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Business Technology

LinkedIn To Introduce Secondary Status Line for Profiles

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Since falling under Microsoft’s wing, LinkedIn has gone through major changes and more incremental tweaks. In its latest move, the company is looking to change the way users see the status line in the app.

According to reverse engineer Jane Wong, LinkedIn will soon have two status line. Firstly, there will be the “Headline” status line that is currently on the platform. Next there will be a new “Current Status” that will serve as a secondary line.

While it is unclear the exact purpose of the secondary line, it seems to be for status updates that are short term. This would allow LinkedIn users to efficiently tell visitors their status.

For example, the Headline status would cover wider work goals such as “engineer for X company” while the secondary line would allow more incremental status updates like “current developing X”.

While Wong discovered this feature is in the pipeline, it is unknown when LinkedIn will make it official.

Growth

Last month, Microsoft debuted a couple of interesting new features for LinkedIn. The first was a poll tool for feedback information. The new polls feature allows organizations and individuals to gain valuable feedback and can be created in 30 seconds.

Microsoft also introduced LinkedIn Virtual Events. This a combination of the company’s Live and Events features to help businesses host events during COVID-19.

LinkedIn continues to enjoy steady growth, seemingly making Microsoft’s bumper $26 billion acquisition of the company a wise move. In its last financial results, Redmond revealed the platform’s revenue increased 21 percent.

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Business Technology

Microsoft Confirms Virtual Build 2020 Will be Held May 19-20

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Microsoft has announced the dates for its virtual Build 2020 developer conference. The company says the event will be held on May 19 and May 20.

It seems a long time ago that the COVID-19 outbreak started and first influenced all aspects of our lives. However, it was only two months ago. Back in February, coronavirus was a concern, but its threat only included caution and some tech events being cancelled. How times have changes.

Some of those events were Microsoft’s as the company was about to embark on a busy conference season. Build 2020 was the biggest casualty as the physical event was cancelled. However, Microsoft was committed to delivering its events in the digital space.

“The safety of our community is a top priority. In light of the health safety recommendations for Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build event for developers as a digital event, in lieu of an in-person event,” Microsoft said. “We look forward to bringing together our ecosystem of developers in this new virtual format to learn, connect and code together. Stay tuned for more details to come.”

Date Confirmation

While the company announced Build 2020 would be held online, date confirmations were not given. When Microsoft announced Build 2020 last September, the dates for the physical conference were May 19-21.

So, for the virtual event the company is sticking to hat schedule, albeit with one day shaved off. It is worth pointing out Microsoft never suggested the dates would change, so this only serves as some official confirmation.

During the Windows Insider podcase, Microsoft discussed how developers can work with Build this year.

“Join us for virtual booth sessions to ask questions, talk about Build content, and chat with the Windows Insider team. Mark your calendar and follow our Mixer channel now!”

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Business Technology

Microsoft Forgotten GroupMe App Scores Skype Video Call Integration

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Who remembers Microsoft GroupMe? You, at the back? Well, the forgotten chat and messaging app has been given a breath of life. Microsoft has decided to roll up an update for the tool. This is a surprise because GroupMe has been ignored by the company in recent years.

If you are unfamiliar with GroupMe, it is a service that gives users tools to sort and manage contacts by creating groups. Adding contacts to the app via phone or email brings up several chat options.

Since Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, the company’s efforts on GroupMe have reduced. The app has received updates, but not anything significant in recent years. Despite this, the tool remains relatively popular in the United States.

With version 2.41.1.0 of the Windows 10 app, users can now schedule Skype calls, making it more useful. At the moment, the update is limited to the Android flavor of the app but should make its way to iOS and Windows soon.

Clearly, Microsoft sees an ongoing purpose for GroupMe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital communication services have soared over the last month with hundreds of millions of people around the world confined indoors.

While this is not a full embrace of Skype, it makes the integration between the apps more efficient. Setting up Skype group calls is easy. There’s a Skype logo at the top of a GroupMe chat that allows users to start a video call in Skype. When the icon is selected, a link is placed in the chat that leads to the Skype call.

Expanding Meet Now

The new tool for GroupMe build on Skype’s recent Meet Now feature. Microsoft has recently been talking up the benefits of Meet Up over Zoom. Both Skype and Zoom has seen massive expansion during the coronavirus outbreak. However, Microsoft argues Skype provides several advantages.

Namely, it does not require a host to have an account or download an app. Instead, users create a link and send it to participants through email. These recipients can chat with the host directly through their web browser. They don’t need Skype and the host does not need an account.

You can get the new Skype integration for GroupMe on Android from the Play Store here. The app is also available on iOS here and Windows here sans the new addition.

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Business Technology

WhatsApp Cracks down on Coronavirus Mass-Forwarding

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WhatsApp has drastically cut the number of people to which users can forward coronavirus-related messages. Under new restrictions, you can only forward messages that didn’t come from a close contact to one person at a time.

This should, in theory, reduce the message chaining that can lead to successful, widespread disinformation campaigns. Last year, the platform introduced the double arrow feature, which highlights messages that have been forwarded many times, and it’s to these the restrictions will be applied.

In the process, though, Facebook’s platform could be limiting the spread of information that’s accurate and useful. Health advice, news and statistics, and event organization for front line workers can all fall into this category. The specificity of the restrictions should help with this, but there will be a small price to pay.

To make up for this potential information gap, WhatsApp says it’s working with WHO and up to 20 national health ministries to deliver accurate information. It’s taking the burden of messaging upon itself and says it’s sent information to hundreds of millions skin for advice. In the past, it’s proven an effective tactic.

“As a private messaging service, we’ve taken several steps over the years to help keep conversations intimate,” said the company. “For example, we previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality. At the time, we saw a 25% decrease in total message forwards globally.”

Indian users, in particular, have noted issues with message spam in the past. Facebook’s messaging platform is intensely popular in the country, and election periods have been a particular pain point. Around a year ago, it unveiled Project Tipline, which users in the region can forward messages to for fact-checking.

However, with Tipline, some publications noted hours of delays or no response at all. There are so many seeking information on coronavirus that it’s clear the automated response is the right one here.

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Business Technology

WhatsApp Restricts Double Arrow Messages to Stop COVID-19 Misinformation

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Whats App has become the latest tech company to restrict its service during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, while companies like Microsoft has reduced services to cope with the strain of users, Whats App has another reason.

The Facebook-owned app announced this week it has restricted allowing users to forward message with “double arrows”. Specifically, users will be limited to one of these forwarded messages per chat. Whats App says the decision was taken to curb misinformation surrounding the corona virus outbreak.

Misinformation has become common around the pandemic, causing confusion amongst people. WhatsApp debuted the double arrows feature back in 2019. It allows users to know which messages have come from third-party sources and have been shared many times.

However, these messages also allowed people to quickly pass on viral messages. WhatsApp says in the current situation, the feature is being used to spread misinformation. So, double arrow messages are now restricted to one per chat.

“With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to COVID-19, people are relying on WhatsApp more than ever to communicate…

Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not. We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers. However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation.”

Recent Chatbot and Facebook Action

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has been focused on ensuring authentic information is used. In March, the company rolled out a chatbot that answers questions related to coronavirus. The bot was created in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

In February, Facebook took early action to clamp down on misinformation around coronavirus. Facebook said it will make a more asserted effort to ensure fake news is removed from the site. Speaking to Business Insider, the company said the following:

“We recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention. We also have policies for surfaces like Marketplace that prohibit similar behaviour.”

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Business Technology

Internet Speeds in the US and Europe Are Dropping Due to Coronavirus

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So far, Covid-19 has led to the cancelation of events like E3 2020, degradation in Netlfix quality, and malware. Now, the latest statistics from Speedtest.net’s Ookla suggest broadband speeds are also being degraded in some locations.

According to the data, the United States’ mean download speed fell from around 142 Mpbs to 133 from the beginning of March. A similar dip occurred in Canada, from around 128 to 121, but Mexico’s remained relatively steady. All three saw a slight rise in latency.

Europe’s results were a little more mixed, but on the whole, the trend was downward. The Netherlands speeds were around 70 at the start of the month but, curiously, had ridden sharply to 77 by March 22. Other countries bucked the upward, though, France falling from roughly 46 to 40, and Switzerland from 65 to 50. Spain’s and Italy’s speeds also fell, while the UK and Germany remained relatively steady.

Source: Ookla

As you’d expect, Asia shows a slightly different story. In China, speeds dropped sharply in January, at the beginning of the outbreak, before returning to normal in February. In March, they’ve again seen a slight dip. India, meanwhile, has seen a dip from around 40 to 38 in the past week, with a similar drop in Malaysia from 80 to 77. Hubei, the Chinese province hit hardest by the virus, saw more dramatic drops than the country as a whole. Japan has remained largely regular.

Testing Increase

However, it’s worth noting that broadband speed isn’t only determined by usage. The hit to end-users can depend on a lot of factors, including the country’s infrastructure, its quarantine measures, which may restrict repair work, and more. Ookla does not have access to the number of people utilizing the internet at any one time, but it can see how many people are performing speed tests.

From the beginning of February to March, the global percentage change in broadband test volume rose by 45%, and mobile by 50% since the start of March. In India, test volume rose as much as 80% since the beginning of the month, and all European countries have seen significant increases of some sort.

An increase in test volume could also be for several reasons. There are likely more users home to run tests, but it could also be a result of issues with other services. Netflix, for example, recently announced that it was reducing its streaming quality in Europe to cope with increased volume. Seeing the worse quality, it’s likely a user would check their connection. The same can also be said for services like Microsoft Teams, while several games and other services have seen complete outages. Ultimately, the reduction in speeds isn’t that surprising given the circumstances, but it’s still intriguing to see the specific numbers.

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Business Technology

Facebook Announces $100 Million Grant Program for Small Business During COVID-19 Outbreak

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Facebook has become the latest tech giant to introduce measures to help people weather storm caused by the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. The social media company revealed today it has set up a $100 million grant fund for small businesses around the world.

In a blog post, Facebook said $100 million has been set aside in ad credits and cash grants. Funding will be split between up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries. The company says the program will help small businesses deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Facebook confirmed most the funds will be in real cash grants, the company said it will reveal more specific details soon. For example, it is not yet known which businesses are eligible and how they would apply for help.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a post Tuesday said COVID-19 is presenting a unique challenge to the economy. She points out small businesses are especially at risk as global governments put their citizens in lockdown.
“We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them. We’ve heard loud and clear. Financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg also said Facebook will make it easier for small businesses to reach its teams for added support and training.

Microsoft’s Response
Microsoft has taken several steps to help workers and customers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The company has confirmed staff who have children can be paid and work from home if schools are suspended.
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was making a premium version of Teams available during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial to the premium version of Microsoft Teams. Now available globally, the tier will help organizations manage their workforces and remain connected. When signing up for the tier, customers will work with a Microsoft sales team member to help the set-up process.

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Business Technology

Microsoft Is Acquiring JavaScript Platform npm for an Undisclosed Amount

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Microsoft’s GitHub is snapping up node packpage manager (npm), with plans for integration between the platforms. In a blog post, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman announced the news, but did not share a purchase price.

“npm is a critical part of the JavaScript world. The work of the npm team over the last 10 years, and the contributions of hundreds of thousands of open source developers and maintainers, have made npm home to over 1.3 million packages with 75 billion downloads a month,” he said. “Together, they’ve helped JavaScript become the largest developer ecosystem in the world. We at GitHub are honored to be part of the next chapter of npm’s story and to help npm continue to scale to meet the needs of the fast-growing JavaScript community.”

Despite the acquisition, Friedman reassured users that it will not be shuttering npm and that it will always remain free. The focus instead is a three pronged approach: improve the core experience, engage with the community, and improve the registry infrastructure and platform.

“We will work to improve the everyday experience of developers and maintainers, and support the great work already started on the npm v7 CLI, which will remain free and open source,” Friedman said. “Some bigger features that we’re excited about are Workspaces and improvements to the publishing and multi-factor authentication experience. “

This announcement could also shed some light on Microsoft’s activity in recent times. In January, it pointed out an npm package that has been stealing the data of UNIX users. GitHub also previously introduced the ability to publish npm packages. It makes sense that it would look closely at a platform it’s planning to acquire, but users will want to know what GitHub is planning to do to improve safety going forward.

From 2019-2020, npm had 595 security advisories, for a total of 1,285. Previously, malicious packages have been used to steal cryptocurrency, developer credentials, and more.

Freidman admits that security will be a focus in the future. This will come partially from the GitHub integration, which will let you trace a change from a GitHub pull request to the resolution. It will also be looking at measures it recently launched on its own platform, such as the GitHub Security Lab and built-in security advisories.

Essentially, this purchase could lead to significant improvements in the open-source community, and Microsoft has a good track record with Typescript. Still, while GitHub remains a separate entity from its parent company, there will always be those who view it as another step away from decentralization.

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Business Technology

Minecraft Earth Gets New Mobs, Minis, and Monetization

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Minecraft Earth R13 is now rolling out to players, bringing some significant additions to the augmented reality title. It ushers in new boosts and mobs while bringing some customization in the form of sheep dying.

Boosts are Microsoft’s way of making money from the game. Each one contains a buff like increased attack damage, crafting speed, or max health, and can be purchased from the in-game store or obtained by scanning a $5 ‘Boost Mini’ figure with NFC.

There are a total of 12 boosts, and each has three levels that can increase its power, duration, of both. Assumedly, these will be available through ‘blind boxes’, essentially a physical version of a loot box, like the other Minecraft Minis. Each boost has three levels, so perhaps duplicates can be used to upgrade them. Here’s the full list of boosts:
“Increase Attack Damage
Increase Crafting Speed
Increase Max Health
Increase Mining Speed
Increase Player Defense
Increase Tappable Radius
Increase XP From Adventures
Increase XP From Collecting Mobs
Increased Health Gained from Eating
Keep Items in Backpack On Death
Keep items in Hotbar On Death
Smelting Speed Boost”
The new mobs are the Glow Squid and Skeleton Wolf, and they may also be coming to a store in physical form at some point in the future, as part of blind boxes. Personally, I’m not thrilled at the monetization model, which adopts gambling-like techniques for products aimed at children, but that appears to be a standard in toys these days.
This build also comes with the usual bug fixes, including a fix for an exploit that let players sign into Minecraft Earth from multiple devices. Those experiencing crashes may also get some relief from this build.

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Business Technology

Microsoft Begins Automatic Chromium Edge Rollout

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Microsoft released its new Chromium Edge browser experience on January 15 following nearly a year of preview development. However, since the launch the new Edge has been optional for Windows 10 users. Microsoft promised an automatic rollout would arrive and has now started the release schedule.

Windows 10 users on the Windows Insider Release Preview ring are now receiving Chromium Edge automatically. This means they don’t have to manually download the browser as it is now the replacement for the old HTML5-based Edge.

Microsoft says the rollout is gradual but should come to everyone on the Release Preview ring soon. Once that happens, a push to the end-user Windows 10 experience used by the general public should arrive shortly after.
If you’re unfamiliar with the new Edge experience, it is an updated version of Microsoft’s web browser. It is based on Google’s Chromium web rendering language, which is also the underpinning for Chrome.

This means both Chromium Edge and Chrome are developed over the same foundation. Both browsers can share features, something we have seen happen consistently since Microsoft made the switch.

It is worth noting the automatic Chromium Edge release won’t be coming to Enterprise and Education users.

Edge Availability

For users who want the new Edge experience, there is no need to wait for the automatic rollout to reach your PC. Instead, you can download the browser directly from the official website. Furthermore, while the browser is now generally available, Microsoft continues to run a three-tiered preview and development structure.

This means if you want the latest Edge features before they are generally available, you can use the preview version of the browser.

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