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The European Union’s groundbreaking announcement to prevent specific companies from acting as internet “gatekeepers” to basic services, such as social networking and messaging, has been received with some skepticism.
This announcement is critical because organizations must provide messaging services that can be used across multiple platforms. Failure to comply with these new rules could result in heavy fines or even an EU regulatory investigation.
While interoperability in messaging would be welcome by many parties, there are still major questions about whose current system should be adopted as the standard. It is possible to do this while keeping company IP intact. How would messaging platforms be differentiating themselves in a highly competitive market?
What can interoperability look like
The communications industry has been pushing for interoperability for almost a decade.
Pushed by Google, defined by the Mobile World Congress (MWC), and being slowly adopted by users, Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a messaging standardization protocol that has been in the works for years. It brings text messaging into the 21st century with protocols that include read receipts, writing indicators, group messages, reactions, large file transfers and, of course, encryption. While these are commonplace today among popular messaging applications, they lag behind on Android’s text messaging service, which accounts for over 133 million active smartphones in the US alone.
In addition to facilitating messaging across media, and allowing for more players to join the game, efforts to develop cross-platform messaging standards could be expanded in order to address other industry pain points.
Rather than letting companies manage compliance after rollout, the new standard could include optional modules for governance or control. This could be done via enterprise-owned social accounts and phone numbers.
Third-party interconnection hubs can play an important role in simplifying interoperability. These hubs are highly reliable and secure in design and provide a single source of truth for all stakeholders. This allows developers and enterprises to have greater control over messages as well as a plethora more platforms.
Interoperability also opens up interesting business models for this massive segment of communications. Tech industry giants will pool their resources to speed adoption and implementation. Third-party interconnection solutions will fill in some of the development gaps and replace devops teams when necessary.
While the potential is exciting to those in the data capture and governance industry, the dream of interoperability has a rocky road ahead. The standard is not universally accepted by all companies. This includes their refusal to follow a competitor’s protocol. Moxie Marlinspike, Signal founder, encouraged Ukrainians to avoid Telegram during Russia’s invasion. She claimed that Telegram has no encryption and makes it easy for governments to spy on.
A step forward, but is it realistic?
Implementing this regulation, at least for the current feature, will likely remain a distant dream. It is unlikely that widespread adoption will occur until solutions are found to the following issues, which have prevented the creation a standard:
Standards The creation of an extensible federation standard, which all industry players would agree on, is almost impossible. There are many moving parts and different expectations by industry and location. It’s difficult to imagine all major players coming together on any number policy, logistical or technical issues.
For example, XMPP — which has been around for 23 years, a lifetime in the tech space — has been trying to create an industry standard in this way for years and hasn’t made much progress. It’s not possible that such an effort will fail this time.
Security Security and privacy issues are always of paramount concern to enterprises, especially as more and more businesses find themselves under intense regulatory scrutiny, thanks to a number of high-profile cases of noncompliance.
Companies invest a lot of money and time to ensure that their E2E messaging and B2C messaging are secure. Companies can be forced to change their practices and policies due to interoperability requirements. This could throw years of hard work out the window.
Rich media Interoperability sounds great on paper, and at first glance, it doesn’t seem like setting an industry standard for text messages exchanged via mobile messaging platforms is mission impossible. However, the new regulation is primarily focused on messaging but does not consider the larger picture. Most people use WhatsApp and Facebook messenger to communicate with others. For true, 360-degree interoperability, it would need to include other (wildly popular) features on these platforms, including but not limited to voice calls, audio notes, file sharing and more. This is a complex task that requires more testing than just aligning messaging standards.
Feature parity Feature parity (or lack of thereof) is also a concern.
Remember how Android handled iDevice message reactions until recently. As a way to respond to a message, iPhone users could send confetti, hearts and other fun animations. The animation would appear briefly on the recipient’s screen and then fade away. Androids had completely different backends and structures. This meant that they were not able to display the responses. Instead, they presented them as separate messages. This quickly became a frustration source and clogged up users’ inboxes.
Although Android has recently fixed this issue, it’s a perfect example of how challenging it can be, even for tech giants, to handle feature parity. This problem will only get worse with forced interconnection.
Consumer benefits and risks are very real
Although we are still years away from interoperability across messaging platforms and services, the new regulation promotes accountability. A passage in the legislation that says tech companies are required to “ensure the interoperability of their instant messaging services’ basic functionalities” is groundbreaking, in and of itself.
This is the first time these industry giants will not have the option of providing messaging services that can be accessed across multiple platforms. They will have to follow the law or face serious consequences.
Governments will, however, also play a part in implementation. This can help ensure standardization and make it easier for B2B companies to comply with client communications data capture and governance. However, it raises some concerns. One concern is how private devices can access personal messages.
Regardless of whether consumers push regulated businesses in financial, legal and medical sectors to communicate via Whatsapp and WeChat with their customers, businesses have the opportunity to do so without waiting for regulators. This regulation will allow companies to use third-party companies like LeapXpert to collect chat data. They can provide real-time service and gain insight into customer needs without having to store any personal data.
In the end, both consumers and businesses will benefit from the implementation’s growing pains. There is always a way when there is a financial incentive.
Dima gutzeit is the founder and CEO at LeapXpert .
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One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.
The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence.
However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.
Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.
Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting.
If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.
Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.
The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.
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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)
The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.
Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:
Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).
But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.
1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?
For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.
Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.
So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.
2. Mythological monsters
Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.
Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.
But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.
3. You can’t get the staff these days
Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.
In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.
The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players.
Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.
4. Prison break
In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.
We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.
Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.
5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?
Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you?
Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.
Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.
6. Light the way
Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.
Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.
Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.
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Jokes aside about Chrome’s incognito mode, the ability to open a private tab for sensitive browsing is incredibly useful. You can perform searches that you want to keep from affecting your recommendations or appearing in your search history—which applies as much to tax information and medical questions as anything more scintillating.
And now on all phones and tablets, you can protect your incognito tabs from prying eyes by locking them down. A quick tweak to Chrome settings on iOS and Android makes biometric or PIN authentication required to view your private tabs whenever you leave the app and then return. It’s an extra layer of protection for when you forget to close a tab when you’re done—easy to do if you’re constantly hopping between apps. No need to worry about banking info sitting unguarded, for example.
Trying to feature out for yourself is easy. If it’s rolled out to your Android device (or if you’re only now trying it on your iPhone or iPad), just tap on the three dot menu in Chrome, then Privacy and Security. Toggle on Lock Incognito Tabs When You Close Chrome. Now when you switch away from Chrome and then come back, you’ll have to pass an authentication check before you can see and interact with those private tabs again.
For folks who use incognito tabs more on mobile than dedicated apps, this feature is a very welcome addition—and one I hope to see come to desktop computers next. I leave my incognito windows open on PC for long stretches way more often than on a phone or tablet. I haven’t yet met a browser window stuffed with tabs that I didn’t like to keep around. And sometimes I’m reading up on something I don’t want roommates to know about; other times, I have private correspondence I’m working on that I really don’t want to be seen.
I can always lock my PC, but I occasionally forget to slam my fingers on Win + L before dashing off to deal with an overflowing pot or vomiting cat. The best alternative is setting up Dynamic Lock in Windows, but that only works if you move far enough away from your computer to trigger the auto-lock. It unfortunately doesn’t prevent someone also in your kitchen from wandering by your screen and teasing you about your recent discovery of r/illegallysmolcats. Ask me how I know.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.