TIME Media

Spotify Streams Will Soon Be Included on the Billboard Charts

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

1,500 streams will count as a sale

Streams from music streaming services like Spotify will soon be included on the charts that rank music album sales.

Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan will begin including streams in the rankings of the Billboard 200, the album charts that are the weekly benchmark for success in the music industry, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The new ranking formula will equate 1,500 streams from an album on services like Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody as a sale. Online downloads of ten or more individual tracks by consumers will also be counted as an album sale.

The inclusion of more digital services will likely help move acts that appeal to younger audiences further up the charts. Legacy acts whose audiences mostly buy CDs, however, could be negatively affected.

The music charts are increasingly being influenced by online music services. Last year, Billboard announced that it would begin including music streams in its Hot 100 ranking of the most popular singles.

[New York Times]

TIME Companies

Yahoo Will Be Firefox’s Default Search Engine Until 2019

A screen displays the logo of the open-s
Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images A screen displays the logo of the open-source web browser Firefox on July 31, 2009, in London.

"Most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years"

Yahoo and Mozilla have announced a strategic five-year partnership making Yahoo the default search engine for the Firefox browser, according to a Wednesday statement on Mozilla’s blog.

The agreement, called “the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years,” will introduce an enhanced search experience featuring a “clean, modern and immersive design” for U.S. Firefox users starting next month. The partnership will also open up the door to explore other product integrations between the Internet company and the Internet browser.

“We’re so proud that [Mozilla has] chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the statement. “At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us.”

 

TIME Smartphones

Here’s What Happens to Your Spine When You’re Constantly Texting

Spine Phone Texting
Kenneth Hansraj

A spinal surgeon explains why your cell phone habits are hurting your neck

Your Candy Crush addiction might be harming your neck more than your productivity, according to new research.

Looking down at your phone can add up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine, depending on the angle. That’s according to a new study from spinal surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj and published in Surgical Technology International.

People spend two to four hours per day on average with their heads tilted downward in activities like texting and reading, the study said. Over the course of a year, that time adds up to 700 to 1,400 hours of excess stress on the cervical spine, or up to 5,000 hours for high school students. Over time, this causes a hunched-forward position and increases the risk of spinal wear and tear.

It’s “nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues,” Dr. Hansraj wrote in the report. But people can take preventative steps by looking at their phones while maintaining good posture, defined as having one’s ears aligned with their shoulders.

 

TIME Retail

Shoppers Just Don’t Care About Credit Card Hacks

Major Retailers Begin Black Friday Sales Thanksgiving Night
Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images People shop at a Target on Thanksgiving night November 22, 2012 in Highland, Indiana.

Target and Home Depot both reported great earnings reports this week

If Target and The Home Depot are still reeling from the collective breach of 96 million customers’ credit and debit cards, it didn’t show in either company’s earnings reports this week.

Target posted $17.73 billion in revenue on Wednesday, beating one Wall Street consensus forecast by $17 million. That paled in comparison to Home Depot’s rosy earnings report on Tuesday, which showed store sales in the U.S. climbed by 5.8% in the third quarter. Breaches? What breaches?

Target’s dataclysm receded into the rear view mirror as the company revealed that expenses related to a credit card data breach late last year had plateaued at $153 million. The market rallied around its stock, driving up the share price by more than 6%. The Home Depot’s breach, though, was bigger and more recent. The verdict?

“We believe the breach is firmly behind [Home Depot] with momentum heading into 4Q,” wrote J.P. Morgan analyst Christophers Horvers. That assessment comes two months after Home Depot’s September announcement that 56 million credit card accounts had been hacked and upwards of 53 million email addresses were stolen. The only major business fallout for the company, as far as analysts could detect, was a curious blip in traffic toward Home Depot’s chief competitor, Lowe’s. “Perhaps the breach provided some traffic benefit,” Horvers speculated, before moving onto the retailer’s solid sales growth.

If neither shoppers nor shareholders ultimately punish big businesses for data breaches, will companies move to prevent them before they occur?

“In the end, the market’s behaving completely rationally,” says Avivah Litan, a security analyst for Gartner. “It’s still a pain in the neck for everyone, but there’s very little actual fraud committed as a result of these breaches.”

Litan says that hackers like those who pilfered credit card numbers at Target and Home Depot typically have a very short window of opportunity — less than one month — to rack up fraudulent charges before banks detect the suspicious activity. These heists tend to run in the range of $10 million, and shoppers rarely ever bear the costs. Instead, banks split the sum with the affected retailer, where any remaining cash vanishes into the fine print of the company’s quarterly earnings reports.

The real question, then, is why credit card hacks continue to make front page news. In the grand scheme of online theft, Litan says, what happened to Target and Home Depot shoppers is small potatoes — identity thieves have pulled off heists at ten times the scale of credit card fraud by going after medical and tax records. However, credit card hacks on retailers get lots of public attention because so many people can be affected so quickly.

“Stealing 50 million cards is just as easy as stealing 100 cards,” Litan says. The sheer number of stolen cards conjures up an image of a whole nation of shoppers exposed and helpless. But these crime stories tend to end with about as much drama as a third quarter earnings report.

TIME privacy

What Is Uber Really Doing With Your Data?

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.

"I was tracking you"

Uber has had a rocky few days. On Monday, it was revealed that the ride-sharing app’s senior vice president, Emil Michael proposed the idea of investigating critical journalists’ personal lives in order to dig up dirt on them. On Tuesday, the company published a blog post clarifying its privacy policy. And Uber is investigating its top New York executive for tracking a reporter without her permission, TIME learned Wednesday.

What is Uber really up to, and what are its employees allowed to do?

What Uber does with your data

Uber has a company tool called “God View” that reveals the location of Uber vehicles and customers who request a car, two former Uber employees told Buzzfeed. Corporate employees have access to the tool, though drivers do not. But a wide number of Uber employees can apparently view customers’ locations. (Uber did not confirm or deny the tool’s existence to TIME, but it’s worth noting that “God View” is a widely used term in the gaming world.)

Still, several previous incidents appear to confirm the existence of Uber’s so-called God View.

Venture capitalist Peter Sims said in a September blog post that Uber had once projected his private location data on a screen at a well-attended Chicago launch party:

One night, a couple of years ago, I was in an Uber SUV in NYC, headed to Penn Station to catch the train to Washington DC when I got a text message from a tech socialite of sorts (I’ll spare her name because Gawker has already parodied her enough), but she’s someone I hardly know, asking me if I was in an Uber car at 33th and 5th (or, something like that). I replied that I was indeed, thinking that she must be in an adjacent car. Looking around, she continued to text with updates of my car’s whereabouts, so much so that I asked the driver if others could see my Uber location profile? “No,” he replied, “that’s not possible.”

At that point, it all just started to feel weird, until finally she revealed that she was in Chicago at the launch of Uber Chicago, and that the party featured a screen that showed where in NYC certain “known people” (whatever that means) were currently riding in Uber cabs. After learning this, I expressed my outrage to her that the company would use my information and identity to promote its services without my permission. She told me to calm down, and that it was all a “cool” event and as if I should be honored to have been one of the chosen.

And this month, a Buzzfeed reporter arrived for an interview at Uber’s New York headquarters only to find the company’s top manager in the city, Josh Mohrer, was waiting for her. According to Buzzfeed, Mohrer said, “There you are,” while gesturing at his iPhone. “I was tracking you.” Mohrer didn’t ask for permission to track Johana, Buzzfeed reports.

Of course, Uber also uses customer data for the humdrum daily task of connecting riders with drivers as well as resolving disputes and reaching out to customers.

What Uber says it can do with your data

Uber says it only uses your data for “legitimate business purposes” and that its team audits who has access to its data on an ongoing basis. “Our data privacy policy applies to all employees: access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes,” a spokesperson told TIME. “Data security specialists monitor and audit that access on an ongoing basis. Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.”

And in its privacy policy, Uber says that it can use your personal information or usage information—that includes your location, email, credit card, name or IP address—”for internal business purposes” as well as to facilitate its service for pickups and communicating with customers.

Uber clarified in a blog post Tuesday that “legitimate business purposes” include facilitating payments for drivers, monitoring for fraudulent activity and troubleshooting user bugs.

Another important point: Uber says it can hold on to your data even if you delete your account. The company claims it keeps your credit card information, geo-location and trip history “to comply with our legal and regulatory obligations” and “resolve disputes.” Users have to provide a written request in order to completely delete an Uber profile along with all their data.

MORE: A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

So did Uber do anything wrong?

Strictly by its own standards, it appears that Uber may not have violated its own rules when Josh Mohrer tracked Buzzfeed’s reporter. There’s no indication Mohrer shared the information outside Uber—which would disqualify it from being “internal”—but it’s hard argue that he tracked the reporter for a “business purpose.” (Maybe it saved Mohrer time? Or he was showing off the feature? It’s hard to say.)

At the Uber Chicago launch party where Peter Sims’ location was reportedly tracked, the data was shared with people outside the company, as non-employees were at the event. That’s hard to justify by Uber’s rules. However, Uber’s privacy policy was updated in 2013, and the Chicago launch party occurred “a couple of years ago,” by Sims’ telling. So it’s unclear whether the move violated Uber’s privacy rules at that time.

Should you delete your Uber account?

If you’ve lost all trust in Uber and think that other ride-share apps like Lyft (or plain old taxis) are better, than yes, perhaps. But there isn’t any evidence that Uber is inappropriately using customer data on a widespread scale. And if you do delete your account, remember: unless you write in, Uber will still have your data.

TIME Media

Apple Reportedly Making Beats Music a Pre-Installed iPhone App

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones Company
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Beats headphones are sold along side iPods in an Apple store on May 9, 2014 in New York City.

The change could come as soon as March

Apple is, unsurprisingly, planning to use the massive reach of the iPhone and iPad to put its newly acquired Beats Music streaming service in front of more people.

The company is planning to make Beats Music one of the pre-installed iOS apps in an upcoming software update, according to the Financial Times. The move could happen as soon as March.

Apple acquired Beats for its headphone and music streaming businesses for $3 billion earlier this year. While the headphones are a bona fide hit, Beats Music is thought to have a tiny user base—founder Jimmy Iovine pegged the number of subscribers at 250,000 in May, whereas rival Spotify has 50 million monthly active users, 12.5 million of whom pay for an ad-free experience.

Making Beats a default iOS app would instantly give it exposure to hundreds of millions of potential new users. But the strategy isn’t fool-proof—iTunes Radio is now a default offering in iOS, but it’s done little to upset Pandora as the king of Internet radio.

TIME

Everything You Need to Know About Nintendo’s New Toy Figurines

Ty Milford / Nintendo

They're called Amiibo and they can do some incredible things

If I have a single critique of Nintendo’s amiibo, it’s that information about the company’s toy-game versions of its iconic characters like Mario, Link and Yoshi has been scattershot since the figurines were first revealed at E3 in June.

Nintendo rectified this by putting up a helpful amiibo website recently, but there’s still a fair amount about how amiibo works—and what makes them unique in a now fairly crowded toy-game market space—that you have to cobble together for yourself. The figures themselves sell in informationally blank receptacles, exhorting you to simply “collect, customize, and compete.” They don’t come with instructions, nor do the games they’re designed to initially work with offer robust tutorials.

So if some of these are on your holiday maybe list, here’s everything you need to know, including my initial impressions of some of the launch models.

We’re not sure what amiibo means either

But when I asked Nintendo’s director of product marketing Bill Trinen about it, this is what he told me:

They came up with the name in Japan, and the ‘amii’ portion comes from a little something in Japanese that conveys the sentiment of friend, of playing with your friend. That’s what they’re really trying to convey with it. I think for us it sounds a little like amigo. That’s not the origin of the name, but it conveys the intent.

The figures launch on November 21 alongside Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

That’s the release date for both franchises in North America, and at this point. And each of the dozen amiibo figures available at launch, as well as the ones coming later this year and early next, are part of Super Smash Bros.‘s massive fighter lineup.

Amiibo as it exists on November 21 is clearly biased toward Smash, too–the golden base tops even sport the Smash series’ trademark crosshatch logo.

They’re not ridiculously expensive

Nintendo’s suggested retail price is $12.99 per figure, which is what everyone appears to be selling them for heading into the holidays. With a dozen figures available at launch, they’ll set you back $156 if you’re looking to collect the set.

The figures talk to your Wii U GamePad using NFC

NFC, or near-field communication, is just a standard for two devices to communicate wirelessly over extremely small distances. In amiibo’s case, the figures have chips in their bases that activate when placed near the NFC sensor in the Wii U GamePad (you just tap the amiibo figure’s base to the designated area). If you own a Wii U, it’s the lower lefthand space on the GamePad with an icon that looks like a white rectangle pushed into a corner.

They don’t require batteries

The amiibo stands are roughly half an inch thick, bottom to top, without ingress points–they house no power sources because the NFC chip in each figure’s base is activated by its proximity to the Wii U GamePad’s NFC sensor. The figures don’t need batteries or anything else that’ll need replacing to do what they do, in other words.

Here’s every amiibo announced, and when it’s coming

The first 12 amiibo figures launch on November 21, and include the following characters: Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, Fox, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Peach, Marth, Yoshi, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer.

Nintendo’s planning to release six additional amiibo figures figures this December (dates unspecified): Diddy Kong, Zelda, Luigi, Captain Falcon, Pit and Little Mac.

And in February 2015, we’ve been told to expect: Bowser, Toon link, Sheik, Sonic, Mega Man, King Dedede, Ike, Rosalina & Luma, Shulk, Lucario and Meta Knight.

Here’s the list of amiibo-compatible games at launch

At launch, amiibo supports two games: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Mario Kart 8, and the updates to those games which enable amiibo functionality are live now.

And the list of amiibo-compatible games (probably) in the offing for later this year

Nintendo has announced amiibo support for both Hyrule Warriors (already out) and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (due on December 5). Nintendo’s Trinen told me he expects the amiibo update to Hyrule Warriors to arrive shortly after amiibo’s launch this week, though it’s unclear if we’ll see Captain Toad‘s update arrive in December or slip into 2015.

How does amiibo work in the launch games?

It’s different with each game, and this is where amiibo can get a little confusing. With Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity, those franchises’ respective figures are designed to work in relatively uniform ways with very specific games.

Amiibo, by contrast, was designed from the get-go to work with each Nintendo game uniquely. As Trinen put it when I spoke with him, Nintendo designed amiibo such that each studio can build amiibo functionality into their game in whatever way they feel best suits the gameplay, thus how your amiibo functions in one game may bear no resemblance to the way it functions in another.

In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, for instance, your amiibo becomes your sparring partner. It levels up as you train it and “feed” it stat boosts, in essence molding it into something that’s uniquely your own. You can then use it in battles against other players’ amiibos, or as a way to study your own strengths and weaknesses: if you’re great at a certain maneuver, your amiibo will be too, but if you’re not doing something you ought to be, say raising your character’s shield, neither will your amiibo.

In Hyrule Warriors, by contrast, using amiibos will unlock special once-a-day weapons or bonuses–unique ones if you use the Link or Zelda amiibos. And in Mario Kart 8, using an amiibo unlocks new racing outfits: basically costumes inspired by each amiibo that your Mii character can wear.

What other games will amiibo support?

Nintendo’s confirmed at least three future games will support amiibo: Mario Party 10 (2015), Yoshi’s Woolly World (spring 2015) and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (February 13, 2015).

It’s a safe bet that others, especially anything mainline like the next Legend of Zelda, will also include some form of amiibo support.

They’re seem beautifully made

I don’t collect action figures and have little experience of miniatures beyond some exploratory Warhammer figurine painting in the mid-2000s, but the three amiibo figures Nintendo sent me–Mario, Link and Kirby–seem immaculately manufactured. Each has a stylish pose and instantly recognizable expression, crisp design lines, intricate texturing and zero color bleed between even the tiniest zones.

They don’t work with Nintendo’s 3DS

Not yet, though Nintendo plans to eventually support the 3DS by way of a special NFC attachment the company’s pegged for 2015. For North American gamers in 2014, amiibo only works with the Wii U.

Amiibo does work natively with the “New Nintendo 3DS”–that’s its unofficial English name by way of Japanese translation at this point, anyway. But that slightly more powerful and joystick-doubled version of Nintendo’s dedicated gaming handheld isn’t available in the U.S. this year, and unless you’re fluent in Japanese, there’s no reason to bother importing one. Chances are we’ll see the new 3DS stateside in 2015, but Nintendo has only confirmed availability in Japan, Australia and New Zealand for 2014.

TIME Media

Nielsen Ratings Could Become a Major Headache for Netflix

Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Samira Wiley, Vicky Jeudy, Adrienne C. Moore
Jessica Miglio—Netflix (L-R) Danielle Brooks, Vicky Jeudy, Uzo Aduba, Adrienne C. Moore, and Samira Wiley in a scene from Netflix's Orange is the New Black Season 2.

Streaming service may lose leverage if viewership data is widely known

House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black are wildly popular hits that prove Netflix can make shows that compete with the best of cable programming…right? That’s been the narrative around the streaming service over the last year, but hard proof has been harder to come by. Netflix has never provided concrete data validating that its shows are watched by large numbers of viewers.

Soon Nielsen, the standard-bearer for TV ratings, may change that. The TV ratings company revealed to the Wall Street Journal that it’s planning to begin tracking viewership of online video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in December by analyzing the audio of shows that are being streamed. The new ratings will come with a lot of caveats—they won’t track mobile devices and won’t take into account Netflix’s large global reach—but they will provide a sense for the first time which Netflix shows are the most popular. And if the rest of the media world latches onto these new ratings as a standard, Netflix won’t be able to ignore them.

Ratings are important on traditional television because they help networks attract advertising. Netflix doesn’t sell ads and has argued that it therefore shouldn’t have to disclose its ratings. “It creates a benchmark that is irrelevant to the business but sexy and exciting to write about and puts a lot of performance pressure on shows that otherwise will be great shows over time,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at a conference in 2012. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment.

But TV ratings are about a lot more than selling ads. Netflix viewership data would give traditional TV networks a better sense of how popular their shows are on the platform and, perhaps more importantly, how essential they are to the overall Netflix experience. This could affect negotiations for licensing programming, especially as more content companies such as CBS and Comcast launch their own streaming services. Networks already regularly leverage the popularity of their programming to extract higher fees from cable operators in very public spats, so they’d likely have no problem pulling Netflix into a similar scrum.

Ratings also help attract talent in the traditional TV world. HBO has risen to the top of the premium cable heap by continually serving up shows that are both critically acclaimed and extremely popular. If Netflix’s original shows are revealed to be watched less than those on TV, it might be harder to attract a David Fincher or a Kevin Spacey to the streaming service (even Fincher and Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan don’t know how popular their Netflix shows are).

Finally, regular ratings could introduce further volatility to Netflix’s already bumpy stock. The company’s share price tumbled more than 25% after it missed its own subscriber growth forecast in October. Investors might be further scared scared off if there were signs that the company’s growing stable of expensive original shows were not as popular as they believed.

Of course, there are ways Nielsen ratings could work in Netflix’s favor. If the company’s shows really are huge hits, that just lends more credence to its narrative as a television disruptor and could help convince more Hollywood stars to work with the streaming service. It’s also possible that Nielsen’s methodology, which is rather vague at the moment, won’t be considered accurate enough to be taken seriously. The company just recently acknowledged that it was reporting inaccurate ratings for the broadcast networks for seven months this year. And Viacom’s CEO has said he wants to adopt different ratings standards because he thinks Nielsen has been too slow to adapt to shifting consumer habits.

Either way, Netflix will probably have to contend with questions about the Nielsen figures from media executives, analysts, and reporters for a quite a while. It’s an unknown variable in their growth story that they’d likely rather not deal with. As the calculating Frank Underwood once said, “There’s a value in having secrets.”

TIME Video Games

Watch This Hilarious Fake Trailer for the New Super Smash Bros.

'Or throw out skill out the window by turning on Items'

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U hits store shelves Friday here in the U.S., and Nintendo fans around the country are amped up for the latest game in one of the company’s most popular series.

But before Bros. hits your Wii U, check out this hilarious “Honest Game Trailer” from Smosh Games, a YouTube channel covering all things video games.

TIME Gadgets

Apple Just Revealed Lots More Info About the Apple Watch

Apple Watch SDK New Features
Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images View of the Apple watch displayed in a shop on September 30, 2014.

We can learn a lot from the Apple Watch's developer guidelines

Apple opened the floodgates for Apple Watch developers Tuesday when it made the smartwatch’s Software Development Kit available for the first time. But the SDK isn’t just for coders — it also has lots of hints about what using the Apple Watch will be like for consumers when it hits store shelves sometime next year.

Here are some new discoveries about the Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch isn’t a standalone device

The iPhone is pretty much a requirement if you want to use what will be the Apple Watch’s most advanced apps. In Apple’s own words, “a Watch app complements your iOS app; it does not replace it.” Apple Watch apps will essentially run on your iPhone, and the smartwatch will be an extension of your smartphone.

The Apple Watch probably has the most hi-res screen of any smartwatch

We already knew the Apple Watch’s two sizes (just their heights, not widths). But now we know their display resolutions, too. The 38mm watch is 272×340 pixels, while the 42mm watch is 312×390 pixels. Apple says those are good enough resolutions to be labeled as Retina displays, which Apple has said is a feature of the watch.

Still, it’s unclear exactly how sharp the displays will be. Some estimates have put the Apple Watch screen clarity on the level of the iPhone 5, which has a more hi-res display than iPads and MacBook Pros. If that’s the case, the Apple Watch could boast a better display than the current smartwatch market leader, Samsung Gear S.

The Apple Watch could come in more sizes

The way Apple has set up the Apple Watch’s interface is more like a website than a smartphone, which should make it easier for developers to adapt their apps to work on larger or smaller watches sometime down the road. While our wrists are only so wide, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Apple is considering new ways to build all sorts of screens.

There’s a brand new font

The new font, called San Francisco, was “designed specifically for legibility on Apple Watch,” according to Apple’s developers’ site. The sans serif font looks a bit like Arial and is meant to take up less horizontal space.

There are two types of notifications

Apple gave users a preview of how notifications work during the Apple Watch unveiling, but we know a bit more now. There are two types of “looks:” the Short Look, which briefly provides a “discreet, minimal amount of information” when you raise your wrist, and the Long Look, which gives you more info if you tap on a Short Look notification or keep your wrist held up.

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