The UpStream (Page 16)

Microsoft and Facebook fire back at Apple's App Store policies

posted Sunday Aug 9, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Facebook fire back at Apple's App Store policies

One of the emerging videogame industries is game streaming. While OnLive may have been ahead of its time, Sony has PlayStation Now, Google has Stadia, and Microsoft has Project xCloud, which will soon be released publicly as Game Pass Game Streaming. While Microsoft has been running a limited test of xCloud on iOS through TestFlight, it turns out it is a feature that will never be because of Apple.

Apple's App Store policies apparently prohibit apps from providing access to content that Apple does not have 100% control over. Apple wants individual approval over each game available on its devices and wants to be able to individually list each one. That is not how game streaming services work, as the game catalog is managed remotely and are only listed through the streaming service itself. It seems like Apple is looking at these services as external app stores that bypass Apple's walled garden.

As a result, companies that are affected by this decision have begun to speak out on the topic. Microsoft said of the conflict with Apple,

Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store.

While this a big disappointment to owners of iPhones, it is far from the first service to be affected by the decision. Google Stadia, which released in late 2019, is available across multiple platforms, including Android and Chrome browsers. However, the platform is only marginally available on iOS. You can browse and buy but cannot play on the device.

Facebook just launched its Facebook Gaming Marketplace, but, like Google Stadia and Xbox Game Pass, it has been neutered by Apple. The marketplace on Android allows you to play games within the app, but on iOS, that feature is missing. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said,

Unfortunately, we had to remove gameplay functionality entirely to get Apple's approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app. We're staying focused on building communities for the more than 380 million people who play games on Facebook every month -- whether Apple allows it in a standalone app or not.

The heat against Apple and their famous walled garden has been heating up in recent months. Epic Games famously skipped Apple for releasing Fortnite on mobile. ProtonMail has taken swings at Apple, saying,

Apple has become a monopoly, crushing potential competitors with exploitative fees and conducting censorship on behalf of dictators. We know this because we have quietly tolerated this exploitation for years.

Most importantly, there are several antitrust suits in the EU, including one filed by Spotify in March 2019. The EU has taken these complaints seriously, with an active ongoing investigation into Apple's business practices. Eventually, either the EU's research or the growing rift in customer experience between iPhone and other platforms is going to catch up with the company and a change will need to be made.

TikTok's story is getting more challenging, adding WeChat to the mix

posted Sunday Aug 9, 2020 by Scott Ertz

TikTok's story is getting more challenging, adding WeChat to the mix

Last week, President Trump told a group of reporters that he was looking to ban TikTok in the coming days. The ban is over national security issues after it was revealed the company was copying data from users without letting users know. This comes after months of companies and governments around the world banning the app in various forms. Many companies have banned the app from corporate phones. The US and others banned its use on government phones and, in some cases, banning employees and the military from using it entirely.

This week, the Executive Order, which comes under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, was signed. It gives ByteDance, the owner, 15 days (until September 15) to sell at least their US operations to a US company or face an outright ban in the country. This will obviously affect Google and Apple, who both distribute the app through their mobile stores. Both stores would likely be forced to remove the apps from the store, and access would be closed.

In an unexpected twist, President Trump also wrote a similar order against WeChat, another Chinese-owned communication platform. While not particularly popular in the US, the service does feature an option to transfer money between users. Unfortunately for WeChat, and parent company Tencent, money transfer in the US is highly regulated and WeChat falls outside of that regulation. As a result, the company is in a similar position to ByteDance - sell the brand or get out.

That is a noticeably short period of time for such a big deal to be finalized, especially for WeChat, who likely did not see this coming and had no time to prepare. For TikTok and ByteDance, they have been in discussions for a short while, trying to decide what their future might look like. They've been actively in discussion with Microsoft, but also Twitter, according to The Wall Street Journal. While Twitter has more experience with consumer-facing social media, Microsoft has done great things with LinkedIn.

The interesting aspect of all of this is on the WeChat side of things. The surprise of including WeChat in the ban has likely been even stronger for the company itself. However, this could be a bigger issue than it looks Tencent is a controversial investor with its fingers in a lot of pots. These include Epic Games, Activision, Universal Music, and Tesla. As tensions heat up with China, shining a spotlight onto Tencent through WeChat could be the beginning of the company's troubles in the US.

If Tencent is forced to divest from its US holdings that could potentially involve national security, there could be massive results. For example, Tesla has a large hand in artificial reality, which could potentially come under fire.

Patreon loses lawsuit over changed terms of service to avoid lawsuit

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Patreon loses lawsuit over changed terms of service to avoid lawsuit

Last year, Patreon kicked comedian Owen Benjamin off the platform because they didn't enjoy his comedy. The company claimed that his comedy violated their terms involving "hate speech." In response to the termination of his account, Benjamin encouraged his fans to sue Patreon for violating the contract between the site and its users, which promises that content, which is paid for, will be available for those who paid.

These suits would create a logjam for Patreon because the company's terms of service allowed for each suit to be litigated individually under California's JAMS arbitration scheme. In addition, Patreon would be required to pay the cost of arbitration upfront for each individual case. In some cases, the fees could be a few thousand dollars, while others could cost tens of thousands of dollars. As a result, Patreon changed its terms of service to say,

You may not bring a claim against us for suspending or terminating another person's account, and you agree you will not bring such a claim. If you try to bring such a claim, you are responsible for the damages caused, including attorneys fees and costs.

While changing policy is a normal process, the way Patreon did it was not. Rather than letting affected users know that a change was coming and giving them a chance to read the changes before they took place, Patreon made the change publicly and then claimed that by using the site, you had accepted the new terms. That meant that people were theoretically under the new terms and could then not participate in the suit under the rules that existed when the violation took place, simply because they had gone back to the site.

Last month, a judge ruled against Patreon, agreeing that the move was not acceptable. The judge said that the change of Terms of Service was tantamount to changing the rules in the middle of the game. The result was revealed this week, and it is going to create a huge problem for Patreon. In fact, the legal fees as a result of this collection of suits is likely to reach as high as $20 million this year alone.

Over the last year, the company has lost market share, care of both its policies against content that the management team doens't like, as well as a huge group of competitors. Because of this, a $20 million legal bill is going to cause additional issues to the brand. The ruling also opens Patreon up to additional suits from the fans of other creators who have been bounced from the platform.

Twitter hack mastermind could be a 17-year-old boy from Tampa

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Twitter hack mastermind could be a 17-year-old boy from Tampa

Another week, another piece of the Twitter hack details are revealed. Last week, the company revealed that internal employee tools were used to access the affected accounts and that, for some, DMs were also accessed. The questions remained: who did this, and how did they gain access to the tools set they used?

The question of how was also answered by Twitter. The company says that a sophisticated "spear phishing attack" was used in order to gain access to the corporate network, allowing the hackers to learn about the internal processes. From there, they targeted the correct employees to gain access to the tools required to tweet the Bitcoin scam information, which ultimately led to $113,500 being stolen from people who fell for the trick.

This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems. This was a striking reminder of how important each person on our team is in protecting our service.

The answer to who was also answered this week, care of the US Attorney's Office of the Northern District of California. According to the information shared by the Justice Department, 3 individuals have been charged with the hack. Mason Sheppard, a 19-year-old from the United Kingdon, Nima Fazeli, a 22-year-old from Orlando, Florida, and an unnamed 17-year-old (later identified as Graham Clark by local NBC Affiliate WFLA) from Tampa, Florida.

While the team is young, the youngest is claimed to have been the mastermind behind the attack. According to WFLA, Clark has had 30 felony charges filed against him,

one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, one count of fraudulent use of personal information with over $100,000 or 30 or more victims, 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and one count of access to computer or electronic device without authority.

Halo Infinite game listing reveals new information about multiplayer

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Halo Infinite game listing reveals new information about multiplayer

As the release of the Xbox Series X creeps closer, Microsoft has been releasing more information about the console and its accompanying games. Of course, like all Microsoft hardware, one of the most important game franchises will be Halo. For the Xbox Series X, the first title will be Halo Infinite, which was shown off during the Games Showcase a few weeks ago. With people seeking more information about the games from the showcase, online stores have created game listings for this title. However, one such listing might have accidentally confirmed a rumor we have been following for a few weeks.

The game's listing contained some new, unrevealed information about the multiplayer aspect of the upcoming title, saying,

The legendary Halo series returns with the most expansive Master Chief campaign yet and a groundbreaking free-to-play multiplayer experience. Enjoy up to 120 FPS and greatly reduced load times creating seamless gameplay with Xbox Series X.

This passage, which has since been removed from the page, makes a big deal about two new features: 120 FPS and free-to-play multiplayer. Now, there are two ways to interpret this reveal - both being a major turn of events for the franchise. The first is that it will not require paying for Xbox Live to play the game. It could also mean that part of the game will be available to players without buying the game, similar to how Fortnite works. Either way, this is a major change for Halo and the revenue model for games and services on Xbox Series X.

Since the beginning of Xbox Live, there have been two tiers: Silver and Gold. The Silver tier has been free and offered some basic capabilities. Over the years, the capabilities for Silver have increased, but not by much. Gold has been a pay-for feature and opens up all of the Xbox Live capabilities. However, based on some information from the Microsoft Store, Xbox Live Gold will soon be free.

The first hint came when Microsoft discontinued the 12 month subscription. This was interpreted by some as a money grab from Microsoft, as the price per month is lowest for the 12 month option. However, we maintained that is was an indication that Xbox Live would go free with the Series X. Microsoft did not confirm nor deny this possibility. The listing for Halo Infinite has potentially added more fuel to our theory.

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed incredibly challenging to nearly impossible. Last week, the company was struggling to regain trust. This week, they are simply trying to survive through the weekend. This change for the company comes as the White House has taken direct aim at TikTok and parent company ByteDance. On Friday, President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that they were drafting an Executive Order to ban TikTok within the US.

The move comes at the same time that ByteDance was looking to unload the brand onto an American company. The idea being that, if TikTok were owned by an American tech company and the daily management and operations were managed within the borders of the US, it would change the perception of the brand within the government. This concept comes during a week where the US government has taken 4 of the biggest tech companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, to task for their own behavior. So, clearly being owned by a US company does not mean the US government will leave them alone.

The top contender for the purchase has been Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft wasn't part of the Congressional inquery this week could have made the sale a more calm possibility. The White House seems to have an affinity for Microsoft, with some encouragement being made for Microsoft to win the JEDI contract. But, the sale to Microsoft was also mentioned during the Friday conversation with reporters. President Trump said that he was not a fan of the idea of a sale of TikTok to Microsoft and would oppose it if it were to become a reality.

As a result on this comment, reports suggest that Microsoft and ByteDance have suspended their conversations about the sale. This doesn't mean that the deal is dead, but both companies involved are looking to the White House to seek additional information about what a sale could look like in regards to interaction with regulators.

So, this brings us back to the potential outright ban on the platform within the US. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that the ban is coming in the next few days. This would be a massive move, and potentially the biggest presidential move for Trump. However, there is some fight back against the potential of a ban. But, the concern doesn't come from where you might think, but instead from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They claim that banning the app is an affront to free speech. Of course, if that were the case, it would mean that TikTok is the only way for people to commuinicate. The case is, it is far from the only way that people can communicate with one another. In fact, it is far from the only short form video platform.

As this upcoming week progresses, this scenario will continue to change. In the end, there is no telling what the future of TikTok will be, but chances are that it will not be the same on Friday as it is on Monday.

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