Twitter rolls out a new feature, Facebook is forced into an apology and online gambling in the US suffers a setback. This is your week in digital.

Twitter rolls out ‘while you were away’ feature


Twitter has started rolling out its “while you were away” feature, which will start featuring tweets that generated significant levels of interest whilst a user was away from the service.

The feature, which was first announced in November, has been gradually rolling out over the course of the New Year, marking the first time that Twitter has displayed content in a non-chronological order.

Twitter hopes that the feature will help it attract new users and position the service as a ‘go-to’ place for news and content discovery.

Gmail stuck behind Great Firewall of China


Gmail users in China found themselves blocked from the service for four days this week, with access to POP and IMAP servers cut.

Google withdrew from China in 2009 in protest at the country’s online censorship laws, although Gmail users could still access the service through third party applications, such as Microsoft Outlook.

However, Gmail traffic fell to almost zero on Boxing Day while an editorial piece in the Global Times, published by the state-run People’s Daily, claimed that Google was welcome in China “on the prerequisite that it obeys Chinese law”.

According to Google’s transparency report, traffic appears to be slowly growing, suggesting that access to the service is being restored.

Facebook apologies for ‘year in review’ features

Facebook takes on Google

Facebook has issued an apology after a number of users complained about some of the images used to create the personalised reviews of 2014.

Facebook created the automated feature, which pieced together images, posts and likes from users’ Facebook account to create a summary of 2014.

However, users complained after some of the compilations were distressing as they featured reminders of personal tragedies. In one case, Facebook featured images of a father’s six year-old daughter, who died earlier in the year.

Facebook has apologised for the feature, committing to think more carefully about such ideas in the future.

US internet gambling campaign stalls

online gambling

A campaign to allow online gambling across the US has hit the buffers, following a campaign backed by casino owners.

Online gambling is illegal in all but three states in the US, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, although campaign groups have been fighting for restrictions to be lifted on online betting, poker and casino gaming.

The campaign is being led by the American Gaming Association and is backed by Caesars and MGM Resorts. However, the campaign stalled after another AGA board member, casino mogul and chairman of Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson, withdrew his support for online gambling.

The 1961 Wire Act prohibited wagering via electronic transmissions but this was amended in 2011, allowing individual states to set their own online betting schemes. New Jersey is the biggest online gambling market, although revenues have not been as strong as first forecast.

Sony offers compensation to PlayStation Network users


Fresh from the hacking controversy regarding The Interview, Sony has offered compensation to PlayStation Network users following the Christmas Day attack on its systems.

Both PlayStation Network and XBOX Live were victims of a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack on Christmas Day, as new console owners tried to use their systems for the first time. XBOX Live was restored on Boxing Day, whilst Sony’s network remained down until December 28.

The attack was particular embarrassing for Sony, coming just weeks after the hack on its servers amid the controversy of the newly released movie, The Interview.

Sony has since offered free extensions to all PlayStation Plus subscribers or free trial holders, as well as a 10% discount on PlayStation Store purchases.