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Alibaba Files for Much-Anticipated IPO

Alibaba Files for Much-Anticipated IPO

Today in international tech news: Alibaba inches closer to its initial public offering; Russia clamps down on bloggers; Norway is using a virtual reality headset to help soldiers drive tanks; and a travel app dives into North Korea.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/07/14 9:13 AM PT

Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba filed an initial public offering prospectus Tuesday, inching closer to what could be the biggest technology IPO in history.

Alibaba Group handles 80 percent of all online commerce in China; it processed some US$250 billion worth of transactions for 231 million users in 2013. The company's market value has been estimated as high as $200 billion.

The company's outlandish size has prompted speculation that its IPO could top Facebook's record-setting $16 billion IPO back in 2012. Whether or not it does, Alibaba will become the largest Chinese corporation to list in the U.S.

[Sources: Reuters]

Russia Clamps Down on Bloggers

In a move that figures to make it much easier for authorities to track what gets said online -- and by whom -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law requiring popular online personalities to register with the government.

Dubbed the "bloggers law," Russia's new measure decrees that any site with more than 3,000 daily visitors will be considered a media outlet, and accordingly will be responsible for the accuracy of the information posted. The law also stipulates that bloggers no longer can go about their business anonymously, and that organizations providing platforms for bloggers must maintain records of everything posted over the past six months.

Russia has been making all sorts of Internet noise lately. Last month, the founder of Russia's most popular social media site, VKontakte, was ousted from his post. Shortly thereafter, Russia passed a law requiring social media sites to keep servers in Russia; that was just before Putin opined that the Internet was a "CIA project."

[Source: The New York Times]

Norwegian Army Creates Virtual Reality Headset

The Norwegian army is using the commercially available Oculus Rift headset to help soldiers drive tanks.

The contraption works by mounting cameras to the outside of a tank. Images are then fed into the headset, helping to create a 360-degree view for the driver.

The device is much cheaper than conventional military camera systems, which presumably is useful even in a country as rich as Norway.

Facebook purchased Oculus VR, the company that makes the headset, for $2 billion in March.

[Source: BBC]

North Korea Travel App Launched

A new app, available on iOS and Android, offers what is presumed to be the world's preeminent guide to North Korea.

A tag-team effort between British travel technology startup Uniquely.Travel and Russian-based software outfit Magora Systems, the aptly named North Korea Travel App contains engaging images and in-depth write-ups of tourist sites. The app also contains mapping information and tools to build a travel itinerary, including a built-in tour-booking feature.

Typical citizens in North Korea do not have access to the Internet, or at least what most of the world knows as the Internet.

[Source: The Washington Post]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

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Are you looking forward to self-driving cars?
You bet -- I'd love to have a built-in chauffeur.
Yes -- self-driving cars will save lives.
Kind of -- I'd like some self-driving features, like parking.
No -- self-driving cars are too dangerous.
No -- I don't want to give up another freedom.
Absolutely not -- I saw Terminator and I'm not letting some robot take me for a ride!
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