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  • Geebo 10:19 am on June 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antitrust, EU, , monopolies   

    What the EU’s fine of Google could mean for the US 

    What the EU's fine of Google could mean for the US

    Google has become a victim of its own success. Its name is so synonymous with web search that its brand has become a verb. When someone has a question you don’t say “Why don’t you Bing that?”. Just on search alone, Google possesses close to 80% of the global search engine market share. Google also boasts the most popular webmail client on the internet with their GMail. It has four times as many users as its next closest competitor, Yahoo Mail. While Google has some minor competition to its popular services, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual monopoly. So when the European Union handed down a $2.7 billion fine for violating EU antitrust regulations, you might think it was just because Google is so much bigger than everyone else and that’s sort of true. What lies deeper than that is it appears Google wants to remain the size they are, at the expense of anyone who may get in their way, no matter how small that anyone might be.

    Google is often chided for having the corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” as it has gobbled up competitive services and shut them down. Now, the EU says Google has committed another evil in trying to favor their own services over the services of other companies. Since its inception the EU has had a hardline stance against large corporations that engage in antitrust practices. They famously fined Microsoft for not offering a competing browser and media player with the Windows platform. At the heart of the matter is the belief Google gave top priority to Google Shopping in search results over competitors offering a similar price comparing service. Yet while promoting its own services Google would also allegedly remove the links of competing services claiming they violated Google’s SEO rules, the same SEO rules that are often vague and can change at a whim. Some might even say they change to however it suits Google and not the sites it indexes.

    While the EU has a reputation of combating antitrust practices, the US does not have the same viewpoint that the EU does. In the US Google is in the catbird’s seat. The US hasn’t broken up a major monopoly since it broke up AT&T into the ‘Baby Bells’ back in the 1980s. Since then the Baby Bells have all since merged back into two separate companies in Verizon and AT&T. Cable companies and Internet service providers, which are often one and the same, often have regional monopolies with no real choice for consumers, yet nothing is ever done about that. While the Federal Trade Commission has prevented some mergers from taking place in order to avoid one company having too much of the market, it hasn’t done much in the way of promoting competition, while a company like Google has basically muscled their way into a monopoly.

    We’re not saying Google doesn’t have a right to do business, it should just do business equitably. Think about it for a moment. If Google came up with a version of your business and promoted their version over your business, how long would it be before your business started feeling the pinch? With the vast resources at Google’s command, that could happen to any number of businesses and industries. Just like the banks in the 2008 financial crisis were deemed ‘too big to fail’, Google is too big to succeed without sacrificing a large number of worthy competitors.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on June 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CargoPod, Oxbotica,   

    Oxford tests its own autonomous delivery truck 

    Oxford tests its own autonomous delivery truck

    In a similar vein to Moby Mart and Starship delivery robots, comes another self-driving delivery service. Oxford University, yes that Oxford, is in the testing stage of an autonomous delivery van called CargoPod.

    Oxford’s self-driving vehicle lab Oxbotica, is currently test-driving the CargoPod in a small section of London. The van contains eight pods that can hold a small set of packages customers have ordered from a retailer’s website. It still has a long way to go in being a viable service, however it shows a lot of promise. Also, it’s not completely autonomous as UK law requires a human driver to be available in order to take over the wheel if need be. There’s also the matter of security since it does not currently have any form of identifying correct customers.

    Again, once this technology is perfected, it could be a boon to the online classifieds industry as it could eliminate face-to-face meetings between buyer and seller. That means it could discourage a lot of the unsafe aspects of selling something online. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if some startup ends up using this or similar technology to try to ensure the safety of classifieds users.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Petya,   

    New ransomware might not be able to be paid off 

    New ransomware might not be able to be paid off

    Yesterday, a new ransomware attack swept across the globe. The attack first hit the Ukraine before affecting business in Russia, The Netherlands, The UK and the US. The ransomware known as Petya seems to have had an even bigger effect than the recent WannaCry attack. Like WannaCry, Petya asks the victims for money in Bitcoin. While a number of business have started keeping Bitcoin on hand for just such an event, it might not be that simple this time around.

    Petya requires its victims to contact their attackers at a certain e-mail address. The e-mail provider has shut down that address. So now, if the ransom is paid, there’s no way to let the attackers know. Meanwhile your files are still encrypted and you’re also out the money used for ransom. On top of that, the ransomware keeps replicating itself not knowing that it’s been cut off from home.

    Again, even if Petya could call home, there’s never any guarantee that the attackers will release your files even if paid. After all, these are extortionists we’re dealing with. Like their counterparts in the analog world, once these attackers get a taste of your money they may try to squeeze you for more.

    Remember, keep your system updated and patched, and avoid any strange attachments and downloads for best practices.

     
  • Geebo 8:58 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Kate Wagner, McMansion Hell, ,   

    Zillow threatens architecture blogger over house photos 

    Zillow threatens architecture blogger over house photos

    Real estate website Zillow has threatened 23-year-old architecture blogger Kate Wagner over her use of photos from their website. Wagner was running a successful blog called “McMansion Hell” where she took the gargantuan functionless houses to task. In many of her posts, Wagner would use a dry wit and humor to poke fun at many of the design-challenged houses by using photos from Zillow. Ms. Wagner is no mere snark blogger either. Here she is giving a TEDx Talk about the flaws in the poorly planned out houses.

    Recently, Zillow took it upon themselves to send Ms. Wagner a letter demanding she remove any picture she used on her blog from Zillow. Ms. Wagner had always attributed the photos to Zillow and defended her use of them under fair use doctrine. However, in response to Zillow’s perceived threat, Ms. Wagner has decided to, at least temporarily, shutter her website. This is a shame since not only did she have some great content about some poorly designed houses, but she also had other insightful posts on her blog about architectural trends and history in the United States.

    This isn’t even taking into consideration that Zillow themselves don’t own the pictures Ms. Wagner was using. They belong to other copyright holders who allow Zillow to use them. Zillow claims they are defending those copyright holders, but they appear to be petty in doing so by shutting down a blog of a college student whose sole income source is her blog. Maybe if Zillow decides to seek damages they should request a sense of humor in the settlement.

     
    • salman 4:20 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink

      Things got real serious.
      But if Ms. Wagner had credited the photos to Zillow, so there might not be big issues.

  • Geebo 9:02 am on June 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: car theft ring, , Hosuton, ,   

    Craigslist and OfferUp used in multi-state car theft ring 

    Craigslist and OfferUp used in multi-state car theft ring

    Recently, 16 people from the Houston, Texas, area have been arrested for allegedly running a multi-state car theft ring that netted them over $1 million. The crew would use fake IDs to rent cars from rental car services and would then sell these cars states away. They were able to sell the cars through unmoderated classifieds.

    The suspects are said to have used both craigslist, which is no surprise, and classifieds app OfferUp to sell these cars to unsuspecting buyers. A number of the suspects were caught after they had bragged about their crimes on social media. It’s unknown what has happened to the money given to the suspects by buyers, but if history is any indicator, it will be a long time before they may see any of it again.

    This is the problem with unmoderated classifieds. When cars are being sold for ridiculously low prices it should be a red flag to any site or app that deals in car sales. If the price is too good to be true, many times it’s either stolen or the car doesn’t even exist. Precautions could be put in place by these sites and apps, but it seems they’d rather not spend the money to help ensure a better customer experience.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    In the battle for supremacy, is one retailer fighting to survive? 

    In the battle for supremacy, is one retailer fighting to survive?

    While Amazon and Walmart continue their battle of the retail titans, another player has entered into the fray and thrown down the gauntlet towards its larger opponents. While never far from the consumer conscience, eBay is not the retail stalwart that it once was. However, recently, they have thrown what could amount to as a monkey wrench in the plans of Jeff Bezos and the Walton Family.

    The once and future online auction king has been pivoting their business model for some time now. It first started with the ‘buy it now’ prices. Now it seems eBay has pivoted even further toward being a pure retail outlet by offering their new Price Match Guarantee. eBay says they will match the prices from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, HomeDepot.com, Target.com, Sears.com, Wayfair.com, and Jet.com. The catch is, the items have to be new and in the manufacturers packaging and you have to contact eBay customer service to get the price break. eBay claims 90% of the items on their site are eligible for these deals.

    While there are some hoops to jump through in the process, on the surface it seems like a great move by eBay. However, it can also be looked at as an act of desperation by a former industry leader. So we ask you, do you think this is an act genius or an act of despair? Please let us know in the comments.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on June 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: delivery robots,   

    Are delivery robots the future of safety? 

    Are delivery robots the future of safety?

    Recently, the state of Wisconsin approved legislation that would allow delivery robots to use pedestrian trafficways. They follow Idaho and Virginia, who passed similar legislation. The robots, made by a company called Starship Technologies, are designed to be used by stores to deliver around two bags full of groceries to nearby residents.

    But what if they could be used for a different purpose?

    The most dangerous part of any classifieds transaction is going to meet either the buyer or seller who could potentially turn out to be someone looking to rob you, scam you or worse. What if there was a service that could eliminate that meeting? The service could be like an Uber for transactions. Once the seller receives the money through a valid online transaction they could take the item to a delivery hub where the robot could then take the item to its intended destination. Since most classifieds transactions are usually local, the delivery robot could be a very useful tool in ensuring the safety of classifieds users.

    Granted, this technology is far from being widely adopted since it’s only been approved in three states. However, before we know it these robots could be as commonplace as any other delivery service is today.

     
  • Geebo 8:56 am on June 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Why haven’t the classifieds murders of two young men caused any concern? 

    Why haven't the murders of two young men rattled the classifieds industry?

    Within the past week two young men who were both full of promise lost their lives after trying to complete transactions through online classifieds. In the first case, 19-year-old Brian Brown was shot and killed in North Miami Beach while trying to sell a Playstation through craigslist. He was getting ready to leave for college in Northern California where he had earned a football scholarship. According to the Craigslist Killings – Craigslist Safety blog, Brown was the 115th person to be killed through some type of craigslist transaction gone wrong.

    In the second case, 21-year-old Zack Finch was shot and killed in Charlotte, North Carolina after trying to buy a cell phone through the classifieds app LetGo. Finch was a star for his university’s baseball team. By this blog’s estimation, Finch is the third person to have been killed while using the LetGo app.

    Both of these men had such promise and unfortunately their lives have been cut short due to greedy and heartless killers who just wanted to make a quick buck regardless the cost of lives. In both cases no arrests have yet to have been made. The bigger question is, why haven’t these two murders, that happened within days of each other to two similar men, not been a cause for concern? People carry on using craigslist and LetGo like nothing has happened and continue to disregard the basic tenets of safety. Both murders occurred in broad daylight in public spaces and as we’ve said in the past, these old rules don’t apply anymore as criminals have become bolder in their crimes in the past few years. Virtually all the big names in the industry have had violent crimes attached to their brand including Backpage, LetGo, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and of course, craigslist.

    Geebo is very serious about the safety of our users. When you meet someone to either buy or sell an item we highly recommend completing the transaction at a police station during the day. Many police stations now have areas set up just for these transactions. Even then we still recommend taking a friend and letting people know where you’re going and why. While these measures may seem extreme, it’s worth it in the end to see not only our users, but the users of all sites and apps, to come home safely.

     
  • Geebo 8:58 am on June 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Are we headed for a retail duopoly? 

    Are we headed for a retail duopoly?

    Wal-Mart is the number one retailer in the US with a substantial web presence. They see Amazon as their greatest competitor. Amazon is the number one online retailer and they’ve been looking to get into the physical retail space. They see Wal-Mart as their greatest competitor. Now, Amazon is firing a shot across Wal-Mart’s bow as they are in the process of acquiring organic grocery store Whole foods.

    While not even coming close to Wal-Mart’s almost 5,000 locations across the country, including Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and Sam’s Club, this acquisition would give Amazon a substantial foot in the door in the country’s grocery market. With its already popular online business, with just 400 possible new locations it actually could give Wal-Mart a run for its money if they’re also used as small distribution or pick up centers for online orders. Not only that, but Amazon could also end up taking a piece out of Wal-Mart’s grocery share in the country, which is where Wal-Mart makes most of their money.

    What could be worrying is Wal-Mart’s response to Amazon’s potential acquisition. A lot of brick and mortar store chains have crumbled under the might of the Wal-Mart. Sears and K-Mart used to be giants in the industry. Sears alone has been around since the 19th century, but is now facing the spectre of closure. If this trend continues, we could all end up shopping at either a Wal-Mart or Amazon branded store in the near future. Competition always breeds innovation in business, but a near monopoly between two retail monoliths will cause not only stagnation, but will also allow the two corporate giants to become complacent in their pricing.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on June 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Denver, ,   

    Denver man takes on rental scammers 

    Denver man takes on rental scammers

    If you’re looking for a property to rent online, and you come in contact with an obvious scammer, we don’t recommend engaging with them. Any actual information they can get out of you can be used for their gain. Instead, if you really want to help prevent the activity of these scammers, we recommend contacting the Internet Crime Complaint Center. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate someone who wastes a scammer’s time in the same way they like to waste ours. A man in Denver was looking for an apartment on a certain disreputable classifieds site when he was contacted by a slew of scammers. Here’s how the rental scam usually works.

    In Denver, the scammers kept asking the man for a picture of a check written out for a phony deposit. The Denver man kept sending the scammers e-mails with no attachments, links to URLs that went nowhere, and a picture of broken image error message. It was a number of back and forth e-mails before the scammers realized they were being trolled.

    While this man recognized the red flags that led him to realize there were scammers afoot, not everyone does. Just as a reminder, if a rental price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a ‘landlord’ wants you to send money without letting you view the property, it’s probably a scam. If they ask you to wire money to them or send money using prepaid credit cards or gift cards, it’s most definitely a scam. Education is the key. If more people are aware of these scams, less people will fall for them and that will begin to drive the scammers out of business.

     
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