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Internet Growth Slows, Most People Still Offline: UN

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population is still offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said on Monday.

Internet access in rich economies is reaching saturation levels but 90 percent of people in the 48 poorest countries have none, its report said.

The access growth rate is expected to slow to 8.1 percent this year, down from 8.6 percent in 2014. Until 2012, growth rates had been in double digits for years.

“We have reached a transition point in the growth of the Internet,” the report said.

The commission, set up in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO, the U.N. scientific and cultural agency, said the milestone of four billion Internet users was unlikely to be passed before 2020.

It said growth in Facebook subscribers was outpacing growth in the Internet.

“Over half the world’s population – some 57 percent, or

more than 4 billion people – still do not use the Internet regularly or actively,” the report said.

It blamed the cost of extending last-mile infrastructure to rural and remote customers, and a sharp slowdown in the growth of mobile cellular subscriptions globally.

By the end of this year, 3.2 billion people will have some form of regular access to the Internet, up from 2.9 billion in 2014. That is 43.4 percent of the world’s population, still far short of a U.N. target of 60 percent by 2020.

Women in poorer countries were particularly disadvantaged, the report said. In the developing world, 25 percent fewer women than men had Internet access, a number that rises to 50 percent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Only about 5 percent of the world’s estimated 7,100 languages were represented on the Internet, the report said. Many Internet users could not understand Latin script, so even reading domain names was a challenge, it added.

Portal Giving Info on Nation-Wide Pending Cases Launched

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The latest consolidated figures of district-wise pending cases would be now a click away following the launch of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG).

NJDG, which was Saturday inaugurated by Supreme Court judge Justice MB Lokur, will give litigants and others the consolidated figures of pending cases in District Judiciary across the country.

Aimed at promoting transparency and access to information for all stakeholders in the justice delivery system, the NJDG public access page can be visited at the National eCourts portal, ecourts.gov.in’. It will give consolidated figures of pendency of cases in district judiciary across the country.

“These statistics, which will be updated every day by the respective court complexes covered under the eCourts Project, will show case pendency broken into civil and criminal cases and segregated into age-wise categories of upto 2 years, between 2 to 5 years, between 5 to 10 years and more than 10 years.

“The NJDG page for public access will also disseminate national and state, district and court-wise information about institution and disposal of cases and also the cases filed by senior citizens and women in the total pendency,” said the press note issued by Supreme Court Registry.

Presently, NJDG contains information on 1.94 crore pending cases out of approximately 2.7 crore cases of district judiciary under all the high courts of country except Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, where case data is being migrated to national version of Case Information Software.

“Some courts are not yet computerised and, in some cases, connectivity issues may lead to non-updation of information,” the release said.

Mega Founder Kim Dotcom Extradition Hearing Opens in New Zealand

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom’s long-awaited extradition hearing opened in New Zealand Monday with the flamboyant founder of now-defunct Megaupload confident he can avoid being sent to the United States to face online piracy charges.

The German insists he is a legitimate Internet entrepreneur, while US authorities allege his Megaupload empire promoted online theft on a grand scale.

They claim Megaupload netted more than $175 million (roughly Rs. 1,152 crores) in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,292 crores)-plus by offering pirated films, music and software.

Almost four years after armed police raided his Auckland mansion, Dotcom entered court wearing his trademark black attire for a hearing expected to last up to three weeks.

“This case is not just about me. This case is about how much control we allow US corporations and the US government to have over the Internet,” he tweeted before the hearing began.

Dotcom watched proceedings from his own leather armchair at the back of the court after being granted special permission to bring it in to try to ease a back complaint.

The charges against Dotcom include fraud, racketeering and money laundering. They were laid after an investigation into what the FBI describes as the largest copyright case in US history.

The 41-year-old and his three co-accused – ex-Megaupload executives Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann, and Bram van der Kolk – face jail terms of up to 20 years if convicted in the US.

Hearing delayed 10 times
They have mounted a determined defence, successfully delaying the extradition hearing 10 times and challenging the actions of US prosecutors and New Zealand police at every turn.

It was no surprise that legal wrangling dominated the opening day, as judge Nevin Dawson heard submissions on what evidence was admissible and the order in which it should be heard.

Lawyers for the accused asked for a stay of proceedings, saying US authorities were refusing to give them access to frozen funds that they need to hire expert witnesses.

“Court orders made by New Zealand courts and Hong Kong courts have been frustrated by a deliberate tactical decision by the US to stop us accessing expertise that we need,” said barrister Grant Illingworth, representing Ortmann.

Dotcom claims that Washington is pursuing him at the request of the US entertainment industry and says the case could set a precedent that affects all Internet users.

“The judges on this case can become the champions for billions of Internet users or a handful of US content billionaires,” he tweeted.

His lawyers argued in a 2013 position paper that copyright theft is usually treated as a civil offence that would not warrant extradition from New Zealand.

They said the inclusion of serious criminal charges that would normally only be levelled at gangsters, showed a “gunslinger attitude” by prosecutors determined to claim Dotcom’s scalp.

Judge Dawson does not need to determine whether Dotcom and his co-accused are guilty of any crimes, only whether there is a strong enough case to warrant extraditing them to the US to stand trial there.

The hearing will resume on Thursday, when the judge will hand down a decision on the defendents’ application for a stay of proceedings.

Twitter Says It’s Bigger Than Facebook, Depending on ‘How You Measure It’

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With the Facebook user base touching 1.49 billion – or roughly 20 percent of the world’s population – can any social networking site claim to be bigger than this? Well, Twitter does.

Although it has reported 316 million users in the second quarter – around five times less than Facebook’s figure – and its stocks not doing very well either, it did not deter Twitter’s chief financial officer Anthony Noto recently observing that Twitter was not behind Facebook, Quartz reported.

Noto’s remarks came during Deutsche Bank’s technology conference recently where he observed that Twitter is equal – or perhaps even bigger than Facebook – “depending on how you measure it”.

“I often get the question from friends [who] are like, ayou know Facebook has over a billion users’, and I am like, ‘well, we have an audience, depending on how you measure it, that’s pretty comparable,” he was quoted as saying.

(Also see:  Facebook Signal Tool for Journalists Challenges Twitter)

“But they only have that audience, they only have the 1.4 billion they report, there’s no other number. We have other audience numbers that no one talks about and when you add those up it’s a big number, in fact in some scenarios you could argue that it’s bigger,” Noto added.

The “other numbers” that Noto was referring to are logged-out users (people visiting Twitter who don’t have accounts or don’t log in) and those who see syndicated or embedded tweets elsewhere.

In July, then-CEO Dick Costolo told analysts that half a billion logged-out users come to Twitter each month, and there are even more people who see tweets distributed via partners, such as CNN and ESPN.

Brazil to Boost Internet Speed Through Europe: Telebras CEO

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Brazil will boost its Internet communications to reduce dependence on U.S. hubs and be able to host global data centers for heavy users like YouTube and Netflix, Jorge Bittar, head of state-run telecomscompany Telebras, said in an interview.

At present, all submarine fiber-optic cables connect Brazil to the Internet through the United States.

That’s a security risk in a “post-Snowden” world, said Telebras chief executive Bittar, referring to the 2013 revelations of former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden, including that the U.S. agency spied on President Dilma Rousseff and other Brazilians.

In a move late next year that will bring the Internet to remote corners of Brazil, European space-transporter Arianespace will launch a geostationary satellite for Brazil from French Guiana, with a throughput of 56 gigabits per second.

By 2017, a submarine cable with more than 30 terabit-per-second capacity will open a high-speed channel to Portugal allowing European astronomers to watch the stars through telescopes in Chile.

“The submarine cable will give us greater security and more agile communications with Europe,” Bittar said.

The electronic surveillance scandal prompted Brazil to buy the satellite from French aerospace supplier Thales instead of a U.S. company.

Brazil has paid half of its $654 million cost and is building infrastructure to connect Brazil from poor city suburbs to remote locations in the Amazon.

The purchase was not hit by recent spending cuts because one of Rousseff’s priorities is to bring Internet to every Brazilian school, Bittar said.

The satellite will be shared with Brazil’s armed forces whose communications currently rely on renting satellite bands from Star One, a unit of Embratel, a company controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil.

The 5,875-kilometer cable called EulaLink will be laid from Lisbon to Fortaleza in Northeast Brasil by a joint venture formed by Telebras and Spain’s IslaLink at a cost of $185 million financed by the European Union.

European research networks will invest 25 million euros in the cable that will provide them with a fast speed connection to the European Southern Observatory telescopes in Chile’s Atacama desert. The joint venture is talking to future heavy users to cover the remainder of the investment.

The cable will allow Brazil to have its first global Internet exchange point in the northern city of Fortaleza and ample bandwidth to set up data centers needed by heavy Internet users, especially big video operations, Bittar said.

Google Probe Report Only a ‘Beginning’, Says CCI Chief

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Competition Commission today said its investigation arm has submitted its report on the alleged anti-competitive practices of Internet major Google and the regulator is awaiting comments on it from concerned parties.

“The case has been going on for sometime. The investigator (Director General) has given the report,”Competition Commission of India (CCI) Chairman Ashok Chawla said in New Delhi.

His remarks came in response to a query about the status of the Google case. As per the process followed under the Competition Act as in other cases, “the investigator’s report in a sense is only a beginning,” he said at an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women Press Corps.

Referring to the normal procedures followed in the cases, Chawla said the investigation report has been sent out to parties on both sides and they have to now give their comments.

The CCI refers cases for detailed probe to its investigation arm Director General (DG). The DG report is believed to contain comments and inputs from a host of entities present in the Internet business including some well-known e-commerce firms and web portals.

While submissions from some of them appear to suggest violations on part of Google, others have sided with the US-based global giant.

“We are currently reviewing this report from the CCI’s ongoing investigation. We continue to work closely with the CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India’s competition laws,” a Googlespokesperson had said in August.

Meanwhile, Google has demanded access to certain documents held back by the watchdog to prepare a “thorough response” and is believed to have sought more time to make its submissions.

“As we continue to review this report, we have requested that the CCI provide access to documents and other information referred to in the report but not provided to us, to allow us to prepare a thorough response,” the company’s spokesperson said earlier this month.

The CCI, which first received a complaint against Google back in 2011, has been looking into allegations that the company abused its dominant position in the search engine space for well over three years.

Facebook Opens First Office in Thailand, Says 34 Million Thais Use the Service

Facebook opened its first office in Thailand Thursday as the social network company expanded its footprint in Asia, its fastest-growing region.

More than 34 million people in Thailand log into Facebook’s 1.5-billion user network each month, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page.

Thai Facebook users are some of the most engaged, Sandberg wrote, posting online three times more than the global average.

Facebook is blocked out of China, the world’s largest Internet market, but still experiences its fastest growth in Asia at 57 percent.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya, with the majority using mobile devices to access their profiles.

Facebook opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June as the continent’s growing population and relatively low levels of internet access present a large untapped market for the social network to earn advertising revenue.

The numbers, the first Facebook has published for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and Kenya, East Africa’s most developed, show the two nations as important entry points on a continent of nearly one billion people.

Nigeria had 15 million monthly active users as of June 30 this year, all of them using mobiles to like, share and upload content on the social network. In Kenya, 95 percent of the 4.5 million monthly active users did so via mobiles.

South Africa has 12 million monthly active Facebook users, the data showed, and Facebook says with its strong advertising partnerships in Africa it would use the new office in Johannesburg to expand its business across the continent.

Facebook is finally building a Dislike button

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The fabled, long-request Facebook “Dislike” button may finally become reality, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a Q&A session on Tuesday. But instead of being a catch-all “This sucks” identifier used to brand clickbait and racist memes from Uncle Homer with a scarlet letter, the social network’s considering rolling out the Dislike button for a more nuanced use: Empathy.

Facebook wants to limit use of the Dislike button to situations where the standard “Like” interaction feels crass, such as posts about deaths or divorces. “What they really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment,” Zuckerberg said, according to Time.

Zuckerberg says Facebook’s “working on [a Dislike button] and shipping it,” with plans to start testing its implementation in the future.

The story behind the story: Facebook and Zuckerberg have long resisted the idea of introducing a Dislike button to the social network, wary of giving users an avenue to attack other people via a negative interaction. (Think of Reddit’s “downvote brigades” that swoop in to submerge posts that contain ideas the brigade disagrees with.) The Dislike button Facebook is now considering sounds like a much more nuanced approach, designed to combat an actual problem with the network—but Facebook’s going to have to stick the landing or it could turn out ugly.Perhaps it’ll turn up as an optional flag that allows you to manually change “Like” to “Dislike” for a post? Time will tell, though Zuckerberg didn’t reveal any sort of expected timeframe for the new feature to roll out.

Instagram ads are about to get longer, more prominent

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Instagram users should expect to see new kinds of advertisements soon, as the social network greatly expands its money-making efforts.

While Instagram isn’t necessarily pushing more ads on its users, advertisers are getting a few new ways to draw in eyeballs. The maximum length of video ads, for instance, is doubling to 30 seconds, encouraging users to gaze for a bit longer as they scroll through an ad in their feed. Photo and video ads may alsoappear in landscape mode for a more cinematic look.

Instagram is also adding a new type of ad called “Marquee,” which sounds like some sort of attention-grabbing header. Instagram describes it as a “premium product that helps drive mass awareness and expanded reach in a short time-frame,” especially for events such as movie premieres.

As for run-of-the-mill sponsored posts, Instagram is opening up to smaller brands and expanding ads to more than 30 countries, starting on September 30. These ads can have specialized buttons, such as a “install now” link to the App Store, or a “shop now” link to a product page. As TechCrunch reports, advertisers can use Facebook’s existing self-serve interface to start reaching both Instagram and Facebook users.

The impact on you at home: Essentially, Instagram is giving advertisers new ways to make themselves more noticeable, and to increase the odds that they’ll reach users who actually care. In other words, even if the number of Instagram ads doesn’t increase, the idea is that you’ll be more aware of their presence as Facebook looks to cash in on its $1 billion acquisition.