News broke out on Monday that Verizon, one of the giants of the U.S. telecom industry, is acquiring Yahoo for a small fraction of what it was worth during the dot-com boom glory days. Reports said the agreement was worth five billion dollars in cash — which is a lot but still nowhere near Yahoo’s $125-billion valuation in 2000, when it had enough in the coffers to buy Google.
And although the deal has yet to be fully ironed out — it will be completed sometime in 2017 — the death knell has sounded, the fate of an internet pioneer has been decided, and it looks like its next chapter will involve mobile video.
Yahoo, as you and I know it, is no more, even if it retains its name.
(Time for a disclosure: I wrote tech stories for Yahoo Philippines. My partner worked as an editor for the company.)
This isn’t a eulogy for Yahoo; it has historically done well on the stock market. People far smarter than I am said its stock outperformed its contemporaries from a bygone era. Unfortunately, its accomplishments on Wall Street didn’t mean as much to the people in Silicon Valley and to the rest of the world.
We should’t shed a tear for the company, or its investors. We could instead take a nice, casual walk on memory lane.
My early exposure to the web started with Yahoo services: the Yahoo landing page was my Facebook News Feed; the email and chat clients were my Gmail and Messenger and Slack apps; Yahoo Music on the desktop messenger app was my Spotify; Yahoo Groups was my Reddit; and all my searches were done on the Yahoo homepage.
If I wanted to get things done online in the late ’90s, Yahoo was my first click. For the vast majority of the population, including myself, Yahoo wasn’t on the internet, it was the internet.
And I wasn’t alone; my brother, all my friends — we were on the same page. These were innocent times, before hackers and malware coders and trolls and cyberbullies and mean-spirited armchair critics.
I’d be lying to you if I said at that time I thought the status quo would never change, but it did irrevocably. My social circle stopped using Yahoo for anything except to tell the people around them to use Google or Friendster or Napster instead. Being the impressionable youth I was, I gave in and signed out.
Your story is probably different than mine. But the ending is nevertheless familiar: We signed out.
Over the next few months, pundits will argue why Yahoo’s empire crumbled; why Marissa Mayer, the ex-Google executive tasked to lead the company’s comeback efforts, couldn’t keep the roofs and pillars from collapsing; and what could have been done to stop the cracks from showing.
I share the sentiment that it didn’t pivot fast enough to take full advantage of the digital ad market, and that Yahoo couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, even as Google was attempting to usurp its dominance in search. Most damning of all is its failure to act on shifting consumer preferences, the shift from desktop to mobile computing and from websites to apps.
I still have two active Yahoo Mail accounts: There’s one I check less frequently than my Google inbox; the other, I couldn’t care less about — it’s probably full of spam, anyway. That’s about the extent of Yahoo’s influence on my life today, its role reduced to housing possibly malicious emails.
How times have changed.
There’s a Neko Atsume VR game coming to the PS4!
Cat lady dreams come true
Remember Neko Atsume? The adorable, noncommittal mobile game that lets you collect cute cats and watch them do the silliest of things? Well, if you were one of the people who squealed over virtual pet cats and wanted to hop into the game, you might want to warn your friend for some intense screams. Neko Atsume VR is an actual game that’s coming to PlayStation 4.
The game was first announced in September last year but had no details on when it was going to launch. Well, all the cricket noises have cleared out and the developers, Hit-Point, just announced that Neko Atsume VR will be launching for the PlayStation 4 on May 31. Before you get too excited though, the game will, unfortunately, be available only in Japan — for now.
But this doesn’t stop us from checking out the features before Hit-Point releases it worldwide. In Neko Atsume VR, you can place snacks, toys, and items in your yard. Players will have to buy these items from the shop. You can take photos and watch your cats grow in numbers. Admittedly, the game is not too different from your typical Neko Atsume but it’s still a cat lover’s dream come true.
The selling point is undeniably clear: to immerse yourself in the cute cat world and to interact with them in ways you couldn’t have before. Neko Atsume is still in the works seeing as Hit-Point has only integrated 20 types of cats you can collect. That’s not even half as many as the ones you could collect on the original version.
As of now, the rest of the world will have to wait it out since it’s, again, only available in Japan on May 31.
Amazon launches lightweight Android web browser
It’s designed for low-powered devices
Amazon has released a lightweight internet browser for Android smartphones in India, simply called Internet. The app itself weighs just about 2MB in size and is designed to offer an efficient way to browse the internet on devices with limited processing power and available storage space.
Compelling features of the Amazon Internet browser include privacy, with Amazon claiming no extra permissions are required to use it and no private data is collected, as well as private tabs to ensure websites can’t capture your data.
Among many features, the web browser’s homepage gives a glimpse at general headlines, while offering specific news such as cricket scores. The home page also offers previews for various tabs and an automatic full-screen viewing option. The browser comes with a download manager as well, and while the default search engine is Bing, you can change it to Google from the settings.
Amazon has designed the app for Android 5.0 Lollipop and higher, but it cannot be downloaded on devices running newer versions of Android as of now, citing incompatibility as the reason on the app’s Play Store listing. Amazon had recently launched the Kindle Lite app, which too weighs less than 2MB in size.
The major reason why India has been such as an attractive market for tech companies is because of its increasing data consumption. On December 21, 2017, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant tweeted that India has become the “World’s No. 1 mobile data consuming the country.”
Earlier this year, Google released Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, Google Go, Gboard Go, and the completely new Files Go app as part of the Android Go initiative. Android Go is based on the latest Oreo update but is a less resource-intensive version of the operating system, tailored for budget phones with lower specs — as low as 512MB of RAM.
Spotify is redesigning their Free version with more features
Finally, some on-demand!
Spotify Free users are in for a treat. The music streaming service is gearing up to redesign their free version with more features.
To add to the mire of updates, users are reporting rollouts of a new free version over the last few days. Among other notable changes, the redesign allows users to play songs on demand from selected playlists.
Before the redesign, the free version’s biggest difference from the premium is the inability to play songs on demand. Free users had to settle for shuffle mode. The new feature adds the ability but only for more popular playlists such as the “Gold Edition” playlist.
The new design now also displays an individual songs album art while they are playing. Album art displays were another feature exclusive to the premium version.
It also sports several quality-of-life redesigns. For example, Spotify now displays genres with smaller icons, prompting more content on one page. Previously, genres showed with larger “album arts” and genre-specific icons. (This subtler change also made it to the new Premium version.)
Spotify has yet to release an official announcement regarding the new redesign. They have also haven’t revealed any notable feature upgrades for Premium users. However, rollouts are slowly making their way to devices now.
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