Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook enables free iPhone voice calls

The tech press started buzzing earlier this month with reports that Facebook planned to add VoIP (voice over IP) calling to its Messenger app for the iPhone. The new feature officially arrived, when Facebook released an update for its app.

 

Source : CNN Money

Facebook's app transmits calls using your phone's broadband connection, whatever it is 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi. Instead of sucking up your monthly allotted voice minutes from your cellular carrier, it sucks up megabytes from your data plan. That's a boon for heavy talkers with unlimited data plans.
                                        
This is nothing new or technologically groundbreaking: Skype was doing it long before Facebook. Facebook has many more active users than Skype, though, and the allure of having to use one less network or app will appeal to some (perhaps many).
                                        
But it's not all roses just yet. For now, this is a pretty limited offering. Your phone won't alert you the way it does when you have a normal call: Facebook calls just show up as a push notification. And right now, you can only connect with a conversation partner who also has Messenger installed on their iPhone.
                                        
There's no way to ring up a Facebook friend who is logged in through the website, and there isn't any way to place a call to a ten-digit phone number. Calling is still absent from the Android and BlackBerry versions of the Messenger app.
                                        
There's a good reason for those omissions. The VoIP features in the Web version of Facebook were built using Skype's technologies, while the calling technology in Messenger is all Facebook. The ability to place and receive calls using traditional phone numbers requires telecommunications resources Facebook doesn't have (at the moment, at least).
                                        
For the time being, services such as Google Voice and Skype have a leg up, given their larger feature sets. But Facebook generally doesn't let anything remain in stasis for long. As we've seen in the past and caught a glimpse of yesterday with the Graph Search reveal Facebook likes to start small, and steadily flesh out its products. Expect the same with voice calling.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nations prepare for cyber war

Security analysts are predicting that 2013 is when nation-sponsored cyberwarfare goes mainstream -- and some think such attacks will lead to actual deaths.


In 2012, large-scale cyberattacks targeted at the Iranian government were uncovered, and in return, Iran is believed to have launched massive attacks aimed at U.S. banks and Saudi oil companies. At least 12 of the world's 15 largest military powers are currently building cyberwarfare programs, according to James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 
So a cyber Cold War is already in progress. But some security companies believe that battle will become even more heated this year. "Nation states and armies will be more frequent actors and victims of cyberthreats," a team of researchers at McAfee Labs, an Intel subsidiary, wrote in a recent report. Michael Sutton, Head of Security Research at cloud security company Zscaler, said he expects governments to spend furiously on building up their cyber arsenals. Some may even outsource attacks to online hackers.
                                        
The Obama administration and many in Congress have been more vocal about how an enemy nation or a terrorist cell could target the country's critical infrastructure in a cyberattack. Banks, stock exchanges, nuclear power plants and water purification systems are particularly vulnerable, according to numerous assessments delivered to Congress last year.

But after legislation aimed at preventing such attacks stalled in Congress last year, some experts believe this will be the year when cyberattacks turn deadly. "Nation-state attackers will target critical infrastructure networks such as power grids at unprecedented scale in 2013," predicted Chiranjeev Bordoloi, CEO of security company Top Patch. "These types of attacks could grow more sophisticated, and the slippery slope could lead to the loss of human life."
                                        
Security firm IID also predicted that cyberattacks will lead to the loss of life this year. But others say that such event is unlikely. Our most potent online foes, Russia and China, haven't shown an interest in infrastructure attacks. Those that would pursue them -- Iran is often mentioned -- haven't yet proven capable of pulling off something on that scale.
Source : CNN Money

Facebook pulls back on crucial external ad network

Facebook might not be diving into the external advertising business as quickly as people hoped. The company is rolling back a series of tests involving Facebook Ads appearing on other mobile ad networks.


Facebook pulls back on crucial external ad networkA spokesperson for Facebook told VentureBeat in an email, “We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook. While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”

Facebook has a lot of advertising products on its plate with Sponsored Stories, ads in its own news
feed, Facebook Ads, a test on Zynga.com, and probably more. The company might be backburner-ing the product while it prepares other technology, with the intention of returning to it.

Shareholders might not be happy about the change. An external advertising network that takes advantage of the wealth of data Facebook has about its users was a promising revenue generator. Rumors recently circulated that the company was teaming up with Microsoft’s Atlas Solutions to build an external network. The Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the partnership, saying Facebook does not comment on rumors. As mentioned, the company also experimented with ads on social gaming company Zynga.com. There, the ads appeared in the lower corner, and show which of your friends have also liked a game you are currently viewing. It seems like the Zynga tests are not yet being shut down, which suggests Facebook isn’t giving up.
Source : Venture Beat

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