Logging into the blogging culture Oherald (blog) And while it can be said that the blogging 'culture' exploded about half a decade ago in the Indian metros, Goa has finally woken up to this phenomenon and the rising number of bloggers is a testament to this. While the top bloggers in India across …
When we hear about crazy and dangerous things happening in Russia nowadays, not much surprises us anymore. However, what one man let children pet is still pretty shocking.
In the town of Anapa, beach goers were delighted when a man took his pet into the water and allowed them to touch the animal. The only problem? Well, said pet was a six-foot crocodile on a leash, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone there one bit.
The man, a local photographer, was arrested after police saw the footage below on social media. He’d apparently been using the creature to make money.
The crocodile, which the man had been cruelly keeping in a tiny aquarium in his home, has since been removed and taken to a zoo in Novorossiysk. Share if you can’t believe people were so willing and unafraid to touch it!
For A$11.99 or NZ$12.99 a month, users will get access to more than 135 million tracks. Like its rivals, SoundCloud Go offers offline, ad-free listening and a free trial period.
SoundCloud’s free service, long beloved by independent and emerging musicians, will now also be supported by ads and promoted profiles. The company is building a local sales team to manage Australian ad sales.
Already up and running in the U.S., the UK, Ireland and France, the new SoundCloud subscription service can be seen as an attempt by the company to find some kind of business model to satisfy the big end of town, without annoying fans.
Launched in 2008, the platform gained a reputation for being user-generated and artist-friendly, and did little to make money of its user base besides minimal ads. The “YouTube for Music” had become the target of legal action in recent years, however, thanks to hosting a fair portion of copyrighted music uploaded by users.
Shortly before it launched SoundCloud Go in the U.S. in March, the company signed a major agreement with Sony Music. The studio had yanked the catalogues of artists like Adele and Miguel from the platform in mid-2015 amid a breakdown in negotiations on its way to a subscription deal.
According to Billboard at the time, the collapse had something to do with “a lack of monetization opportunities” on the platform. Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group had previously signed up.
With SoundCloud Go, the company can now presumably pay per stream like Spotify. And on the free version, “Each time an ad is heard on SoundCloud, an artist will get paid,” according to Sonia Flynn, SoundClouds Vice President of International. That should make the studios happy.
In a nod to the ongoing controversy about how little Spotify, Apple Music and the like pay artists per stream, Alexander Ljung, SoundCloud cofounder and CEO, said in a statement creators were “at the centre of everything we do.”
“The launch of SoundCloud Go and the introduction of ads to the free service enables us to continue to build the most progressive artist remuneration system in the world,” he added. “While offering listeners everything from emerging creators, new tracks from indies, global hits as well as hits in the making, all in one place.”
The company declined to provide further information to Mashable, saying it does not disclose specifics on the deals it has in place with the record labels or around artist payments.
Since anyone can upload songs to SoundCloud, it has an army of fans who love the depth of music discovery it allows. But for free. Whether its subscription play works out remains to be seen.
The health of our democracy demands that we consider treating Facebook, Google, and Amazon with the same firm hand that led government to wage war on major monopolies
In our day, we can’t quite see anything wrong with monopoly. We’re certain that our tech giants achieved their dominance fairly and squarely through the free market, by dint of technical genius.
To conjure this image of meritocratic triumph requires overlooking several pungent truths about the nature of these new monopolies. Their dominance is less than pure.
They owe their dominance to innovation, but also to tax avoidance.
Of course, every big American corporation tries to limit the tax bill. Armies of accountants are a staple of capitalism; the manufacture of new deductions is one of our country’s greatest showcases of innovation. But the tech companies are especially slippery with the tax man. They have hatched schemes that their competitors – brick-and mortar firms, media companies – couldn’t dare attempt.
When Jeff Bezos first conceived of Amazon, he originally wanted to locate the company on a California Indian reservation, where it would pay hardly any tax. Authorities rejected that gambit. But Bezos understood that internet commerce challenged traditional ideas about taxation. Thanks to a court ruling, rendered just as he launched his company, Amazon could get away without paying sales tax to the states to which it shipped its goods.
Google has the same sort of unpatriotic accounting schemes. Google has also shifted assets to Bermuda, that famous mecca of high tech. By the end of 2015, it had “permanently reinvested” $58.3bn of its profits in foreign tax havens, earnings on which it pays no US tax.
The tech companies maintain every shred of data, yet seem to want to purge every bit of taxable earnings. The year Facebook went public, it recorded $1.1bn in American profits, but didn’t pay a cent of federal or state income tax. Indeed, it earned a $429m refund. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, Facebook bilked the treasury by taking a single deduction: it wrote off the stock options it gave to its executives.
These companies can afford to push the limits of acceptable behavior, because they have paid such care and attention to Washington. While the tech companies are hardly the image of corpulent K Street, they have built massive lobbying operations that pace the halls of the regulatory agencies and Congress, stacked with skillful hacks.
Google executives set foot in the Obama White House more often than those of any other corporation – its head lobbyist visited 128 times. Google spread its money across Washington with joyous ecumenicism. Google spent about $17m on influence peddlers of both partisan varietals. By one count, Google poured more into its DC apparatus than any other public company. An investigation by The Intercept concluded: “Google has achieved a kind of vertical integration with the government.” Somehow Google managed to overcome the recommendation of staffers on the Federal Trade Commission who found Google’s monopolistic machinations worthy of a lawsuit.
Lobbyists for the companies have preserved a blissful state of barely regulated, barely taxed monopoly. They have played the politics brilliantly. Obama spent his presidency cheering on the tech companies, even pleading with the Europeans not to collect the taxes owed to them. In return, the tech companies have sent their best brains to work for the Democratic administration and its political campaigns.
The tech companies have so mastered Washington, they have acquired such cultural prestige, that it’s hard to imagine the system ever restraining them. But we know that politics doesn’t repose in a steady state, and the companies have one gaping vulnerability – they aggressively surveil users. Thus far, the public has tolerated these invasions, but that won’t last forever.
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Everyone hates ads. Or at least a lot of people do. But they’re what pays for practically all the journalism and entertainment you enjoy online. So what if you could just set a budget—say, $5 a month—and divvy that up amongst all the sites you visit? It might not amount to much, but if enough people sent pennies—or even fractions of a penny—then maybe, just maybe, those micropayments could add up to a real business model for the media.
Earlier this year, Eich launched Brave, a new web browser that blocks third party trackers, like cookies. As a side effect, the browser also blocks most ads. But Eich and company have always wanted to find a way to help publishers make money. Starting today, the desktop version of Brave will tally up how often you visit different sites and then set aside a small amount of the bitcoin digital currency for your favorite publishers. Then, once a month, it will send off your donation to a central bitcoin wallet so that publishers can get their share. It should work with Coinbase or any other bitcoin wallet.
The catch is that, for now, all that bitcoin will simply go into an escrow until the publishers work out an arrangement with Brave to claim their donations. Eich says Brave hasn’t made deals with any publishers to actually deliver the donations yet. He explains that instead of trying to split the Brave team’s resources between recruiting publishers and building the product, they’ve decided to focus on making it easy for those who wish to donate to do so. “It’s much easier to work out a deal if you have money for them,” Eich says.
The first round of payments won’t happen for 30 days, but realistically, it will probably be much longer until your favorite publishers are actually reaping rewards—assuming publishers end up claiming them at all.
Publishers have never really responded well to third parties trying to collect donations on their behalf. The “read-it-later” service Readability abandoned such a plan back in 2012 because too few publishers actually claimed their payments. Meanwhile, the Newspaper Association of America has threatened to sue Brave over its planned ad-replacement features and publishers might be loath to accept donations from a company they’re in a legal battle with. When you add in the fact that Brave will take a five percent cut of the donations—to pay for the infrastructure and processing, a spokesperson says—publishers could well balk at the whole idea.
On the other hand, now could be the perfect time to try something like this. A study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that about 26 percent of people surveyed use ad blockers on their desktop and laptop computers and about 15 percent use them on mobile devices. As ad-blocking becomes more common, publishers might be more open to business arrangements they rejected just a few years ago.
A Standard Future
In addition to getting publishers on board, Brave will need to get more people using its browser. Its main focus has been on security and privacy, so adding a new tool that keeps track of your browsing habits is a tricky proposition. Brave is attempting to solve that contradiction by anonymizing all your data before it ever lands on the company’s servers.
Anonymized data is famously easy to de-anonymize. In 2007, researchers were able to identify individual Netflix users based on an anonymous data set the company released as part of a contest to improve its recommendation algorithms. Brave’s solution to this conundrum is to use encryption to send your donations to the central server without sharing potentially identifying information such as where you live or what time you visited a particular site. “Your personal data never leaves your computer,” Eich says. Brave will also mix your data up with other people’s—so that no one can identify you based on the combination of different websites you view—and run everything through a third party service called Private Internet Access.
Eich says his eventual goal is to make this whole system work in a completely decentralized way, so that and readers could donate to publishers without relying on Brave. But establishing those sorts of systems and standards take time, and Eich and company are more interested in building a micropayment system that available in the here and now.