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Introduction of Snaptcha – search volume indicates downfall of Facebook – Bitcoin use rises in London

Snap-tcha created to fool bots

Following a series of hacks, social media site Snapchat has introduced its own captcha, the "Snap-tcha", in order to distinguish robots from humans.

The photo-sharing app has been heavily criticised after hacks exposed loopholes in the app, resulting in hackers being able to access phone numbers via the "find friends" database.

A high school student from Dallas, Texas discovered several flaws in the app's security, of which he claims he attempted to inform the Snapchat team. Student Graham Smith eventually exploited his ability to access Snapchat's database, where he was able to discover the phone numbers of each company cofounder allowing him to text Bobby Murphy, chief technology officer at Snapchat.

By January 17, the Snapchat team had updated their algorithm which required users to input their phone number before they were able to access Find Friends. Its latest security setting, the Snap-tcha asks users to identify which of the nine images presented to them contains the Snapchat ghost. However, one hacker, Steven Hickson, has already identified a method to bypass the captcha implying that this is only a temporary measure.

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Decline in Google searches indicates end of Facebook

Researchers at an Ivy League university predict that Facebook users will have all but disappeared by 2017.

According to a team at Princeton University, users of the social network will have decreased by 80 per cent over the next three years; the startling figure is based on Facebook's search volume in Google. The charts produced using the Google Trends service indicate that searches for Facebook were at an all time peak in December 2012, but have steadily declined since.

However, as the research is based on search volume, it does not take into account the number of users who have switched from dominant desktop use of the social network, to an app on their smart device. In October, Facebook reported the site currently had nearly 1.2bn monthly active users, 870m of whom access the site via their smartphones.

David Emerson, Facebook's chief financial officer stated on the issue: "We did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens."

The social network's share price reached record highs in January, with Facebook now valued at $142bn (£85.48bn).

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London embracing Bitcoin

Bitcoin has increased in popularity in certain areas of London as more businesses accept the virtual currency as legal tender.

Following the closure of the online black market forum, Silk Road in November last year, Bitcoin's value has rocketed.

For the first time, London's Spitalfields market has become a trading exchange for Bitcoins, while other areas of the Capital such as Shoreditch and Hackney, have begun to accept the currency as legal tender. Bitcoin trading has already been restricted in certain jurisdictions including China and India, though it has yet to be regulated in the UK.

On January 22 2014 University of Cumbria became the world's first public university to accept Bitcoin as payment for tuition fees on certain courses. In an interview with the BBC, Professor Jem Bendell of the University of Cumbria said:

"Bitcoin and other so called crypto-graphic currencies have really taken off in the last 12 months, and so we need to include it in our analysis of what we call complementary currencies; which also includes local currencies, time banks or local pounds like the Bristol pound.

"We've seen more and more people get involved because they are annoyed at the banking system, they're annoyed at the lack of reform and so rather than just complaining we're seeing almost a protest vote."

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