In this afternoon’s tech and life science news roundup:
- Twitter searches for answers to growth as it turns 10
- The Supreme Court will hear the Apple-Samsung patent fight
- Google boosting Internet in Cuba;
- The FDA approves an anthrax drug
- PayPal is coming to Charlotte
- Twitter marks 10th birthday searching for followers, profits
Happy birthday, Twitter.
The social media site famous for hashtags and a 140-character “tweet” limit turned 10 years old Monday, having evolved from what was originally billed as a “microblogging” site into one of the Internet’s most influential means of communication.
The world’s first tweet, which was sent by co-founder Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006, read “just setting up my twttr.”
When Capt. Chesley Sullenberger safely landed a disabled US Airways plane with 150 passengers into a frigid Hudson River in January 2009, witnesses tweeted photos of passengers being rescued from the floating plane. At the time, it seemed unthinkable that Twitter didn’t exist just a few years earlier.
Now presidents — and the Pope — have Twitter accounts.
But after a long streak of robust growth that turned it into one of the Internet’s hottest companies, Twitter’s expansion has slowed dramatically over the past year and a half.
At the end of 2015, it had about 320 million active users, far short of social networking leader Facebook and its 1.5 billion users.
Twitter Inc. executives have acknowledged their struggle to convince people the service is essential. They have tweaked Twitter’s format in a bid to make it easier and more engaging to use. That’s seen as key to expanding Twitter’s user base, which would in turn allow it to sell more advertising and to begin to make money for the first time.
The San Francisco-based company last year added a “Moments” feature, a tool that bundles video, photos and links to news stories, making it easier for people to find hot topics of discussion without needing to figure out whom to follow to receive updates.
It also got rid of its star icon signifying a “favorite” tweet, in favor of a heart icon, similar to Facebook’s “like” button. Twitter then changed the user timeline, showing first the popular tweets related to people users follow, then the real-time feed, a feature users can turn off.
Hardcore Twitter users seemed mostly dismayed by the new changes and were borderline apoplectic when rumors circulated that the company was considering doing away with the 140-character limit.
The company rehired Dorsey for a second stint as CEO last summer, and he signaled his resolve to make Twitter profitable by laying off 336 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce.
But company lost another $90 million during the final three months of last year, preserving its profitless history.
That lackluster performance has hammered Twitter’s stock, which is trading at less than $17 per share, down from nearly $50 per share a year ago. Twitter’s November 2013 initial public offering price was $26 and it reached $70 per share in early 2014.
- Justices will hear Samsung-Apple patent dispute
The Supreme Court has agreed to referee a pricy patent dispute between Samsung and Apple.
The justices said Monday they will review a $399 million judgment against South Korea-based Samsung for illegally copying patented aspects of the look of Apple’s iPhone.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and Samsung are the top two manufacturers of increasingly ubiquitous smartphones.
The two companies have been embroiled in patent fights for years.
The justices will decide whether a court can order Samsung to pay Apple every penny it made from the phones at issue, even though the disputed features are a tiny part of the product.
The federal appeals court in Washington that hears patent cases ruled for Apple.
None of the earlier-generation Galaxy and other Samsung phones involved in the lawsuit remains on the market, Samsung said.
The case involved common smartphone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rectangular shape with rounded corners, a rim and a screen of icons.
The case, Samsung v. Apple, 15-777, will be argued in the court’s new term that begins in October.
- Google helps offer vastly faster Internet in Cuba
Google is opening a cutting-edge online technology center at the studio of one of Cuba’s most famous artists, offering free Internet at speeds nearly 70 times faster than those now available to the Cuban public. President Obama says Google’s efforts in Cuba are part of a wider plan to improve access to the Internet across the island.
The U.S. technology giant has built a studio equipped with dozens of laptops, cellphones and virtual-reality goggles at the complex run by Alexis Leiva Machado, a sculptor known as Kcho. President Barack Obama said Sunday that Google was also launching a broader effort to improve Cubans’ Internet access across the island. Neither he nor the company gave details.
In an exclusive tour of the site with The Associated Press on Monday, Google’s head ofCuba operations, Brett Perlmutter, said the company was optimistic that theGoogle+Kcho.Mor studio would be part of a broader cooperative effort to bring Internetaccess to the Cuban people.
“We want to show the world what happens when you combine Cuban creative energy with technology that’s first in class,” he said.
The studio will be open five days a week, from 7 a.m. to midnight, for about 40 people at a time, Kcho said.
The project has limited reach but enormous symbolic importance in a country that has long maintained strict control of Internet access, which some Cuban officials sees as a potential national security threat. Officials have described said the Internet as a potential tool for the United States to exert influence over the island’s culture and politics.
- FDA approves new injection to combat anthrax
Federal health officials have approved a new injectable drug to treat patients who have been exposed to the deadly toxin anthrax.
The Food and Drug Administration said it approved Anthim on Friday to treat inhalation anthrax, which can cause serious injury and death. The condition occurs when anthrax bacterial spores are inhaled.
Because anthrax is a potential bioterrorism weapon the U.S. government has been funding the development and production of therapies.
Anthim was developed by Elusys Therapeutics Inc. of Pine Brook, New Jersey, with support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The government agency stockpiles vaccines, drugs and equipment for use during pandemics and other health emergencies.
- PayPal says it is bringing its new operation center to Charlotte
PayPal says it will hire about 400 people and make a $3.6 million investment in the new center by the end of 2017.
PayPal says it chose Charlotte because of the engineering talent and economic opportunity the city provides.
Charlotte is known for traditional banks and has been trying to push its way into the web-based part of the financial industry.
The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/1Rr59Zi) that the state provided $3.7 million in incentives to PayPal.
The company says it will expand its customer service, risk operations, merchant services, and engineering and technology functions with the average salary of the new jobs at more than $50,000 a year.