Technology

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Google redesigns Search on mobile to simplify user experience

Media|: New Delhi: Google has announced it is redesigning the look of Search results on smartphones, to further simplify user experience. The mobile redesign will make text easier to read by using larger, bolder text so that the human eye can scan and understand Search results faster. Search results will also take up more of the width of your screen, thanks in part to reduced shadows. Google said the redesign will use colour "more intentionally" to help highlight important information without being distracting. "We wanted to take a step back to simplify a bit so people could find what they're looking for faster and more easily. I find it really refreshing," said Google designer Aileen Cheng. "We want to let the search results shine, allowing people to focus on the information instead of the design elements around it," Cheng said in a statement on Friday. Google has created more breathing room with a new edge-to-edge results design and minimised the use of shadows, making it easier to immediately see what people are looking for. The overall effect is that you have more visual space and breathing room for Search results and other content to take centre-stage on mobile. The update also includes more of Google's own font, which already shows up in Android and Gmail, among other Google products. "Bringing consistency to when and how we use fonts in Search was important, too, which also helps people parse information more efficiently," Cheng explained. The Google team has focused on content and images against a clean background, and using colour more intentionally to guide the eye to important information without being overwhelming or distracting on mobile.

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Ambani's Reliance doubles down on 5G pledge after record profit

Technology|: Mumbai:  Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani doubled down on his promise to offer 5G services on his wireless network as early as this year, as his conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. reported a record profit aided by its consumer businesses. The group's wireless operator, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. - India's largest - has started advance tests to prepare the fifth-generation, high-speed network, it said in a statement Friday. But the tycoon's plans hinge on the availability of spectrum as the Indian government still hasn't auctioned the required airwaves. The Mumbai-based group, whose businesses span oil refining and petrochemicals to retail and telecommunications, said it's testing the transmission speeds using locally-developed equipment. Reliance Jio, with almost 411 million users, reported a 15.5 per cent jump in profit for the three months through December from the preceding quarter, while earnings margins before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization touched 47 per cent. Net income at the group rose 13 per cent from a year earlier, beating analyst estimates. The latest quarterly results bolster Ambani's ambitions to transform Reliance from an energy giant into a technology titan - a pivot that has received $27 billion from global investors including Facebook Inc. and Google. Ambani, Asia's second-richest man, promised last month that Jio will be the first to roll out 5G in India in the second half of this year. He's looking to lure nearly 300 million users still on the older 2G technology offered by Jio's rivals. Affordable, available "Jio will continue to accelerate the roll out of its digital platforms and indigenously developed next generation 5G stack and make it affordable and available everywhere," Ambani, Reliance's chairman, said in the statement. "Jio is determined to make India 2G-mukt," or 2G-free, he said. The 63-year-old tycoon's 5G plans, however, are contingent on the Indian government's auction of airwaves specifically allotted for these services. No date has been announced for this spectrum auction. Jio, backed by its cash-rich and net-debt-free parent, is in the pole position to offer 5G services, whenever government rules allow, at possibly dirt-cheap prices, in what may be an encore of its debut strategy. Reliance Jio disrupted India's telecom market in 2016 when it entered with free calls and super cheap data, forcing rivals to merge, quit or go bankrupt. Paying off Ambani's bet on consumer services - telecom and retail - seems to be paying off despite the pandemic, helping the conglomerate offset a slump in its crude oil refining business

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Russia wages online battle against TikTok and YouTube

Media|Europe|: Moscow: "I'm an American!" a young Russian under the username Neurolera exclaims in English on the popular video-sharing app TikTok as she explains how to impersonate a tourist to avoid arrest at a street demonstration. Her video - published ahead of rallies planned in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny - has been viewed more than 500,000 times while videos demanding Navalny's release garnered hundreds of millions of views on the platform. In Russia, where state-controlled media outlets co-exist in stark contrast with online platforms popular among the opposition, authorities have ramped up efforts to contain and even replace sites that are seen as a threat. YouTube has become the primary source of news for many young Russians. The videos of web star Yuri Dud, known for his interviews with celebrities, or anti-graft campaigner Navalny are enjoying more and more success. Soon after Navalny's arrest, his team published a two-hour investigation into a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The video has been viewed more than 60 million times on YouTube since its publication on Tuesday. Russian authorities have in recent years started tightening the "Runet" (Russian segment of the Internet) in the name of fighting extremism, terrorism and protecting minors. In 2019, Russia passed a law for the development of "sovereign internet" aimed at isolating the Runet from the worldwide web, a move activists fear will tighten government control of cyberspace and stifle free speech. Fines and failures Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor this week reacted to a wave of calls for protests in support of Navalny by threatening social media networks with fines if they do not delete content inciting minors to participate in the demonstrations. On the eve of the rallies, Roskomnadzor said TikTok "deleted 38 percent of information inciting minors to dangerous illegal actions", adding that other social networks including Instagram and YouTube also removed content on its request. Platforms that do not comply can face fines of up to 4 million rubles (around $53,000 or 43,000 euros), Roskomnadzor said. Russia has already banned a number of websites that have refused to cooperate with authorities, such as the video platform Dailymotion and professional networking website LinkedIn. But banning YouTube, which is owned by tech giant Google, would prove a more difficult task. "Roskomnadzor doesn't have a lot of funds," said Artyom Kozlyuk, head of the Roskomsvoboda digital rights NGO. "They have practically no leverage." He adds that it is difficult to put pressure on Western social networks which would be "dealt a blow to their reputation" if they made concessions for a political regime. Local competitors In the case of TikTok the procedure could be facilitated by the Kremlin's proximity to China, an expert in internet censorship, but Moscow still comes up against a lack of knowledge of this popular social network. The Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT (former Russia Today) on Wednesday said that courses would be offered to officials to help understand youth slang on sites like TikTok. And last year Russia conceded in its failure to ban the encrypted messenger Telegram after months of unsuccessful attempts to block it. Authorities are instead aiming to build local competitors such as "RuTube" - which belongs to Russia's leading media holding Gazprom-Media (controlled by energy giant Gazprom) - a video platform that currently has only government-approved content. So far the site pales in comparison to YouTube. But Gazprom-Media CEO Alexander Zharov, the former chief of Roskomnadzor, said that in the next two years they will launch an improved version of RuTube. He also announced the development of a "Russian TikTok" developed with the support of Innopraktika foundation, an organisation run by Katerina Tikhonova - one of Putin's alleged daughters. But according to Artyom Kozlyuk, after more than 20 years of free internet, these efforts are coming far too late. He says the authorities "missed their chance".

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Signal 'copies' several WhatsApp features amid new user surge

Technology|: New Delhi: Encrypted messaging app Signal that has seen a surge in new sign-ups has introduced several features in its upcoming update that already exist in WhatsApp in an apparent bid to woo more users from the Facebook-owned messaging platform. To begin with, Signal has added a feature to change chat wallpaper. The latest Signal Beta update, released this week, includes the feature to change the chat wallpaper copied straightaway from WhatsApp, reports WABetaInfo, a website that closely tracks the Beta changes on Facebook-owned platform. WhatsApp offers a feature to set a custom "about" -- a status available in the contact info page. Signal has now introduced the same option for its users. Signal already offered group calls, but it was limited to five participants to date. Now, it has changed the limit to eight participants like WhatsApp. WhatsApp enabled the support for animated stickers last year. Now, Signal also offers the possibility to create animated stickers from its Desktop app, allowing to share them with friends, the report said on Friday. The latest update brings the support for animated stickers, along with "Day by Day", the first official animated sticker pack. In addition, Signal is implementing a low data mode for calls already implemented in WhatsApp. Signal has implemented the possibility to create a shareable group invite link to invite other users to the groups. The platform has climbed to the top spot in the free apps category of the App Store in multiple countries, including India after WhatsApp users worldwide started receiving pop ups, asking them to agree to its revised policies before February 8 or lose their account. The new WhatsApp policy has now been deferred till May 15. Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp with Jan Koum before selling it to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for $19 billion, is aiming to add 100-200 million users in India over the next two years. Actor, Executive Chairman of Signal Foundation who left WhatsApp in 2017 over a dispute with Facebook regarding monetisation of WhatsApp, has said that he is encouraged to see the massive outpouring of support from all corners of India. The encrypted messaging app last week suffered a massive 24-hour long outage. After experiencing technical difficulties where users were unable to send messages, the messaging app kept trying its best to revive the chats.

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Google threatens to cut off Search for users in Australia

Markets|Technology|: California: Google threatened to disable its search engine in Australia if it's forced to pay local publishers for news, a dramatic escalation of a months-long standoff with the government. A proposed law, intended to compensate publishers for the value their stories generate for the company, is "unworkable," Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a parliamentary hearing Friday. She specifically opposed the requirement that Google pay media companies for displaying snippets of articles in search results. The threat is Google's most potent yet as the digital giant tries to stem a flow of regulatory action worldwide, but such a radical step would hand an entire developed market to rivals. At least 94 per cent of online searches in Australia go through the Alphabet Inc. unit, according to the local competition regulator. Read More Spanish AI firm picks up 'angel' investments from Sharjah initiative TikTok owner ByteDance launches Douyin Pay, an e-payment service Not caving in "We don't respond to threats," Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday. "Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That's done in our parliament. It's done by our government. And that's how things work here in Australia." Facebook Inc., the only other company targeted by the legislation, also opposes the law. The social media platform reiterated at Friday's hearing it's considering blocking Australians from sharing news on Facebook if the law is pushed through. The legislation is designed to support a local media industry, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., that has struggled to adapt to the digital economy. Google's tougher stance drew rebukes from lawmakers at the hearing, with Senator Andrew Bragg accusing the tech giant of trying to blackmail Australians and policymakers. "If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Silva told a panel of senators. She described the law as an "untenable financial and operational precedent." Been amenable elsewhere But the California-based company has adapted to similar requests in other countries without cutting off search. Google stopped showing news results from European publishers on search results for French users last year after local regulators urged it to pay for content, and then on Thursday the firm said it reached a deal to pay media publishers in the country. In 2014, it shuttered Google News in Spain following new copyright legislation. 'Control and Power' Google is behaving like a corporate bully, said Johan Lidberg, an associate professor at Melbourne's Monash University who specializes in media and journalism. "It's about control and power," he said. "They're signaling to other regulators they'll have a fight on their hands if they do this." Silva proposed Google's News Showcase, where the company pays select media outlets to display curated content, as an alternative to the Australian legislation. Since the service isn't available in Australia, Senator Bragg said it was impossible to assess its value to the local market. "All we've got today is your threats and your blackmail," he told Silva.