WhatsApp Blocked in Brazil due to Criminal Case

Facebook won’t turn over data, so a judge shut it down…

whatsapp-logo-iconeA Brazilian judge has blocked Facebook’s WhatsApp from operation inside the country and has authorized a fine of up to R$50,000 ($15,273 USD) per day while Facebook refuses to comply with a secret judicial order to provide data in a criminal case, according to Reuters. This is apparently the third such incident involving the popular IP-based messaging app since December of 2015.

The judicial order is officially being kept secret, according to Reuters; and is speculated to be related to conversations involving a number of drug trafficking cases currently under investigation. This action, however, appears to be severe, as its open ended. WhatsApp has been shut down indefinitely, and the outage affects more than 100 million Brazilian users.

WhatsApp is popular in Brazil and other countries due to steep local cellular carrier fees.

The big issue here is that WhatsApp’s data is encrypted. This case is similar to the recent case here in the US between Apple and the FBI. The Brazilian government wants to know what information was traded between suspects and is expecting WhatsApp to provide the unencrypted data.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the order(s) coming from the office of Brazilian Judge Baniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza from the state of Rio de Janeiro – Facebook doesn’t store the encrypted data on their servers,

“As we’ve said in the past, we cannot share information we don’t have access to. We hope to see this block lifted as soon as possible,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a public statement.

Brazil’s attorney general’s office has restated its position that judges who suspend WhatsApp for failure to provide data are incorrectly interpreting a 2014 law meant to provide a legal framework for the internet.

Brazil has five (5) major cellular carriers: Telefonica Brasil SA, América Móvil SAB’s Claro, TIM Participações SA, Oi SA and Nextel Participações SA. None of them had an immediate comment regarding this suspension.

I think they are waiting for either the other shoe to drop or for a higher judicial authority to lift the suspension. Since the nation’s attorney general doesn’t support this type of suspension, I suspect that it won’t last very long, and that any fine levied against Facebook/ WhatsApp will be negated, but we’ll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on this development? Should WhatsApp provide any information at all? Should they show the judge that they don’t have the messages? Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the discussion area below and tell me what you think?

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Facebook is Killing Me

This whole, “splitting-off-FB-Messenger-into-a-different-app-thing” is making be bang my head against a wall. Here’s why…

facebook-messenger-transparent-300x300It started with Apple, I think.  I think… and it was in early 2012 with the release of Messages Beta.  I published an article on InformationWeek about two years ago that covered this.  I also wrote a feature length review of Messages, which was new at the time.

While others may disagree and provide other info and stats, (and I welcome that in the Discussion area, below…) sending text messages via IP instead of GSM/CDMA has started a huge in-flux of messaging and texting apps to hit the market.  Now, Facebook is tossing their hat into the ring with Facebook Messenger.

Facebook has somewhere in the neighborhood of, like, one billion users. If each and every one of them send just one message a day, to just one of their friends, that’s one billion messages exchanged via their social network each and every day. That’s seven billion a week and 30.44 billion each month.

That’s a lot of messages (and only if each user sends just one message a day).

Facebook has been saying for months that it would be breaking the messaging function out of its mobile app and would be moving it to a separate app all together.  I find this very painful.  I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my mobile experience.  The last thing I want on my phone is yet ANOTHER mobile messaging app.

I’ve been reviewing software for Windows, Mac, Pocket PC/ Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, Android and iOS for almost 20 years. I’m a software QA manager/ director and I can tell you with 100% accuracy – there’s a great deal of crappy software on the market.  Installing and uninstalling apps on to my mobile phone – a mission critical, communications tool for me – isn’t something I really like to do.  It tends to clutter up your device and trashes its performance, stability; and in many cases requires a wipe and reconfigure when its performance tanks and it acts buggy.    The LAST thing I want to have to do in order to keep current functionality, is install two apps to provide the current functionality I have in just one.

However, that’s what Facebook is doing.

In a recent note to its customers, Facebook states, “We wanted to let you know that messages are moving out of the Facebook app to our Messenger app, a free app that’s faster and more reliable for everyday messaging…. Soon, we’ll start guiding you to get started with Messenger. After a few days, you’ll also see a reminder notice in the Facebook app, where you’d normally see your messages. At that point, we’ll ask you to install Messenger or go to the Facebook website to view and send messages. You’ll still see new message notifications in the Facebook app, and it’ll be easy to switch between Facebook and Messenger.”

In short, if you do any PM-ing in Facebook on a regular basis, you’ll have to start using FB Messenger if you want to PM someone from your mobile device, from within Facebook. Facebook states that the swap to their Messaging app from the Facebook mobile app should be seamless, or nearly seamless. These changes won’t affect functionality experienced on the FB website on any platform or in any browser.

I’m not certain how Facebook monetizes all those messages people send and receive; but you have to think that there must be some financial angle for them to pursue this.  Perhaps they’re planning on implementing an ad supported app. I’m not certain… Any way you cut this, though, it’s another messaging app that I HAVE to install (if I wish to trade or view PM’s sent to me while I am using the Facebook mobile app). I hate that. I’ve got enough junk on my phone as it is with Angry Birds and Candy Crush… I don’t want to have to install another app, despite the messaging experience it’s supposed to provide.

Do you communicate via Facebook messaging with your friends a lot?  Will you continue to do so on your mobile device after Facebook removes its messaging functionality from its mobile app?  Will you install Facebook Messenger on your mobile phone and use it, or is it something that you’re just going to HAVE to install to keep all your current functionality?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the discussion area, below. This is just killing me.  I hate installing separate apps for this stuff.  How about you?

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Facebook Acquires VR firm Oculus for $2B

Facebook is on an acquisition binge. This one has me scratching my head…

Oculus

Facebook has been on an acquisition binge recently. Just the other day, it announced that it would buy VR developer Oculus VR for $2.0B. A few weeks ago, it announced it was acquiring the mobile messaging application WhatsApp for $19.0B. Apparently, it has cash to burn…

The Oculus deal includes $400M in cash, and $1.6B in stock. If all goes well for Oculus, post-acquisition, its employees could receive another $300M in incentive bonuses if specific, undisclosed targets are reached. Oculus was made famous due to its crowd-funded start on Kickstarter, where it received approximately $2.4M in funding.

While it has yet to release a product, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg indicated his company’s interest and commitment in the organization by saying that, “mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus’ technologies could “change the way we work, play and communicate.” Facebook is planning to use the acquired company and its virtual reality technology to expand its “communications, media, entertainment, education and other areas.”

While Facebook is happy with the development, the rest of the world – or at least part of it – clearly isn’t. Markus Persson, the creator of the popular block-building game, Minecraft, said he WAS in talks with Oculus to bring the two together, but has since killed the deal. According to Persson, “Facebook creeps me out.”

Other developers are taking similar actions. One developer said, “I am really upset by this. I had nothing but grief as a developer of Facebook titles, and the direction and actions of Facebook are not ones I can support.” It’s not all doom and gloom, however, some think that Facebook could help Oculus monetize the Rift and make it successful.

Personally, I have my doubts. Weird Facebook stuff aside, I am seriously wondering how a social networking company, even one as successful as Facebook, can marry its core competencies with software that requires VR hardware AND your computer or other computing device in order to create an integrated experience. To me, this just seems really clunky and doomed to failure.

Currently, the user integration paradigm – computing device (PC, smartphone or tablet), web browser or app and user – don’t provide for an elegant way to incorporate any other kind of hardware or interim device. From my perspective, the big time of Facebook games like Farm Town or Farmville are long gone. That was SO 7 years (2007) ago… Like the WhatsApp acquisition, I have no idea what Facebook intends to do, or what they think they’re going to gain, other than, perhaps to keep some other company from acquiring it.

With WhatsApp, its purchase was redundant. They already have Facebook Messenger; and have indicated that they don’t have any plans on bringing it and Facebook Messenger together, either now or in the future. In my mind, that acquisition was purposefully executed to keep Google (and its competing social network, Google+) from getting their hands on the intellectual property.

What do YOU think of this development? Is this something that works for you, or is it something creepy? I know I always ask you guys for your opinion, but this time I really would like you to chime in. What do you think? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Tell me what you think in the comments section below and let’s see if we can sort this one out.

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Facebook to Acquire WhatsApp

This has to be about users and not technology, resources or anything else…

I saw this the other day and it really made my jaw drop. I wasn’t surprised that Facebook made the acquisition. I was surprised at how much Facebook paid for the organization. The total deal is worth $19B – $4B in cash, $12B in stock and $3B in restricted stock for the founders and other employees.  The restricted shares vest over period of four or so years.  The deal also provides WhatsApp founder Jan Koum with a seat on Facebook’s Board of Directors.

9344676230_20ecda4b6b_o-e1392849081655

WhatsApp is an instant messaging app that sends messages over a data connection as opposed to GSM or CDMA.  Because the app sends text messages as data over your smartphone’s data connection, they don’t count against your text messaging limit.  The app claims to have over 450M active users, and is signing up users at the rate of one million a month.  That’s a lot of users…

WhatsApp is similar to Apple’s iMessages platform which sends text messages via an iPhone’s data connection and not a cellular connection to avoid being double charged for the message.

Google also made an offer of $10B for the company, but was ultimately turned down.  Google wanted to make certain that it didn’t get surprised with the WhatsApp deal as it did with Instagram when Facebook snatched it out from under them in 2012.  They were so determined to insure that this didn’t happen that they were willing to pay millions for to WhatsApp in what’s being called a “right of notice” offer. I can’t find out if that agreement was actually consummated or not.  However, Google wanted the right to be notified if another company entered into acquisition talks with WhatsApp; and again, they were willing to pay millions for that. In this case, it likely would have been a waste of money for Google.  Facebook’s offer was nearly double what Google had proposed.

From what I’ve been able to see so far, Facebook plans to leave WhatsApp alone. They did the same thing with Instagram when they acquired them in 2012. They purchased the asset, with the intent of doing – something – with it later.  What that is, and how Facebook might actually make money from or with that asset has yet to be determined.

When I heard about this, I thought, “well, WhatsApp is going to be the new Facebook Messenger,”  but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s own text messaging app, isn’t going anywhere.  Some analysts think the acquisition supports Facebook’s strategy to be dominant in the mobile world.  They want to be a go-to company for mobile apps and messaging, especially in emerging markets.  Some analysts thing this is a survival tactic.  WhatsApp is strong in Europe and South America, where it enjoys approximately 80% market penetration in countries like Brazil, Germany, Portugal and Spain.  It is, in fact, the largest mobile messaging service in India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, according to Engadget.

What do you think? Is this a good buy for Facebook?  Will WhatsApp really continue to function independently as Instagram does, or will Facebook actively try to do something with the app sooner rather than later?  I’d really like to hear what everyone else thinks.  Why don’t you give me your thoughts on the matter in the discussion area, below?

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Communicate with your friends and family with Nimbuzz

nimbuzzmobilelogoVoice over IP is a huge deal now-a-days. Thanks to applications like AIM, Windows Messenger and of course, Skype, using your computer to make PC to PC calls is second nature today. Some even allow you to make PC to landline calls. One application which I’m using lately is Nimbuzz. A free call and messaging app for the connected generation.

Nimbuzz combines the flexibility of the Internet and mobile communications into a single, accessible platform. With it, you can make calls, send messages and share files, on any mobile device, for free.

Nimbuzz is one of the best free instant messengers for your Windows PC, Mac or mobile phone. Once you download the free client, you can communicate with anyone on the network, regardless of the other person’s platform. If you have friends and family in a different country, you can also use Nimbuzz to make free PC to mobile phone international VoIP calls, anywhere in the world.

nimbuzz-ss

You can also use Nimbuzz to connect with your Nimbuzz friends via instant messaging. Nimbuzz supports a simple ‘drag n’ drop’ function that allows you to share music, movies and photos with your friends. Nimbuzz also supports many popular IM clients, including Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk. You can connect to all of your contacts through a single client.

Nimbuzz is a decent IM and audio calling client. The one thing clearly missing here though is video chat. With this one, extremely huge hole, there’s little compelling reason to switch to it from any other network unless you have friends and family that are already using it elsewhere. Honestly, the other networks that Nimbuzz supports have the same feature set, likely have the same price points and also supports video chat. It’s good for what it does, but other apps are better.

Download Nimbuzz

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Browse the web in a totally new and fun way with RockMelt

209998-rockmelt-icon_original.jpgBrowsing the web is by far the most popular and most predictable internet past time.  Everybody does it all the time, every day, out loud.  The problem with surfing is that its predictable. Browser to browser, computer to computer, the web is always the web, and it’s always the same.  That’s why I like RockMelt. It’s a new kind of web browser for Windows.

RockMelt provides a fundamentally better Web experience by re-imagining the browser around how you use the internet.  It has a built in chat client so you can talk to your friends whenever you want.  It’s got social networking built into it, so you can update a status, tweet links and easily post on Facebook Walls.

RM-02

RockMelt has an interesting feature called Social Reading that is sort of like RSS for your social networking sites. It gathers news from all of your friends and puts it in one place.  RockMelt supports sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Social Reading syncs automatically, so you don’t ever have to manually refresh it unless you want to.

RockMelt concentrates on pictures and videos. Its display is visually pleasing, and the app brings you the best of these as soon as they’re published. Its big tiles support swiping – to the right saves a story for later, to the left removes it from the stream. You get to interact with the internet the way you want to.

RockMelt is a different browsing experience and one that you may just fall in love with, provided you can get used to it. It’s got just about every social network built into it, so you can interact with them at your leisure.  Its multimedia-centric and built for speed. The only downside is that the rest of the web is formatted a bit differently and RockMelt attempts to present the web in its own image. I like it, but it doesn’t quite fit everywhere…

download RockMelt

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TweetDeck – Take complete command of your Twitter account

Take complete command of your Twitter account with this easy to use Windows app.

Social networking is huge and hot right now. If you active on any major social network, you’re likely active on more than one. Part of being social requires that you broadcast to as wide an audience as possible. This is why I like tools like TweetDeck. It’s a social networking tool for Windows.
TweetDeck is a social networking tool for both Facebook and Twitter. It shows you everything you want to see, all at once, so you can stay on top of the happenings within your social networks. Its social media dashboard helps you manage all of your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Like other Twitter apps, it interfaces with the Twitter API to allow users to send and receive tweets, view profiles as well as update and view your FB Status and Timeline.

TD07

TweetDeck changed from an Adobe AIR application to native apps for both Windows and Mac OS X. there’s a web version of TweetDeck for WebKit-based browsers. The app’s most drastic update dropped support for other social networks like LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare, and MySpace. Clearly missing still is support for Google+. TweetDeck is a decent app, and you can’t beat its price. However, earlier versions were clearly more popular with users; and it would be nice if it included support for a few other networks.

Download TweetDeck

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Chat with all of your Facebook friends with this handy Windows app

facebook-messenger-para-windows-7-02-535x535Keeping in touch with your friends isn’t always easy. Some use this tool. Others frequent that site. Getting to everyone on a common platform isn’t always possible; however, Facebook is one place where most everyone goes. This is one of the reasons why I really like Facebook Messenger. It’s a chat tool for Windows.

Facebook is great for catching up with old friends. Its chat features are pretty nice and very useful. You can chat with just about anyone, anytime, anywhere. The big problem with FB chat is that it requires you to have a browser open, and be logged into their site for it to work. Facebook Messenger solves this problem.

You can do almost everything with Facebook Messenger that you can with FB chat on their website. The app makes use of Java to provide universality from platform to platform, and this is both good and bad. Java may be the great programmatic equalizer – code once, execute on many platforms – but it can be problematic as well. Each platform performs differently and Java may not behave the same way from platform to platform. I had some problems getting the app to behave and function as I had hoped it would. It offered similar experiences on all the Windows machines I tried to run it on.

facebookmessenger-060312

The app’s interface can be somewhat confusing. It’s not always clear where incoming messages and their alerts will appear. Sometimes they show up in your active chat window, other times in your inbox. It makes for a confusing conversation. It also doesn’t do a lot for the app’s usability, either. Facebook Messenger is an ok app, but nothing really to get excited about.

Download Facebook Messenger

 

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