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Silicon Round-up: Amazon moves to Liverpool Street, Facebook tries to tell the truth, servitude is back in vogue!

U2The big news this week is the much heralded and talked about launch of Apple’s new app for removing that annoying U2 album that was automatically sent to more than half a billion iTunes users worldwide. The band performed at the close of the iPhone6 and Smartwatch launch, and their new album “songs of innocence” was felt by Apple to be the perfect gift to its fanbase. It turns out a more popular gift is the dedicated page the Company has now set up to help people remove the songs.

The latest disruptive start-up to hit Silicon Roundabout? That would be Amazon

Good news for Tech City, although possibly not the disruptive ecommerce part of it, as Amazon announces that it is relocating its operations headquarters from Slough to Shoreditch, occupying up to two thirds of the 600,000 sq. ft. Principal Place building, by Liverpool Street. The move will create another 2,500 jobs in the “Silicon Roundabout” and further no doubt be viewed as a major coup for the area as another major player chooses London over, ahem, Slough. Look out New York and Silicon Valley!

Facebook open and honest – but where exactly do you find their blog?

Facebook have been busy trying to manipulate data in the right way, now that they have finished conducting psychological experiments on their unwitting customers. In the interests of transparency lead engineers Erich Owens and David Vickrey published a blog post attempting to explain changes to the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds. The idea is to make posts more time sensitive so that news “trends” more.

The company has been accused of failing to prioritise breaking news such as the recent Ferguson scandal, and hope the upgrade, which also includes a function looking at when people choose to like and share articles, will be a step in the right direction.

Who sees what, otherwise known as “reach”, is a controversial topic that has landed Facebook in hot water before. Judging by my own newsfeed, lovely furry cats, dogs dressed like the golden girls walking on their hind legs and someone drenching themselves in cold water are what I expect to see when I leave my front door, and by and large that’s fairly accurate.

Alibaba flotation bigger than Facebook, Twitter combined

jack maStaying with the mega companies, Alibaba has become the most over-subscribed deal in history. Shares are set to debut on the US stock exchange today after the Company raised $21.8m in its Initial Public Offering (IPO). It’s the largest IPO the US has ever known and will break the record of £22bn set by Agricultural bank of China if underwriters issue just a few million more shares. Over half of the shares sold will go to just 25 large institutional investors. Incredibly, the general feeling is that the Company is significantly undervalued and a much larger valuation is expected once the shares start changing hands. Alibaba itself gets $8.4 bn while owner Jack Ma will get $867m. Not bad for an ex English teacher who started the business in his bedroom.

Trialling the paperless trial:

Courts in the UK could be set to finally go paperless more than 25 years after US courts began making documents available online. From next year the Rolls building in London, opened in 2011 and currently regarded as the world’s largest financial disputes court, will roll out an online system administered by Thomson Reuters Corp, making it the first court in the UK to offer “paperless trial” facilities. It’s not often law firms break with tradition, but this change is surely long overdue. Legal firms in the UK are internationally renowned and contribute £20bn to the UK economy each year. The first ever “paperless trial” involved Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, the well-known Russian Billionaires, who decided that they would like to be able to see the evidence at the click of a mouse. A case of money talking, one presumes.

Start-up manifesto a bit, well, dull?

Over 200 start-ups, investors, entrepreneurs and early adopters have backed the “Start-up manifesto” written by Coadec, which aims to steal a march on the major political parties, who have yet to write their own with just 8 months to go to the general election. The likes of King, Funding Circle, Index Ventures and Swiftkey have backed the manifesto, which sets out 24 ways that the next government can “make the UK a world leader on digital innovation”. There is nothing terribly radical about the manifesto, it must be said, but it is probably just the right side of platitudinous. More support for Fintech, keep SEIS and EIS in place, make it easier for start-ups to make overseas hires, and keep supporting disruption! To which clarion call one answer the political parties might make is, “try being disruptive, then, rather than asking for all the things we’ve already given you”. It is still a fantastic achievement to have put such a document together, however, and you would think that only good things can come of such a hefty tome.

The ancients had tablets, so are we finally getting slavery?

manservantFinally, the tech and innovation world seems to have gone all servile: The Manservants website is the place where you can hire a talented young (or old) man to pander to your every whim and desire. You can set what he looks like, name him, and tell him what to do. This seems strange, what man wouldn’t volunteer to do all these for free? But the clue is in the strapline, “A man, but better”. Ah, they want a man that does all these things well. What a tragedy for us males that a website like this exists. Mind you, if I had the money, and it made the missus happy…

Alfred is another start-up, based in Boston, that is big on servitude. Named after the kindly butler from the Batman comics, when you sign up to the service, you’re assigned an “Alfred”. The Alfred will do your shopping for you, tidy your things away, replace your paper towels and not complain about any of it. This could save you up to 30 hours per week, the time estimated that people spend doing household chores each week. The app recently won the coveted TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014, judged by a panel including John Lily of Greylock Partners, Marissa Meyer, of Yahoo, and Kevin Rose of Google Ventures. The award prompted one less than impressed commentator to declare that Silicon Valley has finally run out of ideas. I dunno, an “Alfred” racing a drone back from the supermarket so that a man servant can feed grapes to a rich young lady? When in Rome…

 

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