TIME Security

Everything We Know About the Massive Sony Hack

Could North Korea be to blame?

Sony is having a rough start to the holiday season. The tech giant’s movie division, Sony Pictures, is the victim of an ongoing cyberattack that has resulted in upcoming movies being leaked, communication systems going offline and Twitter accounts being hijacked.

The timing of the attack has led to increasing speculation that North Korea may have orchestrated it, possibly as retribution for an upcoming comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco are tasked with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Investigators have found hacking tools similar to those used by North Korea in previous attacks on South Korea, according to Reuters.

Here’s everything we know so far about the incident:

The attacks began with an ominous photo

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Sony Pictures employees turned on their computers and were greeted with an ominous picture of red skull and a warning that the company’s “top secrets” would be released if unstated demands were not met.

“We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” the image reads. “If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown the world.”

Another image depicting Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton in hell was posted on Sony Twitter accounts, a sure sign the accounts were compromised. According to a Reddit thread, the hackers claim to have obtained a trove of data that includes passwords, internal financial documents and even copies of celebrities’ passports.

Sony’s communication systems went down for a week

Sony Pictures took down its email and messaging systems for a week as it tried to contain the cyberattack. Employees reportedly had to use phone calls, handwritten notes and fax machines to carry out their work. Multiple reports indicate that Sony’s email system was expected to return Monday, though Sony hasn’t confirmed that yet.

Sony’s big upcoming movies leaked

So far the biggest tangible result of the hack seems to be the leak of five Sony films. DVD-quality versions of Fury, Annie, Still Alice, Mr. Turner and To Write Love on Her Arms are all now available on file-sharing sites.

All of the movies except for Fury have yet to be widely released, so piracy could be a huge blow to their box office take. Over the summer, The Expendables 3 bombed at the box office because a high-quality version of the movie leaked online weeks before it premiered. And a 2011 Carnegie Mellon study found that such pre-release leaks can reduce a movie’s box office take by as much as 19%.

So that’s what we know for sure. But the hack took on a new dimension on Friday, when Re/code reported Sony is investigating North Korea’s possible involvement in the cyberattack, potentially staging the attack from China.

Here’s what we know that actually makes that claim seem plausible:

North Korea hates Sony’s upcoming movie The Interview

Sony’s big Christmas movie this year is The Interview, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as TV journalists tasked by the CIA with assassinating Kim Jong-un. North Korean officials are, unsurprisingly, not pleased about a movie that centers on trying to kill their supreme leader for laughs. A government official told North Korean state media in June that releasing the film would constitute “a blatant act of terrorism and war” and would lead to “merciless” retaliation from the country. The government also denounced the film as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June.

Rogen shrugged off the warning on Twitter at the time, but The Interview was delayed from its original October release date shortly afterward. (Sony has said the delay was unrelated to North Korea’s statements.)

North Korea’s cyberattack capabilities are increasing fast

Residents of North Korea are known to be isolated from the rest of the world, deprived of basic Internet access and other modes of global communication. However, the country is growing increasingly comfortable weaponizing the Internet. In November 2013, South Korean media reported that Kim Jong-un called cyberattacks a “magic weapon” that could help North Korea launch “ruthless strikes” against its southern foe.

A secretive North Korean bureau called Unit 121 is tasked with infiltrating computer networks, planting viruses and carrying out cyberattacks, according to a Hewlett-Packard report on North Korea’s cyber capabilities. The division carries out attacks both from within North Korea and in Shenyang, China, near the North Korean border. South Korean media have claimed that Unit 121 is the third-largest cyber intelligence unit in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia, though China is also up there.

The U.S. government is taking claims of North Korean involvement seriously

Claims of North Korean involvement are credible enough that the U.S. government is reportedly looking into them. NBC News reports that several government agencies are considering North Korea as a possible suspect in the hack. The FBI is among the U.S. agencies now looking into the hack, according to Reuters.

A North Korean diplomat in New York has denied that his country was involved in hacking. “Linking [North Korea] to the Sony hacking is another fabrication targeting the country,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Voice of America. “My country publicly declared that it would follow international norms banning hacking and piracy.”

 

 

 

TIME Retail

These Are the 5 Best Cyber Monday Tech Deals

Sony Launches PlayStation 4 In Japan As Console Retakes U.S. Retail Lead Over Microsoft's Xbox One
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The first customer to purchase the PlayStation 4 (PS4) video game console holds the box at the launch of the PS4 console at the Sony showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

Stock up on tablets, laptops and headphones

Cyber Monday kicked off with a barrage of discounts on popular electronics, perhaps too many to count. TIME has winnowed down the list to five eye catching bargains:

iPhone 6 with 64GB

Original Price: $749

T-Mobile slashed $100 off the retail price of an iPhone 6 with 64 gigabytes of storage space.

Samsung 55-inch 1080p TV

Original price: $1,897

Walmart knocked a whopping $900 off of the retail price of Samsung’s 55 inch 1080p LED panel, which is now selling for $997. For $1 more, you can get Samsung’s 4K ultra-HD TV at $998, a $500 discount.

Sony Playstation 4, Plus Games

Original price: $638

Walmart has bundled a Playstation 4 console, LEGO Batman 3 and Little Big Planet, plus an extra game and a controller for $449. The console alone normally retails at $400.

Windows 8 Touchscreen Laptop

Original Price: $200

Staples cut the price of an Asus X205-TA laptop to $150, putting it among the cheapest Windows-enabled laptops on the market.

Beats Executive Noise Canceling Headphones

Original price: $299

These premium headphones, designed to cancel out the hum of a commercial airliner’s engines, are now available at Staples for $159, or $140 off of the original price.

Read next: Top 10 Gadgets of 2014

TIME Gadgets

Amazon’s Kindle and Fire Tablets Totally Killed It on Black Friday

US-IT-AMAZON-KINDLE
Joe Klamar—AFP/Getty Images Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, introduces new Kindle Fire HD Family during the Amazon press conference on September 06, 2012 in Santa Monica, California.

The company's mum on the Fire Phone, though

Amazon was seeing green on Black Friday.

Black Friday sales of the company’s Fire tablets were three times what they were last year, Amazon said Monday, while Kindle e-readers were up four times last year’s numbers. Those numbers, however, only take into account sales on Amazon’s own site.

“This holiday there are going to be a lot of customers opening up new Amazon devices,” said Amazon SVP of Devices Dave Limp in a statement. “We’re energized by the year over year growth of tablet and e-reader Black Friday sales on Amazon.com, plus the success of the new product categories we’ve launched this year.”

Amazon’s Black Friday Kindle sales were likely spurred by the company’s move to slash prices. The Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7 all saw discounts of $20-30 for the weekend. Amazon also cut the price of its Fire Phone to $199 for an unlocked unit, but the company hasn’t disclosed if that discount sparked sales of an otherwise lagging device.

Amazon also offered a new sale for Monday only: Its Fire TV set-top box will cost $69, down from its normal price of $100.

TIME apps

Google Says These Are 2014’s Best Android Apps

Check out Google's list of the best of the best

With more than 1 million apps available, parsing through the Google Play Store can be a challenge. Google has provided some help by offering a list of the best Android apps of 2014. Whether you’re looking to stream a movie, learn a new language or manage your business calendar, chances are there’s an app that will fit the bill.

Here’s a look at what Google has highlighted as the best of the best:

Productivity

  • Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks
  • SwiftKey Keyboard
  • IFTTT (If This, Then That)
  • Sunrise Calendar
  • Todoist: To-Do List, Task List
  • Mailbox
  • Offtime – Life Unplugged
  • Rundavoo
  • Money Tracker by BillGuard
  • SlideShare Presentations
  • Strive

Education

  • TED
  • Lumosity
  • Duolingo
  • Craftsy Classes
  • Monki Chinese Class
  • Child Mode & Time Education
  • Amazing World Atlas

Entertainment

  • Hulu
  • Comedy Central
  • Disney Movies Anywhere
  • DramaFever
  • 5by
  • Dailymotion

News

  • Yahoo News Digest
  • BuzzFeed
  • The Economist
  • CNN
  • New York Times
  • Watchup: Your Daily Newscast

Music & Audio

  • Shazam
  • Pandora
  • iHeartRadio
  • Afterlight
  • Musixmatch Music Player Lyrics
  • djay 2
  • TuneIn Radio
  • Soundhound
  • edjing – DJ Music
  • Equalizer + MP3 player volume
  • Ultimate Guitar

Sports & Fitness

  • Onefootball – Pure Soccer!
  • Golfshot: Golf GPS
  • Univision Deportes
  • 7 Minute Workout
  • Google Fit

Shopping

  • Wish
  • Groupon

Photography

  • Over
  • EyeEm: CAmera & Photo Filter
  • Facetune
  • Carousel – Dropbox Photos
  • Video Collage Maker
  • Camera Zoom

Personalization

  • Locket Lock Screen
  • Link Bubble Browser

Social

  • Timehop
  • OKCupid
  • Secret
  • LINK – with people nearby
  • Frontback
  • Obscure
  • Lettrs
  • Telegram
  • Samba: Videos + Reactions
  • Bitmoji
  • Skype Qik: Group Video Chat
  • Viadeo

Travel

  • Expedia
  • Maps.ME
  • Anywayanyday
  • Minube
  • Windfinder
  • Uber

Read next: 50 Best Android Apps for 2014

TIME Gadgets

5 Must-Have Tech Gadgets for New Parents

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Cultura/JFCreatives—Getty Images Father and newborn baby

Put down the bottle-warmer — here’s what mom and dad really need

Any American who has ever procreated knows what a racket the baby industry is. And that’s not a sippy cup half-empty viewpoint — according to a 2013 study by consumer market research company Packaged Facts, between food and supplies for little ones, U.S. consumers are buying $11.5 billion in baby goods annually. And doused in pink and blue, most of these items are useless once their offspring is pulling on big-kid underwear.

So, instead of buying a high-tech bottle-warmer (you know a bowl of hot water does the trick too, right?) get mom and dad something they’ll be able to use for years, not months. (Unless you buy them diapers; you can’t go wrong with diapers.) For fresh ideas, try these five unexpected, must-have gadgets for new parents:

Dropcam

Old-school baby monitors were great back in the heyday of cordless phones, but in the smartphone era, parents need something more powerful than radio waves to keep an eye and ear on their kid. Typically used as a home monitoring webcam, Dropcam is a no-brainer for the nursery, letting iPhone moms and Android dads monitor their kids with high-quality streaming video — whether they’re in the next room or out on a date.

Fifty dollars less expensive than the high-quality Dropcam HD, the original Dropcam is still plenty powerful enough to keep an eye on parents’ little angel, with a 107 degree field of view, 4-time digital zoom, and motion and sound alerts when the accompanying app is closed. But where this $149 camera outshines other baby monitors is that once your crib-dweller is old enough for some privacy, you can repurpose it as a home security camera, watching front doors, backyards and all sorts of other spaces.

Garmin Vivosmart

Everyone wants the shiny new Apple Watch — especially infants who will love grabbing at its full-color touch screen. But a smarter choice for connected parents is the $169 Garmin Vivosmart, a full-featured activity tracker that integrates with both Android and iOS to receive all manner of smartphone notifications — from who’s calling to schedule a visit, to Facebook comments on your adorable baby pictures.

With vibrating alerts, Vivosmart won’t wake the baby, and with sleep-tracking capabilities, it can help bleary-eyed parents monitor their own health. But the waterproof band’s best feature is its tiny, black and white OLED display, plenty clear and bright, yet subtle enough to not pique youngster’s interests. And since the display uses low-energy technology, the Vivosmart’s battery lasts up to seven days, so charging the device is one less thing overtaxed parents need to worry about.

Philips/Disney Friends of Hue StoryLight

Story time might seem like a great treat for kids, but parents know it to be a clever way to bring down the energy and bring on the nap. (in addition to being great family bonding, of course.) Likewise, this $129 Mickey Mouse-themed lamp might look fun to kids, but it’s actually a sneaky way for adults to integrate smart, web-connected lighting into their home.

Paired with a wireless bridge (which can also control other Phillips connected bulbs throughout your home), the StoryLight can throw up to 16 million different colors on a wall using low-energy LED light. But the magic comes when you open Disney Storytime, an Android and iOS e-book app which syncs with the light, displaying colors from the pages of more than 40 different stories. Whether it’s used as a nightlight, mood lighting, or a story-telling aid, this versatile smart lamp is so much more than a toy.

Quirky+GE Spotter

New parents will worry about everything, but this smart-home sensor can give them at least a little peace of mind. A $60, AA battery-powered, Wi-Fi-connected multi-purpose sensor, Spotter can detect temperature, motion, light, and vibration, relaying notifications to Android and iOS devices.

Planted in a nursery, it can tell parents if the heat is at the ideal sleep temperature for the baby, or affixed to the bottom of the crib, it can let mom and dad know when their little one is stirring. But those are just the infant uses for this device. Once that angel grows into a teenager, you can pop this in the liquor cabinet, guarding your 15-year old bottle of Glenfiddich from your 16-year-old’s undiscerning palate.

WeMo Switch + Motion

Oh, that old “I have to use the bathroom” trick — every kid thinks he or she invented the the best excuse to get out of bed, but parents know better. And using the $79, Wi-Fi-connected WeMo Switch + Motion, they can hack together a way to head off their tip-toeing toddler at the pass.

Just plug the Motion sensor in somewhere near the child’s bed, and use the accompanying Switch with a nightlight or lamp, wherever you like to hang out, like the family room or your bedroom. Then, through the power of WeMo’s motion-based triggers, the motion sensor will turn on the light, silently alerting parents that there’s a jailbreak in progress. They’ll will never figure it out. (See? They’re not so smart after all.)

TIME Autos

There’s an App for the Next Time Your Car Breaks Down

Echo — Getty Images/Cultura RF

New companies are taking aim at an industry long-dominated by AAA

Last December, Corey Brundage got a call from his then-fiancée. She had left her headlights on, and her car was now sitting dead in a Los Angeles parking garage. Corey ordered an Uber and was with her in 20 minutes. Then he started searching Yelp and Google for a towing company. They all had off-putting one- and two-star rankings. Each call he ventured took him about 15 minutes, and when they quoted prices like $250 for a jump start, he didn’t know whether they were being gouged in their time of need. For a man who already started four companies, this was clearly friction that technology could help alleviate.

This November, Brundage launched Honk, a new company in a growing field of startups that want to be “Uber for roadside assistance.” Along with Washington, D.C.-based Urgently, Honk is taking on the behemoth in the field—AAA—by giving roadside-assistance an on-demand makeover.

“The younger mobile, millennial generation doesn’t have brand affinity with AAA,” says Brundage, pointing out that the average AAA member age is 57 years old. “I kept thinking, I can push a button and get a taxi in just two minutes. But when I really need help, on the side of the road, where is the button?”

For some people, that button is now in their MapQuest app. Earlier in November, Urgently—a company reared in an AOL incubator—announced a big-time partnership with MapQuest, which is owned by AOL. MapQuest users can now request roadside assistance from inside their app. One button takes them to Urgently. Users select the service they need (towing, lock out, jumpstart, fuel), enter basic information about their car and themselves and are told a price. A jumpstart dispatched to downtown San Francisco, for instance, would cost $50.

With another tap, the nearest service provider is dispatched. Help-seekers can watch the progress of their savior on a map, knowing where the provider is and when they’ll arrive, like Uber users can watch their drivers. “We saw an opportunity, a white space in the roadside assistance market,” says Urgently CEO Chris Spanos. “The consumer should have complete and utter visibility.”

With Honk, users enter information through the app and, within about two minutes, they’re given an ETA and told that a driver will be calling them soon. In January, Honk plans to roll out maps where users can track a truck’s progress. Both companies operate nationwide and are middlemen like Uber, connecting a network of users with a network of independent-contractor trucks, taking a slice off fees paid by users. When truck-owners sign up as partners, they agree to a fee schedule of fixed prices for each service, so there’s no bidding war and no surprises.

Both Urgently and Honk contrast their users’ experience with what can be a more drawn-out process with AAA, which has its own app but still operates on a call-center model. The startups also tout themselves as “non-membership” companies. For what might be $50 or $100 per year, AAA offers what is essentially an insurance policy: pay up front and if you break down, you’re covered for multiple tows and other services. There are roughly 54 million AAA members, which is about a quarter of all licensed drivers in the country, and those members call upon AAA for about 30 million “roadside events” each year. That means about half of them are paying for a service they’re probably not using. AAA, in turn, points out that pay-per-use services often cost more than a year’s membership. Brundage says with Honk, a tow would cost the base price of $49 and then perhaps $5 per mile, depending on where the breakdown happens.

The new companies sell their service as better for both consumers and drivers. “AAA has been squeezing every penny out of them,” Brundage says of the trucks who work with AAA. That company tells TIME they do not release specific figures on how much trucks make off calls provided by AAA. But the new players will. Spanos gives the example of a 15-mile tow costing $99 through the app. In that case, the truck would make about $75 and Urgently would get the rest. Brundage says that his partners who have worked with AAA are making more in the neighborhood of $25 per tow.

Upping the margin has the potential to help the tow companies’ ratings, because if they’re making more on services people ask for, they’re less likely to go looking for cars to tow so they can make a living, the kind of behavior that earns them avid one-star ratings. “There’s a world in which they could have more than one star,” Brundage says. Regardless of margins, they stand to get more business by adding another avenue for requests to come in.

Still, AAA memberships include many perks beyond roadside assistance, and company spokesperson Heather Hunter implies it has more experience than these upstarts, touting “long-standing relationships” with towers. “The use of new technology is just one small aspect of providing roadside service,” she says. AAA-affiliated drivers get training and access discounts on equipment, she says, and they undergo background checks, too.

AAA is not the only competitor for these new companies, who are also going up against insurance provided by auto manufacturers, but they are the Goliath to their David. “They’re clearly an 800-lb. gorilla,” says Spanos. “But we’re not afraid of them.”

TIME apps

The Best iPhone Games You Can Play One-Handed

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

They're great for strap-hanging commuters

Far too many iPhone games take two hands to play, rendering them useless if you’re strap-hanging on a subway or bus. For those rush-hour commuters out there, here are the best iPhone games you can download and play with only a single free paw:

Temple Run 2

For a while, you could find several different people in a single subway car playing the first Temple Run. When the expansion came out two years ago, it made a similarly large splash, updating the much adored format. The premise is simple and based on the opening scene of Raiders of The Lost Ark: run away from a temple with an ancient treasure and make sure not to get caught.

In Temple Run, you collect coins, powerups, and cross a variety of terrains. Updates are infrequent, but greatly expand gameplay when they are released.

Temple Run 2 is available free in the App Store.

Dots

The game is as magnetic as it is simple. Players line up dots of the same color in a playing field in order to clear the space. More dots cleared in the same move yields more points. You can play in an endless cycle of dot collecting, or try to beat your score against a clock, or clear dots with a limited number of moves.

Regardless, the short playclock is great for fast train rides or brief moments of free time. Dots gets bonus points because, unlike most puzzle games, it doesn’t strain your eyes. There’s also an equally addictive sequel available.

Dots is available free in the App Store.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is at once a simple puzzle game and one of the most complex one-handed iOS games on the market. The aim is to guide a princess through an increasingly complicated series of beautifully designed castles. Simple at first, castles soon become an M.C. Escher landscape that will lead you far from where you imagined. Trying to get from A to B has perhaps never been so frustrating — or satisfying.

Monument Valley is available for $3.99 in the App Store.

Badland

One of the best but perhaps most underrated tap-to-fly games, Badland is dark and excellently animated. Tap the screen to keep a fuzzy black urchin-like monster afloat and to navigate him around a network of natural and mechanical obstacles. Badland also includes powerups, multiplying the number of monsters players can navigate or giving the character special properties like stickiness. Although Badland is a horizontal game, it can still be played single-handed.

Badland is available for $0.99 in the App Store.

Doodle Jump

Doodle Jump takes the standard iPhone game tap navigation and introduces a different concept: players must tilt their phones to navigate a character across an adorable landscape. A long-time iTunes Store favorite, Doodle Jump is an endless game in which a character must jump from surface to surface in order ascend. Powerups come up along the way: it’s a game one can play for hours in order to beat a high score, kept fresh by the occasional introduction of a new theme or new obstacle along the way. For the already initiated, a new DC Comics/Batman Doodle Jump was recently released.

Doodle Jump is available for $0.99 in the App Store.

TIME Companies

Why Yelp’s CEO Turned Down Google

Key Speakers At 2014 The DreamForce Conference
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive officer and co-founder of Yelp Inc., smiles during a panel discussion at the DreamForce Conference in San Francisco, California on Oct. 13, 2014.

Read Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman's advice for upstart entrepreneurs

Jeremy Stoppelman spent his teenage years leafing through business magazines and dreaming of running his own business. Today, he’s at the helm of Yelp, the $4 billion review website that’s quickly become the digital version of the Yellow Pages and now attracts about 139 million unique visitors per month.

Stoppelman sat down with TIME via phone to discuss his less-than-glamorous first job out of college, his job interview with Elon Musk, and why he turned down a buyout offer from Google. Below is an edited version of the conversation:

TIME: Tell me about your first job out of college

Stoppelman: I got recruited off-campus by @Home Networks. That was I believe the first cable Internet provider. I was a software engineer on their network operations team.

TIME: What was that job like?

Stoppelman: No fun. It was a fairly dysfunctional team. We were working on a product that you use to provision new customers as they sign up for cable or Internet. The project had been ongoing for multiple years when I got there. It actually never launched. I actually left there after about four months.

I realized pretty quickly that the team was not super well-managed . . . I just found myself without a whole lot to do after a few weeks. I’d kind of run through all the projects that they had for me, and I didn’t really know how to allocate my time. I figured it was time to start looking for something more exciting.

TIME: So then you went to PayPal, right?

Stoppelman: I started interviewing randomly. It was around late ‘99, early 2000. The dot-com bubble was still very much under way. If you were a software engineer, recruiters were calling constantly, so I just started going out on interviews. I found my way to X.com, which was an online bank started by Elon Musk [that later became PayPal].

I’d never met a 28-year-old successful entrepreneur on his second venture. I’d never met anyone with ambitions like that. He was telling me right then and there that we were going to take down Visa and MasterCard if everything went our way, and he really seemed to believe it. And that was really exciting.

TIME: When you were there at PayPal, there were a lot of people there who went on to be incredibly successful. What were the biggest lessons you learned working with those people?

Stoppelman: It was a group of really smart individuals. One of the things I took away from that experience was how if you give a really talented person a stretch opportunity, how far they could really take that. So few of us had what would be called preexisting experience. We were trying to do things we didn’t necessarily know how to do. Even building a consumer Internet site at that time, that was a completely novel idea.

That team, especially the management team, gave me the opportunity to become the VP of engineering all while I’m in my early-to-mid 20s, which is very unusual I think in corporate America. And I wasn’t the exception. There were a number of people around that organization that were very young but were very high-potential and were given the opportunity to stretch and grow with the company. When I later went on to start Yelp, I tried to make sure that similarly, we gave people opportunities based on the potential they demonstrated rather than just something like, ‘Oh, they’ve done it before.’”

TIME: I know before you founded Yelp, you went to business school for a year then dropped out. What’s your view of school? There are a lot of famous Silicon Valley dropouts.

Stoppelman: There’s no one-size-fits-all. There are certain individuals that are extremely precocious and self-driven, and it doesn’t matter whether they had university or not–they’re going to figure out what they need to be successful. I don’t know that everyone falls into that category, I’d say most people probably don’t. The idea that people don’t need education is obviously preposterous.

I think when Peter Thiel or Max Levchin talk about that school is not necessarily necessary, part of it is to strike a conversation. I think it’s been misinterpreted in the media because it sounds controversial–like ‘Oh, Peter Thiel says you don’t need school.’ He just means there is this belief that a college degree solves all problems. The reality is the data is starting to show all degrees are not created equal. Just going to college and getting by is not necessarily going to guarantee you anything. What really matters is the knowledge and whether you can use that to do something important, useful, worthwhile. That knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways–it can be acquired in a formal education, it can be acquired on your own. But I think each individual has to decide what make the most sense for themselves.

TIME: Did you always know you wanted to be a startup founder, or did Yelp happen as a surprise or a revelation?

Stoppelman: I guess both. I was always interested from a very early age in computers and software and technology. I was also very early on interested in business and how companies were started. I used to read Fortune and Forbes all the way back in my early teenage years. In Forbes there was a particular section on entrepreneurship and I’d always read the little vignettes about how someone started a small business. I also grew up around the time when all these big names in computing — Bill Gates, Michael Dell, steve Jobs — they were all in the prime of their careers. It was a dream to find my way to starting a company. I always hoped that I would do it, but I also wasn’t sure that it it would all come together. I was kind of plotting my career hoping to be a part of Silicon Valley, but i wasn’t sure if I would be a founder or CEO.

The context for the birth of Yelp was Craigslist was really dramatically impacting the newspaper industry by taking away the classifieds business. As we [at Max Levchin’s startup incubator] looked around for older media businesses, we saw the Yellow Pages as something that really hadn’t yet been transformed by the Internet. The one thing that stuck out was word of mouth was the best way to find local businesses. If we could find a way to capture that and bring it online, that would be a really powerful idea.

Finally, we were having a lunch conversation and I was saying to [Yelp co-founder Russell Simmons], if you ask me a question, I would always be willing to respond with a recommendation. We decided we’d build a question-and-answer type service for recommendations. We built that and launched October 2004, and it really didn’t work as we expected. It was just a little bit too complicated.

But buried in there was a way to write your own review without being asked a question. It turned out that when people would find that feature, which was really added as an afterthought, people would just write five or 10 or 15 reviews in one sitting. That one little clue led us to refocus the site and by February 2005 it was really starting to work and people were having a lot of fun sharing their opinions of local businesses.

TIME: That’s interesting, because I think many people assume a founder has a really great startup idea and it just kicks off from there. Is there more trial and error involved in launching a startup than people might expect?

Stoppelman: Yeah. Most of the time, when you come up with an idea, and you think you’ve got it all figured out, when you launch in the market, you always learn something about what works and what doesn’t. Very often you do have to adapt your idea and be willing and able to adjust accordingly. I remember in business school my professor said most successful startups do change direction in a fundamental way early in their life, and if they don’t, the odds are actually that their startup isn’t going to succeed.

TIME: I know a few years ago you guys were close to being acquired by Google. Now you’re a public company instead. Can you talk about how you shifted gears?

Just about every year starting in 2005, Google would come to us and say they wanted to buy us. They were never actually serious until 2009. We engaged in that conversation because obviously Google is extremely powerful, so when they come calling, you answer their calls. In thinking about Yelp and what it could be, it felt like leveraging the resources of a Google would allow Yelp to expand rapidly worldwide, which is something we were just getting started on.

Of course, once we started that conversation, there were cascading effects. Other people found out that Google was interested in the company and that stirred up other interest. Before long there was another offer at an even higher price. At that point I really felt like the whole conversation was getting away from me. We were getting out of having a conversation about what would be best for the future of the company and more into what would be the best outcome financially. I felt like we built this company over several years, it’s going really well, there’s no fundamental reason for us to sell.

So at that moment, it just felt like really the right the thing to do to maximize the value of the company but also maximize the impact Yelp would have was to shift gears and just commit to going on the independent path and take it public.

TIME: It seems like you guys are always dealing with a tension between your different constituencies–the restaurant owners, the reviewers, the regular users. How do you balance the different needs of these people?

Stoppelman: If we were to lean toward a constituency, it’s towards consumers, because ultimately Yelp is not useful if you can’t rely on its reviews. If it’s not useful to consumers, then no one’s going to use the app, you have no audience, and then you have no audience to business owners.

If you think about it that way, as Yelp you kind of have to lean toward consumers, protect consumers and make sure they’re going to the best local businesses possible. But we also do really care about business owners and Yelp is a huge boon to business owners. Yelp is word-of-mouth amplified, so if they’re doing a great job, that good news is going to travel that much faster thanks to Yelp and its community.

TIME: What do you say to those restaurant owners who say the way Yelp filters the scores is unfair or who claim advertising influences scores?

Stoppelman: There’s never been any amount of money . . . that you could pay to manipulate your rating or change reviews. That’s been validated by third parties–a Harvard Business School professor did a statistical analysis to demonstrate that.

The conspiracy theories still exist, and I think the fundamental reason they exist is because Yelp creates an accountability that didn’t exist before and it’s uncomfortable. Whenever you have a company that changes the rules of the game, you’re going to have people that don’t want to get with the program. They’ll say what they’ll have to say to try to discredit the thing that’s causing them stress.

But fundamentally, I think most business owners, and especially the really good ones, get it. They get that this is an incredible opportunity for them to take useful feedback and improve their businesses. I totally understand that it can be stressful–the fact that you’re always accountable, always on the record, so to speak. But it’s a very powerful tool for expanding and growing your business as well.

TIME: Is there any other advice you might have for would-be entrepreneurs?

Stoppelman: I think I might have originally borrowed this from Elon [Musk]. When I was in business school, I was thinking about doing something entrepreneurial after, and he said something to the effect of, “make sure that it’s something that you are happy doing for a really long time.” Call it 10 years plus–like thinking about it day-in, day-out, in the shower, et cetera. Because fundamentally, building a great company takes time. If it’s not something you’re passionate about and enjoy thinking about all the time, you’re not going to make it down that hard road. So choose wisely.

Read next: 7 Insanely Productive Habits of Successful People

TIME robotics

Meet the Robots Shipping Your Amazon Orders

New machines are helping the retail giant get your stuff home on time

Across the country, laborers are hard at work lifting 700-pound shelves full of multivolume encyclopedias, propane grills or garden gnomes and dragging them across vast warehouse floors. Carefully trained not to bump into one another, the squat workers are 320 pounds and a mere 16 inches tall.

No, they’re not Christmas elves—they’re some of the most advanced robots that e-commerce giant Amazon now uses to ship its goods. In an exclusive video for TIME, photographer and videographer Stephen Wilkes captured these Amazon robots in action at the company’s Tracy, Calif., warehouse.

The robots are made by Kiva Systems, a company Amazon purchased for $775 million in 2012 to better handle the hundreds of worldwide orders Amazon customers make every second. Kiva’s robots bring shelves of goods out of storage and carry them to employees, allowing Amazon to retrieve more items for more customers simultaneously. Amazon began using these robots in July of this year, and there are now more than 15,000 of them in 10 of the company’s warehouses. They whir around like gears on a Swiss watch.

Three quarters of a billion dollars may seem like a lot to sink into a retrieving system, but Amazon’s profits depend on the company becoming ever more efficient at shipping orders. The cost of processing packages is growing faster than the company’s sales are. Amazon spent nearly $8.6 billion in 2013 on fulfillment, a 34% increase from the year before; the company’s total sales grew 22% in the same period. This year, Amazon is on track to spend a sum about as large as the entire economy of Mongolia just to push its packages. (Amazon as a whole lost $437 million last quarter, as the company reinvests income into its own growth.)

Amazon Senior Vice President of Operations Dave Clark says improvements such as the Kiva robots have significantly increased operations efficiency while making employees’ lives easier. Amazon has sometimes been criticized for the conditions in its fulfillment centers, with workers often logging over 10 hours a day and walking up to 15 miles in a shift to pick items off the shelves. Conditions at a Pennsylvania warehouse drew attention to Amazon’s employment practices during the summer of 2011, when temperatures there reportedly reached 110 degrees and employees regularly collapsed with heatstroke. (Amazon has since installed air-conditioners in its warehouses.) The Kiva robots cut out much of the hard “picking” work and bring items directly to workers, who then process the orders.

“[Kiva] eliminates the part that was not a fun part about picking,” Clark says.

The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are Amazon’s busiest of the year. Customers ordered 426 items per second on the Monday following Thanksgiving last year, the day online retailers have branded as “Cyber Monday.”

Clark insists the robots are “not about eliminating jobs.” Connie Gilbert, a picker at the Tracy fulfillment center, said more people have been hired to join her team since the Kiva robots were installed, because more robots mean more work. “The work pace is faster and the robots are continuously coming,” Gilbert says. “We have a lot more people that have come in to work and help us out.”

About 80,000 workers are expected to come on board as temporary help for the holidays this year. Many of them will be tasked with picking items from warehouse shelves — but others will ask a robot to do it for them.

Read next: Top 10 Gadgets of 2014

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TIME Companies

Best Buy’s Website Goes Down on Black Friday

NY: Black Friday Holiday Shoppers
Behar Anthony—Sipa/AP Two shoppers carry a large LCD TV as they exit a Best Buy electronics store in Queens on "Black Friday" Nov. 28, 2014.

Electronics retailer blames technology glitch on a concentrated spike in mobile traffic

Best Buy’s website suffered a prolonged outage on Black Friday, as a concentrated spike in mobile traffic led the electronics retailer to it shut down temporarily.

The website is now working after being offline for about a hour on Black Friday morning. For a short period, a visit to the Best Buy website said: “We’re sorry. BestBuy.com is currently unavailable. Check back soon.”

Best Buy spokeswoman Amy von Walter said a spike in mobile traffic triggered issues led Best Buy to shut down the website “in order to take proactive measures to restore full performance.”

The short-term glitch comes at a critical time for the company as it aims to compete for more than $50 billion in sales that are generated for the Thanksgiving weekend. The holiday shopping season is highly competitive, especially for the Black Friday weekend when retailers like Best Buy aim to lure consumers with door buster deals. Such promotions are often popular in the consumer electronics space, where deals focus on televisions, tablets and other tech gadgets.

Online sales are important for Best Buy, with that business reporting nearly 20% growth in the U.S. for the fiscal year ended February 1. The online business is also a component of Best Buy’s fairly new ship-from-store feature–a capability that allows the retailer to fill online merchandise sales by using inventory at the company’s brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Best Buy generated nearly $11.5 billion for the nine-week holiday period last year, though domestic same-store sales slid 0.9% from the prior year as a result of aggressive promotions, supply constraints for key products and some weakness in the mobile phone market at the time.

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