Five questions–and answers–about Facebook Groups

Another week, another Facebook controversy — this time, over the site’s just-relaunched “Groups” feature, which lets you create instant private or public spaces for your friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, you name it, says Ben Patterson, technology writer for Yahoo! News. (Also read “Facebook ‘Groups’ could boost privacy, collaboration.”) By designating smaller circles of friends within your overall list of Facebook pals (which, for some online social butterflies, can easily run into the thousands), you can post updates, photos, videos, and URLs to your individual subsets without bothering everyone on Facebook with the minutiae of, say, your breakfast menu, or how quickly you crossed the finish line in your latest half-marathon.  But it didn’t take long for a controversy to flare up: namely, the fact that your Facebook friends can add you to any group they so choose–as long as they’re already members of said group–without your permission.
So, here are five questions–and answers–for how to weather the current Facebook Groups storm…

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The iPod Shuffle: Would you miss it?

It’s cute, it’s tiny, and it’s the cheapest iPod you can buy, Yahoo News reports. But if Apple were to squeeze the $59 iPod Shuffle out of its iPod lineup in favor of, say, a new (and smaller) iPod Nano, as one Wall Street analyst is suggesting … would you miss it? Apple’s annual (though not yet announced) music event is probably just a month away, and naturally we’re expecting a series of revisions to Apple’s iconic (if commercially stagnant, compared with skyrocketing iPhone and iPad sales) iPod line. Among the predicted unveilings: a revamped iPod Touch, plus various tweaks to the Nano, Shuffle and Classic players. There’s also a fair amount of buzz surrounding a leaked squarish touch display that’s just 1.7 inches across the diagonal (and you thought 3.5-inch touchscreens were small!), possibly signaling the arrival of a new little brother for the Touch…

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Android sales outpacing iPhone

For the first time ever, sales of Android handsets have outpaced those of the Apple iPhone, reports Yahoo News. According to Nielsen, Google Android phones now account for 27 percent of U.S. smart-phone sales among new phone buyers, eclipsing the 23 percent share held by the iPhone. The numbers cover a rolling six-month period and are reported quarterly. Android popularity reportedly has skyrocketed in the last year, from a mere 6 percent share in the fourth quarter of 2009 (when it was half of even Windows Mobile’s small market share) to 27 percent today. The iPhone slipped from 34 percent in that quarter to 23 percent. That said, the top spot remains—as it has been for over a year—occupied by Research in Motion and its BlackBerry, which holds a 33-percent share of smart-phone buys. As GigaOm notes, the phenomenal rise of Android—up 886 percent worldwide since a year ago—is a rare occurrence in the tech business, because the platform is now two years old and reaching a maturity level that should actually indicate a period of slowing growth…

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‘.xxx’ porn domain arrives

At long last and after heavy debate on both sides, the “.xxx” top-level domain has been formally and officially approved, reports Yahoo News. The idea is that the .xxx would replace the .com suffix for sites that register these domains–so you’d visit majorpornoperation.xxx instead of majorpornoperation . com. Existing .com domains would remain in place. Any adult reader of this column should understand what it is that .xxx is designed for: pornography. And while the Internet is positively crawling with porn–one statistic holds that a quarter of all Internet searches are for adult terms–the creation of a so-called online ghetto for pornography has been controversial…

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Kindle to expand beyond Amazon?

It’s a tricky little issue: What if you designed a piece of hardware and were also the only one who sold the software for it? Yahoo News reports that you’d basically have to work twice as hard at sales to get the job done. That’s the problem Amazon is now grappling with regarding the Kindle. While Amazon is a huge retailer (it just hit #100 on the Fortune 500), it’s still a dwarf compared with the big mainstream retail outfits like Walmart, and with no physical stores where people can actually try out the device, its clout is ultimately limited. To make the Kindle into a hit, Amazon’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do, promoting both the reader and the eBooks for it, both of which can only be purchased at one place. That may be about to change: Amazon may soon begin selling the Kindle through other retailers, particularly Target. (I’ve heard Best Buy mentioned in whispers as well.)…

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