Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 27

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 203

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Businesses

Comcast Customer Satisfaction Drops 6% After TV Price Hikes, ACSI Says (arstechnica.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 126

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
Businesses

Music Streaming Service Tidal Loses Third CEO In Two Years (cnet.com) 19

An anonymous reader shares an article: The music-streaming service Tidal is saying goodbye to yet another CEO. Jefffrey Toig, who became the company's CEO in December 2015, is leaving the company. This would make him the third CEO leaving Tidal after two years, following the departure of Andy Chen and Peter Tonstad. In a statement to CNET, Tidal said that it will announce a new CEO in the coming weeks. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but its bet doesn't seem to be making any splashes. On top of that, the company was accused in January of lying about its 3-million subscriber-base. They were accused of creating fake accounts.
Businesses

80% of Millennials Say They Want To Buy a Home -- But Most Have Less Than $1,000 (cnbc.com) 517

An anonymous reader writes: Millennials aren't buying homes in the same numbers as previous and older generations, but it's not because they don't want to. The vast majority of millennials do indeed aim to buy someday, or would even like to now if they could. Unfortunately, the numbers don't look good. New data from Apartment List shows that, although 80 percent of millennials would like to purchase real estate, very few are in a good position to buy, largely because they have nothing saved. According to the report, '68 percent of millennials said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. Almost half, or 44 percent, of millennials said they have not saved anything for a down payment.'
Businesses

The Gig Economy Workforce Will Double In Four Years (recode.net) 59

The number of workers in the so-called gig economy will grow substantially in the coming years, according to a study by Intuit and Emergent Research. By 2021, the study finds, 9.2 million people are going to be working the frontline jobs at companies like Uber and Lyft. That number is projected to be 4.8 million this year. From a report: The rise in on-demand workers has been fueled largely by startups like Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb. It has also helped companies like Intuit, which makes tax software QuickBooks and TurboTax. The company's stock surged to an all-time high yesterday thanks to the gig economy. For context, there are currently more gig workers than people employed in the entire information sector (which includes publishing, telecommunication and data processing jobs) and IT services combined, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also read: A recent piece on The New Yorker which talks about the lengths to which people are willing to go to survive in such jobs -- a horrifying culture that is often celebrated in those companies.
The Almighty Buck

With Nothing Left To Sell, RadioShack Is Selling Itself To People (theverge.com) 205

RadioShack, an almost 100-year-old American chain of wireless and electronics stores, had a hell of ride at retail. The cradle of building your own electronics at home, and an early participant in the PC revolution, is finally facing the end after a long, slow death at the hands of consumer disinterest, a dysfunctional marriage with Sprint. From a report: Tons of electronics stores have shuttered over the past decade, but few are as tragic as RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015, appeared to be rescued by Sprint in agreement to co-share the stores, then got kicked to the curb and had to file for a second bankruptcy this past March. The new agreement means hundreds of RadioShack shops will officially close down and be replaced by Sprint stores, fizzling out dreams of the Maker movement. So while this is an end to another chapter of our American electronics retail culture, we do have to wonder: how are the folks at RadioShack doing? They have been selling the leftover stocks of electronics for a while, with only mostly store fixtures, ladders, and carpet tiles seemingly left on offer. This is what RadioShack posted earlier this month. The company has since been tweeting about the leftover stuff it has up on sale, though.
Businesses

Disney Chief Bob Iger Doesn't Believe Movie Hack Threat Was Real (hollywoodreporter.com) 26

You may remember Disney's boss revealing that hackers had threatened to leak one of the studio's new films unless it paid a ransom. Bob Iger didn't name the film, but it was thought to be "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." But now Iger says: "To our knowledge we were not hacked." From a report: Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger confirmed Thursday that a hacker claiming to have stolen an upcoming Disney movie and demanding a ransom didn't appear to have the goods. "To our knowledge we were not hacked," Iger told Yahoo Finance. "We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen. We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required." Iger continued, "We don't believe that it was real and nothing has happened." On May 15, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Iger told ABC employees at a town hall meeting in New York that someone claiming to have stolen an upcoming movie would release the film on the internet unless the company paid a ransom. Iger told staff that the studio wouldn't meet any such demands.
Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech (fortune.com) 694

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.
The Almighty Buck

Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency (bloomberg.com) 51

The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.
Businesses

US Senator Introduces the First Bill To Give Gig Workers Benefits (techcrunch.com) 151

Virginia Senator Mark Warner has introduced a bill that will give basic benefits to gig workers. "Warner has just proposed the first-ever piece of national legislation aimed at helping on-demand and other non-traditional workers without traditional benefits, like paid sick days or a retirement plan, have some sort of a safety net," reports TechCrunch. "The bill asks the federal government to set aside $20 million in funding for organizations to use to look at the types of benefits programs individual workers could take with them from job to job." From the report: "[Portable benefits is] that emergency fund," Warner told BuzzFeed, which first reported news of the bill. "It might be a fund to take care of a disability if you get hurt. It might work with some existing retirement programs. Part of it would be, depending on what happens with Obamacare, an ability to help deal with health care expenses. I think there will be a variety of models." The funding wouldn't be enough to cover everyone, of course, but if it gets the green light a draft of the bill indicates it would earmark $5 million toward grants doled out by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta for organizations already looking into portable benefits and $15 million for new programs.
Businesses

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms (bbc.com) 122

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."
Television

Cord-Cutters Are Ditching Their Cable Packages At the Fastest Rate Ever (axios.com) 201

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, opting instead for cheaper, bundled digital TV options, according to the latest Magid Broadcast Study. The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two month, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now -- all at a roughly $40 monthly price point -- a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.
Businesses

The Cable TV Industry Is Getting Even Less Popular (fortune.com) 98

Aaron Pressman, writing for Fortune: It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.That's the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64 percent. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73 percent score was up almost three percentage points from last year. Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offer much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry's rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Surges 10% To All-Time High Above $2,700, Has Now Doubled in May (cnbc.com) 139

An anonymous reader writes: In another intraday jump of more than $200, bitcoin surged to a record Thursday on strong Asian demand overnight. Bitcoin jumped more than 10 percent to an all-time high of $2,752.07, more than twice its April 30 price of $1,347.96 according to CoinDesk. The digital currency last traded near $2,726. At Thursday's record, Bitcoin has now gained more than 45 percent since last Thursday and more than 180 percent for the year so far. "There is no question that we are in the middle of a price frenzy," said Brian Kelly of BKCM, in a note to clients Thursday. "There will be a correction and it could be severe, but it's unclear if that correction will start from current prices of $2700 or from some place much higher."
Space

Boeing Will Make the Military's New Hypersonic Spaceplane (theverge.com) 89

The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit. "DARPA, the agency that tests new advanced technologies for the military, has picked Boeing's design concept, called the Phantom Express, to move forward as part of the agency's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program," reports The Verge. From the report: The goal of DARPA's XS-1 program is to create a spacecraft that's something of a hybrid between an airplane and a traditional vertical rocket. The spaceplane is meant to take off vertically and fly uncrewed to high altitudes above Earth. From there, the vehicle will release a mini-rocket -- a booster with an engine that can propel a satellite weighing up to 3,000 pounds into orbit. As the booster deploys the satellite, the spaceplane will then land back on Earth horizontally just like a normal airplane -- and then be fueled up for its next mission. DARPA wants the turnaround time between flights to last just a few hours. But perhaps the most audacious goal is the price DARPA wants for each flight. The agency is aiming for the spaceplane to cost $5 million per mission, a significant bargain considering most orbital rockets cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch. And Boeing says it's up to the task. "Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement.
Robotics

Consumers Trust Robots For Surgery Over Savings, Research Finds (bloomberg.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares an article: Andy Maguire faces a challenge: tasked with upgrading HSBC's digital-banking systems, he has discovered that customers are twice as likely to trust a robot for heart surgery than for picking a savings account. "I do find it slightly odd," said the chief operating officer of Europe's largest bank, referring to its survey of more than 12,000 consumers in 11 countries published this week. Just 7 percent of respondents would trust a robot with their savings, versus the 14 percent willing to submit to a machine for heart surgery. "You think, gosh, one would've imagined the world had moved on further or was moving faster than that," Maguire said in an interview. While consumers tend naturally to trust medical professionals, the "bar is pretty high" for banks dealing with people's money, he said. Banks around the world are spending billions of dollars to bolster creaking computer systems in a push to ward off startup competitors and cut long-term operating expenses. But consumers and regulators are holding them to ever-higher standards of security and convenience, driving the cost of overhauls higher and potentially eroding any savings.
Social Networks

Imzy, the Kinder and Gentler Reddit By Ex Employee, Is Shutting Down (imzy.com) 199

Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
Businesses

US International Tourism Market Share Is Falling Under Trump (buzzfeed.com) 427

An anonymous reader writes: The United States' slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide. The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report. The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found. The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it's unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined. "I don't think you'd see a 16% decline in international market share and absolute numbers being up. I don't think that's compatible," he said. "The volume of tourism doesn't change that fast."

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