Facebook Is Currently Down For Millions Of Users, But There’s A Simple Way To Get It To Work

Millions of people around the world are currently unable to hear of updates of their friends’ weddings or view pictures of cats.

Facebook appears to be down for many of its 2 billion users, who’ve now taken to alternate forms of social media to voice their displeasure. Twitter, in particular, is currently full of posts complaining about the outage.

https://twitter.com/studiob61/status/900312032867741698

Some people didn’t seem particularly concerned.

While others found an opportunity to dish out life advice.

The outage appears most concentrated around Europe, with scatted reports around India. Europe appeared particularly hard hit, with #FacebookDown being the top Twitter trend in Italy.

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The outage, however, appears confined to Chrome users. Several users pointed that that Facebook wasn’t working at all on Chrome, or lagging. As captured by this Twitter user however, it seems to be working on mobile.

https://twitter.com/S74139706/status/900353669195063296

And even on desktop, there appear to be a easy fixes to get it to work — simply opening the browser in incognito makes it load, as does holding Shift while refreshing the page. Since the outage appears confined to Chrome, switching browsers should help restore the familiar blue-white timeline.

Here Are The Features Reliance Will Provide In Its Rs. 1,500 JioPhone

For a “free” phone, Reliance’s JioPhone will pack quite a punch.

The Rs. 1,500 handset, which was announced by Mukesh Ambani during Reliance’s AGM nearly a month ago, is not going to be barren, basic phone that many had believed — the phone will have a front-end selfie camera, 4GB of memory, and even support for navigation through maps, 91mobiles has reported.

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The additional features will only add to the hype around the phone, which Reliance has been billing as being essentially free. The Rs. 1,500 is an upfront security deposit, which can be redeemed in full in three years if a customer chooses to. The phone was expected to take away significant marketshare from incumbents in 2G sectors based on its price point alone, but with some high-end features thrown in, it could cause even more disruption than previously believed.

Leaked documents from Reliance Jio’s promotional materials showed that the phone will look much like a traditional feature phone with a keypad. It will carry a prominent Jio logo on the front, with Lyf branding on the back. The 4G LTE and VoLTE phone will have a 2 Megapixel back camera, and a front-facing VGA camera. It will have 4GB of built-in memory, which will be further expandable up to 128GB via a microSD card. The phone will also have GPS support alongside a dedicated mapping application, a feature that will come handy for millions of deliverymen across the country who might be currently using feature phones.

The phone will offer access to live TV with up to 400+ channels and seven days catch up via the Jio TV application. The Jio Cinema app will offer access to movies and music videos. The phone will have a browser, and being billed “India ka smartphone,” will allow support in 22 languages. Crucially, the JioPhone can be connected to any television – even a CRT model – to watch TV and movies. 

 

The leaked documents, however, couldn’t confirm one of the most persistent rumours around the phone — the availability of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is near-ubiquitous among India’s existing smartphone users, and the JioPhone would become exponentially more useful to its users if it supported WhatsApp. There has been speculation that Reliance is in talks with Whatspp to integrate their messenger into the JioPhone, but there is no mention of WhatsApp in these leaked documents.

But apart from its features, JioPhone is expected to be the most affordable phone in India by a distance — JioPhone will support unlimited voice calls, SMSes and data for Rs. 153 a month. The phone will be available for pre-booking on 24th August, and once it’s available, could unleash a revolution for India’s 17 crore 2G subscribers.

 

Indian-Origin Professor Gets Blocked By Google; Blog Taken Down, Gmail Account Frozen

Google’s free services are pervasive, but as statistics professor Salil Mehta found out, they come with their own set of pitfalls.

Salil Mehta is an adjunct professor at Columbia, and runs a popular statistics-based blog. On Friday, he discovered that his Blogspot blog — which had 150k subscribers and had been read 27 million times — had been taken down by Google. To make matters worse, his Gmail email had also been disabled.

“I was completely shut down in all my Google accounts (all of my gmail accounts, blog, all of my university pages that were on google sites, etc.) for no reason and no warning,” he said

Mehta says Google gave him no reason for suspending his account, but he seemed to hint that his blog was taken down because of some controversial posts he’d written. “Freedom is not free unless corporations who exert a large influence in our lives believe in our well-being,” he said. Some of his blogposts, which which were widely read and cited by outlets like NYT and Bloomberg, appeared to support Trump’s decisions using statistics. When Donald Trump had introduced his Muslim immigration ban, he’d used probability theory to prove how people from those nations were “a thousand times more likely to commit terrorist attacks against the US.”

He also seemingly said that large numbers of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary, which is a controversial position to hold among Democrats.

 

He’d also appeared close to Trump’s associates, congratulating Anthony Scaramucchi when he became President Trump’s communications director.

Google, on the other hand, has close ties to Hillary Clinton — former CEO Eric Schmidt was responsible for creating her digital campaign, and as many as 57 Google employees were officially affiliated with her Presidential run. 

But Mehta seemed to imply his posts shouldn’t be grounds for his account being blocked, and blog being taken down. “I am a statistics professor and understand that there needs to be reasonable standards to control a large social network and make sure everyone is able to enjoy it freely.  Invariably people disagree (we all see this), but some principles, such as simply showing probability and statistics with the sole hope of educating others, should be acceptable,” he said.

Mehta tried contacting Google support, but the company refused to let him know why his account had been blocked. 

Mehta then tweeted to Google’s top leaders, including CEO Sundar Pichai and Eric Schmidt, hoping to get their attention. Several prominent personalities tweeted about his situation, including editors at prominent publications, and Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of the bestselling The Black Swan.

This is the second time this month Google has fallen foul of academics. Earlier, it had been criticised by prominent scientists for firing James Damore, who’d written an internal memo in which he’d cited research studies to show why there were fewer women in tech and engineering roles than men. Several professors had said Damore’s positions, which might not have been politically correct, were scientifically sound.

But Mehta’s situation only underscores how risky putting all your eggs in the Google basket can be — he’s lost a popular blog, his email account, and all his contact information because Google chose to block his account for unspecified reasons. And worse, when contacted, Google has given him no further information, but only directed him to read Google’s Terms of Service.

When a service is free, it’s probably free for a reason.

MakeMyTrip Now Spends More On Promotions Than It Earns In Net Revenue

If you thought Indian startups were struggling to be operationally profitable, established companies are faring no better.

MakeMyTrip spent more money on sales and promotion activities than it made in net revenues last quarter, a report from Nomura has said. MakeMyTrip’s marketing and sales promotion expenses rose to $142.3 million (Rs. 900 crore) last quarter. Through these promotional costs, MakeMyTrip was able to earn net revenues of only $141.2 million. The net revenues was the money the company makes after deducting costs related to procuring airline tickets, hotel rooms and other products. Overall, MakeMyTrip lost $52.1 million in the quarter (Rs. 338 crore).

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MakeMyTrip isn’t a young startup looking to provide discounts to quickly gain market share — founded in 2000, it is the largest travel aggregator in country. It also runs brands Ibibo and Redbus, which it had acquired last year. But its increased market share doesn’t appear to have have helped it become sustainable.

In fact, Nomura’s analysts say that Ibibo’s acquisition has caused MakeMyTrip to spend even more on marketing than before. Ibibo was spending 1.25 times more on marketing than MakeMyTrip before it was acquired, despite generating only 0.6 times of MakeMyTrip’s revenues. 

It is in part because new competitors have emerged. “Currently, competition is largely from much smaller and less funded competition such as Cleartrip/Yatra and Paytm in air ticketing. We expect Paytm to relaunch its hotel booking offering and replicate the aggression shown in air ticketing on cash back/promotions. (Besides), it is well capitalised to disrupt the market in the near term,” said the Nomura analysts.

Paytm has been aggressively promoting its air ticketing section through steep discounts, and is also eyeing the hotels booking space. With 220 million users signed up for its wallet, it is currently a favourite of investors, and has deep pockets — the company raised $1.4 billion from Softbank in a round earlier this year. It’s begun treading on the shoes of MakeMyTrip, and not letting it enjoy the unfettered market dominance it would’ve expected, 17 years after being founded.

Which just underscores how brutal the travel aggregator booking business is — it’s relatively inexpensive to set up new companies, and through discounts, it’s not hard to lure customers. Customer loyalty is low, and customers don’t think twice before leaving for a cheaper, newer alternative. And even companies which are clear market leaders might take decades to finally make some money.

Infosys Investors Lose Rs. 30,000 Crore As Sikka, Board And Narayan Murthy Trade Accusations

Even as Vishal Sikka, Infosys’ board and founder Narayan Murthy trade insults, Infosys investors have lost over Rs. 30,000 crore — Infosys stock has crashed 10% since the news of Sikka’s resignation was made public.

Earlier today morning, Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka announced his resignation. He also published a remarkably candid blog explaining his decision. ” I cannot carry out my job as CEO and continue to create value, while also constantly defending against unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks,” he wrote. As he reminisced about his three-year journey, he minced no words about why he’d quit. “I have decided to leave because the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere. I deeply believe in creating value in an atmosphere of freedom, trust and empowerment. Life is too short to engage in battles of opinions in the public, these add no value, take critical time and focus away from the business, and indeed add more to the noise,” he said.

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Sikka appeared to hint at letters written by Narayan Murthy, which had called into question Sikka’s abilities. “All that I hear from at least three independent directors, including Mr Ravi Venkatesan (co-chairman), are complaints about Dr Sikka. They have told me umpteen times that Dr Sikka is not a CEO material but CTO material. This is the view of at least three members of the board,” Murthy had written.

The Infosys board reacted sharply to the letter. “The Board takes great umbrage to the contents of the letter. Murthy’s continuous assault, including this latest letter, is the primary reason that the CEO, Vishal Sikka, has resigned despite strong Board support. Murthy’s letter contains factual inaccuracies, already-disproved rumours, and statements extracted out of context from his conversations with Board members,” it said. 

The board called Murthy’s supposed campaign to oust Sikka “misguided”. “The Board assures its shareholders, employees, customers and communities that it is committed not to be distracted by this misguided campaign by Murthy and will continue to adhere to the highest international standards of corporate governance as it executes its strategy of profitable growth for the benefit of all Infosys stakeholders.” 

“Murthy’s campaign against the Board and the Company has had the unfortunate effect to undermine the Company’s efforts to transform itself. The Board believes it must set the record straight on the false and misleading charges made by Mr. Murthy because his actions and demands are damaging the Company and misrepresent its commitment to good corporate governance.” it added.

The Infosys board also accused Murthy of interfering with Infosys’ operations. “Mr. Murthy’s has made repeatedly made inappropriate demands which are inconsistent with his stated desire for stronger governance. (He) has demanded that the Board adopt certain changes in policy, else he will attack board members in the public, which threat was carried out when the Board did not acquiesce. He has demanded operational and management changes under the threat of media attacks,” it said.

Soon after, Narayan Murthy issued a statement of his own. “I am extremely anguished by the allegations, tone and tenor of the statements,” he said. “I voluntarily left the board in 2014 and am not seeking any money, position for children, or power.” He said his main concern has always been the deteriorating corporate governance at Infosys. “It is below my dignity to respond to such baseless accusations,” his statement said.

All this while, as the Infosys management was washing their dirty laundry in public, Infosys’s stock tanked. Infosys’s share, which had opened at Rs. 989 today morning, fell 5% as news of Sikka’s resignation was made public. As the response by the board and Murthy’s statement was made public, it had fallen nearly 10% to Rs. 893. 

Vishal Sikka Has Resigned As Infosys CEO Citing “Personal Attacks”, Shares Down 7%

Vishal Sikka’s tumultuous reign as Infosys CEO has come to an end.

Sikka has resigned as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys. Pravin Rao has been appointed as the interim CEO. In a letter to stock exchanges, Company Secretary AGS Manikantha confirmed the development, saying the resignation was accepted at a board meeting on August 18. Sikka will now be the executive vice-chairman of the company. “The succession plan for appointment of a new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer has been operationalised by the Board and a search for the same has been commenced. 

vishalsikka3-kpKG--621x414@LiveMint

In his notice of resignation to the board, Dr Sikka reiterated his belief in the great potential of Infosys, but cited among his reasons for leaving a continuous stream of distractions and disruptions over the recent months and quarters, increasingly personal and negative as of late, as preventing management’s ability to accelerate the company’s transformation,” Infosys said in a statement.

Infosys’ stock was down 7% following the news. Sikka will remain with Infosys as executive vice-chairman, Infosys said.

Sikka had been named Infosys CEO and Managing Director in June 2014, replacing  S.D. Shibulal, one of Infosys’ founders. He’d previously been CTO at SAP and had worked briefly at Xerox. He’d founded startups, including Bodha.com and iBrain, which had been acquired by PatternRX.

While at Infosys, Sikka had sought to bring some of his startup culture with him, allowing employees to wear casual clothes on all days instead of Fridays. Infosys’ revenue grew 7%, 14% and 10% during the three years he was in charge. Infosys’ stock rose 23% over his tenure, as compared to just 4% to its peer Tata Consultancy Services.

But over the last year, Sikka had clashed with Infosys’ original founders over how the company should be run. Narayana Murthy had gone as far as to say that he “regretted” having left the company. These matters appear to have come to a head on 9th August, when Murthy claimed in an email to his advisers that he had been told by at least three independent directors of the company that Vishal Sikka was more chief technology officer (CTO) material than chief executive officer (CEO) material.

“All that I hear from at least three independent directors, including Mr Ravi Venkatesan (co-chairman), are complaints about Dr Sikka. They have told me umpteen times that Dr Sikka is not a CEO material but CTO material. This is the view of at least three members of the board, and not my view since I have not seen him operate from the vantage point of an Infosys board member,” Murthy had said in the email.

Uber’s Self Driving Head Wanted To “Call Elon Musk Out On His S**t” Over Tesla Claims

While the world was agog when Elon Musk had made his announcements about Tesla’s self driving car last year, the engineers over at Uber were less than impressed.

A series of text messages between Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber’s driverless car project, show that the duo were dismissive of the claims made by Elon Musk over Tesla’s self-driving capabilities. These SMSes have been released as a part of a court case in which Levandowski, a former Google self driving engineer, is accused of having stolen secrets when his startup was acquired by Uber.

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In an SMS sent on 14th September last year, Levandowski told Kalanick that Musk was lying about Tesla having driven millions of miles without incident.

9/14/2016 Levandowski: Tesla crash in January … implies Elon is lying about millions of miles without incident. We should have LDP on Tesla just to catch all the crashes that are going on.

In fact, Levandowski seemed so perturbed by Musk’s claims that he wanted to start a new social media handle called FakeTesla, which would rebut the apparently false claims that Elon Musk was making. “We’ve got to start calling Elon on his shit,” he said.

9/22/2016: We’ve got to start calling Elon on his shit. I’m not on social media but let’s start “faketesla” and start give physics lessons about stupid shit Elon says like [saying his cars don’t need lidar]

On 19th October, Musk had announced that all Teslas would come with the necessary software to allow self driving. The next day Levandowski texted Kalanick, saying Musk’s announcements were helping bring self driving to the masses. Kalanick then said Uber should get its own software running soon, and asked about how capable Tesla really was.

10/20/2016 Levandowski: Elon is going to make going to [self driving] not as big of a scary thing for the public… which should be good

10/20/2017 Kalanick: Got to get software runnin

10/20/2017 Levandowski: Amen

10/20/2017 Kalanick: What do you think chances are he has Level 5 in 20% of a given city?

10/20/2017 Levandowski: For easy city

10/20/2017 Levandowski: He’s trippin’ but might/will blame regulatory as to why it’s not available

Levandowski said Elon Musk’s claims weren’t feasible, and he would likely blame regulatory authorities when his self driving projects wouldn’t take off.  “He’s trippin’ but might/will blame regulatory as to why it’s not available,” he said.

Levandowski was also surprised when Tesla’s stock rose following its driverless announcement.

Levandowski: Lol, perception vs reality

Levandowski: We need to bash in this fuckface’s head in

Musk has made several bold proclamations about the self driving capabilities of his Teslas. Apart from claiming that the car’s software would allow full self driving capabilities, he’s also said that a Tesla would drive autonomously from LA to New York by the end of 2018.

But while the general public seems taken in by Musk’s proclamations — Tesla briefly became the most valuable US car company earlier this year — Musk’s competitors don’t seem to quite agree.

Google Fired James Damore, But All 25 Finalists In Its Code Jam Coding Competition Are Men

Google might have fired James Damore for saying that the higher proportion of men in engineering positions wasn’t because of explicit discrimination, but its own non-discriminatory coding competition has thrown up some embarrassing results for the search giant.

All 25 finalists in Google’s Code Jam — its annual coding competition that attracts the best programmers on the planet — were men. In fact, a report had claimed that no woman has ever made it to the finals of the competition in the 14 years of its existence. This was later proven wrong when a picture from the 2011 Code Jam appeared to show a solitary woman contestant.

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If only one woman made it through Google’s rigorous coding competition over 14 long years, it would lend credence to James Damore’s viral memo in which he’d said that men end up occupying higher positions in engineering and technology through a combination of innate ability and interest in the subject. Damore had argued that Google’s preferential hiring programs, which prioritize hiring women and people of colour, were bad for business. He was later fired.

Google appears to believe that more men end up occupying higher positions in tech because of systemic discrimination and subconscious biases against women. Since more men are currently in positions of power in tech companies, Google says they favour other men like them during interviews and promotions. 

But the results of Google’s own coding competition prove otherwise. Google’s Code Jam doesn’t take into account the contestants’ race, gender, political affiliation, or social status — contestants are judged by automated machines which check if their code works or not. Google’s code jam is a truly global event, with over 25,000 contestants participating in the competition in 2017. 

And it’s not as though women lack basic skills in science and math to succeed in a coding environment — over the last 25 years, girls have been scoring better than boys across US high schools. While the average GPA for women in science and math was 2.76 in 2005, it was just 2.56 for men. Why this advantage doesn’t translate into more women taking an active interest in coding is something that could be due to a lot of factors, which might be cultural, sociological, or biological.

But like Damore argued, it’s unlikely it’s because of discrimination. Since his firing, Damore has received support from several quarters. As many as 56% of Googlers are opposed to his firing, and a leaked internal survey showed that 38% were in agreement with the memo. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also come under fire, with street art criticizing him appearing near Google’s offices in California.

Author Rashmi Bansal Wants Intern To Work For A Year For A “Small Stipend”, Gets Trolled

Author Rashmi Bansal has stirred up debate about unpaid internships in India by posting a job opening in which she says she’ll only pay a small stipend to an intern who’ll work with her for a year.

Bansal, who’s written books like Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, and also founded youth magazine JAM, said she was looking for an intern to help her with her projects. “I am looking for a hungry and foolish young person who would like to work as my apprentice. This will involve research, fact-checking, handling my audio and video files, their transcription, accompanying me for interviews. It is a full-time job based in Mumbai and will also entail travelling both within the city and outside,” she wrote. Bansal seemed to require high standards from her intern — she said they couldn’t look for additional employment, or prepare for competitive exams during the internship. They were also required to have impeccable English skills, and proof of writing ability.

But Bansal wasn’t willing to pay market wage to her hire. “You will get a small stipend. But apply only if you would have worked, even for free! Because I want to see that kind of passion and devotion,” she said. She seemed to imply her offer was fair because her intern would have a chance to learn from her. “What you get in return is a chance to learn everything I know – what they don’t tell you about writing, publishing at any media school or bschool. You will get credit in my next book,” she said.

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Her post immediately drew a sharp reaction, with several people being less than impressed with her offer. “Exploitative nonsense dressed up in a pretty little dress to appeal to those desperate enough to fall for it. I hope you’ll be happy with the slave you find, Rashmi Bansal,” wrote Sujayendra Krishna Nellore on Facebook. “Fancy language for muft ka kaam (free work),” wrote another commentator. ” I think after your “stipend”, people will “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” in the original sense of the words,” said Soumyadip Ghosh. 

 “This trend of ‘free’ apprenticeships in India is really worrying,” wrote Akshay Tarfe. “If you really want to set an example, pay your apprentice reasonably, like a professional in any developed economy would.”

Bansal then defended her decision. “Many of you are willing to spend lakhs of rupees to get a degree, well this is the old-fashioned way of doing it. An apprentice is defined as a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages. I am not being arrogant, this is how creative people build careers faster and get to learn the tricks of the trade. It’s not that I can’t pay or won’t pay but that should not be the primary motivation. It’s okay if some of you don’t understand this approach or don’t agree with it. There is someone out there who will and it will be a win-win for us both,” she said.

The pay for interns can vary wildly across India. Students from IIMs can often earn lakhs during their interships, while interns from premier engineering colleges can make between Rs. 10,000-Rs. 30,000 per month. Many interns in Indian companies are not paid at all.

Globally, there are laws that require interns to be paid fair wages. In the US, the Fair Labor Standards Act regulates minimum wage and overtime for U.S. workers, including interns. Non-profit companies and public bodies are allowed to have unpaid interns, but private companies need to show they’re not benefiting from the work done by its interns, a requirement few companies meet. In England, the Labour party has proposed to put an end to unpaid internships, arguing that it widens the gap between the rich and the poor. 

There are no laws around unpaid internships in India, and millions of interns across the country aren’t paid for their efforts each year. But given the outrage around Bansal’s post, it appears that the mood around unpaid internships might be slowly changing.