The defense of net neutrality
The core principle behind the net neutrality movement is that all data should be treated equally. Internet service providers (ISPs) are challenging that viewpoint by proposing ‘fast lanes’ for certain content delivered on the internet, and charging more for anything utilizing these fast speeds. Technology firms have been left outraged by the plans, as they feel that the move would negatively affect startups and strangle the tech sector, especially as many new startups require speedy delivery of their services, and would not be able to afford to pay extra to secure a fast lane.
The new system would also allow the ISPs unprecedented control over what the consumer views, reads, watches and downloads, as they would have the power to throttle speeds as and when they choose.
The backlash against the cable service providers has been widespread and profound. On September 10, 2014, a coalition of companies, websites, and all kinds of internet users implemented the Internet Slowdown. The members of the resistance, including prominent sites like Netflix, Vimeo, Reddit, Mozilla, Foursquare, and many more, added an animated widget of the well known “loading” icon shown to users when a computer is moving slowly. Anyone who visited one of the participating websites would first see this widget. The gesture is meant to symbolize what the internet might look like one day should net neutrality be compromised.
As an individual internet user, consumers were encouraged to visit the website www.battleforthenet.com to download the widget for their own sites, allowing the movement to grow and increase awareness rapidly. During the day of the Internet Slowdown, over 10,000 websites participated in the resistance. According to Fight for the Future, a public advocacy organization, nearly 2 million comments in total have been filed to the FCC regarding the proposals in the wake of the online movement to preserve “net neutrality.” As it continues to grow, the online rebellion against ISPs and their attempt to control the internet could go down as the largest digital resistance in history.
Microsoft’s move for Minecraft
Microsoft is in talks with Swedish gaming studio Mojang over acquiring the maker of the popular game Minecraft, in a deal potentially worth up to about $2bn, according to reports. Minecraft is the top selling PC game of all time and has stolen the hearts of gamers across the globe. Should the deal go through, it would mark Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first multibillion dollar deal since he took over the company.
Minecraft is an advanced and virtual version of lego that allows users to acquire raw materials such as dirt, rock, lava, etc and use these resources to build shelters, forge weapons to ward off enemies, and engage in a whole range of other creative endeavors. With 33 million users since the game’s release in 2011, it seems that people, mainly 9-15 year old boys, have bought into this virtual reality.
While some gamers worry about the cultural implications for the game in the lead up to Microsoft’s alleged takeover, others have emphasized the game’s educational potential. Certain tasks can be embedded into the game to introduce kids to skills like computer programming, prompting it to be used in some classrooms. Minecraft has been pegged to unite schoolchildren everywhere – according to Joel Levin, coordinator of Minecraftedu,” those computer skills become transferable into social capital.”
The deal would mark the second $2bn takeover of a video game company this year, following Facebook’s acquisition of the virtual reality headset company Oculus in March. Reports suggest the deal will be announced on Monday.
Home Depot confirms hack
Any customer that used a debit or credit card in one of Home Depot’s 2,200 stores across the U.S. and Canada since April, 2014 could potentially be affected by a mass breach of the retail giant’s payment system.
After being notified by banks of an increase in fraudulent ATM withdrawals, Home Depot discovered that hackers had acquired vast amounts of customer card information which has been sold online in cybercrime stores or in underground crime shops. Reports suggest that similar BlackPOS malware, responsible for the recent Target retail store breach, was used in the attack. In the Target incident, the personal information of up to 70 million customers was potentially exposed.
Home Depot continues to investigate the hack and plans to roll out EMV chip card technology to replace the traditional payment system of swiping the magnetic strip of a debit or credit card, a practice that is particularly common still in the U.S. and leaves retail stores vulnerable to information copying.
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This week in numbers
Ifbyphone, a voice-based marketing company, raised a Series E round of funding worth $30 million, led by NewSpring Capital.
Security company Veracode closed a $40m funding round
Pittsburgh-based 4moms, a robotics company which makes baby products, secured $41 million in new funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Castanea Partners.