Tech Retrospect: Twitter blocks blocking and Spotify starts free mobile streaming

Miss a few stories this week? We'll get you up to speed with this rundown of all the tech news.

Twitter has proven to be a great place to post your feelings in public, but it's also proven to be a bit of a haven for trolls and their kin. Short of spamming, it's hard to actually get banned from Twitter, and so the most powerful weapon Twitter users have had against griefers has been the block. Blocking prevents a signed-in user from seeing your posts and prevents you from ever seeing anything from them. However, it was very limited in power, as all anyone ever had to do to see your stuff was sign out. And, if they wanted to RT something you'd posted, all that required was a copy and paste.

In a seeming acknowledgment of that limited power, Twitter overhauled the block function, effectively turning it into a mute. Now, blocked users would again be able to see content posted by those who blocked them, this time without having to sign out. But, the person doing the blocking would never see anything from them. At once, a billion users cried out, Twitter's execs held an emergency meeting, and before the night was through, reverted from the new "mute" functionality to the previous block behavior.

The initial reasoning was that many users were wary of openly blocking someone, as in some cases it would only make the harassment intensify. The revision of functionality meant that the person who was blocked would, effectively, never know that you couldn't see their stuff. However, that message wasn't particularly well broadcasted and, frankly, it would have been best if Twitter simply maintained access to the old block function if users really wanted it. Regardless, kudos to the company for reacting so quickly. Now, let's move along.

Spotify on mobile goes free, but only if you're willing to give up control

Hard-core Spotify users (like yours truly) have long felt comfortable spending $10 monthly for the privilege of listening to music through mobile devices and, more importantly for some, downloading music for offline playback. But, the most popular services are usually the free ones, and Spotify has finally joined that crew. Spotify's tablet apps now allow free streaming, much like on the desktop, but the phone apps will be restricted to shuffle play. Skipping will be allowed, if you really want to find your favorite track, but those who like album order might want to pony up for the premium service.

NPD dishes official next-gen console sales

Xbox One and PlayStation 4: Beyond gaming (The Next Big Thing, Episode 4)

Last week Sony indicated it had moved past 2 million PS4 sales worldwide, and this week Microsoft said the same about its Xbox One. But, the NPD finally weighed in with the official numbers. The PS4 had the edge in overall sales with 2.1 million to the Xbox One's 2 million -- unsurprising since Sony's system launched a week earlier. Microsoft's console actually sold at a higher rate, of 101,000 per day -- and again we need to caveat that the PS4 came out of the gate in fewer countries. Suffice it to say it's way, way too early to pick a winner in this fight, but it sure is fun trying.

Angry Birds Go! racing into freemium purgatory

Angry Birds Go

Angry Birds, certainly the most iconic mobile game of all time, has spawned a franchise ranging from novelty soaps to board games. Rovio, the series developer, has released the latest iteration: Angry Birds Go! This time, those flightless fowl strap into vehicles and race themselves straight into the world of Mario Kart. The game, by all accounts, is very fun to play and very polished, but is killed by endless prompts that demand you buy things. The game will harass you endlessly to spend money, the kind of experience that has proven remarkably successful at sucking all the fun out of video games. Congratulations to Rovio for diving in to the same trap.

Yahoo Mail suffers multiday outage

James Martin/CNET

In other exclamation-point-related news, Yahoo! Mail suffered a painfully long outage that had many of its users screaming -- and quite rightfully so. The company suffered what's been described as a hardware problem on Monday night and it wasn't until noon on Thursday that things were resolved -- for most. As of this writing there are still numerous issues, with a small percentage completely unable to access their mail. Meanwhile, IMAP access (which is used to access Yahoo Mail in standard e-mail clients) is still down. Welcome to the wonder of the cloud.

Another choice in the world of wireless charging

Don't like the look of Powermats? Find the Qi charging standard too difficult to pronounce? Then you're probably not going to like yet another player who has just entered the wireless charging scrum. Rezence is named as a play on the resonance charging technology that it uses, which offers some significant improvements over the inductive and contact-based competition. For one thing, multiple devices can charge on a single charging pad. And, perhaps more importantly, it has a slight amount of range, meaning that chargers could be installed beneath laminate surfaces and still function. As of now no devices have been announced that will pack Rezence support, but having a Qualcomm product manager acting as chairman of the committee that developed the standard should certainly help in that regard.

Steve Mollenkopf is Qualcomm's new CEO

EMMANUEL DUNAND

Speaking of Qualcomm, the company has just announced its next CEO . Steven Mollenkopf, the company's former COO, was rumored to be a leading candidate in the list of potential candidates for Microsoft's next CEO. But, less than a day later the man was confirmed as the successor to Qualcomm's current CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs. Did Qualcomm speed up negotiations to keep him in San Diego? Was the earlier report a ruse to ensure him a bigger signing bonus? The world may never know.

CNET turns 100, doesn't look a day over 20

Finally this week I want to point your attention to the new CNET 100 list. Think of it as a monthly look at what's hot in consumer electronics. We'll rate gadgets through our reviews process, just like we always do, then take a look at what users are most frequently searching for. Those metrics, plus some other secret ingredients, will drive the rankings. For the inaugural edition, the Nexus 5 took the top slot and, interestingly, the PS4 handily outpaced the Xbox One. Click on through for the full list before having yourself a wonderful, wintery weekend.

About the author

Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to videogame development. Currently he pursues interesting stories and interesting conversations in the technology and automotive spaces.

 

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