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Daily News Roundup: Mozilla’s Firefox Premium Plans

Mozilla’s CEO, Chris Beard, made a surprising statement in an interview recently, a premium version of Firefox is on the way. But there’s no need to panic, the free version of Firefox isn’t going away.

The news hit like a bombshell: Firefox, long the champion of a stable third-party open-source browser, will get a premium version later this year. It’s a move that makes sense when you think about it.

Development isn’t cheap, and developing a browser isn’t easy. Add in the goal of an easy to modify browser, through extensions or otherwise, and the cost only goes up. But Firefox has always been free.

To support the costs of development, Mozilla relied on search engines deals. At this point, 90 percent of its revenue comes from Google, and that’s realistically a problem. Google (through Chrome) is, ultimately, a competitor to the Firefox browser. If the company ever decided not to renew its search engine deal Mozilla would probably find a new client, but the transition likely wouldn’t be pleasant.

A subscription premium version of Firefox adds a new ongoing source of income. The goal is to diminish the reliance on any single source and equal things more.

And if you’re worried this means the end of the free Firefox you may know and love, you can stop. The free version isn’t going away, and the Foundation doesn’t plan to remove any features from it and move them over to the premium version. Instead, the premium version will gain some new features that the free version won’t, possibly VPN and secure storage space to start with. What we don’t know is what pricing Mozilla is considering.

Mozilla says it will begin testing the Premium version sometime in October. [The Next Web]

In Other News:

  • Amazon shuts down its Restaurant Delivery Service: Amazon had a Door Dash like delivery service to bring your food to you. If you’re thinking, “it did?” that’s probably the problem. The company says the last day of service is June 24th. You’ll have to settle for Doordash, or Grubhub, or Uber Eats, or Postmates… and we think we found the other problem leading to this shutdown. [GeekWire]
  • Huawei wants developers to make the jump to its app store: Huawei can’t use Google services anymore, and that includes the Google Play app store. In a bid to keep the company going, it has been reaching out to some developers with a request: please join Huawei’s AppGallery Store. It’s a sensible move. Any Windows Phone refugee will tell you that without apps it’s hard for a mobile OS to survive. [9to5Google]
  • Shazam can identify songs through headphones now: Shazam is a neat app from the early days of smartphone apps. If you hear a song on the radio and don’t know the name pull up Shazam and it may be able to identify it for you. But you had to play the song on your phone’s speaker, or get your tablet’s microphone close enough to the radio to hear well. Now in an update for Android (no iOS yet it seems), the app can use your headphones to listen even while the app is in the background. Neat stuff. [The Verge]
  • Xbox Live now lets you choose taken Gamertags: Xbox Gamertags, like usernames for any service, face a growing problem. That perfect name you want to use is already in use. Probably by someone who hasn’t played in ten years. Microsoft’s solution is to let you have the Gamertag you want but to display some numbers (an ID number) after it. It’s a little bit like when you add your birthday, except since somebody took that too, Microsoft is giving you a Gamertag that works. [Engadget]
  • Microsoft stops adding new backward-compatible titles to Xbox: The good news for Project Scarlett, the next Xbox, is Microsoft wants to ensure every Xbox One game works with it. The bad news is, that means shifting work and ending the program to make Xbox 360 and original Xbox games work with Xbox One. The list of backward-compatible games is now complete, here’s hoping that includes your favorite 360 game. [Ars Technica]
  • Steven Spielberg’s latest show only plays at night: Steven Spielberg is teaming up with a new app called Quibi (short for quick bites) for a unique take on horror storytelling. The app will only play the show at night. By determining your timezone, the app will display a countdown timer during the day, and when night falls, the show unlocks for viewing. [Digital Trends]
  • AMD announces new graphics cards, but no ray tracing: AMD’s latest cards are decidedly mid-range but affordable (at least they’re cheaper than Nvidia equivalents). Starting at $379 is Radeon RX 5700, followed by the Radeon RX 5700 XT at $449. AMD also showed off software to sharpen images while increasing contrast. You still won’t find ray tracing with AMD cards, a headline feature for Nvidia. [PCMag]

RELATED: What Is Ray Tracing?

In an almost opposite direction of yesterday’s deepfake story, researchers demonstrated a new A.I. technique to generate faces based on a voice.

The concept is pretty similar to something humans already do. If you’ve ever spoken with someone over the phone before meeting them face-to-face or listened to a person on the radio without ever seeing them, you probably created a mental image of their face. You use cues to decide their ethnicity, age, and the like, and it may be entirely wrong, but you do it anyway.

The A.I. (called Speech2Face) does much the same thing. Researchers trained it through standard neural network processes. By showing the A.I some 100,00 different talking, the A.I. amassed a large dataset to use. That dataset led associations in vocal cues and specific facial features.

The researches did limit its capabilities, it doesn’t know what individual faces should look for instance, so it generates ‘average faces.’ But when given voices it had never seen, the faces it produced, while not matching the actual voice’s owner, were realistically and generally of the correct ethnicity, gender, and age set.

Soon, nothing will be real anymore. [Live Science]