Google Says Will Not Participate in 2016 US Airwaves Auction

Google Says Will Not Participate in 2016 US Airwaves Auction

Alphabet Inc’s Google will not participate in the US Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming auction of broadcast airwaves that can help the wireless industry improve coverage, a spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.

Some industry watchers had expected Internet search giant Google to be a dark horse participant in the auction. In April last year, the company launched a new US wireless service that switches between Wi-Fi and cellular networks hosted through Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc’s networks.

Google last participated in a 2008 FCC auction but did not buy any airwaves.

“Like all those interested in improved connectivity and equitable access, we’ll be following the upcoming spectrum auction closely. That said, we have not filed to participate,” the Google spokeswoman said.

The FCC will be auctioning off valuable 600MHz airwaves that can travel long distances and penetrate buildings. The auction is aimed at wireless carriers and other companies that want to improve existing wireless networks or build new ones.

Wireless providers such as Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and T-Mobile and cable operator Comcast Corp have said they will take part in the auction.

The FCC’s deadline for interested bidders to file applications to participate in the auction ended on Wednesday. The auction will kick off on March 29.

Facebook Offers Free Ads to Those Who Counter Terror Speech

Facebook Offers Free Ads to Those Who Counter Terror Speech: Report

Facebook has offered ad credits worth up to $1,000 (roughly Rs. 68,000) to users who helped the social media giant counter terrorist propaganda by posting anti-extremist and positive messages on its website, a media report said.

In an attempt to discredit extremist content with posts from its users, Facebook began combating terrorist propaganda online with its own form of “counter speech”.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg expressed her support for campaigns that counter propaganda from terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) with messages of tolerance and hope.

Sandberg also pointed to a case in which a Facebook page for a neo-Nazi group was flooded with “likes” and positive messages.

According to the journal, the social network has also collaborated with the US State Department to develop messaging from college students.

Together with the State Department, Facebook launched competitions in 45 college classes around the world. Those who participated in the competition were provided a budget of $2,000 (roughly Rs. 1,36,000) and $200 (roughly Rs. 13,600) in ad credits.

Last year, Facebook allowed former members of extremist groups to create fake accounts and engage with current members. The experiment delivered encouraging results.

Snapdeal Raises $200 Million From Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Iron Pillar

Snapdeal Raises $200 Million From Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Iron Pillar

E-commerce firm Snapdeal announced on Sunday that it has raised $200 million (roughly Rs. 1362 crores) in funding in a round led by Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), with participation from Iron Pillar and other investors.

Snapdeal had previously raised $500 million (roughly Rs 3,405 crores) in funding led by Alibaba Group, Foxconn, and SoftBank in August 2015 at a valuation of $4-5 billion. Its acquisitions in 2015 include payments service FreeCharge, RupeePower, Unicommerce, MartMobi, Fashiate, LetsGoMo Labs, and Reduce Data. It also invested $20 million in GoJavas, a third party logistics player in October 2015.

In an emailed statement, Anup Vikal, CFO, Snapdeal said that the latest fundraise was a continuing endorsement of the company’s strategy to build India’s most reliable and frictionless commerce ecosystem.

“We continue to make targeted investments in building internal and external capabilities that will enable us to consistently deliver optimal experience for the millions of buyers and sellers who transact daily on Snapdeal,” he said.

Snapdeal said it has 275,000 sellers and, over 30 million products on its marketplace. It currently delivers to over 6000 cities and towns in India.

Ontario Teachers’ is Canada’s largest single-profession pension plan with $154.5 billion in net assets. Iron Pillar is a venture capital fund focused on filling the gap for mid stage technology investments in India.

Founded in 2010, Snapdeal’s investors include BlackRock, Temasek, eBay Inc, Premji Invest, Intel Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Ratan Tata, among others.

Google to Shut Down Picasa on March 15 in Shift to Google Photos

Google to Shut Down Picasa on March 15 in Shift to Google PhotosGoogle on Friday said it will be shuttering Picasa to shift its focus to the new Google Photos service launched less than a year ago.

“Since the launch of Google Photos, we’ve had a lot of questions around what this means for the future of Picasa. After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos. We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products,” Google Photos chief Anil Sabharwal said in a blog post.

Pictures or videos in Picasa online albums will be automatically available in people’s Google Photos accounts, according to Sabharwal.

Those wishing not to shift to the new service will still be able to view, download or delete photos in Picasa albums, but the software won’t be updated and adding images won’t be an option.

“As of March 15, 2016, we will no longer be supporting the Picasa desktop application. For those who have already downloaded this-or choose to do so before this date-it will continue to work as it does today, but we will not be developing it further, and there will be no future updates. If you choose to switch to Google Photos, you can continue to upload photos and videos using the desktop uploader at photos.google.com/apps… We apologize for any inconvenience this transition causes, but we want to assure you that we are doing this with the aim of providing the best photos experience possible,” Sabharwal said.

“Google Photos is a new and smarter product.”

Google My Maps App Receives First Major Update Since 2014

Google My Maps App Receives First Major Update Since 2014

Google My Maps, an app that lets you create and share custom maps, has received its first major update since 2014. The update brings a redesigned user interface based on the search giant’s Material Design UI, along with other performance improvements and features.

The app update v2.0 now has a welcome guide for new users along with other features such as the ability to view images and videos added on the Web, receiving directions to saved points on the map, a searchable list for saved points along with a floating action bar to create new ones. Street View is also accessible from within the app.

Users can now additionally choose a standard, satellite, or terrain basemap and view pins based on these layers. The updated Google My Maps is available to download from Google Play.

In a bid to offer users a better travel experience, Google earlier this month updated its Google Maps applications as well. The update brings new features including a tweaked navigation interface, and other changes.

One of the biggest improvements in the update is new signage that shows up on the Maps. The update shows names of the streets and exits that you are supposed to turn to, instead of just showing the blue line. Another notable addition is the setting to disable turn-by-turn instructions for voice navigation during an ongoing call. Earlier versions of Maps for Android unfortunately missed out the feature. The update introduces the ability to pair a review with photos submitted by a user for the same location. The feature allows reviewers to express their experience with the help of images apart from the text.

YouTube Buys BandPage to Create New Revenue Opportunities for Musicians

YouTube Buys BandPage to Create New Revenue Opportunities for Musicians

YouTube has for years been trying to provide opportunities for its content creators to monetise videos. Towards achieving the goal, YouTube last year launched its $10-a-month subscription plan in the US called Red that combined ad-free videos, new original series and movies from top YouTubers, and on-demand unlimited streaming music. The largest video platform to further strengthen revenue chances for its creators seems to have finally made its biggest leap to make that possible.

YouTube on Friday announced it had acquired BandPage, a startup aimed at helping musicians build fan bases and increase their revenue. The startup confirmed the acquisition in a blog post, saying, “We are very excited to announce that BandPage is joining YouTube, a move which dramatically accelerates our shared goal of helping musicians everywhere thrive.”

So far, neither YouTube nor BandPage has detailed the amount paid for the buyout. A report from TechCrunch however claims that YouTube acquired BandPage for around $8 million where “stocks will be converted into cash, and common stock will be cancelled with no payment.”

In its blog post, BandPage adds that it has a lot planned for musicians and with YouTube already offering a global distribution platform; they will be able to offer opportunities to grow an open network of digital music services.

“YouTube already offers a global distribution platform for any artist to be discovered and some of the best self-publishing tools for musicians and other creators. The team has a lot of things planned to help musicians succeed on the platform, and more broadly across the BandPage network. There’s still a lot that we can do to help musicians, and we can accomplish so much more together,” adds the BandPage team.

Some of the other goals detailed by BandPage include developing intelligent new tools for managing/ distributing artist content and commerce as well as creating new revenue opportunities for all musicians, on YouTube and beyond.

Gmailify Gives Gmail’s Best Features to Yahoo, Outlook, and Hotmail Users

Gmailify Gives Gmail's Best Features to Yahoo, Outlook, and Hotmail Users

Google last year started letting Yahoo, Outlook, Hotmail, and users of other email services link their non-Gmail accounts to Gmail. This gave users access to their non-Gmail mails within the Gmail client for Web and mobile. Google on Wednesday announced an expansion of this feature, with Gmailify. It brings two major additions, with the biggest being that users without a Google or Gmail account can now use the Gmail app for Android and Web client. The second, is that features previously limited to the Gmail account of the user will now be accessible even on non-Gmail accounts.

To be more specific, users with Yahoo, Outlook, and Hotmail email accounts will get access to Gmail features like spam protection, Inbox organisation (e.g. Priority Inbox), faster search with advanced search operators, and better mail notifications on mobile. The expanded Gmailify access also includes Google Now cards, which means hotel and travel information from non-Gmail accounts will also show up as notifications for Android users.

It is worth noting that Gmailify is limited to Yahoo, Outlook, and Hotmail accounts for now but Googlehas plans to broaden the list in future. The feature can be found both inside the Gmail app for Android and on the Web.

To use Gmailify, users would need to log in via the Gmail app for Android or mail.google.com. New users without a Google account can create a Gmail account using their non-Gmail address. They then, along with users already with a Google account, have to then go to Settings > Link Accounts to associate the non-Gmail address. On its support page, Google elaborates on the unlinking process, “We’ll then ask you if you’d like to keep all the emails that we imported into your Gmail mailbox from your other account… If you remove them from Gmail, they’ll still be in the inbox of your other provider (for example, Outlook or Yahoo! Mail)… If you keep them in Gmail, they’ll stay in your Gmail account. However, if you move or delete them in Gmail, these actions won’t be reflected in your other account…

After you unlink your accounts, Gmail will stop showing you new messages from your other account.”

Earlier this month Google tightened the security for its Gmail service by introducing a new feature where the search giant will flag those email providers that don’t support Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. The TLS encryption is aimed at ensuring a connection is secure before exchanging data between server ad client. Emails sent using such mail services will be flagged with a red broken lock icon on the top-right corner of the mail.

Truecaller Launches TrueSDK to Simplify User Registrations

Truecaller Launches TrueSDK to Simplify User Registrations

At a press conference in Bengaluru on Thursday, phone directory app Truecaller announced the launch of TrueSDK, which enables third-party app users to sign up with their Truecaller profile and also verify their phone numbers.

TrueSDK helps users quickly utilise their Truecaller credentials to log in to third-party apps and verify their phone numbers (if required), saving them time. The service can be used by developers to sign up, update a user’s information, or verify the user’s phone number based identity in their mobile apps through the users’ consent.

“It’s an onboarding and verification solution that lets users sign up and register with Truecaller. It’s free for developers and existing users, and it’s permission based. We ensured that it’s a light SDK that developers can use, and it’s as minimal as possible,” said Kari Krishnamurthy, Vice President, Growth and Partnerships, Truecaller at the press conference, later described it as combination of an autofill and a verified phone number.

The functionality is currently available on Android only, and has been launched with twelve partners, namely Quikr, Mobikwik, redBus, CarDekho, BharatMatrimony.com, Ixigo, Oyo Rooms, FreshMenu,Terraa, and ShopClues. The integration with these apps will go live soon, Krishnamurthy said.

“Besides the flexibility that we add to partners, the bigger value is that they get a phone number that otherwise requires infrastructural inputs,” said Nami Zarringhalam, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of Truecaller at the press conference.

“Instead of having every app developer build and maintain their own systems, they can now use TrueSDK and instead focus more on their core aspects of their app led offering,” said Priyam Bose, Director Worldwide Developer Relations at Truecaller.

Truecaller’s app is used by over 200 million users globally, and has over a 100 million users in India. The company has partnerships with smartphone OEMs like Samsung, Microsoft, LG, Micromax, andGionee, and telecom operators such as Airtel and Tata DoCoMo. The company had extended its language support to Hindi, through real-time transliteration of the caller ID in November 2015.

Amazon, Flipkart Launch Studio on Wheels Services for Sellers

Amazon, Flipkart Launch Studio on Wheels Services for Sellers

E-commerce giants Amazon India and Flipkart announced the launch of their studio on wheels service on Wednesday, in an attempt to engage with small and medium businesses and help them sell their wares online.

Amazon Tatkal, its studio-on-wheels solution, offers sellers facilities like registration, imaging and cataloguing services, as well as basic seller training. Amazon India said that the service enables SMBs to get online and sell on Amazon.in, in less than 60 minutes.

Starting with New Delhi, trained company representatives will traverse the country to educate sellers on the benefits of specialised seller services offered by Amazon, the company said.

“Our conversations with hundreds of SMBs reveal that there is a high level of interest among them to get online and start selling, but they are unable to overcome perception barriers of the process being time consuming, tedious and complex,” said Gopal Pillai, Director and GM, Seller Services, Amazon India in a press statement. “We believe this initiative will help sellers to overcome these constraints, get them onboard, and start selling on the Amazon platform with speed and ease,” he added.

Flipkart Spotlist, its cataloguing and listing service for sellers, enables small businesses and artisans to list their products from their premises. Cataloguing partners will travel on Spotlist-branded vans and bikes to seller locations, equipped with cataloguing tools and technologies, including cameras, half-mannequins, and photo-boxes to help sellers list their products instantly following the shoot, the company said.

Spotlist enabled cities include Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad. The company said that over a thousand sellers have availed of Spotlist, and close to 10,000 products have been catalogued through the service. Flipkart said that it is extending Spotlist to freelance wedding and party photographers, who can register as cataloguing partners and open a new revenue stream.

Amazon, which launched its Global Selling Program for sellers in India in May 2015, said that over 6,000 sellers are selling their ‘Make in India’ products on Amazon’s nine global marketplaces to a base of over 294 million worldwide customers.

Outlook Revamp Drops Preview Tag, Now Available to All

Outlook.com Revamp Drops Preview Tag, Now Available to All

Microsoft on Wednesday finally took off the ‘Preview’ label from its revamped Outlook email website, which it introduced back in May last year. The new website includes loads of features, the highlight of which is the inclusion of the Giphy add-in.

The Redmond-based tech giant adds that new Outlook.com users in the US (North America) region will see the revamped interface right away, while those who already have an account will see the redesigned version soon and won’t need to take any action to get the update.

As confirmed by Microsoft in May last year, the new Outlook.com is based on Office 365 infrastructure and includes all the recently added Office 365 features including the ability to automatically add flight confirmations to a user’s calendar, a smarter address book, and more.

Those who access Outlook.com from Outlook apps for Windows and OS X will now be able to set automatic replies, toggle flags and sync categories, get access to inbox rules and drafts and more. “Outlook on Windows now supports Outlook.com email aliases, while Outlook for Mac can now sync calendar and contact information,” says Javier Soltero, Corporate Vice President for the Outlook team at Microsoft in a company blog post.

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With the revamped Outlook.com service, users can now easily collaborate on documents and files.Microsoft has managed to squeeze the multi-step process for editing attachments in an email to just a couple of clicks. On Outlook.com for Web, users can now edit documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, photos) side-by-side while simultaneously replying to the original email. In addition, if a new user were added in a mail chain, Outlook would now prompt the ones who added the new member if they want to re-attach the most recent photo/other file to the conversation so the new member does not miss out on anything. Users can also attach files from Dropbox and Box right from their inboxes, along with the option to send files as links.

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As for the add-ins, Outlook.com integrates Giphy as its latest add-in partner. Users can use tonnes of gif images from the Giphy library to express their thoughts in the email. Also, they can install the Wunderlist and Yelp add-ins from the Office Store. Some of the other add-ins for the Outlook.com areUber, PayPal, Evernote, and Boomerang. “All of these add-ins are live in the Office Store and are available to Outlook.com, as well as to Office 365 users using Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the web,” says Soltero. Based on the feedback from preview users, the company has added their favourite add-ins as add-in commands on top of the screen for quick access. The new add-in commands will be reaching Outlook.com in North America in few weeks followed by other regions.

In the meanwhile, Skype now comes with deeper integration with improved chat, video and audio call functionality to let users call or chat without moving out from the Inbox. The feature to schedule a Skype call right from Outlook.com will be arriving soon. Inline replies and @mentions, which were introduced in October last year, are also a part of the new Outlook.com interface.

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Users can simply type ‘@’ and the name to add a person inside an email body in a thread. On typing ‘@’ Outlook would show user’s frequent contacts along with an access to the complete directory. On selecting a person, Outlook would add the user in the ‘To:’ section of the email. Their name would also be highlighted inside the email body. Receivers would be able to sort emails based on the mentions. It works with Calendar as well.

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The revamped Outlook.com brings the ability to quickly add emojis in an email. All users need to do is to type a colon followed by the word “:cake” and select the small emoji visual, much like what we do on Slack messaging service. Image editing has also become a tad bit easier. People can simply copy-paste images directly into the email body and access various formatting options directly inside the Inbox.

Lastly, the new interface carries the Pin feature that lets users Pin important emails at the top. Folder specific Pins, search suggestions, and refiners are also available.