This week on the web, YouTube entertained dogs, Twitter tweaked retweets, Amazon stomped on fake reviewers, and Uber moved people around Delhi. LinkedIn took steps to make you smarter, and a new startup made life easier for teachers. YouTube revealed plans to create a subscription service. A survey confirmed what everybody already suspected about teenagers.
Good News if You Rely on Product Reviews
Amazon is ramping up its fight against companies that post fake, deceptive reviews. For the first time, Amazon is taking them to court.
While there have always been sellers who tried to game the system, lately their techniques have been getting more sophisticated. One of the fake-review-generating companies named in Amazon's lawsuit, for example, goes beyond playing matchmaker between sellers who want to buy four- and five-star reviews and the fake review writers who want to provide them. The company takes the extra step of having the sellers send out empty boxes to the fake reviewers. This increases the companies' sales stats, while also triggering Amazon's "Verified Purchase" feature, which gives the reviews more credibility -- and saves the company the expense of shipping an actual product.
These schemers may have been too clever for their own good, as the elaborate plots seem to have triggered Amazon's wrath. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court.
LinkedIn Will Make You Smarter
LinkedIn wants to lure job hunters into spending more time on its site. The business-networking company just made a deal to buy Lynda, a popular online training company. It's a new way for LinkedIn to offer more to its users to keep them coming back more often. The deal could also create a nice synergy. After people learn new skills via Lynda's training, they will have more to offer employers -- and LinkedIn will be right there to help them find new jobs.
When in Delhi ...
The Internet reaches around the globe, but local customs still matter. Internet businesses have to be nimble and adjust to how people do things in different places. Uber is now offering a new service in Delhi that lets its users hail auto-rickshaws with the Uber app and pay the drivers in cash. It's all part of Uber's push to beat its competition in India, which is Uber's biggest market after the United States. If we ever colonize the moon, Uber or its future equivalent will no doubt be there helping us get rides on the space taxis.
YouTube Without Ads
Do you find the ads on YouTube annoying? Sometime before the end of this year, rumor has it, you will be able to experience an ad-free YouTube -- for a fee, of course. The Google-owned site will be offering a subscription service at a price they haven't yet disclosed. Subscription revenue will be shared with video producers, just as ad revenue is now. This is taking place in an increasingly competitive streaming-video landscape, with subscription services from HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others heavyweights breathing down YouTube's neck.
The Luxury of 140 Characters
Have you seen Twitter's new retweet feature yet? It saves time and gives you more space to add a comment. Now, when you hit the retweet button, you will get a separate box where you can add a comment and take advantage of using the full 140 characters, instead of having to cram your comment into whatever space is left in front of the retweeted message. The new feature also saves a step, as you no longer have to copy-and-paste the original tweet.
Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. The drawback to the new feature is that Vines and photos sent in retweets now appear much smaller on phone screens. It's always something.
A Step Closer to the Paperless Classroom
Someday, paper in the classroom will seem as quaint and outdated as fountain pens and inkwells built into student desks. A Canadian start-up company has raised $2.3 million to help make that day come a little sooner. The company created an app called "Showbie" that makes it easy for teachers and students to communicate and send assignments back-and-forth online. Teachers use their tablets to assign work. Students can do all the work online, but students who still prefer doing their work on paper can submit it via the app by taking a photo. Teachers can then make comments on the students' work within the app.
The app creators hope to save teachers a lot of the time they now spend on grading work, as well as give them the ability to provide quick feedback to students. The app also works well in classrooms that are already using multimedia features. So far, it appears to be a hit, with more than a million students and teachers around the world using the app in any one of 10 languages. Looks like kids who hope to rely on the time-tested excuse that the dog ate their homework will now have to come up with something else.
Yes, Your Teenager Really is Online All of the Time
If you think that teenagers are on the Internet every waking moment, you're not too far off of the mark. A new Pew Research Center survey shows that 92 percent of teens say they go online every day, and 24 percent say they are online "almost constantly."
Despite the buzz about Instagram and Snapchat, good old Facebook remains the most popular social networking site for teens, with 71 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 17 using it, compared to 52 percent for Instagram, 41 percent for Snapchat, and 33 percent each for Twitter and Google+. Surprisingly, only 24 percent said they used Vine and only 14 percent Tumblr.
The survey found gender differences, with more girls than boys using visually-oriented social media (Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Tumblr) and more boys than girls playing video games and owning gaming consoles.
Texting remains popular, with the average teen sending and receiving 30 texts per day. One-third of teens with smartphones use texting apps such as WhatsApp and Kik.
YouTube is (Literally) Going to the Dogs
Now your dog doesn't have to feel left out. It, too, can watch YouTube, which now has videos designed especially for canine consumption. The videos from DogTV are being promoted as a way to entertain dogs that are home alone. The carefully curated selection of videos does not include things that would upset dogs, such as crocodile attacks, loud commercials, or cats -- so you're still on your own when watching the latest cute cat video that is making the rounds.