Weekend news round-up: the future of ad tech; the hatching of Twitter

14 Oct 2013

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news from around the world, a discussion on the future of advertising technology has provoked a furious debate about consumer privacy; the search for a new CEO has led to soul-searching within Microsoft about the company’s future; and the internal squabbling and leadership battles that defined Twitter’s early days are part and parcel of the journey of any start-up.

Discussion on future of ad tech leads to open revolt on consumer privacy

The Washington Post reported how a discussion on the future of advertising technology has sparked a furious debate about privacy and tracking in the US.

“The working group is affiliated with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the official custodian of Web standards. It was initially brought together to develop a negotiated approach to online behavioral tracking. The collection of ad companies, privacy advocates and outside experts were supposed to settle a longstanding debate about consumer privacy and help determine the future of advertising technology.

“But what began as cautious engagement among these groups has devolved into open revolt against the process.”

At the end of the day – you are the product

On a related theme TechCrunch looked at how social media is transforming the internet advertising landscape and who you are connected to socially is also influencing what you see.

“There’s a saying in the Internet business. ‘If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.’ Essentially, if you’re not paying to use a service, you can expect that your data will be used to make money in some way. For a long time, this business model focused on using your data to target ads. Search for a certain keyword, and you’d see ads for related products. List that you’re a 25-year old male who Likes video games, and you’d see ads for things people in your demographic often buy.

“That’s still how a lot of Internet advertising works. Pinterest and Instagram are starting to display ads that will take into account what you follow. LinkedIn analyzes your profile to deliver ads relevant to people in your income bracket, and Spotify looks at what you listen to so country fans hear ads for pickup trucks.”

The search for a new CEO leads to soul-searching within Microsoft

The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft’s search for a new chief executive is exposing divisions of opinion among directors over the 38-year-old company’s future direction

“The candidate roster reflects a board wrestling with a central question: whether Microsoft’s next leader should be a person steeped in technology who can spearhead product innovation, or an expert at running a large and sprawling organization.

“The decision will shape Microsoft’s immediate future, and determine whether the company focuses more on building products to compete against rivals such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. or on making the company run more efficiently.

“Behind the debate is a crucial insight: There may not be a perfect candidate for the job.”

Leadership battles within Twitter – coming of age for any start-up

New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton’s future book on the hatching of Twitter gives a fascinating insight into the early days and leadership battles at what has to be one of the defining businesses of the digital media age.

According to the Harvard Business Review blog, the squabbling at the top table happens to be an essential aspect of any start-up journey.

“Bilton’s account of how the company actually got its start reads like high drama, but is it at all surprising? Not to those who’ve been through a few startups, or studied the challenges that founders face. Earlier this year, Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman published The Founder’s Dilemmas, the result of a decade’s worth of survey data on the challenges startups face. His work suggests that Twitter didn’t just succeed in spite of all the drama Bilton reports, but to some extent because of it. Put another way, the frequent swapping out of executive roles at different stages has almost certainly been key to Twitter’s success to date.”

Red flags about Snowden raised four years ago

The New York Times reported that red flags were raised in the CIA four years ago about whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“His supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion.

“The CIA suspected that Mr. Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access, and decided to send him home, according to two senior American officials.

“But the red flags went unheeded.”

Twitter bird image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years