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Google Pony Express: Part of the big, digital cash grab

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Analysis

What is it with all these companies suddenly wanting to be in business? And by “business” I mean finance. Whether it’s on my phone, in my watch or on the desktop, big name tech and social media companies are angling to get between your wallet and everyone else holding their hands out.

Google Pony Express, the project ReCode stumbled on this week, is another perfect example. According to the site and a raft of secret documents they perused and then published, Google is working on an entire Gmail-driven bill payment system. So instead of you visiting two dozen sites to pay your e-bills, you just check your Gmail.

There’s more to it than that, obviously, all sorts of authentication between you and the banks and you and the companies you’re paying, but the idea, which may or may not happen later this year, makes a lot of sense.

Gmail could organize all your bill payments and receipts of payments received into folders (or labels) so you can stop organizing then into folders on your computer. One would hope that Google would go the extra mile and tie Pony Express to Google Docs Spreadsheet so you can see an itemized history of payments, but they may not go that far out of the gate.

I’m intrigued by the idea, and I realize now that managing your money and payments is a hot new frontier for all these Silicon Valley companies. But why?

Mobile gets it started

This interest in your personal finances has been led by a flurry of activity in Mobile Payments. Google tried to start the fire years ago, but was largely ignored. Then Apple came along with some of the very same ideas, but with a better blend of easy-to-use security and NFC-enabled mobile payments, and the land rush was on again.

Now everyone from Samsung to Facebook is looking at how they can help part you with your money wherever and whenever you want. Even smaller players are trying to help consumers and businesses move money. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Twitter is launching some sort of Direct Message payment system (they are not, at least not yet).

I’ve always understood the mobile payment craze. Buying stuff on the go is a universal activity, which means it’s a multi-trillion dollar market — a big enough pie for everyone to get a piece. Plus, it’s an obvious fit for the companies making mobile devices: Apple, Samsung, Google.

Managing everyday bills, though, is something different. Many people still put checks in the mail or visit the bank directly to enact payments. They already distrust systems reading their mail. Would they actually trust Google to take that a step further and make payments on their behalf? For companies like Google, though, the even bigger and even more universal market of bill payments is too big too ignore. Google will do everything it can to make Pony Express attractive to everyone and will work overtime to gain trust so they can access your bank accounts, creditors and the companies providing you with goods and services — even if only as a middle man.

Trust me, some people will trust Google and give Pony Express, if it ever launches, a shot.

I might.

I appreciate Gmail scanning my email to identify junk and weeding it out before I have to see it. Other mail systems like Outlook mail do this as well. I’m certain that bill payment would be handled even more securely.

There will be many who will dismiss the idea out of hand — “No snooping Google in my finances!” — But that won’t stop Google from rolling out Pony Express. Digital natives will be early adopters and slowly, but surely, other people will give in and give it a try.

Face it, there’s no getting away from these tech giants getting into your business. Let’s just hope they they do it in a responsible way — and get all my bills paid on time.

source:http://mashable.com/2015/03/25/google-pony-express/

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INSTAGRAM LAUNCHES A LITE APP FOR LOW-END ANDROID DEVICES

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Instagram has released a lightweight version of its Android app that should be easier to install and browse on devices short on storage space and on spotty connections.

TechCrunch notes that the new app, which weighs in at just 573KB, is 1/55th the size of the original app at 33MB. Naturally, you’ll find it a little lighter on functionality too: there’s no messaging or the ability to upload videos right now.

The launch is part of Facebook’s approach to reaching the next billion people who will come online for the first time in developing countries, mostly using low-cost mobile devices with limited access to connectivity and data.

Making its apps more easier to download and perform well on low-end devices is key to growing its user base around the world. To that end, Facebook made Lite versions of its apps for its social network and Messenger available years ago. Twitter has one too, and Google recently launched an optimized version of Android – complete with a suite of its essential apps – to address these needs in emerging markets.

Instagram’s been on a roll lately. It added 300 million users in a little over a year to reach 1 billion last week, and has tacked on loads more features to its service recently, including group video calls, support for longer videos in what it’s calling IGTV, tools for curating saved posts, and improving discovery.

 

 

 

Source: The NextWeb

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SCAMMERS ABUSE MULTILINGUAL DOMAIN NAMES

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Cyber-criminals are abusing multilingual character sets to trick people into visiting phishing websites.

The non-English characters allow scammers to create “lookalike” sites with domain names almost indistinguishable from legitimate ones.

Farsight Security found scam sites posing as banks, loan advisers and children’s brands Lego and Haribo.

Smartphone users are at greater risk as small screens make lookalikes even harder to spot.

Targeted attack
The Farsight Security report looked at more than 100 million domain names that use non-English character sets – introduced to make the net more familiar and usable for non-English speaking nations – and found about 27% of them had been created by scammers.

It also uncovered more than 8,000 separate characters that could be abused to confuse people.

Farsight founder Paul Vixie, who wrote much of the software underpinning the net’s domain names told the BBC: “Any lower case letter can be represented by as many as 40 different variations.”

And many internationalised versions added just a tiny fleck or mark that was not easy to see.

Eldar Tuvey, founder and head of security company Wandera, said it had also seen an upsurge in phishing domains using different ways of forming characters.

In particular, it had seen an almost doubling of the number of scam domains created using an encoding system called punycode over the past few months.

And phishing gangs were using messages sent via mobile apps to tempt people into clicking on the similar-looking links.

“They are targeting specific groups,” Mr Tuvey said.

And research had established people were three times more likely to fall for a phishing scam presented on their phone.

“To phish someone, you just have to fool them once,” Mr Tuvey said. “Tricking them into installing malware is much more work.”

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INSTAGRAM’S NEW LONG-FORM VIDEO HUB IGTV TAKES ON YOUTUBE

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Prepare to spend a lot more time on Instagram.

The Facebook (FB)-owned platform is rolling out a new hub for long-form, vertical video. Instagram announced the new feature at a press event on Wednesday.

The hub, called IGTV, will live within the regular Instagram app. It will also get its own standalone app in the coming days.

Anyone will be able to post to IGTV, but Instagram users with 10,000 followers or more will be able to post videos up to an hour long. Users with fewer followers can post up to 10 minutes of video. Instagram video posts were previously capped at 60 seconds.

The company has tapped celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Selena Gomez who will be among the first to upload longer-form content to their accounts on Wednesday.

In addition to IGTV, CEO Kevin Systrom announced a company milestone: 1 billion monthly active users now use Instagram, up from 800,000 active users in September.

 

instagram igtv kevin systrom

IGTV is reminiscent of Snapchat’s Discover page, which features stories from publishers and creators, and curated posts from itscommunity. Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, launched Discover in 2015 with a number of media partners, including CNN and Buzzfeed. It paid licensing fees to publishers up until recently when it reportedly shifted to an ad-based model only.

“Ads will not be part of IGTV at launch, but we’ll be exploring and test ways to help creators monetize after launch,” a spokesperson told CNNMoney.

Analysts are also comparing IGTV to Google-owned video platform YouTube.

According to media and technology analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG, Instagram users were already using its Stories feature to link out to YouTube to direct followers to longer-form videos.

instagram igtv
The IGTV hub

“Now, Instagram can keep that in-house, and drive greater engagement and time spent,” Greenfield told CNNMoney. “I think this is a natural evolution from pictures to video, to stories and now to long-form video to capture as much human attention as possible.”

Instagrammers are spending more time than ever looking at photos, videos and memes, the company previously told CNNMoney. Users under the age of 25 now spend more than 32 minutes each day on the platform, while users age 25 and older use the app for more than 24 minutes.

While IGTV may lead people to spend more time on Instagram, Systrom previously promised to roll out a tool that will tally time spent on its app.

“Any time should be positive and intentional,” he tweeted last month.

Source: CNN TECH

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