Instagram grows to 1M active advertisers, plans to add more data and direct booking

The Facebook-owned photo and video app is announcing that it now has 1 million monthly active advertisers, compared to 500,000 in September and 200,000 just over a year ago.

Some of that growth can be attributed to the simple fact that a lot of people use Instagram — 400 million every day, as of January. But James Quarles, who leads Instagram’s ad business, said the platform stands out in a few key ways, beyond just attracting a lot of eyeballs.

First, he said Instagram is a place where people follow their passions, whether that’s “a very mainstream thing like following their favorite musician, or a niche business like candy art.” One sign that that’s paid off for companies with a presence on Instagram: 80 percent users follow a business.

Second, there’s the “ease and simplicity” of using Instagram. For example, Quarles said, “It takes only four taps to place an ad on a business profile.”

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And lastly, he said Instagram is trying to “produce visible action” — it’s not just about getting users to like a photo or follow an account, but also convincing them to visit your website and maybe buy a product.

Quarles didn’t just use our call to boast about Instagram’s continued growth. He also talked about new features that the service will be adding for advertisers. For one thing, he said it will be adding insights data around multi-image posts and Instagram Stories.

In addition, businesses will soon be able to add a button to their profiles that allows users to make a booking or appointment directly through Instagram. This enables Instagram to become more of “a primary storefront for the businesses,” Quarles said, while making it easier for consumers to engage with businesses “just by swiping your finger.”

Yahoo’s Excalibur IP search, mobile and other patents valued at $740M

The slow progression of the sale of Yahoo to Verizon — first announced in July 2016 but delayed in part because of massive data breach disclosures — took one more step forward today. Yahoo has filed a lengthy 8-K update with the SEC with many details about the future management of Altaba — the investment holding company left behind after the sale containing its Alibaba and other stakes — and with it, we’ve found out some new details.

The official value of Excalibur IP — the thousands of “non-core” patents that Verizon is not buying but is getting an indefinite license to use — is $740 million as of December 31, representing 1.4 percent of Altaba’s total assets as of that date.

For context, assets that will be a part of Altaba were worth $52.9 billion as of December 31, the report noted, with the company’s Alibaba investment taking up the lion’s share at nearly 62 percent. Once the deal with Verizon (which also owns TechCrunch) is completed, Thomas McInerney (the investor who led Yahoo’s strategic review) will lead Altaba as CEO, and the newly spun out company will trade under the AABA ticker.

Turning back to the patents, the valuation for Excalibur is notable because at one point, these were a pivotal part of how Yahoo had hoped to extricate itself from its financial problems.

Yahoo had once hoped to get bids of over $1 billion for the group of patents, which includes IP related to search, advertising, mobile, social networks, and content — a veritable roadmap of the many turns that Yahoo’s business took over the years.

As the SEC filing and Yahoo itself noted, selling the patents was one option that Yahoo had been considering as an alternative to spinning off its core business. As the 8-K further elaborates, there were some options in the subsequent sale bids for all of Yahoo that included the patents as part of the deal.

 Ultimately, though, Verizon opted for a deal that didn’t include ownership but just a license that is “non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free [and] fully paid-up” both for Verizon as well as current and future affiliates.

While the effort to sell or further license the Excalibur may have paused as Yahoo works through its Verizon sale, it doesn’t appear to have ended altogether. “Yahoo will retain the Excalibur IP Assets and will be able to seek to monetize the Excalibur IP Assets before or after completion of the Sale Transaction,” the company notes.

There have been reports since last summer — after it emerged that Yahoo transferred 2,648 patents into a then-mysterious Excalibur entity — that companies like Google’s parent company Alphabet and Microsoft are among those interested in buying the IP.

The group contains some notable IP, including the patent that was once the subject of a lawsuit that Yahoo filed against Google related to search-based advertising. Google paid Yahoo around $330 million back in 2004 to settle the original suit.

“Today’s filing represents an important step forward in the process of completing our transaction with Verizon. We will continue to move ahead expeditiously toward the closing, which we expect to occur in the second quarter of 2017,” a Yahoo spokesperson said in a statement.

Google Clamps Down on Sneaky Malicious Sites

Sites that repeatedly violate Google’s safe browsing policies will be classified as repeat offenders, the company said last week.

A small number of websites take corrective actions after Google displays alerts on their landing pages warning visitors that they’re harmful. However, they typically revert to violating the policies after Google goes through the process of verifying that they’re safe and removes the warnings.

Google verification procedures may launch automatically, or webmasters canrequest verification through Google’s Search Console.

Webmasters of sites classified as repeat offenders won’t be able to request additional reviews through the Search Console for a period 30 days under the new rules, which went into effect last week.

Google’s warnings will appear on those sites during the 30-day period.

Google will notify webmasters of sites established as repeat offenders with an email sent to their registered Search Console email address.

Sites that host malware or malicious links after having been hacked will be exempted from the new policy.

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The Need to Crack Down

About 1 billion people use Google Safe Browsing, and tens of millions of people are protected every week by warnings placed on malicious websites, according to Google’s transparency report.

Still, that is not enough: Malicious spam is surging, and 61 percent of email Web traffic in September contained spam, according to Kaspersky Lab. That’s an increase of 37 percent compared with Q2, and the largest amount of malicious spam since 2014.

The majority of malicious spam emails contained ransomware; some contained malware or links to malicious sites.

Putting the Squeeze On

“While 30 days may not be strict enough, the behavior [Google is] trying to prevent is malicious intent within the site,” noted Thomas Pore, director of IT and services at Plixer International.

Google’s strategy “may cause the malicious actor to move on,” he told TechNewsWorld, but “the drawback here is that the [actor] may move on and set up another domain, and there will be new victims.”

Cybercrime is a business, and “the more costly we make [it] for the criminal, the better off we will be,” observed Adam Meyer, chief security strategist atSurfWatch Labs.

Fraud is like a partially inflated balloon — squeeze it in your hand and the air will expand into the unrestricted part of the balloon, he observed.

Google is “squeezing the balloon” with its new action, and while criminals will shift tactics in response, the cost to them will go up, Meyer told TechNewsWorld. “Ultimately, exposure should go down, in principle.”

The Impact of Google’s Move

Google’s crackdown “should help shut down sites that are harmful,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

However, “it may make people feel safer than they actually are, and it looks like it’s more focused on good PR for Google,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It’s “very easy to work around restrictions like this by launching new sites, and hostile players will likely game the system,” Enderle said. “Until [Google] can actually prosecute the bad players, moves like this are just Band-Aids and don’t approach mitigating the actual problem.”

Web administrators “will need to be more vigilant on correcting vulnerabilities on their websites, and stop sweeping issues under the carpet,” SurfWatch Labs’ Meyer maintained.

Other Steps

“It would be interesting if Google starts looking at the hosting location or ASN (autonomous system number) or provider for many of these sites, as well as the name servers being used,” Plixer’s Pore said.

“While it’s possible that domain registration could be used to identify a malicious actor and then warnings could be applied for other sites that user has registered, most bad actors are using private registration,” he pointed out.

However, given that bad actors tend to be international, the problem will require a global solution, Enderle said, which has “proven elusive to date.”

Snapdeal Expected to Make Profit in 2 Years, Says CEO

Indian e-commerce firm Snapdeal expects to turn profitable in the next two years, its CEO said, as the company cuts costs and boosts efficiency in a market currently dominated by homegrown Flipkart and US Internet giant Amazon.

Snapdeal Expected to Make Profit in 2 Years, Says CEO

Kunal Bahl, who co-founded Snapdeal in 2010, also told Reuters in an interview that the online marketplace provider backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group did not immediately need to raise capital unless it makes an acquisition.

A burgeoning Indian middle class’ rapid uptake of wireless high-speed Internet has prompted buyers to shop online, boosting sales at e-tailers and making the country’s Internet services market one of the world’s fastest growing.

The value of goods sold online in India is expected to jump tenfold to $188 billion by 2025, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch note last September. High competition and steep discounting, has however meant most big online retailers are losing money.

Snapdeal was valued at $6.5 billion after a fund-raising last year. But valuations of Indian e-commerce firms are generally believed to have softened since then. Fidelity Investments has marked down the value of its holding in Flipkart by around 36 percent.

Snapdeal reported a loss of Rs. 2,964 crores ($441 million) in the financial year to March 31, 2016, according to regulatory filings, but Bahl said they were steadily improving.

“I see a relatively clear line of sight to (profit) and we’ve been making great progress in that direction also,” Bahl said on Monday.

“We needed capital to build the infrastructure which we have, now we have to take control of our destiny.”

Snapdeal’s EBIDTA, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, for the nine months of the current financial year has improved by about 40 percent from a year earlier, while commissions have grown 3.5 times, he said.

Marketplace providers like Snapdeal earn commissions from sellers on their platform as a percentage of value of goods sold. Snapdeal, with 12 percent share of the so-called gross merchandise value, lags Flipkart’s 43 percent and Amazon’s 28 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s estimates for 2016.

Bahl said while Snapdeal, which also counts Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and Taiwan’s Foxconn as investors, did not look at gross merchandise value as a metric for growth, its focus was on getting good-quality products and on-time delivery at the lowest possible cost.

Snapdeal’s captive logistics arm Vulcan Express will turn profitable next month, Bahl said, thanks to significant investment over the past two years.

Vulcan has helped Snapdeal make inroads into the far-flung corners of India and building the unit “thoughtfully” without excess capacity has helped, he said.

Snapdeal, which also uses third-party logistics services to deliver products to customers, has plans to allow Vulcan to seek external business in the coming months, Bahl said.

“I just don’t think today that it’s viable to build a 500-city network in India with only one customer as a logistics company.”

Google India Launches Second Edition of ‘Web Rangers’ Internet Safety Contest

Google India Launches Second Edition of 'Web Rangers' Internet Safety Contest

Google India on Tuesday launched the second edition of the “Web Rangers” contest, saying it was an effort to promote and educate the youth about staying smart, safe and savvy online.

The “Web Rangers” contest is open to students across the country in the 10-17 year age group.

“The ‘Web Rangers’ contest is a platform to enable young adults to become good digital citizens and empower their friends and families to have a safer and meaningful digital experience,” said Sunita Mohanty, Director (Trust and Safety) at Google.

The competition aims to encourage young people in schools and communities to highlight the importance of internet safety and being good digital citizens.

“Students across the country are invited to create, innovate and submit their creative ideas in various categories in the form of entries ranging from a comprehensive internet safety campaign, to a project involving a video, website, app or even design a poster to educate and spread awareness around digital safety,” Mohanty added.

Google’s Shop the Look Feature to Show Smarter Shopping Ads in Search Results

Image result for Google's Shop the Look Feature to Show Smarter Shopping Ads in Search Results

Google last year added ‘Purchases on Google’ or ‘Buy buttons’, making it easier for mobile users to shop while using Google Search. This was part of the company’s attempt to lure customers to its site rather than shop via Facebook or Pinterest. Google’s aim was to simplify the process of searching and buying products.

In an attempt to make mobile shopping even simpler, Google is now testing a new format called ‘Shop the Look’ that lets you search for specific outfits and home décor options, showing pictures and purchase links within ‘Shopping ads’ on the search engine. This means users will not have to switch to a different website to purchase the outfit or home decor.

To get the format going, Google is partnering with sites like LiketoKnow.it, Curalate and yahoo-owned Polyvore which are platforms that allow fashion bloggers to make money from their posts. Essentially, Google will source the content from these sites and pull the photos and affiliate links when a search related to that particular outfit or home décor option is initiated. Users can select one of the looks, which will then show similar products related to the choice.

Where users would previously use social apps like Instagram or Pinterest to follow their favourite fashion blogger and home decorator, they can now find their favourite blogger and purchase related options directly through Google’s engine without the need to use an app. This is what Google hopes to achieve with the ‘Shop the Look’ app.

This new feature could not only be beneficial for Google but also for fashion bloggers who until now have to use platforms like Polyvore to earn. By hopping on to Google’s engine, these bloggers can be discovered by a wider audience. Bloggers and retailers who want to show their products within the Shop the Look experience will need to create a shopping campaign, and optimise their bids for mobile. The ‘Shop the Look’ feature is currently being tested in the US.

India May Get 5G Networks With the Rest of the World

India May Get 5G Networks With the Rest of the World: Telecom Secretary

India stands a chance to get 5G technology with the rest of the world as the country enters an era of Internet of Things (IoT), Telecom Secretary J S Deepak said in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

“…We got 2G 25 years after the rest of the world, at least after the developed world. We got 3G more than a decade after it became ubiquitous in US, Europe. 4G may be, five years after its global launch. In 5G, we have the chance of being there with the rest of the world,” Deepak said.

He added that the probable simultaneous launch of 5G in India along with the rest of the world could be from bridging the gap that had prevailed and the country might as well take a step forward and acquire a leadership position in certain areas as it enters into an era of Internet of Things with connected devices and machines.

Deepak was speaking after inaugurating the first edition of ‘IoT India Congress’ that aims to bring together key stakeholders across the value chain and verticals to collaborate.

“The IoT, which is estimated to have…something like 50 billion connected devices in the next 5-6 years, will unleash a business opportunity for India, at least of USD 15 billion,” he said.

In a recorded video address to the Congress, Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, IoT is important because connected devices are going to become the order of the day.

“IoT is important more for the poor, for the farmers, for healthcare, for education sectors, to make the quality of life better…,” the Minister said. Deepak said a very ‘vibrant’ IoT ecosystem would be seen in India very soon.

The Department of Telecom has come out with a machine- to-machine (M2M) roadmap which seeks to synergise regulators, bodies involved in development of standards, manufacturers and perspective users so that associated industries could benefit.

Pointing out the initiatives like Telecommunications Standards Development Society India and others by the Department of Telecom, he said “Leveraging technology is an objective which pervades the whole of government. The Department of IT has developed an IoT policy which is in the draft stage and under consultation…”

Stating that there is lot of work in progress like KYC norms for SIM embedded M2M devices, 13 digits numbering scheme for IoT – for SIM embedded M2M devices, he said, “The Department of Telecom has requested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for recommendations in the area of quality of service standards of international roaming system and requirement of additional spectrum for an IoT ecosystem in India.

“As soon as the recommendations are received we hope to come out with specific decisions…” he said.

Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau Proposes Opening Cyber Cell

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To handle digital evidence in investigation of cases and to impart training in Cyber forensic to officers, Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), has proposed opening a Cyber Cell, a dedicated wing in the agency, officials said Wednesday.

Apart from setting up the Cyber Cell, the ACB will shortly get into social networks like Facebook andWhatsApp to ensure better communication between citizens and the Bureau, they said adding it is also proposed to launch the Bureau’s website, which will suit to smart phones, tablet/pad, desktop and laptop.

“In addition, a mobile App is also being developed for effectively monitoring court cases and also departmental enquiries,” they said.

Telangana ACB Wednesday announced on holding Anti-Corruption Week across the state from Thursday, in view of International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9. The aim of celebrating Anti-Corruption Week is to generate awareness among the common public so as to combat corruption effectively with active cooperation of public, the officials said.

For creating awareness among public regarding Anti-Corruption work in all districts, anti-corruption pledge will be administered, and the ACB officials in all the districts will organise rallies with public including students with ACB banners tomorrow.

Pamphlets having ACB toll free number 1064 including the contact numbers of ACB officials of all the districts will be distributed to the public at different places including government offices so as to facilitate the public to utilise the services of ACB.

Here Are Some Startups Helping Out With Chennai Floods

With rains continuing to lash away in Tamil Nadu, and the Army being called in for rescue, the situation is dire for residents of Chennai. Flights and trains have been cancelled as well. NDTV’s liveblog is currently tracking relief efforts as water levels continue to rise in parts of the city, and the Indian Army moves in with three more columns.

A handful of startups and companies from around the country are stepping in to provide relief efforts in whatever way they can.

Paytm is offering Rs. 30 worth of free talk-time to anyone who would like to remain connected. Users who want to avail of this facility can dial Paytm’s hotline (18001030033).

Practo has a spreadsheet with phone numbers of verified doctors and hospitals available for help in anonline spreadsheet.

(Also see: Telcos Offer Free Calls, Data to Subscribers in Flood-Hit Chennai)

Zomato has launched a scheme where they will provide meals for flood relief victims, and is offering to buy one meal from their end for every one purchased on the website. Meals can be purchased for two, four, or a hundred people, at Rs. 100, 200, and Rs. 5,000 respectively. Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyaltweeted that over 25,000 meals were ordered by users, making for a total of 50,000 meals served, once the company adds in its share.

(Also see: Chennai Floods: Facebook Activates Safety Check, Google Sets Up Resource Page)

Zoomcar is providing free pick up and drop facilities to the nearest hospital, requests can be tweeted to them, and accessed on its hotline at 044-42052772.

Several Chennai residents have opened up their homes to the stranded, and there’s an online spreadsheet cataloguing places available for shelter, food offerings, rescue needed, helplines, and doctor numbers, as well as volunteer details.

Ola has created safety zones equipped with relief supplies and first aid. This service is open to everyone, free of cost, with address details and contact numbers provided on its blog. A fortnight ago, it launched OlaBoats, employing professional rowers and fishermen to offer assistance in Chennai’s waterlogged areas.

Messaging app Lookup has partnered with youth volunteer non-profit Bhumi, to enable doorstep pickup of  clothes and other materials from Chennai, to be donated to the flood victims using the chat app.

Delhi-based Urbanclap, a marketplace for local service providers had reportedly offered free pest control services in rain-affected areas last month.

Airtel, while not exactly a startup, is providing free credit of 50MB mobile data for Airtel prepaid mobile customers with a validity of two days.

Vodafone is offering pre-approved chota-credit of Rs. 10 to all pre-paid customers, and a credit of ten minutes for Vodafone to Vodafone calls, and 100MB of mobile data to all customers with data-enabled handsets.

Know of any other startups or companies providing help? Send us a tweet and we’ll update our copy if it’s relevant.

Are Your Holiday Lights Killing Your Wi-Fi?

Holiday lights are meant to add some cheer to your day, but a British regulator has pointed out that they may have an unwanted side effect: interference with your Wi-Fi network.

On Tuesday, Ofcom – an agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission – named holiday lights as one of many electronic devices that can trip up your Internet connection. The agency has released a new app to check for interference that, alas, is only available in Britain.

How do lights affect a Wi-Fi network? Apparently the wiring in the lights can add to the radio frequency interference in your home, which in turn could confound the signals from your router. Lights aren’t the only culprit, however – the same is true of many other devices. Microwaves, older Bluetooth devices, baby monitors and cordless phones all get a mention in a Cisco white paper from 2007 outlining common reasons for Wi-Fi interference. Many Internet providers see complaints spike around the holidays, since networks can get congested when you’re all gathered for a family meal – but lights may be a contributing factor. The Irish Times reported a similar problem last year, saying that blinking lights are particularly bad for interference.

That doesn’t mean there’s any need to be less festive than you normally are. A string of lights won’t crash your network. All Ofcom is letting us know is that having more things, such as lights, plugged into your outlets could contribute to some Wi-Fi slowdown, and more ostentatious displays could certainly add to interference that’s already in your home.

If you’re really curious about how your lights are affecting your network, you could conduct your own home science experiment and see how your network performs with your lights on or off. Another option is to move them as far away from your router as is practical. That way you can still watch “White Christmas” on Netflix in seasonally appropriate lighting.

That may help solve whatever immediate, decor-related Wi-Fi issues you may have. But you can follow similar tips to keep your network running smoothly throughout the whole year, as well. Moving electronics away from your router is also a good idea, if you find that you’re dropping your connection or losing speed.

Also, if you don’t have a password on your home network, you may want to consider creating one for security and speed. Your neighbours may be hanging out on your network without your knowledge. Adding a password nips that behaviour in the bud.

Another option is to change the channel on your router. As with a radio, your router can broadcast over multiple channels, and switching this can help you avoid interference. That’s particularly useful if your problem is other people’s Wi-Fi networks, as is often the case in apartments or other close-quarter living situations. Since most people stick with the defaults, chances are most people around you on are the same channel. You can change this by heading to your router’s settings from any machine connected to the network, which you can find by typing your router’s IP address into the part of your browser where you normally type in Web addresses.

Most routers have similar addresses – some variation on 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.2.1 – but you can find out for sure by doing a little digging on your PC or Mac.