Google is widely regarded as being one of the controllers of the internet. It is by far the most popular search engine and if a site does not appear in the first few pages of results, it may as well not exist. But Google is far from being the only gatekeeper to the internet; Facebook is increasingly vying for that crown, whilst making efforts to make access more secure through Tor. But what does this mean?
Facebook accounts for a terrifying percentage of web traffic -- it is the second most visited website in the world according to Alexa. This means that it has a huge influence online, giving the social network the opportunity to shape the web and holds great sway in determining which sites, services, and stories rise to popularity. To many people, this influence is all but invisible, and this is perhaps the most concerning part of the story. So how does Facebook's influence present itself?
Social networks have long been a domain for trolls, but in more recent times there has been an increasing problem with harassment of women. There have been a number of high-profile cases recently, including #gamergate, where women have found themselves targets of vicious attacks online. Women, Action & the Media (WAM!) is a US non-profit whose aimed is to fight for gender equality in the media, and its latest project involves collaborating with Twitter to help fight harassment and abuse.
The project's aim is to better understand how online persecution can be tackled. WAM! explains that "women of color, queer women, trans women, fat women, and other oppressed groups of women are especially targeted and abused", but the Twitter collaboration is design to help any Twitter users experiencing "gendered harassment".
We all go through difficult times, and it can often be hard to cope with what life throws at us. Whether you're going through a particularly tricky patch and feeling low, or you're struggling with depression, it can be helpful to know that there are people you can talk to. But reaching out to people can be hard and it often falls to friends to notice signs of someone in trouble so they can be there when required.
Everyone would like to think they would notice when a friend starts to post worrying messages online, but the sheer volume of content we all consume each day means that it is easy to miss something important. Suicide prevention charity, Samaritans, has launched a new online venture, Samaritans Radar, which monitors the Twitter feeds of those who sign up, looking out for "potentially worrying tweets".
Back in January feedly -- the RSS reader that tried to fill the gap left by the death of Google Reader -- introduced a URL shortener. At the time it was billed as a "captur[ing] analytics about how people are engaging with the content you are sharing". Ten months later, the news service realized that this could be seen as being overly intrusive and has killed the tool.
The original blog post that heralded the launch of feedly.com/e has been updated to reflect the fact that the shortener is no more. "With hindsight this was a bad idea. We focused too much on feedly's growth versus doing what is right for users and for the Web. Sorry".
You might think that you've already paid enough to get online. You bought your computer (or phone, tablet, whatever...), you pay line rental to your phone provider, you pay your monthly broadband charges, you pay the bill for electricity all of this requires. How does the idea of an extra charge on top of this sound? No? That's the general feeling in Hungary where an "internet tax" has been proposed by Viktor Orban's right wing government.
The Prime Minister proposes taxing internet usage in a similar way to mobile phone companies -- by tracking traffic levels. How much could this end up costing? Well, it could very quickly add up. The draft law suggests a fee of 150 forints (around $0.60) per gigabyte. To put that in perspective, it would cost more than $2 to download the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and around the same amount to upgrade to the latest build 9860.
A new email standard called RRVS (Require-Recipient-Valid-Since) has been unveiled by Facebook. The new standard comes through the social network working in conjunction with Yahoo, and is designed to protect users against potential account hijacking.
It's now over a year since Yahoo decided that the time had come to start recycling email addresses that had lain dormant and unused. Concerns were voiced that little used email addresses could end up falling into the wrong hands and be used for nefarious purposes. With email addresses used for much more than just email communication -- often doubling up as login credentials -- the need for security in this area is apparent.
A new survey conducted by Microsoft shows that more than one in four PC owners in the US is suffering weekly, or even daily, attempts by criminals to gain access to their private data. Microsoft found that 22 percent of tablet users suffered similar data access attempts, and that general levels of concern about scams has increased. While "traditional" scams -- such as those asking for upfront payments or relating to fake lottery winnings -- have actually decreased, there are now more social media-based scams than a couple of years ago.
It's not all bad news. While scams might be on the increase, web users are seemingly more aware of the risks involved in using the internet and take proactive steps to protect themselves and their data. As more people use mobile devices to get online, more phone and tablet users are taking precautions.
Out of nowhere, Ello exploded, ninja-style, into the public eye. The social network shot to fame after Facebook's real name policy sent many users scuttling off in search of a new home, and the spartan, "beautiful" (Ello's word, not mine) social network welcomed an influx of new users. In addition to the "use whatever name you want" philosophy, users were happy to find that Ello offered a completely ad-free experience.
Now the lack of ads has been enshrined in law. While pocketing $5.5 million in a new round of venture funding, Ello has converted to a State of Delaware Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). The social network vows to never show nor sell ads, and requires this commitment to transfer to any future owner, should the company be acquired.
Whatever your mobile platform of choice, there are some apps which are all but impossible to avoid. Some -- like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- have reasonably dull histories; we all know the corporations behind their creation. But there are plenty of other big names with less well known histories. A new infographic from IrishApps.org reveals the stories behind some famous titles, and reveal the fortunes they have generated.
For example, did you know that Flappy Bird was originally going to be called Flap Flap, and was put together in just two days? Or that the founder of Summly was just 17 years old when he sold his app to Yahoo? How about the fact that the Ukrainian developer of WhatsApp is estimated to be worth $7 billion?
The security of the internet is an on-going concern. Whether you're online for fun, or you're conducting business, there are all manner of pitfalls you may encounter. Issues such as viruses and malware are now widely known about, but these are far from being the only security issues to concern yourself with. Security has been thrown into the limelight once again by high-profile stories like the Fappening, problems with SnapChat, concerns about the Whisper app, and the POODLE SSL 3.0 vulnerability.
A large proportion of companies and individuals are aware of the importance of anti-virus and anti-malware tools, firewalls and the like. Security tools are all well and good, but there's also a lot to be said in favor of changing online behaviors; it's something that the online community and businesses are increasingly coming to understand. Much of what this entails -- taking care about the personal information you share and educating yourself about services before you use them -- is common sense, but it bears repeating.
Twitpic was closing, then it wasn't. But now the champagne corks have been well and truly push back into the bottle after news of an acquisition turned out to be a false alarm. Users now have just one week to export their photos and data before Twitpic closes for good on 25 October. Company founder Noah Everett used the Twitpic blog to break the news, explaining that the photos and video sharing service will shut up shop in a week's time.
The last month and a half has been something of a rollercoaster ride for Twitpic and its users. After a trademark application dispute, the original closure announcement came on 4 September with the closure planned for 25 September. A lifeline appeared just two weeks later when it was announced that a buyer had been found.
In times of natural disaster and chaos, people are increasingly turning to social media for news and updates. But while Facebook is a handy way to keep up to date with the latest news about Ebola, earthquakes, and other problems, it's also a valuable means of checking up on loved ones to make sure they're OK. Now the social network has a new tool that makes it easier than ever to let your friends and family know that you’re safe if you happen to be in or near a problem area.
It’s a simple idea. Facebook uses your statuses and check in details to determine where you are. If you happen to be in a disaster area, a message will pop up in your account or mobile app asking if you're OK. You can then indicate that all is well and your friends and family will be able to see that there is no cause for concern.
Mention web or mobile surveillance, and you're sure to raise a few hackles. But the current Ebola outbreak is showing that the data collected from handsets can be extremely useful. The idea of tackling a disease with 'big data' gathered from mobile phones might seem a little odd, but it's actually an incredibly valuable source of information. Telecom firms such as Orange have been working with data scientists, using anonymized data gathered from phones to track population movement in regions affected by Ebola.
The BBC points out that even in relatively poor countries in Africa, mobile phone ownership is still high. Experts have been able to use this data to determine the best places to set up treatment centers, and it's an idea that has been pounced upon by the CDC.
In the wake of the Fappening, online porn and nudity has been thrust into the public consciousness once again. But porn is about much more than titillating celebrity photos -- even if research shows that we're finding it easier to waste our time online when we should be getting on with work. Revenge porn is on the rise, and steps are being taken to try to thwart its progress. As the Fappening showed us, taking saucy pictures of oneself or partner is far from uncommon. This is fun and exciting in the middle of a relationship, but if that relationship should break down, there's no knowing what could happen to those pictures and videos.
Disgruntled partners may decide to get revenge on their former lovers by sharing those intimate photos and movies online, or it may be obtained by a third party and used as a tool for bribery. Many US states have outlawed the practice, and now the UK is following suit.
The GIF was first introduced to the world by CompuServe in 1987 and despite all of the technological advancements that have occurred since then -- including the creation of the web itself -- the ancient graphics format remains as popular today as ever.
With Project GIFV, Imgur has taken what’s great about animated GIFs, but modernized the format. The platform-wide upgrade will automatically convert uploaded GIF files into MP4 video on-the-fly. The resulting .gifv will offer better quality in a smaller file size and load much faster. But that's not all.