Sources: Uber closed round of nearly $1B with Microsoft participating, valuing the company at over $50B and bringing total funding to more than $5B (Wall Street Journal)
Wall Street Journal:
Sources: Uber closed round of nearly $1B with Microsoft participating, valuing the company at over $50B and bringing total funding to more than $5B — Uber Valued at More Than $50 Billion — Ride-sharing app, which just closed a funding round, reaches mark faster than Facebook
Victims of data breaches have a small reason to rejoice this week.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Live TV service Sling TV is answering back to the cable giant in a very public way.
The post Sling TV Says Comcast Is Blocking Its Anti-Comcast Ads appeared first on WIRED.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
GM admits its fix for a wireless OnStar hack was incomplete and is urging iOS users to update their RemoteLink app.
The post Patch Your OnStar iOS App to Avoid Getting Your Car Hacked appeared first on WIRED.
WIRED goes down the rabbit hole to discover the best Instagram has to offer.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
What better analogue for a rap beef than everyone's favorite tale of intrigue and backstabbery?
The post The Drake-Meek Mill Beef, Explained in Game of Thrones GIFs appeared first on WIRED.
A little unfriendly competition.
The post Mozilla Calls Out Microsoft For Pushing Edge Over Firefox appeared first on WIRED.
Clinton says Internet companies can play an important role in normalizing relations with Cuba.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
This post appears courtesy of the Ferenstein Wire, a syndicated news service. Publishing partners may edit posts. For inquiries, please email author and publisher Gregory Ferenstein.
Bitcoin, the digital currency infamous for wild swings in value and black market transactions, could have profound implications for the future of public services. Tech optimists at the highest levels of government are exploring how the same technology that makes bitcoin anonymous could make government services less bureaucratic and more secure from hackers.
I spoke with Brian Forde, MIT Media Labs' new director of digital currency and former senior advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, at the Atlantic Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss bitcoin technology and how it could eventually become a cornerstone of modern governance.
His perspective could be our best indication yet that the technology may, in fact, see bona fide and official adoption someday. Entrepreneurs may also want to note that some of Forde's insights on government use of bitcoin could apply to private operations as well.Biting Off Bitcoin
Over the last few years, Bitcoin has slowly gained mainstream acceptance, expanding from the hobby of libertarian digital activists to the portfolios of billionaire Silicon Valley investors. But Bitcoin and its associated cryptographic technology has largely been viewed by governments as a dangerous technology in need of regulation.
Noted investor and Twitter philosopher Marc Andreessen has championed the idea that bitcoin's "blockchain" technology, a sophisticated public ledger of transactions, could prove much more useful than the currency itself. Yet, there's been little, if any, indication that senior members of American government are taking this optimistic view seriously.
Forde also sees potential in this newfangled digital currency. When I spoke to him, he explained various scenarios illustrating some of the potential benefits for governments, including the following:Bitcoin's Tech Could Have Big Impact On The Most In Need
Digital currencies have immense potential to improve human welfare by strengthening the capacity of governments to deliver more responsive services and secure the rights of their citizens to property, identity and increase financial inclusion... And because it is an open-source protocol for innovation, a wide range of services and products can be built by entrepreneurs and non-profits on top of it.
In other words, the major benefactors of bitcoin technology are the folks who need government the most—financially beleaguered citizens, public officials targeted by foreign hackers, or entrepreneurs who need agencies to get their business paperwork approved.
Basically, any piece of official documentation, from liquor licenses to medical transcripts could be made portable and secure.Bitcoin's Value Is More Than Currency
Digital currencies like bitcoin are the network of transactions. If you think bitcoin is just for money transfer, that's like thinking the internet was only built for email—today we know that internet is used for so many more applications. The true innovation that bitcoin solved was the elimination of the "double-spend."
Forde is talking about the blockchain, the principal technology underlying bitcoin, which allows users to verify whether a digital piece of content is authentic. The blockchain acts as a public ledger of all transactions.
Bitcoin transactions are logged publically and distributed throughout a network of nodes that produce the currency. That structure verifies the authenticity of transactions. But it's become broadly accepted as an ownerless and hacker-resistant alternative to traditional third-party verifiable sources, such as banks or notary publics. (For a full explanation of the blockchain process, see this link.)
The blockchain could make public services much more efficient, since there would be no need for banks or regulation agencies to check for forgeries, or what Forde called "the double spend."A Way To Reach Out To "The Unbanked"
More than 2 billion adults around the world do not have access to a bank account. Without a connection to the financial support services that typically accompany formal bank accounts, the unbanked have very limited access to the savings and borrowing mechanisms necessary to drive broad-based economic growth.
Forde imagines bringing "the unbanked" into the economic fold through super-efficient money transfers (like SMS). Credits for food or other services could be given in similar ways without the need for complex bureaucracies.Bitcoin Use Could Boost Security
Today we practice a lot of authentication theater. Your government-issued identity, for example, starts out in a database of a government agency. It's then printed out in the form of a social security card, driver's license, birth certificate or passport.... $24 billion in identity theft occurs annually because corporations treat your social security number as a user name and a password.
He see bitcoin technology as a way of mitigating some of those risks. Its structure inherently allows for uniqueness between blockchains, and its built-in authentication could obviate the need for security IDS from central government databases.
A user's bitcoin-like ID could function like a social security card, and it would be globally recognizable and interoperable between all sorts of government services.Governments Are Interested, But Not Committing
Similar to CEOs of large companies and non-profits, I've found officials in governments around the world interested in learning about the technology and how they can apply it to address the social issues affecting people in their communities.
"Interest" is a vague word, but use of such non-committal terms is no surprise. Senior government officials are often mum about real intentions around anything considered experimental.
So there's no telling whether we may see bitcoin technology stripping away layers of government bureaucracy any time soon. If it's in the works (and that's a huge "if"), it would take years to see the light of day.
However, entrepreneurs should note that some of the reasons governments are examining bitcoin could apply to their operations as well—including security, expediency, a way of reaching out to people who would rather not use a bank account—or don't have one to rely on—and other reasons.
Plus, if the White House eventually pursues bitcoin in a meaningful way, entrepreneurs who have already started claiming their stake in this uncharted territory could find themselves in a good position. They might even help pave the way for the government to improve its services—which benefits everybody.
For more stories like this, subscribe to the Ferenstein Wire newsletter here.
Guest author Robert J. Moore is the CEO of RJMetrics, a provider of business intelligence to online companies.
Much of the growth in software-as-a-service companies is being driven by a “land and expand” strategy: Tools first get used by individuals, then by small teams, and so on up the organizational hierarchy.
Eventually the company finds itself signing a large-scale deal, all without a competitive process or RFP. Companies like Slack and Dropbox craft their pricing models specifically to encourage this behavior—Slack knew exactly what it was doing when it decided to allow accounts to grow to unlimited users for free, and it was certainly an effective strategy to penetrate my company, RJMetrics. One day, some engineers were using it, then all the engineers, then the rest of the company, then we reached a point of no return and paying for it was pretty much our only option.Enter The Shadow
This phenomenon is called Shadow IT: technology decisions getting made without input from, and sometimes without even awareness of, traditional IT organizations. Many IT leaders I talk to seem to think that the inmates are running the asylum, and are pushing back hard to regain control. Typically, this is being done in the name of security and compliance.
Users see it the other way around: they feel like they are finally throwing off the yoke of IT departments that have failed to innovate on their behalf.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if this trend is good or bad—either way, it’s happening. Technology no longer exists just in the workplace, and enterprise software is now not solely controlled by the IT hierarchy. Pandora is never going back in that box, so whether or not this state of the world is desirable just isn’t particularly relevant.
We didn’t mind paying—I think Slack is worth every penny. What’s interesting, though, is the position it put us in with regards to our data. All of a sudden, there’s this company that knows more about the way my team communicates than I do. That data seems like it could be quite useful—maybe I could even use it to understand and improve my business. But right now, Slack has that data and we don’t.The Data Dilemma
Take this problem and multiply it by the number of SaaS tools your company is currently using: CRM, helpdesk, productivity, file storage, and on and on. They all know about your employees, your customers, your products—everything about your business— but you don’t have access to that data. Why is that?
Traditionally, software has been on-premise, and all of the data stores sitting behind the applications were directly accessible by the IT organizations maintaining them. Accessing the data was as easy as opening up a SQL terminal (which is to say, very easy).
But with applications deployed in the cloud, the data stores behind them became inaccessible. The only way to access data living within cloud applications is via the APIs exposed by application developers. And unlike SQL, a universal language for accessing data, the API for every application is different. This means that if your organization uses ten SaaS products, you need to integrate with ten different APIs to get that data, a nontrivial task.
What organizations really need is to get all of that data into a single, high-performance, SQL-based analytical database. Fortunately, there are plenty of great choices as to what that database should look like. HP Vertica, Amazon Redshift, Snowflake, and others are innovating aggressively in this space. In fact, Redshift is Amazon Web Services’ fastest-growing product in history.
Business owners of the past would shudder at the thought of their data warehouse living in the cloud, but today this has become less of a concern. The advantages of cloud deployment—managed services with low upfront investment—extend to data warehouses as well. And because of the larger trend towards cloud services, much of the modern company's data is already there in the first place.
But that still leaves an open question: How do you transfer the data from all of the data sources where your data lives into this analytical database? This is, today, an unsolved problem, but it’s one that’s being actively churned on.
Today’s solutions fall into a few buckets:
- Legacy ETL tools (feature-rich but heavyweight, hard to use, and expensive)
- Home-grown solutions (unreliable, difficult to scale, and costly to maintain)
- Open source libraries (promising but immature; still require technical investment)
- SaaS products (still early in development)
This is a problem that businesses today are just waking up to. The transition to cloud services is happening in real time, and businesses are just beginning to realize how in the dark they are when it comes to analyzing this data.
Five years ago there were very few companies actively pursuing answers to these questions. Companies like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Spotify built their own data-processing engines that have matured into significant competitive advantages for these companies. Today, many more online businesses are following in their footsteps but need an answer that doesn’t require dozens of full-time engineers to build and maintain.
The transition to SaaS is a massive paradigm shift and companies are just learning to adapt. I have very little doubt that these companies will rely on SaaS products to build the infrastructure that ties together other SaaS products.
And thus does the snake eat its own tail.
Photo by Hamed Saber