Instagram Adds “Stories”

Josh Constine, writing at TechCrunch:

People only post the highlights of their life on Instagram, so today the app adds its own version of “Stories” to poach goofy, off-the-cuff, everyday content from Snapchat. It works exactly like Snapchat Stories, allowing you to post 24-hour ephemeral photo and video slideshows that disappear. But because Instagram Stories appear at the top of the old feed, your followers will inevitably see them without you needing to build a new audience in a different app.

I mean, yeah, it is a clone of Snapchat’s feature, but it is also exactly why I post rarely to Instagram and post stupid things all the time on Snapchat.

Verizon Buys Yahoo for $4.8 Billion

Vindu Goel, reporting for The New York Times:

Verizon, seeking to build an array of digital businesses that can compete for users and advertising with Google and Facebook, announced on Monday that it was buying Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash.

The deal, which was reached over the weekend, unites two titans of the early internet, AOL and Yahoo, under the umbrella of one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies. Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion last year. Now it will add Yahoo’s consumer services — search, news, finance, sports, video, email and the Tumblr social network — to a portfolio that includes AOL as well as popular sites like The Huffington Post.

Yahoo and AOL, once giants of the industry, now just another part of Verizon. I wonder what Tumblr’s fate will be?

Hacker Involved in ‘Celebgate’ Pleads Guilty

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

A hacker has pleaded guilty for his role in the “Celebgate” breach of 2014. Edward Majerczyk faces up to five years in federal prison for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Like fellow hacker Ryan Collins, the 28-year-old Majerczyk used a phishing scam to trick celebrities into entering their online credentials into fake ‘security’ sites. Majerczyk then used this information to illegally access more than 300 personal Gmail and iCloud accounts, retrieving private photos and videos from targets including celebrities. No individuals affected by the hack were named in court documents.

Katy Perry’s Twitter Account Hacked

Yesterday Katy Perry, the most followed account on Twitter, got hacked. From TechCrunch:

This incident is yet another reminder that despite the platform’s security measures, no one’s Twitter account is safe—especially if they are a celebrity. Other high-profile Twitters that have been hacked include Justin Bieber, Lea Michele, and Britney Spears—and even the U.S. Central Command.

This is a good time to also point out that over the past week it looks like emails and passwords to over seven hundred million accounts may have leaked from LinkedIn, Tumblr, and MySpace:

There are some really interesting patterns emerging here. One is obviously the age; the newest breach of this recent spate is still more than 3 years old. This data has been lying dormant (or at least out of public sight) for long periods of time.

The other is the size and these 4 breaches are all in the top 5 largest ones HIBP has ever seen. That’s out of 109 breaches to date, too. Not only that, but these 4 incidents account for two thirds of all the data in the system, or least they will once MySpace turns up.

This is a good time to remind you to choose secure, long, and unique passwords for all your online accounts. I use, and recommend, 1Password.

Peter Thiel Backs Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuit Against Gawker

One of the more interesting stories in the journalism space over the past week has been the revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel has been secretly funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker. I think, not surprisingly, I agree most with John Gruber’s take:

It’s free speech on both sides. Thiel was free to secretly back (and apparently strategically steer) Hogan’s case against Gawker. But Gawker founder Nick Denton was free to air his suspicion that Hogan had a billionaire Silicon Valley backer, and Forbes was free to out Thiel as said backer. And now commentators who are appalled are free to express their outrage at Thiel, perhaps embarrassing him and making it less likely that he or others of similar super-wealth will do this in the future.

You’re free to do stupid shit under the banner of free speech, and I’m free to say so.

Behind the Pebble Core

Steven Levy, writing for Blackchannel, on the new device from Pebble called the “Pebble Core.” It’s basically a little keychain sized device that can stream music from Spotify.

Today, Pebble is launching Kickstarter campaigns for three products. Only two of them are smart watches. It’s the third product that will garner the most attention. It’s a Pebble that’s not a watch. It is optimized for a single task: taking a run. It’s a white plastic and black rubber block, a little thicker than a mahjong tile, with an orange clasp that grasps a keyring. It plays music, has GPS and other sensors that can track activity, and a 3G cellular modem that allows it to work even if your phone isn’t on you.

Google Announces “Google Home”

Google has announced their own little device that lives in your home and you speak to and it does things for you, kind of like the Amazon Echo. From, The Verge:

It’s not portable, but the benefit of always being plugged in is that Google can make a more powerful speaker. Quieroz says that it “really fills the room” and that it will have “strong bass and clear highs.” That’s important, because one of the main use cases Google is foreseeing here is listening to music. The Echo isn’t great at that.

I like the idea of these devices being around and helping me with conversions while cooking, or checking basketball scores, or hopefully one day being able to control more home automation — I’m not convinced on them being great music listening devices yet.1

  1. I’ll reserve judgement until I can hear one in person. I do think this is potentially a great podcast speaker.

Press a Button, Play a Chord

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch, looks at a new digital guitar where can basically press a button to play a chord:

You can also freestyle, playing whatever you want. Rock band Muse’s lead singer Matt Bellamy is an investor, and he told me he uses it to write songs since it’s so easy to recreate what’s in his head without fumbling to find where to put his fingers. The guitar automatically records your last 30 minutes of playing so if you discover the perfect riff, you won’t forget it.

Lady Gaga’s Startup Backplane Selling Assets

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch, on Lady Gaga’s startup, Backplane, selling its assets:

Founded in 2011, Backplane raised a Series A of $12.1 million in 2012 from the top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Sequoia, Google Ventures, Founders Fund, SV Angel, Greylock, Menlo Ventures, Formation 8 and Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures all poured money in at around a $40 million valuation. That was despite basically just being a fan site for Lady Gaga with hopes of launching social networks for brands. It eventually raised $5 million more.

Helpful App: Thunderspace 5K

The last few weeks have been just a tad stressful. Needless to say my sleep schedule has taken a massive punch in the balls. Over the past few days I’ve been using this app, Thunderspace 5K, at night as almost a white noise machine. It’s been a revelation. It might be growing up in Oregon, and having spent many a night falling asleep to the sound of rain on the wood deck outside the window of my youth, but this app has replaced podcasts when I finally find my way to bed.

WhatsApp Turns on Encryption

Cade Metz, writing for Wired, tells the inside story of WhatsApp turning on end-to-end encryption.

More than a billion people trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos using the service. This means that only Facebook itself runs a larger self-contained communications network. And today, the enigmatic founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, together with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, revealed that the company has added end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on its service.

“I’m Not Wearing Hockey Pads”

Boston Dynamics have released a new video of their robot, Atlas, which can walk on two legs, open doors, stack boxes, and handle being pushed around by dudes with sticks. I had two thoughts while watching this: First, “oh great, like the robots aren’t going to remember this one day.” And two, that maybe I’d been watching too much Humans, because I felt this ping of empathy for what I know is a machine.

Bill Simmons Announces ‘The Ringer’

Last week Bill Simmons announced his upcoming new website, The Ringer. Today his partnership with Medium for the publishing of said website has been announced. Edward Lichty’s post about the partnership is filed with PR platitudes but one line in particular set off my bullshit detector:

We eliminate the need for any investment in tech, provide access to a growing network oriented towards meaningful engagement, and deliver constant, always-on innovation from a world-class product development team, whether you’re a single blogger or a large commercial publication — all for free.

I think Medium is a really interesting product and a great environment for hosting medium to long form text — and I’ll continue to recommend it for a certain set of writers. But any company promising this sort of thing for free is really saying for right now. The other shoe drops eventually. I’d recommend a read of David Winer’s “Anywhere But Medium” for the counter argument.

Cool App: Fluid Browser

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

One of the better features to emerge in iOS 9 is support for picture-in-picture mode on the iPad. But when you’re trying to surf the web while watching Netflix on your Mac, it’s not as easy to do – you often end up moving separate windows around on the screen, or switching back and forth between the playing video and other browser tabs.

A new floating browser app for Mac called Fluid solves this problem by offering a way to view your work alongside your media content from places like YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, Hulu and more.

As I’m writing this I have Plex running and playing The Social Network in the corner. Pretty great.

More on Apple and the FBI

More news, and some great analysis, has surfaced over the Apple vs the FBI situation I posted about a few days ago. I’ve rounded up some of the best articles I’ve come across on the subject from a variety of angles.

Rich Mogull, asking if we have a right to security:

The FBI wants this case to be about a single phone used by a single dead terrorist in San Bernardino to distract us from asking the real question. It will not stop at this one case, that isn’t how the law works. They are also teaming with legislators to make encrypted, secure devices and services illegal. That isn’t conspiracy theory, it is the stated position of the director of the FBI. Eventually they want systems to access any device or form of communications, at scale. As they already have with our phone system. Keep in mind that there is no way to limit this to consumer technologies, and it will have to apply to business systems as well, undermining corporate security.

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

Elspeth Reeve, writing for the New Republic, looks at the secret lives of “Tumblr Teens,” the back alley monetization schemes, and the story of some of the most popular accounts being terminated. It’s an in-depth profile on a faction of the internet, and youth culture, that I seemed to just miss.

Each social media network creates a particular kind of teenage star: Those blessed with early-onset hotness are drawn to YouTube, the fashionable and seemingly wealthy post to Instagram, the most charismatic actors, dancers, and comedians thrive on Vine. On Facebook, every link you share and photo you post is a statement of your identity. Tumblr is the social network that, based on my reporting, is seen by teens as the most uncool.

Grab some pizza, or if you’re my age: a beer, and dive in.

Teenagers and Snapchat

Ben Rosen interviewed his kid sister about Snapchat for Buzzfeed:

I’m mesmerized. What’s even the point of sending snaps to each other if you don’t look at them? Am I crazy? That seems so unnecessary. Still, this is adult-brain talking. If I wanted to be one of the teens, I needed to just accept it and press on.

That moment when you know you’re old and things are happening you don’t get? Yeah. That’s right now with my five whole views on my “story.” Look at me, the NARP.

Behind Spotify’s “Discovery Weekly” Playlists

Nikhil Sonnad, writing for Quartz, looks at the technology behind Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlists.

“We now have more technology than ever before to ensure that if you’re the smallest, strangest musician in the world, doing something that only 20 people in the world will dig, we can now find those 20 people and connect the dots between the artist and listeners,” Matthew Ogle, who oversees the service at Spotify, told me recently. “Discovery Weekly is just a really compelling new way to do that at a scale that’s never been done before.”

Although I am a professed album lover, I think these playlists are the best thing Spotify has been doing recently. It’s the kind of personalization that is only going to get better, and the trick of finding someone that next band they love is going to put me out of business.

The Website Obesity Crisis

Maciej Cegłowski has posted up a transcript and slides from a talk he gave last year at the Web Directions conference. It looks at the “Website Obesity Crisis” and lays out an argument against the growing trend in giant, and I mean giant, homepages.

Let me start by saying that beautiful websites come in all sizes and page weights. I love big websites packed with images. I love high-resolution video. I love sprawling Javascript experiments or well-designed web apps.

This talk isn’t about any of those. It’s about mostly-text sites that, for unfathomable reasons, are growing bigger with every passing year.

While I’ll be using examples to keep the talk from getting too abstract, I’m not here to shame anyone, except some companies (Medium) that should know better and are intentionally breaking the web.

A number of websites have become almost unusable. The cruft, trackers, and garbage is packed on top of social dialog pop-ups, sinful scroll-jacking javascript, and page sizes that are bigger than mp3 files we used to share.