The Internet, from The Economist

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Politics and social networks: Extreme tweeting

19 November 2015 - 11:58am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to fight back Fly Title:  Politics and social networks Rubric:  Few of the social-media stars among Europe’s politicians are centrists MOST politicians these days know how to compose a tweet and post a Facebook update; some are competentselfie-takers. Yet Europe’s mainstream lawmakers are badly losing the battle for online attention to politicians from the populist right and the far left. On average, a Facebook message from UKIP, a Eurosceptic British political party, received around 4,000 “likes” this year—double that of the ruling Conservatives. France’s right-wing National Front beat the Socialist party by five to one on the same measure. MEPs in Europe of Nations and Freedom, an anti-EU group, have many more Twitter followers than their politically centrist peers (see chart). Each of their tweets is shared an average of 28 times, compared with six for mainstream politicians. The far left is as competent as the right. The swift rise of Spain’s Podemos and Italy’s Five Star Movement owes much to smart social-media ...

An opportunity: The Economist seeks a social media intern in the United States

13 November 2015 - 11:36am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  An opportunity THE ECONOMIST is seeking an intern to help with the newspaper's social media in America. The internship is available for at least six months and can be extended for up to a year. A competitive hourly wage will be paid to the successful candidate. The position is based in Washington, DC and the hours of work are from noon until 8pm, Monday to Friday. Occasional weekend cover may also be required. Applicants should send a CV, cover letter, three examples of published journalism and an article of no more than 400 words suitable for publication in The Economist to The successful candidate should have the right to work in the United States without sponsorship. The closing date for applications is December 30th. Published:  20151113 Source:  Online extra Enabled

Cyber-security: The cost of immaturity

5 November 2015 - 11:50am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The indispensable European Fly Title:  Cyber-security Rubric:  The business of protecting against computer-hacking is booming THE average time between an attacker breaching a network and its owner noticing the intrusion is 205 days. Like most statistics touted by the cyber-security industry, such as the supposed annual $575 billion global cost of 90m cyber-attacks, it is little more than a guesstimate. But there is no doubt that criminals and pranksters are thriving by attacking computers and networks (see article), that companies are struggling to cope and that businesses offering answers are charging fat fees. The penalties for getting cyber-security wrong are steep. Nortel, a Canadian telecoms giant, went bust in part because hackers stole so much of its intellectual property. Target, an American retailer, lost the credit-card details of 40m customers. Some of them are suing. Its share price plunged, and the CEO stepped down. TalkTalk, one of the biggest phone and internet companies in Britain, is floundering after an attack ...

Block chains: Hilton is the latest hotel suspected of blocking customers’ personal Wi-Fi

3 November 2015 - 12:21pm
IT ALWAYS seemed improbable that Marriott was the only one. Last year the hotel chain paid $600,000 to America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to settle a complaint that it had blocked customers' personal wireless modems and hotspots at "at least one" of its hotels, forcing customers to sign up for expensive in-house internet access instead. Now Hilton has found itself in hot water over the same charge. In August 2014, the FCC received a complaint from a customer alleging that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California, was also blocking visitors' Wi-Fi hot spots unless they paid $500 to access the hotel’s own wireless service. The FCC says it has also received similar complaints involving other Hilton properties.The allegations have yet to be proved. However the commission yesterday announced that it will fine the hotel chain $25,000 for obstructing its enquiries into the matter:In November 2014, the [FCC Enforcement] Bureau issued Hilton a letter of inquiry seeking information concerning basic company information, relevant corporate policies, and specifics regarding Wi-Fi management practices at Hilton-brand properties in the United States. After nearly one year, Hilton has failed to provide the requested information for the vast majority of its properties. Hilton operates several brands, including Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf ...

The promise of the blockchain: The trust machine

29 October 2015 - 5:33am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The trust machine Fly Title:  The promise of the blockchain Rubric:  The technology behind bitcoin could transform how the economy works Main image:  20151031_LDD001_0.jpg BITCOIN has a bad reputation. The decentralised digital cryptocurrency, powered by a vast computer network, is notorious for the wild fluctuations in its value, the zeal of its supporters and its degenerate uses, such as extortion, buying drugs and hiring hitmen in the online bazaars of the “dark net”. This is unfair. The value of a bitcoin has been pretty stable, at around $250, for most of this year. Among regulators and financial institutions, scepticism has given way to enthusiasm (the European Union recently recognised it as a currency). But most unfair of all is that bitcoin’s shady image causes people to overlook the extraordinary potential of the “blockchain”, the technology that underpins it. This innovation carries a significance stretching far beyond cryptocurrency. The ...

Network neutrality: A multi-speed Europe

28 October 2015 - 1:37pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The trust machine Fly Title:  Network neutrality Rubric:  The EU’s new internet rules will hurt the continent’s startups INTERNET providers will be barred from charging online businesses for “fast lanes”—that is, giving priority to their traffic—except for certain specialised services, such as videoconferencing or telesurgery. They also must not block or slow traffic other than reasonably to manage their networks, such as to avoid congestion. This is the essence of a law the European Parliament passed on October 27th, after months of argy-bargy with the EU’s executive, the European Commission, and national governments. For those unfamiliar with the debate over “network neutrality”, the principle of treating all internet traffic equally, the rules may seem much the same as those approved by America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February. But although the wording is similar, the details vary enough that they may produce a very different outcome—one that could further weaken Europe’s smallish online industry. To ...

Poste Italiane’s IPO: Post apocalypse

12 October 2015 - 10:56am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The reluctant European Fly Title:  Poste Italiane’s IPO Rubric:  If Italy’s postal service appeals to investors, it is not because of the mail Main image:  20151017_WBP007.jpg POSTE ITALIANE, which runs Italy’s postal service, started out this week on its privatisation road show. It is selling more than a 40% stake in itself. The listing, which is expected to raise €7.8 billion-9.8 billion ($8.9 billion-11.2 billion), puts Italy itself in the shop window. This is the country’s biggest privatisation in 16 years and the linchpin of a sell-off programme that the government hopes will signal a fresh direction to foreign investors. It also offers the postal sector another chance, following listings by other European operators and in advance of one by Japan Post, to persuade investors that firms whose traditional business is in deep trouble have a future. Thanks to the ubiquity of e-mail and other forms of electronic messaging, the number of letters delivered in ...

Chinese internet firms: Clubbing together

8 October 2015 - 5:05am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Eradicating disease Fly Title:  Chinese internet firms Rubric:  The merger of Meituan and Dianping could herald a bigger consolidation Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20151010_WBP504.jpg GROUP buying—in which discounts are offered on goods and services once a certain number of consumers have signed up—may be falling out of fashion in many countries, with even America’s pioneer, Groupon, slashing over 1,000 jobs last month, but it is still doing well in China. According to Analysys International, a research firm, bargain hunters there rang up 77 billion yuan ($12.1 billion) in sales through group-buying websites in the first half of this year. That is a rise of 168% on a year earlier. Even more striking is news this week of a merger between the two biggest Chinese firms in the business, which may herald a broader consolidation in China’s internet sector. Groupon has flopped in China, just ...

The Balkanised web: New EU privacy rules could widen the policy gap with America

5 October 2015 - 9:59am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The Balkanised web Rubric:  A court ruling on October 6th could alter the way data flow around the internet Main image:  20151010_BLP501.jpg   Updated October 6th 2015: EUROPE'S highest court today struck down the safe-harbour agreement, arguing that "legislation permitting [American] public authorities to have access on a generalised basis to the content of electronic communications must be regarded as compromising the essence of the fundamental right to respect for private life." The judges also ruled that national data-protection authorities within the EU do have the right independently to examine firms which transfer personal data across the Atlantic. In its initial statement the court did not mention a grace period that would allow companies to adapt to the ruling. LAWYERS who specialise in data protection have been much in demand in recent days. Their clients are scrambling to understand the possible implications of a ruling expected on October 6th from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Depending on what ...

Retail trends: Popping up everywhere

1 October 2015 - 10:46am
UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Dominant and dangerous Fly Title:  Retail trends Rubric:  Amid a great migration online, a few e-retailers open real-world outposts Main image:  20151003_BRP506.jpg THE conventional wisdom has been that an increasing volume of business will inevitably be done online, and so bricks-and-mortar shops are surplus to requirements. The shuttered remains of video stores and out-of-town supermarkets are testimony to the swathe that the internet has cut through Britain’s retail sector. And there was further evidence of the trend this week when the discount supermarket chain Aldi announced that on top of its 600 or so stores it will start selling goods online next year. This will add to the pressure on its rivals such as Tesco and Morrisons. Their sales have been battered by Aldi’s cheaper prices, and one response has been to close stores, in order to save costs, and sell more online. But it’s not all one-way traffic in favour of internet shopping. Indeed, in some ...

E-commerce in India: Snap, flip and crackle

1 October 2015 - 10:46am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Dominant and dangerous Fly Title:  E-commerce in India Rubric:  Flipkart and Snapdeal vie to be India’s answer to Amazon and Alibaba Location:  MUMBAI Main image:  20151003_WBP005.jpg NARENDRA MODI, India’s technophile prime minister, this week spent a good part of his visit to America, the second in a year, hobnobbing with Silicon Valley’s great-and-good. India has long been a supplier of talent to America’s tech firms. Its business-process outsourcing firms are a vital source of export earnings. But for years India has been an untapped market for consumer-facing technology firms. That is now changing. The rise of mobile-internet access has sparked interest in the potential of e-commerce in India. Bricks-and-mortar retailing is very fragmented. A trip to the mall can be an ordeal because of congested roads. In such difficult terrain, e-commerce may easily blossom. Two home-grown ...

E-commerce in India: Stack and deliver

10 September 2015 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Exodus Fly Title:  E-commerce in India Rubric:  Urban Ladder’s rise shows the potential for online selling in India Location:  BANGALORE Main image:  20150912_wbp506.jpg ASHISH GOEL, a founder of Urban Ladder, an online furniture retailer, is fond of the story of Rose Blumkin, who in 1983 sold a big stake in her furniture store to Warren Buffett, a fellow resident of Omaha, Nebraska. Mr Buffett’s deal with “Mrs B” was set out on a single piece of paper, notes Mr Goel with admiration. The term-sheets of the four rounds of capital-raising Urban Ladder has been through in its short life were probably not so simple. Mr Goel is struck by another contrast. The Omaha Furniture Mart that Mrs B started has more floorspace than all of India’s registered furniture retailers combined. Retailing of the bricks-and-mortar sort is a highly fragmented business in India. Only around 2% of the grocery trade, ...

The music business: The dry stream of musicians' royalties

4 September 2015 - 10:30am
IN NOVEMBER last year, Taylor Swift withdrew most of her music from Spotify, complaining that the music-streaming service made her music available to all users, not just paying subscribers. She had previously called Spotify’s payments to musical artists—on average less than a penny per song—stingy. Nor is Spotify the only one to attract Swiftian scorn: she has withheld her latest album, "1989", from Apple's new music-streaming service, describing their free, three-month trial period, in which artists would get no royalties, as "shocking" and "disappointing" on Tumblr. 20150903 13:52:33

Luxury e-commerce: Natalie Massenet resigns from Net-a-Porter ahead of its merger with Yoox

3 September 2015 - 9:10am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Luxury e-commerce Byline:  K.S.C. THE resignation of Natalie Massenet, the executive chairman of the Net-a-Porter group, was revealed to the public on September 2nd. The colourful founder and boss of the luxury online fashion firm that dared to mix editorial and advertising together to sell its wares came as a surprise to many. The announcement came in the middle of a merger with Yoox Spa, an Italian e-commerce rival, which is due to be completed in October. The merger suits the two firms, if not Ms Massenet perhaps. Both companies were founded in 2000, at a time when few believed the luxury industry had an online future, but have since taken different directions. From the beginning Net-a-Porter has specialised in luxury retail coupled with an emphasis on editorial content—both online and in print. Porter, the company’s glossy print magazine, launched at the beginning of 2014; Net Set, an app intended to bridge the gap between e-commerce and social media, went live in May. It announced record sales in its final full-year results in June, with revenues of £654m ($1 billion). Yoox, ...

Marketing in the digital age: A brand new game

27 August 2015 - 10:43am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The Great Fall of China Fly Title:  Marketing in the digital age Rubric:  As people spend more time on social media, advertisers are following them Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20150829_WBD001_0.jpg EARLIER this year BMW advertised on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China with around 550m monthly users. But its ads were shown only to those whose profiles suggested they were potential buyers of expensive cars. Others were shown ads for more affordable stuff, such as smartphones. The campaign bruised a few egos. Some of those not shown the BMW ad complained, referring to themselves as diao, or (putting it politely) losers. The carmaker’s experience shows the complexities of advertising today, when it is so easy for dissatisfied customers to make their voices heard. But it was also an example of how marketing chiefs are struggling to find the right way to reach consumers on new ...

Alibaba: Clicks to bricks

13 August 2015 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Xi’s history lessons Fly Title:  Alibaba Rubric:  The Chinese online giant is looking for new sources of growth Location:  SHANGHAI “IN FIVE years, we will sell one trillion dollars.” That is the bet that Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, made with American businessmen on a recent trip to Chicago. The Chinese firm is already the world’s biggest e-commerce outfit. But now Mr Ma thinks he can more than double the volume of sales on his firm’s online-sales platforms by 2020. First, he must win over investors. The firm’s shares have fallen sharply from their peak of $119 late last year, though at around $74 they remain above the $68 price at which they (or rather, shares in a “variable interest entity” linked to Alibaba, and registered in the Cayman Islands) were floated last September. On August 12th Alibaba unveiled its latest results. Its quarterly revenues grew by 28% year on year to 20.2 billion yuan ($3.3 billion), and profits rose by 23% to 10.6 billion ...

The future of Google: What's in a name?

11 August 2015 - 11:43am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The future of Google Rubric:  The internet giant has announced a new corporate structure IT MIGHT sound like the name of an imaginary firm designed by the characters on “Sesame Street”, a popular children’s programme, but on August 10th Google’s founders announced that they have chosen to rename their firm “Alphabet Inc.” In recent years Google, the giant internet firm, has started to look like its own Alphabet soup of different businesses, as it has expanded beyond its core business in online-search advertising to invest in building self-driving cars, wearable devices, smart cities and other ambitious but unprofitable projects. The new corporate structure could help streamline Google’s businesses and make shareholders calmer about how much Google is spending on its “moonshot” projects. Alphabet will serve as a holding company for the new Google, which will comprise all its advertising and internet businesses, such as YouTube, while other business units will run separately under Alphabet. Google, which has built an extremely profitable internet business by serving up instantaneous ...