Bill Gates is building his own city

Bill Gates is set to build a new “smart city” with a population of almost 200 000 people.

Belmont Partners, an investment firm run by the Microsoft co-founder has invested $80 million (£61 million) in the project, which will be “forward-thinking” and have “cutting-edge” technologies at its core.

It has purchased 24 800 acres of land, which will be used for schools, housing, offices and commercial and retail space.

Gates’ futuristic city will be built in southwestern Arizona, and will be called Belmont.

It will have 80,000 residential units, says Belmont Partners, which will give it a population of around 182,000.

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” said Belmont Partners, reports KPNX.

“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model.”

Google to create its own neighbourhood with weather management systems

It isn’t yet know when construction will begin, but Gates’ vision appears to echo that of Google, which is set to create Quayside, its own high-tech community, in Toronto.

Quayside will feature flexible buildings that can be completely reconfigured at speed, and Google will even attempt to “mitigate” the weather, to encourage people to spend more time outside.

It’s described as “the world’s first neighbourhood built from the internet up”, and Google hopes to turn it into “a blueprint for the 21st-century urban neighbourhood”.

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 

Takealot is preparing for a massive Black Friday sale

Online retailer Takealot says that its 2017 Black Friday sale will be the biggest its ever had, with almost every product category on the site expected to host sales.

According to CEO, Kim Reid, over 15,000 products will be discounted starting on 24 November, with the majority seeing up 60% off the normal price tag, and some prices going as low as 70% and 80% off.

The retailer has dubbed its Black Friday weekend sale as the Blue Dot Sale, which will run for five days: from Black Friday on 24 November, through the weekend to Cyber Monday on 27 November. The retailer said it will then follow up with Takealot Tuesday on the 28th.

Noting a big rise in the number of mobile users, Reid said that Takealot would start with Black Friday deals earlier – from 20 November – with app-only exclusive deals.

Despite the struggling economy, and the tough year seen in 2017, Reid said that the company has not seen much of a slowdown during the year, and is only expecting volumes to increase over Black Friday and into the festive period.

The group said it expects volumes to increase by 50% compared to 2016, where sales reached R56 million. Black Friday has seen enormous growth in popularity in SA – 2016’s sales were up from R17 million in 2015, and way up from R1 million in sales in 2011 when it held its first Black Friday sale, it said.

According to Reid, technology products, fragrances and toys traditionally perform well on Black Friday, but the retailer is anticipating a spike across all categories.

“While the big ticket items like games consoles and TVs are popular as pre-Christmas buys, our highest volume sales on Black Friday are often driven by everyday consumables, like nappies, dog food and coffee,” he said.

Website downtime

In 2016, Takealot experienced some technical issues with the site being overloaded by eager shoppers, and transactions failing due to payment gateways (especially 3D Secure) buckling under the unprecedented transaction volumes.

South Africa’s banks have already said that they have been upgrading infrastructure, and have technical teams on standby to handle the expected spike. Takealot, meanwhile, says it is preparing for five times the traffic seen on a typical payday.

“Our checkout process ran into problems on last year’s Black Friday because the banks’ payment gateway fell over from the surge of online shoppers across the country. The combination of all the retailers running Black Friday sales meant that they simply couldn’t handle the volume of transactions,” Reid said.

For 2017, he said that the company is continuously making changes to its systems and processes to ensure it doesn’t leave customers disappointed.

“We’ve bolstered resources across the business – from our engineers and developers to customer service shopping assistants, warehouse staff to Takealot Delivery Team drivers, to manage the increase in volume,” he said.

Source: Business Tech

Beware the dark side of Black Friday

Deeply indebted consumers should think long and hard before plunging themselves even deeper into debt by splurging on luxury goods on Black Friday.

With Black Friday and the silly season upon us, finance experts are warning consumers to steer clear of any spending sprees that could exacerbate their debt situation.

It should go without saying, but the message is clear: don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need.

According to Neil Roets, CEO of debt counselling group Debt Rescue, deals offered by major retailers on Black Friday often seem so good that consumers throw caution to the wind and blow their entire Christmas budget on single expensive items such as high-end TVs and other domestic appliances.

“(Black Friday) promises deals that would tempt even the most financially distressed amongst us,” Roets said. “The short answer is – don’t.”

Roets said that his company, for the past several years, has seen the impact that Black Friday and Christmas shopping sprees have had on consumers when they approach the group to try and get them out from under the financial mess that reckless spending has caused.

“Retailers who are themselves in deep trouble because of the contracting economy have come up with a host of clever ideas to tempt consumers to open their wallets and purses, which is how the idea of Black Friday was born,” he said.

“Black Friday was initially slow to take off when the idea was imported to South Africa. Once it took hold, however, it took off like a rocket ship, and many traders are now notching up a significant portion of their yearly sales on this day and over the Christmas holidays.”

Roets said many consumers also fell into the trap of feeling a degree of resentment, believing that they had been tightening their belts for so long that they needed a break and that Black Friday would be the ideal opportunity to splurge on something nice.

However, he warned that the current state of the economy did not lend itself well to this pattern of thinking.

“We are far from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It is our belief – and many leading economists share that belief – that we are far from staging a recovery.”

“In short, things are going to get a lot tougher before they get better. Now is not the time to act recklessly. On the contrary – it is more important now than ever to implement fiscal discipline and save whatever money is left over at the end of the month.”

The CEO said that consumers should plan around a budget, and bear in mind that December tends to feel like a long month, as the stretch between paydays is often much longer. Those who are paid a 13th cheque also get lulled into a false sense of security, he said.

“While we all feel that we desperately need a holiday and the end of a brutal year, keep those holidays within budget and don’t think that if you don’t have the money for school fees in December that the money will somehow, magically become available in January when the schools reopen,” he said.

According to Debt Rescue’s data, half of all South Africans are three months or more behind in their repayments, having collectively notched up R1.71-trillion in debt.

Source: Business Tech

Ex-Eskom bosses grilled over R1bn IT tender

The “overpriced” R1 billion information technology tender that Eskom awarded to outsourcing giant T-Systems two years ago is still haunting the under-fire power utility.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises yesterday continued its inquiry on Eskom into the mismanagement of state funds in state-owned enterprises.

According to Business Report, the Eskom board came under fire over “how it axed former executives and pushed through a tender deal of R1 billion for information technology and maintenance at power stations”.
Two witnesses appeared before the committee – former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona and Eskom’s former group executive for enterprise development, Erica Johnson.

Briefing the committee, Matona said that by the time he arrived at Eskom in October 2014, there was significant turmoil within the board and there was fighting over a range of governance issues. The most pertinent matter was around procurement.

He was suspended by the board five months after his appointment.

German-based multinational T-Systems first secured the deal in December 2010, when it purchased state-owned ICT service provider arivia.kom, which came with the five-year, R500 million per annum Eskom deal – at the time described as one of the biggest outsourcing transactions in SA’s history.

However, it is understood excessive pricing was the main driver for Eskom wanting to shop around for a new service
provider.

In May 2012, Eskom, nonetheless, said it would retain the services of outsourcing giant T-Systems SA for another two years, after it announced the previous month that it was scrapping its tender for the provision of outsourcing IT infrastructure services. The tender was reportedly “overpriced”.

Responding to questions over the tender, Matona said: “There was infighting about whether T-Systems should get the tender or somebody else.”

He indicated the issues at Eskom rendered the board dysfunctional in many ways. That could be one of the reasons shareholders decided to change the board in December 2014.

When questioned around his suspension, Matona said the suspension came as a complete shock, “by a board that had just taken office and a board that was still familiarising itself with issues of the company”.

He said: “I expressed my disagreement of a new investigation, an investigation of my removal without any basis of why I had to be removed. At the time I did not know that the same was being proposed for other executives; I was handed a letter of suspension. I believe the action was wrong and I went to the Labour Court and sought urgent relief to indicate that my suspension was unfair and that I should be reinstated.”

Responding to questions around governance at Eskom, Matona said the challenge of governance and what confronted Eskom was financial performance of the company.

“The books were not balancing and there were a number of factors, revenue was under pressure and this was as a result of the economic slowdown at the time. The economic slowdown was becoming apparent at that time. The issue of tariff – as to whether it was sufficient to sustain the balance sheet, the issue of debt with municipalities which was escalating. The long and short of it is that Eskom was in serious financial trouble,” he said.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb

SA slumps to 92nd spot in ICT rankings

Despite improvement in the performance of the majority of countries in this year’s ICT Development Index (IDI), according to assessment by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), SA’s global ranking continues to take strain.

South Africa slipped down four places from 88th position last year to number 92 in 2017, the ITU’s latest IDI rankings show.

The IDI is a feature of the Measuring the Information Society Report (MISR), which the ITU released during its World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium today. The ITU is hosting this year’s symposium in Tunisia until 16 November.

Developed by the ITU in 2008, the IDI is a composite index that combines 11 indicators into one benchmark measure, which can be used to monitor and compare ICT developments between countries across the world. The ranking index has been described as a tool for monitoring progress towards a global information society and a core feature of the MISR.

The 2017 IDI edition ranks the performance of 176 economies with regard to ICT infrastructure, use and skills, allowing for comparisons to be made between countries and over time.

The most important aspect of the IDI is that countries should track their own year-on-year progress and make policy adjustments to grow their telecommunication or ICT sector, said Brahima Sanou, director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau for the ITU.

This year’s results show improvements have been most significant among countries in the middle of the IDI rankings, many of which are middle-income developing countries.

In addition, least developed countries improved their average IDI value, with mobile broadband attributed as the driving force behind bringing previously unconnected individuals online and catering for the ubiquitous data needs of the ICT ecosystem.

According to the index report, Africa has by far the lowest average IDI performance of any region. Only one country in the region, Mauritius, falls into the top half of the IDI distribution or exceeds the global average value for IDI 2017.

Although SA’s global ICT IDI rankings dropped during the period under review, the country, together with Mauritius and Seychelles, still ranks as one of the relatively high-performing on the African continent, says the report.

“As in other regions, there was relatively little movement in regional rankings between IDI 2016 and IDI 2017. At the top of the distribution, Seychelles moved from fourth to second position, at the expense of SA and Cabo Verde, while Gabon moved above Ghana, from seventh to sixth. The biggest gain in the regional rankings was made by Uganda, which moved from 24th to 20th position.”

By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba for IT Web 

Fake WhatsApp affects millions of users

Around 1 million users have downloaded a fake version of WhatsApp which appeared on Google Play.

Reddit’s forum users noticed that it was a hoax. Users who didn’t notice this and downloaded the fake app ended up with a major amount of adverts rather than a messenger app.

According to Hacker News, the reason this spoof fooled so many people is because whoever created the App and who put it in the Play Store did so under the name “WhatsApp Inc”, which is the same name the maker of the world-famous app uses. However, Fortune Magazine says that it is not the most uncommon incident.

Fortune points out that when you search for “WhatsApp” on Google Play, it currently shows no fewer than seven spoof apps using slight variations on the developer name “WhatsApp Inc.”
All of them have four-star review averages, due to Play’s review system.

So remember to watch out before downloading off Google Play or ask a friend to send you the original App via file sharing apps such as SHAREit.

What happened?

WhatsApp fraudsters have tricked more than one million people into downloading a fake version of the chat app from the Google Play Store.

WhatsApp users downloaded the ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ from the Android app store as it looked it was from the company that makes the popular app.

The Google Play Store page for the fake app claimed the programme had been developed by WhatsApp Inc, the creators of the instant messaging app.

However, it was instead a fake app that contained adverts and download malicious software onto a user’s device.

The developers made it look like a legitimate app by using virtually the exact same name as the developer WhatsApp Inc.

However, they replaced a space that appeared in the name with a character that made the one defining difference look invisible.

This made it almost impossible for an Android smartphone user to detect the different between the real WhatsApp app and the fake version.

How to check if your WhatsApp is fake

To start with, go to Settings and then find the Apps section and click on WhatsApp.

Then under Store you should see the option to check the App Details.

This should then take you to the Google Play page which shows the app has been downloaded more than one billion times.

The developer for the app should be WhatsApp Inc and it should have a PEGI 3 rating.

If any of these details are different, alarm bells should be ringing and you should delete the app to find the official version.

You can also download an anti-virus to clean up any malicious software that may have been installed on your smartphone.

The news comes after over the weekend Express.co.uk warned about another fake app that had appeared on the Android app store.

The bogus programme appeared to be a fake version of the upcoming WhatsApp business app and was available to download from the Android app store.

Alerting users to the issue one Android user on Google Play complained that the app was full of adverts, while another claimed it was being used for “data theft”.

The fake app was flagged up by tweeter @MujtabaMHaq and WABetaInfo, a Twitter account about all things WhatsApp.

It has since been deleted from the Google Play Store.

Source: IOL; Dion Dassaayake for Express

The Paradise Papers: whose money is where

A new set of data taken from an offshore law firm again threatens to expose the hidden wealth of individuals and show how corporations, hedge funds and others may have skirted taxes. A year after the Panama Papers, a massive leak of confidential information from the Bermuda law firm Appleby Group Services, dubbed the Paradise Papers, has shone another light on the use of offshore accounts.

Here are the highlights so far of the reporting by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and partner news outlets on the so-called Paradise Papers. Bloomberg hasn’t seen the leaked documents:

  • The rich may be richer than you thought. Jim Simons, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has amassed more than $7.5 billion in a previously undisclosed, four-decade-old fund set up in Bermuda. Warren Stephens, an Arkansas banker and Republican donor, used a Bermuda-based family trust to reduce his tax bill and conceal his interest in a payday lender under US scrutiny. And George Soros, a liberal investor who has contributed to the ICIJ, used Appleby to manage a company that carried out reinsurance transactions that can be used to shield wealth from taxes.
  • More than a dozen members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top economic adviser Gary Cohn, held undisclosed offshore companies. Robert Mercer, a Republican donor who just said he would step down as Renaissance Technology’s co-CEO, was revealed to be a director of more than eight of RenTech’s offshore subsidiaries, who used other offshore firms to shelter money his family funneled to political causes. The Blackstone Group, co-founded by Trump economic adviser Stephen Schwarzman, used trusts and companies registered in tax havens to avoid paying taxes on two UK commercial
    properties.
  • After Irish officials closed a tax loophole that had allowed Apple to avoid billions of dollars in taxes, the US tech giant enlisted international law firms to help it find a new tax home and settled in the English Channel island of Jersey, the New York Times reported. The documents helped solve a two-year mystery of where the world’s biggest company by market capitalisation is booking a big share of its revenue.
  • Want to register a private jet in the US? Bank of Utah manages more than 1 390 aircraft trust accounts that obscure the identities of the jets’ (largely foreign) owners, the New York Times reported. Among the wealthy foreigners said to use the bank’s services: Russian oligarch Leonid Mikhelson, an ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin whose gas company is under US sanctions.
  • US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faces questions about his financial disclosures to Congress and the government after a report that he didn’t disclose business ties to the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an oligarch under US sanctions. The Appleby documents included details of Ross’s stake in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, according to the New York Times.
  • House Republicans should slow down their consideration of a tax-overhaul bill after the investigative reports alleged offshore tax-avoidance by US multinational companies including Apple and Nike, congressional Democrats and tax-advocacy groups said.
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it’s reviewing the documents and will take action against any financial institution or individual that breaches regulations. The regulator made the remarks on Wednesday after the consortium said that some of the files came from Asiaciti, a Singapore-based family-owned trust company. Asiaciti denied any wrongdoing.
  • Canadian tax authorities are reviewing reports linking a key fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offshore trusts in the Caribbean. Montreal-based businessman Stephen Bronfman, son of billionaire Charles Bronfman, was among the individuals cited by news organisations including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star in Sunday’s leak of bank documents.
    Commodities trader Glencore Plc was one of the top clients of Appleby, which even had a “Glencore Room” at its Bermuda office that kept information on the trader’s 107 offshore companies, according to the ICIJ investigation. (Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.)
  • Prominent Silicon Valley investor Yuri Milner, who was an early backer of Facebook Inc., partnered in two investments with the Russian state-controlled bank VTB Bank PJSC before it was sanctioned, his spokesman confirmed Friday. Details about the relationship between Milner and VTB surfaced in the wake of the Paradise Papers.
  • Indonesian authorities are investigating if former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the children of ex-dictator Suharto, named in the leaked documents, are in breach of the country’s tax laws.
  • A North Korean was listed in the leaked documents as a shareholder in a Malta-based company which may have been involved in the overseas transfer of North Korean construction workers, according to Newstapa, a South Korean partner of the ICIJ.
  • Queen Elizabeth II of the UK made a series of investments in a Cayman Islands fund through the British Royal Family’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, according to The Guardian newspaper.
  • Lord Michael Ashcroft, a major donor to the UK’s Conservative Party, had links to a Bermuda-based trust with assets worth as much as $450 million, The Guardian reported.
  • The Dutch Finance Ministry said it will review whether more than 4 000 cross-border tax rulings were issued in accordance with procedures. The decision follows the publication of an article in Het Financieele Dagblad reporting that correct procedures weren’t followed in an agreement between the Dutch tax authority and Procter & Gamble Co. “P&G has fully transparent relationships with governments and tax administrations worldwide,” the company said in a statement. “We may seek confirmation from governments and tax administrations that our interpretation of tax laws is correct. This is what was done in this instance.

Source: Marcus Wright for MoneyWeb / Bloomberg

WhatsApp messenger service suffers major outage

WhatsApp was hit by a major outage last Friday morning, preventing people around the globe from using the world’s most popular messaging app.

Users of the Facebook-owned app could not send or receive messages as the service continued to say it was “connecting”, though no connection was made.

According to DownDetector, there were problems across Europe although users in India, Pakistan, Singapore and Iraq also reported that they could not access the service.

Whatsappdown was the top trending item on Twitter in India, which is the app’s largest market. Around 200 million of the messaging app’s billion-plus users are based in India.

A spokesperson for Facebook in Singapore said the company was investigating the matter, Reuters reported.
The online messaging app went down in the U.K. at approximately 8:30 a.m. GMT (4.30 a.m. ET), before users were able to reconnect around 30 minutes later.

The reported connection error comes as Apple released the iPhone X on Friday, with people eagerly anticipating the tech giant’s latest flagship phone in stores globally.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

By Sam Meredith for CNBC

One year after Donald Trump was elected president, stocks are at record highs.

While Trump frequently claims that the former caused the latter, the technology industry might beg to differ.

Tech giants Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are the five top contributors to the S&P 500’s advance in 2017, accounting for 28% of the index’s gain, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

That’s over $1 trillion of increased market value from five companies.

Facebook is the top performer in the group, up 57 percent this year as of Monday, followed by Apple at 52 percent. The lowest of the five is Alphabet, up 32 percent, still well ahead of the S&P 500’s 16 percent gain.

A war of words
Trump has never had a particularly friendly relationship with tech.

During the campaign, as Hillary Clinton was staffing her digital team with people from Google, Facebook and Twitter, Trump was attacking Apple for manufacturing abroad and accusing Amazon of somehow using The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, to keep the e-commerce giant’s taxes low.

Now imagine if Trump had followed through on his promise to go after Amazon for, as he claimed, not paying its fair share of taxes. Or if he’d somehow forced Apple to start manufacturing in the United States.

More broadly, remember when Trump promised to levy a 45 percent tariff on products made in China? Apple and Microsoft manufacture devices there, and Amazon counts on Chinese sellers for a disproportionate number of products sold on its marketplace.

Tech has also taken public stances against many Trump proposals.

Since Trump took office, tech companies have adamantly opposed his immigration restrictions, whether the travel ban or his move to end protections for people who were brought to the country illegally as kids.

In July, Google and Amazon were among companies to participate in an online protest against the Trump administration’s effort to unwind net neutrality rules that force large internet providers like CNBC owner Comcast and AT&T to treat all content equally.

Tech leaders have spoken out against Trump’s order to ban transgender people from serving in the military, and they criticized the president in August for suggesting that “many sides” were to blame after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent.

But apart from the rhetoric, little has actually changed in Washington since Trump took office. And for tech companies, that’s just fine.

Tech has ‘optimized the rules of globalization’
Kate Mitchell, a partner at venture capital firm Scale Venture Partners, said that if Trump did follow through with protectionist trade policies that made it harder for big American companies to grow, the Trump stock rally would disappear in a hurry.

She predicts that U.S. leaders would lose ground to Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent, the world’s sixth and seventh most-valuable tech companies.

“If we have a trade war so that Amazon, Apple and everybody else is being discriminated against globally because we’re being so protectionist, Alibaba and Tencent will say, ‘Move on over,'” Mitchell said. “They are very interested in taking share away.”

After attacking Apple several times during the campaign, Trump told The Wall Street Journal in July that CEO Tim Cook plans to build three plants in the U.S. But there’s no evidence that Cook made such a promise, and it would cost Apple a fortune to move iPhone production from China, home to the world’s best manufacturing technology for
consumer electronics.

“You cannot manufacture smartphones at scale in the United States,” said Denny Fish, who invests in tech stocks at Janus Henderson, where he helps manage $4.7 billion. “There’s rhetoric from the president, but it’s not based in reality in terms of what you could actually do.”

Fish, who owns shares of each of the five biggest tech companies, said he hasn’t changed his view on the industry since Trump became president, “because the reality is that not much is happening.”

In fact, while Trump has touted an “America first” message of economic nationalism, the companies most benefiting during the Trump era are the identical brands that flourished the most under his predecessor. They’re winning from the same trade policies that have existed for decades.

“You look at companies like Microsoft, they’ve pretty much optimized the rules of globalization for 30 years,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Wealth Management, which oversees $70 billion in assets. Despite Trump’s campaign pledges, “there are a ton of entrenched interests saying we want things to stay the same,” he said.

Taxes represent one area where Trump and tech have been on the same page. Heading into the election, Trump’s tax repatriation proposal called for allowing companies to bring back the huge sums of cash they hold overseas and pay a one-time tax of just 10 percent, as opposed to the corporate tax rate of as high as 35 percent.

The tax plan that the Trump administration has proposed includes an unspecified repatriation benefit and a corporate tax rate of 20 percent. But those changes haven’t happened yet, and it’s not clear if he’s got the votes in Congress to pass the bill.

A political crackdown?
Otherwise, tech investors like Fish are happy with the status quo. As a stakeholder in Alphabet and Facebook, Fish said he is watching to see if any new regulations emerge that could thwart the growth of the dominant digital advertising companies.

New data protection rules go into effect next year in Europe that can limit how those companies use personal data in targeting ads. The U.S. has yet to take similar steps, but Fish said there could be some political pressure on these platforms as it becomes more evident how online ads and fake news were created and manipulated by foreign actors ahead of the presidential election.

“If anything were to change their ability to monetize in the same way, that’s where we would be more concerned,” Fish said.

He was quick to point out that for now, “We don’t see that.”

Ari Levi and Josh Lipton for CNBC

It’s official! Twitter expands tweet character limit

 

Twitter announced on Tuesday it would double the limit for tweets to 280 characters, a bid to draw in more users and boost engagement at the social network.

Giving users twice the space to voice their thoughts ushers in a new era for the online platform, whose hallmark 140-character cap had encouraged users to craft succinct missives.

“We’re expanding the character limit! We want it to be easier and faster for everyone to express themselves,” tweeted the site, which started testing an increase to its limit in most languages in early September.

The changes will be rolling out in all languages except Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, in which space limitations have not been an issue, Twitter said.

It is the first time the tweet character cap has been raised since Twitter was founded 11 years ago.

Twitter, which has been lagging behind rival social networks in user growth and struggling to reach profitability, faced a dilemma over the change in that it could alienate longtime users and transform the nature of the service.

Product manager Aliza Rosen said in a blog post that the test showed most people still used 140 characters or fewer, suggesting the fast-moving nature of Twitter will not change.

“Our goal was to make this possible while ensuring we keep the speed and brevity that makes Twitter, Twitter,” Rosen said. “We’re excited to share we’ve achieved this goal and are rolling the change out to all languages where cramming was an issue.”

Brevity endures

Rosen noted that in the first few days of the test many people used the full 280-limit because it was new and novel, “but soon after behaviour normalised.”

As a result, “the brevity of Twitter remained,” she said.

While Twitter itself changed the way people communicate in the internet age, doubling the tweet character limit promised to shift it once again, according to Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University.

“It will slow down the speed at which users consume information and will allow for more clarity,” Grygiel said.

“This might not be a bad thing during a time when world leaders are making military threats via the platform.”

US President Donald Trump favours the platform for making major policy announcements, as well as criticising allies, taunting opponents and threatening North Korea with destruction.

He sent his inaugural 280-tweet while on South Korea as part of his Asia tour: “Getting ready to make a major speech to the National Assembly here in South Korea, then will be headed to China where I very much look forward to meeting with President Xi who is just off his great political victory.”

Glances and likes

Some users have worried that longer tweets could profoundly change the nature of the one-to-many messaging platform, which is popular with journalists and politicians but has failed to win the mass appeal of rivals like Facebook.

There was also worry that raising the character cap would give blowhards and abusers more room to spout.

“I will gladly give up my extra 140 characters if Twitter will delete Trump’s account,” author and civil rights commentator DaShanne Stokes said in a tweet fired off from @dashannestokes.

Stokes said Twitter’s move gives Trump “a bigger weapon with which to hurt more people.”

Twitter, which became a public company in 2013, has never reported a profit, even though it has built a loyal base of celebrities, journalists and political figures, including prolific tweeter Trump.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said that longer test tweets got tended to prompt more engagement by others using the service.

“In addition to more Tweeting, people who had 280 characters received more Likes, Retweets, @mentions, Followers, and were more satisfied with Twitter. So, you’ll be getting 280 too – enjoy!” Stone tweeted.

Some analysts maintain longer tweets are not the fix Twitter needs, and may even change the appealing ability to take in messages with glances.

It also risks Twitter looking a bit more like Facebook, one analyst contended, and might prompt the leading online social network to respond to what it might see as a competitive threat.

Meanwhile, many users welcomed the news and said raising the character cap was long overdue. Some people already resort to long strings of rapid-fire tweets, known as “tweet storms,” to string together lengthy comment.

Last month, Twitter reported its loss for the past quarter narrowed as the company suggested it could reach profitability for the first time in the fourth quarter.

The update showed Twitter’s monthly active user base rose slightly to 330 million, roughly in line with forecasts.

Source: Fin24

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