Google details how Chrome will block ads


As planned, Google Chrome will start blocking ads on February 15. The company today shared more details on how this feature will work when it’s turned on tomorrow.

Google last year joined the Coalition for Better Ads, a group that offers specific standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. The company then revealed that Chrome will stop showing all ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that display non-compliant ads, as defined by the coalition. Continue reading “Google details how Chrome will block ads”

Facebook’s user engagement dips on News Feed tweaks, WhatsApp passes 1.5 billion monthly users


(Reuters) — Facebook said on Wednesday that time spent on the social network fell at the end of last year by about 50 million hours a day, even before the company made changes to its flagship News Feed that may further reduce user engagement.
On the Q4 2017 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp passed 1.5 billion monthly active users and sees 60 billion messages sent per day. Continue reading “Facebook’s user engagement dips on News Feed tweaks, WhatsApp passes 1.5 billion monthly users”

2017: Year of the podcast

The year 2017 will likely be remembered for many things across the technology spectrum, from major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and milestone moments in autonomous vehicles to Amazon conceding that a major offline presence in groceries was needed to compete in retail.

But buried within the big headline-grabbing stories of the year were microtrends that sprang up almost by surprise. And one of those relates to the humble podcast. Continue reading “2017: Year of the podcast”

Creating an app: “What, like it’s hard?”

Let’s just say it’s not as easy as the bend and snap.

Anyone who knows me knows that app development has never really been “my thing.” I (sadly) enjoy talking about the Kardashian-Jenner clan, and I love fashion and binge-watching rom-com movies such as “Legally Blonde.” Just as most people don’t wake up one morning and think, I think I’ll go to law school today, as Prof. Callahan speculated about “Legally Blonde” heroine Elle Woods, I am not the type who just wakes up one morning and thinks, I really want to learn how to make an app! Yet, being the the stereotype-defiers that Elle and I are, both of us decided to give new ventures a try — even if others may scoff. Continue reading “Creating an app: “What, like it’s hard?””

Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data

(Reuters) — Germany’s cartel office has found that Facebook abused its dominant market position, in a ruling that questioned the U.S. social network’s model of monetizing the personal data of its 2 billion users through targeted advertising. Presenting preliminary findings of its 20-month-old probe, the Federal Cartel Office said Facebook held a dominant position among social networks – a characterization that Facebook repudiated as “inaccurate”. Continue reading “Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data”

Facebook defends itself against social media critics

(Reuters) — Facebook Inc on Friday struck back against scientific researchers and tech industry insiders who have criticized the world’s biggest social media network and its competitors for transforming how people behave and express emotion. Facebook, in a corporate blog post, said that social media can be good for people’s well-being if they use the technology in a way that is active, such as messaging with friends, rather than passive, such as scrolling through a feed of other people’s posts. It was the second time this week that Facebook had published such a rebuttal, signaling a new willingness to defend a business model that translates users’ attention into advertising revenue. Continue reading “Facebook defends itself against social media critics”

Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018


Next year is going to be big for Chrome, if you believe everything Google has announced so far: going to war against low-quality ads, autoplaying content with sound, and unwanted redirects. The company today added a smaller, but still significant, initiative to its to-do list: reducing Chrome crashes caused by third-party software on Windows.

Continue reading “Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018”

Google’s Chatbase bot analytics platform opens to all

Google’s chatbot analytics platform is now open to everyone, more than six months after its quiet debut during the company’s I/O developer conference. Called Chatbase, it’s intended to help developers better analyze and optimize their bots so they can improve conversion rates and accuracy — and avoid having users feel bots are useless.

Anyone can use Google’s Chatbase for free, similar to Google Analytics, and it’ll work across any platform, including Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Viber, and Skype. But it’s more than messaging services where Chatbase could prove invaluable: With the rise of voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Apple’s Siri, understanding analytics will be important.

A product of Google’s Area 120 internal incubator, Chatbase currently has “hundreds” of companies using it, including Ticketmaster, HBO, and Viber. A spokesperson for the Rakuten-owned messaging service said in a statement: “We increased query volume by 35% for a popular stickers bot by optimizing queries with high exit rates. Chatbase has been immensely helpful … instead of combing through logs, we rely on its machine-learning capability to help prioritize required optimizations.”

Ofer Ronen, Chatbase’s team lead, told VentureBeat that since the platform’s early release, Google has learned that “building and analyzing bots can be challenging because the tools are relatively new and still maturing. Unlike websites and apps which are well understood, bot development is still establishing best practices.”

He went on to say: “An aspect that makes bots especially challenging is how open-ended they are: Users expect bots to handle a request containing any phrasing they choose. This is an area that Chatbase is especially focused on, by exposing popular requests to which a bot is not responding well.”

Google isn’t the only one in the analytics space for bots, as it competes against Dashbot, Botanalytics, BotMetrics, Manner, and others. But what might be an advantage to Google is what it’s done with Google Analytics, one of the top analytics tools for mobile and website developers. Ronen added that, besides the extensive array of things that could be tracked, Chatbot’s machine learning capabilities gives it leverage over the competition, clustering “similar problematic user messages. One example would be for finding and fixing ‘misses’, or alternate phrasing of supported actions that weren’t originally anticipated by the developer,” he said.

“Putting some of Google’s machine learning capabilities to work for our users is a clear differentiator, and our users are really excited about that.”

If Google is successful in positioning Chatbase as being platform-agnostic and the service becomes as widely used as its Analytics sibling, then the breadth of data that the company will receive around conversation, be it voice or text, will be enormous. That would not only allow Google to improve its bot ecosystem, but to see a significant boost in the machine learning space. Plus it may eventually lead to helping the company figure out ways to properly monetize bots — using a chatbot version of Google AdWords, perhaps?

Chatbase won’t give you the exact same metrics that you’d expect from a traditional analytics platform, although there are some overlaps. Among the data you’ll receive include the number of active users, sessions, and retention, while also comparing performance by platform.

Anyone can sign up for Chatbase. Those using Dialogflow, the service formerly known as API.ai, will automatically have access to Chatbase’s basic features within Dialogflow.

Chatbots can save you from trying to diagnose that cough yourself

When a person feels sick, they might start deciding whether it seems serious enough to visit a doctor. However, things like having to get to the doctor’s office, long delays in the waiting room, and the potential difficulty in getting an appointment could discourage that individual from getting prompt treatment. A new AI-powered chatbot called Ada could be the perfect solution for that predicament. Let’s take a look at how Ada and other telemedicine offerings could change the future of health care and what downsides the technology has. Continue reading “Chatbots can save you from trying to diagnose that cough yourself”

Firefox Quantum arrives with faster browser engine, major visual overhaul, and Google as default search engine


Mozilla today launched Firefox 57, branded Firefox Quantum, for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. The new version, which Mozilla calls “by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004,” brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign. Continue reading “Firefox Quantum arrives with faster browser engine, major visual overhaul, and Google as default search engine”

How Google and Amazon are hooking kids from an early age

Google announced a notable update to YouTube Kids this week, one that gives parents a range of tools to tailor the app for their kids. Among the new features is one that lets parents create individual profiles for each of their offspring. They can set each kid up with their own passcode to keep siblings out — though parents can override it — and the general design now reflects the child’s age. This revamp is the latest in a line of recent initiatives from big tech firms as they double down on efforts to suck kids into their ecosystems.

Continue reading “How Google and Amazon are hooking kids from an early age”

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