A report issued by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) predicted that India will have 730 million internet users by 2020. It also observed that rural areas and surge in smartphone use will foster this growth and 75% of the content will be consumed in local languages. The researchers also stated that India will be the fastest expanding online market by 2020.
“India’s Internet consumption has already exceeded the U.S. to become number two globally,” said NASSCOM president Rentala Chandrasekhar in a press release announcing the launch of the report. India will have in excess of 700 million smartphones in use by the end of the decade, the majority of which will be used for online shopping and travel bookings.
According to a separate report by research firm International Data Corporation, India remains to be one of the growth markets for the global smartphone industry after it registered a 17% year-on-year increase in device shipments for the second quarter of 2016. This follows two successive quarters of shipment declines with Q2 showing only a 3.7% increase over Q1 this year.
The vendor race sees a clear winner in India with Samsung leading comfortably and Apple nowhere in the picture. About 25% of all smartphones sold for the three month period were Samsungs, followed by Micromax (12.9%), Lenovo (7.8%), Intex (7.1%) and Reliance Jo (6.8%). The report went on to state that “China-based vendors’ shipments grew 28 percent over previous quarter of which Lenovo group, Vivo, Xiaomi, OPPO and Gionee were key contributors driving the growth.” India-based vendors saw a decline in shipments for the period. Apple sales were so low in India that they did not even register in the IDC report; globally the company reported a 15% drop in phone sales during the Q2 2016 quarter.
Search giant Google is shaking up its Web ranking algorithms once again, this time in order to punish websites with popup advertising. It has made the decision that pages with popups or interstitials are worse search results and so will rank them lower. In a blogpost, the company stated “Pages that show intrusive interstitials [elements that cover the content] provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”
It is no secret that Google makes a lot of money by placing advertisements on websites so this move could be a way to give netizens one less reason to use ad-blockers or search within apps instead. Last year, it began boosting the rank of “mobile friendly” websites, and the new changes will come into effect on January 10.
China has launched the first Tibetan language search engine this week which takes logo influence from the world’s largest, currently blocked in the country, but with far fewer entries. According to the state news agency Xinhua, the site called Yongzin aims to be a “unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China.” Meaning “master” or “teacher” in Tibetan, Yongzin is the only option for Tibet’s 7 million people.
However, criticism has already been raised regarding the level of censorship and the premise that the government only want to use it as a propaganda tool. An image search for the Dalai Lama requires searching through pages of irrelevant results where users are offered photos of various Tibetan artifacts and images of official press briefings. Textual searches redirect users to state backed websites emblazoned with slogans such as “Without the Communist Party, there would be no socialist New Tibet.”
The search engine is a product of a state-funded project which began in April 2013 and cost 57 million yuan ($US8.7 million). Its usefulness as a search tool is already being widely questioned.
The search for extra-terrestrial life got a little closer to home this week as astronomers discovered the nearest exoplanet to Earth. The discovery, made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), found a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of our nearest neighbouring star; Proxima Centauri. Just 4.2 light years from our solar system, the earth-like planet, named Proxima b, could be a potential candidate for supporting life.
Further research is needed to determine the atmospheric characteristics and any possibility of liquid water on the surface of the rocky world. The team was able to discover the new planet candidate by observing Proxima Centauri during the first half of 2016, and comparing their data with previous observations from the past 16 years, collected by telescopes all over the world.
They have determined that Proxima b, is roughly 1.3 times Earth’s size, and takes 11 days to orbit approximately 4.3 million miles from its sun. It has a surface temperature of around -40 Celsius which raises the possibility of an atmosphere and liquid water, one of the precursors for life. A $130 million project called Starshot, announced earlier this year, aims to send a probe to Alpha Centauri within the next 30 years in hope of finding life.