Switchboard: The company behind the U.S. government backed ‘Cuban Twitter’


File: The Yahoo logo is shown at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Yahoo Makes New Push Into Video Content. In yet another example of its media tendencies, Yahoo has ambitions of producing online video content that could rival high-end cable -- or Netflix -- says a report from Mike Shields and Douglas MacMillan at the Wall Street Journal. "The company is close to ordering four Web series, these people said. And unlike in years past, Yahoo isn't looking for short-form Web originals, but rather 10-episode, half-hour comedies with per-episode budgets ranging from $700,000 to a few million dollars, the people said." Yahoo declined to comment to Shields and MacMillan for the story. 

The fall of Internet freedom: Meet the company that secretly built ‘Cuban Twitter.' Robinson Mayer at The Atlantic has a nicely written feature on the political forces and contractors behind ZunZuneo, the Cuban Twitter-like service that was supported by the U.S. government. "And what government agency made ZunZuneo? It wasn’t the CIA. No, it was the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, working with various private companies, including the D.C. for-profit contractor Creative Associates and a small, Denver-based startup, Mobile Accord," he writes. "The news about ZunZuneo broke Thursday morning, around 3 a.m. Eastern time. 11 hours before, I had been in the D.C. offices of none other than Mobile Accord, talking to the company’s president about a future product release."

Google: The word ‘glass’ belongs to us. Just Google it. Our own Brian Fung reports on an interesting tactic Google has taken in the quest for getting a trademark on the term "Glass" for its wearable computing experiment. Last year a trademark examiner told the tech giant the term could be confused with other products whose names include the term glass. "So Google has responded in characteristic search engine mode, with a 1,928-page letter designed to prove how highly ranked its device has become in the public eye, according to the Wall Street Journal. Around 99 percent of those pages consist of news stories about — you guessed it — Google Glass."

One big reason we lack Internet competition: Starting an ISP is really hard. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica reports on the slew of issues facing companies looking to break into the broadband business. "A new fiber provider needs a slew of government permits and construction crews to bring fiber to homes and businesses. It needs to buy Internet capacity from transit providers to connect customers to the rest of the Internet. It probably needs investors who are willing to wait years for a profit because the up-front capital costs are huge. If the new entrant can't take a sizable chunk of customers away from the area's incumbent Internet provider, it may never recover the initial costs. And if the newcomer is a real threat to the incumbent, it might need an army of lawyers to fend off frivolous lawsuits designed to put it out of business."

Amazon Fire TV falls behind the competition. "Amazon's promise with its new set-top box, the Fire TV, is that it will make watching video from a variety of online sources easier. When it introduced the product earlier this week, Amazon made it clear in the presentation that it understands the frustrations and problems that consumers face when trying to choose a video to watch on their televisions," says the Post's Hayley Tsukayama. "But, with Fire TV, Amazon still hasn't quite managed to solve those problems."

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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Hayley Tsukayama · April 4