Instagram confirmed today that it will begin inserting ads into users' timelines in the coming months. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that ads would eventually be coming to the photo-centric social network. The company says it will start by "focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community." The ads will initially only be seen by users in the United States.
Instagram's approach to advertising will certainly cause ire among some of its users, but it shouldn't come as a surprise — the service's parent company, Facebook, has been expanding its use of ads quite a bit over the past few years. As with Facebook, if users do not like an ad or find it offensive, they have the option to hide it from their feed and report it to Instagram.
Users will have the option to hide and report ads they don't like to Instagram
Countless companies have already been using Instagram as a promotional tool for years, but this new move will put inserted ads into your timeline even if you don't follow a particular brand or company. Companies that expand their advertising efforts often run the risk of alienating their most loyal users, but the realities of running a business frequently give them little choice in the matter. After all, nobody pays a dime to use Instagram, so the company has to earn revenue if it is to stay operational.
Instagram does make a point in noting that despite this new advertising expansion, users still own the rights to their photos and videos that they upload, and today's announcement doesn't change that. As it stands now, it doesn't seem like Instagram will be able to sell the rights to images and videos you upload without another change to its terms of service.
A week after Google failed to convince a judge that Gmail keyword scanning didn't violate wiretap laws, Yahoo has also been slapped with a class-action privacy lawsuit. A pair of non-Yahoo users say that by scanning incoming emails to serve more targeted ads, Yahoo was effectively intercepting and reading their mail. As non-users, they argue that they didn't agree to the searches, and they're filing suit on behalf of all other Americans who sent mail to Yahoo.
The case isn't exactly like the class-action suit against Google — which included Gmail account holders as well as non-users — but it uses the same basic argument, and Yahoo will likely mount a pretty similar defense. Google argued that if you were sending emails to one of its users, you implicitly understood that Google was going to scan them and that you were voluntarily giving up information to a third party, which removes the legal right to absolute privacy. It also said that scanning emails was a standard part of its business model, which could theoretically let it off the hook.
Judge Lucy Koh, however, said that Google's arguments weren't strong enough to get the suit automatically thrown out, and Yahoo may face the same problems. If the case is successful, the plaintiffs are asking a judge to stop Yahoo from continuing to scan emails and pay damages under both US and California law. That, however, is a long ways away. The case hasn't even been certified as a class action suit yet, and Google hasn't lost its case either, so the precedent is far from clear. As GigaOM notes, Yahoo was fighting a similar suit in 2012, before it was voluntarily dismissed early this year.
Adobe has made the cloud an essential part of its business strategy, but today it's been dealt a major blow thanks to cyber attackers. The company has revealed that an intrusion led to Adobe IDs and passwords along with "certain information" about 2.9 million customers falling into the hands of hackers. "Our investigation currently indicates that the attackers accessed Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords on our systems," writes chief security officer Brad Arkin. But it gets worse. Adobe says customer names, encrypted credit / debit card numbers, and expiration dates were among the data that was compromised. Source code for "numerous Adobe products" was stolen in another recent attack, and Adobe says the two are likely connected.
Arkin says that Adobe doesn't believe attackers made off with any decrypted financial information. Nonetheless, the company will be notifying the many customers whose credit or debit card information was involved. Those users will be eligible to receive one year of complimentary credit monitoring "where available." Banks have also been notified to be on alert, and Adobe says it's actively assisting federal law enforcement in their investigation. Lastly, the company is in the process of resetting passwords for all impacted customers.
Twitter has made public its S1 filing, the document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission which contains the financial details and user metrics of its business. It has 215 million monthly active users, as compared to Facebook's more than one billion. The company is not profitable. During the first six months of 2013 the company pulled in $253.6 million in revenue, but its net loss increased by 41% to $69.3 million."
There are two interesting numbers which will likely work in Twitter's favor. Only one third of its users are currently in the US, meaning it has plenty of room to grow at home. And 65 percent of its revenue comes from mobile advertising, besting its rivals like Facebook and LinkedIn. However, it can't boast big profits, as Facebook did when pitching its IPO.
The company actually filed for its IPO with the SEC all the way back in July, but didn’t reveal its plans until September. Twitter did this by taking advantage of a new "confidential" IPO process made possible by the passage of the JOBS Act.
Twitter hoped that by keeping its IPO confidential it could maintain a lower profile and avoid the disastrous, overhyped offering put on by its rival, Facebook. According to reports, the company has also done a good job helping employees and early investors to sell their equity before the IPO, meaning there won’t be a huge glut of stockholders trying to move their shares on the first day.
It’s also trying to avoid any late-breaking red flags, like the change Facebook made a few weeks before its IPO, where it noted a weakness its mobile ad business. Twitter does have the advantage of having been a mobile company from the start. Because of the confidential IPO filing, Twitter has had time to work privately with the SEC to shape the language and numbers in its S1.
The seven-year-old company, which began as a side project at a failed podcasting startup, has since become a premier global source of news and entertainment. Goldman Sachs is the lead underwriter for the IPO, although several other prominent investment banks are also involved. The company has over one thousand employees, although the exact number is not yet clear.
The company is hoping to raise $1 billion during the IPO.
George Romero, the creator of modern zombie fiction, is bringing the ghouls he created in 1968 to a new medium. Romero tells USA Today that he's planning a Marvel miniseries called Empire of the Dead, a spiritual partner to the long-running series that most recently included Survival of the Dead in 2009. Launching in January, the fifteen-issue miniseries will be set in New York — the city where Romero was born but one he says he could never afford to film in. Empire's New York will apparently be a few years into a zombie apocalypse. "It's basically Chicago or Detroit," says Romero. "The city isn't destroyed, but it's just running on its engine, corrupt and no holds barred. It's a little bit like the Old West."
Though the formula isn't precisely fresh, Romero is promising a twist, which he'll reveal at New York Comic Con. From his hints to USA Today, it sounds as if it might have something to do with the notion of smart zombies. "These zombies are starting to show sparks of real care and concern for each other," he says. "We've got some new rules and new characters, and we're taking it in a completely different direction." Intelligent zombies were explored in Return of the Living Dead, an unofficial sequel to Romero's film, and they've since become a mainstay of the genre, but Romero seems to be planning something more.
Romero isn't entirely new to comics. In 2004, he penned a DC miniseries... which was also about intelligent zombies who, in that case, take over the world. Now, his series will stand alongside Image's The Walking Dead, whose TV adaptation has launched it from popular comic to multimedia empire. Unfortunately, while some of Romero's work is classic, we'll have to wait until January to see if we'll be getting a bomb like Survival of the Dead instead.
Google's Chrome browser has always been a fairly forward-thinking product, but the team behind the Android version finally introduced a feature that iOS users have had since late 2007. In the new beta release of Chrome for Android, you can save any webpage you visit as a link on your homescreen. Even more notably, some of these links will open as full-screen web apps. Web developers will need to enable that functionality, so most sites won't support it right off the bat, but those that do will even get their own tab in Android's multitasking menu.
It's a handy feature, though one that iOS has long had. Android users could pin websites from their browser bookmarks menu to the homepage using a widget for years, but you weren't able to do so with any random page you happened to be on. And while most developers focus on native apps as opposed to deeper web apps, there's little doubt that web apps are a lot more capable today than they were a few years ago (Google's even built an entire desktop OS around the concept). If this is a feature that would be beneficial to you, you should be able to get it through the Chrome for Android beta "later today," — and it should show up in the stable version of Chrome before long.
Some Microsoft investors might not be happy with the idea of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer continuing to guide Microsoft after retiring from the CEO role, but it seems likely that both will continue to do just that. On November 19th, company shareholders will vote on the new board of directors, and today the board has recommended that both Gates and Ballmer be re-elected to their positions there.
Gates has served on the board of directors since 1981, and is presently the company's largest individual shareholder with 4.52 percent of the company's stock. Ballmer joined the board in 2000 when he became CEO, and holds 3.99 percent. All other directors hold less than 1 percent of the company at present, though investment firm BlackRock has 5.57 percent. If they stand together, Gates and Ballmer could still wield a substantial amount of power at the company. Hopefully, Microsoft's new direction, whatever it is, will be compatible with their leadership behind the scenes.