13 ways to screw over your internet provider – gpgmail


Internet providers are real bastards: they have captive audiences whom they squeeze for every last penny while they fight against regulation like net neutrality and donate immense amounts of money to keep on lawmakers’ good sides. So why not turn the tables? Here are 13 ways to make sure your ISP has a hard time taking advantage of you (and may even put it on the defensive).

Disclosure: Verizon, an internet provider guilty of all these infractions, owns gpgmail, and I don’t care.

1. Buy a modem and router instead of renting

The practice of renting a device to users rather than selling it or providing it as part of the service is one of the telecommunications industry’s oldest and worst. People pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars over years for equipment worth $40 or $50. ISPs do this with various items, but the most common item is probably the modem.

This is the gadget that connects to the cable coming out of your wall, and then connects in turn (or may also function as) your wireless and wired router. ISPs often provide this equipment at the time of install, and then charge you $5 to $10 per month forever. What they don’t tell you is you can probably buy the exact same item for somewhere between $30 and $100.

The exact model you need will depend on your service, but it will be listed somewhere, and they should tell you what they’d provide if you ask. Look online, buy a new or lightly used one, and it will have paid for itself before the year is out. Not only that, but you can do stuff like upgrade or change the software on it all you want, because it’s yours. Bonus: The ISP is limited in what it can do to the router (like letting other people connect — yes, it’s a thing).

2. Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free

I had an issue with my Comcast internet a while back that took them several visits from a service tech to resolve. It wasn’t an issue on my end, which was why I was surprised to find they’d charged me $30 or so every time the person came.

If your ISP wants to send someone out, ask whether it’s free, and if it isn’t, tell them to make it free or ask if you can do it yourself (sometimes it’s for really simple stuff like swapping a cable). If they charge you for a visit, call them and ask them to take it off your bill. Say you weren’t informed and you’ll inform the Better Business Bureau about it, or take your business elsewhere, or something. They’ll fold.

When someone does come…

3. Get deals from the installer

If you do end up having someone come out, talk to them to see whether there are any off the record deals they can offer you. I don’t mean anything shady like splitting cables with the neighbor, just offers they know about that aren’t publicized because they’re too good to advertise.

A lot of these service techs are semi-independent contractors paid by the call, and their pay has nothing to do with which service you have or choose. They have no reason to upsell you and every reason to make you happy and get a good review. Sometimes that means giving you the special desperation rates ISPs withhold until you say you’re going to leave.

And as long as you’re asking…

4. Complain, complain, complain

This sounds bad, but it’s just a consequence of how these companies work: The squeaky wheels get the grease. There’s plenty of grease to go around, so get squeaking.

Usually this means calling up and doing one of several things. You can complain that service has been bad — outages and such — and ask that they compensate you for that. You can say that a competing ISP started offering service at your location and it costs $20 less, so can they match that. Or you can say your friend just got a promotional rate and you’d like to take advantage of it… otherwise you’ll leave to that phantom competitor. (After all, we know there’s often little or no real competition.)

What ISPs, and, more importantly, what their customer service representatives care about is keeping you on as a customer. They can always raise rates or upsell you later, but having you as a subscriber is the important thing.

Note that some reps are more game than others. Some will give you the runaround, while others will bend over backwards to help you out. Feel free to call a few times and do a bit of window shopping. (By the way, if you get someone nice, give them a good review if you get the chance, usually right after the call or chat. It helps them out a lot.) Obviously you can’t call every week with new demands, so wait until you think you can actually save some money.

Which reminds me…

5. Choose your service level wisely

ISPs offer a ton of choices, and make it confusing on purpose so you end up picking an expensive one just to be sure you have what you need. The truth is most people can probably do pretty much everything they need on the lowest tier they offer.

A 1080p Netflix stream will work fine on a 25 Mbps connection, which is what I have. I also work entirely online, stream high-def videos at a dozen sites all day, play games, download movies and do lots of other stuff, sometimes all at the same time. I think I pay $45 a month. But rates like mine might not be advertised prominently or at all. I only found out when I literally asked what the cheapest possible option was.

That said, if you have three kids who like to watch videos simultaneously, or you have a 4K streaming setup that you use a lot, you’ll want to bump that up a bit. But you’d be surprised how seldom the speed limit actually comes into play.

To be clear, it’s still important that higher tiers are available, and that internet providers upgrade their infrastructure, because competition and reliability need to go up and prices need to come down. The full promise of broadband should be accessible to everyone for a reasonable fee, and that’s still not the case.

6. Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke

Cord-cutting is fun. Broadcast TV is annoying, and getting around ads and air times using a DVR is very 2005. Most shows are available on streaming services of some kind or another, and while those services are multiplying, you could probably join all of them for well under what you’re paying for the 150 cable channels you never watch.

Unless you really need to watch certain games or news shows as they’re broadcast, you can get by streaming everything. This has the side effect of starving networks of viewers and accelerating the demise of these 20th-century relics. Good ones will survive as producers and distributors of quality programming, and you can support them individually on their own merits. It’s a weird transitional time for TV, but we need to drop-kick them into the future so they’ll stop charging us for a media structure established 50 years ago.

Something isn’t available on a streaming service? 100 percent chance it’s because of some dumb exclusivity deal or licensing SNAFU. Go pirate it for now, then happily pay for it as soon as it’s made available. This method is simple for you and instructive for media companies. (They always see piracy rates drop when they make things easy to find and purchase.)

This also lets you avoid certain fees ISPs love tacking onto your bill. I had a “broadcast TV fee” on my bill despite not having any kind of broadcast service, and I managed to get it taken off and retroactively paid back.

On that note…

7. Watch your bill like a hawk

Telecoms just love putting things on your bill with no warning. It’s amazing how much a bill can swell from the quoted amount once they’ve added all the little fees, taxes and service charges. What are they, anyway? Why not call and ask?

You might find out, as I did, that your ISP had “mistakenly” been charging you for something — like equipment — that you never had nor asked for. Amazing how these lucrative little fees tend to fall through the cracks!

Small charges often increase and new ones get added as well, so download your bill when you get it and keep it somewhere (or just keep the paper copies). These are really handy to have when you’re on the phone with a rep. “Why wasn’t I informed my bill would increase this month by $50?” “Why is this fee more now than it was in July?” “Why do I pay a broadcast fee if I don’t pay for TV?” These are the types of questions that get you discounts.

Staying on top of these fees also means you’ll be more aware when there are things like mass refunds or class action lawsuits about them. Usually these have to be opted into — your ISP isn’t going to call you, apologize and send a check.

As long as you’re looking closely at your bill…

8. Go to your account and opt out of everything

When you sign up for broadband service, you’re going to get opted into a whole heap of things. They don’t tell you about these, like the ads they can inject, the way they’re selling this or that data or that your router might be used as a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

You’ll only find this out if you go to your account page at your ISP’s website and look at everything. Beyond the usual settings like your address and choice of whether to receive a paper bill, you’ll probably find a few categories like “privacy” and “communications preferences.”

Click through all of these and look for any options to opt out of stuff. You may find that your ISP has reserved the right to let partners email you, use your data in ways you wouldn’t expect and so on. It only takes a few minutes to get out of all this, and it deprives the ISP of a source of income while also providing a data point that subscribers don’t like these practices.

9. Share your passwords

Your friend’s internet provider gets him streaming services A, B and C, while yours gives you X, Y and Z. Again, this is not about creators struggling to get their content online, but rather all about big media and internet corporations striking deals that make them money and harm consumers.

Share your (unique, not reused!) passwords widely and with a clean conscience. No company objects when you invite your friends over to watch “Fleabag” at your house. This just saves everyone a drive!

10. Encrypt everything and block trackers

One of the internet companies’ many dirty little deals is collecting and selling information on their customers’ watching and browsing habits. Encrypting your internet traffic puts the kibosh on this creepy practice — as well as being good security.

This isn’t really something you can do too much to accomplish, since over the last few years encryption has become the rule rather than the exception, even at sites where you don’t log in or buy anything. If you want to be sure, download a browser plug-in like HTTPS everywhere, which opts you into a secure connection anywhere it’s available. You can tell it’s secure because the URL says “https://” instead of “http://” — and most browsers have other indicators or warnings as well.

You should also use an ad blocker, not necessarily to block ads that keep outlets like gpgmail alive (please), but to block trackers seeded across the web by companies that use sophisticated techniques to record everything you do. ISPs are among these and/or do business with them, so everything you can do to hinder them is a little mud in their eye.

Incidentally there are lots of ways you can protect your privacy from those who would invade it — we’ve got a pretty thorough guide here.

11. Use a different DNS

Bryce Durbin / gpgmail

On a similar note, most ISPs will usually be set up by default with their own “Domain Name Service,” which is the thing that your browser pings to convert a text web URL (like “Gpgmail.com”) to its numerical IP address.

There are lots of these to choose from, and they all work, but if you use your ISP’s, it makes it much easier for them to track your internet activity. They also can block certain websites by refusing to provide the IP for content they don’t like.

gpgmail doesn’t officially endorse one, but lots of companies offer free, fast DNS that’s easy to switch to. Here’s a good list; there are big ones (Google, Cloudflare), “open” ones (OpenDNS, OpenNIC) and others with some niche features. All you need to do is slot those two numbers into your internet configuration, following the instructions they provide. You can change it back at any time.

Setting up a VPN is another option for very privacy-conscious individuals, but it can be complicated. And speaking of complicated…

12. Run a home server

This is a bit advanced, but it’s definitely something ISPs hate. Setting up your home computer or a dedicated device to host a website, script or service seems like a natural use of an always-on internet connection, but just about everyone in the world would rather you sign up for their service, hosted on their hardware and their connection.

Well, you don’t have to! You can do it on your own. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to run and install a probably Unix-based server, handle registry stuff, install various packages and keep up to date so you don’t get owned by some worm or bot… but you’ll have defied the will of the ISP. That’s the important thing.

13. Talk to your local government

ISPs hate all the things above, but what they hate the most by far is regulation. And you, as a valued citizen of your state and municipality, are in a position to demand it. Senators, representatives, governors, mayors, city councils and everyone else actually love to hear from their constituency, not because they desire conversation but because they can use it to justify policy.

During the net neutrality fight, a constant refrain I heard from government officials was how much they’d heard from voters about the issue and how unanimous it was (in support, naturally). A call or email from you won’t sway national politics, but a few thousand calls or emails from people in your city just might sway a local law or election. These things add up, and they do matter. State net neutrality policies are now the subject of national attention, and local privacy laws like those in Illinois are the bane of many a shady company.

Tell your local government about your experience with ISPs — outages, fees, sneaky practices or even good stuff — and they’ll file it away for when that data is needed, such as renegotiating the contracts national companies sign with those governments in order to operate in their territories.

Internet providers only do what they do because they are permitted to, and even then they often step outside the bounds of what’s acceptable — which is why rules like net neutrality are needed. But first people have to speak out.


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No One Knows How Many US Homes, Businesses Lack Broadband Access


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How many Americans can’t buy home broadband because no ISP offers service in their area? You might think the answer to this question would be straightforward. The FCC releases reports on the state of US networks (wireless and wireline) on a regular basis, including the number of US citizens, principally in rural areas, who lack broadband service.

Unfortunately, there’s good reason to believe that the FCC’s data is wrong. That’s the conclusion of a report, conducted on behalf of the FCC, which studied this problem. The Broadband Mapping Initiative was launched in April 2019 by CostQuest, a research firm working on behalf of US Telecom. US Telecom is an industry lobby group made up of bigwigs like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, and Verizon. The project studied broadband deployments in two states: Virginia and Missouri — to determine whether or not the FCC’s previous method of estimating how many US homes lacked broadband was undercounting the total. The answer: Almost certainly yes.

The Impact of a Lousy Measuring Method

Knowing how many US citizens can purchase affordable broadband is critical to understanding whether citizens can access the tools required for modern life. If state and federal governments don’t know which communities or areas lack service, they can’t create projects to target them for improvement. Unfortunately, the FCC has historically allowed ISPs to report whether a location was served using census block data. If one home or business in a census block could be serviced by the company, the company is allowed to claim that the entire census block can be serviced by the company.

This logically raises another question: How large is a census block? There’s no uniform answer. In cities, a census block might be one city block. In rural areas, they can be much larger. Some census blocks have zero population; others might be entirely populated by a single large apartment building. This approach to data set building might have made sense decades ago, but today we have far more precise tools at our disposal. The image below shows 10 census blocks that would be considered covered under the current categorization system:

Broadband-Service-Current

Now, here’s how much service is actually provided in each of those blocks:

Broadband-Service-New

That’s a whole lot of “Uncovered” in the “Covered” zone.

The term “fabric” refers to the new system US Telecom built for measuring which addresses were actually served for broadband. What the report found collectively is that 38 percent of the rural areas in Virginia and Missouri that supposedly have broadband service…actually don’t. At all. 61 percent of rural locations supposedly served weren’t actually in the proper location. Twenty-five percent of the supposedly served locations were actually more than 100 meters from where they were supposed to be. Twenty-three percent of the locations were attached to the wrong census block.

In Missouri, 9 percent of non-rural locations and 36 percent of rural locations lacked service. In Virginia, 12 percent of non-rural and 39 percent of rural locations were unserviced. Overall broadband availability data was wrong in 48 percent of rural blocks.

Fabric-Report

It isn’t clear exactly how big the gap is nationwide, but these findings suggest the number of people without broadband could be significantly larger than the FCC’s official estimate of 21.3 million people. A total of 445,0000 homes and businesses in Missouri and Virginia that are currently counted as having broadband access are now estimated to lack it. Expand that nationwide, and it’s going to give a much more accurate picture of who does and doesn’t have broadband. It’s also virtually certain to mean we’ve done a much worse job extending coverage than people think we have.

But if you think about it, this actually makes sense. I’ve known more than one person who moved and suddenly found themselves unable to get broadband access, despite previous assurances of service at the new address from their own ISP. Stories periodically surface of ISPs telling rural homeowners to pay tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for new fiber pulls. I’ve met people who can’t buy broadband at their homes and rely on expensive cellular wireless for internet access, or use satellite service with its awful latency. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but these stories surface on a semi-regular basis. It may not be a common issue, strictly speaking, but it clearly is a problem. Hopefully building better data sets will help solve it.

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Tumblr’s next step forward with Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg – gpgmail


After months of rumors, Verizon finally sold off Tumblr for a reported $3 million — a fraction of what Yahoo paid for the once might blogging service back in 2013.

The media conglomerate (which also owns gpgmail) was clearly never quite sure what to do with the property after gobbling it up as part of its 2016 Yahoo acquisition. All parties has since come to the conclusion that Tumblr simply wasn’t a good fit under either the Verizon or Yahoo umbrella, amounting to a $1.1 billion mistake.

For Tumblr, however, the story may still have a happy ending. By all accounts, its new home at Automattic is far better fit. The service joins a portfolio that includes popular blogging service WordPress.com, spam filtering service Akismet and long-form storytelling platform, Longreads.

In an interview, this week, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg discussed Tumblr’s history and the impact of the poorly received adult content restrictions. He also shed some light on where Tumblr goes from here, including a potential increased focused on multimedia such as podcasting.

Brian Heater: I’m curious how [your meetings with Tumblr staff] went. What’s the feeling on the team right now? What are the concerns? How are people feeling about the transition?


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Verizon is teaming with Boingo to bring 5G inside – gpgmail


We’ve long known that 5G rollout wouldn’t happen overnight. But now that carriers have gotten things started, they’ve been confronted with pushback against the next-gen wireless technology’s limitations. Among the bigger issues is spotty coverage indoors — you know that place where most of us spend most of our time?

Verizon’s looking to address the issue by partnering with Boingo — a name that ought to prove familiar for anyone who’s attempted to get on WiFi at an airport. The carrier (which is, incidentally, also our parent company) says it’s teaming with the wireless provider to expand coverage in hard to reach spots, including stadiums, offices, hotels and those aforementioned airports.

“Verizon and Boingo are working together to architect a hyper-dense network designed for large and small indoor spaces as part of Verizon’s ongoing 5G network expansions,” per the carrier.

There are still plenty of questions, including how quickly and when those rollouts will start. One assumes they begin in cities where Verizon has already begun to deliver 5G in places. That list now includes 10 cities, with greater Phoenix joining the others. The usual caveats of 5G apply here, with the tech still be limited to certain areas/neighborhoods. Those are as follows,

Initially, Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service will be concentrated in Downtown Phoenix around several well-known landmarks, including: Phoenix Convention Center, Talking Stick Resort Arena, The Orpheum Theatre, CityScape, and Chase Field. It will also be available in Tempe, on the Arizona State University campus.

Tomorrow Verizon also adds another 5G device to its portfolio with its limited time exclusive on the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G.


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Snapchat beats a dead horse – gpgmail


Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on gpgmail this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how Netflix might have some rough times ahead as Disney barrels towards it.


The big story

There is plenty to be said about the potential of smart glasses. I write about them at length for gpgmail and I’ve talked to a lot of founders doing cool stuff. That being said, I don’t have any idea what Snap is doing with the introduction of a third-generation of its Spectacles video sunglasses.

The first-gen were a marketing smash hit, their sales proved to be a major failure for the company which bet big and seemingly walked away with a landfill’s worth of the glasses.

Snap’s latest version of Spectacles were announced in Vogue this week, they are much more expensive at $380 and their main feature is that they have two cameras which capture images in light depth which can lead to these cute little 3D boomerangs. One one hand, it’s nice to see the company showing perseverance with a tough market, on the other it’s kind of funny to see them push the same rock up the hill again.

Snap is having an awesome 2019 after a laughably bad 2018, the stock has recovered from record lows and is trading in its IPO price wheelhouse. It seems like they’re ripe for something new and exciting, not beautiful yet iterative.

The $150 Spectacles 2 are still for sale, though they seem quite a bit dated-looking at this point. Spectacles 3 seem to be geared entirely towards women, and I’m sure they made that call after seeing the active users of previous generations, but given the write-down they took on the first-generation, something tells me that Snap’s continued experimentation here is borne out of some stubbornness form Spiegel and the higher-ups who want the Snap brand to live in a high fashion world and want to be at the forefront of an AR industry that seems to have already moved onto different things.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@Gpgmail.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

tumblr phone sold

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • WordPress buys Tumblr for chump change
    Tumblr, a game-changing blogging network that shifted online habits and exited for $1.1 billion just changed hands after Verizon (which owns gpgmail) unloaded the property for a reported $3 million. Read more about this nightmarish deal here.
  • Trump gives American hardware a holiday season pass on tariffs 
    The ongoing trade war with China generally seems to be rough news for American companies deeply intertwined with the manufacturing centers there, but Trump is giving U.S. companies a Christmas reprieve from the tariffs, allowing certain types of hardware to be exempt from the recent rate increases through December. Read more here.
  • Facebook loses one last acquisition co-founder
    This week, the final remnant of Facebook’s major acquisitions left the company. Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell announced he was leaving. Now, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus are all helmed by Facebook leadership and not a single co-founder from the three companies remains onboard. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook’s turn in audio transcription debacle:
    [Facebook transcribed users’ audio messages without permission]
  2. Google’s hate speech detection algorithms get critiqued:
    [Racial bias observed in hate speech detection algorithm from Google]
  3. Amazon has a little email mishap:
    [Amazon customers say they received emails for other people’s orders]

Adam Neumann (WeWork) at gpgmail Disrupt NY 2017

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleague Danny Crichton wrote about the “tech” conundrum that is WeWork and the questions that are still unanswered after the company filed documents this week to go public.

…How is margin changing at its older locations? How is margin changing as it opens up in places like India, with very different costs and revenues? How do those margins change over time as a property matures? WeWork spills serious amounts of ink saying that these numbers do get better … without seemingly being willing to actually offer up the numbers themselves…

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we published a major deep dive into the world’s next music unicorn and we dug deep into marketplace startups.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.




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The 5G Moto Mod Is Now Compatible With the Moto Z2 Force From 2017


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Motorola was technically the first company to offer a 5G phone, but it wasn’t actually a new phone. Its 5G Moto Mod on Verizon added 5G capability to the Moto Z3 earlier this year, and it later expanded to the newer Moto Z4. Now, Motorola and Verizon have expanded 5G Mod support in the other direction, all the way back to the Moto Z2 Force. 

By most measures, the Moto Z2 Force was the company’s last true flagship Z-series phone. Last year’s Moto Z3 had a lower resolution screen and hardware that was already a year out of date. The Moto Z4 stepped down to mid-range specs, indicating Motorola’s lack of confidence in Mods going forward. However, Verizon is extremely invested in the 5G Mod to promote its burgeoning 5G network. 

The Moto Z2 Force sports a 1440p OLED with a shatter-proof coating, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 chip. It works with all of Motorola’s Mod attachments which feature batteries, speakers, a projector, a camera, and more. Motorola hasn’t launched a new Mod since the 5G collaboration with Verizon in early 2019. Since the Z2 Force was shatter-proof, there are probably still a fair number of them floating around. Now, they can get 5G. 

The Moto Z2 Force is almost indistinguishable from other Moto Mod-capable phones.

Android device makers have a hard time updating phones that are more than a year or two old, so how can this new piece of hardware work with a circa-2017 phone? The 5G Moto Mod includes almost all the components you’d find in a phone — it’s not just a 5G modem in a case. It has a Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip (SoC), the same thing powering phones like the Galaxy Note 10. However, it’s not there to crunch bits on the phone. You just need the 855 to support the Qualcomm X50 5G modem that’s also packed inside the Mod. There are also multiple antennas and a battery. 

The 5G Moto Mod attaches to the back of the company’s Verizon-branded phones only, giving them access to super-fast millimeter wave 5G, but only in a few cities. The range on millimeter wave 5G is also very limited, and it doesn’t pass through walls. So, you need to have line-of-sight to the cell tower to use the 5G Mod or any of Verizon’s newer 5G phones. That said, it’s cool that owners of a phone from 2017 can get 5G for a relative pittance compared to the $1,200+ asking price for new 5G phones.

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Verizon is selling Tumblr – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress.com parent, Automattic

It’s been six years since Yahoo acquired the popular blogging platform for more than $1 billion. Since then, Yahoo was acquired in turn by Verizon, and now Verizon is selling Tumblr for what’s been variously reported as a “nominal” price and “well below $20 million.”

While it may be simplistic to peg the service’s declining value to any single decision, last year’s move to ban pornography has certainly proved disastrous. At least on the surface, Automattic and WordPress seem like they might be a better fit.

2. Snap introduces Spectacles 3, with two HD cameras and 3D effects on Snapchat

Snap isn’t giving up on its Spectacles hardware yet.

3. Postmates to drop IPO filing next month

Despite previous reports indicating the on-demand delivery company is seeking an M&A exit, sources close to the matter say Postmates is on track to complete an initial public offering this year.

4. Announcing the Disrupt SF 2019 agenda

We’ve got a little something for everyone: Space chats with Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson and Blue Origin’s Bob Smith, a word from Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, a fireside chat with two of 2019’s big VC winners, Ann Miura-Ko and Theresia Gouw, as well as a rare chance to sit down with GV’s David Krane.

5. MasterClass founder launches Outlier, offering online courses for college credit

The classes cost $400 each and feature content specifically shot for online consumption (rather than your standard classroom lectures), with dynamically generated problem sets. And they come with credit from the University of Pittsburgh.

6. Singularity 6 raises $16.5M from Andreessen Horowitz to create a ‘virtual society’

The startup’s ex-Riot Games co-founders claim they’re less focused on building a button-mashing competitive shooter and more on creating a “virtual society,” where users can develop relationships with in-game characters powered by “complex AI.”

7. How lawyers help bring your acquisition deal to fruition

Attorneys can act as project managers, working with company executives and boards of directors, guiding them through the lengthy transaction process — and of course, advising them on the legal side of the equation. (Extra Crunch membership required.)


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Verizon Sells Tumblr to WordPress Owner for Paltry $3 Million


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Companies exist to make money for the owners and shareholders, and they’ll often do it at the expense of basic morality and common sense. That’s why the rise and fall of Tumblr is so perplexing. Verizon has announced that it’s selling the blogging platform to Automatic, the owner of WordPress for a mere $3 million. Just a few years ago, the site was worth $1.1 billion. That means under the stewardship of Yahoo and Verizon, Tumblr has lost a whopping 99.8 percent of its value. 

How can a web property go from being worth more than Facebook paid for Instagram to (comparatively) worthless? Tumblr was one of the early, high-profile acquisitions by Yahoo after former Googler Marissa Mayer took the helm. The first hit to Tumblr’s value came just three years after the 2013 acquisition. Yahoo announced its advertising sales on Tumblr in 2016 fell far short of expectations, and it wrote down $712 million of Tumblr’s value. 

Things continued to worsen for Yahoo across the board until Verizon acquired the company in 2017, cutting Mayer loose. Both Yahoo and Tumblr ended up under Verizon’s Oath subsidiary. Verizon left Tumblr alone for more than a year, and then someone realized there was (gasp) porn on the site. 

Tumblr has long acted as a safe haven for people who wanted to post saucy pictures, as well as members of the LGBTQ community who wanted to speak frankly about their sexuality. The site’s lax moderation policies allowed this content to proliferate over the course of years. Verizon was, apparently, uncomfortable with hosting adult content, so it announced a blanket ban earlier this year. Purging all that content drove away users and dropped Tumblr’s value to almost nothing. 

Automatic isn’t going to be Tumblr’s savior, based on statements from CEO Matt Mullenweg. Verizon’s ban on adult content will stand, but the service won’t be folded into WordPress. The two sites may begin sharing more features over time — Tumblr could get some more advanced editing tools from WordPress, and WordPress could adopt some of the mobile-focused features of Tumblr. 

So, any remaining Tumblr users won’t have to migrate to WordPress pages, at least for now. Who knows what the future will bring? If nothing else, Tumblr’s domain is worth money, and Automatic got that for a pittance.

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Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress parent, Automattic – gpgmail


Six years after Yahoo purchased Tumblr for north of $1 billion, its parent corporation is selling the once-dominant blogging platform. WordPress owner Automattic Inc. has agreed to take the service off of Verizon’s hands. Terms of the deal are undisclosed, but the number is “nominal,” compared to its original asking price, per an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Axios is reporting that the asking price for the platform is “well below $20 million,” a fraction of a fraction of its 2013 price tag.

Once the hottest game in town, the intervening half-decade has been tough on Tumblr, as sites like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and the like have since left the platform in the dust. More recently, a decision to ban porn from the platform has had a marked negative impact on the service’s traffic. According to Sensor Tower, first-time users for Tumblr’s mobile app declined 33% year-over-year last quarter.

“Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said of the news. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress .com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.”

The news certainly isn’t surprising. In May, it was reported that Verizon was looking for a new owner for the site it inherited through its acquisition of Yahoo. Tumblr was Yahoo’s largest acquisition at the time, as then-CEO Marissa Mayer “promise[d] not to screw it up” in a statement made at the time.

Tumblr proved not to be a great fit for Yahoo — and even less so Verizon, which rolled the platform into its short-lived Oath business and later the Verizon Media Group (also gpgmail’s umbrella company). On the face of it, at least, Automattic seems a much better match. The company runs WordPress.com, one of the internet’s most popular publishing tools, along with Jetpack and Simplenote. As part of the deal, the company will take on 200 Tumblr staffers.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be joining a team that has a similar mission. Many of you know WordPress.com, Automattic’s flagship product. WordPress.com and Tumblr were both early pioneers among blogging platforms,” Tumblr fittingly wrote in a blog post. “Automattic shares our vision to build passionate communities around shared interests and to democratize publishing so that anyone with a story can tell it, especially when they come from under-heard voices and marginalized communities.”

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. “Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms. We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”


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This hacker’s iPhone charging cable can hijack your computer – gpgmail


Most people don’t think twice about picking up a phone charging cable and plugging it in. But one hacker’s project wants to change that and raise awareness of the dangers of potentially malicious charging cables.

A hacker who goes by the online handle MG took an innocent-looking Apple USB Lightning cable and rigged it with a small Wi-Fi-enabled implant, which, when plugged into a computer, lets a nearby hacker run commands as if they were sitting in front of the screen.

Dubbed the O.MG cable, it looks and works almost indistinguishably from an iPhone charging cable. But all an attacker has to do is swap out the legitimate cable for the malicious cable and wait until a target plugs it into their computer. From a nearby device and within Wi-Fi range (or attached to a nearby Wi-Fi network), an attacker can wirelessly transmit malicious payloads on the computer, either from pre-set commands or an attacker’s own code.

Once plugged in, an attacker can remotely control the affected computer to send realistic-looking phishing pages to a victim’s screen, or remotely lock a computer screen to collect the user’s password when they log back in.

MG focused his first attempt on an Apple Lightning cable, but the implant can be used in almost any cable and against most target computers.

“This specific Lightning cable allows for cross-platform attack payloads, and the implant I have created is easily adapted to other USB cable types,” MG said. “Apple just happens to be the most difficult to implant, so it was a good proof of capabilities.”

In his day job as a red teamer at Verizon Media (which owns gpgmail), he develops innovative hacking methods and techniques to identify and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious attackers find them. Although a personal project, MG said his malicious cable can help red teamers think about defending against different kinds of threats.

“Suddenly we now have victim-deployed hardware that may not be noticed for much longer periods of time,” he explained. “This changes how you think about defense tactics. We have seen that the NSA has had similar capabilities for over a decade, but it isn’t really in most people’s threat models because it isn’t seen as common enough.”

“Most people know not to plug in random flash drives these days, but they aren’t expecting a cable to be a threat,” he said. “So this helps drive home education that goes deeper.”

MG spent thousands of dollars of his own money and countless hours working on his project. Each cable took him about four hours to assemble. He also worked with several other hackers to write some of the code and develop exploits, and gave away his supply of hand-built cables to Def Con attendees with a plan to sell them online in the near future, he said.

But the O.MG cable isn’t done yet. MG said he’s working with others to improve the cable’s functionality and expand its feature set.

“It really just comes down to time and resources at this point. I have a huge list in my head that needs to become reality,” he said.

(via Motherboard)




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