THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Google News is sometimes fake
Phony press releases abound on the search engine's news website. Plus: Microsoft abandons .Net.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - As a computer-generated news site, Google News doesn't have a sense of humor -- or much sense at all, bloggers have discovered. By posting made-up articles on I-Newswire, a free press-release posting service, pranksters have discovered an easy way to get just about anything in the news. It started when a blogger noticed that would-be presidential candidate Daniel Imperato was posting press releases announcing his opinion on events of the day and realized that I-Newswire would post just about anything. Then someone used it to falsely report that actor Will Ferrell had died in a "freak paragliding accident." (Bloggers soon confirmed that Ferrell was alive and working on a movie set.) Next, a teenager claimed he had been hired by Google (Research). After the fake news made the headlines on tech news website, the kid apologized. Despite the widely reported gaffes, Google News did not remove I-Newswire stories from the website until late Wednesday morning -- after this column reported the problem.

Microsoft abandoning .Net opens up its servers
The online retailer now wants to sell hard-drive space to startups. Plus: Cable companies try to silence VOIP. Read more.

Bill Gates launched .Net, a new way of programming Windows applications, to much fanfare in 2000. And when Microsoft (Research) started developing Windows Vista, a new operating system due out this year, company officials promised it would make heavy use of .Net. But British programmer Richard Grimes says Microsoft is pulling back on use of .Net in Vista. Grimes studied a prerelease version of Vista and found that it didn't use .Net much. Grimes' conclusion: Microsoft has lost confidence in .Net and no longer plans to use it to write its own software. One downside to the change in plans: The older programming tools that Microsoft programmers used to write Vista could result in an operating system that's more virus-prone than a version of Windows written with .Net, which has built-in security features.

Fox mystery startup buy revealed

Fox (Research) Interactive's Ross Levinsohn started a buzz that was heard around Silicon Valley when he announced last week at a conference that he'd bought one of the startups in attendance -- but wouldn't say which one. Now the San Jose Mercury News's SiliconBeat blog reports that Fox's mystery buy is NewRoo, a customizable news-search website. Reporter Matt Marshall's source says the purchase price was between $5 million and $10 million -- not a bad deal for a company with three employees that didn't raise any venture capital. Online-media blog says Yahoo (Research) was also in the running to buy NewRoo.

Theater owners propose cell-phone block

Apparently those movie-theater ads ridiculing obnoxious cell-phone users aren't doing the trick. In a bid to stop phones from ringing in the middle of a movie, John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, has proposed installing cell-phone signal jammers in theaters. One small problem: Federal Communications Commission rules currently prohibit jammers. There is precedent for such a move overseas, however: The French government authorized jammers in theaters two years ago.

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