Facebook Set to Introduce its Own Cryptocurrency

With the fact that they barely blinked then slapped with a $5M dollar fine recently with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s a reminder that Facebook is as deep-pocketed as one can be. Not surprising that the world’s social media mega giant is so wealthy, and as such we can also assume that they have the bucks needed to get into whatever venture they choose to. The fact that they’re doing so in cryptocurrency is one, however, where they sheer magnitude of what this could mean within the world of online e-commerce.

Here at 4GoodHosting, being a quality Canadian web hosting provider put us in a more natural position than most to be attuned to these kinds of developments and what they can mean for the ‘general public’ of the 21st century digital world. We’ve talked about Blockchain here in our blog before, and it’s on this game-changing piece of fintech (financial technology) that this – and all types of cryptocurrency – are based on.

This kind of industry disruption is one of the more defining aspects of the digital world these days, and the ‘disruption’ that could come from this is really one to talk about. No doubt the banking world won’t be particularly enthusiastic about it.

So what’s this all about?

New Way to Pay

Facebook’s digital currency-to be will be called Libra, and the ‘crypto wallet’ you’ll use to carry it is called Calibra. What you’ll do is download the Calibra digital wallet application, purchase the Libra digital currency through a financial network, and then exchange payments with peer-to-peer digital money transfers through Calibra standing alone as an app. It’s reported that users will also be able to do the same thing through Facebook’s subsidiaries WhatsApp and Messenger.

The Libra platform is expected to launch sometime next year, in 2020, and it’s being promoted as a cryptocurrency app that will let Facebook users send, add or withdraw money as weill as allowing someone to fill their wallet, cash out or split a restaurant tab all using Messenger. Further, you may eventually be able to pay bills, buy a cup of coffee with the scan of a code, or taking transit without needing to have cash or a metro pass in your pocket.

For exchange rates between fiat currency and Libra, Calibra will show them as well as what it will charge to convert it back again. The key is that blockchain is serving to cut out the middleman, in this case a central bank or clearing house. With that goes the majority of costs associated with these types of financial transactions.

Facebook is promising that their transaction fees will be low-cost and transparent, and particularly so if you’re sending money internationally. By cutting fees made possible by utilizing blockchain, Calibra promises to leave more money at your digital disposal.

Powerful and Safe

The blockchain transactional network on which Calibra will exist will be able to handle thousands of transactions every second, and data on those financial transactions will be kept separate from data about the social network. This assurance will of course be very important to users. Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook or any third party without customer consent, meaning account information will not be used for customers’ account information. Nor will financial data be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook family of products.

Libra is reported to be different from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, in that it is backed by fiat currency. This means its value is not simply determined by supply and demand like the others. It’s also going to be designed so that it will be interoperable with other cryptocurrency wallets because they’ll run on top of the same blockchain network.

Facebook will secure financial transactions made through its digital wallet app in a number of different ways; for starters, they will not be in charge of governing the blockchain network. Instead, that will be handled by the Libra Association, which is made up of dozens of other companies – Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Uber among them. Additionally, all accounts and transactions are verified and fraud prevention is built in to the app. Accounts are verified with government-issued IDs, such as a driver’s license, so users can be certain other users are who they say they are.

Calibra will also have an in-app reporting function and dedicated customer service.

Facebook’s Libra Project appears to be a hybrid blockchain one that is a mix of permission and public ones. What this means is that it connect to banks to verify and onboard users (permission) and then uses a public blockchain to enable the users to transfer or spend funds.

Where’s the Profit?

Long story short, there’s huge potential for Facebook here to generate via ad revenue, with the understanding that there will be more conversion of consumers who view ads. It should also be a more attractive e-commerce marketplace that gains sellers and buyers in growing economies where access to e-money services for transactions may be limited.

A stat that speaks to that – almost half of all adults globally don’t have an active bank account. These numbers are worse in developing countries, and even worse for women.

All of this is very much in its early stages, but make no mistake about it – Social media’s colossus is going to be one of the ‘early birds’ getting the worm when it comes to cryptocurrency.

Shoelace, Google’s Well-Funded Foray into the World of Social Media

There’s a whole lot in the news these days about the perils of too much time spent on social media, and particularly so for young people. As is the case with everything, moderation is the key and it’s only when you overdo it that the situation becomes harmful. Like it or not, social media has become an all-pervasive aspect of our lives for many of us, and we’re not hesitant about indulging in it in the slightest. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat may have a new kid on the block soon, and he’s the protégé of one of the biggest players in the Internet world – Google.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any other leading Canadian web hosting provider in that we can’t help but see and hear firsthand about just how omnipresent social media is in the lives of people. This news regarding Google’s entry in the world of SM is noteworthy because it’s very much a situation where the company’s deep pockets will ensure that if it’s not a success off the hop, it will be eventually after however many tries are necessary.

So what’s there to know about this new Shoelace, and what can those interested in it expect if they decide to give it a whirl. Let’s have a look at that here today.

The Skinny on Shoelace

Admittedly, Google has never had any success developing a social network, but they’ve definitely persevered with the effort. Following the shutdown of platforms like Orkut, Google Buzz, and Google+ Google has decided the time is right to test out yet another social network, an as mentioned this one’s called Shoelace.

Google’s experimental Area 120 product development workshop has been behind the building of it, and Shoelace is a hyper-local social networking app (for Android and iOS) that takes a different approach – it aims to connect people based on shared interests in specific events and in-person activities. Advocates of it have suggested that Shoelace promises to be a social network that encourages people to spend less time on their phones, and more of it engaging in real-life activities with like-minded people NEAR you.

All About the ‘Loops’

This is where Shoelace’s name comes from – users will be able to create their own ‘loop’ which will essentially be listings for events that can be shared with others on the app, and with a secondary focus of possibly promoting the making of a new friend or two along the way.

If, however, you don’t have any of your own events to suggest, it’s possible to designate your interest in a variety of categories with Shoelace. It will then use that info to recommend a number of ‘hand-picked’ activities the app believes you might have an interest in. The idea of course being that as you participate and engage in greater numbers of activities, you develop a social network of people who have the same interests and the same participation tendencies.

Crews Too

Users will also be able to create profiles that allow sharing tidbits about themselves, learning about others in their ‘crews,’ and making it easier to organize and be prepared for upcoming events. Part of Shoelace’s listing on the Google Play Store states that the most recent update to the app added the ability to share Loops using a hyperlink, and the belief is that once people get the hang of that it could make it even easier to get the word out about upcoming activities.

As of Now, Big Apple Only

Keeping in mind that it’s still a prototype, the current situation is that Shoelace is only available in New York City. Google has said its goal is to bring Shoelace to cities across the U.S. in the future, and it’s also true that they’re even taking requests for suggestions as to which places it should bring Shoelace to next.

In addition, access to Shoelace is invite-only for now.

Whether or not Shoelace truly takes off remains to be seen, but it deserves some credit if for no other reason then the fact it looks to be a social network that’s promoting a social life that’s not contained within the device pretty much exclusively. It’s a nice conceptual departure in that regard, and many insiders think that if it does take root then we’ll likely see many of its features and ideas incorporated into Google Maps or other Google services before too long.

2 Weeks To HTTPS Becoming a Necessity for Websites

It’s July 9th and two weeks from today the web is officially going with full HTTPS as requisite, and that’s a development that’s been a long time in the making. Securing traffic on the internet is an obvious priority, but of course there are people who are strongly opposed to having a secure web.

Two weeks today Google will be uniformly labeling any site loaded in Chrome without HTTPS to be not secure. Most webmasters will be on top of this and accordingly usage of HTTPS is exploding right now. In the 6 months up to a recent report, 32% growth in the use of HTTPS was seen in the top 1 million sites. Mozilla tracks anonymous telemetry via Firefox browser and recorded big growth (75% page loads) in the rate of pages being loaded over HTTPS. Chrome too, at around the same 75 percent.

We’re a Canadian web hosting provider who’s always got our thumb on the pulse of the industry, so it’s important to relate that quite a few popular sites on the web still don’t support HTTPS (or fail to redirect insecure requests) and will soon be flagged by Google. Plus, let’s clear up a few emerging myths about HTTPS:

  • It’s a Hassle
  • I Don’t Need It
  • It’s Gonna be Slow
  1. It’s A Hassle

No, it’s pretty darn simple. You can protect your site with HTTPS in a matter of seconds for FREE. Sign up for Cloudflare or using a CA such as Let’s Encrypt. We can assist you with any other web security and accessibility concerns you may have beyond https encryption of your website.

  1. I Don’t Need It

Well it turns out, you do – particularly as it relates to the safety and privacy of those visiting your site. Without HTTPS, anyone in the path between your visitor’s browser and your site or API can peer in on (or make modifications to) your content without you needing to be made aware of it. Governments, employers, and even especially internet service providers can and have been overseeing content without user consent.

If having your users receiving content unmodified and safe from maliciously injected advertisements or malware is a priority for you, you are advised to move your website to HTTPS.

Add the fact that the major browsers like Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft, are restricting functionality to only work over HTTPS. Google will soon block unencrypted mobile app connections automatically in their upcoming Android version. Apple has announced that apps must use HTTPS, but there has been no official announcement of this yet.

  1. It’s Gonna be Slow

The last common myth about HTTPS is that it’s not speedy enough. This belief is a holdover from an era when SSL/TLS might have had a negative performance impact on a site, but that’s not the way it is today at all or ever. HTTPS is also now required to enable and enjoy the performance benefits of HTTP/2.

Here’s two untruths to consider:

1) It takes incrementally more CPU power to encrypt and decrypt data; and

2) establishing a TLS session involves nothing more than 2 network round trips between the browser and the server.

HTTPS content from the edge – 10-20 milliseconds away from your users in the case of Cloudflare – SSL/TLS enabled sites are superior. And even when they are not served from an edge provider they still function at a high level. Advanced users should also consider using HSTS to instruct the browser to always load your content over HTTPS, saving it a round trip (plus page load time) on following requests.

Containerisation, or Not: How to Choose for Your Hosting

There’s an expression that goes ‘nothing stays simple for long’ and gosh darn if that isn’t just so true for so much of nearly everything in the world of economics and commerce. As is nearly always the case, it’s the way things develop interconnectedness and interdependencies very naturally means that what was once kind of basic eventually becomes at least somewhat complicated.

So it is with server hosting too, and what used to be just fine for a particular company or organization with regards to hosting their website. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re obviously like any other Canadian web hosting provider at the forefront of the industry in that this is one of the more front and centre issues for us as it pertains to providing our customers with the type of web hosting service that actually suits them best.

All of this leads to what we’ll discuss here today, and the term is ‘containerisation.’ The term on itself means to break up a mass of any objects or material and separate them into a number of containers. What exactly those containers are could be any of thousands of different potential ones, but all of them will have the quality of having some type of exterior on at least 3 of 4 sides to create a barrier than ‘contains’ the ‘contents’ exactly as desired.

Decisions, Decisions

As far as servers, it was in fact a simple choice once upon a time – dedicated, or shared. That’s often still the basic decisions, but for ever greater numbers of customers there are additional considerations about what’s going to accommodate your website most ideally.

So what is containerisation, and would it be a good fit for you? And is there a specific type of server hosting required to run containers? How about the term ‘serverless’, what needs to be known there?

Lets have a look at all of this today.

Functionalities and Options

If there are no other external considerations, an application would be run via a web hosting package or dedicated server with an operating system and a complete software stack. But now, there are other options.

Operating-system level virtualisation is the far-too-long and awkward term that containerisation replaced. Containerisation uses a platform like Docker to run isolated instances, which make up the containers. But what exactly is the container then?

It’s a package of software that includes everything needed for a specific application, and the collection of it allows it to operate like a separate server environment. Because they share a single OS kernel, multiple containers can run on one server or virtual machine (VM) and have no effect on each other in any way. Most users identify with the container as being much like its own unique environment, and irrespective of the host infrastructure.

 

Containers are able to perform tasks that would require a whole server or VM if they weren’t around, and they also have the benefit of consuming far less resources. Being lightweight and agile allows them to be deployed, shut down and restarted at a moment’s notice, and they can also be transferred easily across hardware and environments.

Containers are also standalone packages, and that means they behave reliably and consistently regardless of the local configuration.

Orchestrator Needs

Safe to say Kubernetes is the most popular choice as a container orchestrator. There are several out there, but Kubernetes gets the highest marks for anyone running a large numbers of containers in a production environment because it automates the deployment, scheduling and management of containerised applications. Automatically scaling containers across multiple nodes (servers or VMs) to meet current demand and perform rollouts seamlessly is a huge plus, and it also promotes a sort of self-healing with containerised applications – if a node fails, Kubernetes restarts, replaces or reschedules containers as needed.

Working Considerations

Traditional web hosting solutions make it so that you can choose whether to run your containers in a shared environment, and where the best value for the money is if you have relatively small workloads not utilizing resources of a whole cluster of nodes (VMs or servers). Those with larger workloads or regulatory obligations to meet may find that a dedicated server environment – perhaps with your own cluster – may be required.

Serverless computing involves the orchestrator automatically stopping, starting and scaling the container on the infrastructure best situated to handle demand at that time. The benefit of this is that the developer has even less to be concerned about; code runs automatically, and there’s no need to manually configure the infrastructure. Costs are kept down because all instances of a container automatically shut down when demand for it trickles off or ends entirely.

Another term often used when discussing containers is microservices. A traditional application is built and consist as one big block with a single file system, shared databases and one common language across its various functions. Where a microservices application reveals itself is behind the scenes where functions are broken down into individual components.

Examples could be a product service, payment service, or a customer review service. Containerisation technologies like Kubernetes provide platforms and management tools for implementation, and then allowing microservices to be lightweight and run anywhere they’re needed. Microservices can technically be built on traditional server hosting, but creating and maintaining a full microservices architecture creates a working reality where a container platform like Docker and an orchestration tool like Kubernetes are integral parts of making the whole operation work as intended.

 

Domain Registrations So Far for 2019 Indicating Explosion of Online Businesses

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web nearly 20 years, it’s very likely that he had at least some envisioning of exactly how pivotal it would be in revolutionizing the world of information dissemination. Whether or not he foresaw just how integral it would be become to the worlds of business and commerce might not be so easy to assume, but of course here we are today in the middle of 2019 and it’s as clear as ever that businesses – any business – that doesn’t have a strong online presence is going to be at a MAJOR disadvantage.

While we’re obviously in the business of being a reputable Canadian web hosting provider, here at 4GoodHosting just because we’re in ‘the biz’ doesn’t mean that we’re any less sensitive to the demands of what it takes to have good, strong Internet marketing. After all, nowadays well over half of all business is generated – either directly (online purchasing) or indirectly (direct referral) – via the web.

That of course won’t come as a surprise to anyone, or it shouldn’t. It’s summertime now, so let’s say you’re in the market to buy an air conditioner for your often-too-hot condo. Do you start comparing products and prices with visits to retailers in person? Of course not, you may end up buying that product in person, but you’re going to do your researching and comparison online. We could go on further about all of this, but likely enough said.

However, as if we didn’t need any more convincing of this – it appears that the first half of 2019 has seen more domain registrations overall worldwide than during the entire year 2018. Talk about an explosion!

351M+ & Counting

That’s right, the number of domain name registrations for the first quarter of 2019 reached 351.8 million across all top-level domains (TLDs). All in comparison to the 4th quarter of 2018 which closed with a total of 348.7 million domain registrations for the entire year. For those not as swift with numbers in their head as others (myself included), that’s an increase of 3.1 million, and just so far this year. With the trend being that domain name registrations have grown by 5.4 per cent year over year, they’re on pace to pretty much obliterate that standard pace.

Popular Choices

Not surprisingly, it’s been the .com and .net domain extensions that are being snapped up most enthusiastically. Between the two there was 154.8 million domain name registrations over the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 1.8 million domain name registrations (1.2%) for the same period of 2018. This also works out to a combined increase of 6.5 million domain name registrations (4.4%) year over year.

As March 31, 2019 came to an end, no less than 141 million something .com domain names were registered, while .net domain names totalled 13.8 million domain name. Between both of them there were only 153 million new domain registrations through the end of 2018.

Country-Specifics Domain

Now China may identify itself as a Communist country (and indeed the way it represses digital communications via the Internet is regime-ish, but that’s a topic for another day), but there’s not debate that the inner workings of it are decidedly capitalist / commerce-oriented. 5 billion people makes for one heck of an expensive labour force AND consumer base. As such it’s no surprise that the largest number of country-code TLDs registered for 2019 so far have been for .cn domains.

The exact number of them? A whopping 156.8 million!

The ccTLD that comes in second, however, is almost certainly going to come as a surprise. The Tokelau Islands are found in the South Pacific, and have a population of about 1,500 people. It has to come as a shock that 22.5 million .tk domains have been registered so far in 2019! I’ll be inclined to look into why this is, and perhaps I’ll share what I’ve dug up in a future blog post here.

Back on topic though, the rest of the ccTLDs came in as follows:

  • .de (Germany) 16.2 million
  • .uk (Great Britain) 12.0 million
  • .tw (Taiwan) 5.9 million
  • .nl (Netherlands) 5.9 million
  • .ru (Russia) 5.8 million
  • .br (Brazil) 4.0 million
  • .eu (European union) 3.7 million
  • .fr (France) 3.3 million

Seriously though, what’s the deal with Tokelau? I’ve spend the last 5 minutes scouring the web and nothing to explain why 22.5 million domains have been registered for an island nation of 1,500 people.

Decline in gTLD Domain Registrations

A gTLD is a generic top-level domain and, in contrast to the explosion of the types of domain registrations pointed out above, registrations of these types of domains have actually decreased their pace so far this years as compared to the same period of 2018.

Total domain registrations for new gTLDs were 23 million in the first quarter of 2019. Registrations for these types of domains have decreased by 3.4%, compared to last quarter of 2018, where they numbered approximately 23.8 million.

Anyways, the long and short of this is that more and more businesses, ventures, and individuals are getting onboard given the proven-effective nature of making you, your business, you art – whatever it may be – explicitly visible to the entire world.

As the expression goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Google is Blocking Ad Blockers in Chrome: Paid Web Browsers the Future

Many people lament the fact that the Internet can’t be an unimpeded digital information source and not have commercial interests to the extent it does. It would be nice if it was a fountain of knowledge that exists for everyone’s own information gathering exclusively, but living in the world we do when there’s a buck to be made somewhere the opportunity will be taken. It’s especially frustrating for people who aren’t big consumers and have never clicked on a link or purchased very little online.

Google has recently moved to limit Chrome’s ad-blocking capabilities, and no doubt many of you using an ad-blocker will have already noticed this. Google also announced that this feature will not apply for Google’s paid G Suite Enterprise subscribers. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a Canadian web hosting provider who keeps our thumbs on the pulse of the digital world and the prospect of ad-free internet browsing only via paid web browsers would be a pretty big deal for nearly all of us who source information online.

According to a recent study, as many as 40% of people browsing the web from laptops use an ad blocker. That’s a big group of people that aren’t viewing Google’s ads. So why’s this happening, and what’s the underlying current here?

Beyond Blocked Blockers

It’s been reported in the news how Chrome users – and developers of Chrome-friendly, ad-blocker extensions – are none too pleased with Google’s proposed changes to the Chrome Extensions platform. We have to go back to when Google announced Manifest V3, which constituted a set of proposed changes to Google Chrome’s Extensions platform.

In it, specific changes to Chrome’s webRequest API were proposed with an eye to limiting the blocking version of it and this potentially would remove blocking options from most events and creating them as observational only. Content blockers would now use a different API instead, known as a ‘declarativeNetRequest.’ The Manifest concluded that this new API is “more performant and offers better privacy guarantees to users.”

The reality is though that Google’s Manifest V3 changes will prevent Chrome’s ad-blocker extensions from using the webRequest API as it normally, but it will also force them to use a new API (declarativeNetRequest). One that isn’t compatible with how existing popular adblocker extensions function and making them ineffective.

It’s fairly clear to see that Google is being receptive to the concerns of paying advertisers in ensuring the delivery of their ads to site visitors, and they’re not going to be supportive of ad blockers from now own.

A recent industry publishing had a statement from a spokesperson at Google regarding these changes in Chrome – “Chrome supports the use and development of ad blockers. We’re actively working with the developer community to get feedback and iterate on the design of a privacy-preserving content filtering system that limits the amount of sensitive browser data shared with third parties.”

They then added further, “for managed environments like businesses, we offer administration features at no charge.”

For now, Google is still intending to block ad blockers in Chrome, while people who are subscribed to their G Suite Enterprise-level of services will enjoy ad-free viewing.

Pay to Play Soon?

In the past it was that Chrome could be an ad-free browsing experience at no additional cost. Now it seems you’ll have to subscribe to premium G Suite services, and the highest, most expensive version of it. How much? It’s $25 per user, per month, and that’s no small change for any type of online monthly service.

It’s not difficult to figure out what’s Google’s interest in doing this. They can increase the amount of revenue generated from users viewing ads if non-Enterprise subscribing users, based in large part because most people won’t pay for G Suite and more of them will see ads they’ll click through.

Keep in mind that Google’s competitors like Microsoft Edge and Firefox are still fine with supporting ad blockers, so it’s fair to assume they’ll be people who’ll abandon Chrome for another browser. Even if they think Chrome is superior, as there are many people who simply can’t stand ads and particularly if they’re researching for work or academic purposes and time is of the issue.

Google’s G Suite’s low and mid-tier subscribers will still be seeing ads too, it’s only the 25-a-month subscribers who’ll be enjoying ad-free browsing. G Suite Basic is $6 dollars per user per month and G Suite Business is $12 per user month.

Any of you planning to jump ship if your ad blocker is rendered useless?

Choosing the Right IoT Platform

No doubt the Internet of Things needs no introduction here given how the latest big wrinkle in the application of World Wide Web-based technology has become so integrally involved in both our private and working lives. As it stands currently, working with IoT applies to some businesses more than others, but it’s fair to say that any of them that put a premium on customer accessibility and control will need to be adhering to IoT realities.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a good Canadian web hosting provider like any other in that we prefer to keep our thumbs on the pulse of certain trends in the greater industry more so than others. IoT is definitely one of them, and it continues to be interesting to watch how it reaches further into our digital world every day. Consumers are going to expect more and more ‘smartness’ from their ‘things’ going forward, and businesses of course need to be receptive to that.

This makes choosing the right IoT platform a complex endeavor. The landscape can be confusing for IoT hobbyists, experienced developers, and senior executives alike. Today we’ll give you a quick overview of the IoT platform landscape and how you should evaluate IoT platforms based on your needs.

Defining an IoT Platform

Quite simply, an IoT platform is an integrated service offering what’s needed to bring physical objects online. Supporting millions of simultaneous device connections is the challenge, and your platform needs to allow you to configure your devices for optimized communication between machines. The consensus among developers is that it’s really quite difficult to build a well-functioning IoT product.

IoT Platform Types

End-to-end IoT Platforms

End-to-end IoT platforms provide hardware, software, connectivity, security, and device management tools to handle the massive numbers of concurrent device connections. They also provide all managed integrations needed, which can include OTA firmware updates, device management, cloud connection, cellular modem and more, all of which connect and monitor a fleet of devices online.

Connectivity Management Platforms

These platforms offer low-power and low-cost connectivity management solutions via Wi-Fi and cellular technologies. Connectivity hardware, cellular networks, and data routing features are all part of connectivity management platforms in IoT.

IoT Cloud Platforms

Cloud platforms are very beneficial, serving to get rid of the complexity of building your own complex network stack and offering backend and other services to monitor and track millions of device connections that are occurring simultaneously.

Data Platform

As you’d imagine, every type of IoT platform deals with data in some way. IoT data platforms serve the function of combining many of the tools you need to manage / visualize data analytics and them route them as needed.

IoT Platform Verticals

Placing these IoT platforms into categories is really being too simple with them. The breadth of functionality for each makes it so that they don’t fit into a single category. The most logical way of looking at them is what they offer for different interests and related users:

Hobbyists / Prototyping Solutions / Utilities / Live Search (A.I.) Applications / Development Kits / DIY solutions / Consumer Electronics / Home automation / Wearables / Industrial IoT (IIoT) Solutions / Smart factory warehousing applications / Predictive and remote maintenance / Industrial security systems / Asset tracking and smart logistics/ Transportation monitoring / Energy optimization / Connected logistics / Agriculture Industry / Healthcare Industry / Energy Industry / Smart Cities

What to Look for When Examining Platforms

It’s definitely helpful to know what you should be looking for, based on your intended solution:

  1. Connectivity

How effectively is the vendor’s network coverage fitting your business’ current and future initiatives?

  1. Method of Connectivity

What type of connectivity is needed? Will a Wi-Fi or cellular solution be best for your IoT product? Assess these needs and then determine how the vendor can address them.

  1. Market Longevity

Looking at how long the IoT platform been in business is helpful. The space itself is relatively new, but building has occurred quickly and a lot can and will change in a very short period of time. Aim to find an IoT platform that has been offering services for 4+ years at a minimum.

  1. Type of Service

How does the IoT platform describe and sell themselves? Some will be purely connectivity platforms, some will be end-to-end solutions that offer hardware and software to go along with connectivity. How one will suit you best comes about after assessing your business needs. How will they change over time?

  1. Geographic Coverage

Is an embedded sim with global support provided? Is this IoT platform one that covers the regions your business needs? Looking over all aspects of your global reach needs should be part of the consideration as well.

  1. Data Plan

Is a fair data plan included with the platform? The ability to pause or suspend your data services at any time and the ability to control how much data that is used should be on your checklist.

  1. Security / Privacy

Look into the platform and specifically how they’ve dealt with security and privacy issues and reviewed their security content as needed to date. Evaluate how their platform combats security issues frees you from having to do that yourself.

  1. Managed Integrations / API Access

How does the vendor integrate every complexity required for the IoT connectivity you’re after – cellular modems, carrier / sim cards, device diagnostics, firmware updates, cloud connections, security, application layer, RTOS. The best ones will consolidate all into a simple package that works out to very little of it ending up on your plate.

  1. Data Access

How easy does it look to be to take the data acquired through the IoT platform and then integrate it with your enterprise back ends and current cloud service? How will this data then be used? Does the service match those needs?

  1. IoT Ecosystem

The relationships between the services the IoT platform offers should be clearly understood. This will help you learn how their services can be of assistance in helping you build your product

  1. IoT Roadmap

The expansion of IoT platforms is going to continue ahead at full steam. Does this IoT platform’s roadmap match your organization’s needs, and will expansions into connectivity, data, and hardware be helpful for you?

  1. OTA Firmware Updates

How does the vendor allow you to send updates and fix bugs on your devices remotely? It is a simple process, or a complex one. Obviously, simpler is far preferable.

Good Ones

  • Particle — Particle is an enterprise IoT platform that’s ideal for building an IoT product, from Device to Cloud.
  • Salesforce IoT — Maximizes your business efforts with IoT cloud services.
  • Microsoft IoT Azure — Very popular, and enhances operational productivity and profitability by means of a preconfigured connected factory solution.
  • Artik Cloud — The ARTIK IoT platform is ideal for IoT open data exchange
  • Google Cloud’s IoT Platform — integrated services that get high marks from end users and allow you to easily and securely connect, manage, and internalize IoT data
  • IBM Watson IoT — IBM’s new Watson Internet of Things (IoT) is a cognitive system that picks up on AI and then practicalizes it for use within IoT functionality.
  • Xively Platform — an enterprise IoT platform to help accelerate your connected product or service.

These are just a few of many that seem well-received by developers.

Google Soon to Enable Auto-Deletion of Location and Web History

There’s been plenty of buzz and more than a little furor lately about how Google is apparently tracking users and collecting all sorts of data related to what you – and people like you – choose to do within the realms of the World Wide Web. As the old saying goes, where there’s smoke you can assume there’s fire pretty much every time and so it’s fair for Internet users to have concerns and be second-guessing their steps online.

As to be expected, the world’s leading digital superpower company says there’s no such cause for concern, or at least concern to the extent that’s being seen amongst the common populace – the vast majority who still choose to use Chrome as their web browser of choice, and the many still who do their web surfing and more on a Chromebook or with a Pixel smartphone.

Like any good Canadian web hosting provider, those of us here at 4GoodHosting will suggest that the truth to all of this is somewhere in the middle. It’s entirely logical to believe that actions undertaken on 4G – and soon to be 5G – networks are tracked and monitored, but often times it’s going to be based on much the same principles that Cookies are. That is, to define user behaviour patterns to offer a better and more straight-line A-to-B experience that users WILL want.

Of course, there will still be those who’ll believe that the Internet giants are up to nefarious aims with all of this, and so with this in mind it’s interesting to note news from Google this past week that it’s going to enable to auto-deletion of location and web history with its browsers.

Catering to Pressure from Privacy Advocates?

Like Facebook, Google’s been dogged by privacy advocates to be more receptive to concerns related to its data collection policies, and has been the target of particular criticism for indefinitely holding on to users’ geo-location information on its servers.

It seems they haven’t been able to remain entirely impervious to these pressures, and so Google has been making incremental changes to its data collection protocols, allowing users to have more power over the private information the company stores. That’s why this news is noteworthy, because moving forward users will now have the option of having their online history automatically deleted after a certain period of time.

Apparently users will be able to choose how long location or web history is automatically saved to Google’s servers – either letting Google store your information from anywhere between three to 18 months, with any data older than being deleted automatically on a rolling basis.

This new feature is going to be rolled out over the coming weeks, so if don’t see it yet don’t be quick to jump to the conclusion that all of this is hot air. However, you can check your Google account Activity Controls page to see if it’s become available. If so, you’ll note the new automatic deletion option under the Web & App Activity and Location History sections.

A Good – and Legitimate – Browser Alternative

To get back to our metaphorical analogy from earlier, for those of you who are certain that smoke IS coming from a fire and it’s a much bigger deal than Google, Facebook, and the like would prefer you to believe there are some good Browser alternatives. One of them that I myself use on my mobile is the DuckDuckGo browser, which is advertised as being a privacy-assured browsers that – most notably – avoids the filter bubble of personalized search results.

It’s actually a legitimately capable browsers for mobile (can’t speak for desktop) and if you’re one who has these sorts of Internet privacy concerns then it’s one you might want to download onto your mobile and start using exclusively.

The auto-delete option, according to Google, will allow users to choose an expiration time of either three months or 18 months for the data collected by the search giant, including past searches, online activity on Google-owned sites, Android app installation and usage, and information collected via the Location History feature on Google Search and Google Maps.

The controls will be available in the account settings panel under the Web & App Activity and Location History sections.

Google’s announcement says that the auto-delete feature will be rolled out in the next few weeks and is “coming first” to the web- and location-history sections, implying we may see it applied to other Google services in the future as well.

7 Most Common Web Design Shortcomings

The interesting thing with websites is that the vast majority of us take them entirely at face value, meaning that we don’t read into anything more than what’s in front of us and our experience when interacting with that website. Truth is nothing more should be expected from a visitor. It’s for this reason that web designers have to pay particular attention to how they design a website, and how they prompt those visitors to interact with it. There are likely a few specific websites you could name if you were to be asked for a few that you like. But if you were then asked to explain why you liked them, you’d probably struggle to define that exactly.

Here at 4GoodHosting, being a quality Canadian web hosting provider obviously means we’re somewhat more attuned to these sorts of things than the average Joe. That’s not to say we experts by any means, but we do have some degree of wherewithal about what makes for good web design. This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject with our blog, but it’s always good to come back to it for the sake of any of you who are starting to dabble in web design.

It’s a vast frontier to be sure. Today we’ll look at the consensus 7 most common shortcomings found with web design, and hopefully armed with the information you’ll make sure you get yours right the first time around.

  1. Non-Responsiveness

In today’s day and age it is simply inconceivable to imagine a web developer neglecting to make a responsive site. For going on 4 years now internet traffic flowing through mobile devices has been higher than the traffic coming from desktops and laptops. Current rates are roughly 53% smartphones and tablets versus 47% for desktops, laptops, smart TVs and the like.

Not developing responsive websites can result in alienating more than half of your prospective visitors. The significance of that needs no explanation.

  1. Excess Jargon

If all website developers had a good sense of what constitutes readability, we wouldn’t have this on the list.This is something that frequently shows up when completed projects result in products that visitors struggle to comprehend when reading about them on a website.

The term for this is jargon. There’s a lot of it online, but that doesn’t make it a positive by any means. No matter how jargon creeps onto your website, you need to do everything you can to get rid of it. The best way to handle jargon is to avoid it wherever possible, unless the business developer has good reasons to include it.

  1. Noticeable Lack of Content

A lack of content means a message that’s lacking the same way, and it’s for this reason that some 46% of visitors who land on B2B websites end up splitting right quick without further exploration or interaction. There’s no getting around the fact that quality content that is relevant to the intention of a website is crucial in terms of establishing credibility.

Content must be intrinsically valuable for the visitor as well, and not just a collection of text that serves SEO purposes. If you struggle to generate good quality content, pay someone who’s capable with it to do it for you. It’s well worth it and then some. And a CMS – content management system – comes highly recommended as well.

  1. Hiding Essential Information

It used to be that the issue of misguided website development was thought to have been remedied through the judicious application of recommended practices. That was until mobile apps came around. Look no further than the situation with Google in 2016, where they fell victim to this with their release of Material Design. It introduced bottom navigation bars intended to offer a more clarifying alternative to hamburger menus. Long story short, it failed decidedly.

Unless there is a specific and enhanced purpose for prompting visitors to click or tap on a button, link or page element without explaining next steps, this ‘mystery’ type of navigation should be avoided, particularly when it comes to essential information.

  1. Excessively Slow Page Loads

For a website to be one that is considered to load sufficiently fast, a web design rule of thumb is to simplify and this responsibility lies squarely with the developer. Understand that the more ‘stuff’ you have on a page (images, forms, videos, widgets, etc.), the longer the server takes to send over the site files. Plus it then takes longer for the browser to render them. Here are a few design best practices to follow :

  • Make the site light – get rid of non-essential elements, especially if they are bandwidth-gobblers.
  • Compress your pages – Gzip is an easy means of doing so.
  • Split long pages into a few shorter ones
  • Write clean code that doesn’t rely on external sources
  • Optimize images

After doing so and still experiencing slow loads, turn your focus over to your web host. It’s a fact that cheap, entry-level shared packages are notoriously slow and unpredictable, especially as your traffic increases. A recent published test checked load times across the leading providers and found variances from a barely acceptable 2,850 ms all the way down to speedy 226 ms.

  1. Outdated Information

Not much will really need to be said here. Ensure all information presented on your site is up to date and accurate. Periodic audits of the site to keep up with this is also recommended.

  1. Clear Call to Action is Missing

Every website should push visitors to do something. Even if the purpose is to provide information, the call-to-action – CTA as it’s abbreviated – should encourage visitors to remember it and return for updates. The CTA should be just as clear as the navigation elements, and most often when it’s not then the purpose of bringing that visitor onto the website is lost

Enticements are acceptable, but the CTA message should be spelled out clearly – and even if you think that it’s too ‘pushy’ in doing so.

High-End Smartphones Not Selling Like They Used To

There’s few purchases if any that are as big a deal for most people as a smartphone. Some people are iPhone devotees, while others will only go Android. There’s other players in the game too, but they’re lesser ones. Up until recently it seemed that there was no price people wouldn’t pay to get their hands on the newest smartphone that had become the Apple of their eye. Needless to say, all those people we saw lined up hours in advance to buy the newest iPhones over the last decade plus had plenty of cash to drop on them.

Here at 4GoodHosting, our staff is just like the one you’d find at any Canadian web hosting provider office anywhere in the country – the majority here are fairly opinionated when it comes to what we like or don’t like about certain mobile devices. One thing that’s universally disfavoured though? The way many of them are ridiculously expensive if you’re buying them outright and not through a mobile service provider’s contract.

Seems we’re not alone there, as the numbers of high-end smartphones being sold has dropped quite considerably over the last year. While demand for entry-level and mid-price smartphones has remained strong, global sales of the best quality smartphones like the iPhone XS and XS Max have dropped steadily over the past year.

Lack of New Wrinkles + $$$ = Remaining Inventories

The consensus seems to be that a lack of innovation with the new top-of-the-line smartphones, and then having steep prices attached to them, are making it so that consumers have much less of the compulsion to ‘buy now’ like they did previously – over all of last year (2018) global sales of smartphones grew just 1.2% compared to the year before -1.6 billion units sold.

The largest sales declines occurred in North America (-6.8%), Asia / Pacific (-3.4%) and Greater China (3%). The way these markets rely more on flagship smartphone sales than any others makes it so that the sales drop affected manufacturers AND retailers more emphatically.

As for the manufacturers specifically, the final quarter of 2018 had Apple experiencing the biggest decline – down 11.8% – among the world’s top five smartphone vendors. This worked out to selling 64.5 million handsets; equalling Apple’s worst quarterly decline in smartphone sales since the first quarter of 2016.

Holding on to 15.8% of market share lessens the sting of this for Apple. In the same quarter, Samsung had 17.3% of the market, and Huawei third with 14.8%. Huawei experienced the most growth, however, with sales rising 37.6% to more than 60 million smartphones being purchased.

Huawei Muscling In

Huawei’s growth in 2018 helped it close the gap with Apple, and it added more market share from Asia / Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East to its already strong presence in China and Europe. They’ve become the biggest player in emerging markets, to the tune of 13% more market share overall. As to why this is, look no further than the Honor 10 series smartphone retailing for about $468, compared with the iPhone XR going for $749.

Samsung is feeling the heat from Huawei most prominently. While Samsung is strengthening its smartphone offering at the mid-tier, it continues to face growing competition from Chinese brands that are expanding into larger numbers of markets. Huawei is mainly competing with Samsung in in terms of product breadth. The Chinese handset maker’s industry-leading growth is reinforced by a strong Chinese home market, selling 10 times as many phones as Samsung there.

Again, price points are integral in this trend – in the majority of markets, Huawei is selling from 1% to 50% less that comparable Samsung models.

What About Apple?

Apple faces something of a more unique challenge in that it only offers high-end smartphones, and those devices aren’t offering the same compelling new features they once did. Further, some users are discovering they don’t use all of the features high-end smartphones have.

When this is paired with price points that they (Apple) continue to push up, many consumers are finding the value proposition just isn’t there like it used to be.

While North America and in Asia/Pacific nations remained strong for them, Apple saw iPhone demand weaken in most areas, including in greater China. There its market share dropped from 14.6% in the final quarter of 2017 to 8.8% this past quarter. For 2018 as a whole, iPhone sales dropped 2.7%, to just over 209 million units.

Buyers delaying upgrades while waiting for more innovative smartphones along with attractively priced smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors is now limiting Apple’s unit sales growth prospects.

Industry consensus seems to be that Apple is certainly not out of the game, even if they are not going to move away from their premium branding and don’t have a lot of room for pricing elasticity. Expanded trade-in programs and financing options will likely be their plan of attack to bring their premium price to a manageable level for consumers.