The Britton Digital Update—Week of November 28 2016
Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news
If you ask people what Thanksgiving is about, they will give answers about being thankful, spending time with family, and enjoying a mouth-watering feast—oh, and shopping. On the one hand, they’ll probably tell you how horrible it is that businesses open earlier than ever to capture your shopping dollars. But what they won’t tell you about is how their smartphone was in the other hand. According to Adobe, mobile revenue on Black Friday was up 48 percent year over year, with more than $1.19 billion spent in the palm of our hands. Cyber Monday followed with a record $3.39 billion to become the largest online shopping day in history, edging out Black Friday. These were the two biggest online shopping days since Al Gore invented the internet.
I’ll admit that I was a part of it. By Thanksgiving morning, I had half of my holiday shopping completed and all of it was on my phone. I certainly wasn’t alone. The National Retail Foundation said more than 108 billion people shopped online over the Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of stores opening on Thanksgiving, mostly because this prevented some of my family from participating in our holiday celebration. However, if I can save on my phone while basting the turkey (yes, I cooked the feast), I’m all for “stuffing” my virtual cart.
Since you’re busy checking items off your shopping list, we’ve curated the top digital news from the past week to make sure you don’t skip a beat. Of course, not reading it could put you on the naughty list. You’ve been warned.
Give a Gift from the My Hearts Collection
Speaking of shopping, there’s a little-known section of Amazon that can help you accomplish the impossible and find a unique gift for the quirkiest of those on your shopping list. The section was formerly known as Amazon Collections, but it has been revised and has morphed into a Pinterest-like section called Interesting Finds. Here, you can find random items (some curated by Amazon employees) such as floppy-disk drink coasters, a 3-D food printer, and a book titled Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. You can “heart” items you like—which makes Interesting Finds similar to Pinterest—and save them in your very own My Hearts collection.
To find that must-have Amazon item, type “interesting finds” in the search bar, on desktop or mobile, and click on “More from Amazon” in the navigation menu. I know what you’re thinking: Why would I need a pair of $38 Grumpy Cat plush slippers? Well, remember, your workplace Secret Santa gift exchange is just around the corner.
Rebuilding the Internet—in Space
With all those extra people shopping through mobile devices (and Facebook’s quest to push us to everything video), we’re going to suck up bandwidth pretty quickly. Elon Musk and SpaceX think they have a solution—and it’s a lofty one, literally. SpaceX filed an application last month with the FCC to launch 4,225 satellites into space. This number is significant because it is more than all the active and inactive satellites currently in space—combined. Each of these satellites is roughly the size of a Mini Cooper. Together, they would blanket the planet with an internet speed of 1 gigabyte per second. That’s nearly 200 times faster than the global average speed of 5.1 megabytes per second.
Some reports estimate the project to cost more than $10 billion, but with investors like Google, this obstacle won’t necessarily keep the project grounded. And if successful, it could project internet to more remote parts of the planet that have little or no access now. It’s definitely an idea that’s out of this world.
Nintendo has been a part of many Christmas mornings, but the company’s announcement this week would make it feel like Christmas all year-round. The video-game giant is giving consumers a chance to “feel like you are playing inside their favorite games—this time, in real life” with its plans to open new attractions in Universal Studios theme parks in Japan, Orlando, and Hollywood. According to Nintendo, the goal is “to bring the characters, action, and adventure of Nintendo video games to life.” The company plans to bring the worlds (like Mario and others) of Nintendo to Universal Studios with question blocks, giant piranha plants, and so much more. Personally, I just want to go into one of those green Mario pipes.
Nintendo and Universal Studios say planning is well underway, but the areas will open separately in each city over the next several years. More details are expected from Nintendo and Universal Studios soon.
And while your attention is on video games, it’s a good time to let you know that Facebook wants to challenge you to a game of Pac-Man. Actually, it wants you to challenge your friends. Facebook released Instant Games this week to many of its 1 billion users, allowing them to access 17 games through a video-game controller button on Messenger or right in the Facebook news feed. In addition to Pac-Man, childhood favorites Galaga and Space Invaders are included, as well as some newer titles like Words with Friends. More games are expected to be added later.
It’s easy to challenge your Facebook friends, which I’m sure will mean the return of game requests (remember those annoying FarmVille notifications?). And as far as Pac-Man is concerned, I remember playing it at my neighborhood pizza shop while waiting for our food. I expect that I won’t be any better at it now than I was then.
One of the biggest categories for holiday shopping continues to be electronics. Not just video games, but electronic devices designed to make our lives easier. However, sometimes easier leads to other headaches. One of the headaches that has floated to the surface involves your synced iCloud calendar. Many of us sync personal and work calendars together to be able to get all of our data in one place. This can make us more efficient in scheduling time and allow the devices to do their job. But where there is good, there is evil. In this case, the evil is spam. According to TechCrunch, many users are reporting calendar spam that involves being invited to events that are really just ads. In many cases, these are invites (much like email spam) to Black Friday deals for sunglasses and purse knock-offs.
Thanks to encryption, it’s difficult for Apple to prevent some of this iSpam, but it’s definitely on the radar. One suggestion for combating it is to set your preferences to receive calendar invites as email. The theory is that your email spam filter can catch more than the calendars. Of course, this dismisses the fact that you just may be interested in knock-off Ray-Bans and having your identity stolen.
Uber Wants to Know Where You Are Going
With the holiday and ugly-sweater-party season upon us, many of us plan on using a driver service to make the responsible choice not to drink and drive. In many cases, the choice is Uber, so it is important to note a big change in how Uber works that was announced this week. The change involves more how it tracks your data than how you utilize its services.
Before its most recent app update, Uber tracked only your location while the app was open. Now, Uber always wants you to share your location while the app runs in the background. This information can be used by Uber to improve pick-ups and drop-offs, because this is the No. 1 reason that riders and drivers contact each other. According to TechCrunch, “those who don’t want to share the extra location data with Uber can turn off location sharing in their phone’s settings” and can manually enter a location address for pick-up. Who knew that following me around all day would make Uber more efficient?
For the rest of the news this past week, here’s a compilation of the best news stories that we don’t have time to expound upon but that you should probably take notice of: