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Microsoft Sets Sail With Russian Pirate Hunters

Microsoft Sets Sail With Russian Pirate Hunters

Today in international tech news: Microsoft backs Russian startup "Pirate Pay," which claims it can track and thwart illicit downloads around the globe. Elsewhere, Renren, China's Facebook equivalent, releases a lackluster earnings report, while Baidu, China's Google equivalent, enters the smartphone market -- and taps into the void left by the country's block of Google Drive.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/15/12 8:24 AM PT

Microsoft has backed Russia-based startup Pirate Pay, which claims to have a system to track and disrupt downloads of copyright-infringing BitTorrent exchanges, according to Torrent Freak.

Pirate Pay, whose name is an homage to the Web's eminent file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay, reportedly stopped "tens of thousands of downloads" in a project carried out with Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures.

From the Torrent Freak article:

[Pirate Pay] has developed a technology which allows them to attack existing BitTorrent swarms, making it impossible for people to share files.

The idea started three years ago when the developers were building a traffic management solution for Internet providers. The technology worked well. It was able to stop BitTorrent traffic if needed, which made the developers realize that they might have built the holy anti-piracy grail.

"After creating the prototype, we realized we could more generally prevent files from being downloaded, which meant that the program had great promise in combating the spread of pirated content," Pirate Pay CEO Andrei Klimenko says.

It is a bit ironic that Pirate Pay is based in Russia, which has for years been accused of being soft on piracy. In 2010, for instance, U.S. business groups tried to make anti-piracy policies a precondition for Russia to join the WTO, and in 2011, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable again showed unhappiness about Russia's lax attempts at piracy prevention. And just last month the U.S. Trade Representatives issued a report citing Russia as a hotbed for piracy.

Renren Suffers Big Losses

Renren, a Chinese social network, reported losses of US$13.6 million through the first quarter of the year, according to the BBC.

Over the same period in 2011, Renren lost $2.6 million.

From the BBC:

Renren said it had to raise expenditure on marketing to $17.4 million, a 78 percent increase from last year, mainly on its daily deals site Nuomi.com.

It also said that its advertising business had not performed as well as expected.

"Our brand advertising business experienced a challenging quarter due to seasonality and the Chinese economy slowdown, resulting in a more cautious approach by new advertisers on our social networking platform," said chief executive Joseph Chen.

After its IPO last year, Renren quickly became a hot stock. Forbes, The Financial Times and Wired all covered Renren's surging value. Now it looks like things have officially, and drastically, cooled off.

Renren reportedly has 154 million accounts.

Baidu Launching Mobile Device

Baidu, the largest search engine in China, announced that it is launching a low-cost mobile device, according to Tech In Asia.

From Tech In Asia:

There's an interesting battle taking shape in China, as a number of companies are setting their sights on the nation's entry-level smartphone market. Over the past few days along we've seen Samsung put forth two low-cost handsets for China, and Shanda is reportedly bringing an Android-based phone to market in early June ...

Perhaps what's most remarkable about this offering is that Baidu is promising 'personalized smart Cloud services' as well, which will include a whopping 100 gigabytes of free personal storage via Baidu Netdrive. The phone has a 3.5-inch display and is powered by Baidu's Cloud Smart Terminal platform which uses Baidu's many cloud-based applications ...

The antipathy between China's government and Google has helped Baidu in the world of search engines, and it might be happening again here. Google Drive, Google's cloud storage service, is blocked in China, which could help Baidu corner that market as well.

Baidu's device will reportedly cost less than $160 (1,000 RMB).

Twitter in the UK

Twitter was making headlines in the UK Tuesday, as both the BBC and The Guardian ran big articles about the platform's presence in Britain.

The attention comes on the heels of Twitter's announcement that it now has 10 million users in the UK. Of note: 80 percent of those users access Twitter through mobile devices, as opposed to the global average of 55 percent.

The UK now has the fourth-most Twitter users in the world behind the U.S., Brazil and Japan.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here.



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