Facebook Introduces Messenger Kids

Facebook has announced that it will release a new version of its popular app Messenger for children aged between 6 and 12. They do not need their own Facebook account to access the app, called Messenger Kids.

With Messenger Kids, parents will be able to control what their children see and who they are allowed to communicate with. There are no ads in the children’s version and Facebook has promised not to use a child’s information for other purposesIn addition, children’s names will not be integrated into Facebook’s search tool. At the moment, the app will only be available in the United States.

Facebook aims at getting children to become used to its product even if they are under the age required to get a normal account. As the company is losing younger customers to rivals Instagram and Snapchat, the company is trying to get young users to connect to their product before competitors do.

Messenger Kids will offer text and video chat as well as stickers and drawing tools. Special detection filters prevent children from sharing sexual content or violence online.

According to Facebook,  over 90% of all 8 to 12-year-olds have smartphones or tablets. Many use their parents’ Facebook account.The new app is intended to give children a feeling of having their own account, while parents are still in control.  Messenger Kids will not automatically be converted into a normal Facebook account when children reach 13.

 

Children can now use a special Facebook app to contact their friends.
Children can now use a special Facebook app to contact their friends.

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • account =a service that allows you to  do or  see things on the Internet
  • ad = picture, words or a short film which is intended to make people buy a product
  • aim = wants, plan to
  • available = here: use
  • announce = to say officially in public
  • communicate = talk, chat with or write to
  • competitor = rival
  • content = comments, pictures video etc..
  • convert = change into, automatically become
  • customer = person who buys something
  • detection filter = here: a tool that is used to stop bad things from getting seen by children
  • in addition = also
  • intend = plan to
  • prevent = stop
  • promise = to say that you will  do something
  • purpose = here: other things
  • release = here: you can download and use it
  • required = needed
  • rival = a company that sells the same things as you do
  • share = exchange, swap
  • sticker = here: a frame with a picture or words; you can collect them

 

Texting Celebrates 25th Birthday

Short Message Service (SMS), also called texting, is celebrating its 25th birthday. The first text message was sent in Great Britain shortly before Christmas in 1992 in Great Britain. It was British engineer Neil Papworth who sent the first message from a computer to a  mobile phone on the Vodaphone network. At that time mobile phones could only receive messages, not send them.

In 1994, Nokia presented its first mobile phone that could actually send and receive messages.  It was the first phone that could produce more than an audio signal. Shortly afterwards the first commercial SMS service started in Finland. Text messages were limited to 160 characters.

25 years later text messaging is widely popular.  97% of all smartphone users send some type of text message regularly. About 25 billion are sent every day. Today there are more complex messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messanger and iMessage.

Media experts regard texting as the first step towards today’s smartphones, which are basically pocket computers with countless apps.

Texting has changed the way we communicate. For the first time, you could send the same text to different contacts at the same time and it didn’t matter if the recipient was reachable or not. A new language has also emerged with abbreviations and short sentences.

Texting on a mobile phone
Texting on a mobile phone – Image : Helar Lukats

Words

  • abbreviation = short form of a word or phrase
  • actually = really, in fact
  • basically = practically
  • celebrate = to show that an event is important
  • commercial = here: something that you can make money with
  • communicate = exchange information or get into contact with each other
  • complex = advanced; with many different parts
  • countless = very many
  • emerge = develop, appear
  • engineer = person who designs and builds machines and other objects
  • limit = only allow
  • network = here: system of telephone lines that are connected to each other
  • reachable = here: speak to someone
  • receive = get
  • recipient = here: a person who receives a message
  • regard = think of something as…
  • widely popular = used by many people

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Singles Day Achieves Record $25 Billion

Singles Day is the biggest e-commerce day in the world. Organized by China’s Alibaba, shopping sales on November 11 hit a record $25 billion,  40% more than on Singles Day 2016. In contrast, Prime Day, organized by Amazon achieved only $1 billion in sales. During the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend of 2016 American online shoppers spent $5 billion.

Singles Day started out as an informal holiday in China, celebrating people who stayed single. Similiar to Valentine’s Day in the western world Singles Day took place on 11/11 .  In 2009, Alibaba turned it into a shopping holiday and in the past 8 years, sales have steadily increased.

Although the event targets mostly Chinese customers, shoppers came from  220 countries.  Over 80 brands took part in the event, with Nike and Xiaomi Corp. among the biggest winners.  Household goods and electrical appliances were the most bought products, but customers sought bargains for almost everything, ranging from cheap toilet paper to rice.

At its peak Alibaba’s computers handled 250 000 transactions per second, most of them coming in via mobile phones. In the weeks before the event was held, Alibaba had helped  600,000 companies upgrade their computer systems to make them fit for Singles Day.

The event was also turned into a gala in Shanghai where celebrities Nicole Kidman and tennis star Maria Sharapova counted down the seconds until the world’ largest sales event started.

Many critics of the event say that Singles Day is environmentally controversial.   It creates an enormous amount of wasteAccording to Greepeace, 1 billion packages were delivered in the days that followed the event.

Alibaba’s Singles Day is a display of Chinese spending power. The company’s owner, Jack Ma, is one of China’s richest men. He has been investing heavily in new technologies including automated stores which use facial recognition systems.

Singles Day in China
Singles Day in China – Image: Chrionexfleckeri1350

Words

  • according to = … as said by
  • achieve = here: reach a number of sales
  • automated = where everything is done automatically, without people helping
  • although = while
  • bargain = to buy something cheaply, for less money than usual
  • billion = a thousand million
  • brand = type of product made by a company
  • celebrate = here: in honour of, to show respect for
  • celebrity = famous person
  • controversial =  here: to cause a lot of disagreement
  • critic = a person who is against something
  • customer = a person who buys something
  • deliver = to bring to a person’s home
  • display = to show something
  • e-commerce = buying and selling things with computers over the Internet
  • electrical appliance = things you use at home and need electricity, like a cooker or washing machine
  • enormous = very large
  • environment = nature and the world around us
  • facial recognition = when a computer image of a person can find out who they are
  • handle = deal with
  • heavily = very much
  • household goods = things that you need in the house and use every day
  • in contrast = the difference between two things
  • including = also
  • increase = to go up
  • informal = not official
  • record = highest
  • sales = buying and selling products
  • seek – sought = look for
  • steadily = slowly
  • target = people who the event aims at; potential customers
  • transaction = here:  the sales of a single product
  • upgrade = here: to give a computer more power, so that it can do more things
  • via = by way of, through
  • waste = unwanted things that you throw away and don’t need any more

Twitter Increases Number of Characters to 280

The social networking service Twitter has increased the number of characters that can be used for a single tweet to 280. The new limit will apply to English and other languages that use a Roman alphabet. Languages, such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean, are not affected by the change because users can say more with fewer characters.

Twitter says that the change has been made to give people more opportunity to say what they think and express their opinions without making texts shorter or using bad grammar. More space makes it easier to put your thoughts in writing.

Twitter decided to implement the change after a month of intensive testing .Those who tested the new character limit said it was good because they were able to express themselves in a better way.

In the first few days after the new rule took effect, many people used up the full 280 character limit. A spokesperson said that, after a few days, everything had become normal again.  Only five percent of all tweets exceeded the old 140 character limit, probably because most users were used to it.

Twitter’s 140-character limit goes back to the days when the company was founded in 2006. Back then, the limit for sending SMS text messages was 140 characters and Twitter based the new service on that limit. Texting today is considered out of date and not used that much anymore.

 

Twitter logo
Twitter logo

Words

  • affect = here: to do something that produces a change
  • apply = affect; to be used for
  • character = letter, number or sign used in an alphabet
  • considered = thought to be …
  • exceed = to be more than …
  • express = tell or show what you think or feel
  • found – founded = here: to start a new company
  • implement = here: to make changes
  • increase = to go up
  • intensive = here: a lot of
  • limit = here: the number of characters you are allowed to use
  • opinion = what you think about something
  • opportunity = chance
  • out of date = not useful, because something more modern has taken its place
  • Roman alphabet = alphabet used in English and other European languages
  • spokesperson = someone who speaks for a company and makes announcements in public
  • take effect = to start to produce results after something has changed
  • thought = what you think
  • tweet = a message on twitter

 

Estonia – A Digital Society

Estonia is a small Baltic state with a population of 1.3 million. Despite its size it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has been creating a digital society since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Estonia, citizens are allowed to do most things online.  Every inhabitant has a unique ID card that they use for a number of purposes.They can file tax returns, get medical prescriptions  and manage their health records online. They can pay for a parking ticket via mobile phone and don’t have to go to a registration office when a child is born. Parents can check their children’s grades  and communicate with teachers. For many years Estonians have been able to vote online.

In 2014 the small Baltic country started a new digital initiative. It allows non-citizens to become digital residents for 100 euros. The government wants to bring qualified people to the country because the working population is steadily decreasing. The country desperately needs new programmers, web developers and media experts. Up to now 20 000 people from other countries have applied for digital citizenship.

Many countries, among them Finland and Japan are trying to copy Estonia’s digital society. However, authorities point out that the country’s smallness is an advantage. Such a system may not work very well in larger countries with millions of people.

Digital Summit in Estonia
Digital Summit in Estonia – Image: Anna Piperal

Words

  • advanced = very modern
  • advantage = here: something that helps you to be successful
  • apply = to make a request
  • authorities = the people who are in charge of a government organisation  or department
  • Baltic = region in the northeastern part of Europe
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = breakdown , end
  • create = make
  • decrease = go down
  • desperately = very much
  • despite = even though
  • file tax returns = here: to send information  on how much you have earned to the local government; it then tells you how much tax you have to pay
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health records = information about your health
  • however = but
  • ID card = small plastic card that has information about a person
  • inhabitant = a person who lives in a country
  • initiative = a new plan
  • point out = to show something that is important
  • population = the number of people living in a country
  • prescription = a piece of paper on which  the doctor writes down what medicine a sick person should take
  • purpose = what something is needed for
  • qualified = with special skills and talents
  • registration office = place where you have report to when a baby is born or someone dies
  • resident = a person who officially lives in a country
  • society = people in general and the way they live and work together
  • size =how large the country is
  • smallness = not large in size
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1922 and 1991
  • steadily = slowly
  • unique = being only one of its kind
  • via = by way of , through