Google’s browser-centric Chromebooks have now found their way into your local big-box electronic store and they seem to be a hit with schools, but there is little evidence that mainstream users are warming up to Google’s ChromeOS devices. Nevertheless, the company is pressing on with this program and now it looks like Google has a nice perk for ChromeOS users up its sleeve that could make Chromebooks a bit more palatable for mainstream users. Google+ user Francois Beaufort (tip of the hat to Chromestory) recently noticed a few lines in Google’s source code for ChromeOS that seem to indicate that Google is about to give Chromebook owners 100 GB of free online storage on Google Drive.
Currently, Google charges everybody $4.99/month for this amount of storage. For Chromebook users, however, storage is obviously a more pressing issue than for others, given that Google only puts a minuscule amount of on-board storage on these cloud-centric devices. It’s unusual to see a laptop with less than 500 GB of storage on the market today and Samsung’s newest Chromebooks only have 16 GB of on-board storage.
It’s worth noting, too, that Google has been rather generous with its online storage promotions recently. The company is also giving a terabyte of Google Drive storage to its first Google Fiber subscribers in Kansas City.
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It looks like someone made the colossally silly decision to buy Mitt Romney Twitter followers. Earlier this month, Romney saw an implausible spike of 150,000 Twitter followers, and many of these likely fake accounts had less than 2 followers, according to some crack reporting by The Atlantic. It is unknown whether the purchase was made by someone at Camp Romney, a clueless PR flack, or a conspirator trying to make him look bad. Regardless, fibbing politicians are a serious affront to democracy, and someone owes the American people an explanation.
Up until Romney’s Twitter spike, his account had been growing at a slow-but-steady 3,500 followers a day, prompting widespread speculation of fraud after the surge occurred in a few weeks ago.
To test whether or not the media had unearthed something legitimate, or were just aching for a cheap corruption story, The Atlantic performed a simple statistical analysis on Romney’s new followers to test if they somehow differed from both Barack Obama’s followers.
Humans typically have more followers than automated accounts, since they Tweet more interesting information and they share similar interests with other netizens. More sophisticated automated accounts will boost their follower account by following one another, but they do so in a (statistically) recognizable way, and can be ferreted out by comparing the way humans cluster together. The study concluded:
“The median number of followers for Romney’s new followers was 5, whereas the median for the comparison group was 27. This represents a stark, and statistically significant difference… the p-value on this was 0.0000.”
The “p-value”, if readers recall from their college Statistics class, is how likely an event could have happened by chance. A coin flipping heads has a p-value of 0.5, for instance. A p-value of 0.0000 means that Romney is about as likely to get hit by a meteor as his is to get 150,000 followers in a few days.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney’s fellow Republican colleague, Newt Gingrich, got in hot water for buying Twitter popularity. “Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater,” a staffer admitted to Gawker.
Now, we’ve argued that social media is an over-hyped asset for political campaigns. If no one under the age of 30 had voted for Obama in 2008, he still would have won every state but two. The fact that Obama has 17 million more followers than Romney is probably inconsequential. But, truthfulness from someone who could be the most powerful man in the world is important. Zach Moffatt, Romney’s otherwise impressive digital director, has denied that the campaign is involved in inflating its Twitter account.
But, someone is buying followers. It’d be a win for the Romney campaign and for the integrity of the office of the President if they were honest about who is responsible.
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We’ve been pretty outspoken about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. From what looked like a good start full of social media promise, the broadcaster has failed to deliver the most crucial element of all: a large, unfettered river of live sports content from the event itself, available to anyone, not just cable subscribers (coverage here, here, and here). It’s been getting a lot of grief on platforms like Twitter, but one subset of annoyed U.S. consumers have taken a more industrious route: getting VPN services.
“We have seen a very large spike in UK VPN sales in the last week,” says Phil Blancett, president of StrongVPN.com, a VPN service provider that gives customers the option of a U.S. or UK IP address. With a UK address, users can effectively visit BBC’s site, as if they were in the UK, meaning they would have full access to the Beeb’s online Olympics video offerings: live plus catch-up streams for every single event, tagged in small chunks based on individual athletes for easy navigation. A regular U.S. user would normally be geo-blocked from accessing this — it is available, theoretically, only to UK TV license fee holders.
StrongVPN is one of an army of VPN service providers that have swarmed in to offer U.S. users IP addresses from other countries so that they can consume Olympic content from streams that are normally geo-blocked. They have names like Hide My Ass, IP Vanish and Hide VPN. The last of these currently highlights the Olympics on its homepage.
Blancett is reluctant to say how many users it has already, or what a “spike” actually means in terms of numbers, citing competitive concerns. The company has been actively marketing itself on Twitter as a route to getting BBC content, courtesy of a Twitter promoted tweet, illustrated above. It offers users the option of having single-country VPN addresses for around $21/year, or a “special” package covering a UK and U.S. address for $55/year.
Much of the conversation there seems to be about companies offering routes to U.S. consumers to watch non-NBC Olympics coverage (Twitter’s river for Olympics+VPN here; Google’s river here; and other news organizations like Reuters have started to note it, too). But it’s not like NBC can do much about this. VPNs take advantage of the design of the internet, using the ability to edit IP addresses to allow users to access sites as if they were elsewhere in the world.
“It’s not the responsiblity of the VPN provider how people use our connections,” says Blancett. “We provide a VPN account and a secure connection, not what happens on those connections.” He compares the role of a VPN provider to that of an ISP, which should not be monitoring how you are using your Internet connection. Another issue that these companies are making money elsewhere and have other concerns with getting their Olympics coverage right. “I really don’t think the BBC or NBC really care. They’ve got bigger fish to fry,” he says.
We’re still trying to figure out just how much BBC content is getting streamed outside of the UK, although it’s a tricky business. The host broadcaster, OBS, who was appointed by the IOC and London’s Olympic Committe, LOCOG, provides feeds for all rights holders. It’s the IOC and OBS who are responsible for monitoring international online usage. (We’re reaching out to ask if they have some stats to share on this.)
It’s not clear that the BBC is able to chart non-UK users, anyway: the BBC has been getting some good traffic online around the Olympics but nothing that seems earth-shattering. The most recent daily figure it has was for Monday, when it had 9.7 million global browsers for bbc.co.uk/sport, with 7.2m in the UK, beating Sunday’s record of 8.3m globally.
Generally, the BBC would see viewing spikes around certain events that would interest a UK audience, and this doesn’t appear to be any different with this year’s Olympics: Tom Daley’s diving events, Rebecca Adlington’s medal win, and the cycling at the weekend, TechCrunch understands, have all been popular streams. That means that either there aren’t really that many people from outside the UK watching, or that the BBC is not able to measure them.
The BBC has only provided the following response to us on this topic: “As the official Olympic Broadcaster in the UK, the BBC geo-blocks its online content, so that video and audio streams are not available to audiences outside the UK.”
Meanwhile, sites like StrongVPN have, up to now, developed much of their reputation for serving countries like China, which geo-block a number of sites like Facebook and Twitter for political reasons. Blancett notes that his company has 1,000 servers set up in San Francisco mainly to serve its China customer base, for example, but there are others, too: “Users in Belize can’t use Skype unless they’re on a VPN,” he notes.
But as the amount of content — and specifically video content — has continued to grow online, so has the desire among consumers to get it where they want it, and when they want it. And just as torrent sites arose out of a time when getting content elsewhere simply wasn’t there, so has the market for VPNs and what they are getting used for, too.
NBC.com, NBC Universal’s network website, is an online and mobile destination for television and interactive entertainment. With both derivative and web-exclusive programming, the site offers full episode streaming of many NBC Entertainment shows as well as short clips, interactive games and social networking, including user-generated content. NBC.com continually develops new ways for consumers to experience entertainment content on both existing and emerging platforms. The site is the recipient of multiple Emmy and Webby awards for its content and applications….
The BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world. Its purpose is to enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain. It is a public service broadcaster, established by a Royal Charter and funded by the licence fee that is paid by UK households.
The BBC has a commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which operates a range of businesses including selling advertising across BBC websites to viewers outside the UK. Its profits are returned…
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Yahoo Mail users were surprised today by an upgrade that never went through, blocking them from accessing their inbox. Hundreds of users have taken to Yahoo Answers to try to figure out what’s happening.
Yahoo user “Brad” started a popular thread, “I got a message that Yahoo Mail has been upgraded, that it’s faster and easier to use. Yahoo said I needed to consent to the new terms of service. I clicked Accept and the screen blinks and gives me the same Accept or No Thanks option.”
We’ve received several emails from Yahoo users experiencing similar problems.
Ironically, when users logged in, they were greeted with a message reading, ”Yahoo! Mail is now even faster, safer, and easier to use. Yahoo! now automatically identifies items such as words, links, people and subjects from your email to learn what matters to you so that we can deliver exciting new product features and relevant ads.”
Then, after accepting terms, many were either looped back to the same “accept terms” page or greeted by a failure message.
Many anticipated that new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer would make changes to Yahoo’s email service, which lags far behind Gmail. Looks like Yahoo hit its first speed bump in the overhaul.
Update: Yahoo has released the following statement, “Yahoo! Mail, Messenger and other areas of Yahoo! may currently be inaccessible or slow to respond to some users in certain locations. We are working to correct the issue and restore all functionality immediately. We know that this may have caused some inconvenience and we apologize to our users who might be affected.”
Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang. It has since evolved into a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other web services.
Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo!), incorporated in 1995, is a global Internet brand. To users, the Company provides owned and operated online properties and services (Yahoo! Properties, Offerings, or Owned and Operated sites). Yahoo! also extends its marketing platform and access to Internet users beyond Yahoo! Properties through its distribution network…
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Adams tweeted in two parts, “Twitter emails to tell me: “we have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request…Therefore your account has been unsuspended.” No further explanation given, or apology offered.”
The complainant was NBC, and it looks like they have backed down under severe public criticism.
Adams’ first tweet since the suspension poked fun at the situation:
Oh. My Twitter account appears to have been un-suspended. Did I miss much while I was away?
— Guy Adams (@guyadams) July 31, 2012
Update: Adams has posted a story on The Independent, “I thought the internet age had ended this kind of censorship.” In one paragraph, he directly refutes the claim that he broke Twitter’s terms of service:
Twitter’s guidelines forbid users from publishing what they call “private” information, including “private email addresses”. There is plenty of sense in this. But I did not Tweet a private email address. I Tweeted a corporate address for Mr Zenkel, which is widely listed online, and is identical in form to that of tens of thousands of those at NBC.
Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to post updates 140 characters long. Twitter “is a real-time information network that connects [users] to the latest stories, ideas, opinions, and news.”
The service can be accessed through a variety of methods, including Twitter’s website; text messaging; instant messaging; and third-party desktop, mobile, and web applications. Twitter is currently available in…
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