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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reports say Egypt Web shutdown is coordinated, extensive

To combat social media, another important weapon for the demonstrators, outside experts and people living in the country say the government has coordinated a blockage of certain communications websites and unplugged internet access entirely to parts of the country.

On Thursday, protesters active on Twitter and Facebook, publicly documenting demonstrations on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, went quiet. Around the same time, many websites centralized on servers in Egypt disappeared.

Cellular telephone operators were told by authorities to suspend services in parts of Egypt, according to a statement from Vodafone, a global cell carrier that operates there. Lack of cell and landline phone service could prove to be a bigger obstacle to demonstration organizers than the internet disruption. Many of Egypt's impoverished citizens don't rely on the Web in their day-to-day lives anyway, said Parvez Sharma, a documentary filmmaker on Middle Eastern culture.

Before Thursday's seemingly more concerted halt of internet services, access to Twitter and Facebook in Egypt was becoming spotty.

These services have played major roles in protests in Tunisia and Iran and for dissidents in China. They had begun to explode alongside street protests.

When social media websites were blocked, many in Egypt had found their way around it by using software called proxies.

This remains a common practice for people in China looking to skirt the government's "great wall" blocking certain Web services. Proxies can trick internet providers and routing services designed to block certain cities or countries into believing that a person is located elsewhere.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mozilla updates Firefox 4 Beta 10 with 506 bug fixes

There are a lot of bugs in Firefox 4. Mozilla this week updated the next gen Firefox browser to Beta 10, quashing no less than 506 bugs. Taking a deeper look at the 506 bugs fixed in Beta 10 reveals a tonne of stability fixes. There also appears to be a number of memory fixes, which is also a good thing.

There is actually at least one new feature/usability improvement in Beta 10 as well. With Firefox 4 Beta 10 users can now double click anywhere to create a new tab. This is a feature that was proposed for Beta 8.

There are still a few more milestones officially left for Firefox 4 including at least one more beta and a pair of Release Candidates.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Internet Body May Use up IPv4 Addresses This Week

The current crop of Internet addresses could start to disappear this week if a regional Internet registry makes one more request for two blocks of addresses.

APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre) is eligible to request two large blocks of IPv4 (Internet Protocol, Version 4) addresses, because users have been snapping up its existing stock quickly enough, according to Leo Vegoda, manager of number resources at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Because there are only seven of these large blocks left, that allocation to APNIC would activate a policy for the IANA to hand out the last five blocks to the five regional registries, Vegoda said.

The timing suggests that predictions that IPv4 addresses will be depleted very soon may be correct. Martin Levy, director of IPv6 strategy at ISP Hurricane Electric, predicted last week that the IANA's stockpile would be exhausted this week. At the same time, two online "clocks" that estimate the date of IPv4 depletion are showing that this event should have passed already or would occur very soon.

This won't mean that suddenly no user can get a new IPv4 address, Vegoda noted. In addition to the remaining numbers held by the RIRs, there are some addresses left in older blocks assigned before the RIRs were established, which the RIRs have split up among themselves. But given the fast adoption of new addresses in some parts of the world, those resources might be used up soon.

The expanded address space is expected to be most critical to users in quickly developing countries such as China and India, as well as for the many new mobile devices being used for Internet access. The transition to IPv6 will be gradual, but even an enterprise that has enough IPv4 addresses should start supporting IPv6 in order to reach the new end points that won't be able to get IPv4 addresses, Vegoda said.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Twitter Worm Pushes Fake Antivirus Protection

Another worm is making the rounds on Twitter via the URL shortening service, often directing users to fake anti-virus software. Affected users might notice mysterious tweets that they did not write showing up on their feeds, many of which include links that end with "m28sx.html."

If you click on these links, you are taken to a Web site that suggests your computer has been infected by a virus. The site encourages you to download what it says is anti-virus protection but is actually malicious code. Del Harvey, head of Twitter's trust and safety efforts, tweeted yesterday that the company was "working to remove the malware links and reset passwords on compromised accounts."

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Facebook Launches New Mobile App for Feature Phones

Facebook has just announced a new mobile application designed specifically for feature phones. The app will give feature phone users access to Facebook messages, events, pictures, news feeds, profiles and more. The app gives users a better, almost smartphone-like Facebook experience that includes simple homescreen navigation, contact syncing and fast scrolling of updates and photos.

The company’s mobile program manager Mark Heynen writes, “The Facebook for Feature Phones app works on more than 2,500 devices from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and other manufacturers.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Facebook tweak reveals addresses, phone numbers

In what is potentially another privacy misstep, Facebook has made a change to a permissions dialog box users see when downloading third-party Facebook apps--a change that potentially makes users' addresses and phone numbers available to app developers.

The tweak was made known to developers of third-party apps Friday night, by way of a post on the Facebook Developer Blog. Basically, when a person starts downloading a third-party Facebook app, a Request for Permission dialog box appears that asks for access to basic information including the downloader's name, profile picture, gender, user ID, list of friends, and more. What's new as of Friday is an additional section that asks for access to the downloader's current address and mobile-phone number

Aside from the potential for outright hacking and identity theft, it's not unheard of for app developers to sell information on Facebook users to data brokers. Users of third-party Facebook apps can simply click the Don't Allow button--which reportedly won't interfere with a successful download--or they can remove their address and phone number from their Facebook profile.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

News Corp. Considering MySpace Sale

Just a day after it was announced that MySpace would lay off nearly half its staff, News Corp. admitted it's considering selling the site. "News Corp is assessing a number of possibilities including a sale, a merger, and a spinout," Rosabel Tao, a spokesperson for Myspace.

On Tuesday, the former social-networking behemoth announced it would cut its staff by 47 percent. News Corp. famously bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million, but it hasn't exactly been a cash cow for the media company. In the last quarter, the segment of News Corp. that owns MySpace lost $156 million.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Apple's Verizon iPhone could cannibalize 6.5M sales from AT&T

Though the arrival of the iPhone on Verizon is expected to increase overall U.S. iPhone sales for Apple, the effect on carrier AT&T is expected to be significant. Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray said in a note to investors on Monday that he believes the launch of a Verizon iPhone will increase total 2011 U.S. handset sales for Apple by 2.5 million, a number he cautioned "may be conservative." In all, Munster sees AT&T selling 11 million iPhones, and 9 million from Verizon.

Munster sees Verizon activating 25 million total smartphones in calendar year 2011. If Apple does indeed account for 9 million, the handset maker would sell 36 percent of the smartphones on Verizon's network. Munster's model places Apple with a much lower share of smartphone sales that the iPhone currently enjoys at AT&T. In the September 2010 quarter, Munster estimates that the record 5.2 million iPhones activated by AT&T accounted for about 80 percent of all smartphones sold by the carrier.

In addition, analyst Shaw Wu with Kaufman Bros. issued a note to investors on Monday in which he said Verizon arguably needs the iPhone more than Apple needs Verizon.

"The reason that VZ arguably needs the iPhone now more than ever is as it has lost share to AT&T over the last two quarters as Android momentum slows here in the U.S. (as per carrier subscriber data)," he said. "We also believe VZ is willing to pay to keep the iPhone exclusive on its network and AT&T. Because of this, we believe the iPhone isn't likely to appear on T-Mobile USA and/or Sprint until later."

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Facebook Faces Loss of Its Privacy

Facebook revealed that it is preparing to go public with its financial data sometime in 2012. Facebook expects its investor population to exceed 499 this year, it reportedly states in a private placement document leaked to a number of media outlets from Goldman Sachs, which would compel it to disclose tons of financial information.

Investor interest in Facebook has grown with stepped-up private trading by former employees and early investors on websites such as SharesPost and SecondMarket. On Monday, Goldman Sachs announced it made a US$500 million investment in Facebook, which pegged Facebook's value at $50 billion. Facebook's value just last year was $10 billion. This mammoth increase in value over the past year gives it and its exclusive group of investors the incentive to go into public trading.

The growth in investors and a potential IPO could change the face of Facebook. "It means that Facebook and its investors want to take advantage of the amazing momentum the company has generated," Azita Arvani, principal of the Arvani Group, told the E-Commerce Times.

A Facebook IPO will have an impact on Facebook's freewheeling culture. "What it means, bottom line, is more accountability -- more accountability to its investors, more accountability to its customers and to Wall Street, including the financial analysts," Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC, told the E-Commerce Times.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Facebook cements No. 1 status

In 2010, Facebook pushed past Google to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time, according to two Web tracking firms. The title caps a year of rapid ascent for Facebook in which the social network hit 500 million users.

"This is the most transformational shift in the history of the Internet," said Lou Kerner, a social-media analyst with Wedbush Securities and former chief executive of, an early networking site. "We're moving from a Google-centric Web to a people-centric Web."

According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook jumped to the top spot after spending last year in third place and the year before ranked ninth. The company found that 8.9 percent of unique online visits were to Facebook this year, compared with Google's 7.2 percent. Meanwhile, ComScore, another firm that calculates Web traffic, said Facebook is on track in 2010 to surpass Google for the first time in number of pages viewed. Each unique visit to a site can result in multiple page views.

A survey this summer by the Nielsen Co. found that Americans spent nearly 23 percent of their time online using social networks, up from about 16 percent in a 2009 poll. Social networking took up more time than any other activity, including e-mail, which experienced a decline. Searching took up just less than 4 percent of time online, according to the survey.

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