New Year's resolutions from the biggest tech cos

Facebook won't bother you with video ads, Yahoo will be more frugal and Amazon won't spy on you

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 31, 2013
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/3410

I honestly don't even bother coming up with New Year's resolutions anymore. Last year mine was to read at least one book every month. You know how many I wound up with in the end? Seven.

If you're thinking that seven isn't actually that bad, I hate to break it to you: they were actually audiobooks! Oh, the shame!

Even though I break my promises to myself, I can't begrudge anyone who does come up with one because, hey, it's always good to set goals for yourself. And that applies to technology companies as well!

So, with 2014 right around the corner, here are the resolutions I like to believe some of the biggest tech companies are making for the next 12 months:

  • Facebook: We will not annoy everyone with our video ads!

We've all been in this situation before: you're sitting there, minding your own business when, all of the sudden, there's some strange audio that starts playing from some autoplay video on one of your tabs!

It's not because you clicked on something by accident; in fact, it is often not even on the tab you're currently looking at. And it's usually over by the time you even figure out where it was coming from, and then it starts again. 

Considering that scenario, it's not too surprising that people were worried, to put it mildly, when Facebook recently started testing out autoplay in-feed video ads.

Luckily for all of us, Facebook has been cautious, and mindful, of the fact that it would drive users crazy if they ever subjected its users to the above scenario.

So the videos will play without sound, and can be ignored. If the users clicks or taps on the video, though, it will expand to full screen, and the sound for that video will also play. Once the video is over, the user will see two additional videos that they can watch.

Basically, if you don't interact with the ad, it can't hurt you.

"This is an important launch for Facebook overall because the addition to video content to the stream could be one of the most positive things that we've done in a long time for making it more engaging. But if we do it poorly then it could also be a negative thing," Mark Zuckerberg said in October.

"And we're trying to take our time to make sure we do this in a very positive way, and I'm pretty confident that we will, but that's why you're seeing us take the process that we have on this."

  • Yahoo: We will put away the credit card in 2014!

I've never had to take part in an intervention (I guess I should be pretty fortunate for that) but I'm having fun imagining what it would look like for the rest of the tech world to sit Yahoo down and tell the company that it has a shopping addiction.

That may sound a little silly, but I'm not sure what else to call it when a company buys up 27 startups in a 12-month period. That averages out to more than two a week!

Look, I get it. Yahoo did not have the best reputation over the last few years; the reaction among Internet users to Yahoo's Tumblr acquistion earlier this year says it all (to summarize: they were worried that it would turn into another Flickr.) So what better way to infuse the company with a new energy than to bring on a ton of new and emerging talent? That manifested itself a slew of acqui-hires.

Now that all of these people are on board, though, Yahoo should stop looking for more acquisitions, and should, instead, use all of its new talent to push the company forward. Just look at what it did with Summly the the news summarizer that Yahoo purchased in March; in April was integrated into revamped version of its iOS app. 

There is an amazing amount of work that can be done given all the people who have now come on board. Adding people is great; putting them to good use is the next step.

Go here to see all 27 of Yahoo's 2013 acquistions.

  • Google: We will make sure people don't look ridiculous wearing Google Glass!

In my 2014 predictions column, I said that Google Glass will live up to the hype when it is released next year.

And there is some evidence already to back that up: A report from BI Intelligence from last week is predicting that over 800,000 Google Glass units will be sold next year. That number could reach nearly 2.5 million by 2015, and by 2018 the predictions are that 21 million units will be sold. I really think it's going to be awesome.

But I can't be the only one who sees one big problem with the device. Frankly... they look a little ridiculous. An ugly phone is one thing; it goes back in your pocket or handbag or whatever, and nobody really sees it. Glass, on the other hand, will always be stuck on your face. So it better look nice.

The company released some new Glass hardware at the end of October. It added a new earbud, and the ability to work with sunglasses and prescription frames, but there was not much difference in the overall look of the device. 

Here's what it looks like from the side:

Maybe it's me, but I think I would look, and feel ridiculous, wearing this thing. I don't want to look like I just came here from the future. 

So, please, Google, make it your mission to make Glass look cool... and also affordable. Yes, affordable would also be helpful! Thanks!

  • Twitter: We will prove that going public was the right move!

Twitter's IPO was very successful, but there is a sense among some analysts that the company may have gone public too early, especially considering that it is not yet profitable, and that it is overvalued.

So Twitter must spend its 2014 doing whatever it can to prove those naysayers wrong.

The company already tried to do that pre-IPO, and it seemed to work. The company issues reports showing that tweets not only drive higher television ratings, but that they also drive offline sales. Twitter is a company that relies almost exclusively on advertising dollars, so showing that tweets are an effective marketing tool is very important. 

Twitter recently had a remarkable run, rising nearly 83% in a little over three weeks. But the last couple of trading days have been really rough: it went down 13% on Friday, losing $5 billion in market cap, and lost another 5% on Monday. The stock has given back $13 since hitting a high and going above $73 for the first time. 

That proves that Twitter might be riding high, but its grasp is tenuous.

So, Twitter, continue with your push to reign in television advertisers. Embrace the second screen. And keep going ahead with your retargeted ad network. The more you give advertisers a reason to keep giving you money, the longer you can stave off the investors who are, rightfully, worried about your long-term viability. 

  • Amazon: We promise not to spy on anyone with our drones!

Ok, so this one more applies to 2015, but I'm including it here anyway.

The big news earlier this month was, of course, that Amazon will start delivering packages via drone starting in 2015. Cue the freak out over the number of jobs that will be lost, as well as the potential invasion of privacy. Even Congress got in on the act

"Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public," Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts said in a statement following the announcement. "Convenience should never trump constitutional protections."

Of course, Amazon would need FAA approval before it could launch such a program, and you know that lawmakers will want to do everything that can to prove that they are trying to protect the rights of their constituents. So it is kind of a perfect storm that Amazon is wading into.

That is why the company should spend 2014 reiterating over and over and over that it has no interest in spying on people with these drones. Be as transparent as possible; you won't convince everyone, but you might be able to win over enough people.

  • For all the regular people out there: We will cool it with the selfies!

There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a selfie. I mean, yeah, it's a little self indulgent, but it's mostly harmless. Key word: mostly. It's all about when, and how, you do it.

Take, for example, the latest trend among young drivers seems to be turning their camera on themselves while their car is moving.  If you thought texting while driving was dangerous, now you know that can actually be even worse.

Then there are the less potentially homicidal, yet equally as annoying types of seflies, including Selfies at Serious Places, which is exactly what it sounds like, only worse, because “serious places” means concentration camps and Chernobyl.


And then there are bookshelfies, or a selfie taken in front of your bookshelf so that everyone can see how well-read you are.

So, please, everyone, just stop taking pictures of yourselves. You're kind of being an ass.

(Image source: http://www.ncsasports.org)