Posts tagged Time
So much of search focuses on being found. But being found doesn’t do much good unless you’re also chosen. The only thing worse than not being found is being found and rejected from consideration. There’s no doubt that online reviews play an increasingly central role in the consumer path to…
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On June 7, 2011, Google announced support for a new type of markup called the Authorship Tag. This was the rel=”author” tag. It did not take long before the speculation started — when would Google start using data from this new tag to impact rankings? The industry took to…
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Apple has all but announced it will no longer support Mac computers running Snow Leopard, or OS X 10.6.
On Tuesday, the company released an important update for Mavericks, or OS X 10.9, plus security updates for its two predecessors, Mountain Lion (10.8) and Lion (10.7), but there was nothing for Snow Leopard or any other previously-released versions of OS X. All of the updates included a critical patch that resolved a major security exploit.
Snow Leopard hasn’t been issued an update since September 2013, which has led many to believe that the four-year-old operating system is being retired. Apple might be distancing itself from Microsoft’s tradition of supporting older operating systems for decades and beyond, a practice some call excessive. Microsoft’s Windows XP came out on October 25, 2001—more than 12 years ago—but Microsoft says it will continue supporting the system until April 8, 2014.
Meanwhile, Snow Leopard has been around for just 4 years—since August 28, 2009—which explains why one in five Macs are still operating on that version of OS X.
Perhaps Apple’s thinking is that there’s no reason for Snow Leopard users not to upgrade to OS X Mavericks, given that it’s now possible to upgrade directly from Snow Leopard to its latest OS—for free. Unlike previous $20 upgrades like Lion and Mountain Lion, Mavericks doesn’t cost a thing.
Apple might have also retired Snow Leopard since it’s the last remaining operating system that supports 32-bit Macs, which contain first generation “Core” processors. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and all versions that followed, are 64-bit. (Apple’s newest iOS devices are also 64-bit.)
It’s not the first time Apple has abandoned older machines after a major tech transition—ask anyone who has tried to upgrade the software on the older Mac Mini with a PowerPC processor. If you don’t own a 64-bit Mac, it’s now impossible to get upgrades.
But the worst part? When Apple drops a platform, so does everyone else. Now it won’t be long until later versions of Chrome and Firefox no longer mesh with Snow Leopard. It’s just a shame how Apple customers are penalized if they haven’t purchased new Mac hardware since 2009.
Updated at 3:15pm PT on February 28 to clarify OS X Snow Leopard has not been officially retired, and removed the question about whether or not the recent OS X exploit exists in Snow Leopard (some ReadWrite commenters contend that it doesn’t).
Photo courtesy of Apple
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Swipe, sign, and pay—it’s a simple ritual that we may perform several times a day with our ubiquitous plastic credit and debit cards.
But as the Target security breach showed us, the classic magnetic stripe, which shares our account number with a merchant, is a dangerously insecure technology. It’s on its way out—but it can’t go fast enough.
Here in the United States, we’re about to get entirely new kinds of physical cards already in use overseas. We are also on the cusp of a revolution that might see smartphones play a key role in how we pay for things. It all adds up to a lot of confusion. And it’s not clear we’re actually getting any safer.
What Will Replace The Stripe?
The problem with the magnetic stripe is that once someone else has your card, they have all the secure information they need to compromise it. The full 16-digit account number is embossed on the card. It’s also encoded in the magnetic stripe in a format that’s easy for anyone with the right kind of device to read—and hence copy. There’s one more security feature, the Card Verification Value, or CVV2 number—which is printed on the back of the card. Oh, and a clerk might check your signature and your driver’s license.
As the Target hack exposed, there’s another problem with these cards: They transmit your account number—and, in the case of debit cards, your PIN—to merchants. We used to think this was safe, that merchants would protect their internal systems from hacking. Thanks to Target, and previous incidents of mass card theft like the T.J. Maxx hack a decade ago, we now know better.
There are two main contenders to replace that thoroughly broken system: chip-and-PIN swipe cards and contactless, or NFC (near-field communication), cards.
Chip-and-PIN cards are a descendant of the smart cards I’m familiar with from my time selling government systems for Apple. There’s a chip in the card that communicates with a chip in newer card-processing machines, or terminals. NFC uses short-range radio waves to communicate with terminals, which means you can just tap your card to pay. You’ll sometimes see both features in newly issued cards.
Chip-and-PIN and NFC both have an advantage over the magnetic stripe: At least with the latest versions of these cards, you’re not transmitting an actual credit-card number, as you do with a magnetic stripe. Instead, they transmit a “token”—a one-time-use number that banks and card processors can match up with your account on the other end to process the transaction, but that doesn’t reveal your account number, even to the merchant.
Here’s the problem: New cards with these more-secure payment features will carry—you guessed it—an insecure magnetic stripe for “backwards compatibility” with ATMs, gas pumps, and other payment devices that are costly to upgrade. We’re paying for convenience with our safety.
I found this out myself when I talked to American Express the other day. The customer-support rep said they would be happy to send me a new chip-and-PIN credit card. However, it would come with my information encoded on the magnetic stripe. They did assure me that I have zero liability for fraud.
Someone’s going to pay for fraud, though, and it’s likely to be retailers. Right now, retailers are largely protected if they follow the rules around swiping magnetic-stripe cards. That will change once chip-and-PIN cards are widely available: Banks and card processors will shift fraud liability to retailers who let their customers swipe the old-fashioned way.
Here’s the other irony of this transition: American Express and a lot of other card issuers are favoring an approach called “chip-and-signature.” That means that while you’ll dip your card in a reader instead of swiping it, you’ll still approve transactions by signing a piece of paper instead of entering a PIN.
It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. Chip-and-signature might work better in, say, a restaurant where the waiter brings you the bill. It will also require a lot less retraining of store clerks (and consumers). Again, though, we’re going to pay for the convenience with our security.
Just Ditch The Card
You’re seeing a pattern here: Adding security features to a physical card makes the simple, fast swipe of a card a needlessly complicated process. Yet we just can’t rely on the magnetic stripe the way we used to.
Some people have tried replacing the card with your phone. But this has been riddled with complexity, too. Google has had a big failure with trying to get people to use Google Wallet in retail stores. Isis, a joint venture backed by wireless carriers, has similarly flopped.
I’m not convinced that replacing the card with a phone is a great idea. That might be okay if your phone doesn’t get stolen, is securely protected from unauthorized use, and can be remotely wiped clean before someone has time to crack into it. But I need to hear more to be convinced.
Ultimately we may need a system that combines cards and phones. For example, what if I could tap a card and then enter a one-time PIN sent to my smartphone? That seems more secure than using the same PIN every time—we know that fraudsters have hacked ATM-card PINs to get into our bank accounts.
Ultimately, what we may realize is we don’t really need a card at all. If all the card does is carry our account number, we have machines that do a good job of storing numbers for us. And if we can’t trust retailers with our credit-card details, maybe we shouldn’t be giving them a piece of plastic printed with our account number in the first place.
The way of the future may be carrying out commerce in physical stores the same way we do on Amazon and iTunes—we click “buy” and the retailer charges our account, with the details walled off in many layers of digital security. If banks carry out their current plans, they’ll make buying things in stores more complicated without making them any less secure—and that may be the thing that kills off the magnetic-stripe card for good.
Photo by Shutterstock
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Deciding How Much of Your Marketing Time Should Go to SEO
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You’ll be forgiven if the first thing you said when you heard that Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable was, “Is this legal?”
Comcast will certainly want you to think this deal is legal, good, just, beneficial, charitable, divine, logical, reasonable—any term its lobbyists can think of to get this acquisition through federal regulators. But when the biggest cable operator in the United States buys the second biggest one for $45.2 billion in stock, plenty of questions need to be answered.
Control The Pipes, Control The Content
What the merger between Time Warner and Comcast really means is that the two companies will control nearly one-third of all broadband subscribers in the U.S. and an inordinate amount of the fiber that the Internet runs on. Neither of these companies has a good track record of playing nice with their infrastructures and want to control (and get paid handsomely) for all the data that runs on their tubes. The Time/Comcast partnership is about control and power over the Web.
Cable content will also get caught in the crossfires. Time Warner has long played hardball with content companies like CBS, which was blocked in 2013 in New York by the cable company. Have a serious addiction to the NFL and How I Met Your Mother? Yeah, Time Warner doesn’t really care about you.
Comcast and Time Warner will have a ton of leverage over content companies both on the Web and TV. It will be a monopoly power with wide-ranging effects over consumers, Wi-Fi and hotspot operators, Internet speeds, content companies like CBS and AMC, and over the top content providers like Netflix and YouTube.
What do these groups have in common? Everybody pays. And if they don’t, Time/Comcast will have the power and leverage to push them out of the ecosystem or make their lives very difficult. For instance, Time Warner does not put a cap on broadband data. Comcast does (at about 250 GB per month). Expect Time Warner customers to get that cap as soon as the deal is finalized.
The fact of the matter is that Comcast wants control of your broadband. It wants to control the last mile of the pipe that runs from the rivers of broadband into your home. Once it has that, it has all the leverage it needs to start throwing its weight around and making gobs of money in the process.
Regulators will take a hard look at the merger and approval is no sure thing. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission have not been kind to infrastructure mergers and acquisitions under the Obama administration. AT&T’s $39 billion bid to take over T-Mobile was shot down and just last week. Sprint/Softbank said it was seriously reconsidering its takeover bid of T-Mobile after talking to DOJ and FCC regulators.
Regulators: Infrastructure Vs. Media
The key will be how the DOJ and FCC view Comcast and Time Warner. The mergers in the cellular space are very clear-cut in that they are infrastructure, communications companies. Will the FCC/DOJ see Time/Comcast more as a critical infrastructure provider (which it is) or a media empire? If it is the former, getting through regulatory hurdles may be more difficult as the FCC and DOJ have shown a proclivity to promote competition (to the benefit of consumers) in the telecommunications space. If it is the latter, the FCC may strike a similar deal with Comcast that it did when it approved its NBCUniversal acquisition several years ago.
The difference between merger like Comcast and Time Warner and that of AT&T and T-Mobile though is that, for the most part, Comcast and Time Warner are not really competitors. Maybe they are in their respective realms of content (HBO vs. NBC, for instance), but even that is not a good comparison. Cable operators tend to be regional monopolies anyway, with few competitors to their crowns. For instance, if you live in New England, you are probably a Comcast subscriber. You might have the option to use RCN or Verizon FiOS (in a very select locations), but Comcast is the king. Regulators may determine that there is no threat to consumers from a Comcast/Time Warner merger because competition isn’t stifled among two infrastructure companies that don’t compete for subscribers.
It is that NBCUniversal deal that creates a silver lining for consumers and competitors. The FCC forced Comcast to make significant concessions to regulators in that deal and those concessions have been a boon to consumers. The FCC made Comcast make it programming available online to TV and online competitors, expand the scale and speed of its broadband networks and abide by Open Internet rules to preserve the concept of net neutrality. The FCC lost its ability to regulate the Open Internet rules by an appeals court last month, but the FCC can still use the policy in negotiations with Comcast and Time Warner to ensure a competitive landscape.
Lead image by Reuters
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Windows Phone may not be the blockbuster mobile operating system that its designers in Redmond (or Espoo, Finland) hoped it would be. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft and its new CEO Satya Nadella would be better off doing something drastic like scrapping the project and building a new mobile OS based on Google’s open-source Android.
Some have suggested the move as a “can’t-beat-em-then-join-em” way for Microsoft to reassert its relevance in mobile. And the Wall Street Journal just reported that Nokia—whose mobile-phone division is about to become part of Microsoft—is about to release a new smartphone based on Android, one whose design predates the Microsoft acquisition.
But there’s no reason to think it’s a good idea.
Microsoft To Build On Android?
Windows Phone has made incremental gains in market share over the last couple of years, but its growth remains stagnant when compared to the volumes at which consumers and business are adopting Android and Apple’s iOS. The natural inclination of the technology punditocracy is to say, “Well, Microsoft could always just adopt Android. It’s open source, has a million apps in its app store and a billion users across the world.”
To call that outcome unlikely is almost to do a disservice to the term. We are, after all, talking about Microsoft and Google, two companies that have fought bitterly over something as minor as getting a decent YouTube app on Windows Phone. Before taking anything else into consideration, let’s just say that a Microsoft turn to Android isn’t bloody likely.
That being said, from a technical perspective, Microsoft doesn’t need to involve Google at all if it wants to build a smartphone on Android’s skeletal framework.
The logistics of such as effort are intriguing. At its core, Android is a fully functional mobile OS that will make a smartphone do everything that a smartphone is supposed to do. It ties into all the relevant hardware a smartphone needs—cellular antennas, CPU/GPU, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, various sensors and so on. It also provides basics apps such as messaging, contacts and telephony.
All that’s included in the Android Open Source Project, or AOSP. That’s the platform any Android smartphone maker starts with before customizing it to their liking.
AOSP is, almost by definition, commodity software. It’s open source and generic and that’s the way it was always intended to be. The AOSP is kind of like an artist’s starter kit: you get the canvas, paints and brushes. What you do with it is up to you.
So in that sense, the idea of “forking” Android—say, by making a Microsoft-specific version—is sort of a joke. How can you fork a free canvas and toolset into multiple versions? It’s a starting point or a foundation, not a finished product.
In reality, though, when the punditocracy talks about forking Android, what it really means is, “using Android without Google.” And that’s a much trickier proposition. Microsoft can’t really fork the AOSP—at least, there wouldn’t be much point to doing so. And it can use Android—i.e., the AOSP—just like any other manufacturer.
But to actually make a smartphone that capitalizes on the Android ecosystem, Microsoft needs a lot more than just the AOSP.
How Google Builds Android
Many people suffer from the common misperception that Android is Google and Google is Android. This is not exactly accurate.
Yes, Google does most of the heavy lifting in Android development, but it’s not the only contributor to the AOSP. Head over to the AOSP project repository and you’ll notice that companies like Sony, Samsung, Intel, ARM, Nvida and even researchers from the U.S. National Security Agency contribute to Android.
Each new version of Android is the result of discussions that Google’s engineers hold with manufacturers and app makers to see what features and attributes they want and need. Google then sets it engineers on those problems. When enough new functions and features are ready, it releases a new version of Android.
Google Android engineer Dave Burke explained this process in an interview with ReadWrite late last year:
I think one of the things you remember that we have a pretty large developer relations team so we have a pretty close relationship with all the developers in the ecosystem so we are constantly evolving and taking feedback from those guys and using that to drive requirements to the APIs. Another example is like Netflix.
Netflix has a lot of requirements around DRM because they are basically streaming content with very strong digital rights associated with that. So we work very closely with them to make the APIs more flexible. We also had a media summit recently where we sat down with all of these media streaming companies and asked them what they wanted from Android and one of the things that they came up with was closed captioning so we added that to Android 4.4 KitKat for example.
That is sort of the cycle that we go in. We talk to developers, work very closely with developers and get their input and then feed it into the platform and then hatch the platform.
Android development also touches on a variety of open source projects that aren’t technically part of Android itself. For instance, Google contributes the WebKit engine for browser rendering (which both the Chrome browser from Google and Apple’s Safari browser use), the Dalvik app rendering engine and so forth. Google has taken steps to build new versions of these engines (Blink for WebKit, ART for Dalvik) that are often controversial among developers but are still open source.
“We are fine with writing version two of something,” Burke said when discussing the decision to begin the project to replace Dalvik with ART in Android.
While it may seem like Google is in 100% control of all things Android, that’s just not the case. Google’s game is to be the tool builder and hub of Android development. What manufacturers, partners and app developers build on top of it is their own prerogative, at least within reason.
Google’s Android Canvas
To think about how Microsoft might fork Android by creating its own set of non-Google functions and services, it’s important to understand what Google has built on top of Android to make it the ecosystem that it is.
Consider, for instance, Google Mobile Services. This is a collection of system software and core apps that Google has built on top of the Android canvas. It includes core Google apps such as Gmail, Maps, Calendar, Hangouts, Drive, People (Contacts), Google+ and the variety of Google Play media (apps, music, videos, books, newsstand).
Essentially, Google Mobile Services provides both critical user apps for Android devices and the backend cloud services and application programming interfaces (APIs) that make them run. If Android software touches Google’s servers in one form or another, it is part of Google Mobile Services.
Ars Technica writer Peter Bright argues that Google’s recent emphasis on adding functionality to GMS has effectively rendered Android “unforkable.” He drew this reply in comments from Dianne Hackborn, an Android engineer at Google:
The thing you don’t have is stuff related to cloud services, and this is not an evil secret plan of Google, but a simple fact we have been clear about from the initial design of the platform: Android as an open-source platform simply can’t provide any cloud services, because those don’t run on the device where the platform code runs. This is a key point that seems to be completely missed. If you want to understand what Android is, how it is designed, and how the pieces fit together, you must understand this point.
Whereas Android is an open source project, Google Mobile Services is not. The development, updating and functionality of GMS is controlled by Google. Google licenses the GMS with its Android partners to make Android phones Google-y. If a smartphone manufacturer (like Samsung or HTC) wants access to the Google Play app store, Google insists that it take the entire GMS suite with it. The Google Play app store—with over a million apps—is Google’s big stick to get its manufacturing partners to adopt Google Mobile Services.
One big part of GMS is Google Play Services, which allows developers to build and deploy apps to the Google Play app store. This includes the ability for developers to accept payments from paid apps or in-app purchases. Payments are not part of the AOSP because it requires a transactional element where Google acts as the middleman and storefront between the developers and the payment processors around the globe.
Building On The Android Canvas
To use Android without Google, manufacturers have three choices. They can just use the open-source platform, which would give them a basic smartphone without access to Google Play or Google apps; they can build specific components on top, such as their own maps service; or they can try to replicate the complete stack of Google Mobile Services on their own.
It is this last bit that the industry often refers to as “forking” Android. So far, only Amazon has effectively created an entire ecosystem of its own—with proprietary apps, its own app store and developer services—without Google. The Amazon Appstore services Kindle Fire users, and Amazon has its own developer services included payments, game servers (authentication, login etc.), location services and so on.
There’s a reason that Amazon can build its own engine on top of Android that doesn’t touch Google at all … it is Amazon. The ecommerce giant has all the capabilities to duplicate all the functions Google provides in GMS—its own cloud infrastructure, plenty of money to spend on engineers that build resources for the platform, its own media store (books, movies and music) and an app store.
Not many companies have the infrastructure or clout to use Android go head-to-head with Google Mobile Services and hold their own, but Amazon is certainly one of them. Microsoft certainly looks like it could be another. It has its own infrastructure and cloud, developers to build a platform and resources to make it a reality.
Whether it’s a good idea to do so is an entirely different question.
Microsoft Building On Android: Completely Impractical
Nothing is stopping Microsoft from taking the AOSP and building its own services on top of it. Nothing, that is, but logic and reason.
Windows Phone may not be a blockbuster, but at least it has a semblance of an app store, a unique user interface and millions of users. What would be the purpose of tossing Windows Phone in favor of Android? The biggest reason is attracting developers and their apps. But that’s not exactly a winning proposition, as both Amazon and BlackBerry demonstrate.
The Amazon Appstore has about 131,000 apps as of February 2014. It has reached this number after almost three years in operation (it launched in March 2011; the Kindle Fire followed that autumn). It’s nowhere near the million apps on Google Play and is missing some big titles that prominent developers haven’t ported to the Appstore. Amazon doesn’t say how many Kindle Fire tablets it has sold, so it’s impossible for developers to know how large its user base is.
BlackBerry didn’t build on top of Android, but it did give developers the ability to use the Dalvik runtime engine and to port Android apps to BlackBerry 10. This has turned out to be a major disaster for BlackBerry. One developer abused the system and flooded the BlackBerry app store with thousands upon thousands of awful apps.
In the end, the Amazon Appstore and BlackBerry World are niche markets that have presented as much opportunity as frustration and headache for developers. Microsoft has no desire to be a niche market within the realm of Android app developers.
Why Start From Zero?
For Microsoft, to build on Android is to start from zero. Zero marketshare, zero apps. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Microsoft has already been on this road when, earlier this decade, it ditched the prepubescent Windows Mobile CE for Windows Phone.
A transition to Android would be similarly wrenching. It’s not as if Microsoft is going to come out with a device using the AOSP and all of a sudden have access to a million Android apps. Developers would need to port their apps to any Microsoft store that houses Android apps, tie into Microsoft’s APIs and cloud and maybe redesign their apps to meet Microsoft’s aesthetic and user interface standards. As BlackBerry and Amazon have shown, there’s a limited market for developers willing to do that.
The bottom line is that developers chase eyeballs. Developers don’t build for Windows Phone—despite the earnest actions of Nokia and Microsoft’s outreach efforts—because Windows Phone doesn’t have a user base in any way comparable to those of its larger competitors. Why would developers then port to a Microsoft app store running Android apps when that device has no users?
It’s too late for Microsoft to start over, using Android or anything else.
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Bruce Daisley, Twitter’s UK Managing Director, says capturing a moment can be incredibly powerful. Brands have several opportunities on Twitter, both planned and unplanned. Real-time marketing is about being the smartest by planning for your moments.
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5 Dead-Simple SEO Hacks to Save You Time
Let me be very clear, when I talk about “hacking” SEO, I'm talking about saving time and doing things as efficiently as possible. I'd never encourage gray or black hat techniques in an effort to game the search engines! So with that in mind, let's look …
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With its latest offer, Google has effectively settled the three year probe and has dodged a potential $5 billion fine. While the European Commission has accepted the concessions, they must first be accepted by the complainants, including Microsoft.
View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest