The Switchboard: Facebook may be fading — but does teen SnapChat use matter?

November 18, 2013

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Amazon bares its computers. Quentin Hardy at the New York Time's Bits blog covers recent remarks from James Hamilton, vice president and distinguished engineer at Amazon Web Services, about the company's cloud-computing efforts.  Amazon's cloud storage system reportedly "handles 1.5 million requests a second, and holds trillions of 'objects,' or individual stored items" and is "building its own specialized computers, data storage systems, networking systems, even power substations and optical transmissions systems."

Here’s why Airbnb isn’t worried about New York’s crackdown. Our own Brian Fung interviewed Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, who says Airbnb facilitates some 150,000 sleeping arrangements per night. They spoke about new features, the data they collect, and current legal issues in New York City, where the attorney general is concerned that some landlords are abusing the service and renting their properties illegally.

Everyone agrees this cell phone rule is dumb. So why haven’t we done anything about it? Fung again takes on why Congress hasn't fixed cell phone unlocking, the rule by which it is illegal to switch your cell phone carrier while using the same device. "Last year, the Library of Congress decided not to renew an exemption for cellphone-unlocking under the nation's copyright laws, overturning a six-year history of approving the practice and creating today's impasse in the process," Fung explains. But now there's been no progress to change the rule. "What makes the situation even less comprehensible is how much everyone seems to agree this is a stupid rule," writes Fung. "The White House thinks so. Congress thinks so. And now, the nation's top telecom regulator thinks so, too."

Snap out of it: Kids aren't reliable tech predictors. Farhad Manjoo at the Wall Street Journal is skeptical of Snapchat -- at least partially because he does not think the current clientele are the best predictors of tech success. "I believe the children aren't our future. Teach them well, but when it comes to determining the next big thing in tech, let's not fall victim to the ridiculous idea that they lead the way." Many major innovations haven't done well with teens initially due to price barriers, he said. In addition, the teen years are often plagued by fads. "Is the app just a youthful fad, just another boy band, or is it something more permanent; is it the Beatles?"

Still on Facebook, but Finding Less to Like. Speaking of social media, Jenna Wortham at The New York Times asks a question a lot us keep thinking about: "is it just me, or is Facebook fading?" Describing her own behavior, Wortham says, "my formerly hyperactive Facebook life has slowed to a crawl. I’ve found that most of my younger relatives have graduated from high school and have deleted their accounts or whittled them down until there is barely any personal information left. As for my own account, I rarely add photographs or post updates about what I’ve been doing."

 

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Brian Fung | November 17, 2013