Facebook Is Losing Users In the US and Canada

User growth in the United States in Canada -- the company's most lucrative ad market -- has declined, Facebook reported as part of its third-quarter earnings. Engadget reports: The company now has 196 million users in North America, down slightly from 198 million last quarter. In a statement, the company said the decrease was expected, and could continue through the end of the year. "As expected, in the third quarter of 2020, we saw Facebook DAUs and MAUs in the US & Canada decline slightly from the second quarter 2020 levels which were elevated due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Facebook wrote in a press release. "In the fourth quarter of 2020, we expect this trend to continue and that the number of DAUs and MAUs in the US & Canada will be flat or slightly down compared to the third quarter of 2020." The company had previously reported a large surge in growth at the start of the year due to widespread coronavirus lockdowns. Facebook isn't seeing the same slowdown everywhere, though, and the social network is continuing to add new users in Asia and its "rest of world" markets. The company also continued to tout its "family of apps" metrics, which combines Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. That number rose to 2.54 billion "daily active people" in September, according to the company. The slowdown also doesn't seem to have affected Facebook's revenue, which was up to $21.4 billion for the quarter, an increase of 22 percent from last year and better than analyst expectations for the company. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 21:45:02 preview's
Google's AI Converts Webpages Into Videos

Researchers at Google say they've developing an AI system that can automatically convert webpages into short videos. From a report: It extracts assets like text and images and their design styles including fonts, colors, and graphical layouts from HTML sources and organizes the assets into a sequence of shots, maintaining a look and feel similar to the source page as it does so. Google envisions the system could be useful to businesses that host websites containing rich visual representations about their services or products. These assets, the company says, could be repurposed for videos, potentially enabling those without extensive resources to reach a broader audience. A typical video costs between $880 and $1,200 and can take days to weeks to produce. URL2Video, which was presented at the 2020 User Interface Software and Technology Symposium, automatically selects key content from a page and decides the temporal and visual presentation of each asset. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 21:00:03 preview's
Brave Browser First To Nix CNAME Deception

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The Brave web browser will soon block CNAME cloaking, a technique used by online marketers to defy privacy controls designed to prevent the use of third-party cookies. The browser security model makes a distinction between first-party domains -- those being visited -- and third-party domains -- from the suppliers of things like image assets or tracking code, to the visited site. Many of the online privacy abuses over the years have come from third-party resources like scripts and cookies, which is why third-party cookies are now blocked by default in Brave, Firefox, Safari, and Tor Browser. In a blog post on Tuesday, Anton Lazarev, research engineer at Brave Software, and senior privacy researcher Peter Snyder, explain that online tracking scripts may use canonical name DNS records, known as CNAMEs, to make associated third-party tracking domains look like they're part of the first-party websites actually being visited. They point to the site as an example, noting that without CNAME uncloaking, Brave blocks six requests for tracking scripts served by ad companies like Google, Facebook, Criteo, Sirdan, and Trustpilot. But the page also makes four requests via a script hosted at a randomized path under the first-party subdomain When Brave 1.17 ships next month (currently available as a developer build), it will be able to uncloak the CNAME deception and block the Eulerian script. Other browser vendors are planning related defenses. "Mozilla has been working on a fix in Firefox since last November," notes The Register. "And in August, Apple's Safari WebKit team proposed a way to prevent CNAME cloaking from being used to bypass the seven-day cookie lifetime imposed by WebKit's Intelligent Tracking Protection system." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 20:15:02 preview's
JPMorgan, Goldman Order Software 'Code Freezes' Around Election

Top banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, are battening down their technology hatches for next week's presidential election. From a report (paywalled): Around next Tuesday, the final day of voting, JPMorgan and Goldman will both halt software updates to the retail and investment banking systems their customers use to manage accounts, The Information has learned. It's a precaution intended to minimize the risk of outages of their services during a period of potential market volatility surrounding the election. Banks have good reason to institute these software code "freezes." Faulty software updates are one of the main culprits behind online service outages. While suspending software updates is common for banks during times of heightened market volatility, this year's election could be especially turbulent, with wide fears over civil unrest and contested election results. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 17:45:02 preview's
TikTok Witches Are Hexing the Election This Halloween

Some are casting spells to “raise a mighty blue wave,” while other conjurers are employing pro-Trump countermagics.
2020-10-29 15:45:02 preview's
Sony's PlayStation 5 Is Beating Xbox in the Online Black Market

Sony's PlayStation 5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X haven't hit stores yet, but the video game console showdown has already begun in the online black market. From a report: Demand for the PlayStation 5 on resale websites is outstripping that of the new Xbox, and shoppers are paying more to get their hands on the first run of products, market research shows. The vibrant market for scalpers offers a preview of next month's contest when the two rival game companies will release their new consoles to a global audience with a seemingly endless appetite for home entertainment. In the U.S., consumer spending on video game hardware, content and accessories is at record highs. The pandemic triggered a surge in players and engagement through the spring and summer months, at times depleting inventory of the current generation of consoles, according to research firm NPD Group. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X, the first major console releases from Sony and Microsoft in seven years, are among the most highly anticipated gadgets of the holiday season. Spending on games over the holidays is expected to jump 24% from last year. "Units will be tough to find," wrote Mat Piscatella, an analyst at NPD. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 13:45:02 preview's
Bethesda exec says an Xbox-exclusive Elder Scrolls is “hard to imagine”

But Bethesda and Microsoft are still dodging direct answers on the issue.
2020-10-29 12:15:02 preview's
War Stories: How Nintendo sold the NES to a skeptical country

Convincing the public to love home video games again after Atari's dramatic fall.
2020-10-29 11:15:03 preview's
iPhone 12 and 12 Pro double review: Playing Apple’s greatest hits

The iPhone 12 is so good, it’s hard to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro.
2020-10-29 11:15:03 preview's
Amazon, Apple Probed by Germany Over Online Sales Curbs

Amazon and Apple face German antitrust scrutiny over a policy that excludes independent sellers of brand products on the online market place. From a report: Germany's Federal Cartel Office, the country's antitrust regulator, is probing both companies over a policy at Amazon called "brandgating," the authority said in an emailed statement. The policy allows makers of branded products such as iPhones to have independent sellers removed from the platform as long as Amazon can sell the items, according to the statement. "Brandgating agreements can help to protect against product piracy," the Cartel Office said. "But such measures must be proportionate to be in line with antitrust rules and may not result in eliminating competition." Amazon and Apple are among the tech giants under intense scrutiny by regulators across the world, including in the European Union, which is poised to propose sweeping new laws to rein in Silicon Valley. Authorities are wrestling with how to act against companies that critics say run a rigged game when they set the rules for platforms that also host their rivals. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-10-29 10:15:03