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Former Xbox Exec and Zynga CEO Steps Down From Position

posted Sunday Apr 12, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Former Xbox Exec and Zynga CEO Steps Down From Position

As quickly as the Don cometh, the Don leaveth. This is the case for Zynga, as former Xbox executive Don Mattrick took over the job as CEO just under two years ago. Mattrick announced this week that he was leaving the company effective immediately and will also be departing the board of directors.

Zynga will go back to what brought them here, with former CEO and company founder Mark Pincus reclaiming his CEO throne at a salary of $1 per year, exactly what he was taking in when he left the company in 2013. Pincus spoke on Mattrick in a statement about the transition.

Don joined us in a very important time in our evolution. I sincerely thank him for his leadership in better serving our players in a mobile-first world and for delivering world class quality and value to our consumers.

Pincus puts the company back on his shoulders at an interesting time. Despite Mattrick's best efforts, sales are still down in the company. However, revamps of popular titles are on the horizon, as well as new launches. Zynga is looking forward to hopeful success with Dawn of Titans, FarmVille: Harvest Swap, Wizard of Oz Slots and Empires & Allies.

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YouTube to Launch Ad-Free Subscription, Strongly Encourages Video Makers to Fall in Line

posted Sunday Apr 12, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube to Launch Ad-Free Subscription, Strongly Encourages Video Makers to Fall in Line

At the end of last year, rumors started swirling that YouTube would launch an ad-free subscription model for its videos. Well, fast forward a handful of months and in my inbox is an email from YouTube about this exact thing. The bigger issue here is how the video platform is forcing content creators to accept the ad-free model.

The letter from YouTube tries its best to hide the news.

Dear YouTube Partner,

Your fans want choices. Not only do they want to watch what they want, whenever they want, anywhere, and on any device they choose, they want YouTube features built specifically with their needs in mind. Over the past several months, we've taken bold new steps to bring these experiences to life. Since inviting hundreds of thousands of fans into our YouTube Music Key Beta, we've seen tremendous engagement. And we've seen an equally enthusiastic response for our new YouTube Kids app, designed to give families a simpler and safer video-viewing experience- it's already crossed 2 million installations in less than one month.

We're excited to build on this momentum by taking another big step in favor of choice: offering fans an ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee. By creating a new paid offering, we'll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast growing advertising revenue.

So what's next?

Launching a new paid offering will require us to update your terms through your Creator Studio Dashboard-a process that should feel familiar to anyone who went through a similar process three years ago when we began distributing and monetizing your content on mobile devices. Today, mobile represents over half of all watchtime and mobile revenue is up 200% in the last year. Just as with mobile, we're confident this latest contract update will excite your fans and generate a previously untapped, additional source of revenue for you. Please look out for our notification, review it and let us know your thoughts.

It's an exciting year for YouTube, as we push ourselves into uncharted territories. But we continue to be guided by a desire to deliver the choices fans want and the revenue you need. By working closely with you, we know it'll be a successful journey.

The YouTube Team

Expected to launch in the second half of 2015, YouTube is doing everything it can to make sure each and every monetized video has the option to be ad-free. All YouTube partners will have to allow YouTube to place its video underneath the new subscription model. If a partner decides not to, the video will be listed as private, which means that the only people that can see them are those the creator selects. Obviously this is not a preferred option for creators.

The good news is that YouTube will also give partners a cut of the subscription income, and the videos are not locked into an exclusivity deal with YouTube. However, critics of the change say they should have a choice in placing a video underneath the ad-free umbrella. And while I agree that choice is a good thing, the hand being forced should only help video makers. As it stands, approximately half of all potentially monetized YouTube views aren't paid out due to ad-block software. Perhaps the switch will entice people to pay the monthly fee, thus giving more potential revenue to the creator. The other benefit is that this won't affect interstitched ads, at least not from the FAQ on the matter.

You mentioned ads-free. Which ads are you referring to?

When we refer to an ads-free experience we are specifically referring to YouTube advertising formats. There are no changes to any other agreements that you may have in place, which may include things like product placements or branded advertising within your videos.

This means sponsored videos or other forms of advertising aren't affected and can still be created, essentially putting ad-laced videos under the ad-free service. But those videos, at least for YouTube, are far less common given the landscape of the platform. YouTube added that it will be giving video creators 55 percent of all revenue generated from the ad-free subscriptions. In the end, this could be a win for the makers, but only if enough people get on board with the service.

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Amazon Echo Partners Up with Belkin's WeMo Home Automation System

posted Sunday Apr 12, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Amazon Echo Partners Up with Belkin's WeMo Home Automation System

At CES this year, we had the chance to talk with Belkin about its new line of smart home applications, called WeMo. This week, Amazon's cylindrical Bluetooth speaker and voice-control assistant, Alexa, received an update as Amazon will be partnering its Echo product with WeMo.

As expected for months, Echo's purpose seemed to fit in with the home automation craze that is sweeping the nation. Sporting Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it only made sense that we'd see Alexa tap into your home network and control these new devices. Echo will officially support all WeMo switches and LED light bulbs, and this will include the Hue collection from Philips. Echo can also shake hands with Lux, the BR30, Bloom and Lightstrip. In the future, it is said that Echo will also link up with the rest of Belkin's WeMo system, like thermostats, water sensors and the line of cookware and kitchen appliances.

As of now, the Echo API does not have much built into it for anything beyond the mentioned switches and bulbs, and giving Alexa any other commands about your WeMo devices simply lead to having them placed on your to-do list. Amazon says connecting your devices to Echo is as simple as connecting Echo up to your network. Alexa will discover the different gadgets and will be able to sync up with them easily.

With Amazon teaming up with Belkin, Google acquiring Nest and Microsoft partnering with Insteon, there are now three major players in the home automation space, all with viable software solutions to boot. Who do you think will win out? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Russian Internet Policy Makes Putin Memes Illegal

posted Sunday Apr 12, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Russian Internet Policy Makes Putin Memes Illegal

Did you know Russia has a team of people in charge of media and how it pertains to the Internet? It's true! The Roskomnadzor issued a statement this week that solidified the country's position on memes and posting them online. The agency said that memes of real people that aren't reflective of their "personality" is illegal. The agency went on to reiterate Russia's law on how one may share photos of other people.

These ways of using (celebrities' images) violate the laws governing personal data and harm the honor, dignity and business of public figures.

So, at least in Russia, you still can't post funny captions underneath Putin's bareback bear adventure photos. Roskomnadzor also said that you also may not create impersonation or parody accounts and websites.

Russia's Internet policy that is being enforced by Roskomnadzor has only been around for three years. The group has already made several noteworthy decisions including blacklisting 180 websites in 2012. They also required that bloggers with other 3,000 monthly readers must officially register with Roskomnadzor.

The friendly reminder of this policy can be attested to a Moscow judge who oversaw a lawsuit involving a Russian singer whose picture was being used in memes across Russian social media sites. While the law will be enforced, public figures and celebrities will still have to report photos on their own volition.

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HBO Finds a New Partner for Live Broadcast

posted Saturday Apr 11, 2015 by Scott Ertz

HBO Finds a New Partner for Live Broadcast

HBO made a lot of people in the cord-cutter community happy when they announced HBO Now's pre-Game of Thrones release. This timing meant that fans of the show would have the ability to legally watch the show as it airs, as opposed to illegally downloading the episode afterwards.

Almost immediately, however, HBO poured cold water on the hopes of these fans when it was announced that HBO Now would be exclusive to the Apple TV at launch. Since the install-base of Apple TV is incredibly small, the number of people who actually have access to the new HBO Now system was incredibly limited.

Luckily HBO has found a way to circumvent what is generally believed to be an odd launch partnership by adding their normal broadcast to another streaming platform: Sling TV. Unlike HBO Now which does not require a cable subscription, HBO on Sling TV is more like normal HBO. This is because it requires the standard Sling TV subscription, plus $15 per month to add the network. This brings the total cost of HBO on Sling TV to $35.

The good news is that Sling TV is specifically designed for cord-cutters - the same people that HBO Now is designed for. Because of this, the $35 is likely to be a cost these cord-cutters were already planning to pay, just through different means. By adding HBO to Sling TV, the reach of HBO has expanded without any major expense on the part of HBO, and without violating whatever contract they signed with Apple.

This partnership is certainly a clever move on HBO's part, and yet another way to watch Game of Thrones this season.

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BitTorrent Launches Beta of New Web Browser

posted Saturday Apr 11, 2015 by Scott Ertz

BitTorrent Launches Beta of New Web Browser

I am always surprised when a new web browser is launched, not because it is a crowded market in which competition is fierce, though that is true. It is not because trying to take on the likes of Microsoft, Google, Mozilla and Apple is a game that is unlikely to be won, though it is true. The reason I am always surprised when a new web browser is launched is because I don't know why anyone makes a web browser at all.

Microsoft, Google and Apple all have a wide array of products which are revenue generating. They include operating systems, productivity suites, cloud offerings. All of these things help keep these companies in business. Web browsers, on the other hand, are not directly revenue generating. In fact, they require a tremendous amount of resources and, in general, only lead to people feeling contempt for the publisher when the browser doesn't work exactly as expected.

So, why does someone build a browser at all? Outside of the big three, it tends to be for recognition or out of legitimate interest in making the web a better place. Unfortunately there is no real way to do that without a better governing organization than the World Wide Web Consortium, but companies like BitTorrent attempt it anyway. With the beta release of their Project Maelstrom, BitTorrent has an idea to get around some of the mistakes of the W3C.

While the browser can access standard HTTP/HTTPS sites, it can do more than that. It is capable of browsing websites packaged and distributed as torrents. The browser is Chromium-based, but will not directly support Chrome extensions or Web Store apps, though they will likely run without issue.

The rendering engine is not the important thing here, however. If you want the Chrome engine you can always install Chrome. The aspect that makes this interesting is the concept of circumventing the traditional web protocol. By running the web via torrents, this browser has the ability to create a new version of the web - one in which sites never go down. The thing that BitTorrent is trying to fix here is DDoS attacks.

If a server were to fail due to DDoS, for example, the browser can still have access to the data from before the failure through the use of torrents. The problem with this is that developers have to get behind the idea to make this work. The browser cannot take an existing website and pack it into a torrent - a developer has to release their site as a torrent. BitTorrent says they have had a healthy interest from some 10,000 developers and 3,500 publishers. Interest does not always translate into actions, however.

BitTorrent has released a Windows beta of the browser, available now, as well as a collection of developer tools for publishers. They will release a Mac beta soon and have no plans for a Linux release. There has been no discussion of a Windows Phone, iOS or Android version at this point.

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