Archive for December, 2012
Facebook has begun a trial which allows users to pay $1 to send messages direct to people who are not their friends.The fee will mean messages go straight to a recipient’s inbox rather than the Other folder which contains all unsolicited correspondence.
The trial is only for a “small number of people” and is initially being tested just in the US.
Users will be able to receive a maximum of one paid for message per week, and no more than three each month.
“Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful,” the site said in a statement.
“For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their inbox.”
The system is similar to one adopted by professional social networking service LinkedIn. Although their InMail feature allows users to get in touch with people they are not connected to for a set monthly premium fee.
On Facebook, users can already send messages to anyone else on the network. However, depending on a user’s privacy settings, messages from users who are not friends mostly end up in the Other folder.
This folder, which is separate from the user’s main inbox, often goes unchecked.
The $1 charge will mean messages will go straight to a user’s inbox. Facebook said the level of cost is likely to prevent spam or irrelevant messages.
There are no immediate plans to launch the trial for users in Europe, but it could happen in the future, Facebook said.
The changes are the latest evolution of Facebook’s messaging service – an area of its site it is looking to expand.
The site’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously said he wants people to use Facebook messages instead of email – and the network rolled out @facebook.com email addresses to all users in June.
Record numbers of UK shoppers visited retail websites on Boxing Day- with analysts suggesting shoppers are also using the internet to identify bargains.Information service Experian said UK consumers made 113 million visits to retailers’ websites on 26 December.
The number of visitors to the High Street on the same day was up 0.64% on last year’s Boxing Day trade, according to Experian.
Some big name retailers started their online sales on Christmas Day.
UK internet users made 84 million visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107 million visits on Christmas Day, up 86% and 71% respectively compared to the same days in December 2011, according to Experian.
The Boxing Day level – 113 million visits – was 17% up on the same day in 2011. Typically, during the year, there is an average of about 70 million visits on Mondays – the busiest day of the week for online shopping.
“The UK sales creep continues to advance so that now the post Christmas sales are starting before Christmas,” said James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian.
“Five years ago we called it the January sales, before it became the Boxing Day sales, now retailers have to call it the winter sales as discounting starts earlier to encourage higher spending.”
Shoppers headed back to the High Street, with large department stores such as John Lewis throwing open their doors for clearance sales.
Yet, retail consultants have said that many people heading out to the shops will have already browsed online to choose the items they want.
The squeeze on family finances is likely to keep the lid on retail sales, especially on big ticket items.
However, some positive news in employment levels means that some stores could still record a decent level of sales in the significant post-Christmas sales period.
Experian Footfall said that there was “quiet optimism” on the High Street with the number of shoppers up slightly on 26 December, compared with the same day in 2011.
The growth of the internet means that the peak in sales might already have taken place.
Mr Murray, of Experian, said that 26 December was traditionally the single biggest shopping day of the year online.
And now, shoppers are using digital devices such as tablets and smartphones to search for bargains – then only travel to those specific shops to buy those items.
The amount people spent online was expected to account for 12% of total retail spending.
A partnership of UK universities is launching an online project- MOOCs who are challenging US universities that have dominated this new market.They will aim to give the public access to higher education courses via computers, tablets or smartphones.
A new company called FutureLearn is being set up to run this online project, which will be majority-owned by the Open University.
These have become known as Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs.
The partnership will include the Open University, King’s College London, Bristol, Exeter, Warwick, East Anglia, Leeds, Lancaster, Southampton, Cardiff, Birmingham and St Andrews.
The project will represent the biggest UK response to rapidly growing online universities – with these universities planning to offer courses through a shared online platform.
There are usually no formal entry requirements for students on such courses but individual universities will have to decide how students can be examined and accredited.
Martin Bean, the Open University’s vice-chancellor, said that the arrival of online courses meant that UK universities could either “stick their heads in the sand” or rise to the international challenge.
The vice-chancellor said higher education had to face up to the impact of the internet on delivering courses.
“What the web has taught us is that you can take nothing for granted – those who sit back and hope it goes away will lose,” he said.
Online joint projects, offered by some of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, Stanford and MIT, have attracted registrations from millions of students.
They have raised the prospect of reaching many more students at a much lower cost. Their courses have used the internet to deliver video and provide interactive exercises and automated testing.
The announcement from the FutureLearn project sees the first major challenge from the UK, headed by the Open University, which has pioneered distance learning.
These universities will be responsible for the content, quality, accreditation and cost of courses offered online.
There will also be social networking-style communities for students. Materials will be designed for portable devices, such as iPads or mobile phones.
In the US, in these early stages of development, courses have been offered free – but there have been charges introduced where there are certificates and invigilated exams.
There are also expectations that high levels of web traffic will be used for advertising or links to other services.
And when universities are charging high levels of tuition fees for their campus-based students, this raises questions about how this will be balanced against awarding online degrees for much less.
A company based in India has been ordered to stop sending spam text messages about PPI and accident compensation to UK consumers.The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld complaints about the texts sent by Mumbai-based claims management company, Data Supplier.
It said it had not seen any evidence that the recipients had agreed to be included on the company’s database.
Many consumers have expressed their general frustration at receiving unsolicited text messages about payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling claims.
A huge industry in PPI claims has built up after providers started paying millions of pounds in compensation for policies sold to people who did not want or need them.
The particular complaint dealt with by the ASA surrounded a text message that said: “We have been trying to contact you regarding your PPI Claim, we now have details of how much you are due, just reply CONFIRM and we will call you back.”
A second text said: “Our records indicate you may be entitled to £3750 for the accident you had. To claim for free just reply CLAIM to this msg. To stop text STOP.”
Three complainants, two of whom received the first text and one who received the second, challenged whether they were misleading and could be substantiated.
These people said they had not recently had an accident or did not believe that they were eligible to reclaim PPI payments, and suggested that the texts breached the advertising code because they were unsolicited.
The ASA ruling said: “We noted that we had not seen any evidence to show that the recipients of the texts had given their explicit consent to be included on the Data Supplier’s database.
“We also understood that none of the recipients had recently had accidents or considered themselves to be eligible to make a PPI claim, and that the texts did not identify who the message had been sent from.
“For those reasons, we concluded that the texts were unsolicited and misleading and were therefore in breach of the code. The texts must not be sent again in their current form.”
The UK’s ASA advertising rules are simply:
- Companies must not send “persistent and unwanted” communications by telephone, fax, mail or email
- The messages must include the company’s name and details of how to opt out
- Companies must make it simple for people to opt out.
The prime minister David Cameron has accepted the criticism from the public and businesses of the draft Communications Data Bill and agreed to re-write the controversial legislation.Civil liberties campaigners have described the proposals as a “snoopers’ charter”, but Home Secretary Theresa May insists they are vital for countering paedophiles, extremists and fraudsters.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships agree on the need for new measures, but they disagree over their scope.
Nick Clegg: ”We need a fundamental rethink, go back to the drawing board”
The plans in the draft bill included:
- Internet service providers having to store for a year all details of online communication in the UK – such as the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it was made.
- They would also be having to store for the first time all Britons’ web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls
- Police not having to seek permission to access details of these communications, if investigating a crime
- Police having to get a warrant from the home secretary to be able to see the actual content of any messages
- Four bodies having access to data: the police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and HM Revenue and Customs
A report from the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Bill, made up of MPs and peers, accepted a new law was needed to help police fight crime and tackle security threats organised online.
But it warned ministers would be able to demand “potentially limitless categories of data” unless the draft bill was amended.
It called for “safeguards” over the new powers to prevent abuse and accused the government of producing estimates of the cost of implementing the plans which were not “robust” enough. The “net benefit figure” was “fanciful and misleading”, it said.
The MPs and peers added that the draft bill paid “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy” and went “much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data”.
Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the committee had raised “a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope, proportionality, cost, checks and balances, and the need for much wider consultation”.
“It is for those reasons that I believe the coalition government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation. We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board.”
But he added: “The committee did not, however, suggest that nothing needs to be done. They were very clear that there is a problem that must be addressed to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to fight crime. I agree.
In its report, the committee said the home secretary would be given “sweeping powers to issue secret notices to communications service providers, requiring them to retain and disclose potentially limitless categories of data”.
But it added: “We have been told that she has no intention of using the powers in this way. Our main recommendation is therefore that her powers should be limited to those categories of data for which a case can now be made.”
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comScore a leader in measuring the digital world, today reported holiday season retail ecommerce spending for the first 40 days of the November–December 2012 holiday season.For the holiday season to date $29.3 billion has been spent online, marking a 13 percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.
Green Monday (Dec. 10) reached $1.275 billion in spending, up 13 percent vs. last year and ranking as the third heaviest online spending day for the season-to-date after Cyber Monday ($1.465 billion) and Tuesday, Dec. 4 ($1.362 billion).
“Green Monday kicked off this critical week for online holiday shopping with a strong total of $1.275 billion, marking a 13-percent gain from last year,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
“While Green Monday remains a very important day for the season, as consumers have gained confidence with on time shipment delivery, there is perhaps less urgency than there once was to make those final purchases at least two weeks in advance of Christmas Day. What we’ve seen over the past few years is a tendency for heavy spending to continue late into the week of Green Monday and right up until Free Shipping Day, which this year falls on December 17.”
The Green Monday gains are driven by both a growth in the number of buyers and also increased spending per buyer.
An analysis of Green Monday spending demonstrates how various components contributed to the 13-percent growth rate.
Spending growth was driven by both an increase in the number of buyers (up 7 percent to 9 million) and an increase in spending per buyer (up 6 percent to $140.95).
The gain in spending per buyer primarily reflected an increase in the number of transactions per buyer (up 5 percent to 1.76) rather than an increase in the dollar value of a transaction, which was up only 2 percent to $80.11.
This likely reflects consumers’ willingness to purchase at a variety of retailers to take advantage of competitive deals and discounts.
Digital content & subscriptions remains top gaining product category for the season
The top gaining category for the season-to-date is Digital Content & Subscriptions, predominantly comprised of digital book, music and video downloads, which has grown 22 percent versus year ago.
Toys ranks second with a growth rate of 18 percent, followed by Video Game Consoles & Accessories (up 15 percent).
Consumer Electronics currently ranks fourth (up 15 percent) on the strength of smartphone sales, while Computer Hardware rounds out the top five (up 14 percent) on the strength of tablet sales.
Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle tablets have launched new deals that highlight how content are helping drive device sales.The Times newspaper is subsidising the cost of the Nexus as part of its digital editions bundle.
Amazon is launching an “all-you-can-eat” media subscription offer targeted at children in the US.
Apple’s share of worldwide tablet shipments dipped from about 66% to 50% between the April-to-June quarter and the July-to-September period, according to data from IDC.
By contrast the Kindle and Nexus devices’ share grew. Investors will watch to see how that trend is affected in the current period following the launch of the iPad Mini.
The Times is promoting its Nexus 7 Digi Bundle – which gives online access to The Times and Sunday Times papers – by offering the 32GB version of the tablet for £50, on top of the price of its standard package, rather than the £199 it is sold for in shops.
The deal involves an 18 month commitment to the paper, bringing the total cost to £299 for the period.
It is notable that the firm picked Google’s tablet, bearing in mind News International’s chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, had previously described the firm as a “parasite” for offering his papers’ content in its news search listings.
Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited service charges a monthly fee for access to book, game and educational apps, movies and TV shows. Disney, DC Comics, Nickelodeon and the team behind Sesame Street are also among the publishers that have allowed their content to be included.
The product is focused at children aged between three and eight and will promote content depending on their gender and age.
It costs about £3 per month per child, although there is a discount for members of the Amazon Prime programme.