FCC to allow video on AOL Messenger

This would be ending a restriction imposed when it approved the merger of the online company with media giant Time Warner Communications in early 2001.

A source familiar with this week’s decision said that the commission’s three-member Republican majority decided in favor of lifting the ban while the two Democrats dissented. The result of the vote, which is not required to be conducted in a public session, is expected to be announced in the next 48 hours.

The decision is a victory for struggling AOL Time Warner Inc., which lobbied hard for the change and hopes to use instant messaging to promote its video content. AOL spokeswoman Tricia Primrose declined to comment on the decision before an official announcement from the FCC but said the company has been hoping for a favorable decision.

“We think that we made a compelling case,” Primrose said.

FCC spokesmen declined to comment.

AOL and Time Warner were primarily in different businesses when they announced their merger in early 2000. But regulators were concerned about the marriage of the largest online service provider with one of the nation’s most powerful media conglomerates.

They reasoned that a combined company that included a large cable television system, magazines, CNN, and Warner movies and music could dominate news and entertainment over the Internet and lock out competitors.

As a condition of merger approval, the FCC zeroed in on the area where AOL had particular dominance: instant messaging. The tool has rocketed from a hit with teenagers and online aficionados to a ubiquitous means of electronic communication.

AOL members are not required to use Instant Messenger, but AOL has not allowed the system to work with competing systems, such as Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Messenger service or Yahoo Inc.’s Messenger. As a result, users of the different systems cannot communicate with each other.

When it approved the merger, the FCC said it would need to see convincing evidence that AOL’s instant-messaging dominance had significantly lessened.

According to people familiar with the vote to lift the ban, AOL prevailed by demonstrating that since the merger, its share of the instant-messaging market had dropped from a percentage in the mid-sixties to the mid-fifties.

As part of a legal settlement announced in late May, AOL and Microsoft said they were beginning negotiations on making their messaging systems compatible, but no agreement is close.

A spokesman for competitors Microsoft, Yahoo and EarthLink Inc. declined to comment last night.

Source: Washington Post

Mobile

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.
Product Review

Controversy has dogged the MacBook Pro lately. Is it still a good purchase?

The MacBook Pro is a controversial laptop these days -- and that's unfortunate. Due to some divisive changes Apple made to the functionality of the MacBook Pro, fans are more split. Does the 8th-gen refresh change that?
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Mobile

Text up a storm with the best messaging apps for iOS and Android

These days, most people tend to favor digital messages over phone calls. We have the best messaging apps that allow you to share photos and documents, send text messages, and more with end-to-end encryption.
Computing

It's not all free money. Here's what to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money, and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

What is fixed wireless 5G? Here’s everything you need to know

Here's fixed wireless 5G explained! Learn what you need to know about this effective new wireless technology, when it's available, how much it costs, and more. If you're thinking about 5G, this guide can help!
Computing

Fix those internet dead zones by turning an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater

Is there a Wi-Fi dead zone in your home or office? A Wi-Fi repeater can help. Don't buy a new one, though. Here is how to extend Wi-Fi range with another router you have lying around.
Computing

Heal your wrist aches and pains with one of these top ergonomic mice

If you have a growing ache in your wrist, it might be worth considering ergonomic mice alternatives. But which is the best ergonomic mouse for you? One of these could be the ticket to the right purchase for you.
Gaming

These are the best indie games you can get on PC right now

Though many indie games now come to consoles as well, there's still a much larger selection on PC. With that in mind, we've created a list of the best indie games for PC, with an emphasis on games that are only available on PC.
Apple

Want a MacBook that will last all day on a single charge? Check these models out

Battery life is one of the most important factors in buying any laptop, especially MacBooks. Their battery life is typically average, but there are some standouts. Knowing which MacBook has the best battery life can be rather useful.
Computing

Want a Dell laptop with an RTX 2060? Cross the new XPS 15 off your list

The next iteration of Dell's XPS 15 laptop won't come with an option for an RTX 2060, according to Alienware's Frank Azor. You could always opt for a new Alienware m15 or m17 instead.
Computing

Always have way too many tabs open? Google Chrome might finally help

Google is one step closer to bringing tab groups to its Chrome browser. The feature is now available in Google's Chrome Canady build with an early implementation that can be enabled through its flag system.