Microsoft lets companies pay for Windows 7 support until 2023

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Microsoft must still be scarred by having to support Windows XP well past its expiry date, as it’s drawing a line in the sand for Windows 7 users. Corporate and institutional customers can only pay for extended security update support through January 2023, or about three years after Microsoft stops providing regular patches. On top of this, the price will increase every year between 2020 and 2023 — the longer a company clings to the past, the costlier it gets.

That may sound like a long time when Windows 7 launched way back in 2009. However, it’s important to remember that Microsoft only ended extended support for Windows XP in 2014, and kept paid support going sometime after that. This is a comparatively early end, and Microsoft isn’t shy about encouraging customers to upgrade sooner than 2023.

As you might suspect, Microsoft is hoping to improve Windows 10 sales. It’s not just a matter of trying to boost quarterly numbers, though. Windows XP’s extra-long lifespan created serious problems for the PC industry at large when business customers were reluctant to upgrade. It even created security issues when Microsoft had to make a support exception to patch XP systems against WannaCry. The sooner Microsoft can convince everyone to join the modern era, the sooner it can relax.

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In 'Fortnite' Monopoly, Tilted Towers is the new Boardwalk

Hasbro Gaming

How do you get Fortnite-obsessed kids to play an old-school board game? By putting Fortnite in the board game, of course. Epic and Hasbro have revealed a Fortnite version of Monopoly that replaces the usual property trading with elements from the battle royale shooter. Island locations replace buildings (popular drop point Tilted Towers is the new Boardwalk), while health points replace money. Don’t just call it a cosmetic change, though — there are genuine changes to the game mechanics.

Hasbro told IGN that Fortnite‘s ever-present storm will manifest the game — storm-struck locations will take two lives each. The dice will also be split into movement and action rolls, so you can shoot a rival or defend yourself before you move.

The new take on Monopoly reaches stores on October 1st. It’s a classic case of milking a trend for all it’s worth, and we could see some players losing interest as the characters and locations change (what if Epic replaces Paradise Palms, for instance?). With that said, we could see this being exceptionally helpful for parents who’d like a good excuse to socialize with their kids.

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Trump tells Apple to build more US plants in response to tariffs

If Apple was hoping to elicit sympathy for the potential impact of US tariffs on product prices… well, it’s not going to get any from the highest levels of government. In one of his characteristic weekend Twitter sprees, President Trump acknowledged that product prices might go up, but insisted that there would be an “easy solution:” make the products in the US. “Start building new plants now,” Trump said.

Apple has claimed that the Apple Watch, HomePod, Mac mini and accessories would be more expensive in the US as a result of imposing new tariffs on China.

The problem, as you might guess, is that it’s not as simple as building new plants in the US. It’s not just the cost of the workers, it’s the flexibility of that worker pool and access to resources. If Apple needs to step up production due to demand, factory partners like Foxconn can recruit thousands of properly qualified workers within weeks. And while there are US suppliers, many of Apple’s component producers are located in China and would have to ship parts overseas. Apple is invested in the US — it just can’t build everything in the country without major sacrifices.

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A date with my Tinder data

I was on Tinder for almost four years. I’m no longer single, but Tinder and its parent company, Match, still have data on me. I didn’t delete my profile — I didn’t even think to — so using GDPR to request what information they had on me was more exciting, or at least more personal, than doing so for other tech companies and services. On the dating apps, I swear I’d tried to keep it classy. I didn’t succeed.

According to other writers’ requests, asking for your data from Tinder leads to varied results, but with FOI requests and GDPR a persistent issue for all tech companies, the dating app thankfully packages everything into a pretty easy to understand and navigable HTML file.

But first things first: What was my internal Tinder hotness score? I didn’t get one. Gutted. Why are we even bothering with this? Other vital statistics include 369 active connections. (Other stats point to more than 450 matches — not sure if that’s a braggable score or not.)

The most fascinating part was my chat history. It sounds exciting, until you realize that it’s only your messages that you get to peruse, disconnected from the context of two strangers trying to flirt — whether the other party responded or not. (“Sorry” = 71 uses.)

Since my history with the app stretches back to when I first came out (and first started using dating/hookup services), the logs got more embarrassing the further I went back. In some chats, I was excessively needy, other times too aggressive, too… horny?

My word choice demonstrated this awfulness. I threw that one-sided chat history into a word-frequency tool, hoping to unearth some insight into how I flirt. Outside the pronouns and connective glue of a sentence (is, on, the, not, here), what exactly did I talk about? Did I mention my job a lot? That I can speak Japanese? My black belt in judo? My efforts to land a backflip? I even got some unwanted insight into my text-based flirting technique.

Context-free, I used the word “horny” 23 times.

As a writer, I have a degree of confidence in my missives. As a tech writer, I even prefer texts and emails to phone calls and bar-based flirting. That said, it seems my internal editor is lazy when it comes to serious dating, or finding someone cool to flirt with in a new town. It’s not that my communications were riddled with typos or grammatical messes: The problem was that most of my Tinder messages were just insipid.

In early Tinder chats, I used some mildly explicit words — nothing to racy, just enough to make me hate myself. Context-free, I used the word “horny” 23 times. I used the word “classy” five times. Fortunately, Tinder is generally less explicit than the LGBT-dating-app competition, thanks to the lack of a picture-sending option.

An embarrassingly dull word cloud, generated from my sent Tinder messages

I used “lol,” “haha,” and 14 other iterations of those a total of 856 times, while I mentioned work or working more than 300 times. I mentioned my career, writing and journalism about 60 times. Apparently, it means a lot to me, but then again, work is the foundation of most stranger small talk.

I talked about Tokyo (my home for three years) and London (current abode) 145 and 102 times, respectively, while “hotel” came up 63 times (oh, business trips!) and “the gym” came up 62 times. Clichés! Surely I had more interesting topics to talk about?

Surely I had more interesting topics to talk about?

Occasionally I did. In no particular order, I mentioned: Gryffindor, gold digger, gospel, fruitcake, eyepatch, embassy, cubist movement, backflip, murderer, origami, pineapple and squirtle.

The worst, and possibly most eye-opening, part of my Tinder GDPR request, however, came not from poring over my one-sided chat logs but from realizing how much money I’d sunk into Tinder. As much as I laugh at people (Aaron) who are addicted to gacha-based mobile games and waste hundreds of dollars on them, I wasted a similar amount on “boosts.” These were a way to raise your profile higher up the pecking order for randomized profile swiping. The data also included the location of purchase. Unsurprisingly, they were centered on places I’d been for business trips. I had apparently spent £150 ($194) on getting to the front of the hookup queue.

Data retrieval series credits
Features editor: Aaron Souppouris
Lead reporter: Chris Ip
Additional reporting: Matt Brian, Dan Cooper, Steve Dent, Jamie Rigg, Mat Smith, Nick Summers
Copy editor: Megan Giller
Illustration: Koren Shadmi (data drones)

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The US government comes for Google, Facebook, and Twitter

Facebook, Twitter, and Google were threatened by lawmakers from three distinct quarters on Wednesday. A leaked email from the largest US telecom lobbying group tells us where this is headed.

One threat came during testimony from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey to Congress when Senator Mark Warner told the pair of executives that “Congress is going to have to take action here. The era of the Wild West in social media is coming to an end.”

Hang on to your spurs. The other threat came after that testimony, when Trump’s Justice Department warned action against leading technology companies for “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas” and hurting competition. Working in concert with this was a third threat, which came from the FCC’s Ajit Pai who targeted Google, Facebook, and Twitter in a Tuesday blog post saying it was time for these companies to have government oversight.

Pai, to the surprise of no one, parroted an email of talking points crafted by the largest organization of telecom lobbyists, US Telecom. An email that was accidentally sent last week to reporter Mike Masnick at the blog TechDirt. The telco lobbyists’ talking points hinged on “increased scrutiny of Facebook” and “Trump/Google Drama” to focus a push on “Congress to implement clear and consistent rules that apply equally to all companies in the internet ecosystem.”

Because he can’t keep his mouth shut, Trump (of course) warned this was coming in tweets and comments to press just one day before TechDirt got US Telecom’s errant email and its 12-page document of talking points.

Donald Trump Holds Rally In Charleston, West Virginia

It’s a sloppy attack campaign. But they manage to stay on message, even if by accident. Through and through, everyone’s attack points against Facebook, Twitter, and Google were anchored in a neo-conservative PR campaign against perceived bias and alleged censorship from these companies. Each have been careful to say they don’t want regulation.

Which is why it was strangely perfect that the Senate Intelligence Committee testimony Wednesday was supposed to be a follow-up on 2016 social media attacks by Russia and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but instead devolved into accusations of Republican censorship, and was attended by alt-righties Alex Jones, Jack Posobiec, and Laura Loomer.

Lending nothing but credence to their plight, the alt-righty conspiracy mongers behaved very much like they do on the very services who they think have done them wrong.

At a random point in the hearing, Loomer began straight-up screaming her grievances about Twitter’s wrongs against the alt-right. You know, Twitter, which was (until yesterday) the last man standing for Alex Jones. The scene was so contrived, Republican U.S. Representative for Missouri William H. Long — who is also an auctioneer — trolled Loomer by drowning her out with an impromptu auctioneer improv while she was dragged from the room bellowing “Jack is a liar” and the entire room lost its composure to laughter.

Alex Jones creeped the proceedings from a seat in the hearing room, looking grubby and desperate, as if Jack Dorsey might drop a dollar bill on the floor at any moment. Perhaps his deplatforming by everyone and his dire-outcome lawsuits from parents of dead children he’s lied about and harassed are taking their toll.

During a break, Jones, a virulent and outspoken hater of transgender people who was recently spotted with some pretty specific transgender porn on his smartphone, spent considerable time harassing Marco Rubio in front of rolling cameras by repeatedly accusing Rubio of being gay. Jones put his hand on Rubio’s shoulder while bullying him about gayness, Rubio basically said he’d kick his ass for it, and the circle of conservative repression was completed. Chalk one up for whatever saint presides over straight men who threaten each other while doing edge-play with violent homophobia.

I point out these distractions because they’re important. The sideshow performers perfectly illustrate a charade played by companies who claim to fight propaganda and “fake news” as they hand narrative control to, make exceptions for, and cater to — the very Americans who create disinformation and fan its flames.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Republican Senator Richard Burr, began the hearing with nice words about social media then set the stage saying, “But we’ve also learned about how vulnerable social media is to corruption and misuse. The very worst examples of this are absolutely chilling and a threat to our democracy.”

Sandberg’s ultimate response to this was to tell the Committee that Facebook had made mistakes (wink) and would “hire more people to review content and invest more heavily in artificial intelligence that can spot fake accounts,” according to Washington Post. Essentially doubling-down on doing everything that hasn’t worked so far.

Sandberg, whose company makes the majority of its political ad spend from Trump, whose board boasts Peter Thiel and whose CEO majority-spends his donations on Republicans. Who coddled the 2016 Neo-conservative “censorship” PR campaign with an unusual Zuckerberg sit-down with Trump’s Barry Bennett, Glenn Beck, and others benefiting from all those Russian ads and Alex Jones conspiracy theories. Whose company caters to conservatism so hard that Sandberg personally endorsed legislation that made sex discrimination against women legal, a platform on which the Venus of Willendorf is reflexively banned for being “dangerously pornographic.” Though in consideration of all this, and that Trump-GOP are the company’s top political ad spender, as the rules of the swamp go, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see America’s current government go easier on Facebook than others.

Facebook, which history is documenting as the website of our era that has done more harm than good.

Dorsey did what he does these days, which is wander beard-first in a devolving circle similar to Facebook in pretending to care about fighting democracy-destroying propaganda while serving some higher aim of fairness that always, somehow, ends in making conspiracy-pushing neo-conservatives happy. “We found ourselves unprepared and ill-equipped for the immensity of the problems we’ve acknowledged,” he said. “Abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots and human coordination, disinformation campaigns and divisive filter bubbles — that’s not a healthy public square.”

The Ringer nailed why this is BS last month, writing:

“We do not look at content with regard to political content or ideology,” Dorsey told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “We look at behavior.” So Dorsey posits a mythical framework in which it’s possible to disentangle neo-Nazi rhetoric from neo-Nazi mobilization.

Meanwhile, Google skips the meeting as its YouTube property cements its reputation as the number one place to be radicalized while being the top spot for being censored over human sexuality and LGBT content. For those of us who were around when all these companies began, standing on the shoulders of us who fought for speech (not Nazis with a PR team trying to sell supplements, or run the country like a failed hotel) … I just have this to say: No one has any sympathy for you, tech companies. You’re doing it wrong.

So the telcos get their Pai in the sky pulling strings to screw Google somehow and to be able to continue throttling firefighters. And the Dorseys and Sandbergs, and the Pages, and their well-paid employees get to keep their money and enjoy the game of PR chess that doesn’t really affect them. Dirtbags like Alex Jones, antithetical to the foundations of the open internet, will get soft landings and golden parachutes.

When you think about it, it was just a matter of time until the extremist, conspiracy-fueled government that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube catapulted into power decided they, the tech companies, were next. Of course, who actaully suffers is everyone genuinely already suffering, because no one in power here cares about sex workers being discriminated against, the complete dismantling of our privacy, or people of color being run off services that are today’s “public square.”

All we need to know about Google, Facebook, and Twitter is this: their bottom line is “engagement.” Imagine if you owned a pub and the thing that made you the most money was when your patrons fought each other. That’s it.

A lot happened in the news this week. Yet the fact that multiple branches of the US government declared war on the three largest internet companies, the ones hosting most of our public discussion and debate, is a much bigger issue than a conservative bureaucrat’s CYA op-ed in the New York Times.

Images: Spencer Platt/Getty Images (Trump); Tom Williams via Getty Images (Sandberg /Dorsey)

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Top-grossing Mac App Store app steals users’ browser histories

AOL/Dana Wollman

Adware Doctor is a top app in Apple’s Mac App Store, sitting at number five in the list of top paid apps and leading the list of top utilities apps, as of writing. It says it’s meant to prevent “malware and malicious files from infecting your Mac” and claims to be one of the best apps to do so, but unbeknownst to its users, it’s also stealing their browser history and downloading it to servers in China.

Twitter user @privacyis1st tweeted a video about the issue last month and then investigated it with security researcher Patrick Wardle. Wardle does a deep dive into how Adware Doctor works on his blog Objective-See, which you can check out here, but essentially, the app sidesteps Apple’s sandboxing features and snags browser histories from Chrome, Firefox and Safari. “Now, an anti-malware or anti-adware tool is going to need legitimate access to user’s files and directories — for example to scan them for malicious code,” Wardle explains. “However, once the user has clicked ‘Allow,’ since Adware Doctor requested permission to the user’s home directory, it will have carte blanche access to all the user’s files. So yes will be able to detect and clean adware, but also collect and exfiltrate any user file it so chooses!”

Wardle points out the the app is in violation of Apple’s App Store Rules & Guidelines. But though he notified Apple of the issue a month ago, it’s still available on the App Store, which is troubling to say the least. Stealing users’ browser histories is a serious privacy issue and “rather f#@&’d up,” as Wardle puts it.

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Wirecutter's best deals: Nokia's 6.1 Android phone drops to $230

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of deals here.

Dell UltraSharp U2415 24-Inch Monitor

Street price: $220; deal price: $190 with code EMCPYPV52

If you’ve been seeking a 24-inch monitor, this is a nice opportunity to save on the Dell UltraSharp U2415. We’ve seen a few deals at $200 in the past few months and one outlier at $175 as part of an eBay one-day sale, but this is still a very good price when you apply one-time use code EMCPYPV52 in cart. You’ll have to agree to subscribe to Newegg’s email newsletter (free) to get the deal. Ends 9/8.

The Dell UltraSharp U2415 is the top pick in our guide to the best 24-inch monitor. Justin Krajeski and David Murphy wrote, “The 1920×1200-pixel resolution of the Dell U2415 gives it 11 percent more screen space than a 1080p monitor, and its HDMI and DisplayPort connections and five USB 3.0 ports allow for more flexibility than other monitors offer. The U2415’s stand lifts, tilts, rotates, and swivels, so you can put the screen exactly where you need it. Plus, it has an ultrathin bezel that makes the screen feel bigger than it is and produces less of a visible gap if you set up multiple monitors next to one another. Dell’s line of UltraSharp monitors also come with a great dead-pixel policy and a standard, three-year limited warranty.”

RAVPower RP-VC006 USB Car Charger 2-Pack

Street price: $13; deal price: $11

Clip the $2 off on-page coupon to drop the price of this 2-pack of car chargers down to $11 from $13. At under $6 a piece, this matches the lowest per unit price we’ve seen from a similar deal involving a page coupon. If you don’t foresee needing a second car charger at any point, you can use code WCRAV006 in-cart to drop the price of just one of the black color from $9 to $7.

The RAVPower RP-VC006 is the top pick in our guide to the best USB car charger. Nick Guy wrote, “The RAVPower RP-VC006 is the best USB car charger for most people because, despite its small size (2.3 inches from end to end), it provides two USB ports, each of which automatically adjusts its output—up to 2.4 amps—to best match the charging requirements of the device connected to that port. The RP-VC006 is inexpensive, it comes from a reputable company with a lifetime warranty, it’s small enough that it doesn’t jut out too far from your car’s 12-volt power jack, and it has a glowing LED and white ports, both of which make it easier to deal with in the dark.”

Nokia 6.1 (2018)

Street price: $255; deal price: $230

Down to $230, this is the first notable drop we’ve seen for this affordable Android phone. Released at around $270, we’ve subsequently seen this phone drop to $255—this discount sees it fall another $25. It remains to be seen how permanent this drop will be, but it’s a good price if you need a phone now.

The Nokia 6.1 (2018) is the top pick in our guide to the best budget Android phones. Ryan Whitwam wrote, “The Nokia 6.1 runs a lightweight version of Android that’s easy to use and updated regularly, and it has the best hardware we’ve seen in a budget phone, including an excellent screen, good performance, a decent camera, a solid aluminum body, and near-field communication (NFC) for contactless payments. But it works only on GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile—if you’re on Verizon or Sprint, get our runner-up instead.”

Aukey USB C to 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub (CB-C64)

Street price: $15; deal price: $12 with code AUKEYBQ4

If you have a lot of USB-A peripherals you don’t want to replace right away but have just purchased or want to get a new computer with USB-C, this is a nice deal on a hub that offers a solution. Usually $15, it’s back down to $12 when you apply code AUKEYBQ4 in cart. We’ve seen this discount once before and a lightning deal that has taken this dock a dollar cheaper, but this is still a good price.

The Aukey USB C to 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub (CB-C64) is our just USB-A ports in a tiny package pick in our guide to the best USB-C hubs and docks. Nick Guy wrote, “Aukey’s USB C to 4-Port USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub (CB-C64) is the best choice for adding a handful of USB 3.0 ports to your USB-C computer, and it’s cheap. Equipped with four USB-A ports, the hub will let you connect any combination of a keyboard, mouse, printer, flash drive, or another low-power-draw device such as a webcam, gamepad, or portable hard drive. (Aukey says that “for best performance, the power demand of connected devices shouldn’t exceed the total USB output of 5V 0.9A.”) In our tests, all of the ports transferred data as quickly as anything else we tried. The 3.9-by-1.3-inch black plastic rectangle is less than half an inch thick and weighs a little over an ounce. You can throw it in a bag without even noticing it’s there.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

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How a data request turned into a data breach

The process was smooth enough, with the right safeguards apparently in place.

I emailed the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel to request personal data. Within 24 hours the company asked for a selfie of me holding an ID card and a piece of paper with the words “Coffee Meets Bagel” scrawled on it. Exactly one month later I received an email from Stephen Brandon, the company’s data protection officer.

The response form clearly spelled out where it got my data from and laid out my rights to correct or erase my personal information. The seven attached spreadsheets were clearly labelled — “criteria,” “messages,” “profile” — and contained a comprehensive amount of data, even if all the values weren’t fully explained.

The only problem: This was not my data.

Data retrieval
How big tech manages your personal information

Instead, it belonged to Jon, a man from one of New York’s outer boroughs who declined to be identified by his full name. I inadvertently learned a lot about him.

I know Jon’s birthday, personal email address, alma mater, ethnicity, height and occupation. I know that he’s Catholic and likes vodka.

I can infer his home address from the GPS coordinates of where the app was opened.

I also know exactly who Jon wants to date: men aged 23-50, either Latino or Caucasian, in a 10-mile radius.

It was a data breach, caused by an attempt at data transparency.

And I could see how many people he’d matched with, whether they’d chatted and his attractiveness rating on a scale of one to six (one being the most attractive, Brandon told me, with the “vast majority of users being between two to three”). This guy was apparently a two.

In short, this was a lens into some of a stranger’s most personal and identifiable information. It was a data breach, caused, ironically, by an attempt at data transparency.

It took less than five minutes for me to pinpoint his online social media profiles and reach out.

“I think it’s a major invasion of privacy, but I can see how these mistakes happen,” said Jon. “Coffee Meets Bagel should be held accountable, but ultimately it’s up to me to be more selective with where I share my data voluntarily.” Jon said he had not requested any of his own data and hadn’t used the app in several years.

Arum Kang, Coffee Meets Bagel’s co-founder and CEO, said that the mix-up came from basic human error. An employee mistyped my internal user ID number into the automated tool for pulling data and failed to double-check that the system spat out the right person’s information.

“It’s definitely a really good learning opportunity for us,” Kang said. “Honestly if you hadn’t brought it up we wouldn’t have caught it.”

Kang said the company has since reviewed every subject access request it’s received to ensure this hasn’t happened in other instances. She also said that the company will from now on ensure that a second person manually checks every personal file before it’s sent out.

Beyond voyeurism, the kind of information Coffee Meets Bagel sent to me could easily be used for identity theft.

Perusing our own personal data at times feels uneventful — of course I know my own address — but peeking at someone else’s file can underline just how much dating apps know about us. Think not only of the reams of personal info listed in everyone’s profiles but also in messages to potential crushes: hopes, dreams, pets, favorite bands, attempts at humor. Now multiply that by the millions of active users Kang says its app has.

Beyond voyeurism, in the wrong hands the kind of information Coffee Meets Bagel sent to me could easily be used for identity theft or to infer passwords and security questions to other accounts. Combining spoof email addresses and basic personal details could facilitate requesting even more data from other online services, depending on their ID-verification methods, which we found varied widely across organizations.

For users, the lesson is to secure your data once you get it from a company. A hacker might not need to scale Facebook’s security apparatus if they can find the same data on an unencrypted hard disk.

But the paradox is that data-access rights are supposed to protect us from corporate powers. By sending data outside their walled gardens without rigorous checks, companies risk exposing us to other malicious actors. The stakes are clear: Businesses need to be just as diligent about how data leaves their organization as how it comes in.

Data retrieval series credits
Features editor: Aaron Souppouris
Lead reporter: Chris Ip
Additional reporting: Matt Brian, Dan Cooper, Steve Dent, Jamie Rigg, Mat Smith, Nick Summers
Copy editor: Megan Giller
Illustration: Koren Shadmi

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TP-Link's latest WiFi router is a gaming beast


TP-Link has unveiled its most powerful gaming router yet, and it’s jacked. The Archer C5400X features 1.8 GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU, three co-processors and 1 GB RAM to reach WiFi speeds up to 5400 Mbps over one 2.4 GHz (1000 Mbps) and two 5 GHz (2167 Mbps) bands. And it comes with three WiFi bands, eight Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port. In other words, it’s a superfast monster. Eye-watering specs aside, look at it. Look at those antennae. This isn’t a router you want to shove behind the TV. Get it at Amazon, Newegg, Fry’s Electronics and Micro Center for $400.

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Google wants to change the way we interact with URLs

gmutlu via Getty Images

Google’s done a lot with Chrome — and by extension, our relationship with the internet — in its relatively short life. Autofill, ad management, web encryption… These are all things that were at one time pretty ground-breaking, but which we now simply take for granted. Now, following the browser’s 10th birthday and coinciding with its major redesign, Google has announced it’s thinking about Chrome’s Next Big Thing: killing the URL.

URLS — or Uniform Resource Locators — are fairly straightforward in principle. They serve as the address of the website you want to visit, directing browsers to the right place on the right web servers. Simple enough when it comes to home pages and single-page sites, but beyond these, URLs have become long and complex, full of strings of nonsense numbers and letters. Link shorteners and redirect software only makes things more complicated, and Google says the resulting confusion has helped to boost cybercrime, with nefarious individuals impersonating legitimate sites or launching phishing schemes to take advantage of users that can’t really be sure what’s going on with the pages they’re visiting.

So Google wants to rethink the URL. Speaking to Wired, Chrome’s engineering manager Adrienne Porter Felt said: “They’re hard to read, it’s hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general I don’t think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity. So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone—they know who they’re talking to when they’re using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them. But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as we’re figuring out the right way to convey identity.”

Google’s had a go at rethinking the URL before. Back in 2013 it experimented with the “origin chip“, which was bundled into a Chrome pre-release, but eventually discontinued following criticism. So what could it look like this time around? No-one’s actually sure. Chrome’s director of engineering, Parisa Tabriz, told Wired, “I don’t know what this will look like, because it’s an active discussion in the team right now. But I do know that whatever we propose is going to be controversial. That’s one of the challenges with a really old and open and sprawling platform. Change will be controversial whatever form it takes. But it’s important we do something, because everyone is unsatisfied by URLs. They kind of suck.”

That being said, Porter Felt revealed that Google will be in a better place to discuss its ideas later this year or early next. And no doubt its suggestions will be controversial, particularly considering its vested interest in the way people browse the internet. Still, subject to community scrutiny, a URL rethink could have a positive impact on the overall security of the web. And it probably wouldn’t take that long to get used to it — we tend to happily accept everything else Google throws our way, after all.

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