TIME Video Games

There’s a New Underworld Game in Town, but It’s Not an Ultima

OtherSide Entertainment

Paul Neurath co-founded Looking Glass Studios in 1990 and helped create the groundbreaking Ultima Underworld series. Now he's launching a new studio, dubbed OtherSide Entertainment, with plans to rejuvenate the Underworld franchise.

If you never played Ultima Underworld back in 1992, you arrived late to the party. Doom, schmoom: id Software’s slick little demon-shooter was a high-octane shooting gallery, an endless hallway filled with closet-monsters. Doom won the popularity contest a year-and-a-half later, but Ultima Underworld was miles ahead gameplay-wise: something else entirely, and a portal to somewhere else that actually felt like a world simulation instead of a technology showcase.

Sadly, Ultima Underworld isn’t coming back — EA owns the rights to Ultima, and that’s that. But one of the original game’s co-creators, Paul Neurath, just announced he’s founded a new studio in Boston, OtherSide Entertainment, and he’s making a new Underworld game, dubbed Underworld Ascension.

Don’t worry, it’s no relation to that other poor, unfortunate game with the word “Ascension” in its title. And don’t let OtherSide’s initial dispatch confuse you when they say they’re “bringing back the classic Ultima Underworld franchise.” They’re bringing back the spirit of the Underworld franchise, true, but as noted above, not the Ultima part.

And that’s all we know at this point, beyond promises to show “more and more … in the weeks to come.” I do like that the name OtherSide’s a play on Looking Glass (Neurath’s original studio, responsible as well for Thief, System Shock, Flight Unlimited and Terra Nova). And Neurath’s apparently pulled in people who worked on the original Underworld games, so the promise, at least in terms of street cred, is there.

TIME Companies

Twitter Continues Shaking Things Up By Hiring New CFO

Anthony Noto speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City.
Anthony Noto speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City. Brian Ach—Getty Images

Anthony Noto, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, will replace Mike Gupta as Twitter's chief financial officer, the latest swap as the company makes significant changes to its executive staff after stalled user growth and a slumping share price

Twitter’s longtime chief financial officer is being replaced by a former Goldman Sachs banker. Mike Gupta, who has served as Twitter’s CFO since 2012, will be succeeded by Anthony Noto, formerly the managing director of Goldman’s technology, media and telecom investment banking group.

Gupta will remain at Twitter, taking on a new role as senior vice president of strategic investments.

Noto already has a close relationship with Twitter — his group at Goldman helped organize Twitter’s extremely successful Initial Public Offering in November. Noto had been planning to leave Goldman for a hedge fund, but he’s now taken the role at Twitter instead.

Twitter has been making significant changes to its executive staff in the wake of stalled user growth and a slumping share price. Chief Operating Officer Ali Rowghani (also a former CFO at Twitter) resigned in June, with some reports pegging his departure to the social network’s unimpressive growth numbers. The company has yet to hire a new COO.

Noto’s compensation will include a $250,000 base salary, a one-time stock award of 1.5 million Twitter shares and 500,000 shares in stock options. The package is worth more than $85 million at Twitter’s current share price.

Twitter shares were up about 4% to $42.70 in early morning trading following the announcement of Noto’s hire.

TIME TV

How to Roll Your Own Aereo (Spoiler: It’s Not Cheap)

Supreme Court Hears Case Pinning Startup Internet TV Company Aereo Against Major Broadcast Networks
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Over at Zatz Not Funny!, Dave Zatz addresses the Aereo-sized elephant in the room: How do you replace Aereo now that it’s gone?

The secret to Aereo’s short-lived success was that you didn’t need to buy hardware to use it. You “rented” an antenna stored at one of Aereo’s facilities somewhere, and the company retransmitted the signal over the Internet to you, either in real time or you could remotely record shows to be transmitted later. The most expensive Aereo plan topped out at $12 a month.

So the spoiler, in case you missed it in the headline: rolling your own Aereo-like setup won’t exactly be cheap. It’s okay. You can click away to something else now. I understand.

If you’re still here, we’ll assume that you want some sort of solution that’ll not only let you record TV, but let you stream live TV to yourself on an array of devices. If you just want to use cord-cutting services — you don’t care about live TV, in other words — check out this post for some services to try. We’re also assuming you get a strong over-the-air signal where you live. You can bet Aereo’s antennae were nicely positioned to catch strong signals; the signals to my place in Boston, for instance, are weaker than a toddler trying to lift a car.

Newer TiVo + Add-on Streaming Box

TiVo wants your business, to be sure, though Zatz figures “cord cutters will need to front about $300 in hardware and $15/month to approximate Aereo.” That’s for a base-model TiVo Roamio box ($200 MSRP) — the only version to sport over-the-air antenna connections — and monthly service. You’ll also need to add TiVo’s streaming box ($130 MSRP), which only streams over a Wi-Fi connection and doesn’t yet sport an Android app.

Older TiVo + Slingbox

If you really want to stream it all, your best bet, according to Zatz, is a used TiVo Premiere box with lifetime service attached to it. That means trying your luck on eBay, basically (they seem to be going for north of $200). That’ll let you use an over-the-air antenna to record shows on the major networks for later. Then, for transmitting live and recorded TV over the Internet to yourself, Zatz says the Slingbox is “still the best game in town.” That means another $180 to $300 in hardware costs, plus paying extra for the Slingplayer mobile apps.

Tablo TV

Zatz also calls Tablo TV “One part Slingbox, one part DVR. Like rolling your own Aereo with a better UI and higher video quality, without those pesky regional restrictions.” The hardware runs between $219 and $289, with lifetime service running another $150 (you can pay $5 a month or $50 a year, too). You also need to supply your own hard drive, which could run a hundred bucks or more if you want to be able to store a lot of video.

No You Don’t Replace Aereo, Silly Rabbit [Zatz Not Funny!]

 

TIME Video Games

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s Live E3 2014 Demo Is Now Watchable

Konami was touting Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's tactical infiltration gameplay behind closed doors at E3 a few weeks ago. Now you can watch the full demo.

It was one more made-up E3 theater-in-a-theater warehouse, a vaguely roundish room that was dark and full of benches and people jostling for elbow room on those benches, squeezed tight as matchsticks.

But then that amazing song by Mike Oldfield kicked in, the one that sounds like it was lifted from a classic 1970s rock album (it wasn’t). The E3 trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain played, and everyone stopped caring. See for yourself.

That’s not the live demo, by the way; it’s the E3 trailer, which has been out for awhile. If you want the experience we had at E3, you’ll want to watch the trailer first, then the 30 minute demo — that’s the new bit — below.

I scribbled notes in Konami’s E3 theater, half-blind because the house lights were off and the theater screen was often dark or dimmed. Some of those notes became questions I posed to the game’s creator, Hideo Kojima, in a one-on-one interview after the demo that focused more on the series’ broader themes. Others were hypotheticals based more on my time with the prequel, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes — some significant gameplay issues that have me concerned about The Phantom Pain‘s attempt to put one foot squarely in 2015 while holding another stubbornly in 1998.

Remember, as you watch the demo below, that you’re looking at a pitch for a game whose premise, at least in part, is that it’s the most realistic-looking game you’ve ever seen. Never mind the Fulton recovery system hijinks or the inanity in a game this lifelike of a dude scuttling around crablike under a piece of cardboard in lieu of executing actual stealth tactics. I can get past the absurdity of some things in a Metal Gear Solid game because they’re absurd for a reason, and that reason makes sense to me and the mechanics dovetail with all the rest of the game’s stealth-oriented idiosyncrasies.

But sometimes they don’t. In the demo, for instance, (watch from about 5:00), you’ll come galloping up to a cluster of structures, pull up maybe a hundred feet away from a guarded adobe building, whip out your binoculars and start marking enemy militia.

So… the guards couldn’t see you kicking up dust a mile away (in full daylight, mind you)? Couldn’t hear your horse running full bore? Couldn’t see you riding high in the saddle like a flag? Didn’t notice you rolling from the horse, then rising to a crouch and aiming — just a few dozen feet to their left — at their heads with a gun? What’s Big Boss wearing (that Konami’s said nothing about), a horse-and-rider-masking Crysis-style stealth suit?

It’s that sort of basic weirdness, that sense of flagrant implausibility where the world’s not working the way you have a right to expect a world this realistic and lifelike to work, that starts to put me off The Phantom Pain‘s game (at least in the demo). I don’t need guards that can spy me coming a mile off, but come on: There’s a dude on a horse galloping along a dry path on a mostly flat approach to a guard-flush clutch of buildings and he might as well be the invisible man. Someone tell someone at Konami to hire better guards before The Phantom Pain ships (presumably next year).

TIME Internet

New, Totally Inevitable Social Network Will Let Users Communicate Only Via Emoji

A video promo claims the website will be a socially acceptable place to talk using pictures of salsa dancers, eggplants, or poop… depending on your mood

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Two British Internet personalities have announced the creation of Emojli, a social network that allows people to only communicate via emojis—the everyman’s language. (Because poop means poop, no matter where you come from.)

“Now we know what you’re thinking: This is satire. No one would actually make this thing,” says the calming Emojli video’s over-voice. After all, creators Matt Gray and Tom Scott are known for their prankster YouTube videos. But according to the video, “It’s not, and we have.”

Emojli creators say it will be up running “very soon”, and the website encourages people to sign up for a unique username now.

In the last decade, long-winded Live Journal rants compressed to slightly less rambling Facebook posts, which condensed to 140 character tweets to smiley faces to emojis depicting salsa dancing girls, eggplants, and a monkey covering his face — depending on your mood. If a concept like Emojli became the next big social network, then maybe people would stop using words altogether (cue Twilight Zone theme).

TIME Companies

Former Tinder Exec Sues for Sexual Harassment

Co-founder Justin Mateen has been suspended pending an internal investigation

A former executive of the mobile dating app Tinder is suing the company for discrimination and sexual harassment, according to a case filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.

Whitney Wolfe, former marketing vice president, alleges that co-founder Justin Mateen got rid of her co-founder title because having a “24-year-old girl” made Tinder “seem like a joke,” USA Today reports.

Wolfe also claims Mateen called her a “whore” in front of the company’s CEO, Sean Rad. When she tried to complain about the behavior she experienced, Wolfe said she was pushed out of the company. She also alleges that Rad ignored her complaints, Reuters reports.

“I had hoped this would be resolved confidentially, but after months of failed attempts, I have decided to pursue this suit,” Wolfe said in a statement.

A spokesman for IAC, one of two Tinder parent companies named defendants in the suits, provided that following statement to TIME:

“Immediately upon receipt of the allegations contained in Ms. Wolfe’s complaint, Mr. Mateen was suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation. Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content. We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”

[USA Today]

TIME Gadgets

As Sony’s Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception

Sony Walkman with headphones, c 1980.
The original 'Walkman', model TCS 300, made by Sony of Japan. The TCS 300 was the first personal stereo cassette recorder manufactured by Sony. Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images

Sony's iconic personal stereo music player, the Walkman, turns 35 on July 1, 2014.

Imagine you’re the co-founder of a global corporation, a Japanese electronics industry behemoth with virtually limitless resources at your disposal. But you live on planes, you like to listen to classical music during lengthy trans-Pacific trips, and you’re tired of schlepping your company’s bleeding edge bulky monaural-only player around.

So, because you can, you instruct your research and development wing to build a smaller, more portable version for your personal use. The year is 1978.

From that self-serving request — made over three decades ago by frustrated Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka and serviced by Sony’s tape recorder division with a device Ibuka liked so much he pushed to bring it to market — poured the world’s first portable audio empire. Sony’s Walkman, which turns 35 years old on July 1, 2014, went on to sell hundreds of millions of magnetic tape-reeling units, decades before Apple’s iPod ushered in the digital, solid state audio playback revolution.

Portable audio devices weren’t new when Sony’s first Walkman, the unsexy-sounding model “TPS-L2,” arrived on July 1, 1979. The world’s first portable audio player appeared two-and-a-half decades earlier in 1954: the Regency TR-1 — it had a more logical-looking model number, the TR being short for “transistor,” itself technology that was turning heads in the mid-1950s. It cost $49.95 when it launched, or $442 in today’s dollars. It played back radio audio, of course, weighed 12 ounces (with its 22.5-volt battery, which lasted 20 hours), was about the size of an inch-thick stack of index cards and didn’t fit in your pocket. But though Regency only sold about 150,000 TR-1 units, it’s recognized as the first device that got people out and listening to music on the go.

Magnetic tape appeared earlier still, back in 1930, courtesy German chemical engineering company BASF, though at this point the tape was wrapped around giant reels and hung on machines that were anything but portable (AEG showed off the first reel-to-reel commercial recorder in 1935, dubbed the “Magnetophon”). It took half a century — a period that witnessed the emergence of everything from 8-track players in the 1960s to semi-portable cassette-wielding “boombox” stereos in the 1970s — before Sony began toying with the notion of music-focused tape players small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Even then, one of Sony’s first attempts at a high-end “portable” stereo music player was hardly mainstream: the TC-D5, released in 1978, was heavy and cost a fortune. It was the bulky TC-D5 that Sony’s Ibuka was hauling back and forth on all those lengthy business flights, and which prompted him in 1978 to ask Norio Ohga, Sony’s section manager of its tape recorder division, to have a go at creating a stereo version of Sony’s Pressman — a relatively small, monaural tape recorder Sony had begun selling in 1977 and targeted at members of the press.

Ohga took Ibuka’s request to Kozo Ohsone, the tape recorder business division’s general manager, who immediately began fiddling with a modified Pressman that wouldn’t record audio but instead offered stereo playback. The resulting device so pleased Ibuka after he tried it on a business trip that he went to then-Sony chairman Akio Morita, saying “Try this. Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”

Morita did, and he thought the world would, too, immediately instructing his engineering team to begin work on a product “that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day.” The device had to be ready by summer (to appeal to students on vacation) and ship at a price comparable to the Pressman’s.

After just four months in development, the device was ready. But what to call it? Sony’s Ibuka wanted “Walkman,” in accord with the company’s Pressman, but the company wasn’t so sure the name was right, at first marketing the device as the “Soundabout” in the U.S. (where it debuted slightly later in June of 1980) and with completely different names in other countries. Sony eventually settled on Ibuka’s function-angled moniker — the underlying principle was musical ambulation, after all — and so the Walkman was born, though it wasn’t an instant hit.

Sony produced 30,000 units at the device’s Japanese launch in 1979 — the TPS-L2 ran on two AA batteries and required headphones, since it had no speaker — and priced it at $150 (just under $500 in today’s dollars), but only sold a few thousand by the close of July. It took Sony representatives walking the streets of Tokyo with test units in hand, working the crowds and letting them try the Walkman for themselves, to generate interest that devoured all of Sony’s product stock by August’s close. And to address critics of the TPS-L2, who balked at the notion of its playback-only limitation, Sony quickly followed with a version of the Walkman it dubbed the TCS-300 that added the option to record as well.

The rest of the story you know: While cassette and later disc-based mobile media players have long since been supplanted by Apple’s iPod and the MP3-focused post-iPod listening era, the Walkman, through all its many feature iterations and media shifts to alternative formats like the MiniDisc (sold under the Walkman brand), has gone on to sell nearly 400 million units. By contrast, you have to add up all of Sony’s PlayStation game consoles and handhelds sold to date (the first PlayStation went on sale in late 1994) to slide past that figure.

This is somewhat less well-known — you’ll find this nowhere in Sony’s elaborate corporate self-history — but Sony got into a bit of legal trouble with the Walkman that it didn’t fully get out of until roughly a decade ago. That’s because of one Andreas Pavel, a German-Brazilian inventor who created a device way back in 1972 that he dubbed the “Stereobelt” (because you wore it like a belt). Pavel’s device was enough like the Walkman, and his patents filed well enough in advance, that Sony eventually had to pay him royalties on the Walkman’s sales, but then it only did so in certain countries and for select models.

But Pavel, described in this 2005 New York Times piece as “more interested in ideas and the arts than in commerce, cosmopolitan by nature and upbringing,” also wanted recognition for being the inventor of the “portable stereo,” so he pursued Sony, culminating in threats in the early 2000s to sue the company in every country Pavel had filed a patent. In 2003, Sony finally relented, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount, and Pavel won the right, once and for all, to call himself the inventor of the personal portable stereo player.

My own memories of the Walkman’s arrival are filtered through the haze of a pre-Internet-chronicled childhood. I was nine-going-on-10 when the Walkman debuted stateside, living in a remote Nebraska town with a population in the low thousands. (Alexander Payne exaggerates the details of small-town Nebraska life in his eponymous film, but gets the sedate pace and disconnected tone precisely right.) In 1980, my parents had a combo 8-track stereo and record player that looked like a sofa table and took at least two people to move. It had a giant lid to hide all its knobs and levers — a monument to technological unsightliness encapsulated by elegant woodwork. It was state-of-the-art where I lived, and my interface to music as the world was transitioning to mobile.

When I got my first Walkman — I don’t recall the exact year, though I’m sure it wasn’t the first model — it was a revelation, a means of listening to music when and where I wanted to, of breaking up weekend family car trips (every car trip’s forever when you’re a kid and an hour in any direction from a major city), of liberating the music I was listening to at the time (a great many John Williams film soundtracks courtesy my uncle, who’d make me cassette copies of his own recordings) from the confines of living rooms, or the aural and control compromises of automobile stereos.

I’m not sure I cared about or even fully understood Sony’s role in portable stereo-dom growing up in the 1980s, and Sony or no, a device like the Walkman (just as the iPod after it) was probably inevitable. But credit where credit’s due: Sony’s Walkman is emblematic of what it meant to be a music connoisseur during the cassette tape’s glory days, where keeping the music in transition from your living room to your car stereo to on your person after driving to a park for a stroll or jog was as simple as hitting a button (EJECT), slipping the tiny tape-spooled piece of plastic from one magnetic door to another, and pushing PLAY.

TIME technology

California Lifts Ban on Bitcoin

California Legalizes Bitcoin
California Gov. Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at Google headquarters on September 25, 2012. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Technically, all transactions using digital or alternative currencies had been illegal in California until Monday

California lawmakers approved a bill Monday that lifted an outdated ban on the use of bitcoin and other alternative currencies, as more states seek to clarify and revise virtual currency laws.

AB 129, which Governor Jerry Brown had signed on Saturday, will ensure that “various forms of alternative currency such as digital currency” will be legal in purchasing goods and transmitting payments, according to the bill’s text. The bill reflects the growing use of digital currencies, revising Section 107 of California’s Corporations Code that prohibits use of “anything but the lawful money of the United States.”

“In an era of evolving payment methods, from Amazon Coins to Starbucks Stars, it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives,” Democratic Assemblyman and the bill’s author Roger Dickinson said in a recent statement.

Dickinson noted that points and rewards programs function as digital currencies, and thus would not have been legal without the passage of AB 129, which legalizes these “community currencies,” that is, alternative payment systems between businesses and customers.

Other states have similarly sought to clarify their bitcoin laws. In March, the Texas Department of Banking stated that bitcoin transmissions, while permitted, are not technically “currency” transmissions. That month, the New York State Department of Financial Services announced the state will accept proposals for a virtual currency regulation system.

While bitcoin use is now legal in California, it is not technically legal tender, a status reserved for and defined federally as “United States coins and currency” under the Coinage Act of 1965. The IRS clarified in March that bitcoin functions more like property than currency, which means that taxes applying to property transactions also apply to bitcoin transactions.

Elsewhere in the world, only very few countries, notably Brazil and China, have specific regulations of bitcoin use.

TIME apps

Yik Yak, the Hyperlocal Gossip App, Raises $10M and Unsettling Questions

US-IT-TEEN-TREND-ANONYMOUS-APPS
A March 28, 2014 photo illustration shows websites for several anonymous social networking apps in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan—Getty Images

Will the old high school rumor mill start spinning out of control?

Yik Yak, a hyperlocal gossip-sharing app, has received $10 million in venture capital to help spread the gossip at college campuses across the globe.

Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post messages to a local “bulletin board,” which is visible to anyone within a 1.5 mile radius of the sender. Its co-founders, Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, launched the app 7 months ago, shortly after they had graduated from South Carolina’s Furman University. Since then, the app has rapidly expanded its herd of “yakkers,” logging users in 250 college campuses, up from 100 campuses in April, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Anonymity encourages users to air refreshingly frank confessions that they might hesitate to post to Twitter or Facebook. “I am so obscenely overpaid, I actually almost feel bad,” wrote one yakker within 1.5 miles of TIME’s midtown headquarters.

But the app has also sent rumor mills spinning dangerously out of control. One Connecticut high school temporarily suspended classes as Yik Yak’s local message board was flooded with venomous posts. “Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift,” read one such message, according to a student’s personal account in New York Magazine. Two schools in Chicago have sent letters urging parents to stop their children from downloading the app.

Yik Yak’s founders have acknowledged the concerns, offering to block the app from high school campuses using geo-fencing technology. “We’re proactively trying to keep high schoolers off the app,” co-founder Droll told Fox News. They have also added an age warning to the app, advising users age 16 and below to stick to the old-fashioned methods of spreading gossip.

TIME Social Media

Calm Down: Facebook Isn’t Manipulating Your Emotions

Yes, they played with your News Feeds. Yes, that’s creepy. But here’s why you shouldn’t be so shocked and upset

Have you heard that you might have been Facebook’s guinea pig? That the company, working with some scientists, fiddled around with 698,003 people’s News Feeds in January 2012 and tried to make the users feel sadder (or happier) by manipulating what members read?

Shocked? Violated? Creeped out? Well, be prepared to be even more shocked, violated and creeped out. Because what Facebook did was scientifically acceptable, ethically allowable and, let’s face it, probably among the more innocuous ways that you’re being manipulated in nearly every aspect of your life.

First things first. The researchers didn’t “make” users feel sadder or happier. What they did was make it more or less likely for them to see posts that contained either slightly more negative language or slightly more positive language. Overall, those who had emotionally charged messages hidden from their News Feed used fewer words when posting, and those who did see emotional words tended to reflect the tone of their feeds when they posted. But there’s a difference between using, as the study found, one more negative word per 1,000 in a week of posts, and what psychologists would call feeling sad or depressed.

Adam Kramer of Facebook, one of the study’s co-authors, posted on an apology of sorts, for the way the study was presented. “My co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused,” he wrote.

But the study is not without value, says Dr. Nicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University who has studied emotional contagion across social networks. “The scientific concerns that have been raised are mostly without merit,” he says. He points out that while the positivity or negativity of words may not be a validated measure of mood, the fact that the study found similar effects in both directions – people were affected in similar ways when the number of negative and positive words were manipulated in their feeds – suggests emotional contagion on social media is, indeed, real.

Concerns about people’s privacy being violated by the experiment may also be unwarranted. First, Facebook users know that their data is no longer exclusively their own once it’s on the site. And the whole premise of News Feed is that it’s a curated glance at the most appealing or engaging updates your network of friends might post. That’s why the Cornell University Institutional Review Board (IRB), which reviews and approves all human research studies conducted by its members, gave the experiment the green light. They determined that the study posed minimal risk of disrupting people’s normal environments or behavior, and therefore waived the need for getting informed consent from each participant (something that IRBs routinely do for studies involving medical records, prison records and educational information as long as the scientists maintain the anonymity of the owners of the data).

Should the 698,003 users have been told once the study was done? Perhaps, but only out of courtesy, and not for any legal or ethical reasons. “Certain items weren’t shown to people in their News Feed,” says James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at University of California San Diego, who has collaborated with Christakis and has spoken with Facebook about the company’s research. “This sounds like something that happens to people ordinarily. As a consequence, I’m having a hard time understanding why people are so upset.”

“Things that happen to you that you aren’t aware of can be scary to people,” says Fowler. That could explain why, despite the fact that Fowler and Christakis conducted a similar intervention by seeding Facebook users’ accounts with messages from friends asking them to vote at an election, they weren’t accused of manipulating people in the same way. “It’s fascinating to me that everyone is piling on [this study] when we have already done it,” Fowler says of tweaking people’s social network to see how it influences their reactions.

It’s not that anyone condones the fact that we’re being studied and analyzed all the time (the fact that you clicked on this story was recorded by this site’s administrators, as well as how long you’re taking to read it to see if posts like these are appealing).

But if social networks are here to stay, and if, as many intriguing studies suggest, they do have some influence on the way we act and think, then it’s worth trying to figure out how they do it.

“I wouldn’t want the public outcry to shut down the science,” says Fowler. “I would much rather study it and understand it than stick my head in the sand and avoid the issue altogether.”

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