Tag Archive: Google

The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show

The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, January 2011. Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

The US software titan launched the premier BlueHat Prize competition at a major Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

“As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, Microsoft recognizes the need to stimulate research in the area of defensive computer security technology,” said Microsoft Trustworthy Computer Group general manager Matt Thomlinson.

“Our interest is to promote a focus on developing innovative solutions rather than discovering individual issues,” he continued.

Microsoft opted to offer prizes for defending against entire types of cyber attacks instead of simple paying “bounties” to those that discover individual computer bugs.

BlueHat promised more than $250,000 dollars in cash and other prizes to software savants at young as 14 years old. The theme for the first year of the contest was preventing hacks exploiting computer memory vulnerabilities.

Microsoft said it hoped the contest would inspire contributions from researchers, security professionals, and even young hackers.

“Some of the value in this prize is beyond money; it is inspiring not just the current generation but the next generation,” said Microsoft lead security strategist Katie Moussouris.

“We have found that some of our best defenders come from the opposite side of the security coin,” she added.

BlueHat Prize entries will be evaluated by an internal panel of judges at Microsoft, with $200,000 going to the top submission and $50,000 awarded to the second place finisher.

The third-place prize will be a subscription to Microsoft services worth $10,000.

BlueHat winners will be revealed at the Black Hat gathering in Las Vegas next year. Information about the contest was available online at bluehatprize.com.


Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, Myspace and Twitter did in their early days


Google is a latecomer to social networking but its new site, Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, Myspace and Twitter did in their early days, technology experts said.

While + may be the fastest-growing social network ever, it remains to be seen, however, whether it can pose a serious threat to the  titan Facebook, which has more than 750 million members.

Andrew Lipsman, vice president for industry analysis at tracking firm , said Google+, which was launched by the  and advertising giant on June 28, had 25 million unique visitors as of July 24.

During a panel discussion on Google+ hosted by Wedbush Securities, Lipsman said it took other social networks much longer to reach 25 million users: 22 months for Myspace, 33 months for  and 37 months for Facebook.

“Obviously, this is a very strong growth trajectory,” Lipsman said.

He cautioned, however, that Google “has a really large user base it can build off of” with its one billion users worldwide.

And it still has a “really long way to go to be competitive with Facebook,” Lipsman said.

“Google+ is the fastest by a long shot but it’s important to realize that fastest may not always be best,” he said. “Sometimes, that slow build can lead to a strong network effect that pays long-term dividends.”

Most Google+ users — 6.4 million — are in the United States, followed by India with 3.6 million, Canada with 1.1 million, Britain with 1.1 million and Germany with over 920,000, according to comScore.

Lipsman said many Google+ users appear to also be users of Google’s email program  and display a “very strong early adopter profile.”

He said the ratio of men to women is about two to one and that 60 percent of Google+ users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

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In the United States, the highest numbers of Google+ users are in the tech-savvy cities of San Francisco and Austin, Texas, he said.

Steve Rubel, executive vice president for global strategy and insights at public relations firm Edelman, said Facebook is not “vulnerable immediately” to Google.

“I don’t see (Google+) taking significant share from Facebook in the next 18 months,” Rubel said.

At the same time, “what we have seen is that over the years there’s never been a social network or community that has had significant staying power,” he said. “There’s always a shuffling every two or three years, a changing of the guard.

“We saw it with ,” he said of the one-time social networking leader that has been eclipsed by Facebook and hemorrhaging users ever since.

Rubel said Google was compelled to try its hand at social networking because Facebook is restricting the access of its search engine to Facebook content.

“What’s happening is more content is being created behind Facebook’s walls than ever before and a lot of that content is invisible to Google,” he said.

“Conceptually, at least, they’re building kind of an alternate Web… There’s also an entire Web that is app-based on mobile phones. That is also invisible to them.”

Rubel said it was conceivable that more content would be invisible to them in five or 10 years than what the search engine can see today when created on Facebook or inside apps.

“So they had to make a play to get more people to create content on their site,” he continued. “It’s to get more people to spend time on Google.”

In unveiling Google+, Google stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different “Circles,” or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.

One of the criticisms of Facebook is that updates are shared with all of one’s friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate  Groups.

netflix earnings

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — When you’re a new tech company with a cool product, life is good. But once you become an industry leader, pleasing people is a lot tougher. Just ask Netflix.

Netflix enjoyed a strong second quarter, but it wasn’t good enough to satisfy investors on Monday. And the company spent much of its earnings release discussing problems — namely, a recent price hike that launched thousands of online complaints.

Although Netflix (NFLX) reported earnings of $1.26 a share, easily topping estimates from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters who expected $1.11 a share, sales missed forecasts.

Revenue rose 52% to almost $789 million. Analysts were predicting sales of $791 million. The stock fell nearly 8.5% in after-hours trading on the news.

Customers reacted angrily when Netflix announced earlier this month that it’s hiking prices on plans that include DVDs and streaming, in a move that highlights the company’s shift from physical discs to online video.

“It is expected and unfortunate that our DVD subscribers who also use streaming don’t like our price change, which can be as much as a 60% increase,” Netflix said in its earnings release.

The company acknowledged that “some subscribers will cancel Netflix or downgrade their Netflix plans, [but] we expect most to stay with us.”

Analysts asked several questions about the price hike on a post-earnings conference call. One question noted the thousands of comments on Netflix’s own blog announcing the new pricing strategy, as well as tweets under the hashtag #DearNetflix.

But the social media “noise level was actually less than we expected, given a 60% price increase for some subscribers,” said Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. “We knew what we were getting into.”

Netflix price hike? Stock’s pulled back!

Netflix warned that it “will see only the negative impact of the pricing change” in the third quarter. The company expects to earn 72 cents to $1.07 a share next quarter. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $1.09 a share for the quarter.

Nearly 75% of Netflix’s new customers during the quarter signed up for streaming-only plans. Netflix now has 25.6 million subscribers across the globe, up from 15 million customers a year ago. It has about 24.6 million in the U.S. alone.

But the company said that domestic subscriber growth in the third quarter will be relatively sluggish. Netflix expects to finish the quarter with between 24.6 million and 25.4 million U.S. subscribers — close to flat from the current figure.

Netflix said DVD shipments have likely peaked already, but it’s still setting up “a dedicated DVD division” with “no intention of selling it.” The company will resume marketing its DVD-by-mail service in the fourth quarter, something it hasn’t done in several quarters.

Content costs and new competitors: As streaming video gets more popular, Netflix is facing two headwinds: studios and potential rivals.

Netflix was able to score comparatively cheap streaming deals when the service first launched, but now content providers want to be paid more for the content they’re providing. One analyst predicts Netflix’s streaming content licensing costs will rise from $180 million in 2010 to a whopping $1.98 billion in 2012.

Google and Amazon have launched their own streaming video services, and Netflix’s most direct competitor, Hulu, is on the selling block. Walt Disney Co. (DISFortune 500) Chief Executive Robert Iger said at a conference earlier this month that Hulu’s owners — who include Disney — are “committed to selling” it.

The list of interested potential Hulu buyers includes Google (GOOG,Fortune 500), Apple (AAPLFortune 500), Amazon (AMZN,Fortune 500) and Yahoo (YHOOFortune 500) plus telecoms AT&T (TFortune 500) and Verizon (VZFortune 500). Landing Hulu would give any of them a strong foothold in challenging Netflix.

But Netflix said in a letter to shareholders Monday that it will not bid on Hulu. Netflix cited the fact that “most of [Hulu’s] revenue is from providing free ad-supported streaming of current season TV shows, which is not our focus.” To top of page

As Google+ continues to grow, debate rages over whether or not Facebook users should ditch their favored social network and try out the search giant’s option. There are some that say such a shift makes sense, since Facebook isn’t as adept at delivering a worthwhile social experience any longer. Others say that sticking with Facebook is the way to go, since it’s so big, and that’s where everybody’s friends hang out.

Admittedly, making that decision is personal. And a solid argument can be made for using both social networks simultaneously. But if folks decide to turn their backs on Facebook and only use Google+ as their go-to social network, it wouldn’t be a mistake. After all, there are a host of solid reasons people might decide to ditch Facebook in favor of Google+.

Read on to learn more about why some users are making the jump from Facebook to Google+, and why by doing so, they might find a better social network.

1. Facebook’s privacy troubles

Facebook is no stranger to privacy troubles. Last year, for example, the company came under fire for making too much user data readily available to the public. In response, Facebook unveiled new privacy features last year that simplified the process of keeping personal information away from parties user didn’t want to share it with. The only problem is the social network continues to come under fire from security experts, including Sophos, which said earlier this year that it needs to do more to keep the privacy and security of data paramount in its plans. Although Google doesn’t have the best privacy record either, Facebook’s troubles might be enough to warrant a change to Google+.

2. It’s all about Circles

When Facebook users share content on their page, it’s very difficult to get only certain people to see it. In many cases, all of a person’s friends see content, regardless of whether they want them to or not. But with Google+’s Circles feature, that issue is eliminated. Circles lets users put other folks into certain “groups” and then determine what they want to share with each group. Circles are central to the appeal of Google+.

3. Data Liberation is arguably the best feature

The best feature on Google+ is the service’s Data Liberation. When employing that feature, users can download all their Google content, including photos, profile information, contacts, and more, to their computers. In other words, a user who shares information in Google+ actually owns that content. On Facebook, that just isn’t the case. If ownership matters to users, Google+ is their best bet.

4. Facebook video chat is lame in comparison

Facebook recently announced Skype integration, allowing users to engage in a video chat with a friend. It’s a nice addition. The only problem is, when it comes to video chatting, Google+ reigns supreme, thanks to its Hangouts feature. Hangouts allow users to have a video chat with up to 10 people at the same time at no charge. Plus, friends who happen to see others in a video chat can drop in and join the conversation. Facebook can’t compete on any level with that functionality.

5. It’s more than a social network

One of the best things about Google+ is that the search giant isn’t simply making it a walled garden away from its other products. Google+ allows users to see what sites they’ve given a “+1” rating on, and thanks to a navigation pane at the top, users can quickly jump to Gmail, Google News, and other services. Google+ is designed to be more than just a social network. And that’s refreshing.

6. Google is serious about identities

A major issue with other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, is that the users’ identities are not easily determined. In many cases, people either don’t use their real names or impersonate others. With its social project, Google is forcing users to display only their real-world names. In the long-run, that will be a welcome feature as folks find fewer impersonators and more legitimate content.

7. Strong privacy features

Google was smart with Google+. Rather than try and get users to share as much content as possible, the search giant has delivered a host of privacy features to allow users to share only what they’re comfortable with. With the platform’s privacy tool, users can assign their “network visibility,” to determine with whom to share posts and more. Privacy is vastly important when it comes to social networks and Google seems to understand that.

8. A small, dedicated group of users

A solid argument can be made that Facebook’s 750 million active users should be enough to convince people to stay put. After all, the majority of an average person’s friends are likely using Facebook and not Google+. However, there is something to be said for Google+’s current user community. For the most part, its users are active, engaged and doing their part to make the environment as rich as possible. On Facebook, that isn’t always the case. For now, Google+ user’s base is one worth joining.

9. It’s a real news feed

Google+ comes with a nice feature, called Sparks. With it, users can input a topic that they’re interested in and find information related to that. So, if they like movies, they can get film-related news. Those who are into comics can learn more about that. Sparks makes Google+ a full-fledged news feed, thus keeping users in place and making them want to come back for more.

10. Facebook should have a competitor

If nothing else gets a user to switch, perhaps they should think about the competitive landscape in the social space. Right now, Facebook is dominating all other social networks, and the closest alternative, Twitter, is more like a complement than a competitor. But Google+ is a direct competitor with the ability to scare Facebook. And as consumers have seen time and again, a little fear in the marketplace is a good thing for long-term innovation. Simply put, if Google+ and Facebook battle it out, the users will benefit no matter who is winning.

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