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Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Original Story:

Internet giant Yahoo is closing its China office as part of a worldwide consolidation aimed at cutting costs.

The Beijing research centre is Yahoo's only remaining physical presence in the country after it sold its Chinese operations to Alibaba in 2005.

A spokesperson said "around 350 jobs" would be eliminated.

"We are constantly making changes to align resources, and to foster better collaboration and innovation across our business," Yahoo said in a statement.

The news that Yahoo was closing its last remaining office in mainland China travelled fast.

Outside the Yahoo research centre, an employment agency staged a guerrilla-style PR campaign offering the sacked staff new jobs.

Many Yahoo employees appeared unimpressed as they walked by men dressed up in silver, alien outfits.

One employee said the news was "very sad." He added, "I had good relations with my colleagues and now I need to say goodbye."

The move by the internet giant, however, doesn't come as a huge surprise.

Yahoo has been rapidly retreating from the Chinese market. In 2013, it stopped offering services to email users in China.

It's had an often fraught relationship with the Chinese government. Controversially the firm handed over information to the authorities that led to the jailing of two Chinese dissidents.

But according to reports, this closure was nothing to do with government pressure or censorship. Instead it's been driven by the internet giant's desire to cut its global operating costs.

Yahoo has been struggling to maintain profit growth in the face of growing competition from rival online search portals like Google.

The Sunnyvale, California-based firm has also been trying to adapt to consumers increasingly using mobile devices, which attract less advertising revenue.

As a result, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer has made a slew of acquisitions in a bid to diversify business and add new revenue streams.

Earlier this year, Yahoo also announced plans to spin off its stake in Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce company, which is valued at more than $30bn.

The tech giant also owns a lucrative stake in Yahoo Japan. Yahoo had a global workforce of about 12,500 workers at the end of 2014.

China Operations

Yahoo is the latest US technology firm to exit operations in China.

Google partially withdrew in 2010 after clashing with Chinese authorities over censorship.

Earlier this year gamemaker Zynga closed its office and shed more than 70 jobs after its products failed to gain traction against local competition.

Shaun Rein, managing director of consultancy China Market Research said it was very difficult for consumer-facing foreign internet players to find success in China.

"Unlike rest of the world, they're facing well-funded, aggressive home-grown players," he said.

"In China you have really strong entrepreneurship in the online space and they're able to react quicker to consumer trends."

Mr Rein added that it makes sense for Yahoo to "cull through headcount and business lines that aren't making a profit".

"When you're as weak as Yahoo globally, it doesn't make sense to have a research and development arm in China since its too expensive."

Friday, March 20, 2015


Original Story:

Facebook will still rely on users to report offensive or inappropriate posts, but as of Sunday night, they have more guidance on what the company considers a violation of its standards.

Keeping scandalous photos, harassing language and violent content off its network has been a priority for Facebook for years. But some of its 1.39 billion users have been critical about the haphazard application of content guidelines.

In a blog post Sunday, Facebook officials responded with an updated guidebook that adds clarity and examples to terms such as “hate speech” without changing the standards themselves.

Any flagged content is reviewed by a moderator regardless of whether one person reports it or 100. The content gets removed if it's in violation of the standards or a law.

“In order to treat people fairly and respond to reports quickly, it is essential that we have policies in place that our global teams can apply uniformly and easily when reviewing content,” Facebook writes. “As a result, our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes. We are always working to get better at evaluating this content and enforcing our standards.”

In the case of nudity, displaying genitals or “focusing in” on a fully exposed butt isn’t okay. But breastfeeding images or post-surgery breast photos are OK. Same for nudes in art. Sexually explicit passages may also be deleted, Facebook warns.

Attacking people based on gender, race and other traits is unacceptable. But hate speech can be linked to or re-posted for the purpose of raising awareness. Facebook expects users to mention that rationale though.

Facebook also wants users to sign up with their “authentic identity.”

“When people stand behind their opinions and actions with their authentic name and reputation, our community is more accountable,” according to the guidelines.

Monday, March 09, 2015


Original Story:

Chinese giant to open first cloud computing hub in the U.S. Wednesday.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd  BABA -1.64%  is launching a cloud computing hub in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant’s first outside of China, underscoring its global ambitions in the face of stiff and entrenched competition.

The new California data center marks the Chinese company’s latest measured expansion onto American soil, and into a hotly contested U.S. market now dominated by Inc  AMZN -0.78% , Microsoft Corp  MSFT 0.19%  and Google Inc.  GOOG -0.61%).

Chinese giant to open first cloud computing hub in the U.S. Wednesday.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd  BABA -1.64%  is launching a cloud computing hub in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant’s first outside of China, underscoring its global ambitions in the face of stiff and entrenched competition.

The new California data center marks the Chinese company’s latest measured expansion onto American soil, and into a hotly contested U.S. market now dominated by Inc  AMZN -0.78% , Microsoft Corp  MSFT 0.19%  and Google Inc. GOOG -0.61%

Alibaba’s Aliyun cloud division intends the new data center to cater initially to Chinese companies with operations in the U.S., including retail, Internet and gaming firms. It will later target U.S. businesses seeking a presence in both countries, Ethan Yu, a vice president at Alibaba who runs the international cloud business, told Reuters.

“This is a very strategic move for us,” Yu said, declining to say how much Alibaba invested in the data center or disclose its location for security reasons. “International expansion is actually a company strategy in the coming few years.” A Washington DC international trade lawyer is following this story closely.

“Eventually we may expand to other regions, for example the East Coast or middle part of the U.S., if our customers have the demand for that.”

Aliyun, which has been likened to a budding version of Amazon Web Services, began as part of the company’s in-house technical infrastructure but has since expanded to lease processing and storage space for small and medium Internet businesses in China.

While Alibaba dominates e-commerce in China, Aliyun, also known as AlibabaCloud Computing, holds about a 23% market share in its home market. It faces both Chinese and foreign competitors, from carriers like China Telecom to Microsoft and Amazon. Its existing data centers span the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. A Tampa investment lawyer represents clients in investment law cases.

Alibaba is kicking off its U.S. cloud business as American corporations and politicians are protesting what they see as Beijing’s efforts to curb foreign technology at home.

Chinese government controls have limited foreign competition and disrupted many online services, including Google’s and Amazon Web Services’, according to censorship watchdogs.

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama sharply criticized new Chinese counter-terrorism regulations that subject overseas companies to arduous measures regarding data management. The official Chinese news agency Xinhua responded Wednesday by calling Obama’s criticisms “utterly groundless and another piece of evidence of arrogance and hypocrisy of the U.S. foreign policy.”

A more immediate concern may be how Alibaba intends to vie with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google, which are slashing prices on cloud services to try and sustain double-digit growth. They’re battling over a public cloud services market that could grow into an $100 billion industry by 2017, according to researcher IDC.

U.S. customers are not expected to be bothered by the service’s Chinese ownership if pricing is competitive.

Alibaba has big plans for Aliyun, which now accounts for about 1% of its revenue but supports its core e-commerce operation and will also play a pivotal role in the long run. Alibaba sees cloud computing as key to its plans to aggregate and analyze the vast quantities of data it collects, including on consumer behavior.

The company also needs to find ways to sustain so-far stunning growth. Shares in the company fell to their lowest levels since their debut on Tuesday, after rival’s  JD 1.78%  better-than-expected quarterly results revived concerns that Alibaba’s expansion is slowing.

Cloud computing and infrastructure was the company’s fastest-growing business segment in the December quarter, increasing sales 85% to $58 million.

Alibaba now derives the vast majority of its revenue from China. In recent months it has made headway in emerging markets from Russia to Brazil, but the company has taken a cautious, calculated approach to the U.S. market.

The northern California data node would serve internal Alibaba businesses, like AliExpress, its online B2C platform for buyers outside of China, as well as external public cloud clients, Yu said.

He declined to disclose details about potential clients. But cash-strapped startups generally rely heavily on cloud service providers to power their services. Alibaba has invested in several U.S. firms including messaging app Tango, online retailers, and Shoprunner, but it’s unclear if they would avail themselves of Aliyun’s services.

Separately, it has also tied up with LendingClub to provide financing to online buyers in the U.S.

Ahead of Wednesday’s launch, Aliyun ran an invitation-only trial period for customers inChina with international expansion plans, he said. The company began selling U.S. cloud services on Tuesday.

“Gradually we will start to attract international customers,” Yu said. “There are actually lots of U.S. customers, U.S. enterprises who look forward to setting up lots of data centers inChina to serve their Chinese-based customers.”

“I do see there is big demand for U.S. customers who look for balanced presence of their IT infrastructure across the world, including China.”


Original Story:

With great power comes great responsibility, and sometimes Google leads us astray.

Google is a godsend for all of us, from those who stutter and stumble through life to even the most knowledgeable of folks looking to confirm their facts and figures.

A well-placed nugget of information courtesy of Google  GOOG -1.48%  (or Yahoo, sure, or Bing, but come on—you use Google) can prepare you for a challenging conversation or nervy meeting, and it can display for you, stripped bare, any person’s minor errors and major accomplishments.

But with great power comes great responsibility, and sometimes Google leads us astray. Just this week, New York magazine wrote that resisting from Googling a potential date is “the new abstinence.” Here are the seven deadly sins that come along with relying too heavily on the G-force.

Greed: When your thirst for knowledge leads to errors

They say fortune favors the well prepared, but when Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer sat down to dinner with Chevron  CVX -1.03%  CEO John Watson, preparation backfired. Serwer asked Watson about his position on the board of the San Diego Padres, a factoid he’d picked up doing pre-dinner research on Wikipedia, a page he had been directed to through The Big G. Turns out that’s another John Watson. Oops.

Watson’s team at Chevron has hunted down the original source and the Wiki entry has since been changed, but here at Fortune, a vague feeling of betrayal lingers in the air. After all, where would reporters be without Google? But Google gives preference to Wikipedia, and Wiki now hath poisoned our trust. Or at least Serwer’s.

Gluttony: When you gather too much information

Sometimes, you might go on a rampage and Google everything. Your friends. Your boss. Your boss’s significant other. Their boss. Your friend’s boss’s significant other’s boss’s dog (not that we’ve ever done such a thing). Sometimes you learn things you really didn’t need to know—things you, perhaps, shouldn’t know, but can never quite forget. It’s TMI. It’s a little like the time a Fortune summer intern started to dump names into the Googlesphere only to find out that a college friend’s father was a registered sex offender.

Lust: When researching a romantic interest gets creepy

If you’re single, many of your Google hunts may be fueled by… non-platonic interest. It can include Facebook photo binges, clicking through 10 pages’ worth of search results, and sneaking a peek at someone’s Instagram account (if public). But then when you actually run into, or go out with, the object of your search affections, you face a real dilemma: feign surprise at the personal things they tell you, or acknowledge you already know? Thanks to Google, you already know their college alma mater; their favorite color; their street address; and the exact pattern of their cobbled driveway (thanks, Streetview)… we’ll stop there.

Sloth: When you lazily rely on the opinions of others

Sometimes Google impressions trump first impressions. In a piece on, author Steve Friedman writes that he once went out with a sex-columnist who decided to cancel their second date after her post-date Google search turned up some of his articles, even though she thought he was sweet and funny in person.

Worse yet, sometimes there is no chance for a first impression. People are relying more and more on online reviews, and as a result, companies or products with low reviews or simply not a large total of reviews don’t get business. Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, released a 2011 working paper that found that a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue for restaurants. But what happens to new restaurants that haven’t been reviewed much yet, or restaurants that hire a new chef and up their game? Sometimes, there’s more to reality than what Google can tell you.

Wrath: When you tamper with Google results

Wikipedia is notorious for allowing users to change the text—and, what do you know?—sometimes they do it to suit their own purposes. After Chile beat Spain two-nil in this year’s World Cup, the Wikipedia entry for the Chile National Soccer Team’s page was changed to say, “Dear Spain, LOL. Say bye to the World Cup…… From Chile.” Or take the change from mid-May, when the New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few days later, the Pens’ Wiki page listed the Rangers as the owner of the team. Malicious, yet creative.

Envy: When you’re jealous of someone else’s Google results

Social media can lead to envy. It can lead, possibly, to depression. In a 2013 study, University of Michigan researchers Ethan Kross and Philippe Verduyn texted people while they were using Facebook, and found that as time on Facebook increased, a person’s mood and overall satisfaction with their lives declined. In other words, Facebook can make you jealous. It can make you feel more alone than connected. Kross and Verduyn didn’t look at other social media networks, but it’s fair to say that looking through lists of other people’s accolades, impressive resumes, and social media clout can just as easily turn you green around the ears.

Pride: When you expect other people to have Googled you

Sure, we live in a world where Googling someone has become more than common courtesy—it’s practically basic hygiene. Business meetings, dinner dates, job interviews: Google, Google, Google them. But when you sit down with someone and find out that they haven’t Googled you, and they have no idea who you are, what you’ve done? Painful. But it shouldn’t be.

Fortune (and Fortune!) favors the bold. Mind your sins. Go forth and Google, sparingly.

Thursday, March 05, 2015


Original Story:

For Yahoo these days, it's all about mobile.

At its first-ever mobile developers conference Thursday, the Sunnyvale, Calif., tech company shared some impressive stats about the growth of its app business. In the last two years, Yahoo has increased its internal mobile apps team to 500 people from 50; last year, its mobile gross revenue reached $1.2 billion.

“Over the past few years we’ve really reinvented our business with a mobile focus,” Chief Executive Marissa Mayer told attendees. “The opportunity here is huge.”

Mayer, speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 developers and journalists at the Masonic in San Francisco, noted that the average smartphone user in the U.S. spends 177 minutes on his or her device daily, 88% of that time on mobile apps.

“Mobile apps have won,” she said. “You’ve made the right choice.”

Now Yahoo wants to help “move mobile forward” for its users, developers and advertisers. To that end, it introduced a new mobile developer suite of services designed to help developers measure, advertise, monetize and enhance their mobile apps.

Among the new tools is mobile ad network Yahoo App Publishing. Developers can use the resource to integrate native ads from Yahoo’s Gemini marketplace and video ads from its BrightRoll video ad platform subsidiary into their apps.

There's also a new offering that enables developers to integrate Yahoo Search directly into their apps, so users can search the Web within an app.

Mayer encouraged developers to take advantage of the app technologies, including its mobile management and analytics tool Flurry, which Yahoo purchased in July for more than $200 million. There are now 200,000 mobile app developers who have built 630,000 apps on the Flurry platform.

“We want to help you take your apps from being great apps into being great businesses,” Mayer said.