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The Red Hat Linux distribution is turning 25 years old this week. What started as one of the earliest Linux distributions is now the most successful open-source company, and its success was a catalyst for others to follow its model. Today’s open-source world is very different from those heady days in the mid-1990s when Linux looked to be challenging Microsoft’s dominance on the desktop, but Red Hat is still going strong.
To put all of this into perspective, I sat down with the company’s current CEO (and former Delta Air Lines COO) Jim Whitehurst to talk about the past, present and future of the company, and open-source software in general. Whitehurst took the Red Hat CEO position 10 years ago, so while he wasn’t there in the earliest days, he definitely witnessed the evolution of open source in the enterprise, which is now more widespread than every.
“Ten years ago, open source at the time was really focused on offering viable alternatives to traditional software,” he told me. “We were selling layers of technology to replace existing technology. […] At the time, it was open source showing that we can build open-source tech at lower cost. The value proposition was that it was cheaper.”
At the time, he argues, the market was about replacing Windows with Linux or IBM’s WebSphere with JBoss. And that defined Red Hat’s role in the ecosystem, too, which was less about technological information than about packaging. “For Red Hat, we started off taking these open-source projects and making them usable for traditional enterprises,” said Whitehurst.
About five or six ago, something changed, though. Large corporations, including Google and Facebook, started open sourcing their own projects because they didn’t look at some of the infrastructure technologies they opened up as competitive advantages. Instead, having them out in the open allowed them to profit from the ecosystems that formed around that. “The biggest part is it’s not just Google and Facebook finding religion,” said Whitehurst. “The social tech around open source made it easy to make projects happen. Companies got credit for that.”
He also noted that developers now look at their open-source contributions as part of their resumé. With an increasingly mobile workforce that regularly moves between jobs, companies that want to compete for talent are almost forced to open source at least some of the technologies that don’t give them a competitive advantage.
As the open-source ecosystem evolved, so did Red Hat. As enterprises started to understand the value of open source (and stopped being afraid of it), Red Hat shifted from simply talking to potential customers about savings to how open source can help them drive innovation. “We’ve gone from being commeditizers to being innovators. The tech we are driving is now driving net new innovation,” explained Whitehurst. “We are now not going in to talk about saving money but to help drive innovation inside a company.”
Over the last few years, that included making acquisitions to help drive this innovation. In 2015, Red Hat bought IT automation service Ansible, for example, and last month, the company closed its acquisition of CoreOS, one of the larger independent players in the Kubernetes container ecosystem — all while staying true to its open-source root.
There is only so much innovation you can do around a Linux distribution, though, and as a public company, Red Hat also had to look beyond that core business and build on it to better serve its customers. In part, that’s what drove the company to launch services like OpenShift, for example, a container platform that sits on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and — not unlike the original Linux distribution — integrates technologies like Docker and Kubernetes and makes them more easily usable inside an enterprise.
The reason for that? “I believe that containers will be the primary way that applications will be built, deployed and managed,” he told me, and argued that his company, especially after the CoreOS acquisition, is now a leader in both containers and Kubernetes. “When you think about the importance of containers to the future of IT, it’s a clear value for us and for our customers.”
The other major open-source project Red Hat is betting on is OpenStack . That may come as a bit of a surprise, given that popular opinion in the last year or so has shifted against the massive project that wants to give enterprises an open source on-premise alternative to AWS and other cloud providers. “There was a sense among big enterprise tech companies that OpenStack was going to be their savior from Amazon,” Whitehurst said. “But even OpenStack, flawlessly executed, put you where Amazon was five years ago. If you’re Cisco or HP or any of those big OEMs, you’ll say that OpenStack was a disappointment. But from our view as a software company, we are seeing good traction.”
Because OpenStack is especially popular among telcos, Whitehurst believes it will play a major role in the shift to 5G. “When we are talking to telcos, […] we are very confident that OpenStack will be the platform for 5G rollouts.”
With OpenShift and OpenStack, Red Hat believes that it has covered both the future of application development and the infrastructure on which those applications will run. Looking a bit further ahead, though, Whitehurst also noted that the company is starting to look at how it can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make its own products smarter and more secure, but also at how it can use its technologies to enable edge computing. “Now that large enterprises are also contributing to open source, we have a virtually unlimited amount of material to bring our knowledge to,” he said.
Every year on April Fools’ Day, reporters in newsrooms around the world brace themselves. While we’re usually a pretty skeptical bunch, April 1 brings out the worst in us.
We don’t believe anything anyone tells us on this one day of the year, and rightfully so. It’s a holiday that literally just celebrates people lying, and brands have been in on the act for years, leading to some really bad moments for journalists the world over.
That said, each April Fools’ Day, there’s usually one person pulling more of their hair out than anyone else in the newsroom.
When Facebook loses, who wins?
That’s a question for startups that may be worth contemplating following Facebook’s recent stock price haircut. The company’s valuation has fallen by around $60 billion since the Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced earlier this month and the #DeleteFacebook campaign gained momentum.
That’s a steep drop, equal to about 12 percent of the company’s market valuation, and it’s a decline Facebook appears to be suffering alone. As its shares fell over the past couple of weeks, stocks of other large-cap tech and online media companies have been much flatter.
So where did the money go? It’s probably a matter of perspective. For a Facebook shareholder, that valuation is simply gone. And until executives’ apologies resonate and users’ desire to click and scroll overcomes their privacy fears, that’s how it is.
An alternate view is that the valuation didn’t exactly disappear. Investors may still believe the broad social media space is just as valuable as it was a couple of weeks ago. It’s just that less of that pie should be the exclusive domain of Facebook.
If one takes that second notion, then the possibilities for who could benefit from Facebook’s travails start to get interesting. Of course, there are public market companies, like Snap or Twitter, that might pick up traffic if the #DeleteFacebook movement gains momentum without spreading to other big brands. But it’s in the private markets where we see the highest number of potential beneficiaries of Facebook’s problems.
In an effort to come up with some names, we searched through Crunchbase for companies in social media and related areas. The resulting list includes companies that have raised good-sized rounds in the past couple of years and could conceivably see gains if people cut back on using Facebook or owning its stock.
Of course, people use Facebook for different things (posting photos, getting news, chatting with friends and so on), so we lay out a few categories of potential beneficiaries of a Facebook backlash.
Facebook has a significant messaging presence, but it hasn’t been declared the winner. Alternatives like Snap, LINE, WeChat and plain old text messages are also massively popular.
That said, what’s bad for Messenger and Facebook-owned WhatsApp is probably good for competitors. And if more people want to do less of their messaging on Facebook, it helps that there are a number of private companies ready to take its place.
Crunchbase identified six well-funded messaging apps that could fit the bill (see list). Collectively, they’ve raised well over $2 billion — if one includes the $850 million initial coin offering by Telegram.
Increasingly, these private messaging startups are focused on privacy and security, including Wickr, the encrypted messaging tool that has raised more than $70 million, and Silent Circle, another encrypted communications provider that has raised $130 million.
Popular places to browse on a screen
People who cut back on Facebook may still want to spend hours a day staring at posts on a screen. So it’s likely they’ll start staring at something else that’s content-rich, easy-to-navigate and somewhat addictive.
Luckily, there are plenty of venture-backed companies that fit that description. Many of these are quite mature at this point, including Pinterest for image collections, Reddit for post and comment threads and Quora for Q&A (see list).
Granted, these will not replace the posts keeping you up to date on the life events of family and friends. But they could be a substitute for news feeds, meme shares and other non-personal posts.
A decline in Facebook usage could translate into a rise in traffic for a host of niche content and discussion platforms focused on sports, celebrities, social issues and other subjects.
Crunchbase News identified at least a half-dozen that have raised funding in recent quarters, which is just a sampling of the total universe. Selected startups run the gamut from The Players’ Tribune, which features first-hand accounts for top athletes, to Medium, which seeks out articles that resonate with a wide audience.
Niche sites also provide a more customized forum for celebrities, pundits and subject-matter experts to engage directly with fans and followers.
Community and engagement
People with common interests don’t have to share them on Facebook. There are other places that can offer more tailored content and social engagement.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in community and activity-focused social apps gain traction. Perhaps the most prominent is Nextdoor, which connects neighbors for everything from garage sales to crime reports. We’re also seeing some upstarts focused on creating social networks for interest groups. These include Mighty Networks and Amino Apps.
Though some might call it a stretch, we also added to the list WeWork, recent acquirer of Meetup, and The Guild, two companies building social networks in the physical world. These companies are encouraging people to come out and socially network with other people (even if just means sitting in a room with other people staring at a screen).
Watch where the money goes
Facebook’s latest imbroglio is still too recent to expect a visible impact in the startup funding arena. But it will be interesting to watch in the coming months whether potential rivals in the above categories raise a lot more cash and attract more users.
If there’s demand, there’s certainly no shortage of supply on the investor front. The IPO window is wide open, and venture investors are sitting on record piles of dry powder. It hasn’t escaped notice, either, that social media offerings, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Snap, have generated the biggest exit total of any VC-funded sector.
Moreover, those who’ve argued that it’s too late for newcomers have a history of being proven wrong. After all, that’s what people were saying about would-be competitors to MySpace in 2005, not long before Facebook made it big.
Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal program is picking up the pieces after a recent data breach affected 150 million users. In late February, an “unauthorized party” reportedly hacked into the health-tracking service, stealing account usernames, […]
This article was originally published on NoCamels. Cleaning the toilet bowl is not for the faint of heart. One must usually brave the strong chemicals of cleaning products while wielding a sloppy, germ-infested toilet brush to get the job done. Now, two Haifa-based Israeli entrepreneurs have taken it upon themselves to help people take action against the dirtiest of dumps with just the press of a button. They came up with Toibot, the world’s first motorized toilet bowl cleaning robot. Aiming to rid the world of 90 years of manual toilet-bowl cleaning, Daniel Tokarev, and David Alush have created the full…
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Most manufacturers and carriers offer some sort of trade-in program for old phones when you buy a new one. The thing is, you can get a lot more money if you just sell your phone yourself.
The company says a Model X vehicle involved in a fatal crash in the US was in Autopilot mode.
Huawei has finally done it. With the MateBook X Pro company has created a laptop that’s a shameless copy of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, but that’s easy to forgive because it’s just so damn good. It’s better than the original in numerous ways, and lags behind only when it comes to certain details.
I’ve spent roughly 10 days with the MateBook X Pro, mostly using it as my main work machine, and this is the first time in ages that I seriously considered permanently moving back into the realm of Windows laptops.
I’m not taking the easy route when comparing Huawei’s new laptop with the 13-inch MacBook Pro (which happens to be my primary work laptop). Besides the similarities in the name and the fact that Huawei itself constantly compared the two during the device’s launch in Barcelona, it’s just very obvious that Huawei had one goal in mind: Build a device that’s exactly like Apple’s pro-grade laptop, only better. Read more…