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12.05.16 | 3:50 pm

Watch Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship complete its first glide flight 

Watch out, SpaceX: Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has a new spaceship, and it just completed its first glide flight. The new SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity, made the crucial test flight on Saturday over California's Mojave Desert. The craft was carried into the air by its mothership and released—gliding for 10 minutes by itself and landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. 

Further glide flights will be conducted before the craft moves on to rocket-powered flights, the Associated Press reports. Virgin suffered a major setback in 2014 when one of its spaceships broke up and crashed.

Fast Company recently caught up with Branson at an event in New York, where he talked about wanting to challenge some of President-elect Donald Trump's "worst ideas." Read the full interview here.

[Photo: Virgin Galactic]

01.24.17 | 26 minutes ago

Bandcamp proves people are still willing to pay for music in the streaming age

Bandcamp is easily the most counterintuitively successful company in the music business. As people flock to subscription services and the broader market for album sales continues to collapse, Bandcamp keeps selling music. In 2016, the site saw a 58% increase in cassette sales, a 48% bump for vinyl, and a 20% increase in digital album sales, according to new data released by the company

Industrywide, sales of digital and physical albums both declined last year. But Bandcamp's direct fan-to-artist support model has bucked these trends on a smaller scale, proving that serious fans will still fork over money for music they love. Yes, even if it means buying a rectangular hunk plastic that most of us marked for dead 20 years ago. 

01.24.17 | 4 hours ago

Simon & Schuster CEO defends signing Milo Yiannopoulos book. Also, publishing is 88% white.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy reupped her industry's claims to defending a free and open "social discourse" in a letter shared by BuzzFeed this morning. The letter defended the choice to publish a book by notorious white-nationalist hatemonger Milo Yiannopoulos (though some self-described white nationalists have pointedly disavowed him). More than 160 of the publisher's own children's authors signed a letter earlier this month protesting the decision.

Meanwhile, it's worth pointing out that book publishing's diversity statistics remain truly abysmal. 88% of the sector's employees are white, according to a 2016 survey by Publishers Weekly, down a single percentage point from the year before.

[Image: Publishers Weekly]

01.24.17 | 4 hours ago

Amazon is disrupting Hollywood by playing Hollywood’s game

If 14 Oscar nominations for La La Land weren't enough proof of Hollywood's unending capacity for self-love, perhaps there's another example to be found in Amazon's Manchester By the Sea. The movie is being hailed as the first-ever Best Picture nomination for a streaming service, but there's an important caveat to that accomplishment: Amazon Studios brought it to market in a traditionally Hollywood-friendly way. 

After scooping it up from the Sundance Film Festival a year ago, the company partnered with Roadside Attractions to distribute the movie theatrically in November 2016. But the movie won't be available to stream on Amazon Prime until early February—that's a decent release window, and Hollywood likes release windows. As Variety notes, this is crucially different than the Netflix model, which favors as-soon-as-possible streaming and sees theatrical distribution as an afterthought—something it does only so it can qualify for awards. 

Some traditional studios are also looking for ways to narrow release windows, but it's not going to happen all at once. Disruption tends to happen in small pieces, and of course no one gets that concept better than Amazon.

[Roadside Attractions]

01.24.17 | 9:50 am

Dan Harmon tweeted a job offer to the SNL writer suspended for Barron Trump joke

To say it's a contentious time for creative people is an understatement. The aftermath of SNL's decision to suspend writer Katie Rich indefinitely is reverberating…

01.24.17 | 9:24 am

Pants on fire! The media gets more comfortable with the L-word

The New York Times dropped an L-bomb yesterday in an article describing President Trump's outrageous claims that millions of unauthorized immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton. "Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers," went the headline.

This was a big topic of debate a few weeks ago after Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, said in an interview that he would be careful about using the word "lie" to describe Trump's statements because it gets into the issue of intent. Baker's comments were roundly criticized in media circles, and now it appears that his paper's chief rival is drawing a line in the sand. 

01.24.17 | 8:00 am

Chicago is getting its own NYC-style Wi-Fi stations—but don’t try to use them for porn

First it was New York City replacing ancient pay phones with combination Wi-Fi hotspots and info kiosks. Now it's the Second City's turn. Chicago today announced its own downtown internet stations, which will start going up in the first quarter of 2017. CIVIQ Smartscapes, one of the companies behind New York's LinkNYC system, will supply its Waypoint stations, which provide free Wi-Fi internet access, as well as a pair of screens displaying navigation help, transport info, and safety alerts. 

As New York City began with just four stations, Chicago is also starting small, with five Waypoints in the downtown area, including Michigan Avenue, for the pilot program. The city also learned a lesson from New York, where unfettered internet access turned the built-in tablets into public porn-surfing stations. Screens on Chicago's stations will be limited to providing official city info, but Wi-Fi access will be uncensored. 

The network will be provided by AT&T, which plans to do the same in Atlanta; Dallas; Miami-Dade County; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Portland, Oregon.

01.24.17 | 7:38 am

Alibaba just had an incredible quarter

The Chinese e-commerce company's revenue surged 54% to $7.67 billion, with a net income of $2.47 billion, reports TechCrunch. The biggest source of revenue for the company came from its Taobao marketplace, which now has 493 million monthly users and 443 million active buyers.

01.24.17 | 6:52 am

Google rival DuckDuckGo hits 10 billion anonymous searches

The small search engine, which provides private browsing, has seen its user growth skyrocket since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of government surveillance. 

[Image: DuckDuckGo]

01.23.17 | 7:53 pm

Samsung’s thriving chip business eased the pain of the Note 7 debacle, earnings report shows

• Samsung's overall operating profit was up by 50% to 9.22 trillion won ($7.93 billion) in the October-December quarter, up from 6.14 trillion won last year, fueled mainly by a strong chip business. 

After the nightmarish experience of the Galaxy Note 7 recall, the company's mobile phone business took a small but significant hit in the quarter. Smartphone sales were off 6% to 22.65 trillion won ($19.43 million). 

• Samsung's chip division killed it again this quarter with operating profit up 77% to 4.95 trillion won versus the year-earlier period.

(Samsung recalled its Galaxy Note 7 phones in October after numerous reports of the device's battery exploding.)

01.23.17 | 5:18 pm

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative buys an AI bot to surf scientific research

Doing scientific research can be slow work, often requiring digging through countless academic and/or scientific papers looking for just the right data. That's something that a number of companies are hoping artificial intelligence can address.

Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization started by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chanannounced it has bought one such startup, Meta. In a post on Facebook, the organization—which aims to cure all diseases—wrote that Meta "developed an AI that helps scientists read, understand, and prioritize millions of scientific papers" in an effort to surface the most important information to the researchers who need it the most. One problem Meta (and other organizations in the same space, such as Iris AI) is no doubt grappling with is how to get past the paywalls on countless publications. Meta, which has raised $7.5 million in venture funding, will be free for researchers to use, according to the post.

01.23.17 | 4:29 pm

Oracle sued for paying white guys more than its other workers 

A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor claims that Oracle has a "systemic practice" of paying white male workers more than employees of color and women with the same job titles, according to a New York Times report. The company refuted the charge in a statement saying it was "politically motivated, based on false allegations and wholly without merit," but the Labor Department says that Oracle refused to provide routine employment data. 

The required reporting of salary information for women and men to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was mandated by an executive order signed by former President Obama. It's aimed at federal contractors (of which Oracle is one). He subsequently submitted a proposal to further help close the gender wage gap by requiring companies with 100 or more employees to report their staff's pay broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity.

Although many tech companies used to provide employment data publicly on an annual basis in effort to promote diversity initiatives and report on progress, many recently stopped when the numbers weren't budging after two to three years. 

01.23.17 | 4:25 pm

Yahoo just beat on Q4 earnings, but Verizon deal sees delays

Did Yahoo finally catch a break? Despite better-than-expected earnings today, the embattled company's stock was initially down 0.3% in after-hours trading, but it trended upward soon after. That initial hesitation may be because Yahoo's acquisition by Verizon has stalled, with the deal now expected to close in Q2. The delay comes as Yahoo is cleaning up the mess left by two massive hacks on its system that exposed over 1 billion accounts. And on that front, the news keeps getting worse: Earlier today, reports emerged that Yahoo could be facing an SEC investigation for failing to disclose the breach sooner than it did. 

Still, Yahoo reported earnings of 25 cents a share on revenue of $1.46 billion. Analysts had expected average earnings of 21 cents on $1.38 billion. Though desktop continues to decline, the company's mobile revenue grew this quarter. Its assets in Alibaba are also gaining in value.