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.
Thursday, June 1, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Top Tech News of June 2017While school kids across the country take their break for the summer, the tech world keeps moving at the fast pace it’s known for. For any business owners that try to stay on top of what’s happening in tech, you shouldn’t take a break either, and we can help. We’ve rounded up the top tech stories expected to make a splash this month.
Businesses and Governments Alike Scramble to Prepare for Cyber Security ThreatsThe biggest tech story of May was the global WannaCry cyber attack, which infected over 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries. Cyber security isn’t a new problem, but it’s one that seems to only become more widespread and common every year. WannaCry’s impact was ultimately minimal – it caused a scare for a temporary period of time, before Windows provided a patch and systems quickly recovered. Even so, it served as a reminder for businesses and government institutions around the world of the importance of keeping their systems and data safe against the growing threat of cyber attacks.
Google Offers Easy GIF MakerBusinesses frequently struggle with finding good images to accompany their content. Google’s just made the job a little easier, at least in some cases. The Google GIF maker lets you plug in a couple of terms with related data and immediately produce a GIF that shows the data in an intuitive, visual way. The tool’s simple and will only be useful for fairly basic data visualizations, but for businesses who want to add a visual representation of a simple data set to their website and don’t have much in the way of web skills, it’s a handy tool to have.
Governments Target Online ExtremismOne of the many topics tackled at the G7 summit that brought together leaders from around the world last month was how to address online extremism. With a growing number of terrorists being radicalized by information found online, representatives from the countries gathered agreed that it’s important to find a solution that minimizes the influence hateful materials online can have. Attendees of the summit therefore called for internet providers and social media companies to crack down on and remove extremist content as it’s discovered on the web.
Microsoft Mixer Broadens Game Streaming CapabilitiesMicrosoft is rebranding its online gaming service both in name and functionality. They’ve ditched the old name Beam in exchange for a new name, Mixer, that the company says better communicates how it brings players together. The new name comes with new features and functionality, including compatability on new platforms, faster speeds, and the ability to stream multiple games side by side.
Appian Launches IPOIn a year where more tech IPOs have launched than usual, the app maker Appian has just joined the mix. The company launched in late May and their stocks immediately took off, rising 25% on day one and putting the company’s valuation at around $900 million. In a world where mobile rules, perhaps such a strong showing should be no surprise for a company that helps businesses develop their apps.
Google’s AI Gets SmarterOne of Google’s many tech projects is developing artificial intelligence that will improve their search results and the functionality of various other products they provide. They announced last month a move from a mobile first approach in their business to an AI first one. Their commitment is already showing results. Last month alone, their AI efforts made news for making never-before-heard sounds possible and winning a game of Go against the world’s best human players. And on top of all that, they just launched a venture capital program focused on AI. The company’s throwing a lot at developing in this direction and the results are likely to have a big influence on all of us in the days and years to come.
Thunderbolt Ports Becoming the NormAnyone that’s bought an Apple computer in the past couple of years has been faced with a new sort of a port that doesn’t look anything like the standard USB ones. Thunderbolt ports offer faster transfers, which made them an easy sell for Apple, but the technology has taken longer to win over other computer providers. A recent announcement from Intel suggests that’s about to change. The company has committed to including Thunderbolt ports in its upcoming computer models. More and more computer users will be saying goodbye to USB and hello to Thunderbolt. While we can make some assumptions about what’s coming based on what’s happened recently, June’s sure to throw some surprises our way. Check back next month to get a new dose of tech information so you don’t fall behind.
Thursday, May 4, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
May's Top Tech NewsA new month inevitably brings a whole new batch of tech news stories. It can be hard to keep up. To help you stay on top of the main tech trends and updates you should know, we continue our series on top tech trends to watch this month.
Amazon Releases Echo LookThe smart home technology market continues to grow this month with Amazon’s release of the Echo Look, a new device that combines the abilities of Amazon’s Alexa with camera technology. The company is positioning the product as a way to get fashion advice from a digital assistant. The device will snap pictures of you wearing your different clothing options and provide feedback, along with suggestions for possible items to buy. However, what may have sounded like a great idea in the boardroom is getting criticism from various sources for crossing uncomfortable privacy lines. Amazon has assured critics that the Echo Look’s technology will only focus on outfits – not, say, the other items that can be seen in a room in the background of a picture. For consumers unconcerned about privacy aspects though, the device can be useful for video chatting and clothes shopping, so it may still have its supporters.
Google and Facebook Take On Fake NewsBoth Google and Facebook have received criticism for the roles their platforms played in disseminating fake news stories. In response to the criticism, both companies are taking steps to help reduce the reach of news stories that aren’t authoritative or accurate. Facebook has announced plans to target and weed out accounts that share fake news on the platform, in the hopes of stopping misinformation campaigns by governments or other political players. Google, for its part, is working to limit how often inaccurate or offensive articles show up in its search results. They’ve updated their quality guidelines to help their human evaluators better gauge the accuracy of search results, and have provided users with a way to report inaccurate autocomplete suggestions and snippets.
Tech Companies Take a Stand for Net NeutralityBusinesses don’t always branch into politics, but on the particular issue of net neutrality, many tech companies have been quick to take a stand. Over 800 startups recently came together to submit a letter to the FCC showing their support for net neutrality rules that are at risk under the new administration. Popular brands like Etsy, Warby Parker, Foursquare and Reddit are amongst the companies publicly backing the cause.
Collision Conference Meets in New OrleansThis week, “America’s fastest growing tech conference,” the Collision Conference takes over New Orleans with thousands of guests from tech companies throughout the country (and a few coming in from abroad). The conference sessions will cover topics ranging from using tech to improve the environment to marketing technology to internet security.
NextWeb Meets in the NetherlandsBilled as Europe’s leading tech festival, the NextWeb conference is scheduled to meet in the Netherlands on May 18-19. The conference will bring together thousands of entrepreneurs, developers, and investors and will have representatives from many of the best-known tech brands in the world, including Amazon, AirBnB, and Reddit.
New Tech IPOs: Cloudera and CarvanaThe two big tech IPOs of the month are both valued at around the same price: $15 per share. Carvana offers an online car dealership and is overall valued at about $2.08 billion. Cloudera’s enterprise data company is similarly valued at just around $2 billion.
About.com RebrandsOver time, the About.com brand has lost a lot of its influence and familiarity as other web brands little by little took over their market share. In response, the brand has decided to say goodbye to the once familiar name and become Dotdash. In addition to the change in their overall brand name, they’ve also branched out into several different content properties that each have a particular focus: Verywell for health, Lifewire for tech, The Balance for personal finance, and The Spruce for home and food.
The Nation’s Biggest Tech Companies Have a Strong QuarterIt’s a good time to be one of the top tech companies in the nation (or an investor in them). Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all report rising profits in the first quarter of 2017. Google and Microsoft are both up by 28%, and Amazon’s profits have increased by 40%. Most of us won’t be surprised to hear that the incredibly popular companies are still doing well, but seeing the continued growth they’ve managed can potentially tell us something about the overall health of the tech sector at this time. As we move into summer, we’ll continue to keep our eyes on what’s happening in the tech world. Check back next month to see what tech trends to look out for in June.