Internet

Tim Bradshaw

Thousands of developers are gathering in San Francisco for Google I/O, one of the internet company’s biggest events of the year. Google is expected to reveal the latest updates to its Android smartphone operating system and Chrome web browser platform, as well as its extensions into wearable technology, TV sets, the “internet of things” and perhaps even virtual reality. Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw are at the Moscone Center to bring live news and commentary from the keynote, which starts at 9.30am local time (5.30pm BST, 12.30pm EDT). 

Richard Waters

You’re standing on the surface of Mars. You look down and marvel at the detail, then up to the horizon, following the ridge of mountains around to your left. You jump: the Mars Rover is right behind your left shoulder, taller than you are, one of its cameras slanted to the side and looking like a pet robot waiting for an order.

This isn’t some gamer version of Mars. It’s the real thing. Every rock, in clear 3D. In front of you stands the bronze avatar of a scientist ready to talk about the experiments you’re going to perform.

Microsoft has lacked the “wow” factor for some time. It’s been left to Google, Apple and Facebook, with its acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus, to set the standards in technical daring and creative ambition.

Not any more. With HoloLens, the “mixed reality” headset it unveiled on Wednesday, Microsoft is suddenly a contender in one of the most exciting races in the tech world: to mix the real and virtual worlds in ways that transform both.

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Machines are getting smarter all the time, but could they ever attain the quintessentially human qualities of creativity and introspection?

Demis Hassabis – chess wunderkind, games designer and one of Google’s artificial intelligence whizzkids – thinks so.

He made a rare public appearance this week, speaking on a panel of philosophers and neuroscientists at the London School of Economics, to debate whether the brain is a “predictive machine”. Read more

Sarah Mishkin

A German start-up is trying to change America’s reluctance to long-distance ride-sharing by partnering with Uber to make it more convenient, even in the sprawling US.

Munich-based carpooling is launching today in the US with an app that lets drivers offer spare seats to passengers for rides. The model has proven a hit in Europe, with multiple start-ups in the same field, but it has not taken off in the US, where cities are further apart and public transit within most cities fairly meager. Blablacar, carpooling’s French rival, told the Financial Times last week that it would not launch in the US. Read more

The Washington Post’s new tablet app

  © Washington Post

Amazon wants to deliver your newspaper.

The Washington Post launched a new app on Thursday, initially available exclusively on Amazon’s Fire tablets, that gives readers two daily editions – morning and evening – plus breaking news updates in between.

It is the first collaboration between the companies since the Post was bought last year by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive. An ereader version of the paper is already available on Kindle devices. Read more

Robert Cookson

The New York Times Company and Axel Springer are hoping that a little-known Dutch start-up called Blendle may hold the key to making money from news online.

The two media groups have paid a combined €3m to acquire a 23 per cent stake in Blendle, which was founded last year and styles itself as the “iTunes for journalism”.

Blendle was launched in the Netherlands in April and sells individual articles from a number of newspapers and magazines to internet users through its website and app. On average an article costs 20 cents. The pricing per article is set by the publishers and revenues are split 70:30 between the publisher and Blendle. If a reader doesn’t like an article, they can ask for a refund. Read more

There is something peculiarly impressive about the video below of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, talking in Mandarin to students at Tsinghua University in Beijing. If nothing else, it shows a dedication to the country’s customs that very few foreign business leaders can match.

Mr Zuckerberg clearly has business motives for making the effort, in addition to his personal connections – Priscilla Chan, his wife, comes from a Chinese family and her mother speaks mostly Mandarin. Facebook is blocked in mainland China, along with other US internet companies, and wants restrictions to be loosened. Read more

Barely two months after Apple admitted it was storing users’ data online in mainland China, reports emerged that hackers have tried breaking into its iCloud data.

Apple representatives in China declined to comment on the reports of the hacking attack, which were posted on GreatFire.org, a group that conducts research on Chinese internet censorship.

The revelations, if true, would be little surprise to China observers. But it would be a comeuppance for Apple whose decision to store users’ data in mainland servers underlined the tenuous balance that foreign tech companies must strike between commitment to customer security and the realities of the Chinese market. Read more

First it was Vice, then came Buzzfeed. Now, Ozy has become the latest news start-up aimed at young, digital natives to ramp up its offering on the back of a new injection of cash.

The California company backed by German publisher Axel Springer and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is stepping up advertising and has hired Jonathan Dahl to become news editor from the Wall Street Journal. Read more

Google faces a lot of questions on Europe’s new right to be forgotten ruling.

Should it notify a news website that it taking down links to one of its stories in its search results? Can famous people remove links to information about them created before they began to make headlines? Should those who fail to understand Facebook’s privacy settings be able remove information held in their social network profile from Google’s search results?

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At London swing of Google's advisory council hearings on #rtbf. Unlike the search engine, lots of questions, few answers

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These were among tricky dilemmas put today to Google’s “advisory council”: a group of independent experts advising the company on how to implement the European Court of Justice’s controversial decision in May. The court gave people the right to ask internet search engines to remove sensitive or embarrassing links to websites for queries that include their name. Deluged with hundreds of thousands of such takedown requests, Google wants the council to help develop policies to deal with the most difficult of cases.

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Richard Milne

Angry Birds may be in free fall but two of the executives most responsible for its success are spreading their wings.

Just days after the company behind Angry Birds cut 16 per cent of its workforce amid disappointing growth, two former Rovio executives are launching their first game backed with $5m of venture capital money.

Andrew Stalbow, former head of strategic partnerships at Rovio and now chief executive at Seriously, said he hoped Thursday’s launch of Best Fiends would be the start of creating a mobile phone-centred entertainment brand. Read more

Sarah Mishkin

Start-up Product Hunt, not yet one year old, may be setting new records for fastest fundraisings and longest list of big name investors.

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Apple’s latest iPhone has been has been hailed as the thinnest and biggest mobile device it has created yet. But those qualities may have created an unexpected problem: the gadget may have a tendency to “bend”.

Lewis Hilsenteger of product review site Unbox Therapy has published a video that has gone viral (over 3m views and counting), in which he conducted a not-so-scientific “bend test” on the phone. Using his hands to apply pressure on the back of the device while pulling the edges back, he found that the device was warped.

“Will this happen in your front pocket?” asked Mr Hilsenteger. “That probably depends on how tight your pants are.”

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On Monday, the FT began publishing a three-day series about the growing international backlash against US technology companies.

The first part focused on how Silicon Valley has embarked on a charm offensive in the wake of growing concerns about their role in US government surveillance and how they use their customers’ data. Part two highlighted the situation in Germany, which is leading the European regulatory push-back against big US tech groups.

We included a survey with these stories asking readers how they have changed their online habits in the past year due to privacy concerns.

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Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based investor in e-commerce companies, is continuing to expand its roster of stakeholders, as its valuation grows past €4bn ahead of an expected IPO later this year. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Nest’s smart thermostat costs $250. littleBits wants you to make your own for $59. Read more

For the past year, new internet subscribers in the UK have had to make an “unavoidable choice”.

No, it’s not whether to pay for speeds of 152Mb per second, or whether to subscribe to Premiership football. It’s whether to turn on a “family-friendly network filter”, affectionately known as porn blockers.

And what did Brits decide? Read more

Robert Cookson

Facebook has created a new “missed call” product for advertisers in India, marking the first time that the social network has designed a special ad format for a single country.

When a mobile phone user clicks on one of the ads, it calls the advertiser and immediately hangs up. The advertiser returns the call with pre-recorded entertainment content and a marketing message – enabling the consumer to avoid paying data charges.

Facebook’s creation of a special ad product in India, where the company has more than 100m users, is part of a broader push to develop customised solutions across emerging marketsRead more

Anthony Noto, the ex-Goldman Sachs investment banker, has just been named as Twitter’s new chief financial officer. Here are five key things to know about him, writes Arash MassoudiRead more