Google is locking Spanish publishers out of its popular Google News service in response to a new Spanish law that imposes fees for linking to the headlines and news stories on other websites.
Besides closing Google News in Spain, Google Inc. also is blocking reports from Spanish publishers in the more than other 70 other international editions packaged by Google News. Google News’ exile of Spanish publishers begins Dec. 16, a couple weeks before the start of a Spanish intellectual-property law requiring news publishers to be paid for their content, even if they are willing to give it away.
That means people in Latin America, where Spanish news organizations have sought to boost their digital audiences, won’t see news from Spain via Google News. Also set to disappear are reports in English from Spanish publishers like Madrid’s leading El Pais newspaper.
The lost access to Google News will likely make it more difficult for people to keep afloat on what it is happening in Spain. Spanish publishers also may lose a valuable source of traffic to their websites. Google says its main search engine and other services generate more than 10 billion monthly clicks that send Web surfers to other news sites throughout the world. Google News accounts for about 10 percent, or 1 billion clicks, of that worldwide volume.
Spain’s new law is designed to create a new source of revenue for the country’s publishers, who, like most of their peers around the world, have been hard hit as more readers and advertisers have abandoned printed editions for digital alternatives during the past decade.
The shift has hurt news publishers because digital ads aren’t nearly as lucrative as print ads. But the linking fees could now backfire if the lost access to Google News diminishes the traffic to Spanish news publishers, making it even more difficult for them to sell digital ads.
Even though Google News doesn’t display ads, it still helps Google make more money by deepening people’s loyalty to its products. The ads that Google distributes through its other services and other websites, including those run by news publishers, account for most of the company’s projected revenue of $66 billion this year.
In the late hours of Tuesday night, the Pirate Bay abruptly disappeared from the Internet, the result of a surprise raid on the site’s servers by Swedish police in Stockholm.
But forget the big-picture questions of Internet freedom or intellectual property. The real problem, for millions of Internet-users, is how am I going to watch TV?
The Pirate Bay is as much an idea and an orientation to entertainment media as it is/was a torrent-tracking site. Sure, the Pirate Bay technically indexed torrents, a peer-to-peer file format popular for sharing movies, music and other oversized files. But since its launch in 2003, the world’s “most notorious file-sharing site” has done something a bit more significant, and a bit more permanent, too: It’s made digital piracy a casual, inarguable part of the mainstream.
During just one month in 2013, more than 340 million people tried to download illegal content, an industry report claimed. In North America, Europe and Asia — the regions where most infringement comes from — that averages out to one in four Internet users.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. Before the birth of the torrent protocol in the earlier parts of this century, sharing big files, like TV shows or movies was virtually impossible. But even then, an American guy named Bram Cohen invented, essentially, a new way for computers to communicate data and named it BitTorrent. Less than two years later, in November 2003, just as BitTorrent was starting to gain steam, a little-known group of Swedish activists launched a site to help people find and access these shared BitTorrent files.
Pirate Bay wasn’t the first torrenting site, by any means — but it quickly became the largest, and the one that stuck around. (It’s no coincidence that the popularity of the phrase “torrent download” grew, in lockstep, with the profile of Pirate Bay.) It helped, probably, that Pirate Bay was initially operated by Piratbyran, a sort of pro-piracy think tank, which lobbied extensively against intellectual property law and wanted to popularize torrenting for “moral and political” reasons. In other words, they had the courage of conviction on their side.
Even when The Pirate Bay split off from Piratbyran shortly after its founding, administrators for the site remained involved with the group, circulating petitions, hosting rallies and publishing on “the practical, moral and philosophical issues of file sharing.” And even when law enforcement and industry groups began going after the Pirate Bay — the site was first raided in 2006, and its founders arrested and charged with aiding copyright infringement three years later — the site stayed online, moving frequently to new domains and changing to a more secure, cloud-based infrastructure in 2012.
And yet, despite all these threats, torrenting — on Pirate Bay, the largest torrenting portal, and off it — has only become more popular and more entrenched. Between 2011 and 2013, for instance, unique users on torrenting sites jumped 23.6 percent. There are now tens of millions of people accustomed to getting their “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” and “Walking Dead” illegally, online. In fact, more people watch “Game of Thrones” by torrent than watch it on HBO — a figure that, more than any other, should hammer in how well-entrenched this whole digital-piracy thing is.
Pirate Bay could very well come back online soon; there’s certainly no evidence, at this juncture, to suggest that it won’t, and the site has bounced back from several such hurdles before. But even if TPB doesn’t return, the politics and the conventions it advanced — that content should be free, and if you torrent, they can be! — will be very difficult to eradicate.
You may be able to shut down Pirate Bay, but good luck raiding the Internet that Pirate Bay created.
There’s plenty of rumors and speculation, but one thing is certain: something has gone awfully wrong with the computer systems at Sony Pictures Entertainment – the television and movie subsidiary of the huge Sony Corporation.
The company has shut down its servers, after a ghoulish skull appeared on computer screens alongside a claim that internal data had been stolen and would be released if undisclosed “demands” were not met.
In parallel, Twitter accounts used by Sony to promote movies were hacked to display messages attacking Sony Entertainment’s CEO from a group calling itself GOP (the Guardians of Peace) who claimed responsibility for the hack.
11 terabytes of information had been stolen by hackers from Sony Pictures, and even tweeted a photograph of a sign placed in the lift of Sony Pictures’ London office asking staff not to use their computers or log into the Wi-Fi. If hackers have indeed hijacked Sony Pictures’ network, and stolen a large amount of data, it all sounds very dramatic, but the most the company has said publicly is that it is investigating an “IT matter.” The absence of hard facts about the hack has inevitably led to reporters filling in the vacuum with some guesswork and, in some cases, speculation that may be have shaky foundations.
For instance, one report claimed that Sony Pictures was exploring the possibility that North Korean hackers could be behind the attack – because of anger over an upcoming comedy film featuring Seth Rogan and James Franco working with the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
It does appear that North Korea is genuinely unhappy about the movie, but does it really seem likely that that would motivate what appears to be a widespread attack against the Sony Pictures computer network?
That hasn’t stopped other media outlets from repeating the original claim of a North Korean link without much in the way of questioning, churning out the same “news” without considering just how tricky it might be to attribute the attack to any particular country – especially when the victim itself appears to still be mid-recovery and mopping up the mess.
Does North Korea use the internet to spy on other countries? Is it possible that hackers sympathetic to North Korea (or simply people who aren’t fans of Seth Rogan) might want to disrupt Sony Pictures’ activities? Hopefully until we know the answer, Sony will do its duty to inform the public of what information has been compromised.
It’s pretty clear that something went very wrong between Apple and its bankrupt sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies over the past year. There are good reasons to believe that Apple’s sapphire display plan for the iPhone 6 may have been doomed from the start because it seems both Apple and GT Advanced underestimated the major difficulties. These difficulties varied from needing to have an extremely clean environment during ongoing construction, to having uninterrupted supplies of water and electricity to regulate the temperature of the molten aluminum oxide. Apple declined to help install backup power supplies, thus multiple outages occurred, ruining whole batches of sapphire.
Sapphire, the world’s third hardest mineral, was supposed to drastically reduce or eliminate scratching on the surface, thus eliminating the need for screen protectors. It would be a huge selling point for those of us that seem to find some sort of way to scratch or drop our phone throughout any given day.
The Apple-GT marriage was troubled from the start. GT had never mass-produced sapphire before the Apple deal. The New Hampshire company’s first 578-pound cylinder of sapphire, made just days before the companies signed their contract, was flawed and unusable. GT hired hundreds of workers with little oversight; some bored employees were paid overtime to sweep floors repeatedly, while others played hooky.
All of which is a major problem in its own right, but add in the fact that Apple already uses one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader alone, upping that supply to cover screens is bound to exacerbate any preexisting problems—like, say, keeping track of the sapphire in the first place.
Manufacturing wasn’t the only problem. In August, one of the former workers said, GT discovered that 500 sapphire bricks were missing. A few hours later, workers learned that a manager had sent the bricks to recycling instead of shipping. Had they not been retrieved, the misfire would have cost GT hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Whether Apple or GT is ultimately at fault here we’ll likely never know. However, it may be safe in saying that given the huge difficulties Apple encountered in producing sapphire displays in its first attempt, you probably won’t get a sapphire display on the iPhone 6s or even the iPhone 7.
Technology has been accused of making many jobs disappear, like the production line or the accounting office. And it is not done yet.
A company often resembles its communication and technology system. In the era of cloud computing that the tech industry is moving into, that seems to suggest that companies will have smaller departments, quickly analyzing data and endlessly experimenting. That means change is on the way at the many companies that will adopt cloud computing over the next few years. This might not be a good thing for Middle Managers to hear.
A corporate organizational chart from a century ago might look like a factory, with little workers at the base like parts, assembled by managers into units that interact with or fit into larger parts. Layers of white-collar jobs died in the “corporate re-engineering” boom 20 years ago, after email and networking replaced middle managers carrying plans among departments. Outsourcing and off-shoring happened once the dot-com bubble put lots of fiber optic cable under the ocean. Otherwise, you couldn’t have so many call centers in India, or manage a global supply chain.
In cloud computing, computer servers are pooled through management software. Power is dialed up or down depending on the workload, and the system is continually reconfigured, based on data about the next workload. To see how this changes a workplace, look at the structure of the biggest cloud companies around.
Two weeks ago, Amazon announced that so far in 2014, its cloud division had created 60 percent more new products than it did in all of 2013. Google also works in a data-fixated culture. Every meeting seems to be full of young engineers scrambling to amass the most compelling facts, trying to create something else they can watch customers use, then build on that. The big loser in this model may be the managers in charge of scheduling things, since it is all happening too fast.
At Amazon Web Services, which has built the world’s biggest cloud computing business, work is divided into teams of the smallest size necessary to figure out what the customer is doing with an important product. That team then quickly adapts the product to work better and looks for new insight.
Parts of this approach sound like the trendy “lean” tech start-up, ever changing to suit a new business model. It’s different at big companies, executives there say, when you are moving quickly but also have many customers and obligations.
It is not clear that any of the big companies has nailed this new style of work. Even so, they all say that their non-tech customers are badgering them to determine how they can break into smaller customer-focused teams, loosely collaborating and intent on moving information faster. The survivors will be good at collaboration, good at statistics and good at figuring out what the company needs to build next.
The recent furor over horrible (if not actually criminal) behavior at Uber has led me to wandering about the culture of our industry…in short is tech turning nasty? I’ve been in tech in one form or another for most of my career. On the whole most the tech people in it fit nicely into the stereotype of socially awkward but nice weirdos. Many of the management were a little less likable but still not horrible by any means. Although as an industry we have been traditionally a pretty homogeneous bunch in recent years we have seen some very nice growth in both ethnic and gender diversity….but there’s a “but” here.
Anyone who has read my blog will know that I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs. He was our Da Vinci and his pointless entirely avoidable death robbed us of several decades of innovation. However pretty much anyone who met him (including myself) would testify that he was at best rude and prickly…at worse a total A-hole. Just after his death a few years back the fabulously well written biography by Walter Isaacson revealed just how gratuitously rude, arrogant and unpleasant Jobs routinely was. To a person everyone in our industry has read that book….many times in some cases. It’s a new kind of tech bible and it clearly teaches that nice guys finish last. I haven’t met that meant real A-holes in our industry…but the one thing that they all had in common was their love of quoting Jobs on almost every topic. It’s weird and disturbing and growing….and I hate it.
For all its crazy tourism, I kind of like Times Square. Back when I used to visit Manhattan every other week, I’d always stay at the Marriott Marquise and pick up half price theater tickets at the Times Square discounted tickets booth. Were I to do that next week, I’d either be inside or watching the world’s largest and most expensive video ad. It completely wraps the marquise, is the size of a football field and costs $2.5 million a month to rent. Google will be the first customer. No doubt we will be treated to the massive version of the cute ads we have come to know (not love) from Google. If that’s all we get that will be a shame. I used to visit the Comcast tower in Philadelphia quite often and the lobby area of that building is simply breathtaking. They installed a massive (and massively expensive) video wall which was about an inch thick and two stories high all around the interior of their enormous lobby. They didn’t run Comcast commercials rather than ran spectacular video sequences like sun rise from outer space, 20′s style biplane dancing acts or a trip over Niagara Falls. It was amazing and spectacular, I used to arrive early for meetings just to watch the show.
With a quarter of a million pedestrians passing the billboard and the kind of world-wide exposure that generates this is the perfect opportunity for Google to literally wow the world….we will see if they take that chance with both hands.