Are These The First iPhone 6 Photos?

These grainy photos, first posted to The Verge, might just be our first glimpse at Apple’s next iPhone.

This afternoon, Apple blogger Sonny Dickson — who has been right before on Apple leaks — posted four “teaser” photos to Twitter, suggesting that the images could very well be leaked shots of the iPhone 6. If real, they appear to show a slimmer and longer grey back casing.

According to Dickson’s blog he’s “not 100% sure this is the real back housing,” but since he’s been right before, there’s some reason to believe this is the first of many shots we’ll see leading up to next fall.

Dickson’s blog has a few more exclusive photos of the potentially leaked phone you can find here.

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San Francisco Tech Company Gets Charity Tax Breaks For Helping Other Tech Companies

Paul Sakuma / Via AP

Technology consulting company 21Tech is one of the six San Francisco tech companies earning 1.5% payroll tax breaks on new hires over the next six years in exchange for “giving back” to the community. The idea: to bring more tech companies to the city, but to make sure the massive influx of new, monied residents doesn’t come at the expense of existing neighborhood residents — a phenomenon recently described as “hyper gentrification.”

While most of the companies have focused on schools, nonprofits, and homeless shelters, 21Tech has taken a different approach: assisting two startups with getting bids on government contracts.

21Tech first proposed its plan to the city as follows: It would help small local businesses register as minority- and women-owned small businesses, which would give them priority status for getting discounted government contracts. 21Tech would help them navigate the whole process, including bidding for the government deals. The city didn’t specify what kind of businesses they had to be, only that they somehow benefit the Mid-Market area.

The city did not outright dismiss the concept. “We didn’t specify the sort of business,” Bill Barnes, the city administrator overseeing the tax break process, told BuzzFeed. “I know in Mid-Market, a lot of individual sole proprietors that are struggling with rent are PR or marketing or startups. That is the business mix that exists in the area.”

Whether these count as neighborhood businesses is a matter of technicality. So is the question of whether they qualify as minority-owned or women-owned businesses, or whether they really need much help in the first place. The question of whether their existence and success helps the neighborhood, however, is not. It should be possible to determine if Regroup, a mass messaging platform, and DelC2, a business and international transaction consulting group, have any true relation with and impact on the Mid-Market neighborhood. There is scant evidence that they do.

DelC2, according to their website, is an “international network of professionals in the United States and Spain” that helps clients “develop global strategies” by providing “business and international transactions solutions.”

Information about the company itself is limited. It has no records on LexisNexis. According to city records, its address is the tony Marina district. Its website lists a Google Voice number and a list of advisors. 21Tech helped the company register as a small, women-owned local business by listing one of those advisors as the owner.

DelC2 did not respond to BuzzFeed’s emails or phone calls. But one of the advisors listed on the company’s site told BuzzFeed he has no relationship with the company beyond a single conference call. He subsequently got his name removed from the website.

The other company, Regroup, isn’t located in the Mid-Market area either. It is registered at a Mission District address, four blocks from Zuckerberg’s $10 million pied-à-terre. The CEO, Joe DiPasquale, splits his time between New York and San Francisco.

DiPasquale founded Regroup while getting his MBA at Stanford. The platform, which allows companies, universities, and local governments to send simultaneous mass messages via email, text, social media, and voice, started as a service for Stanford students.

In 2008, DiPasquale raised an initial $2 million round of funding, mostly from prominent angel investing groups. He himself is an angel investor as well as a venture investor at an early stage and structured growth capital firm, and has worked in investment banking at Deutsche and done strategy consulting for Bain, IBM, and McKinsey.

At a recent City Hall meeting, 21Tech introduced DiPasquale to the community board as the poster boy of their work helping the local community.

When asked about the two companies’ relationship, DiPasquale told the board that he met the 21Tech CEO several years ago at a Silicon Valley event, long before the tax breaks were conceived.

Questions were raised as to whether Regroup qualified as a minority-owned business. 21Tech argued that it did, because the CEO is gay.

In its October six-month progress report, 21Tech reports that it has registered Regroup as a small, locally owned business. According to city records, it has not.

Reached by BuzzFeed, DiPasquale said he didn’t know much about how the tax break program worked. He seemed genuinely concerned: He couldn’t remember the name of the committee he spoke before at City Hall but also seemed anxious to get off the phone. He has not responded to follow-up inquiries. Whether he knew he was helping 21Tech get tax breaks remains unclear.

21Tech did not respond to multiple inquires from BuzzFeed.

According to its six-month report to the city, 21Tech has helped the community in other ways, including taking an online pledge to keep streets clean, hiring a summer intern from San Francisco State University, telling staff about a local street fair with emails and a poster in the break room, posting jobs on the city website, going to local restaurants — a list on which it included Subway and Starbucks — and having the local Bike Coalition talk to employees about biking over lunch.

Barnes said he and the community advisory board are in the process of reviewing 21Tech’s case.

He and the community board have asked 21Tech for additional information. The company will appear before the board next month to answer this and other questions about its six-month progress report.

“The intent is good, but they haven’t verified the deliverables,” he said. “Our big focus is how are these benefits serving the geographic area.”

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Welcome Back To The Age Of The News Portal

In January of 1998, CNET reporter Janet Kornblum looked back on the internet’s big year:

In 1997 [netizens] found that there were any number of places—from traditional search engines such as Yahoo and Excite to software companies, online services such as America Online and Microsoft Network, and start-ups—that delivered, or at least promised to deliver.

Web sites reorganized and launched, trying to morph themselves into that perfect site—the one so well-organized, so fast, and so filled with information that surfers need go nowhere else.

In 1996, the distinction between search engines, online services, and free centralized sites was fairly clear. In 1997, the lines began to blur and have grown increasingly fuzzy. By the end of 1998, with so many companies adopting similar interfaces and strategies, there might not be any discernible distinctions among different kinds of sites.

1997, in more modern language, was the year that every site became a portal. At the time, these portals, or channels, were built around search engines, email providers and internet service providers. If you got your internet through AOL, you probably used AOL’s email service and homepage. The internet was much smaller than it is today but so poorly indexed that it felt unknowably massive. It needed tour guides and starting points, and portals were there to help.

Portals were also basically attentional cash-ins — they were less about attracting new audiences than taking advantage of captive ones. At its peak, AOL had 30 million subscribers, most of whom landed at AOL’s homepage every time they logged in. It was an unintentional void, so AOL filled it the only way anyone knew how: with headlines divided into categories.

Now, in January of 2014, one could write a similar story about the internet’s largest companies and their approach to news. “In 2012, the distinction between social networks, news sites, and and online communities was fairly clear,” you could claim, accurately. “In 2013, the lines began to blur and have grown increasingly fuzzy. By the end of 2014, with so many companies adopting similar interfaces and strategies, there might not be any discernible distinctions among different kinds of sites.”

In 1998, it wasn’t yet clear that social networks would supplant search and portals. And in early 2014, it’s too soon to say with any certainty what comes after Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. All are betting on mobile, but it’s not clear exactly what that means, or which of them, if any, will win.

But lines are certainly blurring, and distinctions in their core products — their feeds — are vanishing. On Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, users post units of content that can be liked, favorited or commented upon. The functional differences between these sites lie in who can see the units and how they can be re-shared. The practical differences between these sites depend mostly on which of your friends use them.

Like portals in 1997, the feeds are growing but established — they’re here to stay, at least for a while. But these companies now largely know what they’re working with, and their starting to act like their ancestors. Facebook, in particular, is marking its tenth anniversary by openly embracing portalhood, at least for news. On the desktop, that means introducing trending topics:

On mobile, the change is represented by Paper, Facebook’s new app. It’s a near-total replacement for the basic Facebook app experience, but instead of focusing on Facebook’s many moving parts, it’s focused on reading. It defaults to your main feed, of course, because that’s why you’re on Facebook, but surrounds it with curated news feeds:

It’s a strategy right out of the portal playbook. From the same CNET piece:

The message on the Web has always been, “It’s the content, stupid.” And in 1997, as the Net gained a hold in mainstream America, it became clear that Netizens not only want great content, but they generally want it to be free, well-organized, accessible, and packed with useful, reliable information.

Contrast that with Facebook’s Paper announcement:

Your Paper is made of stories and themed sections, so you can follow your favorite interests. The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you’ll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications.

Twitter, let it be said, is assuming portal-like qualities as well. In a recent update to its mobile app, it has started supplementing users’ main feed with inline recommendations. A swipe to the right now reveals a Discover tab.

Both changes suggest — the former, explicitly — that Twitter knows it has your attention, and it trying squeeze everything it can out of it.

Many of the old portals still exist in one form or another, but none are as well preserved as Yahoo. As far as regular people are concerned, Yahoo’s homepage, search and mail products still define the company (Investors would that the company is defined by its massively successful investment in Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba).

Looking at Yahoo’s or AOL’s homepage now is instructive. Paper is strikingly similar right down to the one-word category names. AOL’s “Newsstand,” “Marketplace,” and “Entertainment” have been replaced by “Headlines,” “Enterprise,” and “LOL.”

Facebook’s Paper app is beautiful, but without the presence of the user’s primary feed, its story mix — its sensibility, if you can call it that — is similar to every other general interest front page’s.

Twitter’s additions to the main feed seem to be at first glance more timely; breaking news shows up while it’s breaking, albeit stripped of all the personality that vivifies Twitter in the first place. An illuminating tweet from a reporter who broke the story, retweeted hundreds of times, is portalized into “Senate Passes Farm Bill.” Facebook’s trending topics are similarly lifeless — it’s honestly the first thing you notice about them.

There is an obvious and strong case for presenting the news of the day in plain language and an orderly fashion. There’s a similarly strong case for adding weather updates and stock prices. But is it Facebook’s job to do it? Does anyone really love these second-tier additions? Do you, or anyone you know, have truly fond memories of any 90s web portal? Or were they just there? For news, portalization is a fate not quite worse than death.

This is the behavior of companies that are figuring out what comes next. For Facebook and Twitter, the tentative and vague answer is “mobile” — all ways, all kinds. For the portals, it was social media.

Well, eventually: First there was the crash.

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Now You Can Actually *See* Light Moving In Slow Motion

1. Scientists at MIT have developed a camera system so fast that it lets us watch light move:

2. The system gathers image data at about a trillion frames per second — a normal camera shoots about 30, or 60:

3. Think of it this way: When you turn on a light in a dark room, the light starts in the bulb then moves outward until it reflects off of something. This looks like it happens instantly, but it doesn’t. It just happens at about 670 million miles per hou

4. Einstein, Planck, Faraday, and Maxwell never got to see light move like this. You do. Plus, you can control it with your mouse, like an Internet-God Apollo:

MIT researcher Ramesh Raskar gave a talk explaining how this works and what it means, and it’s definitely worth watching.

In short, his team used hundreds of camera sensors triggered in quick succession to capture pieces of images at a super-high framerate. And because the images came out almost pitch black — fast exposures require more light — the shots were taken over and over again and layered on top of one another until the light became visible. Incredible.

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Startup Idea: A Service That Prevents Startup Rap Videos From Ever Happening

Also, consider: these videos have gone from being regrettable, to annoying, to somewhat sinister. You can’t be both cute or cheeky and powerful — that moment passed a long time ago.

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The 17 Coolest Things About Steve Jobs

1. He Had A Sweet Mustache

Seriously, Look At That Thing

He was basically the Burt Reynolds of consumer technology.

2. He Swore A Lot

A lotta “F“s, in particular.

4. …Who Also Made Lasers

What does your dad do? Something less cool, right? Thought so.

5. He Had Kind Of A Syrian Cary Elwes Thing Happening For A While Too

Hey girl. I made this computer for you.”

6. He Drove A Silver Mercedes With No License Plate

He leased a new one every six months to avoid having to register. Pretty awesome.

7. Also, He Parked Wherever He Wanted

Okay, maybe not so cool.

8. He Had a Thing With Joan Baez

Maybe because she herself had a thing with Bob Dylan? It’s weird, but definitely cool.

9. He Priced His First Computer At $666.66

Closet satanist? We’ll let you decide.

11. He Used To Stick Pins Into Electrical Outlets Too

Because YOLO.

12. He Was Really Into This Beach Ball

Who can blame him? It looks pretty cool from here.

13. He Hung Out In Pixar’s Secret Room A Lot

It’s a legit secret room, only accessible through a hidden hatch in an animator’s office. Jobs loved it, and hung out there all the time. From Walter Isaacson: “It reminded him, he said, of the one that he and Daniel Kottke had at Reed, but without the acid.”

So, less cool.

14. He Raised Hell In School

“You should have seen us in third grade,” he once said. “We basically destroyed the teacher.” Awesome.

15. Apple Co-Founder Woz Once Prank-Called the Pope, Pretending To Be Henry Kissinger

Jobs didn’t make the call but he was in on it, which is still pretty cool.

(from iWoz)

16. He Had A Sweet Apartment

When he lived in New York, he lived in one of those towers. Pretty cool.

17. He Didn’t Shower Or Wear Deodorant

He thought that because he was vegan, he was free of body odor. He was mistaken.

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Steal This Game*

The past two weeks have seen a staggering wealth of accomplished indie games added to Steam. Between Papo y Yo, Don’t Starve, Starseed Pilgrim, and Dyad, PC gamers could feasibly busy themselves until the big holiday titles with excellent games that are as different in type as they are consistent in quality (and all for less than $80).

In the context of this bumper crop, the release this week of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine feels almost gratuitous, like, maybe we should save a little for the lean times. But games are ready when they’re ready, and that’s a particularly apt chestnut for the new cooperative heist game from the five-man San Diego developer Pocketwatch Games.

A little background: Monaco has been in development for a long time. How long? Well, it was originally grouped with the first slew of indie titles to break into mainstream consciousness; in fact, it was supposed to be the crown jewel among them. At the 2010 Independent Game Festival (sort of the Academy Awards for indies), Monaco beat now-classic indie games Super Meat Boy and Joe Danger for the grand prize. (The competition was so good that year that Limbo wasn’t even nominated for the top spot.)

But getting the game out proved to be an ordeal. What Monaco designer Andy Schatz told Gamasutra was supposed to be a six-week project turned into a four-year ordeal that included multiple stalled distribution deals and ports for potential new platforms. There was more than a little bit of a Chinese Democracy vibe around the game.

So it’s a good thing that Monaco is buoyed by an all-timer of a great concept for a game: a top-down, classic-caper, Ocean’s Eleven–style robbery “sim,” in which each action (cracking safes, unlocking doors, knocking out unsuspecting guards) is performed merely by pressing against the object in question. It turns what sounds like a nightmarishly convoluted setup into something sleek and intuitive. (And can you imagine this game done in 3-D by a AAA studio? You’d need a controller with 20 buttons. And lord, the cutscenes…)

You can play the game solo, in which case you control one criminal class at a time (think: Lockpicker, Cleaner, Pickpocket), or you can play with up to three other people, in which case everyone specializes and uses their complementary skills to help each other. I haven’t played just as much multiplayer as I’d like yet, but in the time that I have, I’ve been introduced to a genuinely unique style of gameplay, partly frantic, partly strategic, with welcome doses of slapstick. (The only game I can think of that feels similar is the timeless 1998 Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines.) A lot of people have written that Monaco really does feel like a heist, which is curious because unless a lot of people are cat burglars or are friends with them, I’m not sure how they know what a heist feels like. What I can confidently report is that it feels very much like playing a heist movie.

Monaco, like the rest of its accomplished April cohort, is an obvious labor of love. All of the little touches in the game — from a recurring guard character who keeps getting fired after you elude him, to the typeface on the map, to the wonderful piano score — glows with that patina of care and confidence that engenders trust in the designer. Despite its lengthy gestation, it doesn’t feel like 2010 or 2013; it just feels fresh.

So, yes, weary gamer, Monaco is another title that you need to put in your Steam library. The good news is, games this fun, unlike even the best crops, never go bad.

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WhatsApp Now Has Over 400 Million Monthly Users

Today, the messaging service WhatsApp announced it has now has 400 million monthly active users, a figure the company touts as “a major milestone no other messaging service has achieved.”

A spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed WhatsApp broke past the 400 million number on Thursday and noted that the company currently sends 16 billion inbound and 32 billion received messages daily, as well as 500 million photos.

The news is not only a company milestone for the service which was launched in 2009, but a demonstration of the weird and massive scale of this particular style of messaging app. WhatsApp’s spokesperson noted that the service has added 100 million monthly active users in just four months, a monumental number that is — truly — beginning to approach Facebook scale.

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Get Ready For The Great Embeddening

It used to be hard work to get a video to play in a browser. A site could link directly to a video file for download, but that takes readers away from the site and out of their browsers. You could, as most sites did in the 90s and early 2000s, require one of a handful of browser plugins, such as RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, to stream inline video. This worked well enough, but had its limits, too — in particular, the plugins sucked and embedding wasn’t really an option.

Few pieces of software are more maligned than Flash, but it deserves credit for two hugely important things: popularizing online video, and pioneering the embed. Unlike images or text, an “embedded” Flash video can retain its title, its metadata, and most importantly its ads. It links back to the site that it came from and therefore, in theory, to its creator. Flash video is dying, but HTML5 video players are keeping these conventions, largely because video embedding makes sense and seems good, even when it’s not strictly necessary.

The text equivalent of an embed is a quote and a link; a system that in many ways favors the quoters over the creators, allowing for mistakes, poor attribution, and a near-full loss of context. Photos are trickier. Hotlinking — HTML-level embedding on an image from another site’s servers — is both a terrible faux pas and now pointless in our age of super-cheap bandwidth; it also does little to maintain a visible chain of credit. There are peer-policed rules for crediting reposted photos, but all it takes is an email or a tweet or a post to one of the internet’s remarkably efficient destroyers of attribution for a photo’s credit and context to become irretrievable (Tumblr and Reddit are good at many, many things, and this is unfortunately one of them).

It makes sense, then, that some content companies are trying to do with text and images what YouTube did with video. The highest profile experiment in text and photo embedding is Twitter. Embedded tweets, as common as they are now, didn’t exist until late 2011. Before that the best way to repost a tweet was to take a screenshot or to use a blogging platform with its own Twitter plugin, like WordPress. Twitter wanted something more consistent and controllable, and that always led back to the main site, which is how we ended up with these:

View this embed ›

Twitter’s rationale, at the time, was simple:

Every Tweet has a story that’s more than just 140 characters. It has an author, mentions @people and #topics, contains media, and has actions you can use to share or join the conversation… we believe that everyone should be able to view and interact with Tweets on the Web in the same ways you would from any Twitter client.

This didn’t just presage Twitter’s recent decision to essentially require people to use its embeds over their own; it laid the groundwork for a new generation of embedded text and image content.

Josh Miller, cofounder of free-floating discussion platform Branch, explained to me why his service allows and encourages direct embedding: “We don’t like how conversations elsewhere online are constrained to the platforms which they take place on. How would you share an email conversation on Facebook? Or Facebook thread on Twitter? You can’t.” He explained that “maintaining the interactivity” was important, too. An embedded conversation that you can participate in and trace back to its home is more appealing than a quoted conversation that you can’t, especially if you’re the owner of the platform on which that conversation is taking place.

Twitter and Branch and Storify operate in snippets — Quora, on the other hand, allows for much longer posts. Some posts are, for all intents and purposes, news stories or features. This week, the site introduced a new tool, which lets people select any or all text and images from a Quora post and republish them in a frame — an embed, basically. Quora’s official motivation here is that “many publishers have asked us for a way to more easily,” which is probably true but distracts from the real play: Quora embeds link back to Quora in a consistent and prominent way. They don’t just put Quora content on other sites, they put Quora on other sites.

Embedding shortens and strengthens the attribution chain. It’s fundamentally about encouraging — or in the case of Twitter, forcing — people to give credit. To a media company, credit equals eyeballs and eyeballs equal money. To a creator, credit is often all there is.

Calling Twitter and Branch and Quora “media companies” is a new and novel thing, but it’s accurate. These companies *have* learned from traditional media companies. And, I suspect, media companies are going to start learning from them.

Quora is the bridge between Twitter and old media, here. Which part of the company’s rationale for encouraging people to embed posts doesn’t apply to the New York Times? Why, if the posts are going to be quoted anyway, wouldn’t the New Yorker or the Atlantic or CNN or, I don’t know, BuzzFeed, benefit from providing an embed code for its text, which keeps both the publication’s name and logo, the author’s byline, and perhaps even an ad? Traditional media companies might start to ask: Why is Quora doing more to to ensure credit for its unpaid contributors than we are for our expensive content? Why are we being less assertive about ads, which are our lifeblood, than Quora, which is sitting on a cloud of VC money. Copy-pasted text doesn’t make ad money, and simple link doesn’t always capture people. An embed does. “I think you’ll see traditional media companies start to look more like Twitter, and Twitter start to look like traditional media companies,” says Miller. And I think he’s right.

As ridiculous as it might look now, don’t be surprised if you start seeing stuff like this:

Mockup by John Gara

Unlike Twitter, the NYT doesn’t have all-important API access to lord over potential embedders (bloggers and reporters just copy and paste from a browser anyway). But they have other tools! Like lawyers.

This could present a host of technical issues that raw copying and pasting tend to mitigate. Imagine, for example, if Imgur disappeared tomorrow. It’s a small company, no funding, just a couple guys running a massive image site — it could happen! Reddit would become an index of dead links overnight. (This actually happened years ago, circa about 2005, when Imageshack nuked its database, leaving countless thousands of forums posts across the internet, which hotlinked from their servers, without images). Or – far less likely, here — if Google shut down YouTube. Chaos! The way Quora’s embeds work, they, or at least parts of them, would disappear if the site went down, just like a YouTube video would.

When sites that embed die, it’s messy. But what do they care? They’re dead.

More imporantly, the Great Embeddening would (will?) represent a huge shift in power from the quoters to the creators, which today means less than it once did — a typical internet user now spend time on both ends of the embedding transaction. So, too, do the companies that advocate embedding: Soon there will be no mere links on Twitter, just Cards (also known as expanded tweets). Facebook, which doesn’t offer outward-Facing embeds only because it operates under the assumption that it is the One True Platform, has automatically embedded outside content this way for well over a year now. (You can’t embed a Facebook post anywhere else, but you can embed almost anything on Facebook).

This symmetry helps reconcile the movement toward embedding with what Anil Dash has described as a shift from building pages to producing feeds. He commands publishers:

Start moving your content management system towards a future where it outputs content to simple APIs, which are consumed by stream-based apps that are either HTML5 in the browser and/or native clients on mobile devices. Insert your advertising into those streams using the same formats and considerations that you use for your own content. Trust your readers to know how to scroll down and skim across a simple stream, since that’s what they’re already doing all day on the web.

Dash imagines raw feeds of content streaming through apps; a sort of RSS for the iPhone era. This is troubling to some publishers, who, as Choire Sicha points out, would be forced to adopt types of advertising that they might not be comfortable with (hi boss!) or equipped to pull off.

Mutual embedding is creators and users meeting in the middle: apps and platforms interlocking with one another in deeper ways than they have in the past; “media companies” (a term we’re probably going to need to replace soon) finally communicating in a language that, for better or for worse, has more words than just “a href=”

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