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Advertising

Yahoo Patents Smart Billboard That Would Deliver Targeted Ads To Passersby or Motorists (thestack.com) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Yahoo has filed a patent for advertising billboards outfitted with a wide array of sensors -- including drone-based cameras -- which would use facial and vehicle recognition, data brokers, cell-tower information and social network information to attempt to identify worthwhile advertising targets and aim personalized ads at them as they pass on foot or in cars. The scheme, which was submitted on October 6th, anticipates using the same kind of micro-auction processes that currently determine which ads users see in webpages and mobile apps. The implementation of public ad-targeting brings up some fascinating and chilling prospects, as users find that the ads which "bloom" around them betray much about their private lives. Yahoo provides an example via its patent application: "According to one example, a digital billboard adjacent a busy freeway might be instrumented with or located near traffic sensors that detect information about the context of the vehicles approaching the billboard, e.g., the number and average speed of the vehicles. Such information might be used in conjunction with information about the time of day and/or the day of the week (e.g., Monday morning rush hour) to select advertisements for display that would appeal to an expected demographic and to display the advertisements for durations that are commensurate with the level of traffic congestion." The patent application also mentions how it will gather required information from individuals: "Various types of data (e.g., cell tower data, mobile app location data, image data, etc.) can be used to identify specific individuals in an audience in position to view advertising content. Similarly, vehicle navigation/tracking data from vehicles equipped with such systems could be used to identify specific vehicles and/or vehicle owners. Demographic data (e.g., as obtained from a marketing or user database) for the audience can thus be determined for the purpose of, for example, determining whether and/or the degree to which the demographic profile of the audience corresponds to a target demographic."
Businesses

55 Percent Of Online Shoppers Start Their Product Searches On Amazon (recode.net) 141

Another year, another data point showing Amazon has surpassed Google as the default search engine for shopping, a report on Recode reads. Fifty-five percent of people in the U.S. now start their online shopping trips on Amazon.com, according to results from a 2,000-person survey commissioned by the e-commerce startup BloomReach. That stat marks a 25 percent increase from the same survey last year, when 44 percent of online shoppers said they turned to Amazon first. From the report: Over the same time, the percentage of shoppers who start product searches on search engines like Google dropped from 34 percent to 28 percent. The number of online shoppers who check out a retailer's website (other than Amazon) first also shrunk, from 21 percent to 16 percent.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents A User-Monitoring AI That Improves Search Results (hothardware.com) 68

Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes a HotHardware article about Microsoft's new patent filing for an OS "mediation component": This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all textual input within apps to intelligently decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the Mediator and processed. So when the user goes to, for example, the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query.

The search engine (e.g., Bing and Cortana) uses contextual rankers to adjust the ranking of the default suggested queries to produce more relevant [results]. The operating system...tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually).

The article argues this feels "creepy and big brother-esque," and while Microsoft talks of defining a "task continuum," suggests the patent's process "would in essence keep track of everything you type and interact with in the OS and stockpile it in real-time to data-dump into Bing."
Google

Google Is Testing a Trending Stories Feature On Its Homepage (fortune.com) 29

Jeff John Roberts, reporting for Fortune: Google and its rival Facebook have transformed into giant media companies in recent years, working with news and video companies as part strategy to encourage consumers to stay on their platforms. Now, it appears Google is taking another big step in this direction by showing visitors three trending news stories on its home page -- right under its iconic search bar -- as well as three "trending topics." Google's decision to display trending news topics mirrors what Facebook has been doing in recent months, and will likely provide more grist for the debate over how the companies curate news, and their growing power over the media. The change to Google's homepage began to appear this week, though it does not appear to have been rolled out to many users.
Google

Google Search For Android Now Finds Info Hidden Inside Apps (pcworld.com) 40

An anonymous reader writes: First Google created a centralized place to search the web, and now Google has a centralized spot to search your Android phone. The company just announced a new feature for the Google App called In Apps. As its name implies, In Apps lets you search for content inside your Android apps, such as a specific song, contact, or note in Google Keep. To start, the new feature will only work with a select number of apps, including Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. Google also has plans to add Evernote, Facebook Messenger, Glide, Google Keep, LinkedIn, and Todoist in the coming months. All app searches happen on your device itself, not Google's servers, which means you don't need an Internet connection to use the feature. It's not clear how often the app will index your content or how much of a hit it will take on your battery or device performance.
Businesses

Spotify Is Burying Tracks From Musicians Who Give Exclusives To Apple and Tidal (bloomberg.com) 87

The music-streaming market is very competitive these days, especially since Apple released Apple Music last year. In retaliation for musicians giving Apple exclusive access to their new music, Spotify has reportedly been making their songs harder to find on its service. Bloomberg reports: "Artists who have given Apple exclusive access to new music have been told they won't be able to get their tracks on featuring playlists once the songs become available on Spotify, said the people [familiar with the strategy], who declined to be identified discussing the steps. Those artists have also found their songs buried in the search rankings of Spotify, the world's largest music-streaming service, the people said. Spotify said it doesn't alter search rankings. Spotify has been using such practices for about a year, one of the people said, though others said the efforts have escalated over the past few months. Artists who have given exclusives to Tidal, the streaming service run by Jay Z, have also retaliated against, the person said, declining to identify specific musicians."
Google

You Can Now Play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe in Google's Search Results (venturebeat.com) 55

Paul Sawers, writing for VentureBeat: Google announced a couple of fun little nuggets today: you can now play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe directly in Google's search results. Available through the desktop and Google mobile apps, anyone searching for the keywords "solitaire" or "tic-tac-toe" will see the usual search results, but featured prominently alongside them you'll also now see a "tap to play" option which whisks you off to play the game. Google is no stranger to hiding so-called "easter eggs" in its products, including Search -- for example, last year it had a surprise in store to mark the anniversary of Super Mario. Moreover, Google already lets you play some games within Search, including Pacman.
Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Networking

The Rise and Fall of the Gopher Protocol (minnpost.com) 225

An anonymous reader writes: Tim Gihring at MinnPost talks to the creators of what was, briefly, the biggest thing in the internet, Gopher. Gopher, for those who don't know or have forgotten, was the original linked internet application, allowing you to change pages and servers easily, though a hierarchical menu system. It was quick, it was easy to use, and important for this day and age, it didn't have Flash.
The article remembers Tim Berners-Lee describing the idea of a worldwide web at a mid-March, 1992 meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force, at a time when Gopher "was like the Web but more straightforward, and it was already working." Gopher became magnitudes more popular -- both MTV and the White House announced Gopher sites -- leading to GopherCons around the country. Just curious -- how many Slashdot readers today remember using Gopher?
Piracy

Popular BitTorrent Search Engine Site Torrentz.eu Mysteriously Disappears (softpedia.com) 118

monkeyzoo writes: Softpedia reports that Torrentz.eu, the internet's biggest BitTorrent meta-search engine, has mysteriously and suddenly shut down. Visitors of the website see a simple message that reads, "Torrentz was a free, fast and powerful meta-search engine combining results from dozens of search engines." Trying to run a search, or clicking any link on the site changes that message to "Torrentz will always love you. Farewell." The main .EU domain, as well as all backup domains (.ME, .CH, and .IN), have the same message. The reason for the disappearance is mysterious, but there is speculation that Torrentz.eu admins decided to pull the plug on their own and avoid any future legal problems in the wake of increasing legal pressure on The Pirate Bay and the arrests related to KickassTorrents. It also cannot be ruled out that the site was hacked.
Google

Google and Bing Have No Obligation To Censor Searches For Torrents (betanews.com) 62

Microsoft and Google are under no obligation to weed out 'torrent' results from their respective search engines, the High Court of Paris has ruled. BetaNews adds: French music industry group SNEP went to court on behalf of a trio of artists, requesting that Microsoft and Google automatically filter out links to pirated material. The group had called for a complete block on searches that include the word 'torrent' as well as blocking sites whose name includes the word. The court found that SNEP's request was far too broad, saying: "SNEP's requests are general, and pertain not to a specific site but to all websites accessible through the stated methods, without consideration for identifying or even determining the site's content, on the premise that the term 'Torrent' is necessarily associated with infringing content".The court added that 'torrent' is a common noun, which has a range of different meanings.
The Almighty Buck

Marissa Mayer Says Yahoo Continues To Make Solid Progress, Earnings Report Says Otherwise (fool.com) 130

tomhath quotes a report from Fool: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer tried to emphasize the progress that the company has made. "We continue to make solid progress against our 2016 plan," Mayer said, and "in addition to our efforts to improve the operating business, our board has made great progress on strategic alternatives." The CEO argued that the results met or exceeded the company's own guidance. Yahoo! was able to post a revenue increase by changing the ways that it presents revenue related to its search agreement with Microsoft, and without that change, adjusted revenue of $1.055 billion was down 15% from the year-ago quarter. That was even worse than the 13% drop investors were expecting, and adjusted EBITDA fell by more than a third. That resulted in adjusted net earnings of $0.09 per share, missing the consensus forecast by a penny but also glossing over a $440 million net loss on a GAAP basis. The company took a $395 million goodwill impairment charge and an $87 million intangibles impairment charge related to its Tumblr unit, determining that the fair value of the division is less than the amount indicated on Yahoo!'s balance sheet. It was also revealed that Yahoo is writing down the value of its Tumblr acquisition by $482 million, citing lower projections for the social network's future performance, according to a report from CNNMoney. Last quarter, the company took a $230 million write-down on its Tumblr acquisition. Since Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion in 2013, Yahoo has written down more than half of its value.
Yahoo!

Mozilla Could Walk Away and Still Get More Than $1 Billion If It Doesn't Like Yahoo's Buyer (recode.net) 144

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Under terms of a contract that has been seen by Recode, whoever acquires Yahoo might have to pay Mozilla annual payments of $375 million through 2019 if it does not think the buyer is one it wants to work with and walks away. That's according to a clause in the Silicon Valley giant's official agreement with the browser maker that CEO Marissa Mayer struck in late 2014 to become the default search engine on the well-known Firefox browser in the U.S. Mozilla switched to Yahoo from Google after Mayer offered a much more lucrative deal that included what potential buyers of Yahoo say is an unprecedented term to protect Mozilla in a change-of-control scenario. It was a scenario that Mayer never thought would happen, which is why she apparently pushed through the possibly problematic deal point. According to the change-of-control term, 9.1 in the agreement, Mozilla has the right to leave the partnership if -- under its sole discretion and in a certain time period -- it did not deem the new partner acceptable. And if it did that, even if it struck another search deal, Yahoo is still obligated to pay out annual revenue guarantees of $375 million.
Japan

Japan's First VR Porn Festival Shut Down Due To Unprecedented Popularity (dailymail.co.uk) 74

turkeydance quotes a report from Daily Mail: A Japanese sex festival was over prematurely as herds of virtual porn fans caused overcrowding fears. Streams of locals were looking to get their hands on the latest inventions from the adult entertainment industry in the first festival of its kind -- the Adult VR Fest 01 in the Akihabara region of Tokyo. But fans of virtual reality porn, which re-enacts sex and other acts using a blend of simulation headsets, male-friendly sex toys and other gadgets, were left disappointed as the event was shut down due to unprecedented popularity. A Japanese reporter told VR Talk: "For those who did get to go inside, excitement ran wild. I'm not entirely sure if the same thing would happen in the U.S., but VR porn enthusiasts rushed to have a go at some of the latest virtual reality gadgets." About 20 fans were able to make it inside, but the event was reportedly called off due to the unsettling crowds gathered outside. VR Talk also reported that Google searches for the phrase 'VR Porn' have soared nearly 10,000%.
Google

Google Twists the Knife, Asks For Sanctions Against Oracle Attorney (arstechnica.com) 78

Google isn't done with its victory over Oracle. Court filings suggest that Google will be filing a motion for sanctions against Oracle and its law firm, Orrick, Sutcliffe & Herrington. The Mountain View-based company is apparently irked that Oracle attorney disclosed the financial agreements between Google and Apple. From an Ars Technica report: Speaking in open court, Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that Google's Android operating system had generated revenue of $31 billion and $22 billion in profit. She also disclosed that Google pays Apple $1 billion to keep Google's search bar on iPhones. "Look at the extraordinary magnitude of commerciality here," Hurst told a magistrate judge as she discussed the revenue figures. The $1 billion figure comes from a revenue-split that gives Apple a portion of the money that Google makes off searches that originate on iPhones. The revenue share figure was 34 percent, "at one point in time," according to Hurst. Google lawyers asked for the figure to be struck from the record. "That percentage just stated, that should be sealed," Google lawyer Robert Van Nest said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "We are talking hypotheticals here. That's not a publicly known number."

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