Over the past few years, the number of chat apps has grown in a way that defies explanation. Part of that industry has been chat and communication platforms intended for groups, particularly in business. Several years ago, the nearly undisputed leader in that space was Slack, a service that mimicked the bulletin board systems of the 80s and 90s, without some of the more popular features. Move forward a few years, and the company has been valued at nearly $30 billion because of the company's sale to Salesforce.
Salesforce is likely hoping to improve its communication offerings. The company's existing product, Chatter, has not received a lot of positive attention. In the growing environment of work from home, the value of communication platforms has become even more important to companies. But Slack has struggled to keep up with demand, so perhaps under the Salesforce umbrella, the service will be able to add features that are wanted to compete with the emerging industry leader, Microsoft Teams.
The sale comes after the brand's lead has diminished, with the bulk of the focus moving to Microsoft's Teams platform. While Slack has struggled to implement simple features that businesses have wanted, Microsoft has been able to adapt to the needs of its customers. Plus, Microsoft's existing relationship with businesses, through Windows, Windows Server, Azure, Microsoft 360, and more, has made the integration easy.
The history of the relationship between the two brands is more complicated. Microsoft offered to purchase Slack several years ago, which the company was not interested in at the time. After the rejection, Microsoft took to retiring Skype for Business and replace it with the newly developed Teams.
Microsoft and Salesforce once had a very positive relationship, though it seems to have diminished over the years. It started to fall apart in 2012, when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff insulted Microsoft and Windows 8. Now, the companies will be in even tighter competition, since Slack and Teams are going to be at the forefront of both companies' brands within businesses.
The world of videogame streaming continues to get more challenging. While more people than ever are streaming their own gameplay, and more people are watching others play, the industry is going through industry growing pains. The most recent challenge against the norms in videogame streaming comes thanks to Fortnite, who accidentally created a new challenge for streamers on Twitch and YouTube with the latest event, Nexus War.
For those who do not know, Fortnite regularly runs specialized events. These often involve licensed characters, special music, and run for a limited amount of time. Nexus War, which ran last week, included all of these features. The event saw players battle against the Marvel character Galactus in a ten-minute fight. As part of this fight, players were treated to AC/DC's Demon Fire while on the Battle Bus. For standard players, having music that you recognize played while psyching yourself up for a battle is great, but for streamers, it could be a disaster.
The problem, of course, comes in through the DMCA strike system. While the name comes from YouTube, the concept is universal. The owner of the rights to media, whether it be audio, video, still images, etc., can strike user generated content on platforms like Twitch and YouTube if the use violates their rights. Twitch and its users have long ignored the law, using whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. It ended with users getting emails about deletion, for which Twitch has apologized.
However, this clump of emails signaled the beginning of changes to the way Twitch is looked at from Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). RIAA has begun issuing strikes against streamers for using music in their streams for which they do not have the rights. This will likely include AC/DC's Demon Fire, as Epic Games did not secure streaming rights to the song - only in-game rights. However, Epic Games will not be involved in any violation claims because of the songs - that will come down to the streamers themselves.
We are beginning to see game developers include a "royalty free" music option in their games to make things easier for streamers. Epic Games is not yet one of those studios, meaning that streamers either cannot play Fortnite, have to mute part of the game's load process, or risk strikes. None of these options are great for small streamers who may not know about the laws that restrict their ability to stream the first 60 seconds of a game.
All industries see growing pains, but in this case it's the customers that are in peril - not the providers. This is a problem that will need to be solved quickly if Twitch wants to maintain its growth and streamer interest.
Since the initial announcement of the Libra cryptocurrency, there has been nothing but trouble. Shortly after, members began jumping ship. There was also concern from governments around the world, including the US and EU. Without the partners, and with additional government scrutiny, getting Libra to market was becoming a challenge. As such, launch strategy changes were made.
But, the problem is that none of the real problems have been addressed. The biggest problem is that Libra is the brainchild of Facebook. Anything that Facebook touches is going to be heavily scrutinized by regulators and the public. Because the Libra brand is so associated with the company, the Libra Association has announced that it is rebranding to Diem Association, and the organization's stable coin will become Diem. The name change comes as the association has brought in a number of new and high-profile executives. The organization's CEO, Stuart Levey, said of the branding change,
We are excited to introduce Diem - a new name that signals the project's growing maturity and independence.
Levey also explains that the maturity growth has come from continued conversations with governments and regulators. The organization wants to ensure that it is working with and addressing the concerns of these countries, because as a stable coin, they hope to often work as a transfer mechanism between currencies, or between people in different countries. However, many countries have extremely strict rules over wire transfers, which some have claimed this system would fall under.
The rebranding also has a lot to do with separating the organization and currency from Facebook. The name Libra is well-known to be a Facebook brand, whether an independent association is in charge. However, with the changes within the organization and a more distinct delineation between Facebook and the association, a new name is a good idea. In fact, Facebook seems to agree, as the company's Libra wallet Calibri is becoming the Diem wallet Novi.
Over the years, Google's inability to pick a business strategy, articulate it to its partners and customers, and execute it to perfection has caused the company problems. Take, for example, the company's messaging strategy with products like Allo coming and going, more than one text app for Android, and more. But messaging hasn't been the only place where the company's lack of focus has caused problems, with the latest being video, and particularly Google TV.
Google TV was a smart TV platform developed and provided by Google to TV manufacturers. It was a market failure and was replaced by Android TV in 2014. Recently, the Google TV name was brought out of retirement, but for something a little different. Now, it is an interface on top of Android TV and available on the newer Chromecast devices, which brings together a variety of streaming services into one place to allow you to search for and favorite content from all of the disparate platforms.
For a platform like this to be at all useful or popular, it has to support all of the major services. Until this week, that is how Google TV worked - until suddenly the ability to add content from Netflix to your watchlist. Initially, it seemed like perhaps a bug in the system. However, as the week went on, Netflix was removed from Google TV entirely. This includes adding Netflix as a service on the platform. The Netflix app and platform itself still works as expected - just not the integration with the Google TV interface. Google has responded to all requests about the change with the same statement, saying,
With Google TV, our goal is to bring the best of our search and discovery features across your subscriptions to your favorite devices. We work with each content partner to enable these entertainment experiences, and the level of integration will vary by partner.
Whatever is going on between Google and Netflix needs to be solved quickly if Google has any hopes of getting people to accept the newest incarnation of Google TV.
One of the biggest fears for a connected home is when that connection disappears. We've all experienced internet outages, causing our connected devices to become suddenly useless. For the most part, this is merely an inconvenience. But, what if someone is trying to get into your home and cuts your internet connection - killing your connected devices, such as security cameras? That is exactly the problem that Amazon is hoping to eliminate with its new Sidewalk feature.
The new feature creates a private, local network between Amazon devices. This will include some of the company's Echo, Ring, and more product lines. This private network will allow the devices within the network to switch over to one another's internet connection if the primary connection is unavailable. For some users, this feature will be an exciting addition. However, the company has made a major mistake and one that has caused other companies in the past.
This feature will be turning itself on by default. In fact, while Sidewalk networks are not already running (according to Amazon), the setting to turn it off is already available. You can head to More -> Settings -> Account Settings -> Amazon Sidewalk to turn it off. There are a number of reasons why users might want to consider turning this off.
Of course, there is the obvious issue of data caps, which are going to increase in 2021. If you have a limited amount of bandwidth, giving access to connected devices which are not your own is not a great situation at $10 per additional 50GB of usage. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The real situation is that connected devices are notorious for security issues, including Amazon's products. By creating an "accidental" backdoor into your private internet connection, the company is potentially creating a security nightmare for you and your family. For the same reason we have repeatedly fought against the idea of "public access" on consumer routers, we see the potential for abuse.
Recently, a report showed that the number of internet power users has grown over the past year. This was no surprise, as much of the world has begun working from home. In addition, school is now from home, the majority of entertainment is from home. Add to that, the number of devices in our homes that are connected to the internet has expanded. With all of these changes, the amount of data being used is bound to increase as well.
Thankfully, most of the major internet service providers that have data caps have suspended those caps for the time being. However, this week we learned that Comcast plans to expand its data cap policy across all of its markets in the United States. As of today, there are twelve states where unlimited data plans are still available. However, that is about to come to an end.
In January 2021, Comcast will expand the controversial policy to all of the 28 million subscribers in the company's 39 market states. The announcement came via the company's Xfinity page about data, though the language has since been removed. The company did confirm the change through Ars Technica.
They will, however, give a "grace period" to users who will be added to the policy in January. For the first two months, users will not be charged for overages. This means that the enforcement of the policy, in these new markets, will actually begin in March 2021. In addition, the company has options for those who want to maintain unlimited data. Users can pay an additional $30 per month, or sign up for the "xFi Complete" plan, which is an additional $25 (a better option, but still not great).
As the nature of internet usage continues to change, adding data caps and overage charges is unbelievably inappropriate. People will be continually using more data as entertainment, work, school, and more continue to change.