TIME Technology & Media

Net-Neutrality Advocates Angered by FCC’s Planned New Rules

Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington March 27, 2014. Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

Internet service providers could strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, under proposals by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, violating the ideal of equal access for all consumers

The Federal Communications Commission plans to propose new rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for preferential treatment over the “last mile” to users, according to multiple reports, in a blow for advocates of “Net neutrality,” the principle that consumers should have equal access to content available on the Internet.

The proposed rules, which are being circulated among the five FCC commissioners, come three months after a federal court struck down the agency’s 2010 Open Internet Order. After details of the proposal leaked out Wednesday evening, Net-neutrality advocates reacted with anger, with some claiming the new rules threaten the Internet’s traditionally free and open culture.

In a statement released late Wednesday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler called that notion “flat-out wrong.”

Under the FCC’s new plan, Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T “would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers,” according to an FCC spokesperson. The companies would also be prohibited from blocking or discriminating against online content, but they would be allowed to strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, as long as they acted in a “commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis.”

Net-neutrality advocates argue that Internet startups might not be able to afford to pay for such special treatment, potentially stifling innovation on the Internet, which has spawned one of the greatest periods of technological development in U.S. history, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in economic growth.

“The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online,” Michael Weinberg, vice president at Public Knowledge, a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is not Net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.”

Net neutrality was enshrined in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order, which required Internet service providers to be transparent about how they handle network congestion, prohibited them from blocking traffic such as Skype or Netflix on wired networks, and barred them from discriminating against such services by putting them into an Internet “slow lane” in order to benefit their own competing services.

In February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the FCC’s authority to enforce the antiblocking and antidiscrimination rules. That verdict was a blow for President Obama, who campaigned as a strong supporter of Net neutrality. In the wake of that defeat, many Net-neutrality advocates called for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.

Such reclassification would have restored the FCC’s authority to enforce the rules, but it also would have prompted a major showdown between the FCC and broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, which are extremely powerful on Capitol Hill and oppose such reclassification. Instead, the FCC appears to have chosen a more politically palatable route — based on the agency’s so-called Section 706 authority — that will seek to address blocking and discrimination on a case-by-case basis.

“This is not Net neutrality,” Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, which has long championed Internet openness, said in a statement. “It’s an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise. The FCC had an opportunity to reverse its failures and pursue real Net neutrality by reclassifying broadband under the law. Instead, in a moment of political cowardice and extreme shortsightedness, it has chosen this convoluted path that won’t protect Internet users.”

FCC chairman Wheeler is a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist who was previously managing director at Washington-based venture-capital firm Core Capital Partners. Wheeler, a longtime Obama loyalist, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wheeler has insisted he is committed to a “free and open Internet.”

The FCC’s new proposal would establish a “baseline” rule prohibiting broadband providers from engaging in “commercially unreasonable” practices in sending Internet traffic to consumers, but it’s unclear what would constitute a “commercially unreasonable” practice. The proposal would also establish a process for resolving disputes between Internet service providers and content companies on a case-by-case basis.

For over a decade, the Internet has largely adhered to Net neutrality, which is why most consumers take it for granted. In practice, Net neutrality means that all users have open access to the Internet, just like all Americans have the right to travel anywhere in the 50 states without a passport. Without this open access, startups like Google, Twitter and Facebook might never have flourished, according to Net-neutrality advocates, who say the FCC’s new proposal threatens the Internet’s vibrant ecosystem.

“This is a stake in the heart for Internet openness,” says Lauren Weinsten, a veteran tech-policy expert and prominent Net-neutrality advocate. “The nation’s largest Internet service providers have hit the ultimate jackpot. These companies keep secret all of the information needed to evaluate whether violations of Internet openness have occurred, and because the FCC moves so slowly, by the time it acts, a company that’s been victimized could be out of business.”

Wheeler disputed the suggestion that the new rules would harm the Internet’s openness, calling such claims “flat-out wrong.”

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Wheeler said the proposal “will restore the concepts of Net neutrality consistent with the court’s ruling in January. There is no ‘turnaround in policy.’ The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.”

The new proposal, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would not apply the rules to so-called paid peering arrangements, like the one recently struck by Netflix to pay for a direct connection to Comcast, in order to improve performance for users. In the wake of that deal, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called on the FCC to establish “strong” Net-neutrality rules preventing companies like Comcast from “charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube or Skype.”

Updated on April 23 at 10:20 p.m. E.T. with a statement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.


Best Travel Sites: What to Do and Where to Eat

Some travelers like to pick a vacation destination and leave the details to chance, while others feel the need to carefully plan and schedule their vacation days. Whichever side of the planning spectrum you fall on, you’ll want to have an idea of the area’s must-see attractions and best places to eat. And the easiest way to know is to check out my favorite travel planning sites for pre-trip planning and apps for making plans on the go.

Plan your travel to-do list


It’s impossible to overlook the ubiquitous TripAdvisor for planning out your travel agenda. Though you might think of it mostly as a place to find hotel and restaurant reviews, the site has extensive lists of local attractions reviewed and rated by TripAdvisor’s users.

Just click on “destinations” in the search window and type where you want to go to see not only hotels and flight costs, but also the top attractions, the best-rated restaurants, and upcoming events. It can be a bit of information overload, but you’re sure to find something of great interest to make your trip one to remember.

If you’re looking for even more recommendations, Gogobot may be more your style—literally. Gogobot’s Tribes section helps guide you to the right travel activities based on your preferred travel style, whether you’re looking for adventure, art, culture, nightlife, or something else entirely. Browse by travel style or search for your city to see activities on offer, all rated and reviewed by Gogobot’s users.

For a more visual experience, try Hopper. The site lets you endlessly scroll through photos and captions linked to reviews and recommendations posted by Hopper’s users. It’s a great place to browse if you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for.

Find unique activities


If you’d rather find activities that are a bit more off the beaten path, the above sites—all of which tend to show you the most popular attractions and activities—might not be of much help. But don’t despair, because there are sites geared towards the unique and unusual, too.

Though it only works in select cities and places, including New York, Seattle and Maui, Peek is a great resource for finding activities and excursions. Browse by category, like Food Tours, Sights and Landmarks, What to Do with Kids, Day Trips and What to Do When It Rains, or take a look at the “Perfect Day” plans created by tastemakers, including Rebecca Minkoff, Mark Hix and Jack Dorsey, and site community members.

If Peek doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try Vayable, which lists a wide range of tours hosted by local guides for an insider’s experience of your destination. What’s available will vary, but you can read reviews from other Vayable users to help you decide which tours are for you.

Get a table at the best restaurants


If you’re trying to figure out where to eat—that isn’t just another chain restaurant—try Urbanspoon. Just search for your destination and you’ll find a list of restaurants by popularity, price, and buzz—no matter what your taste and budget, you’re sure to find some great eats. If you’re looking for a good meal on the go, make sure you have the free Urbanspoon app on your smartphone (available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Kindle Fire devices), which will tell you what’s nearby.

If you’ve found the perfect place but need a reservation, OpenTable is the place to go. Using the website or the OpenTable app (available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire and BlackBerry devices), you can search for local restaurants with—get it?—open tables when you’re planning on stopping for a meal. If you know where you want to eat, you can search for a specific restaurant—but you can also browse by location, cuisine type, price, and schedule.

Find just about anything else


If you’re looking for anything else—and I do mean anything—Google Maps is your hands-down best resource. You can load it up on your computer or access it via your smartphone—either by downloading the Google Maps app (available for iOS and Android devices) or navigating to the website on your mobile device—to help you find out where anything is as well as how to get there.

You can search Google Maps for specific destinations to see exactly where they are in relation to you—and help you figure out how to get from your hotel to your must-see attraction list, by car, by public transportation, or by foot. However, you can also do more general searches for things like “drug store,” “art gallery,” “sports bar,” “gym” or “museum” to bring up local businesses matching those descriptions—and easy directions to get there. Plus, the mobile app has a feature called “Explore nearby,” which surfaces places by categories, including eat, drink, play and shop, based on your location.

Now that you’ve got planning covered, all that’s left to do is pack your bags and get ready to have a great time.

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Apple

Apple Stock Soars 8% on Strong iPhone Sales

The Apple Inc logo sits on display at the company's store in the Gran Plaza 2 shopping mall in Majadahonda, near Madrid, Spain, on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
Angel Navarrete—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple sold 43.7 million iPhones, substantially more than the 37.7 million that Wall Street analysts had been expecting

Tech titan Apple reported a 4.6% increase in quarterly revenue on Wednesday, handily beating Wall Street expectations after selling significantly more iPhones than analysts had predicted.

The company also said it plans to increase its stock buyback program and dividend, pleasing shareholders who have called for the company to distribute more of its cash.

The solid results, which amount to the strongest non-holiday quarter in Apple history, encouraged investors who have grown restless about a perceived lack of innovation at the company. Apple shares soared as much as 8% in after hours trading, adding $33 billion in value and sending the company’s market capitalization back over the $500 billion level.

IPhone sales were particularly strong, with the company selling 43.7 million units, substantially more than 37.7 million that analysts had been expecting.

“These are surprisingly good numbers, especially on the iPhone,” Piper Jaffray technology analyst Gene Munster said in an appearance on CNBC shortly after the results were released. “Investors should breathe a sigh of relief about these numbers.”

Apple reported revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 per share, compared to revenue of $43.6 billion and profit of $9.5 billion, or $10.09 per share one year ago. For the current quarter, Apple forecast revenue between $36 billion and $38 billion, slightly below that $38.1 billion that analysts had been expecting.

“We’re very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We’re eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market.”

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Cook said that Apple established a new iPhones sales record in the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China. Earlier this year, Apple announced a deal to make the iPhone available for sale to China Mobile’s 760 million customers. Cook said the company plans to triple its number of retail locations in China over the next two years.

The iPhone has been available on smaller carriers in China for years, but sales have faced pressure in the face of lower-cost competition from devices made by Samsung and other manufacturers that use Google’s Android mobile operating system. Analysts estimate that Apple could sell between 20 million and 30 million iPhones on China Mobile’s network next year.

As usual, Cook declined to go into detail about the new products that the company is developing, but said to expect new gadgets this year. “We’ve got some great things there that we’re working on that I’m very proud of and very excited about,” Cook said. Speculation has centered on a new TV product or possibly a wearable computing device like an Internet-connected wristwatch.

Apple has not introduced a new product category since the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in October 2011, prompting fears about the state of innovation at the company. Still, Apple has made impressive improvements to its existing product lines, and the iPhone and iPad are considered the gold-standard in their respective categories.

Apple also announced a rarely seen seven for one stock split — which means that each existing shareholder will receive six additional shares — in an effort to lower the share price and make the company more accessible to small investors. The company, which is now sitting on $156 billion in cash, also boosted its stock buyback program to $90 billion, and increased its dividend by 8% to $3.29 per share.

“We generated $13.5 billion in cash flow from operations and returned almost $21 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the March quarter,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in a statement. “That brings cumulative payments under our capital return program to $66 billion.”

Cook added: “We’re confident in Apple’s future and see tremendous value in Apple’s stock, so we’re continuing to allocate the majority of our program to share repurchases.”

In a message posted on Twitter, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has been agitating for Apple to return more of its cash to shareholders, said he was “very pleased” with the company’s plan to increase its stock buyback program. He added that he continues to believe that Apple is “meaningfully undervalued.”

In one sour note, iPad sales fell short of analyst forecasts, with the company selling 16.35 million units compared to expectations of 19.7 million. Cook explained the difference by saying that last year Apple increased iPad inventory, but reduced it this year. On the bright side, Cook said that two-thirds of users registering iPads were new customers, and he pointed out that the iPad is the fastest growing product in Apple’s history.

On the conference call, Cook paid tribute to Oppenheimer, who is leaving the company this year, by observing that Apple is now 20-times larger than it was when Oppenheimer joined the company. “His expertise, leadership, and incredibly hard work have been instrumental to the company’s success,” Cook said.

TIME Apple

Powerful: The Best Apple Ads Are Also Tutorials

Apple's latest iPhone commercial is another example of showing people how to do more with their phones.

Apple’s haters like to say the company is only successful because of marketing. The masses are so entranced by Apple advertising that they’re blind to the existence of other, potentially better products.

But this line of thinking falls apart when you look at some of Apple’s best ads over the last few years. They aren’t deceptive (with some alleged exceptions), they aren’t flashy, and they don’t rely on gimmicks to get your attention. Maybe you could level those criticisms against Apple’s iconic “1984” campaign, or its “Get a Mac” campaign from the mid-aughts, but today Apple ads are plain and straightforward by comparison. There’s nothing particularly magical about them, and yet they work.

The newly-launched “Powerful” ad is a great example. For 90 seconds, only one thing happens: People use their iPhones. There’s no narration, no explanation and no interruption. It’s just people using their iPhones in ways that are interesting.

Sure, most of us use our smartphones for duller purposes: checking e-mail, looking at Instagram, posting something on Facebook, browsing the web. We’re not all musicians, artists, videographers or international explorers. In that sense, the ad is aspirational, like a beer commercial with beautiful people partying in lavish environments. But while the beer commercial rubs in your face what you could never have, the iPhone ad sends a different message: You can do all these interesting things. You just need to download a few good apps.

It’s no surprise that immediately after launching the ad, Apple put up a web page with links to the App Store for several of the featured apps. You just learned what you can do with the iPhone. Now do it.

This idea, of advertisement as tutorial, has been done by Apple before. Here’s an ad from 2012 that’s basically a demonstration of how to use the iPhone 5’s panoramic photo feature:

Apple’s iPhone 3GS ad campaign in 2009 coined the phrase “There’s an app for that,” again illustrating what users could do with their phones. It also included this quasi-tutorial on how to use copy and paste, then a new feature:

Even Apple’s first ads for Siri, which drew mixed reactions for relying on celebrities, served a rather basic purpose of showing what you could do with the virtual assistant:

Apple’s detractors might argue that other phones offer features and apps that are similar to the ones Apple advertises. But that’s beside the point. Tech enthusiasts (myself included) can often lose sight of how new and unfamiliar these devices can be to the average user. Many people are still learning to use their smartphones, the functions of which are not always second-nature. These users may not be inclined to go exploring for new tricks and features, so Apple’s ads are providing a little push.

And don’t think Apple is only aiming its ads at people who don’t own iPhones. The U.S. smartphone market is approaching saturation, which means most people are on their first, second or even third smartphones. And in the United States, roughly half of those people are using iPhones. Ads like “Powerful” are as much about showing iPhone users what they’ve got as they are about showing non-iPhone users what they’re missing.

TIME technology

Facebook Blows Away Analyst Projections With Strong Earnings

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on March 7, 2013.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on March 7, 2013. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The social network exceeded analyst projections in its latest quarterly earnings report, generating $2.5 billion in revenue, as it gains more mobile users and gets a growing proportion of its advertising revenue from mobile

Facebook once again exceeded analyst projections in its latest quarterly earnings report Wednesday, as the world’s largest social network continued to show investors it can transition its advertising business to mobile devices.

The company generated $2.5 billion in revenue and had earnings (minus some line items) of 34 cents per share in the first quarter of 2014, greatly topping analyst estimates of $2.36 billion in revenue and 24 cents per share in profits. Net income for the quarter was $642 million, triple the figure from the same quarter last year. Facebook shares rose only slightly on the strong earnings in after-hours trading.

The social network said it gained about 50 million new monthly active users in the quarter, increasing its total to 1.28 billion. Daily active users now total 802 million, up from 757 million in the previous quarter. In a key milestone, mobile monthly active users also crossed the one-billion mark for the first time. Mobile ads are quickly increasing in value for the company and now generate almost 60 percent of Facebook’s total ad revenue.

“These results show Facebook’s business is strong and growing,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call with investors.

Despite early doubts when Facebook first went public in 2012, the company has now proven that it can have a mobile-first mindset and profit handsomely from it. The next challenge for the social network will be growing its business outside of the Western world. Nearly two thirds of Facebook’s users now reside in places besides the U.S., Canada or Europe, but the revenue it generates per user is more than six times greater in the United States than Asia. Some of Facebook’s moves early this year, like purchasing messaging platform WhatsApp for $19 billion and announcing plans to beam Internet access to people in remote areas via drones, seem directly aimed at shoring up revenues in these non-Western markets in the long term.

Though Facebook is making several long term bets, including the purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion in March, the company is content to let its main website do the heavy lifting of generating profits for now. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg both stressed that acquisitions like WhatsApp and Instagram won’t be monetized heavily anytime soon. Neither will internal Facebook products like the Paper news reading app and the new auto-play videos that now appear in users’ News Feeds. “The current priority is growth,” Zuckerberg said of Facebook’s suite of apps and services. He pointed to 100 million users as a threshold to cross before developing an app into a significant business.

The company once again expressed confidence that it will be able to serve users increasingly relevant ads on Facebook, thus boosting their value to marketers. Data backs up the claim—a recent study by Adobe of Facebook ads used by 100 large social media advertisers found that click-through rates in the first quarter increased 160% year-over-year. “The ads are getting more relevant, but there’s a long way to go,” Sandberg told investors. “We have a great opportunity to build the first platform for personal marketing at scale.”

TIME Health Care

FBI Warns Health Care Sector Is Especially Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

The agency says health care providers have particularly lax security systems. Reportedly, health care data sold on the black market can be even more valuable than credit-card numbers because it can help hackers access bank accounts or get prescription drugs

In a private message sent to health care providers earlier this month, the FBI warned that the health care industry has especially lax data-security systems and is particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks compared with other sectors.

“The healthcare industry is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors, therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely,” the FBI said in a memo obtained by Reuters.

According to the news service, health care data sold on the black market can be even more valuable than credit-card numbers because it includes information that can help with hacking into bank accounts or getting prescription drugs.

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment on the matter to Reuters.

A spate of recent cybersecurity failures at major retail institutions, most notably Target, have inspired the retail and financial sectors to shore up security. The health sector, however, has been slower to adopt sufficient cybersecurity measures.

“I’m really happy to see the FBI doing this,” said Shane Shook, an executive with a private cybersecurity firm that contracts with organizations to help them respond when their systems are breached. “It’s nice to see the attention.”


TIME Technology & Media

HBO Just Made a Brilliant Move to Hook Younger Viewers

HBO and Amazon aren’t only targeting their shared enemy, Netflix, with their major content licensing deal announced Wednesday. They’re going right after me and my friends, millennials aged 18-25, because we’re vaguely aware The Sopranos and The Wire were pretty great shows, but we were way too young to catch ‘em on their first go.

The Sopranos, the most influential show included in a deal that will bring older HBO content to Amazon Prime subscribers even if they don’t separately subscribe to HBO, ran from 1999-2007. That means when Tony Soprano was first beamed into HBO subscribers’ homes, I was eleven years old, more interested in Nickelodeon offerings like Spongebob Squarepants or Rocket Power, both of which premiered in the same year. (HBO is a unit of TimeWarner, which also owns TIME.)

My generation’s tastes changed as we grew older, but it’s tough to fight society’s demands that we spend our time watching whatever’s hot at any given moment, lest we fall out of cultural relevancy. Some college friends watched The Sopranos or The Wire on DVD, but most of us preferred to spend our TV time making sure we were catching the moment’s hot shows, like The Office, The Walking Dead or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—we just didn’t have time for outdated stuff, regardless of how good it was.

Now, though, we want to catch up on what we’ve been told was some pretty great television. While some of us have HBO GO access for Game of Thrones and True Detective (thanks, Mom and Dad!) many of us don’t, because it’s still pretty expensive to add HBO service to most cable packages and we’re kind of broke right now. But we do have Amazon Prime, because we buy lots of stuff online and we want it fast – Prime’s pretty affordable when you consider all the benefits (subscribing to HBO for the video content doesn’t mean I can also get HBO to send me new socks and a box of Cup Noodles in two days’ time).

There’s still some cultural demand to watch today’s best shows, but there’s so much great television that we’ve got to pick and choose anyway: Game of Thrones, True Detective, Orphan Black, New Girl, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Veep, Silicon Valley, the 24 reboot, Orange is the New Black, Justified, Parks and Recreation, Sherlock, The Americans, Scandal and oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup playoffs, among other hits I’m missing here.

That picking-and-choosing that everybody’s doing reduces the cultural pressure to be up-to-date on all the top shows: If we all tried to watch all these shows so we could talk about each and every one of them around the watercooler, we’d all lose our jobs, and with them our access to the watercoolers to begin with. That’s lose-lose.

So, if you’ll need me, I’m taking a break from trying to keep up with today’s TV so I can finally get around to The Sopranos. No spoilers, please.

TIME Technologizer

When We Talk About Technology, It’s Time to Stop Using the Word ‘Mobile’

Portable Computer Terminal
In 1968's version of mobile computing, a man uses a Honeywell portable terminal in a telephone booth Underwood Archive / Getty Images

It was a very useful term for a very long time, but it's increasingly obsolete

Back when I was a wee lad and first became obsessed with computers, we called them by a name you don’t hear anymore: “microcomputers.”

That was to distinguish them from the big, important machines of the day–minicomputers and mainframes–and once it became clear that the vast majority of computers would be microcomputers, nobody felt obliged to be so specific.

Years later, when some PCs acquired audio-visual features such as sound cards and the ability to play back video, they were known as “multimedia PCs,” or MPCs for short. And then virtually all PCs got those features, and we stopped drawing that distinction.

It’s now time to do something similar: When we talk about technology, we ought to stop throwing around the word “mobile.”

At the moment, it’s one of the industry’s favorite words. Companies declare that they’re pursuing a mobile-first strategy; people talk about mobile operating systems; we make reference to having left the age of PCs behind and entered the mobile era.

Here’s why the term–which I cheerfully admit I use all the time–seems increasingly out of date:

Mobile is the default, and has been for a very long time. Depending on whose numbers you believe and how you do the math, sales of laptop computers overtook desktop PCs as long ago as 2003. Smartphones vastly outsell PCs, and tablets may surpass them as well any moment now. As for other devices–well, except for desktop computers, printers and scanners, how many pieces of hardware aren’t mobile these days?

Lumping phones and tablets into one category makes no sense. I acknowledge that there’s a great deal of technological overlap between them. But phones are designed for fast-paced, on-the-go usage scenarios, while a tablet is often something you relax with when you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, like a good book. We think of them as one category in part because neither is a PC, a mindset we should have moved past by now. It’s like declaring burger joints and steakhouses to be one category of restaurant based on their shared usage of beef.

There are no longer clear boundaries. Maybe there was a time when you could declare iOS and Android to be mobile operating systems, and Windows to be something else. But Windows now runs on tablets and phones that compete directly with iOS and Android devices, as well as on various sorts of hybrid devices that are part PC, part tablet. Also: I’m writing this piece on a Chromebook, and I have no idea whether I’m expected to consider Chrome OS to be a mobile operating system, a desktop one or some sort of unique category.

It’s not just about portability. The fact that it happens to be easy to carry around computing devices is an awfully superficial way to define an entire era. I hate the term “cloud,” but at least it acknowledges the fact that we’re all using web-based services and storing a meaningful percentage of our data online rather than on our hard disks. That’s as important a factor as the weight and dimensions of any given piece of hardware.

So if we stop using the word “mobile,” what should we replace it with?

Here’s my proposal: nothing. Personal technology is almost always mobile these days. In those rare instances when it isn’t, we can say so. O.K.?

Now that we’ve cleared this up, we can move on to other pressing issues. Such as rethinking the term “desktop,” which can mean a computer that isn’t portable (“desktop PC”). Or any piece of PC software, even if you’re running it on a laptop (“desktop browser”). Or, if you’re talking about Windows 8, only a certain type of PC software…

Bonus tidbit: Here, thanks to the indispensable Google Ngram Viewer, is a chart showing the rise and fall of the term “microcomputer,” which peaked in the mid-1980s.



Definitive Proof the Apple vs. Samsung Case Is Really About Google

Justin Lane—EPA

Apple’s on-going patent lawsuit against Samsung has long been cast as a proxy war against Google, the maker of the Android operating system that powers the Samsung devices competing with the iPhone. New evidence revealed during the Samsung-Apple trial illustrate that Google is in fact a direct player in the conflict.

On Tuesday Apple brought forth a deposition by a Google employee confirming that Google had sent emails to Samsung offering to help pay some of the cell phone manufacturer’s legal costs in the case. Google even offered to help pay for some of the damages if Samsung loses. Google said it would provide financial aid regarding two of the five patents that Apple has brought to trial. Apple is seeking a total of $2.2 billion in damages in the infringement case.

Earlier in the trial, Google employees testified on Samsung’s behalf, saying that Google had independently created some of the technology Apple is litigating over for its own Android platform before the iPhone launched.

The patent trial has led to the airing of much dirty laundry among some of the world’s largest tech giants. Samsung acknowledged that Steve Jobs’ death would provide Apple an “unintended benefit,” for example, and Apple fretted over the effectiveness of Samsung ads mocking the iPhone.

TIME social networks

Twitter’s New Profile Design: 8 Points to Consider

Twitter's new profile design is finally available to everyone, and it's brimming with improvements.

Twitter’s redesigned profile pages were previously available to select users in a staggered rollout that’s been ongoing for weeks, but as of today, they’re available to anyone so inclined to push a button and pull the trigger. The social microblogging network’s new look does indeed, as you’ve perhaps heard, have something of Facebook’s affectations with its newly dominant top-third banner and left-side headshot overlooking a three-column spread, where the central column comprising your tweets occupies about 50% of your browser’s total, width-wise.


Twitter’s covered most of this in a blog post, but let’s step through the new features anyway, and I’ll do my best to annotate.

Twitter hasn’t changed — not really

It’s still a giant column of pith, stacked in rectangles (mostly), and filled with all your wit and wisdom. It’s still Twitter, that is, with all its eggs in the same minimalist baskets, and none of Facebook’s busy, multilayered distractions.

..but it’s clearly more Facebook-like.

Whoever said “good artists borrow, great ones steal” had it exactly right. I’m not sure I’d call any of Twitter’s tweaks outright stealing, but there’s definitely some borrowing going on. And you could argue, given Twitter’s relative simplicity (contrasted with Facebook’s clutter), that these design choices work better on Twitter: the 1,500 x 500 pixel banner up top lets you add scenery where before your profile picture looked like a postage stamp clapped on top of a smallish picture box. And that banner only nudges the top menu — where it tallies tweets, who you’re following, your followers and more — down roughly an inch.

In short, Twitter’s profile pages now use browser-space more efficiently, fitting more in without cramping your view.

Isn’t the new font for tweets kinda gargantuan?

I don’t think so. Facebook lets you post over 60,000 characters a shot, where Twitter still limits you to 140 characters per tweet. In the new design, tweets that do more business than others (Twitter refers to this as “engagement”) use a font that’s roughly twice as big as before. That’s contrasted against the left- and right-hand columns, which still use a smaller font.

Twitter wants that central column to pop, not be equal to or subsumed by its surroundings. It’s the company broadening its social networking grammar, cribbing a feature from tag clusters of old, as well as telegraphing what it still views as its most important asset — your tweets — in the mix.

You’ll want a 400 x 400 profile photo.

Under the new design, Twitter’s basically taking the upsized version of your profile picture when clicked and making it the default size against its new topside banner background.

I wasn’t sure what size my existing picture was, so I checked: 256 x 256 pixels. You don’t have to upgrade — your old pic will upscale in the new design — but if you want to look smart (as in sharp, focus-wise), take the time to re-crop and upload that old profile shot at 400 x 400 pixels, or just use the design switch as an opportunity to create a new one.

You’ll want a 1,500 x 500 background header, too.

They’re laid out in a way that’s not distracting — that, and if you don’t upload one, you’re stuck with a bland color and message declaiming “Make this space yours. Add a photo!”

If you don’t have one handy, Twitter’s offering an attractive collection of Flickr images to get you started here.

The menu has more data angles, and they’re important ones.

Ever since Twitter added the option to include inline photos and videos, we’ve been accruing repositories of visual content. Under the old design, these were jammed into a lefthand box that, when clicked, swapped your tweet column for a stacked picture/video column. In the new design, picture/video is just another menu option next to tweets and followers. When clicked, it smartly hijacks both the center and righthand side of your view, giving you two full columns to peruse more content at once — another nod to Facebook’s News Feed aesthetic.

There’s some duplication of effort here: Twitter’s left that standalone photos/videos box over in the lefthand column, but it feels like a reasonable compromise between making the box the only way to access your media and yanking it entirely and preventing visitors from peeping your most recent shots.

You can fine-tune your Twitter-stream.

The old design included both tweets and replies in one unbroken stream under “tweets.” The new design defaults to just your tweets (without replies) and lets you opt to view “tweets and replies,” as well as favorites and followers (who now appear, like photos/videos, in a smart, semi-tiled view that hijacks the middle and righthand columns). That added layer of control granularity lets both you or your visitors scroll through your dispatches much more quickly, if desired.

You can pin your best stuff to promote conversations.

As with all of the prior points, this matters only for people visiting your Twitter page on the web — if they use a client app, it’s irrelevant, and it’s not clear when/if we’ll see versions that avail themselves of these tweaks — but you can now pin your “best” tweets to the top of your feed, like threads on a message board, allowing you to flag your favorite thoughts or conversations for passersby.

It’s probably a bigger deal if you’re using Twitter as a business and want to highlight a press release or promotion (or a news site looking to highlight a story), but regardless, it’s nice to see Twitter adding features that add more options to the conversation without bogging down feeds or noticeably interrupting their flow.

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