WhatsApp down on New Year’s Eve; some users still facing service outage

WhatsApp down on New Year’s Eve; some users still facing service outage

Facebook said some users were still facing issues while accessing its messaging service. “We appear to be having issues again,” a WhatsApp spokesman told Reuters. The company had earlier said it had completely restored the service.

WhatsApp, however, did not provide any details on what led to the outage, which began shortly after 4.30 p.m. UK time on New Year’s Eve. WhatsApp had said it was working to fully restore service, but the company hadn’t revealed the reason of the outage.  There is no word on how and when it started. Whatsapp, owned by Facebook has about 900 million global users.

Last year at roughly the same time, WhatsApp users sent out a total of 54 billion messages on New Year’s day as seen from the tweet below.

The outage was known only once people started complaining on Twitter and Facebook. It was later confirmed by sites such as Down Detector. However, all users weren’t affected. Now, New Year’s Eve isn’t a good time to face such an outage.

Facebook Safety Check feature now active for Manipur quake

Facebook Safety Check feature now active for Manipur quake

With a powerful earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale rocking India’s northeastern region early Monday, Facebook has activated its safety check tool to help people in the area let friends and family know they are safe.

“A major earthquake just struck northeastern India and we’ve activated Safety Check to help people in the area let friends and family know they’re safe,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote.

Facebook Safety Check Manipur

“Tremors were also felt in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. If you appear to be nearby, we will send you a notification to access Safety Check so you can share that you are safe and see that people you care about are safe as well,” Zuckerberg posted on Facebook.

The quake occurred at 4.35 a.m. and had its epicentre in Manipur’s Tamenglong district. Initial reports indicate that one young girl was killed and 30 were injured.

“My thoughts are with everyone in the affected areas. May you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy,” Zuckerberg said.

Airtel Zero, Facebook Free Basics violate net neutrality

Airtel Zero, Facebook Free Basics violate net neutrality: Nasscom

IT industry body Nasscom today opposed Airtel Zero and Free Basics type platforms which it feels violate net neutrality principles by differentiating internet access for certain types of services.

“We at Nasscom oppose any model where TSPs (Telecom service providers) have a say or discretion in choosing a content that is made available at favourable rates or speeds etc,” Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar said today.

He further said that Nasscom has submitted its views before regulator Trai requesting not to allow operators price different kinds of services differently such as hire prices for video streaming, accessing e-commerce websites thereby segmenting the internet.

“Any such differential pricing by TSPs either directly like in the case of Airtel Zero or indirectly as in the case of Free Basics through a platform provider with limited access to the websites or internet, which are selected by the TSP or by the partner, violate criteria of net neutrality that we have outlined,” Chandrashekhar said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has invited comments from public till January 7 on its paper on differential data pricing – a key aspect of the raging debate on net neutrality.

A debate on net neutrality stirred across the country after Airtel decided to charge separately for Internet-based calls but withdrew it later after people protested.

Internet activists and experts flayed the operator for ‘Airtel Zero’ service along with Facebook’s Internet.org service, now Free Basics.
Trai’s paper mentions some plans which amount to differential tariffs of the telecom service provider who offer zero or discounted tariffs to certain contents of some websites, applications or platforms.

Facebook has been aggressively campaigning to support Free Basics service as it fears that platform may be banned in India. Facebook has tied up with Reliance Communications to offer the free Internet platform to its customers.

Earlier, Trai asked RCom to keep services of Facebook’s free Internet platform, Free Basics, in abeyance, till the issue on differential pricing is sorted out.
Chandrashekhar said that Nasscom has highlighted additional dangers that are posed by TSP or by its partner having near monopolistic access to vast amount of data based on this differential pricing.

“It is also critical that such differential pricing should not become a tool that facilitates market dominance or enables anti-competitive behavior by either TSP or platform provider or result in direct or indirect commercial benefit including by leveraging the value of customer data that gets generated in the process,” Chandrashekhar said.

He said that this is a concern particularly in the Indian context, wherein the absence of a privacy law enables widespread abuse or misuse of such information for commercial gain.
When asked about his views on Facebook claiming that Free

Basics access is open for all and any website or application can join it by following technical parameters laid by it, Chandrashekhar said that technical standards are being set by a company which also has right to change it at any point of time in future.

Nasscom, however, has supported differential pricing for services that are of public interest and including services like billing and other customer services.

Chandrashekhar said that Nasscom realises that there is low internet penetration in India and there are challenges related development of locally relevant contents, power etc.

“It is therefore important that the regulator should have the power to allow differential pricing for certain types of services that are deemed to be in public interest and based on mandatory prior approvals,” Chandrashekhar said.

He added that any such programs should abide by the principles of net neutrality and not constrain innovation in any way.

Mark Zuckerberg and Mahesh Murthy both of you are wrong

Mark Zuckerberg and Mahesh Murthy both of you are wrong

The problem with the current debate on Free Basics of Facebook and net neutrality is that its contours are determined by biased parties. The challenge in this is that it curtails the discussion to issues which matter to the biased parties leaving the big picture and impact out. Each one has an axe to grind and they do not represent the will or choice of the people.

Let’s understand the contours or the parameters first, Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook wants to be the gatekeeper for internet. He has realized the potential that India has with its vast population offers. While, others see a digital have and have nots, he sees an opportunity. A opportunity to bring millions of Indian online in an interesting manner. His ambition is not limited to just adding numbers for Facebook, he wants to create an ecosystem of internet partners by offering them free to internet users. It’s not a new strategy, when valuation are derived from users and not revenues its best to get them on board even if you have to pay for their access. Bhatia of Hotmail.com used it well in the late 90’s by offering free emails to Indians and boosting his valuation several fold. It shows Zuckerberg’s ambition.

So Facebook’s Free Basics allows telecom operators to give free access to Facebook and its partners, a conditional access. Thatcreates precedence for differential charging of data for specific websites. Creating an access barriers for startups.

This is being argued by venture capitalist Mr Mahesh Murthy as against the tenets of net neutrality a concept that says the access for the internet should be the same for all.  The argument isTelecom Service Providers should not be allowed to have differential pricing for data usage for accessing different websites, applications or platforms.

Murthy says, “I’m a net neutrality activist …. we are a small group, working unpaid, taking breaks from our regular jobs, and we’ve always been happy to tell you anything at all you wanted to know.” As a venture capitalist investing he is also very interested in keeping a level playing field between a startup and a Facebook. So the lobby against Facebook is made up of Indian and foreign internet players, who either don’t have enough cash to burn for giving free access or do not want to do it.

So it’s become a Facebook versus all the other internet players in India. The arbiter, referee and the regulator here is Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, a telecom regulator as free access is provided by telecom operator. TRAI in its infinite wisdom has issued a consultative paper and list of questions for citizens.

In regulatory speak the paper outlines the issue which would be impossible for a common man to understand. As not only is it written in legalese but it uses terms that only the internet industry understands. The questions that it has asked citizens to answer look like they have been drafted by a committee and cannot be understood.

For instance, to explain, where the TRAI derives its power, read this sample of explanation. “Non-discrimination” as defined in Clause 2(k) of the TTO is that service provider shall not, in the matter of application of tariffs, discriminate between subscribers of the same class and such classification of subscriber shall not be arbitrary. Clause 10 of the TTO provides that no service provider shall, in any manner, discriminate between subscribers of the same class and such classification of subscribers shall not be arbitrary. The provisions of TTO (33rd Amendment) inter alia provides that whenever differential tariffs are offered, it shall be the responsibility of the operators to define in a transparent and unambiguous manner, the eligibility criteria for availing such differential tariff. The Authority would consider such criteria to assess their consistency with the provisions of TTO relating to the non-arbitrary classification of subscribers.”

This section says that tariffs including zero tariffs cannot discriminate and if they do then TRAI has the power to step in to correct. But it loses readers in the first sentence itself.

Therefore, the survey by TRAI has got nixed with Facebook submitting its own version of citizen data. The most important question that TRAI asked was this :  Is there any other issue that should be considered in the present consultation on differential pricing for data services?

This is the question which captures the enormity of this debate and takes the issue beyond the biases. While the proponents of ‘Open Internet’ believe that the internet should be non-discriminatory and all websites should get the same access.

This is not the reality today, Internet has to be seen like any other large media platform and it needs its own regulation and control. When companies like Facebook that run a walled garden on the Internet talks about ‘Open Internet’ it is funny. Or when a payment site or e-commerce site or micro-blogging site uses the tenets of ‘Open Internet’ its not even funny it is ridiculous, hypocritical and insults the intelligence of this country.

Trolls, abuses, pornography, ISIS, terrorists, and a distracted generation is what has come out from following the ‘ Open Internet’ policy.

The most important first, neuroscientists have shown that the digital generation is a distracted one. Due to the millions of distractions there capability to focus and function is getting reduced. Does Digital India, that promises free wifi wants to create a digitally distracted generation.

One that is addicted to video feeds, likes, shopping and pornography. Will the government of any country able to forgive itself if in the name of Free Internet, Free Wifi it creates a generation like this.

Therefore the answer to the question that TRAI has asked about differential pricing is yes. For content that is of value, useful and appropriate for the coming generation should be charge differently. Other content can be commercially charged.

Net neutrality does not mean that all kinds of apps, platforms or websites should have the same access rights when the government is offering free internet. We have a case study for it Doordarshan gives a free Dish does it allows all kind of content. NO.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Mahesh Murthy have to revise their definition of open Internet and Net neutrality to take into account the future of internet access.

TRAI asks supporters to avoid using set template for comments

Free Basics: TRAI asks supporters to avoid using set template for comments

Facebook’s aggressive Free Basics campaign backfired with the telecom regulator TRAI asking respondents to its ‘Net Neutrality’ consultation paper to comment on specific issues rather than following a template provided by the social media giant.

TRAI, which yesterday extended the deadline for submission of comments till January 7 amid an intensified campaign for and against Free Basics, said a large percentage of the record number of 18.27 lakh responses have been only about supporting the specific Facebook product without answering the larger issue of ‘differential pricing’ concerning Net Neutrality.

Free Basics, which Facebook is promoting with double-page newspaper advertisements for days as also through TV, billboards and online forums, is being seen in many quarters as being against the basic principles of Net Neutrality.

TRAI, which has already ordered Free Basics to be put on hold in India, is now likely to finalise views on the issue of Net Neutrality by January-end.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma said that a record 18.27 lakh responses have been received so far, of which a large percentage are about supporting a specific product called Free Basics. Indicating that the whole consultation process could have been hijacked, Sharma said: “It is like we have asked Question X and they have given answer to the Question Y.”

He said the authority has received 8.9 lakh responses supporting Free Basics where the respondents have just given their mobile number whereas 5.44 lakh comments are received through Facebook mail.

“… so about 14.34 lakh are such comments. Now the problem for this is that we had asked for response to the specific question of differential pricing… instead we have got responses on supporting Free Basics. Now how supporting Free Basics help in answering the questions… it has become difficult for us to arrive at,” Sharma said.

He further said one approach that could have been taken is to just ignore these responses but as people have taken time out to respond, therefore ignoring the comments is not fair.

“… that was one of the reasons why we extended the deadline because we thought just ignoring this will not be appropriate because this is the record number of responses which we have got,” he said.

Sharma said the authority has decided that those places where they have the email ids of these template responses, TRAI will respond back to them asking to answer the questions raised in the paper along with their justifications.

He, however, did not elaborate if the people did not reply to TRAI, the comments on Free Basics would be termed invalid.

“Consultation by TRAI are not opinion polls, we are not asking if the answer is yes or no because that does not help us. We are asking why you think it is yes or no because that helps us in formulating the policy or guidelines. To all those whom we can approach, we will try to reach them,” Sharma said.

The regulator has received 3.81 lakh comments from people claiming supporters of net neutrality.

Sharma said although these comments are also in a template form but the template answers all the questions with minor variations so there is no need to write back to them.

Savetheinternet.in team said: “We welcome TRAI’s decision to give the supporters of Free Basics an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the consultation process by answering the questions posed by TRAI. Those who support services like Airtel Zero and Free Basics can use the tool at savetheinternet website, write their own answers and send them to TRAI.”

TRAI extended the last date for receiving comments on its paper on differential data pricing to January 7 and January 14 for counter comments.  Although the paper by TRAI does not mention or use the term net neutrality, it details the idea of zero-rating platforms that have stirred up a big debate on the issue across the country.

As per SavetheInternet forum, Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that rides over their networks.

The Internet.org project, which Facebook launched in India in association with Reliance Communications, was recently renamed as Free Basics and offers free access to a set of websites and services with the objective of introducing Internet.

Earlier this month, TRAI had asked Reliance Communications to keep services of Facebook’s free Internet platform, Free Basics, in abeyance, till the issue on differential pricing is sorted out.

“We have told one of the operators who had submitted its tariff plans and had asked the operator to put this particular product (Free Basics) in abeyance… that operator has given us in writing that they have put their commercial launch of the product in abeyance,” Sharma said.

Nandan Nilekani believes India can come up with better free internet schemes

Free Basics: Nandan Nilekani believes India can come up with better free internet schemes

As of now there are those who hate the idea of Facebook’s Free Basics and those who do stand for it. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is fed up of the comments as well. It recently asked all those who were supporting Facebook’s Free Basics to be specific and not go with set template that social network has been automating for its users to support its initiative. But now there seems to be other ideas emanating from the whole Free Basics discussion.

Nandan Nilekani, Indian entrepreneur, bureaucrat and politician, is now the newest to oppose the Facebook Free Basics campaign. And he doesn’t just stop at complaints, but provides some valuable solutions as well.

In a recent post  in the Times of India blog, Nilekani pointed out a simpler and leaner idea that will not just get a few million on board the internet, but give them the freedom to choose what they want to access. The idea works perfectly with the net neutrality debate and according to his calculation, will benefit the millions who are currently offline and at the end of it all keep everyone including the Government happy.

Penned down in his article along with Viral Shah, the gent claims that his idea is ” based on the success of LPG DBT or Pahal, where over 100 million families receive LPG subsidy in their bank accounts.”.

He went on to explain how the government could offer a similar Data Pack Direct Benefit Transfer(DBT) scheme wherein that offers 120MB of data annually to every subscriber with the first 10MB free every month.

He goes on to show that how it makes every bit of sense as well, “Even with all existing 400 million data users plus 400 million new data users being offered a free Data Pack DBT, the cost to the government would be 30/user x 800 million users = 2,400 crore a year. People may buy multiple SIMs for free data, but this problem is easily solved by linking mobile numbers to Aadhaar numbers (now held by 950 million people) so that one person can get access to only one Data Pack DBT.”

A fool-proof plan indeed, but certainly sounds a lot better than what Facebook is rooting for. Clearly, the biggest problem with Free Basics is not what its up to, but what it disguises in its promotions that seems to be annoying everyone. That would essentially be a closed internet with plenty of filters and boundaries. Indeed, everybody needs to read between the lines before they stand for or against it.

Mark Zuckerberg starts running challenge on Facebook; pledges to run 365 miles

Mark Zuckerberg starts running challenge on Facebook; pledges to run 365 miles

After revealing his plans to build Marvel comic books’ and movies’ Jarvis-like artificially intelligent butler, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has thrown a running challenge to the Facebook community.

He announced on his Facebook page that he has a physical challenge for 2016 and it was running 365 miles. He cited last year’s success of ‘A Year of Books’ initiative and said that it was fun to read along with thousands of people across the world.

Calling this year’s challenge ‘A Year of Running’, he has set up a public group where he expects everyone to discuss their running adventures and where he will be posting his progress too. “This is a lot of running, but it’s not a crazy amount. It’s a mile a day, and at a moderate pace it’s less than 10 minutes of running per day,” Zuckerberg said on the Facebook page.

‘A Year of Running’ is up and running and already has over 40,000 members.

Facebook has backup plan to keep it running on Android

Facebook has backup plan to keep it running on Android

Facebook is ready with a contingency plan should Google ever pull its Android app from the Play Store, according to a media report.

Facebook and Google are at odds with each other given their competing ad and search interests, but according to sources, the world’s largest social network is ready if things ever really go down the tubes, engadget.com reported on Tuesday.

To begin with, Facebook would replicate many of the services that one gets through Google Play-enabled apps, like in-app purchases and updates.

It has also explored ways to help people download its app outside of a store, and considered alternatives to Google Maps for location info, the report said, adding that Facebook may have even gone so far as to test Android users’ dependence on its app.

It’s not known if Google was aware of this fallback before now, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the search giant had at least considered the possibility.

The report added that it’s doubtful that Zuckerberg and crew would give up a competitive tool like Facebook app any time soon, as this would mean shooting itself in the foot given the social network is a big draw to the Play Store and a source of in-app revenue.

Facebook did not comment on the apparent leak.

Facebook, Panasonic develop cold storage Blu-ray data archive systems for data centers

Facebook, Panasonic develop cold storage Blu-ray data archive systems for data centers

Panasonic Corporation has announced that it has developed freeze-ray, an Optical Disc-Based Data Archive System in collaboration with Facebook. By collaborating with Facebook, Panasonic was able to design freeze-ray to meet the growing demand for more efficient and sustainable ways to store and access cold data — infrequently or never accessed data stored for the long term — in the world’s data centers.

The freeze-ray solution reduces data center operating costs and energy use with strong data integrity. This data archiving solution provides optimal cold storage for protecting data integrity and reducing costs in data centers thanks to the special characteristics of optical discs, including their longevity, immutability, backward compatibility, low power consumption and tolerance to environmental changes. Both companies see the freeze-ray data archiving solution, incorporating hundreds of optical discs, as a viable solution for data centers to enable the industry to enjoy the benefits of the solution with greater economies of scale.

Panasonic’s contribution to the effort was its high-density optical technology, key devices (optical discs, drives and related robotics) and library software to control the system easily in the data center. Facebook collaborated by providing its unmatched expertise in designing, deploying, managing and servicing storage systems in data centers. In addition, Facebook provided with technical and real-world data center feedback. Both companies have been working on two generations of the freeze-ray solution. Facebook is deploying the first-generation 100 GB Blu-ray Disc-based archive system into its data centers now, and expects deployment of the second-generation 300GB Archival Disc-based archive system later in 2016.

“As Facebook continues to grow, we needed to address some of our fundamental engineering challenges with an efficient, low-cost and sustainable solution that matches our speed and exabyte-scale of data,” said Jason Taylor, PhD, VP of Infrastructure, Facebook. “We’re seeing exponential growth in the number of photos and videos being uploaded to Facebook, and the work we’ve done with Panasonic is exciting because optical storage introduces a medium that is immutable, which helps ensure that people have long-term access to their digital memories.”

“Panasonic is delighted by the opportunity to collaborate with Facebook, with its strong position and influence in the data storage market and expertise necessary to develop the optical data archiver in validation with actual data center environments,” said Yasuji Enokido, President of Panasonic’s AVC Networks Company.

Both companies plan to continue to collaborate in the study of and eventual development of next- generation systems utilizing higher densities of 500 GB-and one-terabyte Archival Discs to realize a multi petabyte cold storage archive system.

Twitter may consider 10000-character limit for tweets

Twitter may consider 10000-character limit for tweets

Twitter appears ready to loosen its decade-old restriction on the length of messages in a bid to make its service more appealing to a wider audience accustomed to the greater freedom offered by Facebook and other forums.

CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey telegraphed Twitter’s intentions in a tweet posted after the technology news site Re/Code reported the company is exploring increasing its limits on text from 140 characters to as many as 10,000.

Dorsey didn’t directly address the Re/Code report that cited unnamed people, but he made it clear that Twitter isn’t wedded to the 140-character limit. He illustrated his point by posting a screenshot of a text consisting of 1,325 characters.

If Twitter were to allow tweets to span 10,000 characters, it could produce 1,700-word dissertations, based on the size of Dorsey’s extended post.

San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. declined to comment on its plans.

In his message, Dorsey wrote that Twitter has already noticed that many of its roughly 300 million users already have been including screenshots of lengthy texts in their tweets. He indicated Twitter is examining ways to give people more room to express themselves without polluting the service with gasbags.

Imposing some restraint “inspires creativity and brevity. And a sense of speed. We will never lose that feeling,” Dorsey pledged.

At the same time, Dorsey said Twitter isn’t “going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people. As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.”

Analysts said Dorsey is probably trying to avoid a backlash among long-time Twitter users who consider the 140-character tweeting limit sacred. At the same time, he needs to respond to company shareholders pining for a bigger audience that would generate more advertising revenue.

More revenue eventually could help Twitter turn a profit for the first time in its history.

Twitter can’t afford “to become stagnant, they need to get bigger if they want to build a more relevant advertising platform,” said Topeka Capital Markets analyst Blake Harper.

After a long streak of robust growth that turned it into one of the Internet’s hottest companies, Twitter’s growth has slowed dramatically during the past year-and-half to leave it scrambling to catch up with social networking leader Facebook and its 1.5 billion users.

Twitter’s malaise resulted in the departure of Dick Costolo as the company’s CEO last July and ushered in the return of Dorsey, who had been ousted as the company’s leader in 2008.

The pressure has been building on Dorsey to take drastic measures to accelerate user growth as Twitter’s stock has sunk further below its November 2013 initial public offering price of $26. The shares shed 64 cents Tuesday to close at $21.92, a decline of nearly 40 percent from where they stood from when Dorsey became CEO last summer.

Dorsey helped invent Twitter in 2006 and imposed a 140-character limit on messages so the service would be easy to use on cellphones that had 160-character limits on texts at that time.

Those texting limits on phones faded away several years ago as the advent of smartphones enabled people to use other Internet messaging services, making Twitter’s restrictions look increasingly antiquated.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes an increased limit on tweets would be a “good, baby step” to attracting more users to Twitter and believes it could be done without alienating the service’s current audience. One way to make an increased limit less obnoxious would be to only show a limited amount of text in users’ feeds and then leave it to each individual to click on a button to see more.

“Twitter is an afterthought in social media right now,” Pachter said. “They need to do something to drive more usage of the service. If people start using the service more frequently, other users will come join in, too.”