Which services are we really willing to pay for? Ever since the internet found its way into our homes, there have been debates about free and paid content. The problem: Unlike physical products we can touch and use, online services feel quite intangible. And while most of us have free or cheap access to music, thanks to YouTube and streaming services, publishing companies are unwilling to give up the fight just yet. Currently, subscription-based paywalls are their weapon of choice, but the majority of users are not amused! So what should successful online journalism look like?
Imagine being locked out of your files. It's a nightmare! By now, ransomware has outstripped viruses and other malware. Ransomware offers a straightforward means of blackmailing victims and, if you don't pay, you'll never get your files back. That's enough to make end-users break out in a sweat. But it's not just end-users but also small city administrations, schools, government authorities and hospitals that are being targeted. Latest victim: the city of Baltimore. And once again, the NSA is somewhat involved too (even though they likely won't have a bad conscience) because, guess what, they supplied the tool.
If you've been in the PC game for a quite a while, you'll remember many great moments courtesy of Microsoft. But do you remember Microsoft Bob? It was back in March 1995. Windows 3.1 was running on most PCs and making it difficult for computer beginners to feel at home with their machines. User interfaces were visually barren and icons too abstract. That's when Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, weighed in on project Bob and took on the role of product manager. Maybe the couple were already contemplating a bigger safe in the Gates mansion in view of the anticipated profits but things didn't turn out quite as they had hoped. Let's take a trip down memory lane to a time when great expectations weren't met, yellow dogs were roaming the virtual worlds and computers were turning into haunted mansions.
Lately, Mark Zuckerberg appeared a little shaken. Millions of data sets got lost and people suspected Facebook had been used to shape public opinion - oh, and especially younger users flocked to Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram. While the still steady flow of ad revenue certainly eased the pain, it was enough to trigger a change in thinking. Not only will Facebook receive a design overhaul, but it will focus on different content and provide a payment method. And most importantly: the private spheres and data of its users will be better protected. At a recent conference, Zuckerberg briefly chuckled over the term "private" but continued to make one promise after the other afterwards.
There are times when I feel especially proud, e.g. when technical knowledge and a healthy dose of skepticism dominate the blog comments. I'm not a fan of "I told you so", but this week was one of those moments! Amazon admitted to eavesdropping on and having staff members transcribe conversations from all over the world, through Alexa. Many of you had predicted this beforehand! Bloomberg were able to question seven Amazon employees, and what they had to report was more than interesting. Not only are vocal utterances from Alexa users computer-processed but they're also overheard by 7,000 Amazon employees.