Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Captain Rick: The option to hail a ride in a self-driving car, which was science fiction just a few years ago, will soon be available to Uber users in Pittsburgh, the first time the technology has been offered to the general public. Within weeks customers will be able to opt into a test program and summon an autonomous Ford Fusion. But since the technology has not been perfected, the cars will come with human backup drivers to handle any unexpected situations.

Eventually there will come a day when driverless cars become common place and will be much safer than the large percentage of todays cars with idiots behind the wheel, texting and doing everything but paying attention to driving, including those driving under the influence. I would feel much safer having cars around me that pack a million dollars worth of technology watching the road and controlling the vehicle, than ones driven by idiots not watching the road at all.

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Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh. Uber-branded test cars have been on Pittsburgh roads for several months. Other companies including Google are testing self-driving cars on public roads, but  none offers rides to regular people. As an enticement, the autonomous rides will be free. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I would be one of its first riders.

It will be a few years before autonomous cars will acquire a license to drive on their own. This is a way to get autonomous cars out there and become accepted on the roadways. New technology begins somewhere. Pittsburgh is one of those places and Uber is an innovative, driving force. The real breakthrough for autonomous cars will happen when a company puts one on public roads without a backup human. For now, like a motorcycle canyon jumper with a safety net, Uber isn’t ready to take the big leap … but perhaps one day soon it will be.

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Captain Rick: Having loved photography my entire life, an awarded Webshots photographer in the early 2000s, I became a Flickr PRO member shortly after its acquisition by Yahoo in 2005.

Flickr grew to become the one of the largest and best quality photo sites on the internet with over 12 billion photos and 100 million dedicated users.

The telecommunications giant Verizon announced that it will spend $4.8 billion to acquire Yahoo’s operating business, including popular online content such as Yahoo, Flickr and Tumblr.

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Verizon hopes that by pairing Yahoo with AOL, which Verizon bought in May 2015 for $4.4 billion, that the result will be a digital media unit that could compete with Google and Facebook. Having followed so many of these wild internet company purchases during the past decade or so, I have serious doubts that Verizon will be able to make that happen.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a former Google exec, was hired in 2012 to turn things around at financially struggling Yahoo. Flickr’s core users were hopeful that it might get the attention it deserved. She allowed Yahoo to loose focus on Flickr, allowing the top site for photographers to slip in quality and innovation. Yahoo was desperately trying to appeal to the Instagram generation, and in doing so started to alienate Flickr’s core users, many of whom were professional photographers. As a Flickr Pro member, I often gave feedback … but it felt like no one was listening. Things would break and it would take eight to 10 months before someone would respond. We were members paying money for a service that wasn’t working. It was insulting to me and other photographers who had been using Flickr so actively for so many years. We were clearly not the target audience any more.

Marissa Mayer generated controversy in 2013 for saying “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore,” when explaining why Flickr was phasing out its Pro membership at the time. As a Flickr Pro member for a decade, I protested loudly as did millions of other Pro members. She quickly apologized for the statement. Us Flickr Pro members saw it as extreme ignorance on her part. Flickr drew more flack the following year by putting 50 million Creative Commons licensed photos by users up for sale through its new Wall Art service. Although it was within its rights to do based on the licensing, the move left a bad taste in photographers’ mouths, and Flickr pulled the plug on the arrangement the next month.

Amid dwindling share of only 1.3% of a growing $187 billion global digital market, the best she was able to do is put Yahoo up for sale. Mayer will help in the transition, but it is not known if she will remain as a Verizon employee. I think that in view of her high salary and lack-luster performance of Yahoo and neglect of Flickr, it would be in Verizon’s best interest to let her go.

Yahoo, Flickr and Tumblr are set to officially become Verizon properties when the deal closes in early 2017, assuming anticipated government approvals occur.

My fear is that Verizon, being a giant in the mobile phone market, cares little about quality photography and photographers. I think Verizon will sell Flickr or perhaps just let it die as an expense it can write off. As a Flickr Pro member who has invested many hundreds of hours into building and supporting my Flickr Photostream and several high quality photo groups, I am deeply saddened by that thought. On the other hand, it is my hope that Verizon will realize the great photographic jewel that it will possess in Flickr and find a way to breathe new life back into it. If executed with excellence, Flickr will remain the top site for quality among serious photographers … like me.