TIME India

Flipkart, India’s Amazon, Plans to Shut Down Its Website Within a Year

General Images of Flipkart As India's Largest Online Retailer Said To Buy Competitor Myntra
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images The websites for Flipkart, bottom, and Myntra.com are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad and iPhone 5c respectively in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

The firm's mobile traffic has apparently increased tenfold in less than 18 months

Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, said on Monday that it plans to shut down its website within a year and transition completely to a mobile app.

“Last year, we had more on the app but still did our web and desktop. In the next year or so, we’re going to be only mobile,” Michael Adnani, Flipkart’s vice president, retail and head of brand alliances, told the Times of India.

The decision is a reaction to the rapid growth of smartphone users in India, which is the third largest Internet market after China and the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group projects that the South Asian nation will have more than 550 million Internet users in 2018, of which almost 80% will be on mobile devices.

“A year ago, 6% of our traffic was coming from mobile. In less than 18 months, that traffic is 10-fold,” Adnani said. “That shows the significance of what a mobile phone is doing for the consumers and consequently doing for us.”

Two-thirds of Flipkart’s 8 million monthly shipments come from cities and small towns, where most people don’t have access to desktop computers and broadband Internet.

Fashion e-retailer Myntra, which Flipkart acquired last year, is also set to abandon its website in favor of an app on May 1.

TIME innovations

You’ll Be Able to Buy Star Wars’ Coolest New Droid

BB-8 will roll onto store shelves

BB-8, the newest droid in the Star Wars universe, is not only real, it’s also coming to your living room.

Sphero, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that makes smartphone-controlled spheres, confirmed Monday it made the bi-spherical rolling robot for December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s also making a toy version of the character destined to become a fan favorite to rival R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Sphero did not reveal a release date or price point for the company’s BB-8 toy, but it is letting interested consumers sign up for updates through a cryptic landing page.

“The experience is going to be king with this thing,” Sphero Chief Creative Officer Rob Maigret told TIME in a Monday interview. Maigret wouldn’t give away the secret sauce behind what makes BB-8 tick (magnets, perhaps?). But he did suggest the BB-8 toy could revive a fondly remembered part of the original Star Wars experience: Kids begging their parents to buy Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker toys letting them recreate scenes from the movies.

“Our real goal here is that this should feel as close to what you just saw on the screen as possible,” he says. “And the relationships that you’ve seen BB-8 have in the film in the world of Star Wars, you can now fill that role. BB-8 is now yours.”

Sphero has plenty of incentive to make sure its BB-8 toy flies — or, more accurately, rolls — off the shelves. Toy sales are by far the most lucrative part of the Star Wars financial empire. Forbes estimated back in 2007 that action figures and plastic spaceships accounted for $9 billion of the franchise’s sales, more than $3 billion more than the movies themselves. Sales of Star Wars toys are also known to get big boosts when new films (or even remastered old ones) hit the silver screen, so being in the business ahead of the Dec. 18 Force Awakens release is a good place to sit.

Maigret wouldn’t divulge how much of the BB-8 toy revenue Sphero will get to keep, but it’s safe to say it isn’t nothing. Still, while he admits “it would be really nice to sell a gazillion BB-8s,” Maigret thinks it would be “even better” if “a lot of fans [were] extremely happy with what we provided them.”

“We’re fans,” he adds. “For the folks here at Sphero, we’re freaking out. Like, we get to make BB-8? Think about that, man. We get to make it!”

TIME Social Media

This App Will Flag Your Offensive Tweets Before Your Future Employer Sees Them

Hey Clear Ethan Czahor Jeb Bush
Hey Clear

It was created by a man who lost his dream job with the Jeb Bush campaign.

Ethan Czahor’s dreams collapsed on the national stage earlier this year. The 31-year-old age digital whiz had spent years positioning himself to work in politics and earlier this year Jeb Bush’s campaign came calling, hiring Czahor as its chief technology officer.

He lasted 36 hours, done in by a history of offensive tweets and blog posts that was uncovered by reporters and opposition researchers after TIME broke the news of his hire.

Now, two months later, he is looking to make his comeback, turning lemons into lemonade with Clear, an app designed to keep what happened to him from happening to anyone else.

“Why wasn’t I smart enough to take care of this before it happens,” Czahor asked himself for weeks after the controversy, he told TIME. Now he’s set about making sure people can manage potentially damaging social media histories.

The app, releasing publicly Monday, scours a user’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram histories for potentially inflammatory or damaging posts, and makes their removal a breeze. It’s designed for the next generation in the workforce, who grew up sharing vast amounts of information online, some of which may become a liability in their future careers.

“This could happen to anyone in any field—it doesn’t have to be politics—every millennial is now entering the workforce, and maybe even a senior position, and everything that they’ve said online for the last 10 years is still there, and that’s a new thing for this generation,” Czahor said.

Already, there’s a long history of political aides being done in by their social media postings. Last month, GOP operative Liz Mair was forced to resign from a top digital post for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker after old tweets surfaced showing her criticizing the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. Benjamin Cole, a senior aide to disgraced Rep. Aaron Schock was forced to resign after racist Facebook posts were dug up. In 2008, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau was forced to apologize after a photo emerged of him groping a life-sized cut-out of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The app works by flagging postings that contain watchwords: the obvious four letter ones, as well as “gay,” “Americans” and “black.” Posts are also subjected to sentiment analysis, using IBM’s Watson supercomputer, to try to flag additional negative messages. The app’s algorithms are far from perfect, but it errs on the side of caution. The Clear analysis of this reporter’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts scored a -2,404—a record low in the private beta—from the app’s proprietary grading system which calculates the potential liability of a person’s social media history.

It will soon be converted to a traditional 0-100 scale, Czahor said, with higher scores meaning safer profiles. (One reason for this reporter’s low rating: quotes from presidential candidates frequently scored as negative, while words on the watch list triggered alerts.)

“The most challenging part of this is determining which tweets are actually offensive, and that’s something that will take a while to get really good at,” Czahor said.

Czahor, who moved to California after college to test his hand at improv comedy at The Groundlings while working at Internet start ups, maintained that the offending comments that cost him the Bush job were meant to be good-natured. “I was telling jokes with my friends and they were completely tongue-in-cheek and completely harmless,” he said. “But years later after I had forgotten about them, they’d been pulled out of context and it looked terrible.”

“Most people don’t know that halloween is German for ‘night that girls with low self-esteem dress like sluts,'” one, now-deleted tweet read. “When I burp in the gym I feel like it’s my way of saying, ‘sorry guys, but I’m not gay,'” said another.

Clear is purely a defensive weapon, and can’t be used the growing class of opposition researchers against whom Czahor is looking to protect. The app requires that users grant access to their social media accounts, meaning, that a third party can’t review a user’s history without their consent.

Czahor said he believes that racist and other offensive postings should be held to account, saying Clear was designed for the universe of embarrassing messages that can simply be taken out of context months or years later.

While some messages, if public, may be captured in public archives and thus out of the reach of the app’s delete feature, Czahor said he believes the awareness alone of what a person tweeted or posted years ago is a valuable resource. “When this was happening,” Czahor added, “there were all of these emails asking how I felt about this statement or that statement, and I remember thinking ‘did I even write this?’”

Czahor said the next step would be to expand the app’s reach to emails, personal blogs, and search results, pointing to the embarrassing leaks from last year’s Sony hack as another potential use-case.

“You as a person exist in a lot of places on the Internet, and I just feel that you have the right to at least know what’s out there, and to take care of it.”

TIME Telecom

Why Nokia’s Blockbuster Merger Turned Into Such a Mess

Nokia's chairman Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia's Chief Executive Rajeev Suri, telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent's Chief Executive Officer Michel Combes and Alcatel-Lucent's chairman of the supervisory board Philippe Camus shake hands prior a press conference on April 15, 2015 in Paris.
Chesnot—Getty Images Nokia's chairman Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia's Chief Executive Rajeev Suri, telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent's Chief Executive Officer Michel Combes and Alcatel-Lucent's chairman of the supervisory board Philippe Camus shake hands prior a press conference on April 15, 2015 in Paris.

Nokia marrying Alcatel-Lucent will have a huge impact

The big headlines in tech M&A come when they involve growth – Facebook buying Instagram or WhatsApp, for example – but more often they tie together two aging companies in established but still important industries. Ideally, in those cases, the merging partners will complement each other’s weaknesses, making for a stronger corporate marriage.

Take the mature but competitive telecom-equipment industry. If selling and maintaining the arcane gear that quietly keeps the Internet humming is hardly a sexy industry, it’s crucial if you want to watch a video of a dog trying to catch a taco in its mouth. Last week, when one industry giant (Nokia) offered to merge with another (Alcatel-Lucent) in a $16.6 billion deal, it seemed like a textbook tech M&A deal, one that analysts have been expecting for years.

Instead, the announcement of the deal seems to have left everyone unhappy. Analysts lined up to argue why the tie-up would be troubled, while investors wasted little time in selling off shares of both companies. Since the deal was announced Wednesday, Nokia’s shares have lost 4% of their value and Alacatel-Lucent’s have lost 21%.

This is the rare M&A deal that everyone has long-expected to happen and yet seems to please almost nobody. The telecom-equipment sector has been rife with consolidation and restructuring for years, as companies scramble to grab control of technologies that power broadband, wireless networks, networking software and cloud infrastructure.

Both Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent have been undergoing wrenching restructuring to compete with Sweden’s Ericsson, the market leader, and China’s up-and-comers Huawei and ZTE. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft for $7.2 billion in 2013, which helped return the company to profitability last year. Now that Nokia is alsoshopping around its mapping software, a merger seems like an important step toward strengthening its remaining operations in the telecom-equipment business.

Alcatel-Lucent has been having a harder time in the past decade. In 2006, the stock of France’s Alcatel was trading near $16 a share when it paid $13 billion for US-based Lucent. But clashing cultures, rigid bureaucracies and a failure to innovate led to years of losses at the combined firm, pulling Alacatel-Lucent’s stock down as low as $1 a share. Years of restructuring brought tens of thousands of job cuts but also, in recent quarters, signs the company may be making a fragile comeback.

So why did everyone expect a Nokia-Alcatel merger to work when the Alcatel-Lucent one failed? For one, there was a complementary fit in terms of the product and geographical markets both companies served. Also, both companies had just emerged from painful restructurings holding smaller shares of a competitive market. By combining, they could command a market share rivaling Ericsson’s and also marshall resources needed for the high R&D costs of next-generation gear.

That was the theory on paper, and for years reports surfaced periodically that the two were talking about joining forces. Talks of Nokia buying Alcatel’s wireless business fell through in 2013, and another report of a merger last December went nowhere. Now that it’s happening, the conversation has shifted from speculation about the deal to the details of how it would work. And some of the details aren’t pretty.

Any large-scale tech merger requires years of integration of sales, engineering and managerial ranks. In the best case, it takes years to complete. In the worst, it leads to entrenched fiefdoms and a bureaucratic hall of mirrors. And in areas where there is overlap, job losses will follow. But Alcatel-Lucent is partly owned by the government of France, which sees the company as a strategic national asset. It will fight massive post-merger layoffs in France, and the Finnish government is likely to do the same.

Analysts expect the trouble that all this work involves will hamper Nokia for some time. Some argued Nokia should have bought only Alcatel’s wireless assets, but since that didn’t didn’t work Nokia offered a discount for the whole company. And what a discount: Nokia’s bid is worth only 0.9 times Alcatel-Lucent’s revenue last year, well below the average figure of 2.5 times revenue for recent telecom deals. Alcatel-Lucent’s shareholders feel the discount is too much, leading to last week’s selloff.

So as inevitable as a combination of Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent seems, there are regulatory, integration and cultural issues that will complicate things for years. In the meantime, few investors are pleased about the deal. Throwing these companies together may be like, well, that taco heading toward the dog’s mouth: the appetite is there, but in the end all you have is a mess.

TIME Smartphones

One of the Best, Cheapest Phones Is Now Available to Everyone

OnePlus One
OnePlus OnePlus One

You can now buy a OnePlus One without an invite

OnePlus, a Shenzhen-based smartphone maker, has released its “flagship-killer” smartphone to the general public at a lethally competitive price of $300 without a contract.

The OnePlus One smartphone garnered rave reviews since it was released by invitation only to a select number of users last year. Critics marveled that a smartphone could match its highest-end rivals spec-for-spec, from the 1080p display to the clean design, yet retail at less than half their price.

OnePlus announced on its blog that the phone would go on sale to anyone, no invitation necessary, starting Thursday.

The Chinese smartphone maker, which has swelled to more than 700 employees, also announced the upcoming release of its next generation smartphone, OnePlus 2, which will be available, once more, by invitation only at launch.

TIME Apple

Apple Is Already Making New Apple Watch Bands

Apple's design chief showcased a multi-hued collection of Sports bands in Milan

Apple design chief Jony Ive unveiled a new selection of Apple Watch bands at a design fair in Milan this week, showcasing a never before seen color palette of bright red, dark blue, yellow and “skin tone” Sport bands.

The first images of the new collection were posted to Instagram by Umberta Gnutti Beretta, an Italian philanthropist who got an up-close look at the designs:

Picking my #applewatch #Now #socool #thankyou #appleteam such a great evening 👍❤️

A photo posted by Umberta Gnutti Beretta (@188e76) on

The unveiling comes as Apple aggressively markets the Apple Watch as a personal fashion statement for celebrities and tastemakers. Last week fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld sported a custom-designed, gold-on-gold Apple Watch.

Deliveries of the Apple Watch to the not-so-rich-and-famous officially begin on April 24th.

TIME Web

Science Says You Should Ignore Internet Trolls

Troll sign
Douglas Pearson—Getty Images Troll Road Sign, Trollstigen

A new algorithm can predict Internet irritants with 80% accuracy

Commonly found under bridges and in the reader commentary of stories about Apple, trolls have long plagued the good people of fairy tales and the Internet. While banishing them has long been the remedy of choice, new research out of Stanford and Cornell universities might help to identify these persistent pests before they even start wringing their wart-covered hands. Boasting a methodology with 80% accuracy, the study provides hope that once Skynet becomes self-aware, we can wipe this scourge off the face of the web once and for all.

So who, exactly, is a troll? Analyzing the comments on news (CNN.com), politics (Breitbart.com), and gaming (IGN.com) sites over a period of 18 months, the study examined more than 40 million posts by at least 1.7 million users, discovering not only what antisocial behavior looks like, but how it festers, grows, and is ultimately dealt with. This allowed the researchers to see how trolls typically evolve over time.

But one thing in particular helped these odious Internet users stand out from their mild-mannered counterparts. “They receive more replies than average users,” says the paper, “suggesting that they might be successful in luring others into fruitless, time-consuming discussions.”

To create the algorithm, the researchers looked at all 1.7 million users surveyed and split them into two groups: future-banned users (FBUs) and never-banned-users (NBUs). Assuming the FBUs were all trolls, they then monitored their behavior from when they signed up to when they got shut out. Some clear differences emerged between the trolls and the NBUs: FBUs wrote differently than everyone else, often going off-topic, scribbling posts that were more difficult to read, and saying more negative things. In addition, trolls made more comments per day, and posted more times on each thread. They often had the most posts in a particular thread, and made more replies to other comments.

In other words, the trolls were hyper-active.

But that alone wasn’t enough to separate trolls from your casual cranks. To do that, the researchers looked at how users’ behaviors changed over time, analyzing how many posts of theirs were deleted by site moderators. NBUs weren’t saints — they also had posts deleted — but only a small proportion got worse over the course of the study. The trolls, on the other hand, had an increasing amount of posts deleted as time wore on.

And this all makes sense, when you think about it. Trolls start off surly, are met with opposition and then get a little nutty. Then, and when their comments are deleted, they get even crazier — a cycle that gradually spins out of control, until they’re ultimately shut down. It happens online. It happens on television. It even happens in the real world.

Admittedly, the study doesn’t take sarcasm into account, a tool no doubt wielded by a mutant strain of super-trolls, users who “purposefully ask overly naive questions or state contrary viewpoints.” Imagine that . . . oh god, the horror.

But the study does give actionable insight on what to do should you ever encounter a troll. “Anti-social behavior is exacerbated when the community feedback is overly harsh,” says the report. In other words — and of course you already know this — don’t feed the trolls. Since FBUs’ behavior gets worse over time, that means don’t engage them early or often.

Currently, this research is unfortunately little more than an exercise in academics, as its algorithm for detecting trolls has yet to be rolled into a software or a service. But it’s a good first step for sites all over the web — especially on Twitter —where the formula could be used to scout out future troublesome users.

TIME Video Games

Watch the Trailer for the Most Anticipated Star Wars Game in Years

Star Wars: Battlefront is due out this November

Star Wars: Battlefront, an upcoming large-scale multiplayer battle game set in the Star Wars universe, is due out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Nov. 17.

Savvy Star Wars fans will notice that’s just about a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the next installment in the saga’s film franchise. That isn’t an accident — according to Battlefront’s design director, the game will help bridge the story gap between Return of the Jedi and Awakens.

Watch the new trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront above. You can read more about the game here.

Read more: See the 5 Most Important Scenes in the New Star Wars Trailer

 

TIME Innovation

This Is How Tech Will Totally Change Our Lives by 2025

Get ready to sell your own data and use algorithms on the job

The ever-increasing hunger for data will fundamentally change the way we live our lives over the next decade. That’s according to a new report by the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit think tank that has released a set of five predictions for the ways tech will change the future.

Personal data will continue to be shared, bought and sold at an ever-quickening pace, perhaps with more benefits to consumers. In the future, people might be able to personally sell info about their shopping habits or health activities to retailers or pharmaceutical companies, according the report. The Internet of Things is also expected to continue to expand, with predictions that everything from cars to coffee cups will be connected to the Internet by 2025.

Increasingly sophisticated algorithms will help workers in knowledge fields such as law and medicine navigate large bundles of information. Automation could either enhance these jobs or replace them outright, depending on how different professional fields advance.

Multisensory digital communications will also become more common in the future. The Apple Watch, which sends notifications via a wrist tap and allows users to transfer the rhythm of their heartbeat to other watches, offers a peek at the way senses aside from sight and sound may be used to communicate.

Finally, privacy tools and technology will likely improve in response to the vast amounts of data that users are constantly sending and receiving from the cloud. Striking a balance between leveraging data to increase efficiency and protecting the privacy rights of individual users will be an ongoing tension in the coming years.

TIME Media

Forget TV — This Is the Best Streaming Service for Movies

HBO vs. Netflix vs. Amazon Prime vs. Hulu Plus

In the ongoing hubbub about online streaming services replacing traditional television, it’s easy to forget that these digital platforms are also home to a massive number of movies. Netflix, after all, began as an alternative to Blockbuster for renting DVDs, and HBO was known for showing recently released films before it became the home of gangsters and dragons.

For the movie buffs out there, we’ve combed the offerings of HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus to see which has the best film library. We’re trying to assess quality rather than quantity, so we’ve ranked the four services in three different categories: recent blockbusters, all-time classics and independent films.

These stats only reflect a snapshot of the different platofrms’ offerings as they stood on April 14, 2015. Streaming services are constantly swapping movies in and out as licensing contracts expire and new ones are struck. However, the data provides a good general perspective on which services are best for different types of films.

Recent Hits

HBO has a clear advantage when it comes to showing recent, popular films. Almost a quarter of the 50 top-grossing movies of 2013 and 2014 are currently available on its streaming services HBO Go and HBO Now, including The Lego Movie and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The standings are even more lopsided if you only consider 2014—HBO has 12 of the 50 highest-grossing movies from that year currently streaming, while Netflix has two and the other services have none.

HBO is trouncing its competitors here because it has several long-term deals with movie studios for the right to show films during the so-called “pay-TV window.” That’s a period of around eight months after a film’s theatrical release when it hits premium cable channels but isn’t yet being played on broadcast TV or basic cable. Netflix’s first major pay-TV window deal with Disney begins in 2016, at which point the streaming service’s movie library should improve significantly. However, HBO still has deals with sister company Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures.

All-Time Classics

Some people use movie streaming services as a way to rewatch old favorites or view culturally important films they’ve never seen. On this front, Netflix is the best service available, if we use the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 American films of all time as a proxy.

Thanks to the vastness of its library (and the affordability of nabbing licensing rights to old movies compared to newer ones), Netflix is a pretty good place to watch classic films. Hulu Plus is also a solid option thanks to its licensing deal to host the entire Criterion Collection, a selection of more than 800 classic films including Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and The Gold Rush. You’ll have to be patient to watch old movies on HBO, which has a limited selection and focuses mostly on newly released films.

Independent Films

Again, the vastness of Netflix’s library gives it an advantage here. The service has almost a third of the 30 highest-grossing independent movies of 2013 and 2014. Still, the other services have some notable exclusives, with HBO carrying Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is the highest-grossing film of the lot, and Amazon featuring both The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers.

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