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Facebook released its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.


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Facebook grew its users and revenue in the first quarter, but the social media giant reiterated that a new privacy update Apple released this week could hinder its ads business. 

“We continue to expect increased ad targeting headwinds in 2021 from regulatory and platform changes, notably the recently-launched iOS 14.5 update, which we expect to begin having an impact in the second quarter,” Facebook CFO Dave Wehner said in a statement.

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The social network grew its revenue by 48%, to $26.17 billion, beating Wall Street’s expectations of $23.7 billion. Facebook earned $3.30 a share, surpassing the forecast of $2.34 per share anticipated by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. With more businesses going online during the coronavirus pandemic, Wehner noted that the company’s revenue growth was fueled by an increase in the average price per ad. Facebook’s stock jumped by nearly 5%, to $322.04 per share, in after-hours trading. 

Roughly 2.85 billion people logged in to Facebook every month, up 10% compared with the same period last year, the company said Wednesday. 

Facebook’s first-quarter earnings come as a public battle with Apple continues to escalate. The social network said Monday that it started rolling out a change required by Apple as part of Apple’s iOS 14.5 software update. App developers, including Facebook, will start showing iPhone and iPad users a prompt that asks for permission to track them across other apps and websites. Before showing Apple’s required notification, Facebook plans to display its own screen that outlines how the company uses the data, including by noting that advertising allows the company to avoid charging a subscription fee to use its various services.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said during a conference call that the company is helping businesses navigate through the iOS 14.5 changes and is rebuilding “meaningful” parts of its ad technology. She added that the social network believes businesses can still get “great results” from digital ads. 

The world’s biggest social network has had a poor track record when it comes to protecting user privacy. Its most damaging scandal involved data harvesting by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica that could have impacted the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election. Facebook, though, has publicly pushed back against Apple’s privacy change, stating that it could make it tougher for small businesses to target ads to attract new customers. Apple, on the other hand, says the new feature, known as App Tracking Transparency, will give users more control over their data. 

While Facebook believes the change could harm its ad business, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has downplayed the looming impact on his company. In March, he said in an interview on social audio app Clubhouse that he was “confident” that Facebook would be able “to manage through that situation well.”

New products in the works

At the same time it’s battling Apple, Facebook continues to work on new products as competition heats up from short-form video app TikTok, social media site Twitter and other tech companies.

Facebook plans to roll out several audio tools in the coming weeks, including a Clubhouse competitor and a feature called Soundbites that’ll let users share short audio clips. This week, Spotify added a mini player for songs and podcasts in the Facebook app, which lets users discover new content more easily through social media. 

Facebook has also been doubling down on video within the last year, releasing tools such as videoconferencing feature Messenger Rooms. The company also introduced a short-form video feature called Reels on Facebook and on its photo-service Instagram, going head-to-head with TikTok.

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Work at a Google campus? Better be vaccinated.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday told employees the company will require vaccinations for employees working on the company’s campuses, a move that comes as the highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world. The policy will begin in the US and expand to other regions over the next few months.

Pichai also delayed the company’s mandatory return to office to Oct. 18, pushing back the date from an earlier goal of September. 

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“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai wrote in an email to employees. “I know that many of you continue to deal with very challenging circumstances related to the pandemic.”

Pichai said the policy will be implemented according to local conditions, and he would share guidance and exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated due to medical or other protected reasons. 

The announcement comes as regions around the world have seen coronavirus cases surge due to the delta variant. In California, Google’s home state, some counties have mandated masks again for people gathering indoors. 

Google isn’t alone in re-evaluating its return-to-work protocols because of the latest wave of the pandemic. Apple said last week that it would also postpone its date for returning to the office by a month. More than half of Apple’s stores will require customers and employees to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, starting on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg

Facebook also said on Wednesday that it would require workers on its US campuses be vaccinated. Netflix will require vaccinations for casts of its US productions, Deadline reported. Twitter said it’s closing the company’s opened offices in New York and San Francisco and pausing future office re-openings. The company said that the office closures are temporary but they don’t have a new timeline for reopening. “We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. 

Uber on Thursday also pushed its global return to office date back to Oct. 25, a delay from its original goal of September. In an internal note to employees, which an Uber representative shared with CNET, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi added that “local circumstances will continue to dictate when it makes sense to bring employees back in a given city,” and that some offices will remain open for employees to come into voluntarily, if local health guidelines allow. Uber will also require employees be fully vaccinated to come into the office, beginning in the US before expanding to other countries. In addition, all Uber employees around the world must now wear masks if they’re in the office. 

Google’s return-to-office policies have caused major tension among the tech giant’s employees, who have complained the rules are applied unevenly. Earlier this month, CNET reported that Urs Hölzle, one of Google’s most senior and longest tenured executives, told employees he’d be working remotely from New Zealand. The announcement rankled lower-level workers who called the relocation “hypocritical” because they said he had in the past been unsupportive or remote work.

CNET’s Queenie Wong and Abrar Al-Heeti contributed to this report. 

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Amazon’s second-quarter sales missed analysts’ projections.

Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon’s revenue continued to climb this year in the second quarter, but not quite at the rate analysts expected. The reason might be that shoppers are finally getting out of the house.

The e-commerce and tech powerhouse said Thursday that net sales in the April-June quarter climbed to $113.1 billion, up 27% from $88.9 billion in the same period last year. That missed forecasts of roughly $115 billion in sales from analysts but landed comfortably within the range of $110 billion to $116 billion, which Amazon predicted for its second quarter in April. Still, earnings per share rose to $15.12 per share, up 46.8% from $10.30 a year earlier. That beat forecasts of $12.22 in earnings per share, according to a Yahoo Finance survey of analysts.

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As economies begin opening up and COVID restrictions taper, people may be focused on activities other than shopping and may also be spreading their dollars around as they experience “additional mobility,” said Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer. In the final quarter of 2020, Amazon posted revenues of more than $100 billion for the first time. And Thursday’s results follow booming sales in the first quarter of 2021, when retailers normally expect to see a slump in sales after the holidays.

In April, Amazon said it would move its annual Prime Day shopping holiday to the second quarter, altering the event’s usual timing of July. Prime Day was eventually scheduled for June 21-22, the earliest it’s been held. Amazon said Thursday the event was most successful for its third party sellers, who use the company’s marketplace to sell their wares, often aided by the Fulfilled by Amazon program that lets companies store goods at Amazon’s warehouses and utilize its delivery service and participate in the Prime program (sellers can also use other fulfillment companies to participate in Prime). Amazon’s revenues grew more from the services vendors pay the company for than its own retail sales.

Advertising revenues also grew substantially, with Olsavsky saying sellers were bidding higher for advertising slots and customers were clicking on ads more. The service allows smaller businesses to place their products higher in search results when customers search for keywords related to their products, including the name of a larger competitor. Additionally, Amazon’s major profit generator, Amazon Web Services, remained strong by bringing in $14.8 billion in revenue and accounting for more than half of Amazon’s operating income.

In the same quarter last year, Amazon blasted past analysts’ predictions, posting record profits even after telling investors it would spend billions to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Amazon also dealt with major obstacles in its logistics chain that led to delivery delays, and it faced high turnover in warehouses, where some workers staged walkouts in protest of Amazon’s handling of safety.

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Airbnb introduced a new speed testing feature on Thursday, allowing anyone who lists their home with the short-term rental service to share their Wi-Fi speeds. Owners can do so by following instructions in the Airbnb app to run a few quick speed tests at their properties — from there, customers can compare the results as they’re browsing for a place to book.

“As the growing flexibility to work and live from anywhere continues, being able to determine a listing’s Wi-Fi speed before booking is a must-have for digital nomads, remote workers, roadschoolers, traveling families, gamers, and creatives alike,” the company’s announcement reads. “Guests want peace of mind that where they’re staying can support their connected needs.”

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The owners of Airbnb rentals will be able to run Wi-Fi speed tests and share those speeds in their listings directly from the Airbnb app.

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Airbnb listings already allow owners to cite their property’s Wi-Fi speed, but the new, built-in speed test — powered by M-Lab, the group behind one of CNET’s top speed testing picks — will add an extra layer of certification for those claims. In addition to offering speed-needy renters some reassurance, those speed test results will also be shared with M-Lab’s publicly available, open-source database of internet performance metrics.

Airbnb is rolling out its new speed testing feature across the US, and expects to expand globally in the coming weeks.

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