Details of the hottest, most secretive bitcoin start-up in Silicon Valley have finally been revealed by chairman and soon-to-be CEO Balaji Srinivasan of 21 Inc in a post on Medium. They are, by and large, exactly what FT Alphaville reported them to be. Cold sharp summary: Bitcoin mining devices in toasters.
Calling this a simple internet of things play, however, would be lazy. To really put the audacity of Srinivasan’s vision into perspective one first has to go back in time to the days of the early internet. Read more
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
From the FT:
Ocado has the benefit of being part of growing market. Online’s share of the grocery market will nearly double from almost 4 per cent in 2013 to 7 per cent by 2018, according to IGD. “We are preparing for a massive opportunity,” says Mr Steiner.
It is an opportunity that fellow co-founder Jason Gissing has chosen to skip. Mr Gissing will step down as the group’s commercial director later this year, but will retain his 3 per cent stake in the company.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
From RNS: Read more
Pints, royals, strawberries and cream, bulldogs, cricket, fry-ups, football hooligans, and porn filters. All things British. The last item on the list being a recent arrival announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech last week.
The filters will require an active selection to be able to view porn — plus anything that gets misidentified as porn — on one’s home internet connection.
Now, given that many Brits seem barely able flirt without the aid of alcohol (sorry!), one wonders exactly how many people will go to the trouble of getting the filters removed… but allow FT Alphaville to note that we kinda put “porn” in at least a couple of headlines over the last year. Just FYI. Read more
Dr Thies Lindenthal, a researcher in virtual real estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, submits the following post to FT Alphaville.
The piecemeal roll out of new virtual space is unfair, risky and detrimental to the user-acceptance of new space on the internet.
Are internet domains an asset class? If so, what is the risk-return profile like?
In an effort to answer these questions, MIT researcher Thies Lindenthal has taken the very important step of creating a price index for domain names. With an index, one can benchmark. More exciting though is that this index may (like PMIs, for example) serve as a leading indicator — for internet companies like Google, that is. Read more
Several popular internet sites shut down on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that is currently being debated by the US Congress. The WSJ explains that those for the bill claim that it will protect creative rights, while those opposed say it will undermine free speech. According to Bloomberg, four senators and four representatives have withdrawn their support for the Act. While the lead backer of the legislation, House Judiciary committee Chairman Lamar Smith, still expected the legislation to move forward, other lawmakers have stated that the bill isn’t ready for a vote yet, the WSJ reports.
He* may have left Yahoo to work for Facebook.
But what if he was just an average Joe? Read more
Yahoo has fired its chief executive Carol Bartz over the phone and announced a strategic review, less than three years after she joined the company, Reuters reports. Tim Morse will serve as interim chief executive and remain as chief financial officer, Yahoo announced in a statement. TechCrunch has a copy of Bartz’s email to employees in which she revealed she had been fired by phone. Yahoo shares rose more than 6 per cent in after hours trading to $12.91, close to levels when Bartz joined in 2009, the FT says. Bartz has struggled to keep control of Yahoo’s valuable stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. The company’s board has become increasingly willing to consider serious offers owing to the drift in its business under Bartz, All Things D says.
Businesses are facing a dilemma over how to protect their trademarks after the body governing internet names voted on Monday to allow the creation of thousands of web suffixes to run alongside .com and .net, the FT reports. For a starting price of about $500,000, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will allow companies and community groups to create customised domain names – such as .canon for the camera maker or .london for the English capital. So-called “generic” domains, putting common words after the “dot” in addresses, will extend the system further. The actual cost for popular domain names contested by several parties, however, is likely to multiply, with lawyers predicting that the new addresses will trigger big legal battles.
The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it – Lord Palmerston (1784- 1865)
(H/T Numis Securities) Read more
Drastic developments in Egypt overnight:
At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers. Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide…
Skype plans to lift its headcount by nearly 50 per cent this year, reports the FT, as it looks to reinvigorate its lacklustre product development processes and capitalise on its viral consumer growth. The hiring spree marks an attempt by Tony Bates, Skype’s new chief executive, to inject urgency into a company synonymous with online voice and video calling. While its brand recognition and reach put it among the top handful of consumer internet companies, Skype has been slow to come up with a broad “premium tier” of services for which it can charge users – something Mr Bates aims to put right in a hurry.
The US Federal Communications Commission has set down its first rules of the road for internet traffic, after a split vote that left critics at both ends of the political spectrum warning the decision could be challenged by Congress or the courts the FT reports. The “net neutrality” ruling prohibits broadband providers from blocking any lawful content, applications and services, though it would allow “reasonable network management” and permit operators to manage congestion by charging heavy users more. In one of its most divisive provisions, the FCC agreed by a 3-2 vote that mobile broadband should be regulated differently from fixed-line internet access, imposing fewer restrictions on wireless companies such as AT&T and Verizon. Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, said consumers should expect few changes Reuters reports.
The US Federal Communications Commission looks set to pass “net neutrality” rules at a meeting on Tuesday after its chairman secured cautious support from two Democratic commissioners who had hoped for stronger regulation of internet traffic, the FT reports. Statements from commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn on the eve of a meeting to approve an “open internet” order pave the way for a compromise that will prevent broadband network operators from blocking legal content, while allowing them to manage traffic on their networks by charging heavy users more. Their approval, though hedged, should allow Julius Genachowski, the FCC’s Democratic chairman, to overcome opposition from the commission’s Republican members, Meredith Baker and Robert McDowell, who have expressed concern that unnecessary regulation will deter investment in broadband infrastructure.
The Chinese have taken to the internet with passion, but it seems their appetite for shopping online is growing even faster, notes the FT. Total online retail sales are forecast to double this year to Rmb500bn ($75bn) from Rmb253bn in 2009, according to Analysys, an internet research firm. The number of people shopping online rose from 28 per cent of all internet users to more than 33 per cent in less than six months earlier this year. But that is still less than half the global average, and as online retail sales accounted for just 3.7 per cent of China’s total retail sales in the third quarter, analysts believe the potential is vast.
The FT reports that the US Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines on internet privacy, calling on industry to let protection of private data permeate nearly every business decision. A report released on Wednesday by the top federal consumer protection watchdog included guidelines for companies that would ensure groups only collected consumer data needed for specific business purposes, retained the data only as long as necessary, and safely disposed of data that was no longer being used. The US cable and mobile communications industries have won important concessions from regulators over proposed “net neutrality” rules, as part of a broader retreat by Barack Obama’s administration from the tougher rules it had argued were needed to protect the openness of the internet the FT also reports. The plan, endorsed by Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, would remove uncertainty about the ability of cable companies to charge internet users and content providers for the amount of network capacity they use, which some analysts call “broadband rationing”.
Google’s YouTube video site is in negotiations with Hollywood’s leading movie studios to launch a global pay-per-view video service by the end of 2010, putting it head-to-head with Apple in the race to dominate the digital distribution of film and television content, the FT reports. Google has been pitching to the studios on the international appeal of a streaming, on-demand movie service pegged to the world’s most popular search engine and YouTube, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. At the same time, the Justice Department is investigating Comcast’s $13.75bn deal to buy NBC Universal over fears that the move could stunt the online video market, the WSJ reports.
Google has moved into direct competition with the internet telephony firm Skype with a feature allowing its email users to phone from their inbox, says the FT. The announcement creates a potent rival to Skype, which is preparing for an initial public offering on a basis of 560m users, 8.1m of whom actually pay for its service. Google’s Gmail service has just over 200m users. But is Skype really the target? The move does far more to set the stage of Google’s rumoured launch of a social network this fall, says Wired, suggesting that Facebook has just as much reason to worry, ahead of its own IPO.
‘It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband,’ Google and Verizon said on Monday, launching a joint proposal on regulating internet traffic. A proposal that has attracted the ire of interest groups which see an attack on net neutrality, the FT reports, after the firms proposed creating ‘differentiated online services’ that could involve higher charging.
The FCC has given the Google-Verizon proposal a frosty reception, TechCrunch says, emphasising that it will decide the issue. Just as well — plenty of loopholes exist in the proposals which would seriously affect the future of business on the internet, reports Ars Technica.
Sina Corp, owner of China’s larget internet portal, said Q1 net profit more than doubled to $24.4m as online-advertising revenue rose and expenses fell, the WSJ reported. The company said it expects its advertising business to maintain growth this quarter amid the continued recovery of the Chinese economy.
China’s government ramped up its censorship of Google’s search results on Tuesday after the US search engine redirected search requests from users on the mainland to its Hong Kong site, effectively ending its self-censorship in the country. China, which has strongly condemned the move, deployed its Great Firewall with some vigor. Google search requests on politically sensitive topics turned up blank pages and error messages, the FT said.
Google has carried through on its promise to end censorship of its local Chinese search engine by redirecting all search requests on its local Chinese service to its Hong Kong arm. The move risks provoking a showdown with local authorities which have mounted an escalating war of words over the issue. “It’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China,” Google said in a blog post announcing the move.