TIME Social Media

Facebook Launches Anonymous Chat App Called ‘Rooms’

Rooms Facebook

The app allows people to form invite-only chat rooms based on common interests

Facebook launched Thursday an anonymous chat room app called Rooms, the latest creation to emerge from the company’s initiative to design more apps connecting people in different ways.

The free app, now available in the App Store, allows users to create chat rooms for shared interests, from makeup mastery to city gardens, according to the app’s website. The app is entirely separate from Facebook and doesn’t require you to provide any revealing details like your name or your location.

Chat rooms are invite-only and require a special code that can be scanned with your phone’s camera, according to Facebook. Codes can be shared on social media, e-mail or even posted on paper in public spaces. Chat room creators or other specified moderators can customize the look, ban people from the room or set the room to be 18+.

Rooms’ development was first reported by the New York Times in early October as an alternative way to connect online aside from the many social media networks, like Facebook, which value or require authentic identities as a means of combating spammers, trolls and cyberbullies. However, Facebook’s real name policy has forced out some users, notably members of the LGBT community who prefer to stay anonymous online. A recent flight of transgender users from Facebook to alternative networks like Ello drew headlines several weeks ago.

Rooms joins a host of other secondary apps recently created by Facebook, including Mentions, a Facebook for celebrities and other public figures released in July; Slingshot, a Snapchat-like service released in June; and Paper, a Facebook app simplified for a mobile device released in February.

TIME Healthcare

Need Your Flu Shot? Just Call an Uber

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
In this photo illustration the new smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location next to a taxi lane on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

The one-day program is available in three U.S. cities

Uber on Thursday launched a one-day pilot program to deliver free flu shots and flu prevention packs in three major U.S. cities.

The UberHEALTH service will be available only Thursday in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, according to Uber’s blog. The service can be requested while ordering a ride on the Uber app, after which a registered nurse will administer flu shots and distribute materials for up to 10 people at no additional cost.

The free flu shot service, which is a partner project with Vaccine Finder, is only the latest of Uber’s limited time specials. Uber has previously rolled out delivery services for air conditioners and diapers, and even its own Optimus Prime.

 

TIME Companies

Ad-Free Social Network Ello Gets $5.5 Million in Funding

US-IT-INTERNET-MEDIA-ELLO
The Ello website is seen on the monitor screen September 27, 2014 in Washington D.C. Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images

Company promises it will never sell ads or user data

The burgeoning social network Ello has raised $5.5 million in a new round of venture funding, it was revealed Thursday. The buzzy startup gained widespread attention in September thanks to its manifesto decrying social media companies’ habit of gathering and monetizing user data.

“Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.” the manifesto reads. “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”

Ello is putting some legal muscle behind its lofty rhetoric by reincorporating as a public benefit corporation in Delaware. The company will vow in its new legal charter that it will never sell user data or advertising, according to The New York Times. The company plans to make money by charging users for extra, as-yet-unspecified features.

Though Ello has been around since summer, the site exploded in popularity last month after Facebook began kicking drag queens off its site because they were not using their legal names, leading some of those users to relocate to Ello. The small social network leapt from 90 users in early August to more than 1 million today, according to the Times. Facebook has since apologized for how its real name policy affected the LGBT community and others.

The funding round was led by Foundry Group, based in Boulder, Colo.

[Re/code]

 

TIME

Mark Zuckerberg Gives Q&A in Chinese

"My Chinese is very bad"

Mark Zuckerberg spoke Chinese throughout a Q&A in Beijing Wednesday, barely unable to suppress a smile as murmurs of surprise and excitement rippled through the audience.

The billionaire CEO and social media guru discussed “connecting the world, Internet.org, innovation and the early days of Facebook” at Tsinghua University, where Zuckerberg recently joined the School of Economics and Management Advisory Board, according to his Facebook page.

 

Zuckerberg posted a video of his “first ever public Q&A in Chinese” on his Facebook page. In this clip he self-deprecatingly says, “My Chinese is very bad.”

TIME

Bank of America Issues Refunds to Apple Pay Users

A glitch charged users twice for purchases

Bank of America said it is refunding Apple Pay users who were charged twice for purchases due to a glitch in the system.

Approximately 1,000 transactions were impacted by a BoA app glitch, a bank spokesperson told TIME. Refunds were issued on Wednesday.

Apple launched its new mobile payment service Monday—the latest major expansion of service by the tech giant. With it, customers can use their smartphones in lieu of debit and credit cards at dozens of retailers including Macy’s, Chevron, and Walgreens. Shortly after the launch, Bank of America customers took to social media to gripe about being double charged.

TIME Companies

Apple Pay: Who Won and Who Lost?

Not all Apple Pay winners are created equal

Mobile payments are happening to the retail industry like bankruptcy happens to Mike Campbell in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: gradually, and then suddenly all at once. Google has offered mobile payments for three years, and Walmart and Best Buy have been talking about mobile pay since 2012. But Apple is one of the few companies that many observers say can quickly lead a critical mass of people to wave their phones in the air for everything from bed sheets to burgers.

Retailers, credit card companies and banks all have made big bets on Apple’s new mobile payment system, which makes it more likely to succeed. “We will put our shoulders into a big step change like this,” says Matt Dill, a senior vice president at Visa, an Apple Pay partner, in an interview with TIME. “Apple Pay is a tipping point for major institutions going all in.”

If Apple Pay becomes as ubiquitous as most observers expect, it won’t just change the way consumers pay for things, it’ll reshape the financial institutions that facilitate our purchases. That’s not good news for everyone — many companies felt pushed to join up with Apple so they weren’t left behind. For some, it was either the Apple Pay-way or the highway.

Here’s a list of the major players, roughly in order of who won the most to who won the least.

Apple. Every time a customer make a purchase with Apple Pay, Apple earns a 0.15% charge. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but researchers say it’ll add up in the long run. Equity analysts at Nomura estimated that charge will account for $1.6 billion in projected revenue by 2017. On the lower end of estimates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple Pay will generate revenue of $118 million in 2015 and $310 million in 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, Apple Pay, if successful, will increase demand for Apple devices. And once customers are using Apple Pay and all their purchases are wrapped up to their phones, it’ll be that much harder to leave Apple for Android or another smartphone platform.

“Just getting part of the transaction itself will be big” for Apple, says Rajesh Kandaswamy, researcher at Gartner. But “the largest issue is it’s harder to switch away if you’re an iPhone user.”

Banks. Consumers won’t have to pay for Apple’s 0.15% fee on Apple Pay transactions; banks will. The six big banks who have signed up for Apple Pay aren’t enthusiastic about that. But in the long run, banks expect Apple Pay will push people away from using cash and toward transactions that run over their networks. Online shopping will be faster, too, as customers won’t have to input their billing information every time they make a purchase.

Finally, because Apple Pay uses a difficult-to-hack system that encrypts all financial transactions, banks will experience less cybercrime breaches for which they’re held financially liable. “Banks are going to make less money on the transaction than if it were made on a regular card swipe” because of Apple’s fee, says Michelle Evans, an analyst at Euromonitor, “but they can make more money in the end if they can drive volume over the card network and reduce fraud.”

Credit Card Companies. Visa, MasterCard and American Express have loudly trumpeted Apple Pay’s rollout. They stand to make money off Apple Pay for the same reason the banks will: the program pushes customers to their global credit business. Dill, the Visa SVP, calls Apple Pay an “on-ramp” to Visa’s network and a growth-fueler. “If we didn’t encourage innovation” like Apple Pay, “then we would be the worst enemy to our own growth,” Dill says.

But there’s another reason credit card companies are enthusiastic about Apple Pay: the alternative, CurrentC, could be pretty scary. CurrentC is a payment system mega retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are working on that could cut out credit card companies altogether. While Apple Pay leaves the traditional credit card system intact by simply moving it to your phone, analysts speculate that the CurrentC program will link payments through a network connected directly to your savings account. Voila: no middleman.

“If a technology comes along that’s focused on getting you to not use Visa, then that’s a competitor to us,” says Dill. The threat of CurrentC makes Apple Pay look more like a rickety lifeboat for the credit card companies than the super-fast motorboat Apple has promised.

Retailers and Merchants. Walgreens, Macy’s, McDonald’s and other merchants that began using Apple Pay on Monday get the same bonus that they have always gotten from debit cards and credit cards: new customers who can spend money faster. If customers spend money more easily, retailers make money more easily.

Apple Pay is also a good way to move customers through lines more quickly. It could eventually lead to retailers adopting more self-checkout lines; for merchants, that means paying fewer cashiers and lower overhead.

But Apple Pay also reinforces a system that retailers never really liked: they have to continue to pay a fee for every credit and debit card transaction. “Retailers don’t like the fees they pay,” says Kandaswamy. “Apple Pay is going to consolidate power among the same players even more.” CurrentC, on the other hand, could allow retailers to collect customer-specific data. That would let businesses like Walmart target customers with products in the same way that Google or Facebook target their ads.

Two days into Apple Pay, there aren’t yet any data on the program’s success. It’s too early to know how many people have used it or how much money Apple has made from it. But financial institutions believe the way we pay for things is changing quickly, even if we don’t quite notice it yet. “The U.S. is in the midst of an innovation in payments,” Carolyn Balfany, senior vice president at MasterCard, tells TIME. “Payment security is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50.” If Apple Pay does take off, then it is happening gradually before it’s here all of a sudden.

TIME Food & Drink

This Is McDonald’s Big Plan to Win You Over

McDonald's Q3 2014
A sign for a McDonald's restaurant is seen in Times Square on June 9, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The fast food giant's sales are flagging, and it's about to give its menu a makeover to win over customers

After McDonald’s on Tuesday yet again posted disappointing quarterly earnings, the fast food chain is ordering up a supersize strategy that’s all about the smaller things: local ingredients, regional tastes and your own personal preferences.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said Tuesday during an earnings call that the company is “changing aggressively” in the U.S., German, Australia and Japan under a new platform that emphasizes personalized meals alongside its classic options.

“Customers want to personalize their meals with locally relevant ingredients. They also want to enjoy eating in a contemporary inviting atmosphere. And they want choices: choices in how they order, choices in what they order and how they’re served,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that existing regional offerings include the chorizo burrito, which is being tested in Texas, and mozzarella sticks, which are being tested in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. More evidence of McDonald’s plan for tailor-made options include confirming that its McRib will be available at only participating restaurants and no longer rolled out nationwide, CNBC reported last week.

But that’s not all: McDonald’s is taking a hint from DIY outlets by expanding its build-a-burger program called “Create Your Taste.” The program has been tested in four Southern California chains since September, and allows customers to use a touch screen to pick out their preferred burger toppings like tortilla chips and jalapeños, according to Businessweek.

 

TIME Earnings

Yahoo’s Minuscule Growth Enough to Exceed Expectations

Yahoo! President and CEO Marissa Mayer delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yahoo! President and CEO Marissa Mayer delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller—Getty Images

The search giant had seen its revenue fall in four of the previous five quarters

Yahoo said Tuesday that third-quarter grew 1%. Here are the most important points from the company’s earnings report.

What you need to know: Yahoo beat Wall Street estimates with $1.15 billion in third-quarter revenue, up from $1.14 during the same quarter last year. Surprising analysts is always nice, but the Internet search giant should be especially happy about the revenue bump, even if it is just a 1% increase. Sales had declined in four of the previous five quarters, including a 3% year-over-year drop in this year’s second quarter.

Yahoo also reported earnings excluding certain costs (and a huge windfall from selling shares in the initial public offering of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba) of 52 cents per share, which trounced analyst predictions of 30 cents per share. The company’s profit jumped to $6.8 billion compared with the help of $6.3 billion in cash, after tax, that the company netted from selling a chunk of its Alibaba shares in September. In the year-ago quarter, Yahoo had reported a profit of $297 million.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer described the quarter in a statement as solid.

“We achieved this revenue growth through strong growth in our new areas of investment – mobile, social, native and video – despite industry headwinds in some of our large, legacy businesses,” Mayer said.

Yahoo shares soared in after-hours trading, gaining almost 2.8% after finishing Tuesday trading up by 2.3% – one of many stocks on the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite to enjoy a strong day.

The big number: Yahoo said its third-quarter mobile revenue topped $200 million, the first time the company has revealed the amount of money it makes from showing ads on mobile devices. The company said gross mobile sales for the year will exceed $1.2 billion. Mayer said that Yahoo’s mobile investments – which include a $300 million acquisition of mobile analytics startup Flurry – have paid off for the company. In the current quarter, mobile revenue made up only around 17% of overall sales, far less than rivals like Facebook and Twitter.

“Not only are our mobile products attracting praise and engagement from users and industry awards, they are generating meaningful revenue for Yahoo,” Mayer said.

Meanwhile, Yahoo’s display ad revenue – the equivalent on online billboard ads – dipped again, falling 5% year-over-year to $447 million in the third quarter. (Interestingly, Yahoo said in its earnings release that the number of ads sold in the third quarter increased about 24%, but that seems to have been offset by the fact that the price of each ad declined by an equal amount.) Search ads continue to grow for Yahoo, though, with third-quarter revenue in that sector rising 4% to $452 million.

What you might have missed: Yahoo plans to spend some of the more than $6 billion in cash it netted from the recent Alibaba IPO on one or more tech start-up acquisitions, according to The Wall Street Journal. Mayer is expected to discuss Yahoo’s plan for potential acquisitions as well as cost-cutting measures – a discussion that comes a few weeks after activist investor Starboard Value revealed it had taken a stake in Yahoo and pushed for Mayer to reduce costs and consider a combination with AOL.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Security

Experts Warn Corporate Boards Aren’t Protecting Us From Hackers

A shopper walks past a large Home Depot logo inside a store
A shopper walks past a large Home Depot logo inside a store in New York,Tuesday, May 16, 2006. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the wake of hacks against Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan, analysts say companies' boards need to be more vigilant on cybersecurity

As an increasing number of major retailers and financial institutions are falling victim to hacks like those against Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan, many experts say corporate boards aren’t doing enough to protect customers from cybersecurity breaches.While corporate boards are a step removed from companies’ day-to-day operations, the increasing risk of data breaches means that boardmembers need to be more involved in cybersecurity, observers say, whether by pushing for security oversight or reshuffling executives who don’t react properly to crises.

“We live in the post-Target era,” said John Kindervag, security analyst at Forrester. “There’s a moral obligation to consider firing an executive team because of a data breach. It’s a huge business failure.”

Corporate boards rarely review cybersecurity plans or involve themselves in the particulars of data protection, traditionally viewing security as an information technology problem. According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report released last month, just 42% of 9,700 executives in over 150 countries said their boards are involved in security strategy; just 25% said their boards are involved in reviewing security and privacy threats.

“They’ll say to the CEO, what are we doing about security, and then don’t get involved at all until they get breached,” says Avivah Litan, security analyst at Gartner. “Most companies don’t communicate at that level with the board. They’re out of touch and they’re totally clueless about information security.”

Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis Aguilar put it more gingerly to board directors earlier this month at a New York Stock Exchange cybersecurity conference. “There may be a gap that exists between the magnitude of the exposure presented by cyber-risks and the steps, or lack thereof, that many corporate boards have taken to address these risks,” Aguilar said. There’s a discrepancy, too, between what shareholders demand of boards and what they’re actually doing — a survey published by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) last month shows that nearly 70% of shareholders view board oversight actions prior to hacking incidents as “very important.”

Negligent boards may find themselves facing questions from angry shareholders and customers after a cyber breach. In June, ISS made the unusual recommendation that Target shareholders oust seven out of 10 members of its board after credit card information belonging to 40 million customers was compromised, laying blame on two board committees in particular.

“The data breach revealed that the company was inadequately prepared for the significant risks of doing business in today’s electronic commerce environment,” ISS advised. “The responsibility for oversight of these risks lies squarely with the Audit Committee and the Corporate Responsibility Committee.” Shareholders re-elected the board, but ISS’ condemnation was a wake-up call for retailers. Target is now facing an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission into the details of the breach.

Home Depot, meanwhile, was a founding member of a threat-sharing group of major retailers earlier this year, and its board received regular updates on cybersecurity, according to a spokesman. “IT and IT security have regularly been items on our board meeting agendas for several years now, and the board has received regular updates on the breach since it occurred,” said that spokesman. But the hardware retailer was caught flat-footed by a data breach this year that jeopardized 56 million customers’ credit cards, and managers ignored weaknesses in cyber defense before the attack, the New York Times reported last month.

Analysts say a strong board of directors should know how to ask management the right questions about cybersecurity. “The board is not responsible for identifying risk, but it sure as hell needs to know that management understands that responsibility and knows how to respond to it,” said Rick Steinberg, former governance practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ultimately, it might be a financial motivation that gets corporate boards to take a closer look at their firms’ cybersecurity standards. Target’s net income dropped more than $400 million in the quarter the breach was announced compared to the year before; the company said direct costs from the data breach would reach $148 million in the second quarter of 2014 alone. The total expense of any breach, including lost profits from nervous consumers, are often incalculable. “A data breach is the equivalent of an oil spill,” said Kindervag. “It’s a fundamental business issue.”

TIME Earnings

Coke Expands Its Cost-Cutting Program as Earnings Slide

Cans of Coca-Cola
Getty Images

The North America market remains a problem for the beverage giant and its top rival PepsiCo

Beverages giant Coca-Cola reported a 14% decline in third-quarter net income on Tuesday on a muted volume performance. Here’s what you need to know.

What you need to know: The North America market remains a problem for Coke and top rival PepsiCo, with both of the consumer-products behemoths reporting muted results for that market in the latest quarter, even as data shows Americans are spending more at grocery stores. Coke’s North America unit case volume was down 1% in the latest period, while Pepsi earlier this month reported flat revenue for the Americas beverages business.

Consumers are spending more on fresh produce, fresh grocery products and in the beverages aisle, favoring juices, flavored waters and other items that have fewer calories and less sugar than what Coke and Pepsi use in their products. Demand for carbonated soft drinks, the biggest category in the beverages business, has suffered a nearly decade-long slide. Coke on Tuesday said the “Share a Coke” campaign helped the company gain share in the sparkling beverage segment in North America, but volume still declined. Demand was also weaker for juices and sports drinks, though demand grew for tea, energy drinks and water.

Coke also didn’t post especially strong growth in any of the other markets it serves to help offset the North America weakness. Volume grew just 2% in Latin America and the Asia Pacific, and it feel 5% in Europe. The Eurasia and Africa region’s volume grew 5%.

The big number: 53 cents — that’s the adjusted profit Coke reported for the third quarter, and it matched the year-ago level and also what analysts had projected. The reported bottom line was dragged lower by $270 million in charges tied to a move to refranchise some bottling partners in North America.

Revenue totaled $11.98 billion, falling slightly short of the $12.12 billion projected by analysts. Citing some currency exchange fluctuations, Coke said it now expects profit for all of 2014 to be “below its long-term EPS growth targets.”

What you might have missed: Coke is targeting annualized savings of $3 billion per year by 2019. Coke issued a second press release Tuesday morning touting an “expanded productivity program” (typically, corporate lingo for cost-cutting) and a move to streamline its operations. While Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said Coke sees a challenging macroeconomic environment in 2015, the company’s plans to restructure its global supply chain, among other moves, will help the beverages company achieve a profit before tax target of 6% to 8%.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser