Google Kills Off Social Network Shoelace

Google Kills Off Social Network Shoelace

Google Kills Off Social Network Shoelace

Search engine giant axes yet another social network only available in New York, to help people find group activities for people with similar interests

Google is not having much luck with its social networking ventures, with the news that it is closing down another experiment in the area.

Google’s Area 120 division had launched Shoelace in mid 2019, and it was only available in New York and only for iOS users. The idea was that Shoelace would help people with similar interests find group activities and explore NYC.

But Google has now announced that the iOS app will not move out of its experimental phase, and instead the app will be closed down on 12 May, amid the global Coronavirus pandemic.

App closure

“Like all projects within Area 120, Shoelace was an experiment,” Google revealed in a FAQ.

“We’re proud of the work that we accomplished and the community that we built, but given the current health crisis, we don’t feel that now is the right time to invest further in this project,” it added.

Google said it had no plans to reboot Shoelace in the future.

After 12 May all user account data will be deleted, but people can request an exported version of their data before that time.

Social failures?

Google is not afraid to try tech experiments, but the firm doesn’t seem to have enjoyed much success with its social networking offerings over the years.

Google announced in October 2018 for example that it was shutting down Google+ (for consumers) because of low user engagement.

It should be noted that Google had been in hot water over its decision not to reveal a data breach in Google+ that exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users, to hundreds of third-party app developers.

And then in December 2018 Google said it was accelerating the “sunsetting” (i.e forced retirement) of its Google+ social network after the discovery of a fresh bug.

Google+ had originally been scheduled to be shutdown for consumers in August 2019. But that deadline was bumped up to 2 April 2019, but in in the end Google+ was actually shut down for many in February 2019.

Facebook rival

It should be remembered that Google+ had been intended to be a rival to the mighty Facebook (despite Google’s claims to the contrary).

The arrival of Google+ saw it replace its previous incarnation, namely Google Buzz.

When Google+ was launched on June 2011, things seemed initially promising, but the truth was that the product never came close to matching the number of users that Facebook enjoyed.

Indeed, as Facebook’s growth continued unchecked over the years, it seemed that Google+ was being quietly retired by the search engine giant.

Matters were not helped when Vivek “Vic” Gundotra, the man responsible for Google+, announced his resignation in April 2014 amid rumours that Google was scaling down its social networking project.

Google had also angered many users when it integrated YouTube accounts with Google+. It later reserved that decision.

But the search engine gave Google+ a facelift in 2015 as the firm sought to continue shifting its focus away from people and more towards personal interests and communities.

Yet despite that, Google+ struggled to attract new users outside of a dedicated fanbase, making its decision to pull the plug on the consumer version an easy one to make.

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Tech sector and publisher partner to counter coronavirus keyword blocklist issues Prolific London

Tech sector and publisher partner to counter coronavirus keyword blocklist issues Prolific London

Commercial news publisher Reach has joined up with IBM and Xandr – AT&T’s advertising arm – to counter the current issue surrounding blanket blocklists and COVID-19 keywords.

Advertisers generally plan for their content to only be visible on positive stories, and current capabilities mean that specific keywords blacklist articles, regardless of the article’s wider theme. Right now, with coronavirus having an influence over almost everything in the news and beyond, publishers are losing out enormously on advertising revenue due to a blanket ban on ‘coronavirus’.

This is not helped by falling ad spends and a general tightening of belts in the advertising industry. Recently, the news industry implored advertisers to temporarily stop the use of blocklists if they wanted to protect valuable – but struggling – British journalism through this crisis.

Reach’s service, called Mantis – launched in October 2019 – is a semantic solution powered by IBM Watson’s Natural Language Processing, which verifies whether news content is safe for brands, available through Xandr’s advertising technology platform.

When it comes to positive or ‘neutral’ coronavirus stories, which might not be in the majority but are well-represented, advertising can be directed to appear only alongside news stories categorised as neutral and positive – whether it’s ideas for home workouts, stories about recovery numbers, or celebrations like #clapforourcarers.

The inventory of safe pieces is available across multiple premium UK publishers, meaning brands can reach national scale. Mantis is expected to free up more than 70% of content currently blocked by keyword targeting that stops advertising appearing alongside terms like “coronavirus”.

Benjamin Pheloung, General Manager for Mantis, said: “There’s no reason why a brand shouldn’t want to have an advert placed next to a positive story, like one about sports and media personality Gary Lineker donating two months’ wages to the Red Cross to help fight COVID-19.”

Tim Dutton, Client Executive for Media and Entertainment at IBM UK and Ireland, added: “Safeguarding an organisation’s brand is essential to maintaining consumer trust during this unprecedented time. We are pleased that through Mantis powered by IBM Watson, IBM will help deliver a COVID-19 ad blocking solution for safe news content across the UK.”

Daniel Clayman, VP & Managing Director, Northern Europe at Xandr, said: “Xandr operates in support of trusted newsrooms and premium advertisers around the globe and proactively seeks out sophisticated tools, like Mantis, for our clients to navigate disruptions to their business. Now more than ever, we’re proud to put our platform to work for the news industry.”

Cruz bill would bar US officials from using Chinese-backed tech, stop taxpayer dollars for related UN contracts

Cruz bill would bar US officials from using Chinese-backed tech, stop taxpayer dollars for related UN contracts

EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, unveiled a bill Thursday to ban U.S. officials from using tech platforms supported by the Chinese government and bar taxpayer dollars from being used for related U.N. contracts — the latest move amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., the “Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping,” or CCAS Act, comes as lawmakers and the Trump administration seek to push back against Chinese espionage efforts and global dominance.

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Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that Chinese companies such as Tencent and Huawei “[a]re espionage operations for the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], masquerading as telecom companies for the 21st century.”

“Prohibiting the use of these platforms and stopping taxpayer dollars from being used to capitalize Chinese espionage infrastructure are common-sense measures to protect American national security,” he said. “These are just some of the measures we will have to take as the United States reevaluates its relationship with China and the CCP.”

The bill notes that Chinese tech companies such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba and Baidu “have no recourse but to assist the Chinese Communist Party with securing access to foreign technologies and foreign networks, conducting espionage including commercial espionage, and gaining insight into the profiles, activity, or location of foreign users of Chinese hosted or facilitated social media, computer or smartphone applications.”

Cruz’s bill would require that a list be created by the Secretary of State of Chinese tech companies that enable the CCP in espionage. That list would then prohibit all U.S officials from using technology provided by those companies.

Cruz’s bill also takes aim at the United Nations, where there has been a surge in Chinese influence in recent years. The bill would offset U.S. payments to the U.N. equal to the amount paid by the world body to any of those Chinese companies.

Earlier this month, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that the United Nations had backed off a deal it had with Chinese Internet giant Tencent to help as a platform for thousands of online conversations to celebrate the United Nation’s 75th anniversary, or UN75, which takes place later this year.

When asked by Fox News if the Tencent deal had been scrapped, UN75 spokesperson Lisa Laskaridis told Fox News that “the UN75 Office is still in consultations with Tencent, no partnership agreement has been concluded.”

INTEL BOSS CONFIRMS INVESTIGATION INTO WHETHER CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK ‘RESULT OF AN ACCIDENT’ AT WUHAN LAB

Just last year, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Chris Ford, while speaking at a conference on Sensitive Technologies in D.C., outlined the links between China and some of its best-known tech companies.

“Firms such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba, and Baidu have no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no,’” Ford said at the time.

Ford noted that such asks could be anything from requests for access to foreign networks or computer or smartphone applications. He added that “such aid may not necessarily occur routinely, but it certainly can occur — and presumably will — whenever the Party considers this useful and cares to demand it.”

Attention has been renewed on Chinese influence, particularly at the U.N., in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China has spread throughout the world.

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed on-record for the first time Thursday that the U.S. intelligence community is investigating whether the outbreak started as the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

President Trump also announced this month a pause in funding to the World Health Organization amid concerns about the body’s alleged pro-China ties.

Fox News’ Gillian Turner contributed to this report.

NTT elevates India CEO in APAC recast, Technology News, ETtech

NTT elevates India CEO in APAC recast, Technology News, ETtech

NTT elevates India CEO in APAC recast
NTT has elevated its India chief executive Kiran Bhagwanani as senior vice-president of its newly formed Go-to-Market business in the Asia Pacific, as part of a larger restructuring at the Japanese technology services company to drive faster growth.

Bhagwanani will lead the Go-to-Market business in the region, after a merger among NTT subsidiaries into one company.

He will have broad accountability for sales performance, solution practices and alliance partnership across Asia Pacific, the company said.

“There are different pieces of this organisation… We felt that bringing all these functions under one umbrella was important to make the approach cohesive,” said Bhagwanani.

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Apple, innovation and education in the times of coronavirus - Latest News

Apple, innovation and education in the times of coronavirus – Latest News

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