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Last Week In Digital - 5th July 2017

Facebook rolls out new feature, Google delves into VR advertising, and ransomware strikes again

5Jul

Facebook will help users find Wi-Fi

In its ongoing quest to improve mobile connectivity, Facebook has rolled out its new ‘Find Wi-Fi’ feature. As the name suggests, the tab brings up a map which shows nearby businesses that offer free public Wi-Fi, and provides information about those businesses. The update makes sense for both parties - for users who have poor signal or are low on data, the feature offers help getting them online. For the businesses offering Wi-Fi, the feature will drive potential customers into their stores.

The release of the feature is in line with Facebook’s wider strive to bring connectivity where there may not currently be any. While its internet.org project is grand in scale, Find Wi-Fi is just a helpful addition - one that should improve connectivity rates in major cities, particularly among tourists. A blog post by Facebook engineering director Alex Himel said: ’We launched Find Wi-Fi in a handful of countries last year and found it’s not only helpful for people who are traveling or on-the-go, but especially useful in areas where cellular data is scarce.’

Google launches Advr

If you were wondering what advertising will look like in virtual reality - not our first thought either - then Google has you covered. The nascent technology is yet to make its way into most people’s homes, but Silicon Valley’s biggest advertising giant is already proposing ways to fill it with branded content. Advr, it’s experimental Area 120 project, allows video ads to run in VR in a way that Google hopes will be useful and non-intrusive. By tapping a cube - which will appear in native apps - or looking at it for a few seconds, users can open the video ads and close them as they please.

A blogpost from Google’s Aayush Upadhyay and Neel Rao explained: ’Our work focuses on a few key principles - VR ad formats should be easy for developers to implement, native to VR, flexible enough to customize, and useful and non-intrusive for users. Our Area 120 team has seen some encouraging results with a few test partners.’ Google aren’t the only company looking to get a head start on VR advertising - Airpush’s VirtualSky network features short, 360-degree video ads that play before other VR content, for example. Marketers will, undoubtedly, be genuinely excited by the prospects for engagement offered by VR’s immersion. By allowing the users the option to ignore the ad content, Google has seemingly acknowledged one of VR advertising’s main potential stumbling blocks - the more general intrusiveness inherent in VR.

Global ransomware attack raises security questions

Just one month after Wannacry, the world has been hit by another major ransomware attack: PetrWrap. The tool, built from the bones of Petya, holds users’ files for ransom and ordinarily demands ludicrous fees for the encryption key. MeDoc, the Ukrainian software company that unwittingly spread a poisoned update, has already been threatened by the Ukrainian authorities for ignoring critical vulnerabilities in its software, which it is suspected that the attackers targeted.

70% of the infected machines are in Ukraine, meaning the malware is far less widespread than WannaCry, but it has hit some high-profile targets. According to the BBC, PetrWrap has already infected computers in institutions such as the Ukrainian central bank, the Ukrainian power company, Kiev’s main airport, Danish shipping company Maersk, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and others.

Tinder unveils new subscription type

In a pledge to get more users onto subscription packages, dating app pioneer Tinder has added another level to its paid service - Tinder Gold. The new service features all the elements of Tinder Plus - more super likes, one boost per month, Passport (ability to swipe in any chosen location), unlimited likes - with one big added extra. ‘Likes You’ allows users to see who has already shown their interest with a right swipe before you decide on whether or not to return the favor.

The service will initially be rolled out in Canada, Australia, Argentina, and Mexico, and pricing has yet to be revealed. The hope is that, in offering Gold, Tinder can cater for those who don’t want to spend time flicking through potential matches. If the initial rollout goes well, expect to see Gold hitting the US some time this year.

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