Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly analysis of the most interesting and important news, stories, and events in the world of modern software and analytics.
This week, we continue to experiment with the TWiMS format, with more quick links to stories of interest. Our top story? Mark Zuckerberg gets hacked, which pretty much confirms that it can happen to anyone.
If Mark Zuckerberg Can Be Hacked on Twitter, So Can You—New York Times
What it’s about: File under “Nobody is safe from online data breaches.” Last weekend hackers gained access to the Twitter and Pinterest accounts of the crown prince of social media himself, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They left behind a cheeky message: “We are just testing your security!” And just a few days later, the same thing happened to the Twitter account of Evan Williams, the cofounder and former CEO of … you guessed it … Twitter.
Why you should care: If you still need a reminder that you should change the password on your LinkedIn account, here it is. The group that claimed responsibility for the hack, OurMine Team, said that it got access to Zuck’s many accounts via the LinkedIn password dump from a few weeks ago. As Fast Company writes, “The fact that the founder of the biggest social media empire in history was hacked highlights just how destructive large data breaches can be.” Despite the advanced data encryption technologies in place today, as the Times’ Katie Rogers points out, the best way for everyday users to protect their online accounts from breaches boils down to some commonsense advice: “Quit using the same password for multiple websites.” However, the big security lesson here is not for general users, but for the companies and websites that require customers to hand over personally identifiable data. As Jeremi Gosni writes over at Ars Technica, LinkedIn’s lax security measures allowed for a second data dump that “lets hackers be six times better cracking future dumps.” That’s because hackers use passwords to gain insight into how people are forming their passwords, which allows them to crack more passwords to gain more insight … and on and on. In a world where the average person has 26 online accounts, one company’s security failure can threaten everybody.
- Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest Accounts Hacked, LinkedIn Password Dump Likely to Blame—VentureBeat
- Mark Zuckerberg and the $80 Million Stolen Password—Recode
- Mark Zuckerberg’s LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter Accounts Got Hacked—Fast Company
- LinkedIn Data Breach Leads to Hacking of Zuckerberg’s Social Network Accounts—The Stack
- Twitter Co-Founder May Have Been Hit by Same Hacking Group as Mark Zuckerberg—Mashable
- Another Day, Another Hack: 100 Million Accounts for VK, Russia’s Facebook—Motherboard
- How LinkedIn’s Password Sloppiness Hurts Us All—Ars Technica
- Even ‘Dead’ Social Media Sites Are a Gold Mine for Hackers—IT Business Edge
- Hacker Lexicon: What Is Password Hashing?—Wired
Google and Amazon Are Slowly Killing the Gadget as We Know It—Business Insider
What it’s about: Intel recently acknowledged that people are replacing their PCs much less often, from about four years to almost six years, and they’re keeping their tablets almost as long. Smartphones appear to be facing a similar slowdown in replacement cycles, and author Matt Weinberger has a simple explanation of why. The hardware—and even the built-in software—is no longer the key to the user experience. Instead, it’s increasingly all about the apps and websites accessed over the web. As those improve, your existing gadget gets better, not worse, Weinberger says.
Why you should care: This trend upends the notion that buying the latest gadget is the gateway to digital happiness. Instead, it’s increasingly all about improvements in the software, which makes your existing device more useful than ever, even as it ages. It’s yet another arena in which every business is becoming a software business, including the hardware business. Software is now disrupting the very devices upon which it runs—from computers to tablets to smartphones to Google Chromecasts and Amazon Echoes. Just don’t think that means a resurgence in traditional mobile app sales. Recode cites a report from research firm Nomura that says the top 15 app publishers saw their U.S. downloads fall some 20% last month.
What it’s about: From Apple’s Siri and Google’s OK Google to the Amazon Echo, “voice first”-based products and experiences are continuing to gain traction. But where and how are these technologies used the most? According to market research firm Creative Strategies (in collaboration with Experian), the Echo is most frequently located in the kitchen, and the three most common use cases are playing a song (34%), controlling smart lights (30%), and setting a timer (24%). A separate but related study by the same firm revealed that Siri is the most used voice-based UI, and that across Siri and OK Google, the most common tasks they are used for are searching the internet, getting directions, and making phone calls.
Why you should care: While it isn’t likely we’ll be chatting with human-like voice-based AI assistants like HAL 9000 or Jarvis anytime soon, we’re certainly headed in that direction. Based on consumer sentiment revealed in the study, people increasingly see the value and convenience of voice UI, and want to use it in more ways—it’s just a matter of honing the technology. Anyone building voice-based UI products should take note of the conclusion reached by Ben Bajarin, lead analyst on the study: “This is another area where the one with the biggest ecosystem built around their voice UI/voice OS has the best shot of being ‘hired’ by the masses.”
The law of unintended consequences applies everywhere, even in software. While drivers may love the chance to avoid traffic jams, residents are often incensed when hordes of app-driven drivers speed down their formerly quiet streets. A key question: Who bears legal and moral responsibility for these unforeseen issues? The drivers, the app makers, or the residents who wrongly believed they could hide from the flow of traffic on public streets? Governments are increasingly blaming the app makers, as France fines Uber $907,000 and the city of San Francisco preps to fine Airbnb $1,000 a day for not removing unlicensed renters.
Software Is Still Eating the World—TechCrunch
Five years after Marc Andreesen’s seminal essay in the Wall Street Journal, he seems more prescient than ever. “The central question,” writes Jeetu Patel, “is not whether every company will have to embark on some sort of digital transformation journey depending on their business, but rather how they will go about making it happen.” This is a useful update on one of the central ideas underpinning the world of modern software.
Is HTML5 the New Windows?—TechCrunch
Author Paul Stannard details the “parallels between the arrival of cloud-based apps and the arrival of Windows 30 years ago.” He believes that “the widespread adoption and official release of the HTML5 standard in 2014 is triggering” a flood of cloud apps that are just as good if not better than desktop apps. For Stannard, this technology “revolution” is yet another disruption creating huge opportunities—and big challenges—for software developers.
Programming languages … you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. Network World’s Peter Wayner identifies seven languages that perfectly sum up this outlook. While over at Jaxenter, Patrick S. Li offers this advice: “Stop designing languages. Write libraries instead.”
On Reading Issues of Wired From 1993 to 1995—The New Yorker
Once regarded as the bible of modern “cyberculture,” Wired magazine has now been around long enough that early issues can be read as historical documents. The New Yorker’s Anna Wiener dives into the archives and discovers a wistful record of a future that never was. Recommended reading.
The monkey, which survived, also brought down internet service across the country. And, no, you can’t make up this kind of journalistic catnip; all you can do is read it and shake your head.
David Hennessy and Asami Novak also contributed to this post.
Want to suggest something that we should cover in the next edition of TWiMS? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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