The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Web/Tech

Where's my Wikipedia? SOPA, PIPA blackout coming

Jimmy Wales will shut down Wikipedia for 24 hours

Wikipedia is among hundreds of websites that will be showing just how they feel about SOPA  by going dark Wednesday.

The English-language version of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, will be shut down for 24 hours in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, now working their way through Congress.

Jimmy Wales, site co-founder, told the BBC's Martha Kearney on Tuesday morning that "tomorrow from midnight Washington D.C. time until midnight the entire day of Wednesday, we're going to blank out" the English version of Wikipedia and post a message of protest.

He told Kearney that the legislation makes "something like Wikipedia essentially impossible ... if the provider has to police everything that everyone is doing on the site."

Websites taking part in the so-called SOPA Strike include Mozilla, Reddit, WordPress and Boing Boing.

Twitter was hopping Tuesday morning with the news:

From the BBC's Philippia Thomas: "#Twitter chief says 'Closing a global business in reaction to a single-issue national politics is foolish'. How about that #Wikipedia?"

Greenpeace tweeted:  " 'We're sorry, you're not allowed to read this.' Join us in saying no to corporate censorship of the internet."

The MPAA and others who support the law say the Internet operators have it all wrong. As the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday:

The Motion Picture Assn. of America and others driving the legislation said real progress had been made toward creating a law that would protect intellectual property. The advocates said misinformation is inflaming passions on the Web while doing nothing to solve the problem of piracy.


Zappos website hacked

No Steve Jobs doll after all

Waterproof smartphones up next?

-- Amy Hubbard

Photo: Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales in 2011.  Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press

Number of Web users in China hits 513 million

The number of Web users in China soared to 513 million last year, a tech-industry group said

The number of Web users in China soared past 500 million last year, a tech-industry group said Monday, capping a period of explosive growth that has elevated Chinese Internet companies and challenged social and political discourse in the communist-controlled state.

The government-run China Internet Network Information Center said Monday that the number of Web users in China grew 12% in December, to 513 million, compared with the same period in 2010.

Chinese Internet giants such as search engine Baidu Inc., news portal Sina Corp. and gaming and messaging service provider Tencent Holdings added millions of users, raising the profile of the increasingly lucrative sector.

But 2011 was also a year that saw the increasing social might of Chinese micro-blogs, which became engines of public opinion that often challenged the authority of state-sanctioned news.

The number of micro-blog users quadrupled last year to just under 250 million, the China Internet Network Information Center said in its recent report.

Known in China as weibo, micro-blogs act much like Twitter, allowing users to post short messages with links that can then be read by subscribers.

Continue reading »

CES 2012: ng Connect promotes new uses for broadband


Broadband speeds have increased steadily in the United States, reaching an average of 5.8 Mbps in mid-2011. That's 50% faster than in mid-2009, and it's likely to keep going up. But aside from streaming movies and doing video chats on Skype, what will people do with all that bandwidth?

Alcatel-Lucent, a leading supplier of networking gear to telecommunications companies, is trying to give the public and broadband service providers a better idea of what connectivity can deliver. Just as important, it's trying to show DSL and cable-modem providers how they could offer new services, giving them more ability and incentive to invest in higher-capacity networks -- and less incentive to cap their customers' usage or bill them by the gigabyte.

It's doing so through an inter-industry coalition it founded called ng Connect, which brings high-tech companies together to brainstorm and combine their technologies into new service concepts. It's been showing off some of those ideas  this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, including new approaches to television, fitness, public safety, shopping and healthcare.

On Monday the coalition announced that it had expanded to more than 125 members. New additions include Fitting Reality, whose software creates virtual dressing rooms for retailers; MetaWatch, whose wireless watches can display Web data and alerts from the wearer's smartphone; and Zephyr Technology, which specializes in remote body- and health-monitoring.

The demonstrations at CES included some familiar concepts, such as using a smartphone in a store to gather more information about the products displayed there, or continuously connecting service and public-safety vehicles to all sorts of information sources and devices (see the "Striker" concept vehicle above). But there were also some intriguing new mash-ups of capabilities on display.

For example, there was a prototype of a table for bars or restaurants that combined Microsoft's Surface computing technology, Brass Monkey's cloud-based games, streaming video and advertising, and 4G wireless broadband. And the "Avatrainer" demo combined a fitness game with wireless heart-rate monitors into a cloud-based service that enables travelers to keep track of their workouts away from home.

Jason Collins, an Alcatel-Lucent vice president who leads ng Connect, said the point of the coalition is to help tech companies combine their specialties into services that improve the experience for broadband users. It's also to help broadband providers "become part of the value equation" of the services made possible by their networks.

The demand for what's already available through broadband is ever-increasing. The question is how telecommunications companies will afford the investments needed to keep up with that demand. Obviously, Alcatel-Lucent wants service providers to expand their capacity by buying more of the company's gear. But its interests -- and ng Connect's -- are aligned with consumers' when it comes to finding alternatives to bandwidth caps, metered pricing and similar strategies that broadband providers have been exploring.


The quest for bandwidth

Spectrum crisis? What spectrum crisis?

The end of all-you-can-eat wireless data plans


-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him at @jcahealey.

Photo: The Striker concept public-safety vehicle. Credit: Alcatel-Lucent

Sprint announces first 4G LTE cities for mid-2012 -- no L.A. yet

The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, which runs on Sprint's 4G WiMax network. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Later this year, Sprint plans to launch its 4G LTE network in the cities of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; no plans for Los Angeles have been announced as of yet.

So what does that mean for Sprint customers? Hopefully, noticeably faster download and upload speeds on smartphones, tablets and mobile hotspots.

Sprint's first LTE markets are to be activated "in the first half of 2012" along with improved 3G coverage and improvements in "boosting voice and data quality," Sprint said in a statement. In December, Sprint also began testing its LTE towers in Kankakee, Ill.

Of course, once Sprint begins its move over to an LTE network, its current customers with 4G WiMax phones may be left wondering what will happen to their devices -- and maybe even what the difference between WiMax and LTE is.

Sprint's current WiMax network offers users average download speeds of about 3 to 6 megabytes per second, which is about four times faster than 3G service. LTE, which uses different cellular-tower and in-phone-chip technology to build out the network (among other differences), offers higher top speeds than WiMax or the 4G HSPA networks AT&T and T-Mobile use.

LTE networks promise speeds that can be as much as 10 times faster than 3G service, with theoretical peaks of 300 megabytes per second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads. Among the nation's four largest carriers, only Verizon and AT&T currently have LTE networks up and running.

Sprint said that it planned to launch up to 15 devices, "including handsets, tablets and data cards," in 2012 that would be able to run on its LTE network and its 3G CDMA network if LTE was out of range.

Current WiMax devices won't suddenly be downgraded to 3G service or anything like that, Sprint said, adding that it "remains committed to our WiMax customers and plans to sell WiMax devices with two-year contracts through 2012."


AT&T's 4G LTE enters 11 new markets, including Los Angeles

Sprint says it has stopped pulling Carrier IQ data from phones

Verizon expanding 4G LTE network to cover area with 200 million people

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Photo: The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, which runs on Sprint's 4G WiMax network. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

AT&T closes $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum


AT&T Inc. has officially completed its $1.9-billion purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.

The deal gives AT&T the ability to offer service on wireless spectrum that covers an area of more than 300 million people nationwide, with more than 70 million of them in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

The nation's second-largest wireless carrier announced the closure of the purchase Tuesday in a short statement on its website after the Federal Communications Commission approved the purchase Friday.

The FCC's sign-off on the purchase followed AT&T's decision last week to drop its attempted $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.

Until the AT&T backed off its bid to buy T-Mobile, the FCC was reviewing both the spectrum deal and the takeover together -- a move that was expected to push any possible approval into next year.

AT&T's new wireless licenses applies to the 700 MHz spectrum, which the FCC described in its approval of the deal as "underutilized" by the telecommunications industry.


AT&T pulls out of T-Mobile acquisition deal

T-Mobile to gain licenses to AT&T wireless spectrum

FCC approves AT&T's $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Photo credit: Lisa Poole / Associated Press

FCC approves AT&T's $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum


The Federal Communications Commission has approved a $1.9-billion AT&T purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.

The purchase gives AT&T control over licenses that, according to the FCC, "cover more than 300 million people nationwide, including more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco)."

The FCC's decision on the spectrum deal was set to be delayed into next year as the regulatory agency was reviewing both AT&T's proposed Qualcomm purchase and the proposed $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA together -- that was until AT&T dropped its T-Mobile plans on Monday.

In its approval of the Qualcomm deal, the FCC stated Thursday that AT&T cannot use the spectrum in a way that would negatively impact other carriers using or roaming on nearby wireless airwaves.

The FCC said that, given that AT&T is the largest phone company in the U.S. and the second-largest mobile carrier, concerns of competitive harm were looked at, but any resulting harm wouldn't "outweigh the public interest benefits of this transaction," the FCC said in the order.

In fact, the FCC said it hopes the purchase will prod AT&T and its rivals to use the "underutilized unpaired 700 MHz spectrum" for mobile service, "thereby supporting our goal of expanding mobile broadband deployment throughout the country."


AT&T pulls out of T-Mobile acquisition deal

T-Mobile to gain licenses to AT&T wireless spectrum

FCC to review AT&T deals with T-Mobile and Qualcomm together

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Photo credit: Lisa Poole/Associated Press

NFL to stream Super Bowl online and to Verizon phones, tablets

For the first time, the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest U.S. sports event of the year, is going mobile.

On Feb. 5, the National Football League will stream Super Bowl 46, taking place at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, to smartphones and tablets using Verizon's NFL Mobile app (available on Apple's iOS and Google's Android).

Don't have a Verizon Wireless smartphone but still want to see the big game over the Web? The Super Bowl will be streaming at and

And, as is the norm, the Super Bowl will be broadcast live on regular ol' TV on NBC. As noted by our colleagues over at The Times' Fabulous Forum sports blog, a record 111 million people watched Super Bowl 45 the old-fashioned TV way last year.

"The live and coverage will come from NBC’s TV coverage of the games," NBC Sports said in a statement. "Complementing that stream will be a number of extra features to enrich the viewing experience including additional camera angles, in-game highlights, live statistics and other interactive elements."

But, of course, the NFL is looking to reach more viewers and looking to mobile gadgets to do so. And that's not all. The NFL, NBC and Verizon will also stream wild-card Saturday, on Jan. 7, the playoffs and the Pro Bowl on Jan. 29.


Women's World Cup final sets new Twitter records

NBA, a hit in online video, is looking to grow in social media

At Angel Stadium: Peanuts, Cracker Jacks and Android tablets [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Image: A screenshot of For the first time, the Super Bowl will be streamed live online and to Verizon phones and tablets. Credit: NFL

What are you doing on the Web? Most under 30 are wasting time


The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, allowing for a nearly instantaneous sharing of information that the world had never come close to previously.

But for most people under the age of 30 in the U.S., the Web is mostly a time killer, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

"Americans are increasingly going online just for fun and to pass the time," the Pew Research Center said in its report, released Friday. "On any given day, 53% of all the young adults ages 18-29 go online for no particular reason except to have fun or to pass the time.

"Many of them go online in purposeful ways, as well. But the results of a survey by the Pew Research
Center’s Internet & American Life Project show that young adults' use of the Internet can at times be
simply for the diversion it presents. Indeed, 81% of all young adults in this age cohort report they have used the Internet for this reason at least occasionally."

The report, of course, is one more testament to what many of us already know, given the declining profits seen for years by TV networks, print publishers and record companies -- not to mention the popularity of memes, LOLcats, YouTube and other online time-wasting cultural phenomena.

Pew also found that the Web as a pastime is on the rise.

"These results come in the larger context that Internet users of all ages are much more likely now than in the past to say they go online for no particular reason other than to pass the time or have fun," the report said. "Some 58% of all adults (or 74% of all online adults) say they use the Internet this way. And a third of all adults (34%) say they used the Internet that way 'yesterday' -- or the day before Pew Internet reached them for the survey. Both figures are higher than in 2009 when we last asked this question and vastly higher than in the middle of the last decade."

So what's to explain the increase in time wasting on the Web? Pew is pointing to "a variety of trends," including the growth of broadband Internet connections, the increased use of video on the Web and the meteoric rise of social networking.

"All of those factors are strongly associated with people who use the Internet for fun: If they have broadband, if they are online video consumers, if they use social media of any kind -- especially social networking sites -- they are much more likely than others to go online to pass the time."

A bit of perspective: when Pew first started tracking the Internet as a diversion, back in March 2000, 29% of adults and 63% of the Internet users at that time said they surfed the Web as a time waster.

"At that time, age and class were the biggest factors associated with using the Internet this way,"  Pew said. "More young adults were online and more of them were using the Internet as a diversion. And more relatively well-off and well-educated people were online and using the Internet as a diversion.

"In the ensuing years, men and women, blacks, Latinos and whites, those in higher-income households and lower-income households, those with a lot of education and those without as much education, have all increased their use of the Internet for this reason."

However, some things remain unchanged in Pew's findings. "It is still the case, though, that well under half of senior citizens and those without high school diplomas are using the Internet as a way to kill time and divert themselves."


Google+ tops Twitter's shared news items, Pew says

Pew report: About 13% of adults online in the U.S. use Twitter

Pew report: Facebook users have a higher degree of social well-being

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles+

Photo: In March 2010, Kayla Eland checks her email sitting in the window of her dorm room at Pitzer College in Claremont. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Foursquare launches 'Save to Foursquare' and 'Follow' buttons


Foursquare launched its "Save to Foursquare" and "Follow on Foursquare" buttons Wednesday in an effort by the New York company to get users to integrate what they do on the Web with what they do in the real world.

The Save to Foursquare button is aimed at online publishers and can enable publications to relate stories and reviews to places listed in the Foursquare app.

"For example, from a user perspective, if the L.A. Times were to use this feature, and I'm on the L.A. Times website and I'm reading a review of a new sushi place at LA Live, then I can click the Save to Foursquare button from the review online and that sushi place will be added to my to-do list on Foursquare," said Jonathan Crowley, who oversees Foursquare's partnerships with media companies. "And then when I'm in L.A. near LA Live and I'm looking at my to-do list, I'll see that sushi place on my list and the L.A. Times review would show up when I am looking at that sushi place in the app.

"So I could go back and read that review if I wanted to remember why it's on my list in the first place. And all of this would take place with the publisher's logo and branding."

As of now the L.A. Times isn't using the Save to Foursquare button, but Crowley's hypothetical example went into practice Wednesday with launch partners such as Frommer's Travel,, New York Magazine, Time Out NY and Time Out NY Kids, Time Out Boston, Time Out Chicago, and CBS.

CBS' use of the Save to Foursquare button is something that Crowley said he is particularly excited about because it's a move many people wouldn't expect, he said.

"We wanted to bridge the gap between what you're reading and watching online, and what you go out and do in the real world," Crowley said. "A lot of people don't look at CBS as a local brand, but if you think about it, there are all of these markets out there that have local CBS stations and they're producing a ton of locally focused content, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

"The fact is that the best content creators, the places that know cities the best, are publications like newspapers and magazines and local TV stations. And now we can connect the work all of these publications are doing with what we're doing on Foursquare very easily. It's something we've been working on for a while now."

The Follow on Foursquare button enables anyone with a website to allow Foursquare users to follow that person or business on Foursquare with a simple click, similar to Twitter's follow button, he said.

"The Follow button is even easier to put on a website," Crowley said. "With the Save to Foursquare button, a publisher has to structure the location data of what they're writing about in a certain way. With the Follow button, it's as easy as copying code from our website over to your website. Anyone can do it."

When a person follows someone or something on Foursquare, they'll see that person's or brand's tips when they check in at a location and they'll see lists of things to do by who they follow as well, he said.

"It's all the same as when you've followed a person or a brand on Foursquare before, but now you can follow someone you see on the Web without having to take your phone out of your pocket and go looking for them," Crowley said.

The company also launched a redesigned developer website Wednesday that should make it easier for third-party apps to build on what Foursquare has built and has coming up.

"I think a lot of people look at us as a 'check-in service,' but it's so much more than that," Crowley said. "It's about exploring your city, having a travel guide when you're in a new city, getting brand or friend recommendations wherever you go -- and all of this just adds to that.

"We've got a very long product road map, and we're focused on building more of these types of tools that make it easier for people to explore what's going on around them."


Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins [Video]

Foursquare Radar leverages Apple iOS 5 with new discovery features

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles+

Image: A screen shot of the Save to Foursquare button on Credit: New York Magazine / Foursquare

Senate rejects attempt to overturn FCC's net neutrality rules

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

The Senate on Thursday voted to keep in place the Federal Communications Commission's controversial rules aimed at preserving open Internet access.

Republicans had pushed to overturn the so-called net neutrality rules, and a resolution to do so failed 52-46 in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House this week had threatened to veto the action if the Senate approved it.

The vote ends a months-long attempt by opponents of the rules to get them wiped out. In April, the Republican-controlled House voted 240-179 in favor of a similar resolution of disapproval.

Nearly all Republicans oppose the new rules, arguing the FCC overstepped its authority and that regulation of the Internet will stifle its growth.

"Over the past 20 years, the Internet has grown and flourished without burdensome regulations from Washington," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who led the push in the Senate to overturn the rules. "If we’re going to keep an open and free Internet and keep the jobs it spawns, we should reject the FCC regulation on net neutrality."

Many large telecommunications companies have opposed the FCC's rules, including Verizon Communications Inc., which has filed suit to stop them.

Most Democrats, including Obama, argue that the regulations are needed to preserve an open Internet as the telecommunications industry becomes more consolidated.

"Net neutrality is not about a government takeover of the Internet, and it is not about changing anything," said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) "Net neutrality and the rules the FCC passed are about keeping the Internet the way it is today and the way it has always been."

Public interest groups and Internet advocates have worried for years that providers of Internet service, such as Verizon, Time Warner Cable Inc., and AT&T Inc. might try to slow down access to online services, such as Netflix or Skype, that compete with their own offerings, or charge premiums to some sites for faster delivery of their content.

Major online companies such as Google Inc. have strongly supported net neutrality rules.

The Democratic controlled FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in December to adopt regulations that prohibit telecommunications companies from favoring their online services over those of competitors. The rules, which apply to wired and wireless services, forbid companies from blocking access by their customers to any legal content, applications or services.

The FCC also prohibited companies that provide wired Internet service from "unreasonable discrimination" in their treatment of access to content and services. The tougher requirement was placed on wired services because there are fewer providers than in the wireless industry.

Obama has been a strong supporter of net neutrality. He made it part of his 2008 campaign platform and appointed Julius Genachowski as FCC chairman. Genachowski pushed the rules into place.

Obama praised the FCC for enacting the rules last year, and the White House this week described them as "an enforceable, effective but flexible policy for keep the Internet free and open."


Backgrounder on 'net neutrality'

FCC adopts 'net neutrality' rules

Verizon challenges FCC net neutrality rules in court

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. Credit: Bloomberg.


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