A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.
Bill Gates is well on his way to becoming the world’s first ever trillionaire.
According to a report from Oxfam, we could get our first trillionaire in the next 25 years thanks to the exponential growth of existing wealth.
While some concepts of the Internet date back to the 1950s, the public-facing World Wide Web traces its history back 25 years.
Here is a timeline:
March 12, 1989: British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee circulates his “informational management proposal” at the European organization CERN, laying the foundation for the World Wide Web. He releases the code to the public on Christmas Day 1990.
1993: Mosaic, the browser credited with popularizing the Web with an intuitive interface, is developed by a team led by Marc Andreessen at the University of Illinois. Mosaic is the basis for the commercial browser Netscape in 1994.
1994: China gets first Internet connection, but filters content.
- The White House launches its website, http://www.whitehouse.gov; some users who enter a .com address end up at a porn site.
Launches include “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” the forerunner to Yahoo, and Amazon.com.
1995: Microsoft releases Internet Explorer, touching off a “browser war” which eventually will kill off Netscape.
- The online auction site eBay is launched.
1996: Finland’s Nokia launches first mobile phone with Internet connectivity.
1998: Google begins operations, quickly growing into the leading search engine.
- The US government hands over control of the Web domain system to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a private entity.
2000: The Internet virus ILOVEYOU infects millions of computers around the world, causing billions of dollars in damage and highlighting the need for online security.
- Internet fever drives the tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index to a record high of 5,048, ahead of the bursting of the dot-com bubble, eroding more than 75 percent of the Nasdaq value by 2002. The index fails to reach 5,000 over the next 14 years.
2001: Napster, a wildly popular music-swapping service, is ordered shuttered by the US courts in a key ruling on online copyrights.
2002: A denial of service knocks out eight of 13 root servers that allow for Internet connections.
2005: The number of people connected to the Internet tops one billion.
2007: Estonia conducts the first online parliamentary election.
2012: Online commerce for 2012 tops $1 trillion, according to private surveys.
- The social network Facebook reaches one billion members; A NASA probe checks in on Foursquare from Mars.
A global telecom treaty is signed by 89 UN member states, with some countries claiming the US has too much control of the Internet. The United States and 55 other countries reject the document, saying it could lead to government regulation of the Internet.
2013: Some 2.7 billion people worldwide are connected to the Internet, around 40 percent of the world’s population. Chinese overtakes English as the dominant language.
Bill Gates is worth an astounding $81.6 billion and he keeps getting richer every year.
His secret weapon is a man you have probably never heard of: Michael Larson.
Gates hired Larson 20 years ago, when his net worth was a relatively paltry $5 billion, report Anupreeta Das and Craig Karmin at the Wall Street Journal, who just wrote a profile on the notoriously secretive Larson.
Larson runs Gates’ personal investment company Cascade Investment LLC, funded solely by Gates.
At one time, Gates wealth depended solely on Microsoft. But for years he’s been selling off his Microsoft stake. The common perception is that he’s been using the proceeds from those sales directly for charity. That’s not entirely how it works.
Although Gates makes his own investments in tech, it is Larson, through Cascade, who has taken Gate’s money and diversified it. Gates now has vast holdings in real estate and non-tech companies like the Canadian National Railway Co., AutoNation Inc., and Republic Services Inc. It is these vast holdings that help fund the Gates’ donations.
And although Gates has given an astounding $38 billion to his charitable foundation, thanks to Larson, he’s getting richer faster than he can give his money away.
His $81.6 billion is nearly $6 billion more than it was as of March 2014, when he was worth $76 billion, we reported at the time. And $76 billion was $9 billion more than he was worth in March, 2013.
In February, Gates celebrated 20 years of this partnership by throwing a gala to honor Larson at his Seattle mansion, reports the WSJ. It was a rare occasion where the two men socialized with each other. Apparently, they aren’t buddies and don’t hang out much, sources told the Journal.
At the party, Gates told guests he has “complete trust and faith” in Larson, meaning that Larson invests Gates’ money, buying and selling, with completely autonomy.
And he does it all under a cover of such ferocious secrecy that he’s been nicknamed “the Gateskeeper.”
Although publicly traded companies do reveal when Cascade has invested heavily in them, Larson has all sorts of tricks for keeping Cascade’s and Bill Gate’s names out of other investments, sources told the Journal.
For instance, he makes employees sign confidentiality agreements which cover them even after they leave. He farms out more than $10 billion to up to 25 outside money managers. This helps him find new investment ideas, but it also helps cover the trail.
When Cascade was part of an investment group that bought the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco, the publicist didn’t even know Cascade, and Bill Gates, was among them.
He’s also been known to fire up a limited Limited Liability Corporation to make real estate purchases, to keep Cascade’s name off the deal and the deed.
He’s so good at hiding the trail that most people don’t know that Gates, through Cascade, owns a significant stake in the Four Seasons luxury-hotel chain.
And he’s frugal with the bosses’ money, too. Apparently Cascade employees, of whom there are about 100, are not allowed to stay at the Four Seasons when traveling on business, even if that business is on behalf of the Four Seasons. They must choose a lower-cost, less luxurious hotel.
“Melinda and I are free to pursue our vision of a healthier and better-educated world because of what Michael has done,” Gates told guests at the party.
And ultimately, the money will go to charity. Bill and Melinda Gates have vowed to donate 95% of their wealth to their foundation, as part of Gate’s Giving Pledge.
But until then, Larson is making it grow.
LONDON — Russian hackers used a bug in Microsoft Windows to spy on several Western governments, NATO and the Ukrainian government, according to a report released Tuesday by iSight Partners, a computer security firm in Dallas.
The targets also included European energy and telecommunications companies and an undisclosed academic organization in the United States, the cybersecurity report said.
While it is unclear what type of information may have been retrieved,iSight said that the targets of the attacks were often linked to the continuing standoff in Ukraine between Russia and the West.
That included the NATO summit meeting in Wales in early September at which the Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian government and at least one American organization, the report said.
The illegal activities started as early as 2009 and used a variety of techniques to gain access to delicate information. ISight said the Russian hackers started using what experts refer to as a zero-day attack on Windows only in the late summer. The technique refers to a previously unknown vulnerability.
The bug affected versions from Windows Vista to the company’s latest software, Windows 8.1, though Microsoft is expected to release an update on Tuesday to resolve the potential vulnerability.
Despite efforts to thwart the Russian hackers’ attacks, iSight said using the Microsoft zero-day bug and other illegal tactics almost certainly allowed the hackers to gain some access to their targets.
“The use of this zero-day vulnerability virtually guarantees that all of those entities targeted fell victim to some degree,” the computer security company said in a statement.
While the vulnerability affected many versions of Windows, iSight said the Russian hackers appeared to be the only group to use the bug. The company added, however, that other companies and organizations may also have been affected by the attacks.
Representatives for Microsoft and the Russian government were not immediately available for comment.
The discovery of the hacking is the latest in a series of worldwide cyberattacks that have affected individuals, government agencies and companies.
Many of these attacks have originated in Russia and other Eastern European countries, though the purpose of the hackers’ efforts has often varied.
Last year, for example, Eastern European hackers gained access to the data of up to 110 million customers of the retailer Target.
In August, security researchers discovered that a separate Russian crime ring had amassed a huge collection of stolen online information, including roughly 1.2 billion user names and passwords and more than 500 million email addresses.
And this month, JPMorgan Chase also revealed that another cyberattack, which experts believe originated in Russia, had compromised the banking accounts of roughly 76 million households and seven million small businesses.
ISight said it had called the most recent Russian hackers the Sandworm team because they used encoded references to the science fiction series “Dune” in their attacks.
ISight said the group often used so-called spear-phishing techniques in its attacks against Western government and commercial targets.
That involved sending emails to prospective targets with documents attached that, when opened, could allow the attacker to gain control of the computer.
Many of the emails were specifically related to the Ukrainian conflict and to wider issues linked to Russia, the company said.
Update: In an email to registered users, Nokia has confirmed the change of name. “With the completion of this transaction, a Microsoft Finnish affiliate* assumes responsibility for your personal data and the contractual relationships for the products and services related to this business.
Microsoft cares deeply about your privacy and the protection of your personal data and will continue to collect and use your personal data in the same ways and for the same reasons as Nokia, and you should experience no difference as a result of the sale,” the email says. The contact details at the end of the email reveal the new name, Microsoft Mobile Oy, just as expected.
Get ready to bid adieu to hearing the name Nokia and smartphone in the same breath. If a leaked email from Microsoft is to be believed then the handset division of Nokia will be renamed Microsoft Mobile once Microsoft’s Nokia takeover is complete.
According to Nokia Power User, a leaked email of Microsoft to its suppliers reveals that the Redmond software giant will be renaming the mobile division from Nokia Oyj to Microsoft Mobile Oy, once the takeover is completed. The alleged email states, “Please note that upon the close of the transaction between Microsoft and Nokia, the name of Nokia Corporation/Nokia Oyj will change to Microsoft Mobile Oy. Microsoft Mobile Oy is the legal entity name that should be used for VAT IDs and for the issuance of invoices.”
The email further goes on to state that there will not be any changes to the terms and condition agreed by the suppliers with the Devices and Services business. “In addition to becoming a supplier for Microsoft Mobile Oy, we appreciate that you might also remain a supplier to the continuing businesses of Nokia (i.e., NSN, HERE or Advanced Technologies) after the close of the transaction between Microsoft and Nokia Devices and Services. Nokia will communicate separately any changes in invoicing methods and addresses before the close of this transaction,” it adds.
So does this mean that Nokia, as a mobile brand, will completely disappear post the Microsoft Nokia deal? If that does happen then it would be a big gamble on part of Microsoft as far as Indian market is concerned. Nokia has a very loyal fan following in India but the same cannot be said about Microsoft’s smartphone venture in India. It would be in greater interest of Microsoft to retain Nokia identity in some way or the other so that it can endear itself to Nokia fan base.
The Microsoft Nokia deal is expected to be completed this month.