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Steam, the world's largest gaming service, is down after starting its biggest sale of the summer

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 20:49

  • Steam's summer sale event had hardly begun before the website crashed Thursday. 
  • The sale began at 1 pm, and reports of issues with the site began as early as 1:13 pm. 

Within a few hours of the beginning of Steam's Intergalactic Summer Sale, the website is completely down. 

The sale is one of the biggest events of the year for Valve's mega-popular PC game storefront, with hundreds of games going on sale from June 21 to July 5. 

According to downdetector.com, reports of issues with the Steam website began to spike shortly after 1 pm ET, with 274 reports of website failure now filed as of press time. 

Those looking to get their hands on some sweet deals might have to wait a little longer. 

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NOW WATCH: Why Apple is having so many problems right now

Categories: English

Instagram is taking on YouTube now that more people are watching long-form videos online (FB)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 20:36

Facebook-owned Instagram announced a new addition to its photo-sharing app on Wednesday: the ability to share long-form 4K videos a la YouTube. 

With IGTV, Instagram will allow its 1 billion monthly active users — a milestone it also announced on Wednesday — to create and share videos up to an hour long. That's about 59 minutes longer than the videos it currently allows users to upload with Instagram stories.

Long-form video sharing is a territory owned by very few social media platforms, and Instagram has clearly seen success with what it's been doing so far. So why the update? As this chart from Statista shows, Instagram and Facebook executives have reason to believe this would be a profitable arena. While "medium-form" video (5-20 minutes in length) has gotten relatively little attention, short-form video and long-form video have switched places in terms of the proportion of time people are willing to allot to one or the other, according to video analytics company Ooyala

Two years ago, users would spend about 26% more of their time on videos under 5 minutes long, but they're now spending 16% more of their time on videos longer than 20 minutes, indicating a shift in the industry — and ad dollars.

Though there won't be ads on IGTV to start, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has said advertising “is obviously a very reasonable place to end up” and that creators will have a way to make a living. Instagram has already put competitor Snapchat in a perilous situation, and if the pay for content creators is good, YouTube could very well be its next victim. 

SEE ALSO: The internet is projected to surpass TV in 2019 as people's favorite source of media

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NOW WATCH: Why Apple is having so many problems right now

Categories: English

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' director Rian Johnson taunted a campaign to remake the movie

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 20:16

  • A campaign has started online to remake "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," claiming that a group of producers will provide the budget.
  • "The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson mocked the campaign on Twitter, quoting one of its tweets and saying, "please actually happen."
  • A vocal subset of fans and internet trolls have voiced their disdain for the movie since its release in December, going so far as to hijack its Rotten Tomatoes audience score and send death threats to Johnson.
  • Johnson, meanwhile, is attached to write and direct a new trilogy of "Star Wars" films.

 

A new campaign to remake "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" was heavily mocked on Twitter on Thursday, and the film's director, Rian Johnson, joined in as well.

The campaign seems to have started this month, as a Twitter account by the name of "Remake The Last Jedi" tweeted for the first time on June 14. But it gained attention this week after tweeting over two dozen times on Wednesday and continuing throughout the day on Thursday. More and more people began to take notice, and ridicule, the account and the campaign's website, in which people can pledge a certain amount of money "to have your voice heard."

Johnson quoted a tweet from the campaign on Thursday with the caption: "please please please please pleeeeeeeaaaase please actually happen please please please please please," and numerous praying emojis.

please please please please pleeeeeeeaaaase please actually happen please please please please please

Categories: English

Amazon is missing one key component of its dominant e-commerce platform — and it'll struggle to get it (AMZN)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 19:41

  • Amazon could start selling more apparel on its core e-commerce platform. 
  • There are several indicators showing upside for Amazon in the space. 
  • But there's one major consumer headwind. 
  • Watch Amazon trade in real time here.

Amazon dominates in many industries. But its primary business, believe it or not, is missing a key component: apparel. 

E-commerce is Amazon's bread and butter, and it has used both data and profits from that business to disrupt other industries. But even though Amazon is well positioned to succeed in apparel, it is the one category that it is not particularly great at selling. 

"Amazon is increasingly well positioned to capture a portion of the fast growing NA online fashion market," UBS analyst Eric Sheridan wrote in a recent note to clients. Sheridan says Amazon could generate $40 billion in gross merchandise volume (different than revenue) from Amazon Fashion, a relatively new business. 

The two key drivers of Amazon's potential in apparel are Amazon Prime and the relatively small amount of private labels on its main site.

"Prime members will be key for Amazon Fashion expansion given their higher frequency and spend," Sheridan said. "Potential for increased adoption of private labels and current initiatives given lack of user awareness" indicates that if Amazon gets more private labels onto its site and makes users aware of those labels, it can realize significant upside. 

Amazon's fashion GMV growth has slowed considerably of late. 

And there are serious headwinds for Amazon in the apparel space. Consumers do not perceive Amazon as a fashion seller, and aren't expecting to buy fashion products from retailer any time soon, according to a UBS survey of 9,000 respondents.

"Based on our survey, very few respondents see Amazon as a site for trendy designs, fresh collections, or unique designs," Sheridan said. Amazon also ranks second to last in online retail platforms for percentage of respondents that see those online retailers as "trendy," UBS data shows. 

There's a reason for all of this. Designers don't like to put their products on Amazon because they're afraid the products will lose visibility and prestige on the platform.

The designer brands that do sell through Amazon "tend to sell their core replenishment items versus unique fashion items," Sheridan said. 

SEE ALSO: Mass confusion erupts after Trump signals more huge reversals on his controversial border policies Michelle Mark 44m

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NOW WATCH: The world is running out of sand — and there's a black market for it now

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We asked 100 teens how they watch television — and the results should horrify cable companies

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 19:21

  • Generation Z is moving away from traditional television.
  • Marketers say that's a major break from previous generations.
  • To sway these teens, some networks are collaborating with social networks and popular streaming options. It's not always successful.

 

Grace Clark, 17, doesn't like television. She says the episodes are too long. 

"I like YouTube, because the content is shorter and therefore is able to hold my attention throughout the whole video," Clark told Business Insider.

Her favorite is the Vlog Squad, a group of YouTube-famous 20-somethings based in Los Angeles. Several times a week, the group posts instances from their daily lives like flying (but with a llama), going hiking, or rollerskating. "Their content is very comedic but is rarely over 20 minutes," Clark said.

The interest in short but frequent video content from younger, more relatable sources is widespread among Clark's peers. She's considered a Generation Z, the generational cohort of Americans born after 1997. Few of them remember life before social media, the internet, and smartphones.

In a recent Business Insider survey of 104 teens nationwide, only 2% of Gen Zs said that cable is their most-used choice for video content. Nearly a third said YouTube is their most-used source for video content, and 62% say streaming excluding YouTube, including Netflix or Hulu, is their most-used. 

Those who do watch cable television enjoy it largely as a means of bonding with family, the news, or falling asleep. 

That's a remarkable aboutface from previous generations, according to MaryLeigh Bliss, Chief Content Officer at YPulse, a research and marketing firm focused on Gen Z and Millennials.

"It's a major, major shift that we've seen with these young generations," Bliss told Business Insider.

Among American adults, 59% say cable or satellite is their primary method of watching television, according to a 2017 Pew Research study. Less than a third depend primarily on online streaming.

The preference for cable is even more marked among older Americans. For those 65 or older, 84% use primarily cable

"Honestly, I don’t watch many cable programs," 16-year-old Grace Serdula told Business Insider. "I watch whatever is on, but I don’t pay enough attention to them. But I find YouTube a better entertainment source. I can watch anything I want."

One key reason for the shift is the increasing use of mobile phones as a way to consume content. The majority of Gen Zs use smartphones as their primary medium to watch videos, while millennials primarily use actual televisions, according to YPulse data. 

It's not because they don't have access to a television. If they're below the age of 18, they likely still live with their parents, who almost certainly have a TV.

Because of the decreasing emphasis on cable TV, this younger generation also has difficulty tolerating traditional ads. Variety reported in June that Fox outlets want to fill some of its commercial breaks with inspirational videos sponsored by pharmaceutical companies or other marketers. 

"That's actively to try to appeal to younger generations," Bliss said of Fox's move. 

Netflix is the top streaming choice for Gen Zs

Netflix, the favored option among Gen Zs for all video content, lacks commercial breaks. It's also primed for binge watching, which is how today's teens are acclimated to watching television.

Unlike previous generations who might tune in for a latest episode installment, Gen Zs told Business Insider that they enjoy watching older shows, too. Teenagers adore "Friends," a sitcom that aired its last episode when some of them may have been in diapers.

"There are more options than on cable, since you can rewind or fast forward and watch older shows like Friends easier," 15-year-old Sadie Madden told Business Insider. 

Clark also shared that she loves Pretty Little Liars, which aired from 2010 to 2017.

"I like the fact that these shows are on Netflix because I am able to binge watch them without commercial breaks in between," Clark said.

YouTube offers a different experience than traditional media sources

When teens watch YouTube, they're not seeking fictional plotlines portrayed by Hollywood stars.

One popular usage of YouTube is niche, hobby-driven content. Isabel Lagando, 14, watches lots of beauty and cooking shows. Kay Parker, 15, enjoys watching gaming videos on YouTube. 

"You can check out how a game looks from another person’s perspective before getting it," Parker told Business Insider. "Instead of waiting for something you like to come on it’s available on YouTube 24/7 and you feel like you can watch all of your favorite channels and their videos nonstop without getting tired of it."

Vlogs are also incredibly popular. One of YouTube's most popular vloggers is Zoella, who runs a beauty, fashion and daily life account with more than 12 million subscribers.

Vloggers like Zoella are as pretty and personable as any celebrity. But their transparency and frequent life updates makes subscribers feel more like they're spending time with a friend (albeit one who is an international runway model).

"I find and vlogging interesting because it feels like I’m ... spending a day with a close friend and traveling and whatnot," Serdula told Business Insider. "The videos provide background noise that I can tune into without missing any important plot devices."

How are traditional networks responding?

The amount of homes with cable, satellite, or telco is dropping, according to a 2017 Nielsen report. 

Bliss said the landscape for cable and network companies is "bleak."

Cable is the fifth most-popular outlet for video consumption, according to YPulse data on teenagers. Gen Zs are more likely to watch video content on YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, and Snapchat. 

In response, some cable providers have moved their content onto those more popular platforms. CNN had a Snapchat show, but that flopped after four months. More positively, NBC's "Stay Tuned" Snapchat news show accrued four million subscribers in its first five months — the majority of whom watch three or more times a week.

One notable success story is the ultra-popular Riverdale, the aggressively dramatic reimagination of the Arhcie comics aired through the CW.

As Vulture reported, the CW has a unique streaming deal with Netflix, allowing season one to appear in May 2017 on Netflix a week after the season ended. That gave swaths of viewers access to the show that they might not have had otherwise.

Riverdale's second season reached viewership numbers last fall that the CW hadn't seen since The Vampire Diaries 2012. And that was on their network — not Netflix.

That Riverdale could sway teens to tune in on an actual television with actual commercials is proof of one major point: The entertainment itself is more important than the platform.

"It's still about the content," Bliss said. "You have to make the content that they want to watch. You have to create the entertainment that they think is worth their time."

SEE ALSO: 104 Generation Zs reveal what it's like to be a teen in 2018

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Categories: English

CRYPTO INSIDER: The SEC has received 200 pages of Coinbase complaints

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 19:19

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

Coinbase has long positioned itself as a trusted trading platform among cryptocurrency enthusiasts, but a series of complaints filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that the cryptocurrency exchange is not without its troubles. Here's what you need to know about the 164 pages of complaints from Coinbase users. 

Here are the current crypto prices:

In the news:

New to Crypto Insider? Business Insider has a ton of articles to get you caught up to speed, including:

What other questions do you have about crypto? Ask them in Business Insider’s Crypto Insider Facebook group today to discuss with readers from all over the world, as well as BI editorial staff.

SEE ALSO: Amazon and other online retailers are getting hit after the Supreme Court rules that states can collect taxes on internet sales

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NOW WATCH: How to survive a snake bite

Categories: English

Fortnite fans think a huge missile is going to drastically change the game — here's what we know

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 19:05

As Season 4 approaches its conclusion in "Fortnite: Battle Royale," fans have started to speculate whether a large in-game event, similar to last season's meteor shower, will mark the end of an era. 

Clues pointing toward another massive event have already started to pop up around the island and within the actual "Fortnite" game code, which hardcore fans like to dig through every time the developers roll out a new update. 

So far, all signs are pointing at a huge missile, embedded into the side of the mountain just northeast of Snobby Shores, which many fans theorize could completely change a large section of the map. 

Here's what we know about the mysterious missile warnings in "Fortnite":

SEE ALSO: Hackers are trying to trick people into downloading fake versions of 'Fortnite' for Android

The missile first appeared in the side of a mountain at the start of Season 4. It's the centerpiece of a lair owned by a mysterious supervillain.

The lair is located just northwest of Snobby Shores, on the far left side of the map. It sits on the opposite side of the island from the unnamed superhero lair just south of Lonely Lodge. 

If you drop in to the top of the mountain, and come down the western side, this is what you'll see. The missile juts from a hole in the mountain — this is also an entry point for the villain's lair.



At a control panel towards the base of the missile, a hologram has recently appeared, which has led players to believe that a launch could be imminent.

This theory is evidenced by a few images that have been broadcast on many of the TVs on the island. This one depicts an ominous-looking face ...

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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Share your opinion — Become a BI Insider today

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:58

As a dedicated Business Insider reader, your opinion is important to us. That's why we'd like to invite you to join our BI Insiders program.

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The Steam summer sale is live — here are the best deals we've seen so far

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:49

  • The Steam summer sale is now live, starting today (June 21) and ending July 5.
  • New games will go on sale daily.
  • Check back here for a roundup of the best deals. 

Cue the memes of empty wallets money being thrown at screens: the Steam summer sale is here.

Titled the "Intergalactic Summer Sale," the sale will last from June 21 to July 5. Visit the Steam homepage here to see all of the sale items. The list here will be continually updated with sales that stand out.

Here are some of the best deals of the day:

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NOW WATCH: Here's why coating our streets white could help lower temperatures in the summer

Categories: English

Lawmakers are asking DNA-testing companies about their privacy policies — here's what you should know when taking genetics tests like 23andMe or AncestryDNA

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:31

  • Taking a DNA test to learn about your ancestry or health can be fun, but it requires the transfer of sensitive information: your genetic data. 
  • When sending in your DNA sample, it's important to get a clear picture of who owns that information and who will be able to see it. 
  • Before taking any test, always read the terms of service. 

DNA tests can tell you where your family is from and what health conditions you might be predisposed to get. 

They've gained significant popularity in recent years — over Thanksgiving weekend last year alone, shoppers bought 1.5 million AncestryDNA kits. 

But the rise of consumer genetics tests has brought up a number of privacy concerns, since they deal with information that's fundamental and unique to every individual. And there have been cases like the arrest of the Golden State Killer that used information from one of these databases to crack the case. It poses the question: When you spit into a tube and submit your sample for one of these reports, who has access to that information and who ultimately owns your DNA?

Two lawmakers — US Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Dave Loesback of Iowa — are now pressing DNA testing companies for more information about their security and privacy policies, Stat News reports. The hope is to resolve any issues around security and privacy. 

Late in 2017, Senator Chuck Schumer also raised the issue, calling on the Federal Trade Commission to "take a serious look at this relatively new kind of service and ensure that these companies can have clear, fair privacy policies."

In a blog post published December 12, the FTC recommended reading the fine print. "If you’re thinking about buying an at-home DNA test kit, you owe it to yourself – and to family members who could be affected – to investigate the options thoroughly," it says.

James Hazel, a post-doctoral research fellow at Vanderbilt University's Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, has been looking into the privacy policies of consumer genetics tests. He said the FTC's suggestion is very important. 

"We are good at clicking 'agree' and not reading the terms of service," he said.

When it comes to DNA tests, a lot of pertinent information hides in that fine print, including language about who owns your DNA, where your genetic information is going, and what the process of deleting your information from a database entails. 

I've tried ancestry tests from from 23andMeAncestry, and National Geographic (a test run through the Helix DNA test platform), so I checked in with all of them to see how they stack up in terms of privacy. 

Who owns your DNA?

For starters, there's the question of who "owns" your DNA after you send in a spit sample. The 3 billion genetic building blocks, or base pairs, are what makes us who we are. 

"You’re granting us the rights to share information, but fundamentally you own your data," Elissa Levin, Helix's director of policy, told Business Insider. 

23andMe and Ancestry said the same thing — although the companies need some rights in order to analyze your sample and send results back, they don't have total ownership. They can't, say, bar you from taking another DNA test in the future. 

"We believe that you own your data," 23andMe privacy officer Kate Black told Business Insider. "So whoever's data this is is ultimately the owner of that information. However, we do need certain rights and privileges to process their sample and provide them with our services."

From there, it's a matter of how far those rights go.

Who gets to see your de-identified information? 

When providing a spit sample for a genetics test, your information can either be identified — that is, linked to your name — or de-identified. It's most common for the sample of spit you submit to be processed without your name on it.

While reading through your test's privacy policy, note who has access to both kinds of information. Based on the three companies I spoke with, the de-identified information mainly stays that way (you're assigned an identification number that only the companies can pair with your account).

In many cases, an external lab might be involved in sequencing the genetic data to pass back to the company. For example, 23andMe works with contracted labs in North Carolina and California. 

"The lab has some access but they don’t know who it relates to," Eric Heath, Ancestry's chief privacy officer, told Business Insider. 

Helix does the sequencing in its own lab, then sends some of that information to its test partners, such as National Geographic. Helix is trying to be like the "app store" for genetics, allowing you to submit your spit to them once, then use the sample for multiple tests based on what type of analysis interests you.  

"The information we share with them is only the relevant piece," Levin said. "For some partners it might be a few markers or it could be hundreds of genes." 

But there's a key caveat to keep in mind: Because your DNA is unique to you, it's can't be totally de-identified. 

"DNA is so unique, and there are so many data sources out there, that it is incredibly hard to fully anonymize — and more so to promise and provide any absolute guarantee that the data are anonymized," Laura Lyman Rodriguez, director of policy, communications, and education at the National Human Genome Research Institute, told the magazine Undark in 2016

How is the data that’s tied to your identifiable information used?

Your identifiable information includes any self-reported data and your name. 

With 23andMe, Black said, nobody has access to both your email and genetic information — only one or the other. The system that combines the two pieces to give you a report is automated, she said. 

The same goes for Ancestry. Heath said the personal identification and genetic data are "not commingled until we provide you with your results." 

Helix leaves the genetic information de-identified, and it's up to the partners to recombine the analysis with the person who submitted a sample. Because each partner has their own privacy policies, it's important to read those as well. 

The three companies we spoke with all said they've created safeguards so that even if there's a security breach, your genetic information and names aren't connected.

Can you opt out of giving research partners your genetic data? 

Another privacy concern is the possibility that your DNA could get shared with other companies without your consent. 

23andMe and Ancestry both have research partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that explore things like the genetics of aging, psychiatric disorders, or lupus.

Both companies require you to consent to sharing your information if you want to participate in those programs. Unless you agree, your information will remain with just 23andMe or Ancestry (and the contractors they work with to do the test). The same goes for connecting you with potential family members. 

Helix does not currently have research partnerships. Levin said if that changes, there would be a voluntary process users could opt into as well.

How to wipe your information after taking a test

After you've gotten your results back, your genetic data lives on with the company you sent it to, and likely in the tube of spit you submitted. If you're not comfortable with that, the vast majority of your data can be stricken from databases and storage facilities.

Things get a bit trickier if you consented to share your information with third-party researchers. In that case, you can usually stop information from being used in new projects, but anything previously shared will still be out there. 

Before taking any of these tests, it's best to learn about the process of deleting an account, and find out whether your sample will be stored indefinitely. 

23andMe

When you register your test with 23andMe, you can opt to either have your sample stored or discarded after use.

To close your 23andMe account, search through the help center for a page titled "Requesting Account Closure." On that page are links to submit a request or email customer service (customercare@23andme.com). 

If you opt to have your spit sample stored but later change your mind, an option in the settings section of your report allows you to discard the sample.

 

However, there are a few places your information may continue to live. Under the regulatory standards that apply to clinical labs, Black said, 23andMe has to retain the bare lab test result for 10 years.

Ancestry

Ancestry stores your spit sample so it can be used for quality purposes, such as making sure the lab is running as it's supposed to and the testing is accurate. That also allows the company to update your results if more accurate sequencing technology comes onto the scene. 

To delete your DNA results on Ancestry, go to the DNA section at the top of the page — your test settings include a way to delete your results.  If you want to remove your spit sample completely, you need to call Ancestry's member services

Helix

Helix also stores your spit sample. To get rid of that spit sample, you can fill out a request with customer services. Helix alludes to retaining data for regulatory purposes in its privacy section, however.

In the settings of your Helix account, there steps for how to close an account. Doing that would cut off the flow of data to Helix's partners, Levin said. 

"Even if you had previously consented to share info with National Geographic, closing would close out the data-stream," she said.

Read the full privacy documents

For more information, here are the privacy pages and terms of service documents for the three tests described above:

This post was originally published in December 2017. 

SEE ALSO: I've taken AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and National Geographic genetics tests — here's how to choose one to try

DON'T MISS: How to delete your DNA data from genetics companies like 23andMe and Ancestry

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Forget Mars, there could be life on Venus

Categories: English

All the details we know about the Black Widow standalone movie starring Scarlett Johansson, whose director search is heating up

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:17

After nearly a decade of playing the role, Scarlett Johansson is finally getting her own Black Widow movie.

The one thing that DC has on Marvel is a movie starring a female hero. 2017's "Wonder Woman" was a wonderful movie, and its sequel looks just as promising so far. Thankfully Marvel is catching up: "Captain Marvel" is coming out in early 2019, and the Black Widow movie is getting further into its development. 

Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige has stated that it is putting a lot of time and effort into making it right: the character has, after all, been appearing in these movies for almost a decade, so she deserves a proper movie. More than 65 directors have reportedly been interviewed to take on the project, and Marvel plans on hiring a female director.

This week, Deadline reported that Marvel had narrowed the directing gig down to three women.

While Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) doesn't actually have superhuman powers (or enough money to make an iron suit), the character is integral to the franchise. She uses her skills as a former assassin and a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to bring the Avengers together and keep them that way. 

She has a complex but little-seen history, since she used to be a deadly assassin for the KGB. She was spared by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who was supposed to assassinate her.

Here's everything we know about her standalone movie:

SEE ALSO: Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been on a serious hot streak, and it didn't happen by accident

It will be part of the MCU's phase 4 line-up.

Phase 4 starts after "Avengers 4" with "Spider-Man: Homecoming 2" (July 2019), and will also include "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," which doesn't have a release date yet. 

 

 



Jac Schaeffer is writing the screenplay.

Scaheffer wrote 2009's "TiMER," the short "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," and 2019's upcoming "The Hustle," which stars Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. 

Johansson is reportedly contributing ideas to the screenplay. In 2016, Johansson told Variety about the endless possibilities for Black Widow film:

"There’s a lot of places you can go — you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There’s all kinds of stuff that you could do with it. You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from and where she’s part of. There are so many ways you can go. I think it would just have to be very much like its own specific thing. It would have to have its own specific vibe. It would have been totally different than any of the other standalone films. I think if the fans wanted it enough, then it would probably become a reality."

 



Filming will begin next year.

This probably means that the movie will come out in 2020 or 2021, depending which half of 2019 filming takes place. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Categories: English

8 details we already know about 'Halo Infinite,' the ambitious next game in the blockbuster Xbox franchise

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:17

When Microsoft held an Xbox briefing last week, everyone watching expected a new "Halo" game to be announced. But no one expected "Halo Infinite."

The new "Halo" is the next major entry in the long-running first-person shooter series, and it once again features the iconic supersoldier Master Chief as its main protagonist. And "Halo Infinite" is rife with nods to "Halo" tradition.

But let's be clear: It's not named "Halo 6" for a good reason. The game features a new art style, and is said to take the series in "new and unexpected directions." Since "Halo Infinite" is still early in development, there's only so much to know thus far — but we've put together as much as we could find below:

SEE ALSO: Forget the PlayStation 4 — at least 2 major games are already being made for 'next generation' game consoles

1. It stars Master Chief, the supersoldier you know and love.

And not just that, but Master Chief is front and center unlike some previous games in the series. The game's story focuses on him, and you playing as him, and — if history serves as a guide here — shooting like a trillion aliens as him.



2. It continues the story of "Halo 5: Guardians," despite the fact that it's not called "Halo 6."

At the end of "Halo 5: Guardians," which came out in 2015, there were some loose ends.

"Halo Infinite" intends to tie those up, or at least offer a continuation of where things left off.

"In Halo Infinite, the game will focus on the Master Chief and continue his saga after the events of Halo 5," 343 Industries studio head Chris Lee said in a blog post when the game was revealed.

It's not clear who the soldiers are in the image above.



3. It's powered by a custom-built game engine, the Slipspace Engine, which produced the first trailer for the game.

A game "engine" is the software used to build a game. Think of it like Adobe Photoshop: a software tool used to create digital works. 

In the case of "Halo Infinite," the team at Microsoft-owned 343 Industries custom-built their own engine — software tools — to create "Infinite." The project is said to be so ambitious that a custom engine was required. "We knew we had to build new tech to fully realize our goals for 'Halo Infinite'," Lee said.

The new engine is appropriately titled the "Slipspace Engine" — a reference that only the nerdiest of "Halo" fans will understand (myself included).



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Categories: English

4 reasons you should buy the LG G7 instead of the Galaxy S9

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:09

Android users are pretty spoiled for choice, which actually makes it harder to pick a smartphone.

Two of the phones you'll undoubtedly be checking out include the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the LG G7 "ThinQ."

Below, I've listed the four things that the LG G7 does better than the Galaxy S9. Apart from those four things, the phones have pretty much identical specs and features, including the speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, wireless charging, and water resistance. 

There are several things that the Galaxy S9 does better than the LG G7, but there are still 4 good reasons why should consider the G7 before pulling the trigger on the Galaxy S9:

SEE ALSO: Here's how the 'unlimited' plans from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile compare

1. The LG G7 has better bang for your buck in terms of screen size.

For the $700 range, the biggest screen you'll find is in the $750 LG G7. It has a 6.1-inch display compared to the 5.8-inch display on the standard $720 Galaxy S9. 

The LG G7's display is also just barely smaller than the 6.2-inch display on the $840 Galaxy S9 Plus, which costs $90 more than the LG G7. 



2. The LG G7 has a notch, which is actually a good thing on Android smartphones.

The iPhone X-style notch at the top of the LG G7's display actually makes way more sense on Android smartphones than it does on iPhones. That's because the notch is a perfect place for the Android notification bar that's at the top of Android phone displays. 

When you move the Android notification bar to the notch, you make a little bit more room for your home screen, apps, and pretty much anything else you do with your phone. 

And if you don't like the "notched" look, where you can see your background and apps in the screen area around the notch, you can turn the notch effect off. The Android notification bar will remain at the top, but it'll be blacked out like traditional Android. 



3. The LG G7 has the best audio quality for both wired or wireless headphones.

The LG G7 has a higher quality headphone amp than most other smartphones, which can make a noticeable difference to someone who appreciates top sound quality. 

For wireless Bluetooth audio, it also goes the extra mile. It comes with the "aptX HD" standard, which delivers better quality audio over Bluetooth than the standard aptX you'd find on the Galaxy S9. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Categories: English

Google's internal rebellion over military contracts reportedly began when 9 engineers mutinied over a mysterious technology (GOOG, GOOGL)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:52

 

 

  • A group of software engineers refused to work on technology that would help Google win military contracts, according to Bloomberg.
  • That refusal caused the company to postpone the release of the tech, called "air gap."
  • This event incited others at Google to speak out against Google's ambitions for working with the military.
  • It's unclear if Google plans to continue working on "air gap."  

A group of Google software engineers mutinied earlier this year and refused to contribute to a technology called “air gap”  that might have helped Google win “sensitive military contracts,” according to a Bloomberg report on Thursday.

There's little in the Bloomberg story about the technology's capabilities or function, other than it was a "cutting edge security feature." Whatever "air gap" does, it prompted the group of engineers to inform their bosses that they didn’t believe Google should assist the government wage war. Eventually, Urs Hölzle, the Google executive in charge of  the company's technology infrastructure, postponed the "air gap" feature, Bloomberg wrote.

The stand taken by the engineer group was one of the inciting incidents that inspired other employees to speak out against management's ambitions of working with the US Department of Defense, Bloomberg reported. Inside the company, the engineers are now revered, and have become known as the “Group of Nine.” 

However, a possible hint as to the functionality of "air gap" comes from the term's broader usage in the world of cybersecurity. In networking, an "air gap" is when a computer system is kept on an entirely separate network — making it harder, if not impossible, for an attacker to penetrate remotely. It's literally separated by air from other systems, hence the name.

When word leaked that Google was part of Project Maven, an effort to provide artificial intelligence technology to help the military analyze drove-video footage, thousands of employees signed a petition demanding an end to the relationship with the DoD.  At least a dozen employees resigned in protest.

The company earlier this month finally yielded and published a set of ethical principles promising not to build AI-powered weapons. 

The longterm fallout over the controversy within Google is unclear, but the company voluntarily seems to have cut itself off from a potentially lucrative source of income. A single military contract can generate billions of dollars and would have boosted the reputation of Google's cloud services as it tries to compete with the sector leaders, Amazon and Microsoft.

Perhaps what's most interesting about this story is that, according to Bloomberg, the seed of this unprecedented employee revolt at Google and all this change to the company's strategy began with just a few of the company's employees who banded together and said "no." Google employs about 80,000 workers now.

What remains unclear is whether Google will continue working on "air gap," Bloomberg wrote. 

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEE ALSO: Google promised to not make weapons but it will complete Project Maven contract

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How a tiny camera startup is taking on Amazon and Google

Categories: English

The Netflix of China is getting whacked (IQ)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:32

iQiyi, often referred to as the "Netflix of China," is taking it on the chin Thursday, trading down 11.47% at $39.13 per share. 

Thursday's sell-off comes amid an absence of headlines, and may be related to some technical selling as shares have more than doubled over the past month. They closed at $20.26 apiece on May 21 and hit a high of $46.23 on June 19. Early weakness on Thursday broke the trendline from that rally, leading to a cascade of selling.  

Fueling those gains has been a cult following from millennials. Public data from the free trading app Robinhood, which skews towards younger investors, shows iQiyi has moved to 24th place on the most-owned list among users. It wasn't even in the top 100 a month ago, the data showed. 

iQiyi is up about 114% since going public on March 29. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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Categories: English

The world's largest advertiser is pushing Facebook and Google to share their data — and hinted it's ready to spend its money elsewhere

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:26

  • Marc Pritchard, who oversees marketing for the world's biggest advertiser Procter & Gamble, has been on a crusade to clean up digital advertising.
  • His next mission is to get the so-called walled gardens – Facebook and Google – to bend on sharing their data with advertisers. And he thinks he's got a good shot.
  • Regardless, P&G doesn't want to over rely on the duopoly.
  • "There's many ways we can reach people," he said.

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for Procter & Gamble, has spent the past few years on a crusade to clean up digital advertising.

Now he may be taking on an even more quixotic mission: getting the walled gardens to lower their walls just a bit.

In a sit down with Business Insider at the Cannes ad festival, Pritchard said that he's feeling better about P&G's digital advertising output, citing strides the industry has made in sniffing out fraudulent ads and making sure brands only pay for ads people can see.

Phase two of his digital cleanup, he says, is to get Facebook and Google to share more of their data outside of their own walls. And he thinks he can get the famously data-hoarding duopoly to bend just a bit.

Facebook and Google both have a massive data assets that powers their businesses

Both Facebook and Google have reams of data on customers (like where they live, what they search for and like) that is used for ad targeting. And advertisers have long grumbled that these two tech giants won't let that data leave their premises.

And Pritchard doesn't expect them to just hand that date over – since such powerful data sets are a massive business advantage for both. More specifically, he wants the duopoly companies to help P&G match up the audiences they are targeting elsewhere on the web with their targeting efforts on Facebook and Google.

That way, theoretically, P&G can see how many times it's reaching a person across the digital landscape, and make sure they're not pounding the same people over the head with the same ads again and again.

This kind of insight would also potentially help them spend their ad budgets more effectively, since brand should have better information on what's working and what isn't.

Lots of brands have complained about this dynamic. Pritchard says he's talking to Facebook and Google, and thinks he'll get a solution.

"The next level of transparency is going to come from how to avoid that cross-platform frequency," he said. Based on P&G's own research on this subject, in some cases the company's brands were under the impression they were reaching people three times with an ad and it was closer to 10 or even 20 times.

Not only is that a waste of money, but it annoys people, said Pritchard. "It's a consumer pain point," he said.

Ok. But haven't the big platforms been overall resistant to any data sharing? Pritchard says no. "They're willing to do it," he said. "They're trying ... it is a bigger challenge because they need protect privacy data. But what we have said is, 'we just want you to help us solve the objective rather than telling you how to do it.'"

"We will see," he said. "We're still in the early stages of this frontier."

Facebook and Google are listening. But P&G only has so much leverage

P&G is the world's biggest advertiser. And because of that, it's had a history of using its clout to get what it wants from media partners, whether that is good pricing or unique deals.

But Facebook has roughly six million advertisers, and Google is in the same neighborhood. So what leverage does P&G have?

"At least in the transparency world, when we called this out, the big platforms responded. They knew it was the right thing to do."

"But because they have 6 million [advertisers], we can't rely on just them. There's many fish in the ocean, and many ways we can reach people." 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Trump pitched peace to Kim Jong Un with this Hollywood-style video starring Kim as the leading man

Categories: English

Bose's new $250 'Sleepbuds' are designed to help you sleep — here's how they work

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:22

  • Bose's latest release is a wireless pair of earbuds that are supposed to help you sleep.
  • Sleepbuds block out sound — first through the seal created by the earbud tip, and then mask it by playing relaxing sounds controlled via a mobile app.
  • They're $250, and are available now

Living in a city, sleeping next to a snoring partner, or having noisy neighbors will likely affect your sleep schedule. 

That's the reasoning behind Bose's latest release: the $250 noise-masking Sleepbuds.

The Sleepbuds are low-profile and designed to comfortably sit in your ear all night without falling out.

The ear tip, which comes in three sizes, helps block out external noise, and the pre-loaded sounds on the device's memory chip help mask out the rest of the noise that might leak in.

There isn't any active-noise cancellation in the headphones, which Bose engineers at a press event said was in order to save space. The simplified design, including a small silver-zinc battery with up to 16 hours of life, allows the Sleepbuds to have a diameter smaller than a penny. Thus, they are intended to be comfortable while lying on either your back or your side, something that isn't always possible with wired or wireless headphones. 

The Sleepbuds are meant to be paired up with the Bose Sleep mobile app, which acts as a sort of remote to play the on-board sounds in the Sleepbuds. So far there are 10 pre-loaded sounds, including ocean and forest sounds, but the company plans to add more.

These earbuds were not designed for music or podcast listening — only for sleeping or relaxing. If music functionality was included, the low profile couldn't have been achieved, Bose engineers said. 

Through the Bose Sleep app, users can choose the sound they want playing and its duration, and they can set an alarm to wake them in the morning.

Bose engineers said they were concerned about the potential for hearing damage that could occur after wearing earbuds playing sound night after night, so they made sure to keep the maximum volume well below the upper limits where damage starts to occur. 

The Sleepbuds come with a storage case that also serves as a charging station, which uses a mini-USB cable. Unplugged, the case can hold an additional 16 hours of battery life for the earbuds. 

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NOW WATCH: How a $9 billion startup deceived Silicon Valley

Categories: English

Monsanto had a deal-making VC arm that put it on the front lines of food tech — but the $66 billion Bayer acquisition may have killed it (BAYRY)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:19

  • Monsanto had an under-the-radar venture-capital arm that fueled much of its innovation in the food tech space.
  • But after Monsanto's $66 billion deal with the chemical giant Bayer, that group has disappeared, with all three of its staff members leaving the company within a month.
  • The former managing director of the VC arm, known as Monsanto Growth Ventures, told Business Insider that he "took a page out of Google and Facebook's playbook" and bet big on small startups that showcased creative ideas. 

The biggest all-cash company merger in history doesn't come without sacrifices.

For the agricultural behemoth Monsanto, which this month finalized its $66 billion deal with the chemical giant Bayer, one of those sacrifices is saying goodbye to a venture-capital team that kept the company on the cutting edge of food and farm tech.

By making quick investments in promising startups, inking deals with potential competitors, and prioritizing creative ideas over hard data, Monsanto Growth Ventures functioned more like a Silicon Valley tech company than a 116-year-old corporate colossus.

"Monsanto really took a page out of Google and Facebook's playbook," John Hamer, MGV's former managing director, told Business Insider. "You acquire a company not just for the asset but for the talent that's in that company and the way that talent can shape what you're doing."

Whether it was investing $125 million in a gene-editing startup aiming to bring the first Crispr-edited produce to grocery stores or making a nearly $1 billion deal for a data-heavy weather-prediction company to brace for the uncertainties of climate change, Hamer's team made bets on startups that could keep Monsanto at the forefront of the nascent ag-tech landscape.

But in April, weeks after the Bayer merger was greenlit by the European Union, all three of MGV's leading employees — including Hamer — left the company, leaving the future of venture capital at Bayer uncertain.

Hamer spent five years molding MGV. During that time, he worked with Kiersten Stead, its former investment director, and Ryan Rakestraw, its former principal, to invest in more than two dozen companies, sell their stakes in seven, and acquire two, Hamer said.

"I think we figured out just the right way to do [corporate venture], with minimal bureaucracy tying us down," Hamer said. "We didn't have to get sign-off from a business unit to go invest."

'We want to see the enemy when they're babies, not when they're adults'

In contrast to the behavior you might expect from a company of Monsanto's size ($15 billion in revenue before the Bayer deal), age (116 years), and power (accounting for more than one-third of the global seed business), MGV was largely free to experiment.

"We had this thesis that whatever we're going to invest in has to make our farmers more successful," Hamer said. "That's it."

Hamer and his colleagues would travel frequently, pop up at agricultural and tech conferences, and set up meetings with startups considered too risky or too out there for other corporations to take seriously. No matter the size of the startup or the check, the goal for Hamer's team was always the same: to put Monsanto ahead of the curve.

This often meant investing in a company that looked like a potential competitor, severing ties with a startup that began to show signs of decay, or signing a deal based only on a bold idea.

"Generally speaking, at large companies you don't get rewarded for taking risks or going out on a limb," Stead told Business Insider. "And this feature gets amplified in places where you have committee-based decision-making. Monsanto didn't have that when it came to technology exploration. You could easily select people that were not fearful of adopting new technologies."

In 2015, Stead and Hamer's team contributed to a $17 million funding round for Blue River Technology, a robotics startup that has since been acquired by John Deere designed to make the boring, labor-intensive work of weeding and pesticide spraying easier and more precise. At the time, many of Hamer's coworkers were befuddled by the deal, suggesting that the company was a potential Monsanto competitor. But Hamer had a different take.

"People would say: 'Why are we invested in this company? Aren't they competing against us?' And we'd respond, 'We want to see the enemy when they're babies, not when they're adults,'" Hamer said.

Other times, Monsanto Growth Ventures would take a meeting with an early-stage startup simply because the team members liked the idea behind it.

"We'd make a decision with 60% of the information," Hamer said. "And of course there's a recognition that in some areas it's better to have closer to 95%. But in areas like innovation, by the time you wait, you will have missed an opportunity."

Hamer added: "The one thing people at Monsanto can't handle being told is to wait."

The small size of Hamer's team — just three full-time staff members — allowed it to move quickly. Nevertheless, he had ways of making it appear more robust to outsiders.

When he and his team would travel to Monsanto's offices in Europe or Brazil, they'd hand out stacks of business cards with the Monsanto Growth Ventures logo, effectively "deputizing" certain employees as venture partners and giving them a more involved role in the venture-capital process.

"People loved that," Hamer said. "And it made us look like we had this massive group when really we were tiny."

The future of venture capital at Bayer

Monsanto Growth Ventures was Hamer's pet project. From the time he started at Monsanto in 2012 to when he left in April, Hamer was shaping MGV.

It was Hamer who decided Monsanto should pursue startups from within, and Hamer who set up shop in San Francisco on a bustling corner of the SoMa neighborhood in what he called "the global center of it."

Now that he's gone, the path forward for venture capital at Bayer is unclear.

"Bayer and Monsanto continue to act as separate companies," Utz Klages, the head of external communications at Bayer, said in an email to Business Insider, adding that "currently, we do not have any insights and no decisions have been taken yet" regarding MGV.

That arrangement is likely to last only a few more months, however, as the companies suss out how they will move forward as one merged entity.

Historically, the two companies have taken divergent approaches to venture capital. Where Monsanto's VC arm was driven by speed, agility, and a willingness to spend smaller amounts of money on a handful of startups, Bayer has been more conservative, investing large amounts of money in a few better-established companies.

In Stead's view, that isn't venture capital.

"Bayer doesn't do venture," Stead said. "I think that's well known."

In a recent call with reporters, Liam Condon, the CEO of Bayer CropScience, called the structure of VC investment at the new company a "hotly debated" internal topic, adding that he thinks MGV was "a great model" and one "uniquely adapted to the need of venture capital" in agriculture.

For now, Bayer appears to be prioritizing larger investments through its Leaps by Bayer program. As part of that initiative, the company recently committed $100 million to a joint venture with Ginkgo Bioworks, a startup studying the use of naturally existing microbes to cut down on the need for heavily polluting fertilizer.

"Bayer is committed to investing in new products and technologies that can help farmers grow the food we need while using fewer of the earth's natural resources," Klages said. "The focus is on plant breeding technologies, chemical and biological crop protection/ag productivity innovations and data science."

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks' CEO, told Business Insider that he saw the merger with Monsanto as "generally a great thing for us, since now we're part of something even bigger."

But it's not clear what will happen to MCV's smaller projects.

"As a venture capitalist, I've learned you cannot adjust the rules of venture capital — it works for a reason," Stead said. "Monsanto was willing to suspend disbelief with us and watch it work. If the Bayer transaction hadn't happened, I do believe they would have stuck with it long enough to see results."

DON'T MISS: A new Monsanto-backed company is on the verge of producing the first fruit made with a blockbuster gene-editing tool that could revolutionize agriculture

SEE ALSO: A controversial technology could save us from starvation — if we let it

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to survive a snake bite

Categories: English

Some Amazon Fresh customers are slamming the grocery-delivery service over disappearing and ruined orders, and it raises questions about its future (AMZN)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:06

  • Amazon Fresh, the e-commerce giant's grocery-delivery program, has slipped in a ranking of customer service and is getting some poor reviews online.
  • Some customers say they've experienced issues like missing items, delayed or canceled deliveries, and damaged produce. They say they believe the service has become unreliable.
  • The issues call into question the future of the service, according to at least one analyst. 

Some customers are saying that Amazon Fresh is growing rotten.

The online grocery-delivery service has undergone many changes in the past year, and it's racking up poor customer reviews as its future — and its place within the Amazon Prime ecosystem — is increasingly being questioned.

The service, which is available in roughly 20 cities around the world, allows customers to place fresh grocery orders to be delivered at a predetermined time.

Business Insider spoke with more than a dozen Amazon Fresh customers who said they had experienced issues with the service in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC. These customers complained of poor-quality and even spoiled produce, orders being packed incorrectly or illogically, canceled or late deliveries, and regularly missing items.

The complaints are also visible on social media and even on Amazon's review page for Fresh, which shows a 3.3 rating out of 5 and more than 800 reviews.

Slipping customer satisfaction

Amazon Fresh, now in its 11th year of service in its earliest markets, has fallen dramatically in at least one ranking of customer satisfaction.

In the 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings, a benchmark that gathers customer experiences in several industries and assigns companies a ranking, Amazon Fresh fell 13 points from the previous year, to 67% and last place among grocers. It's in the nebulous zone between "good" (70% and above) and "poor" (below 60%).

Now some customers are saying they've noticed a steep drop in Fresh's quality and reliability over the past year, especially in the first few months of 2018.

"As they've scaled up, they seem to be making the rookie mistakes," Ryan Fritzsche, who has been a Fresh customer since it came to Brooklyn, New York, in 2014, told Business Insider. "You expect them to be improving instead of [deteriorating]."

"Every single time I get groceries delivered from Fresh, something is damaged," said Heather Fishel, a Los Angeles resident who has ordered from Fresh eight times over the past year. "Most of the time, it's all of the order."

Negative reviews are also appearing on Amazon Fresh's page.

"This is not the Fresh I LOVED 2 years ago," one review reads. "It WAS great, now just sort of a necessary evil."

Nearly all of the customers who spoke with Business Insider said they had switched to a competitor or changed their shopping behavior on the platform to account for its issues.

Amazon seems to have instituted a very lenient refund policy for any kind of complaint — from damaged items to missed deliveries — to keep customers happy. Customers say Amazon almost always opts to refund the order, in whole or in part, when an issue arises. Some also received credit toward their next order in addition to the refund.

If a problem does occur, however, customers are often still left without usable groceries, meaning they must either run to a local grocery store or order again for delivery in a few days.

Inconveniences such as these might negate the utility of Fresh as a service in some customers' eyes.

"I just bought groceries from you because I need groceries," Fritzsche said. "I can't eat a refund."

Fishel expressed a similar sentiment.

"It's incredibly frustrating that their response is always, 'Well, here's a few dollars back,' when I really just wanted the groceries," she said.

Sucharita Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research who's an expert on e-commerce and omnichannel retail, said the issues described by customers didn't "sound like Amazon to me."

"I'm actually shocked," Kodali said. "Seems to me ... the only explanation here is that they basically are stretched, and it sounds to me like they have not prioritized these call tickets, so to speak, on the to-do list, and they clearly have not put the A-team against it."

An Amazon representative declined to comment on the record for this story.

Missing in action

The most troubling issue, according to customers, is items missing from their orders.

Amazon Fresh has a section on its help page that addresses out-of-stock items.

"When possible, we'll try to substitute the unavailable item with a similar product (exceptions are specialty items)," it reads.

"If your item was substituted, you'll see Substituted with on the Delivery or Pickup Confirmation e-mail listing the substituted items. In most cases, you will not be charged for the original item or the substitute. If we're able to substitute the original item with an item that is nearly identical, you'll be charged the lesser of the two prices."

But customers say Amazon does not always notify them when an item appearing on Fresh's website is actually out of stock. If an ordered item is out of stock when it's fulfilled, it may just not appear when the order is delivered.

That leaves customers wondering whether the item was out of stock or whether there was a mistake during fulfillment and it was forgotten. One customer said they typically had such large orders that they sometimes didn't even realize they didn't get an item until they reached for it in the pantry to find it isn't there.

Some customers have reported entire bags of groceries going missing. Calling Amazon's customer-support line in this context can also net a refund for the missing package, but as far as tracking down the missing groceries goes, customers say they haven't had any luck. In this case, it is up to the customer to place a new order, rather than Amazon to redeliver the same order.

Several customers said they'd had missed deliveries — either their delivery just never showed up, or it was delayed past the delivery window.

Kodali called missing or out-of-stock items "one of the biggest frustrations" in online grocery shopping. But she said that since Amazon nailed online shopping years ago, it should be better equipped to handle them.

"How is something so basic that they've solved so long ago" — on Amazon.com — "still a problem on Amazon Fresh?" Kodali said. "Unless they just didn't really care."

She added: "It's baffling."

Damaged goods

Damaged items were another issue for customers, some of whom said the damage their orders sustained in transit was beyond what could be considered acceptable within the risk of ordering groceries online.

Most of the damage, these customers said, seemed as if it could be blamed on poor packing on Amazon's part, even taking into account that orders often shift in transit.

Customers complained about frozen items being packed next to fresh herbs and produce, freezing or crushing them in transit and rendering them no longer usable, and cartons of milk getting crushed by heavy items, like 12 packs of canned seltzers, packed on top of them.

Jennifer Silva, another customer from Los Angeles, said she once ordered food as well as a cleaning product with bleach in one order. The items were all packed in one bag, with the cleaning product on top. In transit, it ended up leaking all over the food, rendering it all unsafe for consumption.

Amazon has a policy of adding a plastic bag for products like cleaners and detergents to separate them from food items. But as a rule, it separates items in different bags by temperature.

When Fishel called to complain about the way her items were being packed, an Amazon customer-service representative suggested she change her ordering behavior, Fishel said. Instead of including an entire grocery order all at once, the representative suggested, she could order fragile items in one batch and heavy items in another.

Receiving damaged goods once in a while can be the cost of delivery, according to Kodali.

"We hear this all the time," she said. "Some guy comes to deliver you stuff, and your burrito's upside down. Jostling food, you're not going to get things in the right order. That's just one of the costs."

Kodali speculated that since there's a "this way up" policy for food delivery packages — basically, packages shouldn't be left on their side or upside down — the issues customers are reporting could be exacerbated by inexperienced people delivering the packages.

"As long as the order is coming from their distribution center and they've packed it, these issues shouldn't" happen, Kodali said.

"I'm surprised that items would get crushed, unless it's just an unskilled worker who wasn't trained properly."

Amazon Fresh keeps changing

Amazon Fresh has evolved a lot over the past year. It introduced Whole Foods items to the platform and stopped service in some suburban areas across the US.

Behind the scenes, the teams behind Fresh and Prime Now, Amazon's two-hour delivery service, are now one. Fresh also kicked third-party vendors off the platform at the end of May.

Operationally, there have been further changes. The service has recently switched from using ice packs to frozen water bottles to keep things cold.

In some markets, Fresh has also switched from delivering orders in its reusable, green cold-storage totes to paper bags — even for cold and frozen items, which are first wrapped in layers of plastic.

'A bad taste in my mouth'

Customers also say the negative experiences with Fresh have colored their perception of Amazon and Amazon Prime, even if they are otherwise happy with the service.

"I feel like Amazon now has two very distinct divisions, in my mind," Fishel said. "While I love Amazon Prime and even Prime Now ... I don't know what is going on with Amazon Fresh. But it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because there are other companies that do grocery so much better."

Some customers now say the spell has been broken and they are trusting Amazon less for other kinds of purchases.

"The troubles we've had over the last few months have loosened the grip Amazon had on me," said Gillian Fritzsche, a customer in Brooklyn.

Cost is also a consideration. An Amazon Fresh membership costs $15 a month, and it's available to only Amazon Prime members, who also pay $120 a year or $13 a month for that subscription.

Amazon Fresh's struggles put the future of the service into question

Kodali said that none of the issues described were "unfixable" but that the fact that Amazon has not fixed them yet may point to the possibility that it's preparing to sunset the service in its current iteration.

"Why even bother having Fresh at all if this is the way you're going to treat it?" Kodali said. "It does not speak highly to its prospects."

Fresh is a service that has struggled to find its footing, and there are indications that it hasn't reached the profitability targets Amazon has set, she said.

"Maybe what this is, is the pains of constantly trying to pivot the business model to try and find a better [one], tinkering with a business model that never really worked in the first place," she said. "What they're discovering is that it's a business model that may never work."

Fresh grocery is still a focus for Amazon, though its approach to grocery has changed massively since Amazon Fresh began. Whole Foods' brand integration has been a major point for growth for both Prime Now and Fresh, leading to increased sales on the platforms.

But now that Amazon is working on integrating Whole Foods with Prime Now in US cities, delivering from stores instead of dedicated fulfillment centers, Fresh may soon find itself obsolete in Amazon's new grocery paradigm.

SEE ALSO: Amazon has been quietly evolving Prime's look, and it signifies massive changes to the service

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Four MIT graduates created a restaurant with a robotic kitchen that cooks your food in three minutes or less

Categories: English

The Sage CEO sent his stock surging 15% when he likened his new depression drug to an antibiotic — but researchers told us it won’t work that way (SAGE)

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:02

  • Investors' excitement about a promising new drug for depression reached a fever pitch last week when the CEO of the company behind it likened the drug to an antibiotic.
  • Sage Therapeutics' CEO Jeff Jonas said the drug, called SAGE-217, could be administered like a two-week course of antibiotics, which are given only once.
  • A once-only course of treatment is essentially unheard of for depression, and experts within and outside of the company say they doubt that's how SAGE-217 would actually work. Instead, they say it would likely need to be given monthly.
  • Sage has yet to complete any long-term studies of the drug.

Investors' excitement about a promising new drug for depression reached a fever pitch last week when the CEO of the company behind it likened the drug to an antibiotic.

This drug has the "potential for patients with major depressive disorder to feel well within days, with just a two week course of treatment — similar to how antibiotics are used today — instead of enduring long-term chronic treatment," Sage Therapeutics' CEO Jeff Jonas said on Tuesday of his company's drug, SAGE-217.

The comments came shortly after the company said it had received the green light from the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate the approval process for its drug.

A once-only course of treatment is essentially unheard of for depression or for any other chronic disease. And experts within and outside of the company say they doubt that's how SAGE-217 would actually work. Instead of working as a once-only treatment, they said that data on the drug suggest that its effects would likely last as long as one month. Patients would still need to take the drug regularly for long-lasting results.

More importantly, although the drug has shown a promising potential ability to treat depression in preliminary studies, those findings have yet to be borne out by the kinds of longer and larger trials that are needed before it gets anywhere near federal approval.

An area in desperate need of new treatments

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it can kill. While not the sole cause of suicide, depression is often a contributing factor. And while suicide rates have climbed for nearly 20 years, not a single new drug for depression has emerged.

Most treatments for depression and suicidal thinking are limited to a narrow class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which includes popular drugs like Prozac and Lexapro. While they can help some people, failure rates hover around 50%.

So researchers are on the hunt for better options — options that could soon include Sage's new compound, which preliminary studies have suggested works well to treat depressive symptoms within a short time period.

Sage's drug would not be a one-and-done treatment

But Sage's drug wouldn't be a one-and-done kind of depression treatment, according to researchers within and outside the company. In sharp contrast to what Sage CEO Jeff Jonas suggested last week, the drug would most likely need to be administered regularly, possibly as frequently as every month, Gerard Sanacora, the director of the Yale Depression Research Program and a clinical advisor to Sage, told Business Insider.

"There will need to be further studies" to help the team fully understand how well SAGE-217 works and how long its depression-relieving effects last, Sanacora said.

In a statement emailed to Business Insider, a representative from Sage said:

"An important aspect of what we are doing is minimizing chronic exposure to pharmaceutical treatments for diseases like depression, a desired outcome for patients. Given the ongoing concern about chronic dosing of antidepressants, the fact that episodic dosing has not been achieved previously is precisely the reason to keep trying."

"As noted in our recent announcement, Sage will conduct an additional open-label study of SAGE-217 that follows approximately 300 patients for 6 months and 100 patients for one year, allowing us to evaluate the potential of treating recurrent or new major depressive episodes as needed. As part of this study, patients will be retreated if symptoms of major depressive disorder return."

Cristina Cusin, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard University who specializes in depression, cautioned that she's seen many promising drug candidates for depression fail once they get to the last phase of clinical study — phase 3. Sage has yet to complete those studies. 

While the Sage compound appears "incredible" in some ways, Cusin said "the problem is we have seen this before with other phase 2 studies that don’t get held out in phase 3."

So Cusin said she is "cautiously — or preliminarily — excited," but added that she felt it was "a little excessive to say a chronic disease would disappear after two weeks, that’s something you can’t say about diabetes or any other chronic disease."

SEE ALSO: Pharma giants are looking to ketamine for clues to the next blockbuster depression drug — and science says they're onto something big

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