Monthly Archives: August 2009

Joseph Menn

Twitter, which recently became the latest big-name victim of a denial-of-service attack launched from a botnet of thousands of compromised personal computers, has also been pressed into service by the masters of another botnet.

Security researcher Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks said Thursday he had found a handful of streams on the micro-blogging service that were used to tell drone computers where to go to download new instructions. Read more

Richard Waters

Internet filters have become more powerful and continue to be used more widely for government censorship – as shown most recently in this week’s report from the OpenNet Initiative on the state of the art in the Middle East and Africa.

So it’s worth celebrating when the rising tide of official censorship is kept at bay, even if such victories are hedged with qualifications, and are by no means certain to last. Read more

David Gelles

Yesterday Microsoft and Nokia announced an alliance meant to challenge Research in Motion’s lead in the corporate mobile phone market. The FT’s Lex column writes that “the battle is hotting up because this year the smartphone market is the only game in town.”

Shipments of phones that allow web surfing, e-mail and run other popular software applications rose 27 per cent in the second quarter – while overall handset sales remain on track for their first full-year decline. Even during the recession, consumers are abandoning dumb phones when, for just a little more money, they can get a pocket-sized computer instead. Read more

Richard Waters

A mechanism to connect with your friends as you travel around the Web, a place to store and manage your network of relationships, and now… a platform for social apps.

Piece by piece, Google is building many of the core functions that define social networking. They do not all reside in one place, but as it finds more ways to link these things, the utility should increase exponentially. Read more

Richard Waters

A deliberate attempt to use its desktop dominance to protect its browser market share, or an inadvertent glitch that might have had the unintended side-effect of hurting rivals?

Whichever way you look at it, the anti-trust regulators aren’t giving Microsoft an inch in the browser wars that are now raging.

From Tuesday, anyone who uses a non-Microsoft browser on their PC, and who installs IE8,  will be presented with a very clear prompt asking them if they want to make this their default browser (see image after the break). The same will happen for people in future who upgrade to Windows 7. Read more

Joseph Menn

While most tablet-style personal computers have failed, Apple should be able to sell 2m of them next year, analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said Friday.

Mr Munster estimated that Apple will pack enough quality media software and other gee-whiz quality into the machines to justify a $600 price, which should boost company revenue by about 3 per cent. Read more

David Gelles

A lucrative if relatively unknown side business for Amazon.com is powering the online websites of other major retailers.

The partnerships began at the height of the dot-com boom ten years ago, when Amazon had established an early lead in e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar companies were looking for ways to sell their goods online.

Initially, some retailers opted to maintain “store fronts” on Amazon’s own site. Later, Amazon also provided fulfillment and website management services for some retailers’ new separate sites, including Target.com and the UK’s Marks & Spencer, through its enterprise services business.

Now Target has decided to end its relationship with Amazon. Read more

David Gelles

Twitter was down around the globe for at least two hours today after being hit by a denial-of-service attack. By 8:16am in California, the site was back up for most US users. Less than an hour later, Twitter was again working in the UK.

Denial-of-service attacks overload websites with meaningless requests for data in order to slow them down, or take them offline altogether. Read more

David Gelles

If Silicon Valley technology companies go through something like the stages of life, then Facebook is in its adolescence — growing quickly, and struggling to find its identity.

That it is rapidly bulking up is no longer in question. The latest figures from comScore show Facebook to be the fourth-largest site in the world, with a 340m unique visitors, trailing only the sites of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Facebook has added 208m visitors in the past year, a 157 per cent growth rate that has allowed it to surpass MySpace, Amazon and Wikipedia. Read more

Joseph Menn

Online advertising spending fell 5 per cent in the second quarter to $13.9bn from the same period a year earlier, research firm IDC said Wednesday, with the more developed US market declining even more, by 7 per cent.

It marked a second consecutive period of declines, and IDC said that there will likely be between two and four more quarters of the same. In the US, classified advertising dropped 17  per cent in the latest quarter, display ads fell 12 per cent, and search ads held up relatively well, allowing Google to post slight growth. Asia bucked the trend and showed an overall increase in online ad spending.

David Gelles

Electronic Arts reported that losses widened and revenues fell over the past three months. But the world’s second-largest videogame maker had a better than expected quarter thanks to some well-timed releases.

Even as overall spending on videogames is down, EA results were bolstered by strong sales of “The Sims 3″, the latest release in one of the industry’s best-selling franchises, and “EA Sports Active”, a new title for the Nintendo Wii. EA lost $234m in the three months through July, compared with $95m during the same time last year. Read more

David Gelles

In yet another sign that the appetite for shares in fast-growing technology companies has returned, Ancestry.com, a genealogy website that lets users trace their family origins, filed for a $75m initial public offering on Monday.

In its filing with the SEC, the company revealed that it has almost 1m paying customers, and took in $107m over the last six months, with profits of $8m. The company plans to list on either Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange as ACOM. Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are the two lead underwriters.

Ancestry.com will be the latest tech company to go public after a nearly yearlong drought. Read more

Joseph Menn

Monday brought mixed news on the ever-expanding cyber-security front.

The good news is that a small band of researchers got together and identified a major new suspected source for malevolence on the Web, Real Host Ltd., then convinced connection provider TeliaSonera to pull the plug. Read more

David Gelles

Celebrities, and professional athletes in particular, have emerged as among the most enthusiastic users of Twitter, the communications tool that has proved so useful for self-promotion.

Basketball big man Shaquille O’Neal broadcasts pithy tweets to his nearly 2m followers. Champion cyclist Lance Armstrong shares pictures from the Tour with an audience of more than 1.5m.

So to players from the National Football League, news that some teams are essentially banning Twitter from the locker room must come as an indignity. Read more

Richard Waters

Overdue or not, Eric Schmidt’s resignation from the Apple board today is certainly the right move. It’s understandable that neither side wanted to look like they had been forced into this by news of a Department of Justice investigation, so it’s fitting that they used the cover of Google’s announcement of the Chrome OS – a piece of vapourware that is at least a year away – to make the necessary split.

There are still some loose ends, however. For instance, what about Art Levinson? The former Genentech CEO still sits as a non-executive director on both Apple and Google boards. The companies have never been transparent about whether Levinson ever recuses himself from discussions of strategy that touch on both companies, as Schmidt did. Read more

David Gelles

Amazon.com was taken to task earlier this month after it deleted unauthorised copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, with critics accusing the leader in the e-book industry of Big Brotherish behaviour.

Amazon eventually gave the affected customers refunds, and chief executive Jeff Bezos apologised for the episode, calling it “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.”  But the damage to Amazon’s reputation had already been done.

Now the incident has sparked a lawsuit. Read more