TIME Autos

Tesla Model S Named Best Car for 2nd Year in a Row

Now get ready for the Model X

Tesla doesn’t even need a new car to keep raking in accolades.

The auto startup’s flagship Model S vehicle was named the best overall vehicle by Consumer Reports for the second year in a row on Tuesday. The publication said Tesla’s ability to send software updates to its vehicles through the Internet has prevented the car from being rendered obsolete as new features are introduced in competing cars. “The Model S is a technological tour de force, a high-performance electric vehicle with usable real-world range, wrapped in a luxury package,” Consumer Reports saud.

Tesla sold almost 10,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2014 and expects to sell about 55,000 vehicles in 2015. A new SUV called the Model X will start being delivered to customers in the third quarter of the year.

TIME movies

Check Out the Hidden Superhero in the Avengers: Age of Ultron Poster

Meet "Vision"

The hype for Avengers: Age of Ultron will only increase thanks to Marvel’s new poster for the film, which shows off one character set to make his big-screen debut. In the top-left corner of the poster above Hulk’s head is a floating character called “Vision,” an android created by the villain Ultron that eventually turns good. Paul Bettany of A Knight’s Tale fame will portray the hero in the movie, which debuts May 1.

Check out Captain America, Iron Man and all the rest in the new poster below:

Age of Ultron poster

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TIME Web

Reddit Restricts Nude Photos After Celebrity Hacking Scandal

Users are now banned from posting nudes without permission

Reddit is cracking down on sexual content following the posting of many celebrities’ nude photos on the messaging site last year.

The company said Tuesday that it is changing its privacy policy to ban users from posting nude photos and videos of people engaged in sex acts without getting their permission first, the New York Times reports.

Many people criticized Reddit in September when nude pictures of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence were widely disseminated on the site. Reddit eventually removed the photos but argued that the removal was because some of the images may have violated copyright or depicted underage girls, not because they were an invasion of people’s privacy. The new rules, however, seem to indicate that Reddit is shifting its typical opposition to any and all forms of censorship. “The opportunity here [is] to set a standard for respecting the privacy of our users,” Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said.

The company, which attracted $50 million in new venture funding in September, also plans to launch moderation tutorials to help users in leadership positions better govern the activities of communities on the site.

[NYT]

TIME Companies

See How Apple’s Tim Cook Honored Steve Jobs’s Birthday

The late Apple CEO would have been 60

Apple CEO Tim Cook took a moment on Twitter to remember his mentor and friend Steve Jobs on Tuesday, the day on which the late Apple co-founder would have turned 60.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Cook wrote, quoting a line from Jobs’s 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011. He had handed over the reins of the company he founded to Cook, who previously served as Apple’s chief operating officer, in August of that year. Under Cook’s leadership, the value of Apple has more than doubled, now reaching more than $750 billion.

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TIME World

Eerie, Giant Holes Still Appearing in Northern Russia

Satellite imagery shows 20 new craters around holes discovered last year in Siberia

Less than a year after three massive craters as large as 250 feet wide were discovered in Siberia, experts say as many as 20 smaller craters may be dotting the north Russian landscape.

Satellite imagery shows that one of the large craters on the Yamal peninsula is actually now surrounded by about 20 smaller craters filled with water, according to the Siberian Times. The mysterious holes are thought to be related to climate change, as unusually warm temperatures in the area lead to explosive releases of a large amount of gas hydrates.

The discovery around the Yamal peninsula crater could indicate that there are more holes around the other large craters as well. “I would compare this with mushrooms,” Russian scientist Vasily Bogoyavlensky told the newspaper. “When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.”

[Siberian Times]

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TIME policy

Google to Strip Porn From Its Blogging Platform

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on Jan. 30, 2014.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on Jan. 30, 2014.

Starting in March, graphic nudity is being removed from Blogger

Google is cracking down on sexually explicit content on its blogging platform, Blogger. The search giant announced Monday night that images that show graphic nudity won’t be publicly shareable beginning beginning on March 23. Nudity that, in Google’s estimation, offers a “substantial public benefit” artistically, educationally or scientifically will still be allowed.

Users who have sexually explicit content on their blog will have the option to make the content private rather than having it removed by Google. The company is reserving the right to take down any blogs created after March 23 that post explicit material.

The change may convince some bloggers to flock to Tumblr instead, which has lax policies regarding sexually explicit photos.

[The Verge]

TIME Advertising

Sheryl Sandberg: Simplifying Facebook Ads Led to Enormous Growth

FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit - Day 2
Paul Morigi—Getty Images Chief operating officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington D.C.

The company hit the milestone Tuesday

Facebook has come a long way from the banner ads that populated the site back in 2004. The world’s largest social network announced Tuesday that it now has 2 million “active advertisers,” defined as an advertiser that’s placed an ad in the last 28 days.

The company crossed the milestone less than two years after it reached 1 million advertisers in June 2013.

Facebook has recently been taking pains to court small businesses in particular, cutting the number of ad products in half to make its offerings easier to understand. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company has also been hosting free marketing training sessions around the country. A new Ads Manager app launching for iOS Tuesday that lets Facebook advertisers create and edit ads on the go could help lure still more smaller marketers.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg attributes the company’s fast advertiser growth to the streamlined ad products in particular. “A couple years ago, our offering was, ‘Do you want to become a Facebook advertiser?’ That sounds complicated,” Sandberg says. “Now you do a post, and we ask, ‘Do you want to promote this post?’ That’s a pretty easy on-ramp to being an advertiser.”

Though Facebook likes to say its ads are effective because of the amount of data it has about its users, Forrester researcher Nate Elliot says advertisers are actually attracted to the platform mostly because of the sheer number of people using it: 1.3 billion. Citing surveys of marketers, Elliot says Facebook ads have not been found to be particularly more effective than other online ads.

“Facebook knows more about its users than likely any other company in history,” he says. “For its ads to work only about as well as the ads on Yahoo or the ads on a random online network is a bit damning.” Facebook says that in an internal study of 20 retailers, it found a 2% average increase in offline sales for shoppers who were shown a Facebook ad compared to those who were not.

One thing is certain: marketers are continuing to buy them, pumping money into Facebook’s coffers. The company generated $3.8 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014, a new high. That came almost entirely from advertising. And there are plenty of potential advertisers that remain untapped—Facebook says it hosts a total of 30 million active small business Pages, up from 25 million in November 2013.

Owners of these Pages are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that they’ll have to pay to have their posts seen by many users. Facebook has been ratcheting down the reach of non-paid posts, while it tweaked its News Feed algorithm in January to cut down on promotional posts.

The company is pivoting to promote Pages as a free, simple alternative to a hosted website rather than a free way to get into users’ News Feeds. Nearly a billion people visited Facebook pages directly in October, the company says. “While organic distribution has gone down, as more people have come on the platform, it’s still really the only organic distribution or free distribution that small businesses can get that I’m aware of,” Sandberg says.

However, Elliott warns that Facebook could change the design or utility of Pages at any moment. That means a company could spend time and energy building a Page, only for its efforts to become less valuable down the road.

As for Facebook’s future, the company is continuing to push its video product, noting that 800,000 small businesses posted videos in September 2014. The company is also experimenting with new presentation formats for Pages, such as showing dinner menus or items for purchase on restaurant and retailer’s Pages. As long as users’ eyeballs are glued to Facebook, advertisers large and small will be there too.

“They’ve improved the creative formats and they’ve improved the forms of targeting that are available to marketers as well,” Elliott says. “They still have a lot of room to grow on both counts.”

TIME apps

This Is Google’s Plan to Beat Apple Pay

The Google Inc. Mobile Wallet application is displayed on a smartphone screen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Google Inc. Mobile Wallet application is displayed on a smartphone screen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 29, 2012.

Expect to see Google Wallet pre-installed on a lot more phones

Google’s mobile wallet platform is poised to get a much-needed boost through a partnership with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The search giant announced Monday that Google Wallet will come pre-installed on phones sold by those carriers beginning later this year, as long as they run the KitKat version of Android or better. Google Wallet also requires phones to have NFC (near-field communication) technology.

Google is also acquiring the technology behind Softcard, the carriers’ mobile payments platform, as well as its intellectual property. For now, Softcard will continue to be available as a separate app. A blog post by Softcard says the company will share more information about the app’s future in the coming weeks.

Like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard both use NFC technology to let users seamlessly make in-store purchases with a tap of their phones. Google has never disclosed how many people use Google Wallet, but one estimate by The Guardian pegged the total number of people who have downloaded the app at south of 20 million.

However, the arrival of Apple Pay has spurred the adoption of NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals at retailers, which benefits Google as well as Apple. With millions more customers soon to have access to Google Wallet when they unpack their new phones, it seems like the app could indeed be a formidable competitor to Apple’s offering.

TIME Tech Policy

Here’s Why Russia Is Cracking Down on Google

A model of the Android operating system logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 27, 2012.
Bloomberg via Getty Images A model of the Android operating system logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 27, 2012.

The search giant's Android platform is at the center of complaints

Google may be running afoul of anti-monopoly laws in Russia. The country’s regulators are investigating the way the search giant bundles its apps onto Android devices in response to a complaint by Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, according to The Guardian.

Yandex is taking issue with the fact that smartphone makers have been blocked from pre-installing the company’s services, which compete with Google’s, on Android phones in the country. Google restricts which apps can be pre-installed on the most popular version of Android. A fully open-source version of the software, which is used to power mobile operating systems used by Amazon and Xiaomi, is freely available but doesn’t include access to the Google Play store.

Google has faced legal scrutiny in multiple markets for the way it controls the Android ecosystem. In Europe regulators are reportedly planning to launch a formal inquiry into Google’s mandates regarding pre-installed apps, according to Reuters. In the U.S. a lawsuit claiming that Google harms smartphone buyers by forcing Samsung and others to pre-install Google apps on their Android phones was dismissed by a federal judge last week.

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TIME Media

3 Ways ‘YouTube Kids’ Will Be Better For Your Children

New app has a streamlined interface and parental controls

If you’ve hung around kids at all in the last few years, you know they love YouTube, even though the video site is only supposed to be for people 13 and up. Now, Google is planning to roll out a YouTube app specifically aimed at kids.

The new app, which launched Monday, is the first in a suite of kid-friendly versions of Google services that the search giant is planning to launch. Here are the child and parent-friendly features of YouTube for Kids that Google has revealed thus far:

A more streamlined interface (and no comments!)

Regular YouTube has at least a dozen different channel categories across a broad variety of topics. YouTube Kids has just four: Television shows, music, educational content and exploring top videos. Comments are also stripped out of the videos, according to USA Today, and images and links are larger than on regular YouTube to make them easier for kids to tap.

Mobile-first design

With more than a third of children under two years old now using smartphones or tablets, it makes sense that Google is building this service for mobile devices instead of desktops. YouTube Kids is available on Android and iOS.

Parental controls

Parents can make sure YouTube doesn’t become a timesink by setting time limits on how long the app can be used. When the limit is reached, the user has to enter a parent-set password to reopen the app. The app will also automatically censor words like “sex,” prompting the child to input a different term.

YouTube Kids will have advertising at launch, but the commercials will be vetted by YouTube’s policy team to ensure they are family-friendly. The app won’t be tied to Google accounts, so kids’ personal information won’t be collected and stored.

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