The UpStream (Page 118)

Zynga Sees Consecutive Quarterly Success, Prepares for the Future

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Zynga Sees Consecutive Quarterly Success, Prepares for the Future

While all the talk is about Activision's purchase of King for almost $6 billion, there are some other movers and shakers in the mobile game space right now. Most notably is Zynga, who recently lost its top spot to King and has had its founder, Mark Pincus, return as CEO after a revival plan. In the past three quarters, Zynga has beaten its estimates each and every time, with two of them being under the guidance of Pincus.

Zynga is able to attest its recent success to still-popular titles like Words With Friends, while games like Wizard of Oz Slots and Empires & Allies are showing high-level growth. The news of another consecutive quarter's estimated being topped caused Zynga's stock to rise 4 percent, bringing it to $2.55 per share. This values Zynga at $2.3 billion, just 17 percent of its high-mark five years ago. The company is not without its troubles, though. Daily users are down 21 percent from last year, to just 19 million players.

Even with the roller coaster of a story, Pincus says that nothing will deter the future success of the company. In an interview, he gives credit to FarmVille 2 web for doing so well, and says that Zynga's Poker game will drive growth next year.

We've been seeing, for the last three quarters, a good strength in our live franchises, especially on FarmVille 2 web and Words with Friends mobile, as well as slots games on mobile like our new Wizard of Oz slots. We've seen a decent contribution from our new game Empires and Allies. But all three quarters, the live game team performance has exceeded our expectations. The level of advertiser demand and interest in our Words with Friends audience and other mobile audiences has continued to be a pleasant surprise for us.

When asked about the King acquisition, Pincus said that he believes companies need to acquire, but also need to aim to capture a large audience and hold them over time through a diverse selection of games. The CEO said that Zynga has been doing this all along, and will continue to do so.

We (Zynga) have been investing in those (areas) across social casino, across casual with Words with Friends, and best expressed in action strategy with the launch of Empires and Allies and the acquisition of NaturalMotion. When you look at the Activision-King deal, I think it makes a lot of sense for all those reasons. Bobby Kotick is adding key pieces of the puzzle. In one fell swoop he gets mobile, casual, Asia, and women players. He's positioning his company well.

With the success of Zynga riding high right now, it is reasonable for Pincus to rest his laurels on those accomplishments. However Zynga now lacks the blank check that King just picked up by moving over to Activision. The next year will certainly be an interesting one for both companies, and it will be intriguing to see who is at the top by the end of 2016. There's a battle that is about to go down, and when the dust settles, I believe only one company will truly stand above the rest. It seems to be a war between passion and money, and sometimes that can be a lop-sided fight.

FCC Dismisses Petition to Honor Do Not Track Requests

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

FCC Dismisses Petition to Honor Do Not Track Requests

With privacy being a hot button topic over the past few years, there has been a push for government agencies to step in and protect consumer data and consumers' wishes to remain anonymous on the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission literally did the opposite on Friday when the agency dismissed a petition that would have forced websites to adhere to a user's "Do Not Track" request when browsing sites like Google and Facebook.

Consumer advocate group Consumer Watchdog had previously filed a petition that would have the FCC big name sites to recognize and honor all Do Not Track requests coming from consumers across the US. Consumer Watchdog proposed a rule that would have also removed a website's ability to require users to consent to data tracking in order to use the site's features, read data on the site, and more.

Currently, some sites do in fact recognize Do Not Track requests that are placed from within a user's favorite web browser. If a site sees that the user has enabled that checkbox, it would opt said user out of third-party tracking and targeted ads, like from Google AdSense or Facebook Ads. Unfortunately many sites still do not comply with Do Not Track requests, and will now continue to dismiss those requests due to the FCC's dismissal of the proposal.

Consumer Watchdog writes that this type of protection and acknowledgement is needed in order for consumers to feel safer on the Internet.

Consumers' privacy concerns about the Internet extend far beyond the broadband providers who are impacted by Section 222. Many consumers are as concerned - or perhaps even more worried - about the online tracking and data collection practices of edge providers... edge providers collect the same sensitive personal information that broadband Internet access service providers collect, and that the Commission is committed to protecting. If the Commission does not act to regulate the collection of personal information by edge providers, the Commission will in effect be granting a regulatory advantage to the edge providers, implicating concerns of market distortions.

The FCC said that it dismissed the petition because it recently reclassified broadband as a common carrier service, and due to that reclassification, it will not regulate the Internet or its applications or content.

New Android Adware Almost Impossible to Uninstall, Auto-Roots Devices

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

New Android Adware Almost Impossible to Uninstall, Auto-Roots Devices

It's well known that the Android platform is loaded with malware. In fact, it is the most vulnerable and infection-ridden mobile operating system. It gets even worse than that, however. This week, researchers have identified a new adware that has hit the Android marketplace. This new bug makes it practically impossible to uninstall the app, and also masks itself as a popular app like Facebook or Twitter in order to gain access to as much data as possible.

Over 20,000 samples of the malicious apps were uncovered and the apps actually just take code from official apps and repackage them with a similar name, and are distributed through third-party app stores. The creators of the adware hope that users will be confused by the similar name. The psuedo-official apps are often times complete replicas of the original, and even function as such. But behind the scenes, the app is gaining root access to the mobile device, allowing more trojans to be installed and uploading all of the device's data to a server. All of this happens without the user's knowledge in less than a minute.

Mobile security company Lookout posted a blog entry about the newly discovered malware.

For individuals, getting infected with Shedun, Shuanet, and ShiftyBug might mean a trip to the store to buy a new phone. Because these pieces of adware root the device and install themselves as system applications, they become nearly impossible to remove, usually forcing victims to replace their device in order to regain normalcy.

Lookout adds that the app may only look like it's displaying an ad or two, but assured that it grabs administration rights to a device and then proceeds to avoid being extracted or uninstalled once it's in. Currently, the company says that the highest amount of detections are coming from the US, but they have also picked up traces of the infection in Germany, Iran, Russia, India, Jamaica, Sudan, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia. Currently these apps aren't on the Google Play store directly, but that isn't too far off the horizon, considering that Google Play breaches happen about a dozen times a year, with malicious apps flooding the market within seconds.

While it's not surprising to hear of more trash apps filling the Android world, it is worth revisiting the idea that one should always be cautious of what app they're downloading. Additionally, it is imperative to check the developer or publisher of the app, to ensure its authenticity.

MPAA Shuts Down Torrent Platforms, Including

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Scott Ertz

MPAA Shuts Down Torrent Platforms, Including

The end of this story was written the day the Motion Picture Association of America sued users of Popcorn Time - the MPAA has officially shut down several torrent-related sites, including the system that powers Popcorn Time. This was accomplished through court cases in Canada and New Zealand, and resulted in the shutdown of, which happened on October 9th, and YTS, which ended min-October.

Chris Dodd, MPAA Chairman said,

Popcorn Time and YTS are illegal platforms that exist for one clear reason: to distribute stolen copies of the latest motion pictures and television shows without compensating the people who worked so hard to make them.

The problem for the MPAA with a move like this is, while the website that serves the apps might have been shut down, it is easy enough to register another domain and update the software. In fact, that appears to be exactly what happened. The apps have been updated and continue to operate, and the website has a note reminding people to ensure they are using the latest version. This is likely because it is now interacting with a new torrent system instead of

If the MPAA is actually interested in preventing, or at least reducing piracy of its content, they might want to reconsider their tactics. This type of brute force approach has never worked. Copy protection on cable, VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray have always been easy to circumvent using cables available at almost any electronics retailer. In fact, many people never even knew that recording movies and television off of television was technologically prevented because of how easy circumvention has been.

Pulling down websites is the same kind of brute force approach. The web isn't the simple place that the MPAA thinks that it is. In fact, it is a very complicated place, where software is easy to move and software is easy to update. It is more like the Hydra of ancient Greece, where you cut off its head and 2 more grow back. It is likely that the newest version of the software has a collection of domains it checks looking for content, all with the same back-end software. So, all they have accomplished here is to make the beast stronger than before.

How might they successfully combat the problem? I'm not sure, but perhaps less expensive licensing agreements could be a start, allowing companies like Hulu and Netflix to keep their costs down, or increase their overall catalog size. What are your ideas? Let us know in the comments.

Sprint Forced to Delay WiMAX Cutoff by Court

posted Saturday Nov 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Sprint Forced to Delay WiMAX Cutoff by Court

As the US carriers began implementing 4G technologies, Sprint was first to market, but took a different path from the rest of the pack. While Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all decided to go the GSM route with LTE, Sprint decided to stick with the technology that had served them well since the beginning, CDMA, opting for WiMAX technology. That choice ended up not sticking, and the company transitioned to LTE as well. Two years ago, though, Sprint purchased Clearwire (their WiMAX provider) in an attempt to keep their WiMAX network operational long enough to fulfill outstanding contracts.

In October of last year the company announced their intentions to shut down the WiMAX network on November 6, 2015. They gave everyone with a dog in the fight 13 months to make arrangements to transition off of the older technology onto LTE. The date was chosen because it put everyone with a WiMAX phone out of contract and eligible for a new device. It also gave larger network partners time to transition as well.

As it turns out, some organizations did not take the opportunity to prepare for the shutdown. In fact, a group of nonprofit organizations were caught so off-guard that they sued Sprint to prevent the shutdown. The group claimed that the technology shutdown violated their contract with Clearwire and they asked for an injunction to prevent the shutdown.

A Massachusetts Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction, preventing Sprint from ending service on their WiMAX network in certain areas used by the plaintiffs, Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen. The judge said the "plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits," leading to the injunction. It gives those involved an extra 90 days to try and solve the problem or further the lawsuit.

In this instance, they do seem to have a case. Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen have a 30 year contract with Clearwire for WiMAX coverage with unlimited data, but Sprint wants to enhance their LTE coverage using the current WiMAX spectrum and wants to throttle the speeds after 6GB. The groups said,

(It's a) near lethal blow to plaintiffs' non-profit users whether they be educational institutions, which educate children in traditional brick and mortar schools, or children who attend cyber schools because they do not have access to brick and mortar schools, or the senior or disabled person whose lifeline to medical care and other benefits is through the Internet.

Sprint responded saying,

We do hope that Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen will take this time to work cooperatively with Sprint to resolve the contract dispute. Our goal is to ensure that our EBS partners and our subscribers can use Sprint's best 4G LTE advanced broadband services as soon as possible.

It's likely that this will be resolved quickly one way or another, as Sprint's near- and long-term network upgrades depend on recapturing this spectrum, and will likely not let this sit for long.

Microsoft Cuts Storage Options, Free Storage on OneDrive

posted Wednesday Nov 4, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Cuts Storage Options, Free Storage on OneDrive

Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft announced that they would be offering unlimited OneDrive storage to subscribers of Office 365. The feature rolled out fairly quickly to Office 365 Business customers, but it took a while to roll out to the consumer-level subscribers. As you would expect, offering unlimited storage to users resulted in some users storing A LOT of stuff in the cloud. The company said,

Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average.

That's a lot of data, but that's why it's unlimited, right? Wrong, apparently. When Microsoft saw that some users were using so much storage of their advertised unlimited storage, the company panicked. In fact, they panicked A LOT.

We're no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.

100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.

Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

What this means is that a few bad apples ruined it for all of us. An average user who syncs their photos to OneDrive will lose 25GB of storage because of the unrelated actions of other people. The good news is that there are some options to help keep you afloat. If you are a free user who is currently using more than 5GB of storage, you can take advantage of a promotion to get a free year of Office 365 Personal, giving you a full year to figure out how to get under quota, or keep it past the year and continue to get 1TB of storage. You can also purchase an additional 50GB of storage for $1.99 per month.

For those who had their Office 365 Personal account mostly for the unlimited storage, you have the ability to cancel your subscription with a prorated refund. For the rest of us, though, 5GB is enough to store all of our pictures, and probably a ton of documents, as well.

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