Microsoft Probes Teams, Outlook Outage as Thousands of Users Report Disruption

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft France headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, January 25, 2023. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft France headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, January 25, 2023. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Probes Teams, Outlook Outage as Thousands of Users Report Disruption

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft France headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, January 25, 2023. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft France headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, January 25, 2023. (Reuters)

Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it was investigating a networking issue that impacted multiple services including Teams and Outlook, with outage reports saying the platforms were down for thousands of users globally.

Microsoft did not disclose the number of users affected by the disruption, but data from outage tracking website Downdetector showed more than 3,900 incidents in India and over 900 in Japan. Outage reports also spiked in Australia, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.

The Downdetector site tracks outages by collating status reports from sources including user-submitted errors on its platform.

"We've identified a potential networking issue and are reviewing telemetry to determine the next troubleshooting steps," Microsoft said in a tweet.

Microsoft's cloud unit Azure also tweeted about the networking issue, and said that a subset of users were experiencing problems with the platform.

During the outage, most users were unable to exchange messages, join calls or use any features of Teams application. Many users took to Twitter to share updates about the service disruption, with #MicrosoftTeams trending as a hashtag on the social media site.

Microsoft Teams, used by more than 280 million people globally, forms an integral part of daily operations for businesses and schools, which use the service to make calls, schedule meetings and organize their workflow.

Among the other services affected were Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, according to the company's status page.



Microsoft Denies Taking Control at OpenAI after UK Review

Microsoft logo.
Microsoft logo.
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Microsoft Denies Taking Control at OpenAI after UK Review

Microsoft logo.
Microsoft logo.

Microsoft denied on Friday that it had taken control of OpenAI after Britain's anti-trust regulator said it was reviewing the nature of their partnership.
"The only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s Board, which is very different from an acquisition such as Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement.
"We will work closely with the CMA to provide all the information it needs," he said.


'Baldur's Gate 3' Crowned Game of the Year

Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
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'Baldur's Gate 3' Crowned Game of the Year

Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Actors involved in a 'Fallout' television show being created for Amazon take part in the 2023 Game Awards where a 'Last of Us' series based on the eponymous video game won for best adaptation. Anna Webber / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Role-playing hit "Baldur's Gate 3", based in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, was named video game of the year at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles late Thursday.
Set in a fantasy realm of wizards, elves, barbarians and other characters, it is the latest installment in the titular franchise, created by Larian Studios.
"The team at Larian spent their hearts and souls for six years on this game, sometimes under very difficult circumstances," studio founder and chief Swen Vincke said while accepting the award.
"This was our Covid game; along the way we lost quite a few people."
Vincke was dressed in armor, in keeping with a character from the game which has won millions of fans since its release in early August.
Other contenders for the title at the 2023 Game Awards included survival horror game "Alan Wake 2," which took top prizes for direction and narrative.
The game, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic Games, centers on a best-selling author trying to escape an alternate dimension.
"When more than 100 people believe in the same vision and build something out of it we can make miracles, we can make art, and we can be more than the sum of our parts," game director Sam Lake said while accepting an award.
"Our world today could use a bit more of that."
The ceremony featured appearances from celebrities including Matthew McConaughey and Timothee Chalamet, as well as an array of trailers for new titles in the works.
Japanese video game icon Hideo Kojima provided a glimpse at an "OD" game he is making in collaboration with actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele.
Kojima said on stage that he is working with Microsoft's Xbox game studios and its cloud computing team to make "OD" something uniquely immersive.
"It is a game, don't get me wrong, but at the same time a movie; a new form of media," Kojima said through an interpreter.
OD explores the concept of testing one's fear threshold while blurring the boundaries of gaming and film, according to Kojima Productions.
Peele, who directed the movies "Nope", "Us" and "Get Out", described what Kojima was creating as completely immersive and utterly terrifying.
"I grew up watching movies and I'm a game creator, and Jordan grew up playing games and he is a movie director now," Kojima said.
"This collaboration will be really awesome."


Meta Makes End-to-End Encryption a Default on Facebook Messenger

The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
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Meta Makes End-to-End Encryption a Default on Facebook Messenger

The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)
The META logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France on June 14, 2023. (AP)

Meta is rolling out end-to-end encryption for calls and messages across its Facebook and Messenger platforms, the company announced Thursday.

Such encryption means that no one other than the sender and the recipient — not even Meta — can decipher people’s messages. Encrypted chats, first introduced as an optional feature in Messenger in 2016, will now be the standard for all users going forward, according to Messenger head Loredana Crisan.

"This has taken years to deliver because we’ve taken our time to get this right," Crisan wrote in a blog post. "Our engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts and product managers have worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up."

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised, back in 2019, to bring end-to-end encryption to its platforms after the social media company suffered a string of high-profile scandals, notably when Cambridge Analytica accessed user data on Facebook. Privacy advocates again shined a spotlight on Meta after Nebraska investigators reviewed private Facebook messages while investigating an abortion that violated a state 20-week ban.

Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, said the feature can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

Meanwhile, encryption critics, law enforcement and even a Meta report released in 2022 note the risks of enhanced encryption, including users who could abuse the privacy feature to sexually exploit children, facilitate human trafficking and spread hate speech.

"What will Meta’s bosses say to children who have suffered sexual abuse, whose trauma will be compounded by their decision not to preserve their privacy? How will they justify turning a blind eye to this illegal and harmful content being spread via their platforms?" said Internet Watch Foundation chief executive Susie Hargreaves.

"The company has a strong track record in detecting large amounts of child sexual abuse material before it appears on its platforms. We urge Meta to continue this vital protection."

The new features will be available immediately, but Crisan wrote that it would take some time for the privacy feature to be rolled out to all of its users.


X to Start Hiring Engineers in Japan

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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X to Start Hiring Engineers in Japan

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk 's X account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Social media platform X will start hiring engineers in Japan, chief executive Linda Yaccarino said in a post on Thursday.
Nikkei earlier reported Yaccarino as saying X would start hiring engineers in 2024 and establish an app development team to develop functions and advertising products for the Japanese market.
The development team will create a mechanism for low-cost ads in order to explore demand from small and midsize businesses in Japan, the report added.
X has struggled to retain advertisers since Elon Musk acquired the company in October 2022, and faced a fresh exodus from major brands including Apple, Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery in recent weeks over rising concerns about antisemitic content.
Musk has offered a "full apology on the issue and full explanation", Nikkei quoted Yaccarino saying, adding that X would also reinforce to its team in Japan to deal with inappropriate content.


Saudi Delegation Discusses Technology and Innovation Partnerships with US Companies

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
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Saudi Delegation Discusses Technology and Innovation Partnerships with US Companies

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA
The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies. SPA

The Saudi digital economy, space and innovation delegation has held meetings with US technology companies to foster partnerships for advancing the digital economy and enhancing innovation in the Kingdom.

The delegation is headed by Minister of Communications and Information Technology (CIT) Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha.
During the visit to Silicon Valley, Al-Swaha met with Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi to explore cutting-edge business solutions leveraging data and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as investment opportunities in the Kingdom.
Deputy Minister of CIT Eng. Haytham AlOhali engaged in discussions with the leadership team of NVIDIA to explore avenues for research and innovation in deep technologies, while maximizing the economic and social value through AI.

AlOhali also met with Salesforce President and Chief Product Officer David Schmaier to explore partnership opportunities in solutions and software to support innovative business solutions.


China Launches New Homegrown Supercomputer

People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
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China Launches New Homegrown Supercomputer

People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
People walk past a building with a Christmas decoration in Beijing, China December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

China unveiled a new domestically developed supercomputing system on Wednesday that state news agency Xinhua said was many times more powerful than a previous version. The supercomputing system called "Tianhe Xingyi", was unveiled by the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, at an industry event in the capital of southern China's Guangdong Province, Xinhua said.
Xinhua did not give more details on the new system's computing power.
But the report cited Lu Yutong, director of the center, as saying that the new computer used domestically designed architecture and has outperformed Tianhe-2, one of China's fastest supercomputers, in capacities such as CPU computing power, networking, storage, and applications.
Tianhe-2 is being developed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and is hosted at the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, Reuters reported.
Tianhe-2 topped a list of the world's 500 fastest systems for three consecutive years from 2013 but dropped out of the top position in 2016, the year after the US government placed the NUDT on a blacklist that eliminated the university's access to the Intel processors it uses in its supercomputers.
Other prominent Chinese supercomputing systems include Sunway TaihuLight, developed by the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, which ranked seventh on the June 2023 list while Tianhe-2 placed tenth.


Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY
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Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

Saudi Arabia Ranks First Globally by Winning Largest Number of Medals in WAICY

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was awarded the first position for winning the largest number of medals in the World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth (WAICY), in which 18,000 male and female students from 40 countries in the world participated, topping the United States, India, Greece, Canada, and Singapore.

In the global competition organized by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), 18 Saudi projects won, including 11 got gold, silver, and bronze medals, and 7 other projects were in advanced positions out of 6,039 projects, while the United States won 10 medals, India and Greece won two medals for each country, and Canada and Singapore won one medal for each country, according to SPA.

The Kingdom was represented in the competition by general education students from the levels, primary, intermediate, and secondary schools from the schools of Misk, Dhahran, Madac, KAUST, Aramco, AlUla, and NEOM. They all competed in the three competition tracks: AI Showcase, AI-Generated Art, and AI Large language model.

In light of this Saudi excellence, SDAIA and KAUST received the Outstanding Organization Award at the global level for their efforts and commitment to developing artificial intelligence education.


Wikipedia, Wrapped. Here Are 2023’s Most-Viewed Articles on the Internet’s Encyclopedia

Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
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Wikipedia, Wrapped. Here Are 2023’s Most-Viewed Articles on the Internet’s Encyclopedia

Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP)

Remember what you searched for in 2023? Well, Wikipedia has the receipts.

English Wikipedia raked in more than 84 billion views this year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind the free, publicly edited online encyclopedia. And the most popular article was about ChatGPT (yes, the AI chatbot that’s seemingly everywhere today).

Since its launch just over a year ago, OpenAI's ChatGPT has skyrocketed into the public's consciousness as the technology makes its way into schools, health care, law and even religious sermons. The chatbot has also contributed to growing debates about the promise and potential dangers of generative AI, much of which is documented on its Wikipedia page.

The second most-read article on Wikipedia in 2023 was the annual list of deaths, which sees high traffic year after year — taking the #4 and #1 spots in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Individual entries for notable figures who passed away also garnered significant interest this year, including pages for Matthew Perry and Lisa Marie Presley.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated 2023 Cricket World Cup took third place — alongside three other cricket-related entries in Wikipedia’s top 25 articles this year, including the Indian Premier League at #4, marking the first time cricket content has made the list since the Wikimedia Foundation started tracking in 2015.

“Barbenheimer," Taylor Swift and more also appeared to sway our 2023 internet-reading habits. Here are this year's top 25 articles on English Wikipedia.

1. ChatGPT: 49,490,406 pageviews

2. Deaths in 2023: 42,666,860 pageviews

3. 2023 Cricket World Cup: 38,171,653 pageviews

4. Indian Premier League: 32,012,810 pageviews

5. Oppenheimer (film): 28,348,248 pageviews

6. Cricket World Cup: 25,961,417 pageviews

7. J. Robert Oppenheimer: 25,672,469 pageviews

8. Jawan (film): 21,791,126 pageviews

9. 2023 Indian Premier League: 20,694,974 pageviews

10. Pathaan (film): 19,932,509 pageviews

11. The Last of Us (TV series): 19,791,789 pageviews

12. Taylor Swift, 19,418,385: pageviews

13. Barbie (film): 18,051,077 pageviews

14. Cristiano Ronaldo: 17,492,537 pageviews

15. Lionel Messi: 16,623,630 pageviews

16. Premier League: 16,604,669 pageviews

17. Matthew Perry: 16,454,666 pageviews

18. United States: 16,240,461 pageviews

19. Elon Musk: 14,370,395 pageviews

20. Avatar: The Way of Water: 14,303,116 pageviews

21. India: 13,850,178 pageviews

22. Lisa Marie Presley: 13,764,007 pageviews

23. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: 13,392,917 pageviews

24. Russian invasion of Ukraine: 12,798,866 pageviews

25. Andrew Tate: 12,728,616 pageviews

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, this top 25 list was created using English Wikipedia data as of Nov. 28. Numbers for the full year are set to be updated by the nonprofit on Jan. 3, 2024.

The top countries that accessed English Wikipedia overall to date in 2023 are the United States (33.2 billion) and the United Kingdom (9 billion) — followed by India (8.48 billion), Canada (3.95 billion) and Australia (2.56 billion), according to Wikimedia Foundation data shared with The Associated Press.


Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission Joins Digital Sustainability Alliance with ITU

The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
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Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission Joins Digital Sustainability Alliance with ITU

The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo
The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) logo

The Saudi Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) has joined the Digital Sustainability Alliance (DSA) with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The announcement was made in the presence of ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin on the sidelines of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) held in Dubai.

The alliance of DSA and ITU aims to stimulate opportunities for partnerships and expand the scope of coordination with the communications and technology community to participate in finding and developing digital solutions to address climate challenges, through the transition to digital infrastructure that enables sustainable environmental solutions.

CST said in a statement that by joining the alliance, it seeks to come up with sustainable digital solutions to address climate challenges, develop and implement regulations that enable the circular economy to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and the effects of climate change, and move to an environment-friendly digital infrastructure through cooperation with partners in the government and private sectors and UN organizations.


Google Pushes for Antitrust Action Against Microsoft in UK Cloud Market

(FILES) This illustration photograph taken on October 30, 2023 in Mulhouse, eastern France, shows figurines next to a screen displaying a logo of Google, a US multinational technology company. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)
(FILES) This illustration photograph taken on October 30, 2023 in Mulhouse, eastern France, shows figurines next to a screen displaying a logo of Google, a US multinational technology company. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)
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Google Pushes for Antitrust Action Against Microsoft in UK Cloud Market

(FILES) This illustration photograph taken on October 30, 2023 in Mulhouse, eastern France, shows figurines next to a screen displaying a logo of Google, a US multinational technology company. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)
(FILES) This illustration photograph taken on October 30, 2023 in Mulhouse, eastern France, shows figurines next to a screen displaying a logo of Google, a US multinational technology company. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Google has called on Britain’s antitrust regulator to take action against Microsoft, claiming its business practices had left rivals at a significant disadvantage, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Microsoft and Amazon have faced mounting scrutiny around the world over their dominance of the cloud computing industry, with regulators in Britain, the European Union, and the US probing their market power.
The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) launched an investigation into Britain’s cloud computing industry in October, following a referral from media regulator Ofcom which highlighted Amazon and Microsoft’s dominance of the market.
In 2022, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure had a combined 70-80% share of Britain's public cloud infrastructure services market, Ofcom said. Google’s cloud division was their closest competitor, at around 5-10%.
In a letter submitted to the CMA, Google said Microsoft’s licensing practices unfairly discouraged customers from using competitor services, even as a secondary provider alongside Azure.
“With Microsoft’s licensing restrictions in particular, UK customers are left with no economically reasonable alternative but to use Azure as their cloud services provider, even if they prefer the prices, quality, security, innovations, and features of rivals,” Google said in its letter to the CMA.
Such practices directly harmed customers, and were the only significant barrier to competition in Britain’s cloud computing market, the company said.
Microsoft last year updated its licensing rules to address such concerns and promote competition, though the changes did not satisfy rivals.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had worked with independent cloud providers to address concerns and provide opportunity and that more than 100 worldwide had taken advantage of the changes.
"As the latest independent data shows, competition between cloud hyperscalers remains healthy. In the second quarter of 2023 Microsoft and Google made equally small gains on AWS, which continues to remain the global market leader by a significant margin," the Microsoft spokesperson said.
Speaking to Reuters, Google Cloud Vice President Amit Zavery criticiced Microsoft’s practices, and said his company was committed to a multi-cloud approach, in which customers could easily move between providers depending on their needs.
"A lot of our software and cloud services interoperate, and can run on AWS or on Azure as well, so you're not restricted," he said. "If you don't fix this, eventually you will have fewer cloud providers, and then innovation will not really happen, and investments will start shrinking."
At issue was Microsoft's decision to update the terms for when customers wanted to use their Windows or other software licenses in the cloud, effectively resulting in higher costs if they used Google or AWS instead of Microsoft's Azure.
Asked why Amazon, which boasts a larger share of the cloud market than Microsoft, did not pose a similarly anticompetitive risk, Zavery said AWS consumers were not facing the same restrictions.
“There are some issues, in terms of cloud interoperability, but we can fix that. That's a discussion between providers, which is much understood, and customers are forcing that conversation,” he said.
“The problem we run into with Microsoft is that there's no technical issue, but you have licensing restrictions which means we are now being prevented from competing.”
Google made six recommendations to the CMA, including forcing Microsoft to improve interoperability for customers using Azure and alongside other cloud services, and banning it from withholding security updates from those that switch.
The CMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.