The world of online advertising is a complex and tricky one. Whether you are an advertiser, publisher or content creator, making sure that the right ads are placed alongside the right content and, more importantly, the wrong ads are not placed alongside the wrong content, is a point of frustration. So much of the business is automated today, but recently that automation has come a bit unglued, especially at Google.
As the world knows, Google's business model is entirely wrapped up in the idea of advertising. Starting with an
odd Google Home ad for Disney, that business model has become a huge issue for the company. While the Disney issue concerned end users, the rest of the problems came about when concerns were raised by Google's customers, the advertisers. As it turns out, the company's content filters began to fail those advertisers.
It started with YouTube, where major advertisers' ads began running alongside beyond questionable content. That content included neo-Nazi and radical Muslim propaganda videos, featuring brands such as AT&T and Verizon right alongside. As word reached these brands that their ads were being associated with this type of content, companies began reconsidering their Google advertising.
Within a matter of days, AT&T, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, and more began pulling their ads from Google entirely. Verizon described the decision, saying,
Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the world, and one of the most respected brands. We take careful measures to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively.
AT&T expressed a similar sentiment, saying,
We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure this won't happen again, we are removing our ads from Google's non-Search platforms.
This meant that their ads disappeared from not just YouTube, but from Google AdSense, as well. That has affected websites with legitimate content negatively, causing a drop in advertising revenue. To add to Google's problems, Amazon is offering advertisers a lot of money to switch away from Google right now. Google is going to need to fix this problem if they want to maintain any revenue.
If you spent any time on social media this week ,you probably saw a lot of doom and gloom about a Congressional vote involving the internet and privacy. Headlines like
Congress to US citizens: Want online privacy? Pay up! and ISPs and FCC Chair Ajit Pai celebrate death of online privacy rules, intended to scare readers, suggest that you just lost your online privacy because of this vote. The problem is, you didn't actually lose anything. Let me explain.
The FCC rules that are being referred to don't actually exist. The FCC does not technically have the authority to issue regulations over ISPs, as that falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission instead. Despite their lack of jurisdiction, the FCC drafted regulations that they had planned to try and enforce sometime in 2017. However, that implementation had been postponed indefinitely. FCC Chair Ajit Pai wants the proper organization to be in charge, and argued as such.
So, today, the way internet privacy rules work is exactly the same as it was last week. ISP have the ability to use anonymized data for any intent they would like. What will happen in the near future will be the same as what has happened in the recent past.
Here is where the issue with the idea of restricting ISPs from using their data come in: other internet companies have the ability to do the exact same thing without any restrictions. Why would the FCC want to prevent Comcast from selling browsing data and statistics, while allowing Google to do the exact same thing, and potentially with more accuracy. Pai said, following the vote,
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies. Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect.
Why is it that the FCC, internet publications and people on social media got worried about their privacy when it comes to regulations that don't actually exist, but have no concern about using Chrome, which gives Google the exact same information, and was not going to be restricted at all by these imaginary regulations. If people are actually concerned about their privacy, then Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing and more wouldn't exist today.
In a move that should come as no surprise to anyone in the gaming world, accessory manufacturer Mad Catz has announced its bankruptcy and liquidation of assets. After assembling a task force in 2016 to find a solution to growing debt and liabilities failed, the company had no choice but to close its doors and liquidate what is left.
Mad Catz Interactive, Inc., the US corporation, and 1328158 Ontario Inc., the Canadian subsidiary, have both filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection, and other subsidiaries will follow suit. All directors and officers have resigned their posts, and PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. will be the trustee throughout the bankruptcy and liquidation process.
The now former President and CEO, Karen McGinnis, said,
Regrettably and notwithstanding that for a significant amount of time the Company has been actively pursuing its strategic alternatives, including various near term financing alternatives such as bank financing and equity infusions, as well as potential sales of certain assets of the Company or a sale of the Company in its entirety, the Company has been unable to find a satisfactory solution to its cash liquidity problems. The Board of Directors and management would like to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of the Company's employees in support of its business, especially during the time that the Company faced financial difficulties. The Company would also like to thank the vendors and professional service providers who have supported the Company's efforts during this time.
It is important to note that the liquidation of assets does not mean that product will be discounted. In fact, anything that is already in stores is almost guaranteed that remain at regular retail, as Mad Catz is uninvolved anymore, unless it is a consignment scenario. It is possible that the website, however, will go into liquidation, dumping anything that might be in company-owned warehouses of unsold items.
As of now, there is no information available as to the fate of product warranties. In the past, we have seen asset buyers take over those warranties, and we have also seen warranties terminated entirely. We hope to hear the overall details of this closure in the near future. For now, all we can say is that the loss of Mad Catz is the loss of the major arcade fighting stick manufacturer. Hopefully someone will step in and save that product line, something that makes games like
Street Fighter more enjoyable for many.
When it comes to patent law in the US, there are some interesting issues. The biggest issue involves a disastrous change to who can file a patent in the recent past. The next biggest issue involves the fact that one US judge hears about a quarter of all patent cases. Clearly, that is the opposite of how this is supposed to work. Spreading out the cases over various human beings is how we prevent a handful of activist judges from changing the laws of the country.
Thanks to a series of appeals in the case of
TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the issue of patent case venue has made its way to the US Supreme Court. After Kraft sued TC Heartland and a change of venue was denied, TC Heartland lost - twice. They then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that patent venue created a failed scenario for fair suits.
The company has been supported by
32 internet companies (PDF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge (PDF). The briefs have been in support of the hearing, saying that the current venue rules allow for "patent trolls" to rule supreme in the patent world.
The court was not particularly interested in hearing about "patent trolls," with even Justice Stephen Breyer, the most critical of the patent system, questioning the relevance of the briefs speaking of trolls. He said,
They're filled with this thing about a Texas district which they think has too many cases. What's that got to do with this? Is there some relevance to it?
While the lawyers spoke a lot about patent trolls (non-practicing entities), Texas and Delaware, none of those issues are the cause of anyone's turmoil. Unfortunately, no one is discussing the fact that the patent office routinely grants patents that are incredibly vague. Those are the patents that NPEs go after, and those are the ones that get tried in Texas, which would move to Delaware if TC Heartland's motion is granted, not solving anything.
In recent years, the idea of remakes and "exploration" have overtaken Hollywood. Rather than taking the time to produce exciting new Intellectual Properties, studios are going trolling through successful existing properties. The modern masters of repurposing older content is Disney. Between a constant barrage of
Star Wars films and remaking Beauty and the Beast, Disney is constantly reusing content.
Another studio that has explored their existing properties is Warner Bros. They recently worked with Fox Broadcasting to take 40 year old
The Exorcist franchise and turn it into a television series on FOX. Their next target is the iconic The Matrix trilogy. According to sources speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has begun exploring the idea of mining the universe for new content.
The project is in its infancy, and there is no information on what form this project will take. The franchise could experience an entire reboot, with new actors telling an altered version of the story. If the Wachowski siblings were to write a new treatment of the story, they could bring an interesting new view to their own original works. A lot of things have changed since 1999, and the idea of an updated view from the pair could be interesting.
It's also possible that they could take a more Lucas approach to the franchise, exploring the recesses of the universe that have not been explored. Journeying into the past to see a young Neo and what about him attracted Morpheus's attention in the first place. We could also see Morpheus or Trinity before their awakening, and possibly who was responsible for them. What we can be sure of is it will not take the form of a television show. The studio ruled out that idea several months ago.
Could you be excited about a reboot or exploration of
The Matrix universe? Let us know why or why not in the comments.
Around our offices, the idea The Free Web is an important one. In fact, it is so important we
wrote a manifesto. While it is worth a read, the basis is that ad blockers are a false solution to a real problem. Everyone in the equation has responsibilities in maintaining The Free Web, and in the last few years, no one has been holding up their end of the deal.
Last year, Opera, the browser that you forgot existed, introduced a native ad blocker into their browser. Obviously the decision was controversial, but potentially for no reason. As it turns out, a minority of users of the statistically insignificant browser have decided to turn on the feature. The company will not be shaken from its goal, which they claim is a faster web,
We will continue this mission by making our native ad blocking feature even better this year. You can expect to see the first steps in this process this spring. Stay tuned for more speed and a more user-friendly experience.
As for now, we only provide native ad blocking as a preference. This may change, as we are currently evaluating whether we should help people be more active in blocking ads going forward.
Including this feature natively is a bit of an insult to publishers, like ours, that require the advertising revenue to survive. Turning the feature on by default would likely cause a backlash from the big publishers. However, since the browser has less than 1% of the global share, it's also possible that no one will care.