Best of Today (7/25)

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Best of Today (7/22)

Netflix coming to Facebook overseas, but not in U.S. A legacy of Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination hearings means Americans won't get to use Netflix on Facebook.

Netflix coming to Facebook overseas, but not in U.S.

In a letter to investors that accompanied its financial results Monday, Netflix said that this fall it will launch its Facebook integration in Canada and Latin America but not in the U.S. The reason: The Video Privacy Protection Act, a 1988 law that forbids the disclosure of people's video rental information. Companies that violate the law are liable up to $2,500 for each infraction. The VPPA was passed in response to the disclosure of Bork's history of video rentals during his failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. Google+ and the loss of online anonymity. Updated: As Google rolls out its Google+ social network, it is struggling with the same questions about identity that have caused problems for Facebook in the past: namely, how much should it force people to use their “real” names?

Google+ and the loss of online anonymity

The web giant has been disabling user accounts on Google+ for a variety of reasons over the past few weeks, but it has caused an outcry from many who feel it is being too strict in some cases and not enough in others. The big issue at the root of this battle, as we have pointed out before, is that in many cases anonymity (and pseudonymity) has real value. Are we losing that as a result of Google and Facebook’s real-name obsession? Those who have seen their accounts suspended in the recent crackdown by Google+ include some prominent members of the hacker community, including one programmer who goes by the single name “Skud,” as well as one well-known iPhone developer who’s usual moniker is “MuscleNerd.” Why Google cares if you use your real name. Over the weekend there was a bit of hoo-hah about accounts swept off Google-Plus, because they didn't have the users' real name.

Why Google cares if you use your real name

I don't really have an opinion about whether this is good or bad. I don't think it's a moral issue. It's official: Time machines won't work. Doc's super fast car won't do it.

It's official: Time machines won't work

Neither will Bill and Ted's magic telephone booth. Physicists at the Hong Kong University of Technology and Science have just proved that no machine will ever allow a person to travel through time because time travel is flat-out impossible. Not just unlikely, or we don’t have the technology yet, but, beyond the limits of the physical laws of the universe. You might think time travel has always belonged in the world of fantasy, but 10 years ago some scientists began to believe time travel might actually be possible when superluminal -- or faster-than-light -- propagation of some specific medium were discovered.

Design View / Andy Rutledge - News Redux. Digital news is broken.

Design View / Andy Rutledge - News Redux

Actually, news itself is broken. Almost all news organizations have abandoned reporting in favor of editorial; have cultivated reader opinion in place of responsibility; and have traded ethical standards for misdirection and whatever consensus defines as forgivable. And this is before you even lay eyes on what passes for news design on a monitor or device screen these days. In digital media—websites in particular—news outlets seldom if ever treat content with any sort of dignity and most news sites are wedded to a broken profit model that compels them to present a nearly unusable mishmash of pink noise…which they call content. In an effort to disguise and mitigate the fact that they have little idea how to publish digital content properly—often sneakily called “differentiation”—some news outlets release apps for digital devices.

Borders Books is down -14 square miles to go... - Jonathan Steiman. Bing Becomes a Costly Distraction for Microsoft - Breakingviews. Earth to Microsoft: Don’t sell Bing. In the New York Times, Robert Cryan and Martin Hutchison of Reuters BreakingViews suggest that Microslft sell its Bing search engine, either outright or in exchange for stock in a company that can do more with it than rank a distant #2 to Google while piling up billions per year in losses, which is what Bing is doing for Microsoft right now.

Earth to Microsoft: Don’t sell Bing.

Bing is a good search engine, but it still seems derivative. Even where it leads, it seems to follow. Take “bird’s eye views” in map searches. Apple Sales in China Zoom Ahead of Competitors. Huge crowds descend the store’s glass staircase, only to discover legions of mostly young Chinese crowding around spare displays of Apple’s devices.

Apple Sales in China Zoom Ahead of Competitors

Another Apple Store, four miles away, is also packed. To cope, Apple says it is now planning a third, even larger Shanghai store, as well as dozens of other stores throughout the country. The expansion is driven by customers like Wang Shangyan, a 17-year-old professed Apple maniac. SEO Shop Puts 50 Google +1s on Sale for Just $9.99 - Alexis Madrigal - Technology. You knew it had to happen, right?

SEO Shop Puts 50 Google +1s on Sale for Just $9.99 - Alexis Madrigal - Technology

As soon as Google opened up its search engine to "social signals," the search engine optimization shops had to find ways to game the system. One, Plussem.com, an arm of SEOShop.biz*, is offering +1s at the rate of 50 for $10, 250 for $30, or 2,000 for $170. In a galling turn, the company says, "Buying Plus Ones can help your site out by showing Google that the content featured on it or the page being is of value to real people and not spammy.

" That is to say, you should buy their spammy +1 service to prove to Google that your content is not spammy. Ugh. Why Do Viral Videos Go Viral? Kobo, WSJ Halt Direct Sales on Apple-Device Apps. Sidestepping Apple: From Amazon to Condé Nast, Companies Rethink App Strategies. We all knew that once Apple starting enforcing new rules for in-app purchases, it would change how media companies do business on the iPhone and iPad.

Sidestepping Apple: From Amazon to Condé Nast, Companies Rethink App Strategies

Now, we’re beginning to see just what that looks like for companies trying to avoid giving a 30 percent cut to Cupertino. Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble all removed the stores from their iOS applications on Monday, as well as any hyperlinks to or mentions of their online stores. Google Books — recently announced distribution and retail partner for the new multiplatform Harry Potter e-books — is simply gone from the App Store, without explanation from either Apple or Google, although possibly a revised app may be forthcoming. Users of these newly-storeless apps can still download and read all content purchased elsewhere. OS X Lion: Macs are no longer beginner-friendly. Now that OS X Lion has been out for a couple of days, complaints are mounting from users about how some of their favorite functions have changed or that adapting to “natural scrolling” is difficult due to years of muscle memory.

OS X Lion: Macs are no longer beginner-friendly

One thing people aren’t talking about, however, is the effect that Lion’s changes will have on new users — who nearly always switch from Windows machines. When not-so-tech-savvy people have asked my opinion in the past about whether they (or their parents, sister, etc.) should get a Mac, what I’ve always said to them was this: One thing that makes Macs so great is that they’re simple enough for your grandma to learn how to use, but they’ve also got all the features and capabilities to make the most experienced power user feel right at home. That doesn’t feel true with Lion, not by a long shot.