Facebook's app for under-21s Lifestage flops

LifestageImage copyright Facebook Image caption Lifestage required at least 20 people from the same school to be members to let them see each other's posts

Facebook has killed off a video-focused app targeted at under-21s less than a year after it was launched.

Lifestage was designed to connect students going to the same school or university, making all of their posts available to each other.

But it faced criticism for having limited privacy controls and a "confusing" user interface.

The firm told Business Insider[1] it had "learned a lot" from the app and would feed this into Facebook itself.

Lifestage was developed by a product manager who was a teenager himself when it became available on the iOS App Store in late August 2016.

Members were encouraged to answer personal questions by filming video replies and were rewarded with emoji graphics for doing so.

Users were supposed to be under 21 to see others' profiles, but the software could be fooled into providing access if older members typed in false birth dates.

The app expanded to Android in October 2016 but never achieved mass adoption.

It joins a lengthening list of other cancelled apps from the firm, which includes:...

  • Groups - a standalone way to engage with common-interest communities and to arrange events with families and friends
  • Poke - a means to send messages to friends that disappeared after 10 seconds
  • Slingshot - a messaging service that let users draw on top of the photos and videos they sent to each other
  • Paper - a newsreading app whose design principles formed the basis for Facebook's Instant Articles[2]
  • Notify - a way to set up news story notifications from dozens of publishers
  • Riff - a video-sharing service in which users could build on the clips made by their friends
  • Rooms - a discussion app that let members share thoughts and media without revealing their true identities

References

  1. ^ told Business Insider (uk.businessinsider.com)
  2. ^ Facebook's Instant Articles (bbcnewslabs.co.uk)

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Podcast patent ruled invalid by court

woman listening to headphones on trainImage copyright Getty Images

A company that charged others for uploading video and audio content on to their own websites has had its podcast patent invalidated by a US court.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) argued that Personal Audio LCC had "not invented anything new" when it acquired the patent in 2012.

The practice of buying patents in order to make money out of popular unpatented inventions is known as patent trolling.

Personal Audio had tried to develop a digital audio player in the 1990s.

The product never went on sale.

In 2013, founder James Logan said he had spent $1.6m (£1.2m) on his creation.

"During the life of Personal Audio, I invested $1.6m, and lost it all," he said in a Slashdot interview that is on Personal Audio's website.[1]

"Personal Audio, LLC, the patent holding company, is the attempt by the investor, me, to get a return on that investment.

"When investors like me get our money back, plus some if we're lucky, it means that start-ups are not as risky as they might otherwise be."

However, the patent his company owns is not for one of his inventions.

The technology at the heart of the legal dispute allowed websites to be updated with new video and audio podcasts.

Companies targeted by Personal Audio for using it included the broadcasters CBS, NBC and Fox, and consumer electronics giant Samsung.

However, the EFF said people had already been uploading podcasts before Personal Audio filed for the patent in 2009.

Personal Audio began legal proceedings in 2013 and crowd-funded for costs.

"We're pleased that the federal circuit agreed that the podcasting patent is invalid," EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer said in a statement.[4]

"We appreciate all the support the podcasting community gave in fighting this bad patent."

Personal Audio could seek a review in the Supreme Court, the foundation added....

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US military to shoot down consumer drones

Drone banImage copyright Getty Images Image caption US military bases have been given permission to shoot down drones when appropriate

The Pentagon has given US military bases permission to shoot down or otherwise destroy consumer drones flying overhead and nearby.

A spokesman revealed that guidance was issued[1] on 4 August.

He said the exact terms of the policy were classified.

The move comes days after the US Army ordered its own troops to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI because of alleged "cyber-vulnerabilities".

Privacy worries

It became illegal to fly personal drones within 400ft (122m) of the US's 133 military facilities in April.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced at the time[2] that those who disobeyed the order would face financial penalties and possible criminal charges.

The watchdog has forecast[3] that US-based hobbyists will own more than 3.5 million drones by 2021, and that there could be a further 1.6 million commercial models in operation.

The technology's growing popularity has raised privacy and safety concerns.

There have already been incidents in which members of the public have shot down drones[4] flying over their own properties.

And the new guidance is intended to clarify what steps military bases can take, and warn local communities of the potential counter-measures.

"We retain the right of self-defence and when it comes to...drones operating over military installations, this new guidance does afford us the ability to take action to stop those threats," Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a written statement, adding that this included "tracking, disabling and destroying" the aircraft.

Military ban

The US Army's ban on DJI drones was first reported on 2 August by the SUAS News website[5].

It published a memo revealing that the armed forces had been told to cease all use of the Shenzhen-based firm's drones, to uninstall its applications and to disconnect any storage media from its devices.

Image copyright DJI Image caption DJI has emerged as the drone market's best-selling brand

DJI is the best-selling drone brand in North America, according to Skylogic Research.The firm indicated the development had caught it by surprise.

"We do not market our products for military customers, and if military members choose to buy and use our products as the best way to accomplish their tasks, we have no way of knowing who they are or what they do with them," said a spokesman.

"The US Army has not explained why it suddenly banned the use of DJI drones and components, what 'cyber-vulnerabilities' it is concerned about, or whether it has also excluded drones made by other manufacturers."

The US Army had little to add on the matter.

"We can confirm that guidance was issued;however, we are currently reviewing the guidance and cannot comment further at this time," a spokesman said.

The UK's Ministry of Defence told the BBC it had not purchased any of DJI's drones and had nothing further to add on the subject....

References

  1. ^ revealed that guidance was issued (www.defense.gov)
  2. ^ announced at the time (www.faa.gov)
  3. ^ watchdog has forecast (www.faa.gov)
  4. ^ shot down drones (www.bbc.co.uk)
  5. ^ the SUAS News website (www.suasnews.com)

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