Yahoo, Viber, Facebook Messenger, More: Thursday Buzz, November 10, 2016


Oh boy, does this make me mad: apparently Yahoo has admitted that some staff knew about the 2014 Yahoo hack. “Yahoo has admitted a number of workers knew the company’s network had been hacked by a state-sponsored attacker in 2014, as it faces 23 lawsuits over the massive breach. The shocking revelation was was uncovered as part of an independent investigation into the security breach that took place two years ago, which has created further uncertainty around a $4.8 billion deal with Verizon to acquire the tech company.”

Viber has launched accounts for businesses and brands. “Viber, the messaging app with 800 million users owned by Japan’s Rakuten, is today taking the next step in expanding its platform as it seeks to compete against the likes of Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp not just for audience — but revenues. Today, Viber is launching Public Accounts, a new account format for businesses and brands who want to communicate with Viber users for marketing, customer service — or a bit of both, without a user needing to add that account as a contact first.”

Oh eww: ads in Facebook Messenger threads? “Facebook’s Messenger bots have proved to be a hit amongst businesses, and now — following a successful testing period — the social networking giant is looking to capitalize on the feature’s large user base with the mass introduction of sponsored messages.”

Twitter’s COO has taken off. “Just weeks after reporting job cuts and a disappointing fiscal quarter, Twitter announced Wednesday that chief operating officer Adam Bain is leaving the company. Twitter chief financial officer Anthony Noto will take over Bain’s job, serving in both posts until the board hires a new chief financial officer, the struggling social network said.”


The EdTechTeam blog has a useful overview of the new Google Sites. Lots of screen shots. Looks like the new Google Sites will be much more useful than the old one.

Thanks to Esther S for the heads-up on this one: Add Colorful Charts to Your Google Spreadsheets. Quick read but useful; charts in Google Sheets drive me bonkers.


KICKSTARTER CORNER: Did you know there were 84 different ways to drape a saree? A Kickstarter Project aims to make a free digital library of all 84 ways. “The initiative seeks to bring the beauty and versatility of saris to the fore, while educating the world about its historical significance. Blending the technological era with the rich lineage of saris, Border and Fall’s initiative, has roped in three eminent independent filmmakers, Bon Duke, Pooja Kaul and Q, each of whom will create a short movie highlighting the importance of saris.” The article spells the word both sari and saree; I’m going with the spelling in the headline.

Facebook’s new Workplace platform has a big customer. “Singapore’s civil service is adopting the platform for all 143,000 of its public servants by March 2017. It’s the first civil service in the world to use Facebook’s business-focused chat platform, according to Peter Ong, the head of Singapore’s civil service.”


CNET: Facebook buys black market passwords to keep your accounts safe. “To check that Facebook members are not choosing these commonly used passwords for their accounts, [Chief Security Officer Alex] Stamos revealed, the social network buys passwords hackers are selling on the black market and cross-references them with encrypted passwords used on the site. He described the task as ‘computationally heavy’ but said that as a result of the exercise Facebook has been able to alert tens of millions of users that their passwords needed changing because they weren’t strong enough.”

In other news, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has some weird ideas about copyright. “The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation publishes several excellent podcasts, notably the As It Happens feed; like every podcast in the world, these podcasts are available via any podcast app in the same way that all web pages can be fetched with all web browsers — this being the entire point of podcasts. In a move of breathtaking, lawless ignorance, the CBC has begun to send legal threats to podcast app-makers, arguing that making an app that pulls down public RSS feeds is a ‘commercial use’ and a violation of the public broadcaster’s copyrights.” Looking at the Reddit thread and reading the comments, it looks like this might be due to some podcast apps having ads. But why not talk about that, and not the RSS?


Interesting: using a neural network to define book genres by looking at their covers. “can machines judge books by their covers, too? We already know they judge people by their faces. Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Brian Kenji Iwana and Seiichi Uchida at Kyushu University in Japan. These guys have trained a deep neural network to study book covers and determine the category of book they come from. Their method is straightforward. Iwana and Uchida downloaded 137,788 unique book covers from along with the genre of book.”

Firstpost: With so many failing X Projects, it’s time for Google to get back to basics. “After uncertainty over a host of Google projects like Nest, Verily, autonomous cars and the eventual wipe out of Glass, it’s ambitious delivery-drone Project Wing (that targets Amazon’s Prime Air) seems to be next in line. There are ugly reports floating online about how hiring at Project Wing has been frozen and managers have been shown the door, fueling rumours about how yet another Google X project will be lost in the wild, or probably die sooner than expected. Google has its hands in too many pots or pies or whatever you’d like to call it. But, clearly, Google’s desire to be omnipresent isn’t really working well for the company.” Whether you agree with this or not, this is a good roundup of Google’s various “moonshot” projects. Good morning, Internet…

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