Monday, September 4, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Top Tech News for September 2017As summer winds down, the tech world keeps moving. A number of tech companies are announcing new product releases, features to come, and social initiatives this month. Here are a few of the top stories to be on the lookout for.
New iPhones Soon to Be ReleasedWhile it’s hard to imagine a world without smartphones, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone going on sale. And as is typical for September, Apple is expected to roll out its new iPhone models this month. Early talk suggests that the company will be releasing three new phone models. Tech journalists anticipate that this year’s phones will continue to make waves in the tech world, as the iPhone has done ever since day one.
Galaxy Note 8 Also Gets a ReleaseSharing the spotlight with the new iPhones, the Galaxy Note 8 is set to be released this month as well. The phone is faced with the lofty task of satisfying customers whose view of the brand was tarnished by the last model famously bursting into flames for many owners. The new phone provides a bigger screen, new camera features, and animated messaging.
Tech Companies Find Ways to Help Harvey’s VictimsOne of the biggest world news stories of the past month was Hurricane Harvey. Texas is still reeling from one of the biggest storms the country has ever seen as people scramble to find ways to help. Tech companies have also joined the efforts to help those victimized by the storm. Many are providing matching donations and AirBnb is helping match rental properties with people in need of shelter. And notably, social media apps played a key role in helping rescue teams find the people most in need of their help. Not all important tech stories are about product releases and IPOs. Sometimes we get a reminder of the ways tech can be a public good.
Chrome to Allow Permanent Mute FeatureAutoplay videos are one of those things that pretty much every internet user hates, but websites just keep using. Google has a long history of siding with user experience over business interests and is once again making a move in that direction with their decision to release a mute option that allows people to set a website as silent permanently in their browser. If you normally use autoplay on your website, know that your visitors will soon be able to easily tune you out.
AR Apps About to Take OffBoth Google and Apple have recently released technology that makes it easier for developers to create augmented reality apps for Android and iOS devices. Consumers can expect an influx of AR apps to become available on their smartphones in the coming months, and businesses have easier access to a technology that can be used for clever marketing concepts.
Tech Companies Decry White Supremacist GroupsBefore Harvey began to dominate the news cycle, one of the biggest stories of August was the violence of white supremacist groups at a rally in Charlottesville. A number of tech companies were disturbed by the incidents and took a stand against white supremacy. Both Stormfront and The Daily Stormer, well known white supremacist websites, have faced difficulties staying online as hosting providers refuse them service. A number of other tech sites have started to boot members from their platforms based on hate speech, including PayPal, OkCupid, Spotify, and most of the main social media platforms. Technology has played a role in allowing people to disseminate hateful views. Many of the tech industry’s main players are hoping to show that it can play a role in helping silence the hate as well.
Spotify Preparing to Go PublicSpotify has started to make moves that make clear their intention to go public in the near future. Most notably, they signed a new licensing deal with Warner Music to increase the site’s offerings to users and hopefully make it more attractive to both subscribers and investors.
IFA Conference Meets in BerlinThe oldest and largest technology show in Europe takes over Berlin this week. The biggest technology companies from around the world will display new and upcoming technologies from phones to computers to smart home devices. Techies converge to get a glimpse of what tech companies are working on, and you can expect to see a stream of tech journalism covering what shows up at the event.
TechCrunch Puts on Disrupt ConferenceMeanwhile, TechCrunch is preparing their own conference in San Francisco on September 18-20 focused on startups. The Disrupt Conference attracts startup companies and thought leaders who come together to talk and learn about startup culture, raising funds, and the main issues facing the tech industry in today’s culture.
Microsoft Ignite Conference Meets in OrlandoIt must be conference season, because in addition to those two, the Microsoft Ignite conference will also meet this month in Orlando from September 25-29. Windows users from around the world meet to attend learning sessions, learn about new products to come, and network with other professionals.
Walmart and Google Join to Offer Voice ShoppingMost months, the posts in this series include big moves and acquisitions by Amazon aimed at taking over a bigger and bigger portion of the country’s commerce. This month, two huge players, Walmart and Google, teamed up to stay competitive against the online giant. The partnership is focused on enabling easier voice-activated shopping to entice more online customers to consider Walmart as an alternative to Amazon. And you thought you were busy with back-to-school efforts this month. The tech industry looks set to go into the fall at full speed, barely pausing to take a breath. As always, there are likely to be trends and stories we couldn’t foresee this month. Check back next month for a look at the trends yet to come.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
August 2017's Top Tech NewsThe month of August looks likely to be a big month in the tech world. Many of the biggest players in tech are making big announcements and moving forward on anticipated projects. To help you stay on top of this month’s tech news, here are a few main stories to look out for.
Google Announces Facebook-Like News FeedGoogle has announced that its feed feature, which is already available to anyone using the company’s mobile app, will be moving to the desktop homepage for the site. The company hasn’t said exactly when this change will happen, but for people who pull up the site every day (which is most of us), the change may have a big effect on how we interact with the service. Instead of a primary focus on the search box, people will see a collection of suggested news and culture stories based on their interests.
Facebook Launching Facebook TVIf you were concerned that there just aren’t enough places online to watch TV, Facebook’s got you covered. They’ve partnered with a number of other media properties to start developing shows that will become available to users this month when they launch Facebook TV. Including original TV shows in the Facebook feed provides the company a new format for displaying ads, and could potentially give people a reason to spend more time on the site.
Hyperloop May Be Moving Forward (Maybe)Elon Musk has talked before about the possibility of a hyperloop – a type of transportation technology that can move people very quickly from one city to another. He shook up the tech news world last month with a Tweet suggesting a hyperloop project had received government approval. In a later tweet he verified that the verbal approval was preliminary and there was a lot of work to do before any project would receive the formal go-ahead, yet even the level of approval he’s got now feels like a big leap forward in the likelihood of seeing this ambitious project realized.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
Debates Rage Over AI ConcernsAnother day, another example of Elon Musk in the news. Not content just to shake things up with hyperloop talk, he also made headlines last month by expressing his fear that AI posed a threat to humankind. The comment has set off a battle of ideas between Musk and other prominent techies who have criticized his concern, including roboticist Rodney Brooks and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Amazon Launches Spark and Pay PlacesBecause Amazon can’t go a month without some big news, they’ve recently launched not one, but two new services. Amazon Spark is an Instagram-like feature for app users that will provide photos and other product-related content from customers and influencers with similar interests to yours in the app’s feed. In addition, they announced Amazon Pay Places which will allow people to use their Amazon account when shopping at brick-and-mortar businesses. While the option is only available at a few TGI Fridays locations so far, if you were worried about Amazon taking over the world of commerce, this is a step that seems poised to make that more of a possibility.
Release of Samsung Galaxy NoteAfter a high profile mishap, with the Note 7 becoming the butt of many jokes when it famously burst into fire for some customers, Samsung is ready to try again. The company has announced that they’ll be releasing the Note 8 later this month. The recent release of the Galaxy S8 went off without a hitch, so the company is surely hoping to accomplish the same with the Note 8.
Google Analytics Offers Voice NavigationGoogle Analytics is joining the list of services that offers users the option of using voice-activated commands to navigate the service. If you use Google Analytics (and you should), the feature could add some efficiency to the process for you.
Lyft Joins the Ranks of Self-Driving Car DevelopersLyft is throwing their hat into the ring of companies working to develop the technology for autonomous cars. They’ve stated that they expect a majority of their rides to become autonomous over the next few years, so they’re making a move now to be one of the players in developing the technology their business is likely to be dependent on.
The Dark Web Takes a HitThe dark web – sites where people can buy illegal materials – is under attack. The U.S. government shut down AlphaBay, a site considered to be the biggest online market for illegal drugs last month. They followed that up with the shutdown of Hansa, a popular AlphaBay alternative. Each time one market goes down though, another one manages to open up. Nonetheless, the government has made its intentions clear with these moves and there’s reason to expect they’ll continue to follow the illegal trade to shut it down wherever it goes.
Dropbox Starting to Prepare for IPOWhile the timing on when the IPO would happen is still unclear, Dropbox has made moves that show a plan to go public is in the works. They hired underwriters to help determine their valuation and may make the move later this year. If they do go public this year, they’ll be one of the biggest tech companies to do so in 2017. As full as August is looking to be with tech news, September is likely to be just as busy. Check back for our next installment of the top tech trends to watch for and subscribe to the HostGator blog.
Thursday, July 6, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
July 2017's Top Tech News StoriesEvery new month brings new tech news with it, and businesses have good reason to pay attention. New technologies, updates to current tech tools, and the moves of the big tech companies are all likely to have an influence on how you run your business. To help you stay in the loop, we’ve scanned the web to bring you the top tech news you should be sure to keep your eye on in July.
1. Uber Undergoes Big ChangesThe tech news world has Uber on the mind. The company’s not new to scandal, but the past month saw the ouster of the company’s CEO, the continuation of an intellectual property lawsuit against the company, and accusations that they ignored clear warning signs in hiring a driver that allegedly raped a passenger. In spite of all the bad press and big changes in the company though, Uber recently announced that their drivers have provided over 5 billion trips. Even as things get rough, the company still maintains a significant portion of the ridesharing market share.
2. Amazon Broadens Its Business EmpireThe other big story that got lots of people talking last month was the online giant’s purchase of a giant in an entirely different industry. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods suggests a big shift from the company into an industry they’ve only dabbled in so far: fresh food delivery. People can already order just about anything else they could possible need from Amazon, so why not add grocery delivery to the mix as well? While for some customers this looks like great news, for other companies in the food delivery business it’s troubling. Blue Apron’s IPO launched at about 50% less than the price they’d originally hoped for after news of the acquisition hit the news cycle. As Amazon keeps moving in new directions, businesses in a variety of industries keep having to scramble to compete with the company’s dominance.
3. The Petya Virus Reveals Our Cyber Vulnerabilities (Again)Last month we saw the WannaCry virus scare businesses and governments around the world into focusing more on their computer security. Without giving us much time to take a breath, the Petya ransomware attack hit a huge number of businesses and organizations throughout Europe and the United States. The malware program demanded $300 in bitcoin for people to save their files. If you’ve ever been lax about the security of your computer and website, these last couple of months have demonstrated the importance of acting to protect yourself. Make sure your website is secure and always back up your files.
4. WhatsApp Gains in SignificanceYou hear about so many new apps and channels and platforms every day that it’s hard to know which ones are worth paying any attention to. A recent report suggests that WhatsApp is not one to be ignored. The app now trails only Facebook and YouTube in how frequently people around the world use it – beating out the much more talked-about platform Twitter. If you’ve been ignoring WhatsApp so far, it might be time to familiarize yourself with the platform.
5. Twitch Releases UpdateThe popular gaming platform has announced plans to launch an update this month that provides many features gamers have been asking for. The mobile update will include the option of streaming games directly on your mobile app, the addition of a “dark mode,” and easier navigation options.
6. New Video Conference Camera Goes to MarketIn a move likely to be relevant to a number of businesses, Owl Labs just launched a product specifically focused on improving videoconferencing. The new camera, called simply Owl, will record a 360º view of the room and automatically focus in on the person talking at any given time. For businesses that have a lot of meetings over video, the technology can simplify and improve the experience. And it adorably resembles an owl.
7. Facebook and Google Move to Correct Privacy IssuesEven as Facebook has comfortably dominated the social media space, it has time and again earned criticisms from users concerned about privacy. Google has similarly been successful in a number of areas its ventured into while also facing discomfort at times from users who feel the company goes too far in tracking and using the information they collect. Both companies are showing they’ve heard those criticisms (at least to a degree) and are taking some moves to respond to them. Facebook has released features that allow users in India to protect who has access to their profile pictures. Google has announced that those ads you see when logged into your Gmail account that creepily promote things mentioned in your emails should be a thing of the past, as they won’t have their algorithms scanning email content anymore for personalization. For those concerned about their privacy on these platforms, these steps seem pretty small, but they show that the companies are listening to user concerns to at least some degree.
8. Facebook and YouTube Take Steps Against Extremist ContentRecent months have seen a rise in stories about extremist behavior. A lot of people believe that part of the blame for the rise in extremism is the accessibility of hate speech and other extremist content online. To do their part in helping curb the growth in extremist movements, both Facebook and YouTube are taking steps to identify and remove any content that’s hateful or promotes terrorist activities from their sites.
9. Congress Takes Aim At Internet HarassmentFor years, victims of online harassment have been complaining that the law hasn’t caught up to technology. The lack of clear laws or a process for responding to online harassment has given online harassers a lot of power over the lives of their victims, and the victims very little power to fight back. The Online Safety Modernization Act proposed by Rep. Katherine Clark seeks to change that. If the bill passes, it will outlaw abusive online behavior such as doxxing, revenge porn, and swatting. It will also provide funding to train local police in how to handle these types of crimes when they arise. While legislation likely won’t solve all the problems of people behaving badly online, it may well help the internet become a safer space for many of those victimized there now.
10. Companies Moving Us Closer to Having Robots in the HomeAny tech innovation that moves us closer to the cool possibilities we saw in sci-fi movies will always be exciting, and several companies are working to move us toward a future where families can have robots in the home. The toy company Sphero is launching a company, Misty Robotics, that aims to create robot butlers that can tackle some of those pesky domestic tasks humans have to perform now. The home robot Kuri, from Mayfield Robotics, is becoming more advanced as the company continues to hone the technology. They’ve announced it’s now able to recognize pets, as well as humans, it can move around more smoothly, and it can livestream high-quality video. And finally, the German company Kuka that makes the robotics products that help build cars and machines is branching into the home robot field as well. With more and more companies moving into this space, the possibility that you’ll have an (affordable) home robot to help you out around the house in the next few years is starting to seem within reach.
11. YouTube Provides Better 360 Video AnalyticsA bit less exciting, but more immediately important to some readers will be YouTube’s announcement that it will be providing better analytics data to users that load 360 videos to the platform. The video platform will now use heat maps to demonstrate to video creators the parts of the 360 video that attract the most attention from viewers. If you use 360 videos in your marketing, this improvement will help you better understand what’s working. The summer so far has been rife with exciting tech news and updates and there’s no reason to expect things to slow down now. Check back next month to learn the tech news to watch in August.
Monday, June 26, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
25 Top Blogs Any WordPress Site Owner Should FollowWordPress is an extraordinarily popular platform for running websites. A full 28% of the web is built with WordPress, meaning each time you click on a new website there’s more than a one in four chance that its owners use WordPress to manage it. WordPress appeals to so many people and businesses because it’s free, easy to use, and flexible. As intuitive as it is, for anyone using it, it’s useful to have more information on the possibilities available on the platform and the resources out there you can take advantage of. For that reason, a number of WordPress blogs have risen to prominence that all provide a wealth of useful information on how to get the most out of the popular platform. Here are a few of the best ones to follow.
4. CodeinwpCodeinwp is a blog for designers that use WordPress. It highlights useful themes and templates, plug-ins worth checking out, and tutorials for people new to designing for WordPress.
5. WP TavernWordPress Tavern covers news in the general world of WordPress like relevant tech acquisitions and product updates, as well as how to articles and resources useful to WordPress users. If you’re interested in staying on top of not only the updates to WordPress itself, but also those for related products and companies, they’re a good source.
6. WPBeginnerLike the name suggests, WPBeginner is a good resource for anyone new to using WordPress, but the blog also provides information that can be useful to long-time users as well. They cover tips for WordPress security, how to find the best themes, and all the information you should need to get started.
7. WPMU DevWPMU Dev covers a variety of topics on running a successful website with a clear emphasis on using WordPress to do so. They have posts full of tips, tools, and best practices for getting what you need out of your website.
8. WPKubeWPKube is another website that provides various how to articles and highlights some of the best tools available to WordPress users. With reviews for a wide-ranging number of WordPress tools and tutorials, they can help you figure out how to do what you want to in WordPress more quickly and easily.
9. WP SquaredWP Squared publishes round ups of great themes to use for different types of websites and purposes and provides various tips and tutorials on how to do different types of tasks in WordPress.
10. Developer DriveDeveloper Drive is a bit more advanced in the content it provides than some of the other blogs, but for WordPress developers it’s a valuable resource for the more complex ins and outs of using the platform that developers can benefit from.
11. WPExplorerThe WPExplorer blog provides lots of tips and guides on ways to use WordPress including general posts on how to make money with WordPress and more specific how to posts to talk users through the smaller tasks they’ll need to accomplish.
12. WP MayorWP Mayor is a site primarily devoted to reviews of plug-ins, themes, and services. The site also sometimes covers tutorials and WordPress news as well.
13. Chris LemaChris Lema is a WordPress expert that provides general online marketing advice for businesses, as well as more WordPress-specific tips and best practices.
14. ThemeisleThemeisle offers tutorials for WordPress newbies and advanced users, as well as general advice on running a business website well. They also offer a collection of themes, some free and some for pay.
15. TorqueTorque is a fairly comprehensive WordPress blog with content for developers, website owners, and beginners alike. They cover news, themes, and plug-ins and provide a range of helpful articles on ways to use WordPress to get better results.
16. BobWPThe BobWP blog is full of posts providing advice on monetizing a WordPress site. That includes covering marketing topics, WordPress updates, and ecommerce tools that work with WordPress.
17. MHThemesThe MHThemes blog provides information on a wealth of WordPress related topics like blogging, social media promotion, and, well, themes. They’re a useful resource for anyone running a business website, but especially good for those who use WordPress to do so.
18. 85IdeasThe 85Ideas blog is primarily focused on plug-in and theme reviews, but they also sometimes provide tutorials and coverage of events relevant to WordPress users.
19. ManageWPManageWP publishes posts on a wide-ranging array of WordPress-related topics, from business to security to editorials. They also provide some of the more common types of content you’ve been seeing on this list, like coverage and reviews of plug-ins and themes.
20. Lady WordPressLady WordPress offers general advice for marketing and blogging, as well as sharing her expertise on using WordPress effectively through tutorials and informational posts.
21. JustWPIn spite of the “just” in the name, JustWP covers a wide variety of topics, all of them related to using WordPress. For any designers (or amateur ones) they offer plug-in, theme, texture, and icon suggestions. They provide tips for WordPress security, general maintenance, and useful snippets. And they provide how to posts that answer an array of questions WordPress users may have.
22. 87Studios87Studios is another site that offers WordPress tutorials, points people toward great plug-ins and themes, and provides more general tips and education on using WordPress.
23. WpekaLike many of the sites on this list, Wpeka pushes out content on WordPress tutorials, themes, plug-ins and products, as well as posting interviews with various WordPress experts.
24. WP SuperstarsThe WP Superstars blog is filled with how to content, reviews, and theme and plug-in roundups. They also highlight deals to help WordPress users find the WP tools they need for less.
25. WPShoutWPShout focuses on in-depth WordPress tutorials for developers. In addition to posts and quick guides, they have more in depth courses for those prepared to go a bit deeper. WordPress is one of the most important tools in the online world and those who learn how to use it well can go really far with it. Give these sites a look to learn the different ways you can start to get more out of your WordPress blog.