The problem with streaming video to different devices—computers, tablets, phones, and whatever else—is that they all demand subtly different streams if they’re to look their best. If you’re Netflix, which streams to 900 different types of device, that leaves you with some work to do.
According to Netflix, it has to encode each and every movie it offers in 120 different ways. Add to that the crowd sourcing of subtitles, global variation in titles and formats, and an armful of other problems, and the work Netflix has to go to makes $8 a month seem even better value. The video above was used at a Netflix recruitment fair—but gives a decent insight into how its video wends its way from Hollywood to your tablet. [GigaOm]
The internet is starting to realize something unsettling: our iPhones send information about the people we know to private servers, often without our permission. Some offending apps are fixing themselves. Some aren’t. But the underlying problem is much bigger.
Apple allows any app to access your address book at any time—it’s built into the iPhone’s core software. The idea is to make using these apps more seamless and magical, in that you won’t have dialog boxes popping up in your face all the time, the way Apple zealously guards your location permissions at an OS level—because fewer clicks mean a more graceful experience, right? Maybe, but the consequence is privacy shivved and consent nullified. Your phone makes decisions about what’s okay to share with a company, whose motivation is, ultimately, making money, without consulting you first.
Once you peel back that pretty skin of your phone and observe the software at work—we used a proxy application called Charles—watching the data that jumps between your phone and a remote server is plain. A little too plain. What can we see?
As Paul Haddad, the developer behind the popular Twitter client TapBot pointed out to me, some of App Store’s shiniest celebrities are among those that beam away your contact list in order to make hooking up with other friends who use the app smoother. From Haddad’s own findings:
Foursquare (Email, Phone Numbers no warning)
Path (Pretty much everything after warning)
Instagram (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Facebook (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Twitter for iOS (Email, Phone Numbers, warning)
Voxer (Email, First, Last, Phone numbers, warning)
Foursquare and Instagram have both recently updated to provide a much clearer warning of what you’re about to share. Which every single app should follow, providing clear warnings before they touch your contacts. But plenty of apps aren’t so generous. “A lot of other popular social networking apps send some data,” says Haddad, “mostly names, emails, phone numbers.” Instapaper, for example, transmits your address book’s email listings when you ask it to “search contacts” to connect with other friends using the app. The app never makes it clear that my data (shown up top) is leaving the phone—and once it’s out of your hands and in Instagram’s, all you can do is trust that it’ll be handled responsibly. You know, like not be stored permanently without your knowledge.
Trust is all we’ve got, and that’s not good. “Once the data is out of your device there’s no way to tell what happens to it,” explains Haddad. Companies might do the decent thing and delete your data immediately. Like Foursquare, which says it doesn’t store your data at all after matching your friends, and never has. Twitter keeps your address book data for 18 months “to make it easy for you and your contacts to discover each other on Twitter after you’ve signed up,” but can delete the data at any time with a link at the bottom of this page. Or a company might do the Path thing, storing that information indefinitely until they’re publicly shamed into doing otherwise. Or worse.
We need a solution, and goodwill on the part of app devs is going to cut it. All the ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS? dialog boxes in the world won’t absolve Apple’s decision to hand out our address books on a pearly platter. iOS is the biggest threat to iOS—and nothing short of a major revision to the way Apple allows apps to run through your contacts should be acceptable. But is that even enough? Maybe not.
Jay Freeman, developer behind the massively popular jailbroken-iPhone program Cydia, doesn’t think Apple’s hand is enough to definitively state who gets your address book, and when:
“Neither Apple nor the application developer is in a good position to decide that ahead of time, and due to this neither Apple’s model of ‘any app can access the address book, no app can access your recent calls’, nor Google’s method of ‘developer claims they need X, take it or leave it’ is sufficient.”
Freeman’s solution? Cydia’s “one-off modifications to the underlying operating system” that we deal in, nicely transfers this control back to the user.” In other words, we can’t trust Apple or the people that make apps—so let’s just trust ourselves to control how iOS works.
Freeman left us with one, final, disquieting note. Shrewd devs and others with the knowhow have been able to dig through app traffic to find out of they’re shoveling around your address book. But there’s no easy way to do this—and if a dev really wants to sneak your data through the door, there’s technically nothing we can do to stop him: “There are tons of complex tricks that can be used to smuggle both information in network traffic and computation itself.” It’s a problem fundamental to computer science—once the data’s in a dev’s hands, he can conjure it away, too small to be noticed by App Store oversight in churning sea of other apps.
Unless Apple keeps him from getting that information in the first place by letting us all make informed decisions with our phone and the private life poured into it. Your move, iOS.
We love this chart from Dan Frommer at SplatF.
He calls it the “Eggs In One Basket” index, because it charts out the largest source of revenue as a percentage for all the major tech companies. (Profits would be a different story altogether.)
Google gets over 90% of its revenue from one source: Advertising. The next closest is Amazon with product sales. But, Amazon’s product sales are a mix of goods, so it’s not exactly the same as relying on just advertising.
For now, this isn’t a big problem for Google. The online ad market is still growing, and Google can capture a lot of the market. But, if things were to change, or advertising were to slow down, then look out.
What’s incredible about this chart is how diverse Microsoft is from a sales perspective. Its most dominant business group, Office, only accounts for 30% of sales. Read more on the chart from Frommer here →
In a weird twist of events, the hole was actually found by Infoworld, a news site that covers the tech industry. Oracle even gave the publication a public credit for finding and reporting the hole — and waiting to publish the story until Oracle could issue a patch, which it did today.
The flaw had to do with time stamp technology that acts like an internal clock. This clock is the key to keeping data synchronized and safe. When multiple databases are linked together the clock could be manipulated to be inaccurate. This is one of those critical systems that was difficult to fix and affected a long list of Oracle’s products.
The critical patch sent out today fixes a whole bunch of other flaws, too. Some 78 holes will be patched across all of Oracle’s major product families.
Inforworld contends that Oracle executives knew about the time stamp problem and not only downplayed it, but issued a workaround fix that could have caused customers even more headaches and money. Oracle seems to have gotten its act together and really fixed the security flaw this time, Infoworld says.
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It seems you can’t follow the tech industry today without being bombarded with reports heralding the impending death of television as we know it. While we believe the television model will eventually be disrupted, there’s no evidence of any imminent collapse. Instead, the likely scenario is of a very slow decline, with TV remaining an amazingly large and profitable business for many many years to come.
A new survey from Deloitte indicates viewers are engaging with that model in new ways, with bad implications for the network’s ad sales. When asked how they watched their favorite show, 71% of respondents chose live TV, down from 87% three years ago. Some of the biggest winners? DVR, on demand, and the show’s internet site.
What does it mean? Consumers are wising up that you’re no longer chained to a show’s air date and if you have the patience to wait 30 minutes you can skip all the ads. The real big problem, however, is that these are engaged consumers with intent. In other words, exactly the kind of people advertisers want to be reaching.
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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