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Updated: 6 min 53 sec ago

36 Years Ago Today, Steve Jobs Unveiled the First Macintosh

2 hours 46 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MacRumors: On January 24, 1984, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh at Apple's annual shareholder's meeting in Cupertino, California, debuting the new computer equipped with a 9-inch black and white display, an 8MHz Motorola 68000 processor, 128KB of RAM, a 3.5-inch floppy drive, and a price tag of $2,495. The now iconic machine weighed in at a whopping 17 pounds and was advertised as offering a word processing program, a graphics package, and a mouse. At the time it was introduced, the Macintosh was seen as Apple's last chance to overcome IBM's domination of the personal computer market and remain a major player in the personal computer industry. Despite the high price at the time, which was equivalent to around $6,000 today, the Macintosh sold well, with Apple hitting 70,000 units sold by May 1984. The now iconic "1984" Super Bowl ad that Apple invested in and debuted days before the Macintosh was unveiled may have helped bolster sales.

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GE Fridges Won't Dispense Ice Or Water Unless Your Water Filter 'Authenticates' Via RFID Chip

4 hours 51 min ago
JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Count GE in on the "screw your customers" bandwagon. Twitter user @ShaneMorris tweeted: "My fridge has an RFID chip in the water filter, which means the generic water filter I ordered for $19 doesn't work. My fridge will literally not dispense ice, or water. I have to pay General Electric $55 for a water filter from them." Fortunately, there appears to be a way to hack them to work: How to Hack RWPFE Water Filters for Your GE Fridge. Hacks aside, count me out from ever buying another GE product if it includes anti-customer "features" like these. "The difference between RWPF and RPWFE is that the RPWFE has a freaking RFID chip on it," writes Jack Busch from groovyPost. "The fridge reads the RFID chip off your filter, and if your filter is either older than 6 months or not a genuine GE RPWFE filter, it's all 'I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't dispense any water for you right now.' Now, to be fair, GE does give you a bypass cartridge that lets you get unfiltered water for free (you didn't throw that thing away, did you?). But come on..." Jack proceeds to explain how you can pop off the filter bypass and "try taping the thing directly into your fridge where it would normally meet up when the filter is install." If you're able to get it in just the right spot, "you're set for life," says Jack. Alternatively, "you can tape it onto the front of an expired RPWFE GE water filter, install it backward, and then keep using it (again, not recommended for too much longer than six months). Or, you can tape it to the corresponding spot on a generic filter and reinstall it."

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Free Software Foundation Suggests Microsoft 'Upcycles' Windows 7 As Open Source

5 hours 14 min ago
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is urging Microsoft to open source Windows 7, which is no longer supported by the company. The Register reports: On the face of it, the logic seems pretty simple. On January 14, Windows 7 reached its end of life as Microsoft turned off the free security update taps with a final fix. "Its life doesn't have to end," cried the foundation. "We call on Microsoft to upcycle it instead." Unfortunately, the FSF couldn't resist a final dig, saying the killing of the OS had brought to an end "its updates as well as its 10 years of poisoning education, invading privacy, and threatening user security." There is a precedent. Ancient MS-DOS and Word code has been opened up, and the Calculator app found in the current Windows 10 now lurks on GitHub. But an entire, relatively recent OS? We can see some problems, not least the licensed components lurking in Windows 7 that would need to be either excised or open-sourced as well. Then there are the bits and pieces that the company would consider valuable secrets (large chunks of Windows 7 linger on in Windows 10 after all.) And then there is the fact that Windows 7 is not actually unsupported. Three more years of updates are available for those who can pay. And with Windows (as well those parts of it licensed to third parties) still accounting for a sizeable chunk of Microsoft's revenues, we can imagine a very functional and highly compatible free version is not really in the company's best fiscal interests. You can read the FSF's "Upcycle Windows 7" petition here.

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Support Grows For Unionizing Video Game Industry, Survey Finds

5 hours 31 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hollywood Reporter: Ahead of the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) -- which is dedicated to the art and science of making video games and set to take place March 16-20 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco -- the results of the organization's eighth annual State of Industry report were released Friday. Surveying nearly 4,000 video game developers with the intent of highlighting industry trends and forecasts for the future of gaming, this year's report indicates an increasing interest in the games industry to unionize. This was also a major topic of conversation in 2019, amid reports of gaming professionals working extended overtime hours and tolerating poor working conditions. Among the survey participants, 54 percent said that game industry workers should unionize (a 7 percent increase from last year), 21 percent answered "maybe" and 9 percent said they weren't sure. When the same group was asked whether they thought game industry workers would unionize, only 23 percent said "yes," while 43 percent said "maybe."

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Apple TV Plus Reportedly Has More Subscribers Than Disney Plus

5 hours 54 min ago
If a report from The Wall Street Journal is correct, Apple's TV Plus service that launched late last year has 10 million more subscribers than Disney Plus, which launched at a similar time but with access to almost every TV show and movie Disney owns the rights to. For comparison, Apple TV Plus launched with only 11 titles. Fast Company reports: According to the Wall Street Journal, an Ampere Analysis study found that Apple's fledgling Apple TV Plus service garnered an astounding 33.6 million subscribers in the U.S. in Q4 2019. That puts it as the third-most-popular streaming service in America. Here are the top five streaming video services according to the report: 1.) Netflix -- 61.3 million U.S. subscribers; 2.) Amazon Prime Video -- 42.2 million U.S. subscribers; 3.) Apple TV Plus -- 33.6 million U.S. subscribers; 4.) Hulu -- 31.8 million U.S. subscribers; 5.) Disney Plus -- 23.2 million U.S. subscribers. To be sure, Apple TV Plus is the video streaming service with the lowest monthly cost at just $4.99, but with only 11 series or movies available at launch in Q4 2019, how on earth did it leapfrog Disney Plus with its catalog of Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar offerings (not to mention Baby Yoda)? The answer probably lies in the fact that Apple began giving away free subscriptions to its Apple TV Plus service to anyone who bought an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV from mid-September onwards. Given that Apple sells tens of millions of those devices a month, it's no wonder Apple TV Plus has accumulated so many subscribers already. However, the real test for Apple will be how many of those subscribers stay on once their year-long free subscription of Apple TV Plus comes to an end.

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YouTube Moderators Are Being Forced To Sign PTSD Forms

6 hours 14 min ago
According to The Verge, content moderators for YouTube are being ordered to sign a document acknowledging that performing the job can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From the report: "I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing," reads the document, which is titled "Acknowledgement" and was distributed to employees using DocuSign. "It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I will take full advantage of the weCare program and seek additional mental health services if needed. I will tell my supervisor/or my HR People Adviser if I believe that the work is negatively affecting my mental health." The PTSD statement comes at the end of the two-page acknowledgment form, and it is surrounded by a thick black border to signify its importance. It may be the most explicit acknowledgment yet from a content moderation company that the job now being done by tens of thousands of people around the world can come with severe mental health consequences. "The wellbeing of our people is a top priority," an Accenture spokeswoman said in an email. "We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do -- and of the industry-leading wellness program and comprehensive support services we provide."

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'There's Nothing Wrong With My No-Email Policy'

Fri, 2020-01-24 23:20
Julian Lewis MP responds to criticism over his refusal to use email for constituency correspondence, and says letters, phone calls and surgery appointments are "perfectly adequate." He writes: There is nothing "mysterious" about the fact that I do not use email for constituency correspondence: it is openly stated on the homepage of my -- very extensive -- website, and has been remarked upon in the press from time to time previously. Nor am I in the least "uncontactable," as Bridget Craig (Letters, January 23) knows perfectly well, having corresponded with me by letter without difficulty. Letters, phone calls, and, where appropriate, surgery appointments are perfectly adequate for people who genuinely need my help, as the many letters of thanks quoted on my website fully confirm. Only mass, manipulative campaigners and obsessive individuals find this a problem -- and so they should! Much of the organized abuse which has caused many MPs to "burn out" and withdraw from public life results from their opening up themselves and their long-suffering staff to interactive online communications by email and social media. Indeed several have confided that they wish they had adopted my unshakable policy right at the outset.

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EPA Reasoning For Gutting Fuel-Economy Rule Doesn't Hold Up, Senator Finds

Fri, 2020-01-24 22:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Trump administration has for several years been working to weaken federal vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. To justify these changes, regulatory agencies argued that more stringent standards would both cost consumers more and reduce road safety. A draft version of the new final rule, however, seems to directly contradict those lines of reasoning. The draft of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule has not been released publicly, but Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) has seen it. In a letter (PDF) to the White House, Carper says not only is the rule "replete with numerous questionable legal, procedural, and technical assertions," as well as "apparent typographical and other errors," but it also completely fails to provide the safety or economic benefits initially claimed. "Remarkably, the costs of the Trump administration's draft final rule exceed its benefits to Americans" relative to the current standards. The senator writes: "While the draft final rule finds that the per vehicle purchase price would be reduced relative to the Obama rules by $977 (EPA greenhouse gas standards)/$1,083 (DOT's fuel economy standards), the draft final rule also projects that the increased gasoline consumers would have to use to operate the less fuel-efficient vehicles would ad $1,461 (EPA greenhouse gas standards)/$1,423 (DOT fuel economy standards) to these costs. Adding hundreds of dollars to the cost of each vehicle would seem to be the opposite of the more "affordable" vehicles the SAFE rule promised." Further, Carper notes, the estimate of lives potentially saved over a nearly 50-year time period by upgrading to new cars does not take into account the lives potentially lost to illness and disease attributable to increased pollution from less efficient cars. And of course, Carper notes, lower fuel-economy standards that result in consumers buying and using more gas, means burning more fossil fuels at a time when we should be doing the opposite. "My office's review of the draft final rule indicates that it utterly fails to provide any demonstrable safety, environmental, or economic benefit to consumers or the country," Carper concludes. "It should be abandoned. At a minimum, I seek your commitment that you will not allow the finalization of this extreme and unlawful environmental rollback in any form that even remotely resembles" the current draft.

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Spot the Robot Dog Trots Into the Big, Bad World

Fri, 2020-01-24 22:04
Boston Dynamics' creation is starting to sniff out its role in the workforce: as a helpful canine that still sometimes needs you to hold its paw. From a report: This autumn, after years of dropping view-amassing videos of Spot the robot dog fending off stick-wielding humans and opening doors for its pals, Boston Dynamics finally announced that the machine was hitting the market -- for a select few early adopters, at least. BD's people would be the first to tell you that they don't fully know what the hypnotically agile robot will be best at. Things like patrolling job sites, sure. But Spot is so different than robots that have come before it that company execs are, in part, relying on customers to demonstrate how the machine might actually be useful. After a few months on the job, Spot is beginning to show how it'll fit in the workforce. BD's researchers have kept close tabs on the 75 or so Spots now working at places like construction companies and mining outfits. (Oh, and one's with MythBuster Adam Savage for the next year.) They're seeing hints of a new kind of cooperation between humans and machines, and even machines and other machines. Starting today, you can even customize Spot to your liking -- the software development kit is now publicly available on GitHub. The robot is not included, though.

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New York State Wants To Ban Government Agencies From Paying Ransomware Demands

Fri, 2020-01-24 21:25
Two New York state senators proposed two bills last week to ban local municipalities and other government entities from using taxpayer money for paying ransomware demands. From a report: The first bill (S7246) was proposed by Republican NY Senator Phil Boyle on January 14. The second bill (S7289) was introduced by Democrat NY Senator David Carlucci, two days later, on January 16. Both bills are under discussion in committee, and is unclear which will move forward to a vote on the Senate floor. Both S7246 and S7289 have similar texts. The only difference between the two is that S7246 also proposes the creation of a state fund to help local municipalities improve their cyber-security posture. "The Cyber Security Enhancement Fund that will make available grants and financial assistance to villages, towns, and cities with a population of one million or less for the purpose of upgrading the cyber security of their local government," the text of the S746 bill reads.

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China's Battle With the Wuhan Coronavirus is Shackled by a Toxic Relationship With Information

Fri, 2020-01-24 20:55
An anonymous reader shares a report: People are panicking. When a new disease is discovered, it's undeniably hard to identify and inform the public about it quickly. Yet China is making the problem harder to solve, even though it should have learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when the government admitted to underreporting cases in the initial stages. Nearly 800 people died in that epidemic, which saw desperate people emptying shops for Chinese herbal medicines and vinegar that would turn out to be ineffective. That frenzy was driven by the lack of accurate information and rumors because of a vacuum in top-down communication. The idea of wei wen, or maintaining stability in China's political system made "conceal as many as possible and keep it at the local level" a natural immediate response to a crisis like this. That approach to information might work on other kinds of issues, but not when it comes to a potential epidemic. Trying to control information in that case becomes a kind of shackle in the face of something that can progress and change swiftly beyond one's control. Of course, there is one thing that's different than 17 years ago: WeChat. A tool connecting more than a billion users in China should be one the government can use to help keep the public up-to-date, and to debunk false information. Yet it too has become a hotbed for both rumors and information suppression amid China's broader regime of online censorship honed over the past decade. Already, a focus of social media discussion about the current virus crisis has been on how hard it's been to get correct information, and whether officials were slow to respond in the early stages, at least in Wuhan. While some international public health experts have commended China's information sharing as superior to 2003 in the face of a quickly evolving situation, others have expressed doubt that the country is being as transparent as it should be.

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Tetris Returns To Android and iOS After EA's Version Shuts Down

Fri, 2020-01-24 20:15
Just days after EA announced that its mobile Tetris games will shut down on April 21st, new Tetris developer N3twork released an officially licensed version of the popular puzzle game for both Android and iOS. From a report: The new N3twork app isn't the 100-player Tetris Royale app that the developer is also working on; rather, it's an extremely basic mobile Tetris game. "We're launching Tetris with a traditional solo gameplay mode, but we want fans to know that we've got so much more in store for them, and this is just the foundation of an incredible Tetris app experience we're building at N3twork," commented CEO Neil Young. Unlike EA's old app, there's a single mode (for classic Tetris) and a handful of alternative skins. There are also ads, although a single-time $4.99 purchase will remove those. It's not exactly a groundbreaking iteration of the series, but if you just want to play some Tetris on your commute, it'll get the job done.

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Air-Traffic Control Is in the Midst of a Major Change

Fri, 2020-01-24 19:35
Shift from radar to GPS should make tracking faster and more accurate, allowing more planes in the air. From a report: Since World War II, air-traffic controllers have used radar to keep track of aircraft. But as of Jan. 1, most planes and helicopters flying in the U.S. must be equipped with transponders that allow their movements to be traced with GPS coordinates. The deadline caused a flurry of upgrades last year as operators who hadn't yet complied with the mandate rushed to equip their aircraft in time. Now, more than 100,000 commercial and general aviation aircraft have the transponders, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, including nearly all commercial aircraft and an estimated 60% of general aviation aircraft that need it. "If you're flying an antique plane in the middle of Ohio, you don't have to have it," said John Zimmerman, vice president of Sporty's Pilot Shop, an Ohio retailer and flight school. The U.S. controls 29.4 million square miles of airspace, including all of the U.S., large portions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. The FAA mandate primarily applies to Class A airspace, which is 18,000 feet or more above sea level; Class B airspace, the areas surrounding the nation's busiest airports; Class C airspace, the areas around smaller regional airports; and above 10,000 feet in Class E, the most common airspace. LaGuardia Airport in New York is Class B. Richmond International Airport in Virginia is Class C.

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Google Backtracks on Design That Made Search Ads Look Like Normal Results

Fri, 2020-01-24 18:53
Google's latest design change to its search results received blowback from some who said it blurred the lines between search ads and regular search results. On Friday, Google responded, saying it will be experimenting with different designs, some that will not include the icons that make ads look similar to those organic search results. From a report: As part of a recent redesign to desktop search results, the company made paid links look more like the unpaid search results users see. The word "Ad" in bold text appears next to the advertisements, which typically appear as the first few results in a search and are therefore more likely to be clicked on and generate ad revenue for Google.

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FICO Changes Could Lower Your Credit Score

Fri, 2020-01-24 18:11
Credit-scoring company Fair Isaac is making changes that will create a bigger gap between consumers deemed to be good and bad credit risks [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report: Changes in how the most widely used credit score in the U.S. is calculated will likely make it harder for many Americans to get loans. Fair Isaac, creator of FICO scores, will soon start scoring consumers with rising debt levels and those who fall behind on loan payments more harshly. It will also flag certain consumers who sign up for personal loans, a category of unsecured debt that has surged in recent years. The changes will create a bigger gap between consumers deemed to be good and bad credit risks, the company says. Consumers with already-high FICO scores of about 680 or higher who continue to manage loans well will likely get a higher score than under previous FICO versions. Those with already-low scores below 600 who continue to miss payments or accumulate other black marks will experience bigger score declines than under previous models. Millions of consumers could see their scores rise or fall as a result of the changes, the company said. The changes are an about-face from recent years, when FICO and credit-reporting companies made changes that helped increase scores for some consumers, such as removing some negative information, including civil judgments, from credit reports. Credit scoring and reporting companies also recently started factoring in such information as bank account balances and utilities payments to help give consumers with limited credit histories a better shot at getting loans. Those recent moves can help revenue-hungry lenders identify more creditworthy consumers and make it easier for them to be approved for loans. Average FICO scores have been rising steadily following some of these changes and an improving economy.

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Does Your Domain Have a Registry Lock?

Fri, 2020-01-24 17:31
Brian Krebs: If you're running a business online, few things can be as disruptive or destructive to your brand as someone stealing your company's domain name and doing whatever they wish with it. Even so, most major Web site owners aren't taking full advantage of the security tools available to protect their domains from being hijacked. Here's the story of one recent victim who was doing almost everything possible to avoid such a situation and still had a key domain stolen by scammers.

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Lenovo Issues Firmware Update for ThinkPad Laptops Made Between 2017 and 2019 To Fix Various USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 Connection Issues

Fri, 2020-01-24 16:58
couchslug writes: Potential hardware damage alert. As reported by Notebookcheck and later posted to a Lenovo support page, the USB-C firmware issue affects more than a dozen ThinkPad models including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen to 7th Gen), X1 Yoga (2nd Gen to 4th Gen), and P-series ThinkPads. It turns out that a firmware update issued in August 2019 corrupted the software controlling the port. " couchslug adds: Anyone with more information on this expensive problem please post. It's already taken out many system boards. The problem affects enough models that class action suit may be appropriate because failures due to the defect have occurred outside the warranty window. Users on Reddit suggest the situation is even worse. The "critical firmware update" is only a mitigation for the hardware failure -- keeping the machine going until the warranty expires." CNET adds: If your laptop is one of the models affected, Lenovo recommends to immediately update your system with new driver and firmware packages that are designed to resolve any USB-C problem. If the updates don't work out, Lenovo urges ThinkPad owners to reach out to Technical Support.

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Pentagon Blocks Clampdown on Huawei Sales

Fri, 2020-01-24 16:18
The Commerce Department's efforts to tighten the noose on Huawei Technologies Co. is facing a formidable obstacle: the Pentagon. From a report:Commerce officials have withdrawn proposed regulations making it harder for U.S. companies to sell to Huawei [the link may be paywalled] from their overseas facilities following objections from the Defense Department as well as the Treasury Department, people familiar with the matter told WSJ. The Pentagon is concerned that if U.S. companies can't continue to ship to Huawei, they will lose a key source of revenue -- depriving them of money for research and development needed to maintain a technological edge, the people said. The Treasury Department wanted to make sure that Secretary Steven Mnuchin had a chance to weigh in, said one of the people. Cabinet officials are expected to meet on Huawei and other China issues in the coming weeks. The splits within the Trump administration on how to deal with Huawei show the difficulty of confronting China on technology without harming U.S. companies.

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Who's Afraid of the IRS? Not Facebook.

Fri, 2020-01-24 15:20
Speaking of tax evasions, Kiel, in a separate story at ProPublica this week: In March 2008, as Facebook was speeding toward 100 million users and emerging as the next big tech company, it announced an important hire. Sheryl Sandberg was leaving Google to become Facebook's chief operating officer. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, then 23 years old, told The New York Times that Sandberg would take the young company "to the next level." Based on her time at Google, Sandberg soon decided that one area where Facebook was behind its peers was in its tax dodging. "My experience is that by not having a European center and running everything through the US, it is very costly in terms of taxes," she wrote other executives in an April 2008 email, which hasn't been previously reported. Facebook's head of tax agreed, replying that the company needed to find "a low taxed jurisdiction to park profits." Later that year, Facebook named Dublin as its international headquarters, just as Google had done when Sandberg was there. And just like Google, Facebook concocted an intra-company deal to "park profits" in Ireland, where it would pay a tax rate near zero. Like its Big Tech peers, Facebook wasn't much afraid of the IRS. But, as it happened, the same year that Facebook started moving profits to Ireland, the IRS launched a team to crack down on deals like that. The effort started aggressively. As we recently reported, the IRS threw everything it had at Microsoft in the largest audit in the agency's history. But shortly after the IRS showed this new ambition, Republicans in Congress, after taking the House in 2010, began forcing cuts to the IRS' budget. Over the years, as Facebook grew into one of the world's largest companies, with 2 billion users, the IRS was shrinking. By the time the IRS finally took on Facebook over its Irish deal a few years later, the agency was in over its head. ProPublica pieced together the story of the Facebook audit from court documents filed by the two sides in their yearslong battle. The picture revealed by the documents provides a crucial window into the IRS' struggles to check large corporations' tax schemes.

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Wikipedia Now Has More Than 6 Million Articles in English

Fri, 2020-01-24 14:40
Wikipedia has surpassed a notable milestone this week: The English version of the world's largest online encyclopedia now has more than six million articles. From a report: The feat, which comes roughly 19 years after the website was founded, is a testament of "what humans can do together," said Ryan Merkley, chief of staff at Wikimedia, the nonprofit organization that operates the omnipresent online encyclopedia. The 6 millionth article is about Maria Elise Turner Lauder, a 19th-century Canadian school teacher, travel writer and fiction writer. The article was written by Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, a longtime editor of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is available in dozens of languages, but its English-language version has the most number of articles. The English edition is also the most visited project on the website. According to publicly disclosed figures, the English version of the website averages about 255 million pageviews a day. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, Wikipedia overall is the eighth most visited website.

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