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Teens say they're ditching Facebook for Instagram, and fast PDF Print E-mail

Instagram

Teenage users have been drifting away from Facebook for the last few years, but now it seems they’re in a mad rush to get off the world’s largest social network.

A study by investment bank Piper Jaffray (download PDF) about teen behavior on everything from online shopping to social media use shows that Facebook is a distant third when it comes to teens’ favorite social networks.

After surveying 7,200 teenagers with an average age of 16, Piper Jaffray found that about 80% cited Instagram as their favorite social site, 65% said they like Twitter and about 40% said they use Facebook.

Tumblr was fourth with about 25% and Pinterest rounded out the top five with about 20%. Facebook rival Google+ was cited by fewer than 10% of respondents

The survey also showed a major exodus during the past six months or so: 45% this fall said they use Facebook -- a big drop from 72% who said that in the spring. (By contrast, 76% of teenagers said they use Instagram now compared to 69% in the spring.)

Bad news for Facebook

“This is very bad news for Facebook,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Facebook substitutes, like Instagram or Snapchat, seem to pop up every year, providing teenagers an alternative where they probably won’t find their parents.”

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, agreed that the large number of older users on Facebook is driving away younger users. Kids simply don’t want to be on the same social network as their parents or the uncle they only see at Thanksgiving.

“As every parent knows, once Mom and Dad get involved in something the kids likes, that thing becomes almost instantly uncool,” said Olds.

It’s been clear that Facebook was struggling to interest younger users for a while now.

Late last year, a company executive, speaking during Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, admitted that the social network was struggling to keep teenagers’ attention. “We did see a decrease in [teenage] daily users [during the quarter], especially younger teens,” said David Ebersman, Facebook’s chief financial officer at the time. He went on to call the network’s teen user base “stable.”

Although Facebook has more than 1 billion users around the planet, losing younger users is a growing problem.

The next generation moves on

“Younger users are very fickle,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “They are losing their seed corn. Eventually, their audience will age out and the market will see the decline as unavoidable, collapsing their stock price and company valuation. The resulting bad outlook will become a self-fulfilling prophesy as advertisers will abandon them.”

Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, Inc. doesn’t see the situation as dire.

“While this isn’t the best news for Facebook, it’s also not a sign of impending failure either,” he said. “Facebook has and will in the future offer many types of online social experiences. Their apps and platform today is used by a very wide variety of people and businesses, and they will continue to grow as they help offline users around the world come online.”

The company, which already owns teen-favorite Instagram, has taken steps to draw those younger users back, even if it’s not directly to Facebook’s own site.

In February, Facebook bought WhatsApp, a popular mobile messaging app, and in June, it took direct aim at social competitor Snapchat by launching Slingshot, its own mobile app.

Both WhatsApp and Slingshot are aimed at the younger market.

Earlier this year, Facebook inked a deal to acquire Oculus VR Inc., a company that makes virtual reality gaming glasses. Analysts immediately noted that the company had spent $2 billion to lureback some of its lost teenage user.

While analysts are split on whether Facebook can bring younger users back and keep the ones it has, Olds doesn’t think Facebook has to to survive.

“As long as they see Instagram as being the cool place to be, that should make Facebook happy,” he added. “Plus, it gives them two strong platforms with different demographics to use for advertising. That’s a damned good position to be in. What they have is actually better than just having everyone on Facebook because if you only have one platform for all, it’s easier for a competitor to come in and steal around the edges.”

Sharon Gaudin Reporter, Computerworld Follow me on Google+

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet, social media, cloud computing and emerging technologies for Computerworld.
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Intel, Fossil team up to work on wearables PDF Print E-mail

watch

Everyone wants in on the wearables game—Motorola, Samsung, LG, and if rumors are to be believed, Apple. Not to be outdone, Intel announced a new partnership Friday with watchmaker Fossil to “further develop wearable technology for the fashion industry.”

According to the two companies, Intel and Fossil will team up “to identify, support and develop emerging trends in the wearable technology space” and “work together on emerging products and technologies that will be developed for the fashion-oriented consumer,” according to a joint press release

Presumably, the partnership will eventually result in Fossil-branded wearables (likely smartwatches) with Intel’s technology inside.

In the joint press release, Fossil and Intel put emphasis on developing fashionable wearables. A major critique of early smartwatches is that they are mini-computers first,  watches second—that the fashion aspect comes second. And if wearables are to catch on outside tech enthusiasts, they need to look like something you’ll want to wear. 

Tech companies seem to be starting to “get it”—just take a look at the round-faced Moto 360 and LG G Watch R—but there’s still plenty of work to do. For instance, many current smartwatches are not well suited for those with smaller wrists, as Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal points out.

But having a major fashion-driven watchmaker like Fossil on board and providing smartwatches in a variety of sizes and styles should go a long way toward helping take wearables to a more mainstream audience.

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Dreadnought preview: It's like World of Tanks and Battlestar Galactica had a baby PDF Print E-mail

heavy corvette sneak up

"Everyone always wants to be the fast ships at first. And then they die." These are the dour words of the developer watching over my shoulder as I played Dreadnought, a spaceship combat game, last week. He was right. I died almost immediately, picked out of the sky by a much larger ship as I battered ineffectively against its armor.

Here's the easiest way to describe Dreadnought—the way it was described to me, and presumably the way it was described to everyone at PAX, and it's the first thing you think of when you play the game. Remember that scene in Battlestar Galactica where the ship warps in the atmosphere? Yeah, of course you do unless you didn't watch Battlestar Galactica in which case who are you?

Dreadnought is that scene.

heavy support laser attack

A heavy support vehicle attacking a light dreadnought.

It's a spaceship combat game, as I said, but not in the way you're probably thinking. This isn't Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen or Enemy Starfighter. In fact, it's not even really a game about dogfighting, which is pretty anathema to the last twenty or so years of space game design.

Instead think of Dreadnought like a tank game with three dimensions of movement, like World of Tanks except with spaceships in the starring role. All of the key ideas of a tank game—positioning, for instance—are important here as you glide around obstacles and try to hide until the last possible moment. The PAX map even took place in a planet's atmosphere, making it feel like massive floating tanks (though there are space maps planned for the final release).

akula dreadnought

A titular dreadnought.

There were five ships in the demo I played, ranging from a small sniper/recon ship to the titular Dreadnought, which is your Imperial Star Destroyer/Battlestar size monster of a ship. Each ship is a bundle of compromises, with small ships being more maneuverable but also frail, while larger ships move at a snail's crawl but soak up lots of damage. You can think of the ships as different "classes" from a shooter, considering one is effectively a medic, one is equipped as I mentioned with a long-range weapon, et cetera.

Plus the Dreadnought can warp short distances and it makes a big whoompf noise right before it materializes/starts kicking space-ass and is all around one of the most satisfying moves to pull off in recent history. Oh, and it shoots nukes.

nuke launch

Nuclear missle away! 

But even the smallest ship has a hefty sense of weight that says "I'm a hundred tons of metal" more than "I'm meant for zipping around the galaxy." I'm sure a more experienced player can pull off some complex maneuvers with the smaller ships, but this is not a twitchy dogfighter. It's a tactical game that relies heavily on teamwork.

I had a lot of fun with the round I played at PAX, once I got used to the slow pace. I'm definitely more interested in the space maps (which the developers tell me will feature asteroid fields and ship graveyards) than the in-atmosphere settings, though the backdrop did make for some of those incredible Battlestar Galactica-esque moments.

And hey, the game is going to be free-to-play upon release so there's really nothing stopping you from checking it out. If there's anything good to be said about free-to-play, it's that the barrier to entry is incredibly low regardless of whether the game turns out impressive.

Space. Nukes. Warping. Millions of fictional people dying in massive planetary battles. Trillions of dollars worth of damage per second. Yeah, that's Dreadnought.

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10 hilarious, brutally devious ways PC game developers punish pirates PDF Print E-mail

The Sims 4 was released this week, but some people who eagerly snatched up a copy soon found themselves perplexed by an apparent bug: The entire game eventually became blurry and pixelated, with the effect beginning as a way to obscure nude Sims and blossoming out from there. Did a major error slip through EA's playtesting?

Nope. Those blurry pixels are intentional—and they appear only if you're using an illegitimate version of The Sims 4. Yes, EA is messing with game pirates.

This isn't the first time a developer's decided to get cute with its anti-piracy measures. In fact, some of the methods game makers have used over the years to thwart pirates have been downright insane. Here are some of the craziest, most hilarious examples.

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba seeks up to $21 billion in US IPO PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

Alibaba is looking to raise as much as US$21 billion in its U.S. IPO, according to documents filed Friday, making the Chinese e-commerce company’s debut one of the largest initial public offerings in U.S. history.

Its stock will be priced between $60 and $66 per share, according to a prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. At the top of that range, if Alibaba sells just over 320 million shares as planned, it would bring in just over $21 billion. According to published reports, using the midpoint of that range Alibaba would be valued around $160 billion.

The company is expected to begin its global roadshow in New York City on Monday, when executives will meet with potential investors before moving on to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The roadshow is expected to end on Sept. 18 with the pricing of the shares, which would go on sale the following day. Alibaba will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BABA.”

Previous IPO documents showed Alibaba sold more merchandise than eBay and Amazon combined. But instead of using its own inventory of goods, as Amazon does, Alibaba manages an online marketplace for connecting merchants with consumers. The company runs the Taobao Marketplace and Tmall, two of China’s largest online retail sites. In addition, Alibaba affiliate Alipay is China’s largest third-party online payment service.

Alibaba has sold to U.S. customers through its supplier sites AliExpress and Alibaba.com, but the company is looking to expand in this country. It recently launched a new site called 11Main, which currently acts as an invitation-only marketplace offering items from specialty shops for clothing, jewelry and the arts.

One of the company’s biggest challenges in the U.S. is that consumers don’t know the company well.

“When an Internet company of our scale that originated in China enters the global scene, you should expect that it will encounter skepticism from different directions due to differences in cultural perspectives, values and even geopolitical positioning,” said founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, in an accompanying letter to investors.

Yahoo holds roughly a 24 percent stake in Alibaba. But the Internet company will sell roughly 121 million shares in the IPO, according to the prospectus, decreasing Yahoo’s ownership to 16 percent. At $63 per share, the stock Yahoo is selling would be worth about $7.62 billion.

Alibaba was formed in 1999 as a way to help small exporters in manufacturing and trading reach global buyers.

Zach Miners , IDG News Service

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service
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