Automattic Purchases .blog TLD for $19M

It’s now public that Automattic is the company behind Knock Knock Whois There LLC, the registry for the new .blog TLD. (And a great pun.) We wanted to stay stealth while in the bidding process and afterward in order not to draw too much attention, but nonetheless the cost of the .blog auction got up there (about $19M). I’m excited we won and think that it will be both an amazing business going forward and give lots of folks an opportunity to have a fantastic domain name in a new namespace and with an easy-to-say TLD. You can sign up to be first in line to reserve a domain here. If you have a trademark you can get in August, and then October for the “land rush.”

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Announcing Certbot: EFF’s Client for Let’s Encrypt

EFF is proud to introduce Certbot, a powerful tool to help websites encrypt their traffic. Certbot is the next iteration of the Let’s Encrypt Client; it obtains TLS/SSL certificates and can automatically configure HTTPS encryption on your server. It’s still in beta for now, but we plan to release Certbot 1.0 later this year.

As you may know, Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority, co-founded by EFF, Mozilla, and researchers from the University of Michigan. With the help from many others, Let’s Encrypt is now one of the world’s largest certificate authorities, used by millions of people around the world to enable HTTPS on their website.

Certbot communicates with the Let’s Encrypt CA through a protocol called ACME. While there are many ACME clients available to choose from, Certbot continues to be the most popular choice for organizations and developers that run their own webservers.

Back in April, we announced we would be transitioning the client to become an EFF project. The client will have a new name, to avoid confusion with the Let’s Encrypt CA and organization, and it will no longer be the official ACME client for use with Let’s Encrypt. But don’t panic! The software for the Let’s Encrypt client has always been primarily developed by EFF and open source contributors from around the world, and that’s not changing. But this does mean that the client will no longer be hosted by ISRG, the parent organization of the Let’s Encrypt CA.

Along with the rename, we’ve also launched a brand new website for Certbot, found at The site includes frequently asked questions as well as links to how you can learn more and help support the project, but by far the biggest feature of the website is an interactive instruction tool. To get the specific commands you need to get Certbot up and running, just input your operating system and webserver. No more searching through pages and pages of documentation or Google search results!

While a new name has the potential for creating technical issues, the Certbot team has worked hard to make this transition as seamless as possible. Packages installed from PyPI, letsencrypt-auto, and third party plugins should all continue to work and receive updates without modification. We expect OS packages to begin using the Certbot name in the next few weeks as well. On many systems, the current client packages will automatically transition to Certbot while continuing to support the letsencrypt command so you won’t have to edit any scripts you’re currently using.

Despite the rename and Certbot’s new home at EFF, the client will continue to work as it always has. It will still get certificates from Let’s Encrypt and automatically configure HTTPS on your webserver. With Let’s Encrypt issuing its three millionth certificate in the last week, Let’s Encrypt and Certbot have no plans of slowing down on their mission to help build a Web that is encrypted by default.

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EC2 Run Command Update – Manage & Share Commands and More

The EC2 Run Command allows you to manage your EC2 instances in a convenient, scalable fashion (see my blog post, New EC2 Run Command – Remote Instance Management at Scale, for more information).

Today we are making several enhancements to this feature:

Document Management and Sharing -You can now create custom command documents and share them with other AWS accounts or publicly with all AWS users.

Additional Predefined Commands – You can use some new predefined commands to simplify your administration of Windows instances.

Open Sourced Agent – The Linux version of the on-instance agent is now available in open source form on GitHub.

Document Management and Sharing
You can now manage and share the command documents that you execute via Run Command. This will allow you to add additional rigor to your administrative procedures by reducing variability and removing a source of errors. You can also take advantage of command documents that are created and shared by other AWS users.

This feature was designed to support several scenarios that our customers have shared with us. Some customers wanted to create documents in one account and then share them with other accounts that are part of the same organization.  Others wanted to package up common tasks and share them with the broader community. AWS partners wanted to share documents that would encapsulate common setup and administrative tasks specific to the offerings.

Here’s how you can see your documents, public documents, and documents that have been shared with you:

You can click on a document to learn more about what it does:

And to find out what parameters it accepts:

You can also examine the document before you run it (this is a highly recommended best practice, especially for documents that have been shared with you):

You can create a new command (I used a simplified version of the built-in AWS-RunShellScript command):

Finally, you can  share a document that you have uploaded and tested. You can share it publicly or with specific AWS accounts:

Read about Creating Your Own Command to learn more about this feature.

Additional Predefined Commands
Many AWS customers use Run Command to maintain and administer EC2 instances that are running Microsoft Windows. We have added four new commands designed to simplify and streamline some common operations:

AWS-ListWindowsInventory – Collect on-instance inventory information (operating system, installed applications, and installed updates). Results can be directed to an S3 bucket.

AWS-FindWindowsUpdates – List missing Windows updates.

AWS-InstallMissingWindowsUpdates – Install missing Windows updates.

AWS-InstallSpecificWindowsUpdates – Install a specific set of Windows updates, identified by Knowledge Base (KB) IDs.

Open Sourced Agent
The Linux version of the on-instance Simple Systems Manager (SSM) agent is now available on GitHub at .

You are welcome to submit pull requests for this code (see for more info).

Available Now
The features described above are available now and you can start using them today in the US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), US West (Northern California), Europe (Frankfurt), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and South America (Brazil) Regions.

To learn more, read Managing Amazon EC2 Instances Remotely (Windows)  and Managing Amazon EC2 Instances Remotely (Linux).


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Show HN: Deploy Docker Image to AWS Elastic Beanstalk

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# usage: ./ staging f0478bd7c2f584b41a49405c91a439ce9d944657
aws configure set default.region us-east-1
# Authenticate against our Docker registry
eval $(aws ecr get-login)
# Build and push the image
docker build -t $NAME:$VERSION .
docker push $$NAME:$VERSION
# Replace the with the real ID
# Replace the with the real name
sed -i= s//$NAME
# Replace the with the real version number
sed -i= s//$VERSION/
# Zip up the Dockerrun file (feel free to zip up an .ebextensions directory with it)
zip -r $ZIP
aws s3 cp $ZIP s3://$EB_BUCKET/$ZIP
# Create a new application version with the zipped up Dockerrun file
aws elasticbeanstalk create-application-version –application-name $NAME-application
–version-label $VERSION –source-bundle S3Bucket=$EB_BUCKET,S3Key=$ZIP
# Update the environment to use the new application version
aws elasticbeanstalk update-environment –environment-name $NAME
–version-label $VERSION
# Example Dockerfile
FROM hello-world
AWSEBDockerrunVersion: 1,
Image: {
Update: true
Ports: [
ContainerPort: 443

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Google Open-Sources SyntaxNet Natural-Language Understanding Library, Parsey McParseface Training Model

Google announced on Thursday that it is open sourcing its new language parsing model called SyntaxNet. It’s a piece of natural-language understanding software, Google says, that you can use automatically parse sentences, as part of its TensorFlow open source machine learning library. The company also announced that it is releasing something called Parsey McParseface (Google has a sense of humor), which is a pre-trained model for parsing English-language text. Nate Swanner of The Next Web, attempts to explain it: Combining machine learning and search techniques, Parsey McParseface is 94 percent accurate, according to Google. It also leans on SyntaxNet’s neural-network framework for analyzing the linguistic structure of a sentence or statement, which parses the functional role of each word in a sentence. If you’re confused, here’s the short version: Parsey and SyntaxNet are basically like five year old humans who are learning the nuances of language. In Google’s simple example above, ‘saw’ is the root word (verb) for the sentence, while ‘Alice’ and ‘Bob’ are subjects (nouns). Parsey’s scope can get a bit broader, too.

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Tech layoffs more than double in Bay Area

In yet another sign of a slowdown in the booming Bay Area economy, tech layoffs more than doubled in the first four months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Yahoo’s 279 workers let go this year contributed to the 3,135 tech jobs lost in the four-county region of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and San Francisco counties from January through April, as did the 50 workers axed at Toshiba America in Livermore and the 71 at Autodesk in San Francisco. In the first four months of last year, just 1,515 Bay Area tech workers were laid off, according to mandatory filings under California’s WARN Act. For that period in 2014, the region’s tech layoffs numbered 1,330.

The entrance of the Yahoo campus is relatively quiet after the company announced 2,000 layoffs at their Sunnyvale, Calif. headquarters on Wednesday, April

The entrance of the Yahoo campus is relatively quiet after the company announced 2,000 layoffs at their Sunnyvale, Calif. headquarters on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (Gary Reyes/ Staff/archives)
(Gary Reyes)

The jump comes amid a litany of other signs that the tech economy may be taking a breather: disappointing earning reports from stalwarts like Apple, an IPO market that has come to a near standstill, a volatile stock exchange and uncertainty in China.

“We’re seven years into this expansion, so at some point we’re going to have a downturn,” said Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner. “My general sense is the tide is beginning to go out. It doesn’t mean a recession is right around the corner.”

Filings under WARN show Santa Clara County took the brunt of the layoffs, with 2,515, while San Francisco had 280, San Mateo 198, and Alameda 142. Outside the four counties, in Contra Costa, the only tech layoffs recorded in WARN filings were in San Ramon, where AT&T cut 104 workers.

The number of layoffs in the tech sector is undoubtedly larger, because WARN notices do not include cuts by many smaller companies and startups. In addition, notices of layoffs of fewer than 50 people at larger companies aren’t required by the act.

While there may be a chill in the air, the tech economy is not in a deep freeze. The Bay Area continues to add workers, although the pace of hiring has slackened and could make landing the next job more difficult.

“As job growth slows and the cost of living remains as high as it is, that’s going to put many people in a difficult position,” Vitner said.

Vitner’s analysis of state employment data showed that Bay Area tech firms added only 800 jobs a month in the first quarter of 2016, after adding 1,600 monthly in 2015 and 1,700 monthly in 2014. “Employment in the tech sector has clearly decelerated over the past three months,” Vitner said.

While rising layoffs and sluggish hiring may recall previous downturns, the numbers today remain far better. In the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, the region bled jobs steadily from 2001 to 2004. In early 2008, pre-recession employment growth began slowing more than six months before the region began hemorrhaging jobs. After the 2008 recession, employment fell by up to 32,000 a month for nearly a year.

Today the Bay Area’s total employment of 3,353,600 as of the end of March still reflects job growth, with102,600 workers added from March 2015 through March 2016.

The Bay Area’s skyrocketing tech layoffs reflect a transformation in the sector, said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

“We are being increasingly driven by the growth of the large companies,” Levy said. “What you did not see on the list is layoffs from Apple or Google or Facebook or LinkedIn … which are all expanding. This is the era of the large companies.”

As 2016 progresses, smaller tech firms are caught up in a Darwinian brawl, Levy suggested. “Those who have not kept up with their industries’ trends are facing layoffs,” Levy said. “It’s an indication of churn in an increasingly competitive and volatile sector that’s doing well overall.”

Adding to the layoff total are mergers and acquisitions, Levy said. Global tech M&A rose to its highest level ever last year and this year broke year-to-date records by March, according to financial markets platform Dealogic. In May 2015, Singapore-based electronics and chip firm Avago announced the purchase of Irvine chipmaker Broadcom and in January filed with California to lay off 147 workers in Santa Clara, 33 in San Jose and 689 in Irvine.

Wells Fargo’s Vitner cited additional factors that are fueling job cuts and slowing employment growth in the region. Manufacturers in the tech sector aren’t selling as much to China amid that country’s economic troubles, Vitner said. And intensified competition among private companies for funding is leading many to focus on profitability. “In the past, it was all about growth,” he said.

Vitner noted that the WARN Act filings don’t capture jobs lost through attrition. “There is a lot of that,” Vitner said. “When businesses begin to clamp down on costs, one of the first things they do is say, ‘Let’s put in a hiring freeze.’ I feel pretty certain that if you had a pickup in layoffs, then hiring slowed ahead of that.”

More layoffs are ahead. Bay Area tech firms have filed notices for layoffs of more than 700 workers in coming months, including 109 at IBM in San Jose; 204 at Fremont electronics manufacturer Plexus; 71 at Western Digital in San Jose; and 59 at Lockheed Martin in San Jose. Santa Clara’s Intel announced last month it would cut 12,000 jobs globally, and filed notice less than a week later that 296 workers in Santa Clara will be let go effective May 31.

Contact Ethan Baron at 408-920-5011. Follow him at

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