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World's Largest Nuclear Fusion Experiment Clears Milestone
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 08:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's emissions-free-electricity department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: A multination project to build a fusion reactor cleared a milestone yesterday and is now six-and-a-half-years away from "First Plasma," officials announced. Yesterday, dignitaries attended a components handover ceremony at the construction site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in southern France. The ITER project is an experiment aimed at reaching the next stage in the evolution of nuclear energy as a means of generating emissions-free electricity. The section recently installed -- the cryostat base and lower cylinder -- paves the way for the installation of the tokamak, the technology design chosen to house the powerful magnetic field that will encase the ultra-hot plasma fusion core. The entire project is now 65% complete, the officials said. "Manufactured by India, the ITER cryostat is 16,000 cubic meters," ITER officials said in a release. "Its diameter and height are both almost 30 meters and it weighs 3,850 tons. Because of its bulk, it is being fabricated in four main sections: the base, lower cylinder, upper cylinder, and top lid."

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Is Motion Smoothing Ruining Cinema?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 06:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's digital-processes department:
With TVs now delivering images faster than movies, TV manufacturers have tried to make up for that discrepancy via a digital process called motion smoothing. Whether you've realized it or not, you've likely watched a movie in motion smoothing, as it's now the default setting on most TVs sold in the United States. Bilge Ebiri from Vulture says that while this feature was well-intentioned, "most people hate it." He argues: "Motion smoothing transforms an absorbing movie or narrative TV show into something uncanny. The very texture of what you're watching changes. The drama onscreen reads as manufactured, and everyone moves like they're on a daytime soap -- which is why it's sometimes called the 'soap-opera effect.' In other words, motion smoothing is fundamentally ruining the way we experience film." From the report: Motion smoothing is unquestionably a compromised way of watching films and TV shows, which are meticulously crafted to look and feel the way they do. But its creeping influence is so pervasive that at the Cannes Film Festival this May -- the same Cannes Film Festival that so valorizes the magic of the theatrical experience and has been feuding with Netflix for the past two years -- the fancy official monitors throughout the main festival venue had left motion smoothing on.

< article continued at Slashdot's digital-processes department >

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Facebook Revenue Beats Estimates; Discloses Antitrust Probe
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 06:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's strong-earnings department:
Facebook said on Wednesday that new data privacy rules and forthcoming privacy-focused product changes would slow its revenue growth and significantly raise expenses, driving down its shares in after-hours trade even as quarterly revenue topped estimates. Reuters reports: The outlook came soon after the company agreed to pay $5 billion to settle a data privacy probe and disclosed that it faces a new U.S. government antitrust investigation. On Wednesday, Facebook's chief financial officer, Dave Wehner, told analysts that the FTC settlement would require "significant investment" in people and technology. He said ad revenue would be affected by new privacy laws rolling out globally, changes in privacy rules by the operating systems on which Facebook relies, and the company's tweaking its own services. Facebook "earned $16.9 billion in revenue, up 28% from a year ago," reports The Wall Street Journal. "The company posted $2.6 billion in profit, or $0.91 a share, reflecting a one-time $2 billion charge as part of its $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission announced earlier on Wednesday, and an accounting change regarding tax deductions for stock-based compensation. Without those two charges, the company would have earned $1.99 a share, beating analysts' expectations of $1.88."

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VLC Developer Debunks Reports of 'Critical Security Issue' In Open Source Media Player
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's case-closed department:
New submitter Grindop53 shares a report: Widespread reports of a "critical security issue" that supposedly impacted users of VLC media player have been debunked as "completely bogus" by developers. Earlier this week, German computer emergency response team CERT-Bund -- part of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) -- pushed out an advisory warning network administrators and other users of a high-impact vulnerability in VLC. It seems that this advisory can be traced back to a ticket that was opened on VLC owner VideoLAN's public bug tracker more than four weeks ago. The alleged heap-based buffer overflow flaw was disclosed by a user named "topsec(zhangwy)," who stated that a malicious .mp4 file could be leveraged by an attacker to take control of VLC media player users' devices. The issue was flagged as high-risk on the CERT-Bund site, and the vulnerability was assigned a CVE entry (CVE-2019-13615).

However, according to VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf, the exploit does not work on the latest VLC build. In fact, any potential issues relating to the vulnerability were patched more than a year ago. "There is no security issue in VLC," Kempf told The Daily Swig in a phone conversation this morning. "There is a security issue in a third-party library, and a fix was pushed [out] 18 months ago." When asked how or why this oversight generated so much attention, Kempf noted that the reporter of the supposed vulnerability did not approach VideoLAN through its security reporting email address. "The guy never contacted us," said Kempf, who remains a lead developer at the VLC project. "This is why you don't report security issues on a public bug tracker." Kempf and his team were unable to replicate the issue in the latest version of VLC, leading many to believe that the bug reporter was working on a computer running an outdated version of Ubuntu. "If you report a security issue, at least update your Linux distribution," Kempf said.

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You're Very Easy To Track Down, Even When Your Data Has Been 'Anonymized'
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sorry-to-burst-your-bubble department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: The most common way public agencies protect our identities is anonymization. This involves stripping out obviously identifiable things such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on. Data sets are also altered to be less precise, columns in spreadsheets are removed, and "noise" is introduced to the data. Privacy policies reassure us that this means there's no risk we could be tracked down in the database. However, a new study in Nature Communications suggests this is far from the case. Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Louvain have created a machine-learning model that estimates exactly how easy individuals are to reidentify from an anonymized data set. You can check your own score here, by entering your zip code, gender, and date of birth.

On average, in the U.S., using those three records, you could be correctly located in an "anonymized" database 81% of the time. Given 15 demographic attributes of someone living in Massachusetts, there's a 99.98% chance you could find that person in any anonymized database. The tool was created by assembling a database of 210 different data sets from five sources, including the U.S. Census. The researchers fed this data into a machine-learning model, which learned which combinations are more nearly unique and which are less so, and then assigns the probability of correct identification.

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Amazon 'Destroyed the Retail Industry Across the US' Says Treasury Secretary Mnuchin
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's changing-of-public-opinion department:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Amazon "destroyed the retail industry across the United States" and that it's appropriate for the attorney general to investigate the company alongside other tech giants in the sweeping antitrust review that the Justice Department announced yesterday. "There's no question they've limited competition," Mnuchin told CNBC's Squawk Box. From the report: Mnuchin said that "although there's certain benefits" to Amazon's success, the company has "really hurt small businesses" in the process. "I think it's absolutely right that the attorney general is looking into these issues," he said this morning. The Justice Department said yesterday that it would begin a review into whether major online platforms have "reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers." While Amazon was not mentioned by name, the assumption is that the DOJ will be looking at it alongside other tech giants, like Facebook and Google, that also vastly dominate their fields.

Amazon responded to Mnuchin's remarks with a comment saying that its platform helps small businesses and that physical stores still dominate retail sales. "Small and medium-sized businesses are thriving with Amazon," a spokesperson said. They said that Amazon represents "less than 4 percent of U.S. retail," and that 90 percent of retail sales "still occur in brick-and-mortar stores according to the U.S. Census Bureau."

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Blade Runner Actor Rutger Hauer Dies Aged 75
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department:
ikhider writes: Breukelen, Amsterdam born actor, Rutger Hauer, who played Roy Batty in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner and improvised the "tears in the rain" dialogue as his android character died, has too finally passed away last Friday after an illness. His funeral was held on Wednesday, July 24th. Hauer starred in TV since 1969 and then went on to movies like Sin City and Batman Begins, but is best known as Roy Batty, the android built with a four year lifespan who, with fellow androids, desperately wanted an extension. His costars paid tribute via social media. Perhaps we, the fans, can do so with private screenings of one of the Director's Cut of Blade Runner.

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DOJ To Approve T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Despite 13 States Trying To Block It
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 02:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's full-steam-ahead department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Justice Department plans to approve the T-Mobile/Sprint merger as part of a settlement involving the sale of spectrum licenses, wholesale access, and a prepaid wireless business to Dish Network, The Wall Street Journal reported today. "The companies have spent weeks negotiating with antitrust enforcers and each other over the sale of assets to Dish to satisfy concerns that the more than $26 billion merger of the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers by subscribers would hurt competition," the Journal wrote, citing people familiar with the matter. As a result of those negotiations, the DOJ is "poised to approve" the merger and could announce a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint "as soon as this week, but the timing remains uncertain," the Journal wrote. Even if the DOJ approves the merger, T-Mobile and Sprint will still have to defend it in court because of a lawsuit filed against them by 13 states and the District of Columbia. The Wall Street Journal report said the pending settlement "provides for Dish to acquire prepaid subscribers" but didn't say whether those will come from Boost. "Boost's involvement seems likely, given that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's approval of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is contingent on the divestiture of Boost Mobile and a guarantee that Boost will have access to the T-Mobile/Sprint network," reports Ars Technica.

"Dish would also get a multiyear agreement to use the wireless companies' network while it builds dedicated infrastructure," the Journal wrote. The report didn't say how much spectrum Dish will get.

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RED Founder Blames Chinese Company For Hydrogen One Problems and Announces Hydrogen Two
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 02:42 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-what-it-is-worth department:
RED's Hydrogen One phone had a rocky rollout to say the least, and founder Jim Jannard has offered a partial explanation while announcing the first details on the device's successor. From a report: In a post on the Hydrogen-focused H4Vuser.net website, Jannard blames the Hydrogen One's unnamed Chinese ODM (original design manufacturer) for having "significantly under-performed" and making it "impossible" to fix the issues with the phone. Now Jannard's attention is on the Hydrogen Two as well as a long-promised camera module that will work with both phones. The Hydrogen Two is being designed "virtually from scratch" in partnership with a new ODM that is "clearly more capable of building and supporting the product we (and our customers) demand," Jannard says.

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Many Animals Can't Adapt Fast Enough To Climate Change
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department:
A new paper in Nature Communications, coauthored by more than 60 researchers, sifted through 10,000 previous studies and found that the climatic chaos we've sowed may just be too intense for many animals to survive. From a report: Some species seem to be adapting, yes, but they aren't doing so fast enough. That spells, in a word, doom. To determine how a species is adjusting to a climate gone mad, you typically look at two things: morphology and phenology. Morphology refers to physiological changes, like the aforementioned shrinking effect; phenology has to do with the timing of life events such as breeding and migration. The bulk of the existing research concerns phenology. The species in the new study skew avian, in large part because birds are relatively easy to observe. Researchers can set up nesting boxes, for instance, which allow them to log when adults lay eggs, when chicks hatch, how big the chicks are, and so on. And they can map how this is all changing as the climate warms.

By looking at these kinds of studies together, the authors of the Nature Communications paper found that the 17 bird species they examined seem to be shifting their phenology. "Birds in the Northern Hemisphere do show adaptive responses on average, though these adaptive responses are not sufficient in order for populations to persist in the long term," says lead author Viktoriia Radchuk of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

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As Streaming Offerings Become More Expensive and Convoluted, People Are Setting Up Their Own Smaller, More Intimate Platforms
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-it-takes department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Because of the convoluted nature of licensing agreements and the vagaries of corporate competition, what's on Netflix is substantively different than what's available on Hulu or Amazon Prime. Different still are the network-specific streamers, like the up-and-comers HBO Max and Disney+, and the more niche offerings, like Shudder, Kanopy, Mubi, and Criterion. All of them have the same aim, which is to lock up intellectual property to keep people streaming. It's a lot! Plex, a company that sells media server software, has found itself in the strange position of being the answer to that problem. It has two components: the piece of software that organizes media on your computer's hard drive and the client-side program that lets you and your friends and family stream that content from wherever you are on just about any device.

It's clean. It's beautiful. It is extraordinarily simple to use. It looks a little like Netflix. Except, all of the content is custom, tailored by the person running the server. In the company's words, both pieces of its software are "the key to personal media bliss." What Plex doesn't say, however, is how that bliss is achieved. Because what's on Plex servers is populated by people, most of the commercial content you'd find there is probably pirated. And this is the main tension of using Plex: while the software itself is explicitly legal, the media that populates its customer-run servers is not -- at least the stuff protected by copyright law. The company, of course, doesn't condone this particular use of its software.

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The Video Game Industry Can't Go On Like This
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's increasingly-apparent department:
How much bigger can video games get? Video games are only getting more costly, in more ways than one. And it doesn't seem like they're sustainable. From a report: There's the human cost, which Kotaku has chronicled extensively. Contract workers are continually undervalued and taken advantage of, as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 developer Treyarch is reported to do.[...] That's only the start of it. When you adjust for inflation, the retail cost of video games has never been cheaper, and it's been this way for some time. The $60 price point for a standard big-budget release has held steady for nearly 15 years, unadjusted for inflation even as the cost to make big-budget video games has risen astronomically with player expectations. Since changing the price point seems to be anathema, we've seen the industry attempt to compensate with all manner of alternatives: higher-priced collector's editions, live service games that offer annual passes or regular expansions a la Destiny, microtransactions, and free-to-play games. Then you have loot boxes. [...]

Let's run down the Big Three. We're more than halfway through 2019, and Electronic Arts has only published one single-player game, the indie Sea of Solitude. Last year was much the same, with two indies as its only single-player releases: Fe and Unraveled 2. Activision's portfolio of single-player games looks even thinner: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the only exclusively single-player, non-remake game that the publisher has released since 2015's Transformers: Devastation -- which itself is no longer available, thanks to an expired licensing agreement. Ubisoft is an exception, regularly releasing entries in single-player game franchises like Far Cry and Assassin's Creed. But it buttresses them with aggressive microtransactions and extensive season pass plans. (And the occasional diversion like Trials Rising and South Park: The Fractured But Whole.)

< article continued at Slashdot's increasingly-apparent department >

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FTC To Hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Liable For Any Future Privacy Violations
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's time-to-face-the-music department:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have to personally answer to federal regulators under an agreement to settle a privacy case with the Federal Trade Commission that includes a $5 billion penalty for the giant social media company, the agency announced Wednesday. From a report: Separately, Facebook will pay $100 million to settle a case with the Securities and Exchange Commission for making misleading disclosures about the risk that users' data would be misused, the SEC said. Under the FTC agreement, Zuckerberg will be required to submit quarterly compliance reports directly to the federal regulators and to Facebook's board of directors. If the Facebook co-founder or "designated compliance officers" violate the agreement, they could be subject to civil and criminal penalties, the FTC said.

"There's no way that the CEO can bury his head in the sand," James Kohm, head of the FTC's enforcement unit, told NPR. "There's no ostrich defense." According to FTC investigators, Facebook violated the terms of its 2011 settlement with the agency, in which it promised to protect user data from broad sharing with third-party apps. The company also committed new violations, they said. Kohm described two major incidents in which Facebook effectively lied to users. First, the company solicited phone numbers, saying they were being collected to verify users' identity if a password needed to be reset. Millions of people trusted the company, and then Facebook took those phone numbers and used them not just for security, but also for advertising purposes, the FTC said.

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Don't Put Your Work Email on Your Personal Phone
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Many of us have given up on the idea of carrying around a dedicated work phone. After all, why bother when you can get everything you need on your personal smartphone? Here's one reason: Your work account might be spying on you in the background. From a column: When you add a work email address to your phone, you'll likely be asked to install something called a Mobile Device Management (MDM) profile. Chances are, you'll blindly accept it. (What other choice do you have?) MDM is set up by your company's IT department to reach inside your phone in the background, allowing them to ensure your device is secure, know where it is, and remotely erase your data if the phone is stolen. From your company's perspective, there are obvious security reasons for installing an MDM on an employee's phone. But for employees, it's difficult to tell what these invisible profiles are collecting behind the scenes, as they provide people at your company with invisible control over your device. That's why when it comes to your phone, no matter how much you trust your IT department, it's a good idea to keep work and pleasure separate.

MDM profiles, paired with device management tools, allow companies to track employee phones in a single dashboard. They can mitigate security breaches or potential harm from a rogue employee; if you work for a law firm, say, and your boss worries you're leaking sensitive emails from your smartphone, they could remotely wipe your data. MDM profiles can also force you to use a long password on your device, rather than a simple PIN, among other policies.

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Google's Work in China is Not a Security Risk, White House Says
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-the-matter department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this month, Facebook board member and billionaire investor Peter Thiel accused Google of working with China's government. Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he and President Trump have no national security concerns about Alphabet's work in China. Thiel used the stage at National Conservatism Conference in Washington DC to call for the FBI and CIA to investigate Google's China ties. Thiel specifically cited Google's work on AI. But the same day Google confirmed that it killed plans for its controversial search engine, Dragonfly. The timing raised suspicion, and Trump tweeted that his administration would "take a look." "The president and I did diligence on this issue, we're not aware of any areas where Google is working with the Chinese government in any way that raises concerns," Mnuchin said today. He noted that Google continues to work with the US Department of Defense and that its work with China is "very, very limited."

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Guy Who Built Twitter's Retweet Button Admits Maybe That Was a Really Bad Idea
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
The man behind Twitter's "Retweet" button -- which is pretty much the foundation of the whole site -- now thinks he screwed up big time, telling BuzzFeed News in an interview that he recalled thinking, "We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon." From a report: "That's what I think we actually did," added Chris Wetherell, the developer in question. Wetherell, who helped build the now-defunct Google Reader platform before he joined Twitter in 2009, told BuzzFeed that at the time, adding the function seemed like a simple way to streamline the process of spreading another tweet. Before the retweet button, users had to manually copy other tweets. According to BuzzFeed, Wetherell said that Twitter staff working on the feature in 2009 were more concerned about its utility in situations like "earthquakes" and fully unprepared for how it would change engagement on the platform: "Only two or three times did someone ask a broader and more interesting social question, which was, 'What is getting shared?'" Wetherell said. "That almost never came up." After the retweet button debuted, Wetherell was struck by how effectively it spread information. "It did a lot of what it was designed to do," he said. "It had a force multiplier that other things didn't have."... "We would talk about earthquakes," Wetherell said. "We talked about these first response situations that were always a positive and showed where humanity was in its best light."

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Corsair Acquires Custom Gaming Computer Maker Origin PC
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Gaming peripherals maker Corsair has acquired custom gaming PC leader Origin PC. From a report: For the past decade, Origin PC specialized in delivering hand-built, personalized PCs aimed at delivering the best gaming experience possible. Origin PC offers a wide range of high-performance configurable PCs, ranging from gaming PCs and powerful workstations to gaming laptops, building systems focused on customization, service, gaming, and technology to deliver a complete gaming experience. "With the gaming PC market continuing to expand as an increasing number of players make the jump from console to PC, we wanted to do more to reach customers in North America that prefer to buy, rather than build, their system," said Andy Paul, CEO of Corsair, in a statement. "With Origin PC's expertise in personalized custom gaming systems and Corsair's strength in performance PC hardware and the iCue software ecosystem, we're excited to combine our efforts to create new world-class gaming experiences for PC gamers."

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Microsoft Reveals New Windows 10 Start Menu in Accidental Internal Leak
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 08:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's oops department:
Microsoft has accidentally released an internal-only version of Windows 10 to testers, revealing a new Start menu design. From a report: The software giant has distributed Windows 10 build 18947, meant for internal Xbox development, to Windows Insider testers using 32-bit devices. It's an internal-only build from the company's canary branch, and yet Microsoft has published it to all Windows 10 testers whether they're in release preview, fast ring, or even slow ring testing. Thankfully, it's only released to 32-bit systems, which aren't widely used, but it's an embarrassing mistake for Microsoft's Windows 10 testing efforts. This internal build appears to include a new Start menu design, that's very early in testing, without Microsoft's Live Tiles. It's something Microsoft is testing internally, but it's not clear whether Windows 10 will fully drop Live Tiles in the Start menu anytime soon.

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Facebook Ends Friend Data Access For Microsoft and Sony, the Last 2 of Its Legacy Partners, Under FTC Deal
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 08:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-course department:
One more consequence of the FTC's investigation of Facebook, which culminated in a record $5 billion settlement announced today: it's finally tightening another string in its privacy policy by cutting off access to friend data for Microsoft and Sony, the company announced today. From a report: It described having allowed them access up to now as "our mistake" after limiting similar access for about 10 other companies at the end of last year. It also noted that it has "not found evidence that any data was used in violation of our policies" as a result of the continuing access. [...] The announcement specifically impacting Microsoft and Sony comes as the company is also announcing a larger overhaul of its API. This will impact "dozens" of partners, the company said, which had been using it to build Facebook experiences on their own apps or devices "that should have been wound down."

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Netflix Launches $2.8 Mobile-Only Monthly Plan in India
Posted by News Fetcher on July 24 '19 at 06:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Netflix has a new plan to win users in India: make the entry point to its service incredibly cheap. From a report: The streaming giant today introduced a low-priced mobile tier in the country that costs Rs 199 ($2.8) per month in a bid to take on Disney, Amazon and dozens of other aggressively priced competitors in the country. The new subscription tier from Netflix restricts the usage of the service to one mobile device -- and permits only one concurrent stream -- and offers the standard definition viewing (~480p). Users can also opt to the new plan on their tablets, but again, several features such as the ability to cast (or mirror) the content to a TV are restricted. [...] The announcement comes days after Netflix reported that it added 2.7 million new subscribers in the quarter that ended in June this year, far fewer than the 5.1 million figure it had projected earlier this year. Jessica Lee, VP of Communications at Netflix, said the company's recent performance in other markets did not influence its move in India.

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