayPal Here, PayPal’s credit-card swiper. (PayPal got lots of grief for mimicking Square’s four-sided credit-card reader, minus one side, but it seems to be sticking with the visual metaphor.)
Using Bluetooth to confirm users’ physical presence seems like a reasonably smart choice. The latest version of the technology is ubiquitous in new iPhones and Android models. (Users with older phones can always check in manually within PayPal’s app to announce their presence.)
Whether users check in automatically or manually, their names and faces—if they’ve added a photo to their PayPal accounts—will show up on the merchants’ point-of-sale system. PayPal has its own iPad software, and it has also integrated the feature that lets you pay by saying your name with other cash-register software.
But the cost seems like it could slow adoption of a technology that wants to be ubiquitous. PayPal has not yet announced Beacon’s price; Marcus says it will be less than $100.
Apple and Google are trying hard to reduce the battery requirements of their platforms’ location services. It is possible that Beacon could have a short life as users’ locations becomes easier to pin down without special hardware.
Marcus argues that in dense retail locations, like malls and downtown shopping districts, standard location services won’t deliver enough precision for some time.
Saving A Swipe
It seems like a lot of effort to save people a credit-card swipe or a manual check-in. Even Marcus admits: “I’ve never met anyone who says, ‘Swiping my card is hard’.”
Where things get interesting is the weaving together of location with coupons and loyalty programs. What if Beacon, for example, offered you a discount on a latte—not the first time you walked into a café, but the second time? That could solve a lot of complaints merchants have about online-to-offline marketing programs, which often drive discount-seeking newbies to a store, but do little to keep them coming back.
In going into stores with its mobile app, Beacon, and its suite of services for shopkeepers, PayPal will have to deal with lingering blowback over its original online-payments business. Customers are frustrated by occasions where they feel that PayPal hasn’t done enough to investigate fraud; organizations accepting payments, particularly nontraditional ones like crowdfunding campaigns, are understandably quick to anger when PayPal freezes their account (in an effort to avert those same fraud complaints that enrage consumers).
A Beacon For PayPal’s Brand?
Those incidents may be rare in PayPal’s total stream of transactions, but they reverberate online. (Marcus responds to unhappy customers and critics on Twitter and even in the comments of news stories about the company, and PayPal says it has lowered the number of accounts it freezes on suspicion of fraud.)
The best hope for PayPal is that its in-store efforts don’t just help it expand its base of payments, but also rebuild its brand—standing for the ease of paying with your phone in your pocket or saving money without digging for a coupon. PayPal may not be the first to bring these innovations to market, but Marcus clearly believes it can bring them to the masses.
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Google+ launched two new features it said will help writers and other publishers get more attention on Google News and search.
WordPress and TypePad powered blogs using Google+ Sign-In will now now link all posts to the author’s Google+ account. The author’s name and information will appear in Google News and search results, thus increasing distribution and discovery, as well as making it easier for readers to engage with the author.
Following the lead of Twitter and Facebook, Google+ also now allows publishers to embed public G+ updates in blog posts and on other websites. Users can follow the original update’s author and comment on or +1 the post as they would on the Google+ stream. Google claims this feature will tie conversations together, as comments will also appear wherever the post is embedded.
The features are only available to WordPress and TypePad users, but Google is experimenting with other platforms including About.com, WikiHow, SkillPages and Examiner.com. It announced the updates at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference today.
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Writing an app that will run on more than one software platform—think Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Phone—has usually been an exercise in frustration for developers, because it meant creating separate versions for each respective operating system.
But a long-awaited technology from Google may take a big step toward eliminating that headache by allowing Web apps to run on top of browser technology, not the underlying operating system. And without the need for an active Internet connection.
The Vicious Cross-Platform Circle
The time and energy it takes to “port” an app from one platform to another is clear from the fact that many developers and their accountants often decide not to port apps. If the numbers say it’s not worth the effort, then it won’t get done.
That’s why, for instance, there’s still no official Instagram app for Windows Phone. With just a 3% market share, Windows Phone is simply nowhere near as attractive to developers as iOS and Android. Sure, there may be Instagram on Windows Phone someday, but it’s clearly not a priority.
The problem is self-perpetuating, too. If a platform doesn’t have the apps people want, that makes it less attractive to would-be adopters—ordinary consumers, in the case of smartphones. This is arguably one of the big reasons Windows Phone remains marginal in the smartphone market—and why Linux has likewise failed to have much impact in the desktop/laptop world.
Developers have long hoped for rescue by Web apps—software that resides in the cloud and runs in browsers, a la Google Docs. Hopes were high that improved HTML and scripting technologies would allow a vast number of apps to run in a variety of browsers. Since browsers are already ubiquitous on most any platform, that would seem a handy solution to the problem of cross-platform deployment.
That has in fact worked, but only to an extent. For one thing, a Web app was basically just a Web page that had to be launched within a browser. There were workarounds—Prism for Windows and Fluid for OS X, for instance, made it possible to make Web apps look more like desktop apps, complete with icons you could click to fast-start Web apps. (I use Fluid to start up my Feedly instance in the morning, for instance.) Or users could make URL shortcuts. But such complications still limited Web apps’ appeal.
A second problem was harder to work around. By definition, Web apps require users to be, well, connected to the Web. That makes them basically useless if you’re not in Wi-Fi range.
Tethering Web Apps To The Desktop
No browser or platform team is as committed to the idea of Web apps as the folks at Chrome and ChromeOS. For Google’s developers, Web apps are central to the whole idea of Chrome and ChromeOS, which is to have developers write one Web app that can then run on any operating system where Chrome runs.
This week, on Chrome’s fifth anniversary, the team introduced a new twist known as Chrome Web Apps that aims to solve the two main shortcomings of “traditional” Web apps.
Chrome isn’t the only browser team working on this sort of packaged Web app software. Mozilla has made Open Web Apps available since 2011 in the the Firefox Marketplace. The Mozilla team has indicated that it has been working closely with the Chrome team to maintain standards capability.
There are, however, a few obstacles to Google’s vision. Chrome Web Apps are currently only available for Windows and Chromebooks, with Mac, Linux and mobile versions coming “soon.” And you probably shouldn’t expect to see these apps on Apple’s closed iOS platform any time soon—if ever. On iOS, Chrome apps would have to use the same Webkit rendering engine that Apple’s Safari uses, which means they’re unlikely to work.
Plus, Chrome Web apps would have to go through Apple’s app store anyway. This point is important, because Chrome Web Apps are tied to the Chrome Web Store. So while you can theoretically create a Chrome Web app that could run on any other browser, you’ll actually need to deploy it through the Chrome Web Store to package it for delivery to users.
Such “packaged” Web apps might well usher in a cross-platform future once the kinks are ironed out. With any luck, Google’s commitment to open standards won’t turn out to be mere lip service, because if it is, developers might just trade the problem of which operating system to work with for the problem of which browser platform to work with.
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Foursquare’s superuser program, now 40,000 people strong, is getting an overhaul. The company says it’ll soon launch an automated test that will make it easier for users to become superusers — they’re the ones with special privileges to edit business listings and venues in…
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Sure, it can be convenient to use a tablet or smartphone to log into a remote computer. But it can also be a huge pain, not least because you still have to manipulate your Windows or Mac OS X software using a Frankensteinian hybrid of poke, drag, and swipe gestures. The release of Parallels Access from virtualization vendor Parallels aims to fix that, at least on the iPad.
I’ve downloaded the app to try it out, and Parallels does seem to have improved upon the interface experience somewhat by enabling touch-screen gestures for application running on the remote machine. But there are a few features that could use a little polishing.
In the basic gestures category, Access doesn’t offer anything much different than what LogMeIn has for either its free LogMeIn app or the $129.99 LogMeIn Ignition app. The advanced gestures, such as on-the-fly screen magnification to better tap desktop controls that get a lot smaller on your iPad screen, are more interesting.
What stands out is the way Access shifts the entire desktop experience into an app-centric screen that does away with desktop-centric tools like toolbars and Start menus. Just tap an icon on the screen and the application on the remote desktop starts right up—no need to first drag the desktop’s mouse over the icon. Switching apps with the App Switcher is a nice feature, too.
Where Access Starts To Get Denied
Where things go awry is in the connection to the desktop itself. Access automatically shifts the remote computer’s screen resolution to a size that will work on the iPad, and that’s fine. But there’s also a significant delay in resetting the desktop resolution back to normal after you turn off the Access app. You also have to confirm the disconnect on the desktop, not the app, which means that when you get back to your workstation, it might be awhile before your system is ready.
This wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was kind of annoying after the first few disconnects.
Pricing is another consideration. Access offers a 14-day trial, but after that, you’ll need to pay $79.99. That’s a goodly chunk of change, but it’s still $60 lower than the cost of LogMeIn Ignition, which near as I can tell offers many of the same features.
Another option would be to just install the free LogMeIn app on your iPad and then the LogMeIn Free client on your desktop machine. You can’t beat the price, even if the features are more limited.
Parallels Access is fast, responsive and with just a couple of exceptions, pretty easy to use. But you should carefully weigh the costs with this class of app. After all, if you have to do a lot of work remotely, maybe you should just get a laptop.
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