DuckDuckGo: The Little Search Engine that Can…And Will!
Jul13

DuckDuckGo: The Little Search Engine that Can…And Will!

Competitors of Google (Yahoo!, Bing, Ask.com, etc.) have never been able to rival the search volume of the tech giant. These big name companies have tried to imitate Google and have not met much success in winning over users from Google. But DuckDuckGo is trying something different – and already getting some impressive results. DuckDuckGo’s Secret DuckDuckGo offers something for its users that Google cannot – hardcore privacy. Among other features of DuckDuckGo, its radical privacy is perhaps most appealing to users. The search engine does not log your IP address, doesn’t track you with cookies, and websites cannot even tell when search terms you used that brought you to their site. Weinberg’s start-up is banking the on the fact that Google’s lifeblood is it ability to sell user (albeit anonymized) information to marketers, and that users are not OK with that. When the company started out in September of 2008, privacy wasn’t a key concern of search engine users. But since the Edward Snowden NSA Revelations of 2013, business for DuckDuckGo has skyrocketed.     Other Features Weinberg did not start DuckDuckGo with the intention of becoming a safe haven of search privacy. That came through Reddit and HackerNews user requests. Other features of the DuckDuckGo include: !bangs – this feature allows you to search for a specific site and be taken straight there. Instant recipes – A partnership with Yummly allows you to easily find any recipe without having to sort through endless confusing cooking blogs. Custom design – you can change the look and feel of the site for your own browser. DuckDuckGo’s Humble Beginnings Gabriel Weinberg first started DuckDuckGo with the idea of proving ‘instant answers’ instead of simply a list of different sites. Anyone who’s been on Google in the last year knows that Google is now using this idea as well. Fortunately DuckDuckGo had other legs to stand on.   Just Getting Started Though DuckDuckGo’s searches increase 100-500% each year, the company is still only performing a teeny-tiny fraction of the queries Google completes each day, which is nearly 4 billion. Can DuckDuckGo be David to the Google Goliath? Only time will tell, but keep your eyes on the this post-Snowden era spectacle....

Read More
Lexus Hoverboard is Awesome, Still Disappoints
Jun29

Lexus Hoverboard is Awesome, Still Disappoints

We are now well into the year 2015, the year to which Marty McFly travelled in the science fiction blockbuster Back to the Future Part II. Companies have been increasingly cashing in on the Back to the Future franchise as October 21 (the exact day Marty McFly came to 2015) approaches. The latest company to join in the fun is the luxury automobile brand Lexus. As part of the company’s “Amazing in Motion” campaign, they have announced the development of their own Lexus hoverboard. http://alwayscurrent.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/lexus_hoverboard_slide_film_high_mov_20bdf6e18bca2a839ab64d1e4d409ec32fe74e60_low.mp4   Looks pretty sweet, right? There’s a catch. It only works in a controlled environment. The concrete that Lexus Hoverboard levitates over in the  video has magnets beneath it. I find this revelation disappointing in a few ways. The first is that Lexus is making a huge deal of what is essentially a middle school science project on steroids. The actor never even puts all his weight on the Lexus hoverboard! They’ve even trying to make #LexusHover a thing. I think the people excited about this thing clearly skipped the part of the press release that says it doesn’t work and it’s not for sale. The second disappointment is not on the part of Lexus, but on civilization’s development of technology as a whole. We’ve figured out smartphones and iPads, so how have we not created a functioning hoverboard yet? Based on our willingness to believe Tony Hawk’s hoverboard prank of 2014, there is clearly a demand for the invention. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Lexus Hoverboard looks awesome. I want to ride a hoverboard just as badly as anyone. The hoverboard in the movie is made by Mattel and looks to be made for small children – Sidenote: you can get your very own non-functioning Mattel hoverboard just like in the movie for around $450. The Lexus’ hoverboard is certainly an upgrade from that. So even though I’m let down that I can’t get my own, I suppose a working hoverboard can now be lightly penciled onto the list of correct 2015 predictions made by the Back to the Future II writers. For more Back to the Future fun, check out this list of hilariously wrong and shockingly spot-on predictions made by the writers of the movie....

Read More
Uber Driver Lawsuit and What  It Means for App Users
Jun22

Uber Driver Lawsuit and What It Means for App Users

Though a ruling has been made by the California Labor Commission, the Uber Driver Lawsuit and the future of Uber’s business model are far from decided. The latest ruling in the lawsuit stated that the driver who filed the lawsuit is an employee, and not an independent contractor as Uber insists all its drivers are. This is not the first Uber driver lawsuit, and it is certainly not the last. This most recent case could set a precedent for all California Uber drivers. If all California Uber drivers are deemed employees, operating costs for companies like Uber and Lyft could increase up to 30%. So what does this Uber driver lawsuit mean for the people who use the app? These Uber driver lawsuits can mean a couple things for users of the app. If the cost of making drivers employees is too high, the service may become unprofitable in some areas. If the company isn’t making money in a certain area, they will likely shut down services there. This leads to the lose-lose situation of Uber and Lyft drivers losing that income as well as drunk folk having to revert back to the ancient practice of hailing a cab and paying outrageous amounts to get home safely. This is not a one-sided issue. Unsatisfied Uber drivers all over the country are organizing in an effort to improve working conditions. Check out the forum UberPeople.net to better understand their plight. In my opinion, a best case scenario would be for companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to simply improve relations with their so-called independent contractors. If this does not happen there will undoubtedly be some major shake-up to the business model of the ride sharing industry.  ...

Read More
Apple Music vs. Spotify: In Music War, Can Artist Win?
Jun15

Apple Music vs. Spotify: In Music War, Can Artist Win?

Apple Music and Spotify compete to be the best music streaming service, but which is the most ethical? Apple announced that it is entering the already crowded market of music streaming services with its new product Apple Music, and many are predicting it will have the power to shut Spotify down. But will live live up to hype? Music streaming was an idea that was developed in order to combat piracy that was on the rise since the advent of digital downloading. Since the conception of music streaming, many companies have entered the ring to compete for music consumers’ attention. But the question we should be asking is which is the most ethical? Free music has never been easier to legally access, but in this music war, can the artist ever win? Spotify Spotify, a Swedish company originally created to combat piracy (which brings artists no revenue), has a simple 30-70 split between themselves and rights holders, respectively. Rights holders in this case are the label or publisher with whom an artist is signed. From there, the 70% revenue is divided between the label and artist based on their own contract. For some context, Spotify provides this chart for a rough idea of how much money different genres make on Spotify.     These numbers are royalty payments that Spotify made. In other words,  it’s the money the rights holders made before they divided it between the artist. At the end of the day, an artist will usually get anywhere between 10 and 50 percent of whatever revenue the rights holders receive. A common misconception is that Spotify pays per stream. What is true is that your favorite indie band makes more money from Spotify when you subscribe for $10 a month instead of listening for free. The Guardian has more info on their business model here.   Apple Music Apple Music, available June 30, does essentially the same things as the $10/month Spotify Premium, for the same price, with a few extra bells and whistles. Apple Music has already been deemed confusing yet unoriginal by some, citing it does too many things poorly instead of one thing really well. Music industry guru Bob Leftsetz has a grim outlook for the latest music streaming service. But This is all on purpose, claims Apple’s Jimmy Iovine. In an interview with The Guardian, Iovine explains that giving musicians and rightsholders the option to make their content free on Connect (the free component of Apple Music) or  publish it exclusively for subscribers of Apple Music, creating an “ecosystem” where artists can develop their music the way they want. Only time will tell what artists will actually make from Apple’s new streaming service. It has...

Read More
Pinterest’s Buyable Pin no surprise, so what’s next?
Jun08

Pinterest’s Buyable Pin no surprise, so what’s next?

Earlier this week Pinterest announced that it will soon be rolling out its latest feature: buyable pins. This is perhaps the most wonderful and dangerous thing to happen to me since my student ID was hooked up to my parents’ checking account in college. For years, buyable pins have been the number one request from Pinners, and now our dreams have come true. We all knew this day would come and now that it’s here, I can’t help but wonder: what’s next? Now that Pinterest has taken a head-first dive into the world of ecommerce, I’ve made some predictions about what this social media power-house will do next… and what I’d like to see happen. 1. Giving Amazon a run for its money By creating buyable pins, Pinterest stepped into Amazon’s territory – the third-party online marketplace. Josh Constine at TechCrunch reported that Pinterest’s latest buying feature will include a button that allows a Pinner to add items to an Amazon Wishlist. Undoubtedly a handy feature, but what’s the point when I can simply pin it and come back to buy the item on Pinterest later? I am curious to see how the relationship between these two online giants will develop in the coming weeks. 2. Sponsored Buyable Pins We’ve got sponsored pins now, and we’re getting buyable pins soon. It can only be a matter of time until the two become one. Pinterest’s GM of Monetization Tim Kendall told TechCrunch in an article published June 2nd, 2015 that “This isn’t an ad offering, it’s an experience for pinners.” However, he went on to explain that though it isn’t an advertising opportunity yet, they hope to offer that at some point. 3. Expanding its own Ecommerce I have already compared Pinterest to Amazon in this post, but I will do it again. Amazon is not only a third-person marketplace, but now sells its own goods as well – the Amazon Kindle, for example. I wonder if Pinterest will do the same in the future, and if so, what their goods will be. Perhaps a sturdy waste bin for failed Pinterest craft ideas.   4. Shopping Lists I’ll soon be able to buy items right off Pinterest, but if you’re like me, you have a voice in your head that says you can always find it cheaper somewhere else. I’d like Pinterest to give me the ability to create a shopping list from things I see on Pinterest, so I can compare prices and take advantage of deals in physical stores. I imagine this feature would look something like Google’s Keep app, but built into Pinterest.   So there you have it, my hopes,...

Read More