The UpStream (Page 19)

YouTube has a big security problem and it could easily become yours

posted Sunday May 17, 2020 by Scott Ertz

YouTube has a big security problem and it could easily become yours

If you have a YouTube channel, you're about to read something that will likely upset you: "wanna be friends?" This comment has been absolutely rampant across the site, appearing on almost every video posted for months. Many creators have noticed that the comment can appear before a video is even made public, suggesting that there is something unsavory going on. Well, that fear is completely justified, as the result of the comment is far worse than just being obnoxious.

First, let me state - DO NOT INTERACT WITH THIS COMMENT. Content creators who have interacted with this comment, either replying or subscribing to the channel behind it, have reported losing access to their channels. These accounts are then added to the comment bot farm that has kept the channel in the spotlight on YouTube - comments on the channel's videos. These comments are never valuable, but value is not part of the YouTube algorithm.

If you check the views on the channel's videos (which we will not link to for security reasons), you will see something peculiar. A video, which is just over a minute long, and simply asks the viewer to subscribe has tens of thousands of views. This is suspicious because this type of video tends to get about 12 views. No one wants to see a video asking for a subscription with no content. Yet, this channel completely bucks that trend, likely because of its use of hijacked accounts to comment on its videos.

One channel, who was subsequently hijacked, did a deep dive into the problem. He showed the oddities of the channel, including the subscribe video's view count, and the average views on the videos that do feature content. However, the content is vague and nonsensical, leading to absolutely nothing. In response to the growing movement behind #YoutubersAtRisk, YouTube has begun to investigate and look for a solution to the problem. All of our comments from this channel are now gone and we were unable to find the comment on other videos, despite its popularity a few days ago. Hopefully, the issue is over, but it is important to secure your YouTube account anyway in case something like this happens again.

Google antitrust cases are coming from Justice Department and states

posted Saturday May 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Google antitrust cases are coming from Justice Department and states

Over the past few years, two technology terms referring to tax have become popular. While the term Apple Tax refers to the 30 percent commission Apple taxes on transactions made through services that developers don't want to use, Google Tax is very different. In the case of Google, it refers to taxes and fees designed specifically to target the company. That's because Google has become a target of investigation in nearly every western nation.

One country that has had a confusing relationship with Google has been the United States. Few laws have been created specifically against Google, but the government has been consistently wary of Google's motives and actions. For about a year, since mid-2019, the Justice Department has been investigating the company's moves and, in particular, its use of its search position to harm its competitors. The claim has been made repeatedly across the globe, with Google steal content and promoting their content. These claims date back more than a decade, and the FTC has been recommending an antitrust suit the entire time.

Those wishes form the FTC are finally going to be honored, as the Justice Department's investigation appears to be complete and a suit is imminent. The documents appear to be in the process of being drafted and could be filed by this summer. It is important to note that, while there has been speculation based on previous government investigations, the details of this particular investigation are still unknown.

The Justice Department investigation is not the only one currently underway. A group of State Attorneys General, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, has been engaged in their investigation into the company. That investigation appears to be close to complete as well, and the group is expected to make its response known by this fall. While the two groups have occasionally worked together on their investigations, they have remained separate entities.

Google said in a statement to Business Insider,

We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and Attorney General Paxton, and we don't have any updates or comments on speculation. Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition.

Epic Games makes another if its product better for game developers

posted Saturday May 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Epic Games makes another if its product better for game developers

Over the past year or so, Epic Games has been adjusting the way it does business. Much of the company's new focus has been based around a philosophy of helping developers to keep more of the money they make. First was the Epic Games Store, which broke from the traditional 30 percent revenue sharing model in favor of only a 12 percent fee. Earlier this year, the company launched Epic Games Publishing, which followed the same model. Full ownership of intellectual property, possible full funding, and a smaller than normal licensing fee.

This week, the company applied the same general logic to another aspect of its business: Unreal Engine. In 2014, Epic Games made the engine available to the public. The licensing fee was $19 per month and 5 percent of the product's sales. They adjusted that licensing model to only require the 5 percent after revenue of $50,000 and removed the monthly fee. This week, they made an even bigger adjustment. The revenue sharing threshold is now $1 million. This comes at an opportune time, as the company also released the first major demo of Unreal Engine 5.

When combined with the company's existing Epic Games Store perk of no licensing fee for Unreal Engine, there is a lot of potential for game development using the already popular engine. A small game developer could build a game without any licensing for Unreal Engine. They could work with Epic Games Publishing and get funding for the development of the game itself. The game could be released to the Epic Games Store, saving the licensing fee and minimizing the revenue cut. They could use all of the extra profit to then release to Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, only then paying the licensing fee.

This move is the final piece of the puzzle for Epic Games' attempt to create a complete ecosystem designed for indie developers to thrive. Considering the popularity of some indie titles, it could open a big business for the company - but only if they can attract the developers.

Surface Duo leak suggests a unique, but basic Android device

posted Saturday May 16, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Surface Duo leak suggests a unique, but basic Android device

2019 began the era of the folding phone. Samsung took a side by side approach to the concept, while Motorola took a top to bottom approach. While both were different, they were variations on the same theme: one piece of bendable screen. Microsoft also announced an entry in the folding phone category, but they took a very different approach to the concept. Rather than trying to bend glass and LCD panels, Microsoft's Surface Duo decided to take a page from the Kyocera Echo's book and simply have two distinct screens.

Sprint announced the Echo in February 2011 and made it available for sale in April 2011, and the phone was the first dual-screen Android device. It folded in the middle and looked similar to a Nintendo DS. Microsoft's Surface Duo is a significantly updated version of the concept which is scheduled to release later this year. Despite the looming release and the device being used daily by Microsoft employees, we have heard very little from Microsoft on the specs of the device.

So far we know that the device has two 5.6-inch displays, each with a resolution of 1800x1350. The screens support Surface Pen, which makes it worthy of the Surface name. The width of the device is 4.8mm. And that's all we have known for some time. That changed this week, in a way, with a leak to Windows Central. The leak comes care of someone testing the device and likely shows the final hardware for the product.

The missing specs include a Snapdragon 855 SoC, 6GB of system RAM, and configurations including 6$GB and 256GB of storage. Like too many modern phones, it will offer no external storage. It will, however, offer a USB-C connector, something that Microsoft is finally coming around on with its modern devices. The phone will feature a single 11MP camera on the back, meaning that it will likely not have any facial recognition capabilities. It will, however, offer fingerprint security.

With the specs finally out, though unofficially, we can assume that Microsoft is close to complete on the device. That could mean that the rumors of an earlier launch of the Surface Duo might be true.

AMC to boycott future Universal films over distribution disagreement

posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz

AMC to boycott future Universal films over distribution disagreement

With movie theaters closed thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, movie studios have had to make big decisions about the future of their films. Many studios have moved the release dates for their blockbusters into the far future, altering their timelines. Most notable has been the Marvel studios releases, some films being pushed over a year past their release dates. Other studios have adjusted their release styles instead. The biggest alteration was for Trolls World Tour.

The film was scheduled to release in theaters just after the lockdown began. But, Universal decided to forego the theater and release the movie directly to premium video on demand (PVOD), renting the film for $19.99. As a family movie, this rental price is lower than a trip to the theater and it allows everyone to enjoy it in the safety and comfort of their own home. A win-win for families for sure, but what about for Universal? As it turns out, the move worked wonders - possibly exceeding the box office gross it would have had if it had premiered in theaters. It definitely exceeded the take form the original movie in 2016, taking in more in three weeks of PVOD than the original did in 5 months of theater showings.

And therein lies the problem. It was far more lucrative for Universal to forego the theater and go direct to PVOD. Theaters, which are already in trouble because of months of lost revenue, do not want to hear that their business model is not good for the studios which make the films that keep them going. However, Universal recognizes that some films are simply made for the big screen, while others can thrive on a small screen. As such, the company has said that it will evaluate its release of future films, potentially breaking the longstanding tradition of the box office window.

This window is the gap between the theatrical exclusivity and additional release platforms. There is no legal requirement to maintain this window, but it has been around for a long time. Removal of the window would mean Universal might release movies in theaters and PVOD at the same time, immediately adjacent, or any other combination that they see fit. This did not sit well with the CEO of AMC, Adam Aron. In a letter sent to Universal chairman Donna Langley,

Effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.

Don't expect this grandstanding to last, however, as this will do far more damage to AMC than it will to Universal if the last few weeks is any indication. That will become even more important as reports indicate that theaters, including AMC, might file bankruptcy following the lockdown.

Congress calls Jeff Bezos to testify about Amazon's use of seller data

posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Congress calls Jeff Bezos to testify about Amazon's use of seller data

Last year, as part of its inquiry into the way big tech companies use their market positions to compete with those who rely on these companies, Amazon representatives were asked about their use of data. In particular, Nate Sutton, Amazon's Associate General Counsel was asked about the company's use of seller data on its platform to determine its own product offerings. Mr. Sutton said that Amazon does not use information about its sellers to compete against them. Those words are at the center of a new controversy for the company.

Following a Wall Street Journal report, a bipartisan House panel has requested that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appear before the panel to answer questions. Those questions, once again, revolve around Amazon's use of seller data to build its own product line. The report, which cites conversations with more than 20 previous employees in the private label division of the company, states that Amazon regularly uses data about sellers on the platform to plan its product moves.

One example cited is a trunk organizer. Employees were urged to research the top seller in the category on the platform, including which features were most important to customers, the best price at which the product sold, and what Amazon's profit was for hosting the product. After this research, Amazon launched its own branded trunk organizer, based on the research conducted.

Congress does not generally appreciate being lied to, which is probably why the concept of perjury exists. If there was any question about whether that's how they feel here, their letter to Bezos makes their feelings clear. They expect that Bezos will appear in front of the panel voluntarily, but are prepared to subpoena him if necessary. If it turns out that the company lied to Congress last year, there could be big problems for the company in the future. The company, however, has continued to insist that they do not use competitor data to develop their own products and take the accusations seriously.

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