Twitter’s stock plunges as user growth stalls

Enlarge / Traders at the New York Stock Exchange beneath a monitor displaying Twitter’s stock symbol in 2016. (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Several years ago, Twitter seemed like it would be the social media darling of the decade. Founders had dreams of being the first Internet company to reach one billion users, making it “the pulse of the planet.”

That’s not going to happen, and investors are cluing in. Twitter had 328 million average monthly active users, or MAU, in the three months ending in June, which is unchanged from the previous quarter. The company’s shares were down more than 10 percent this morning on the news.

The news comes despite Twitter’s role in the daily news cycle perhaps being more prominent than ever, given the platform often serves as President Donald Trump’s favored medium of expression.

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Cable lobby claims US is totally overflowing in broadband competition

(credit: Free Press)

Are you ever frustrated about a lack of choice for home Internet providers? Well, worry no more. The nation’s top cable lobby group is here to let you know that the US is simply overflowing in broadband competition.

In a new post titled, “America’s competitive TV and Internet markets,” NCTA-The Internet & Television Association says that Internet competition statistics are in great shape as long as you factor in slow DSL networks and smartphone access.

Competition isn’t just the rule in television, it defines broadband markets as well. In spite of living in one of the largest and most rural nations, 88 percent of American consumers can choose from at least two wired Internet service providers. When you include competition from mobile and satellite broadband providers, much of America is home to multiple competing ISPs leveraging different and ever-improving technologies. This competition has led to rapid

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YouTube Red and Google Play Music may merge into one service

(credit: Flickr: Rego Korosi )

Google is notorious for having many services that do similar things, like its array of chat apps. Google’s music services have been fragmented for years, but the company may change that soon. According to a report from The Verge, YouTube’s head of music Lyor Cohen stated at the New Music Seminar conference in New York last night that YouTube Red and Google Play Music should merge to make a singular, cohesive service.

Although the report doesn’t mention YouTube Music (which is a another separate service), it’s safe to say that all three streaming offerings could be combined into one. Google merged the YouTube Music and Google Play Music product teams together earlier this year, and that move came shortly after the business development teams for both services merged in 2016.

Google didn’t confirm or deny the merger, but the company did say users would be given notice well before any big

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Lawsuit seeks Ajit Pai’s net neutrality talks with Internet providers

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifying before a Senate subcommittee on May 11, 2016, when he was a commissioner. (credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission was sued today by a group that says the commission failed to comply with a public records request for communications about net neutrality between FCC officials and Internet service providers.

On April 26, a nonprofit called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request asking the FCC for all records related to communications on net neutrality between Internet service providers and Chairman Ajit Pai or Pai’s staff. The group asked for “correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas,” and any other records of such communications.

The group also asked for similar records related to FCC communications with members of Congress, congressional staff, and members of the media. But American Oversight’s lawsuit against the FCC says the commission hasn’t complied

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Verizon accused of violating net neutrality rules by throttling video

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Steven Puetzer)

The Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules by throttling video applications on its mobile network, advocacy group Free Press says.

Free Press is asking people to sign a petition that will be delivered to the FCC.

“Late last week Verizon Wireless customers started to notice something suspicious: Videos from Netflix and YouTube were slow,” the call for signatures says. “Verizon Wireless couldn’t explain why. When reporters asked the wireless giant to comment, the company first said it was just a temporary network test with no impact on user experience. But Verizon later admitted that, temporary test or not, it was indeed ‘optimizing’ video streams.”

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Democrat asks FCC chair if anything can stop net neutrality rollback

Enlarge / US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.). (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.) yesterday accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of pursuing an agenda that harms both consumers and small businesses.

“Chairman Pai, in the time that you have been head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” Doyle said during an FCC oversight hearing held by the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Doyle pointed to several of Pai’s decisions, including ending a net neutrality investigation into what Doyle called “anti-competitive zero-rating practices” by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Doyle criticized Pai moves that made it more difficult for poor people to get broadband subsidies and made it easier for large TV broadcasters to merge. The latter decision would “enable an unprecedented merger between Sinclair and Tribune that would give the

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Who owns Snopes? Fracas over fact-checking site now front and center

Enlarge / David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes, seen here at the US Embassy in Vienna, in June 2017. (credit: US Embassy Vienna)

As of Tuesday evening, Snopes.com, one of the Internet’s most longstanding fact-checking websites, successfully raised over $600,000 in less than 48 hours—an effort to stay afloat while an ugly legal battle is underway.

Snopes’ founder, David Mikkelson, told Ars in a lengthy phone interview that a Web development company, Proper Media, and two of its founders have essentially held the website “hostage” for months, keeping both data and money that should have gone to Snopes’ parent company, Bardav.

Bardav and Proper Media, which also runs other websites including TVTropes.org, made a business deal together that Bardav then cancelled in March 2017. Proper Media sued in May, alleging breach of contract, among other allegations. Mikkelson and Bardav countersued in June 2017.

Read

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UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040

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All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from UK roads from 2040, the government will announce on Wednesday in a revised “controversial bomb” air pollution plan.

The Tory government published a draft air pollution plan in May, but it faced criticism from environment lawyers and clean air campaigners for being too floppy at curbing the nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths in the UK each year. The High Court demanded that a final version of the plan be published by the end of July—and so here we are.

In addition to following in France’s footsteps with an internal combustion engine ban by 2040, the plan mostly focuses on empowering local councils to make major changes to their road systems. Reprogramming traffic lights, removing or redesigning speed bumps (!) and roundabouts, and retrofitting buses are all

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Toyota in “production engineering” for a solid state battery, WSJ says

Enlarge / A power cable sits in the charge point of a Toyota Motor Corp. FT- EV III concept electric vehicle on display during the China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China, on Saturday, November 21, 2015. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and Japan’s Chunichi Shimbun, Toyota is in the “production engineering” stage of building an electric vehicle (EV) battery with a solid electrolyte. Reports suggest the new battery will debut in Japan in a model 2022 car with an all-new platform.

So-called “solid state” batteries have both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. Solid-state batteries can be made smaller and lighter than the lithium-ion batteries that currently power electric vehicles, but engineering such a battery at an attractive price point for mass production has been a challenge. The Chunichi Shimbun reported that Toyota’s

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Net neutrality faceoff: Congress summons ISPs and websites to hearing

Enlarge / Netflix took an active role in fighting for net neutrality rules in 2014. (credit: Yuri Victor)

The biggest websites and the biggest Internet service providers are being summoned to Congress to testify about net neutrality.

US Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he is scheduling a full committee hearing titled, “Ground rules for the Internet ecosystem,” for September 7.

“Today I’m sending formal invitations to the top executives of the leading technology companies including Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Netflix, as well as broadband providers including Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter Communications, inviting each of them to come and testify before our full Energy and Commerce Committee,” Walden said during a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing this morning.

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Elon Musk: Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of AI is “limited”

Enlarge (credit: Bill Pugliano & Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

There aren’t many people in the world who can justifiably call Mark Zuckerberg a dumb-ass, but Elon Musk is probably one of them.

Early on Tuesday morning, in the latest salvo of a tussle between the two tech billionaires over the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, Musk said that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

I won’t rehash the entire argument here, but basically Elon Musk has been warning society for the last few years that we need to be careful of advanced artificial intelligence. Musk is concerned that humans will either become second-class citizens under super-smart AIs, or alternatively that we’ll face a Skynet-like scenario against a robot uprising.

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Democrats want to stop big telecom mergers, break up broadband monopolies

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Alex Wong)

Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries.

“Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care,” US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. “We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.”

The “Better Deal” unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for “cracking down on corporate monopolies

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Dockless bike sharing lands in Seattle—and leads us down unsavory alleyways

Enlarge / These bikes have not been thrown into the Puget Sound… yet. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

SEATTLE—Let’s say you want to whisk across a city’s downtown at a pace somewhere between walking and taxiing, and you’re not interested in bus waits or looking like a dork on a hoverboard. How about a bike? How about a bike that you can pick up on practically any street corner, then leave behind in the same fashion when you’re done?

That’s the promise of not one but two bike-sharing efforts (Spin and LimeBike) that launched in Seattle this week. They differ largely from another former Seattle bike-sharing program, Pronto, in that they don’t require any official docks. Take a bike; leave a bike. It’s the two-wheeled equivalent of app-powered, car-sharing services like Daimler AG’s Car2Go and BMW’s ReachNow, only with a much cheaper rate of $1 per half hour of use.

Upon hearing about these

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German energy company wants to build flow batteries in old natural gas caverns

Enlarge (credit: EWE)

A German energy company recently announced that it’s partnering with a university to build a massive flow battery in underground salt caverns that are currently used to store natural gas. The grid-tied battery, the company says, would be able to power Berlin for an hour.

The technology that the project is based on should be familiar to Ars readers. Two years ago, Ars wrote about an academic paper published in Nature that described “a recipe for an affordable, safe, and scalable flow battery.” German researchers had developed better components for a large, stationary battery that used negatively and positively charged liquid electrolyte pools to exchange electrons through a reasonably priced membrane. These so-called “flow batteries” are particularly interesting for grid use—they have low energy-density, so they don’t work for portable energy storage. But as receptacles for utility-scale electricity storage, their capacity is limited only by the amount

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German energy company wants to build flow batteries in old natural gas caverns

Enlarge (credit: EWE)

A German energy company recently announced that it’s partnering with a university to build a massive flow battery in underground salt caverns that are currently used to store natural gas. The grid-tied battery, the company says, would be able to power Berlin for an hour.

The technology that the project is based on should be familiar to Ars readers. Two years ago, Ars wrote about an academic paper published in Nature that described “a recipe for an affordable, safe, and scalable flow battery.” German researchers had developed better components for a large, stationary battery that used negatively and positively charged liquid electrolyte pools to exchange electrons through a reasonably priced membrane. These so-called “flow batteries” are particularly interesting for grid use—they have low energy-density, so they don’t work for portable energy storage. But as receptacles for utility-scale electricity storage, their capacity is limited only by the amount

Continue reading “German energy company wants to build flow batteries in old natural gas caverns”

Verizon accused of throttling Netflix and YouTube, admits “video optimization”

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | MrsWilkins)

Verizon Wireless customers this week noticed that Netflix’s speed test tool appears to be capped at 10Mbps, raising fears that the carrier is throttling video streaming on its mobile network.

When contacted by Ars this morning, Verizon acknowledged using a new video optimization system but said it is part of a temporary test and that it did not affect the actual quality of video. The video optimization appears to apply both to unlimited and limited mobile plans.

But some YouTube users are reporting degraded video, saying that using a VPN service can bypass the Verizon throttling. The Federal Communications Commission generally allows mobile carriers to limit video quality as long as the limitations are imposed equally across different video services despite net neutrality rules that outlaw throttling. The net neutrality rules have exceptions for network management.

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Amazon will pay full price to US retailers to boost its inventory

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Amazon sells a wide variety of products, but you can’t buy anything and everything through the online retailer. Amazon is reportedly trying to change this by sacrificing huge profits in favor of efficiency: according to a CNBC report, Amazon contacted thousands of third-party retailers via e-mail about taking part in a new program in which Amazon would buy their inventory at full price. Amazon would then be able to sell those products on its website, allowing it to quickly fulfill more orders around the world.

According to the e-mail obtained by CNBC, Amazon is offering “no additional fees” for a limited time for the third-party retailers that choose to be part of the new program. Amazon will buy their inventory at local market price, meaning Amazon likely won’t make much of a profit on those items if and when they sell on its website. But according to an Amazon

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Microsoft 4Q17: Office 365 revenue surpasses traditional licenses

(credit: Julien GONG Min)

In the fourth quarter of its 2017 financial year, Microsoft posted revenue of $23.3 billion, up 13 percent on a year ago, with an operating income of $5.3 billion (up 73 percent), a net income of $6.5 billion (up 109 percent), and earnings per share of $0.83 (up 112 percent on the same quarter last year).

For the full 2017 financial year, revenue was $90.0 billion (up 5 percent on 2016), operating income was $22.3 billion (up 11 percent), net income was $21.2 billion (up 26 percent), and earnings per share were $3.31 (up 29 percent).

Microsoft currently has three reporting segments: Productivity and Business Processes (covering Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, and Dynamics), Intelligent Cloud (including Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Enterprise Services), and More Personal Computing (covering Windows, hardware, and Xbox, as well

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Senator challenges Ajit Pai over evidence for net neutrality repeal

Enlarge / Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.). (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The evidence for repealing net neutrality rules isn’t good enough, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday.

Pai claims that the rules issued in 2015 are reducing investment in broadband networks, but Markey pointed out during a Senate hearing that ISPs have not reported any dramatic problems to their investors.

Markey said:

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NY-DC Hyperloop tunnel? Musk tweets about vague “verbal govt approval”

Enlarge (credit: The Boring Company)

Elon Musk has been talking about The Boring Company, his tunnel-digging endeavor, for months now. Today, he tweeted, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.”

Ars has reached out to Musk directly and to The Boring Company’s media contact to get more details on the “verbal govt approval.”

Ars also contacted the US Department of Transportation, and a White House spokesperson noted, “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”

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