Kim Dotcom puts MegaChat secure Skype rival into beta

Kim Dotcom’s Mega has launched a public beta of its MegaChat end-to-end encrypted audio and video chat service, which it claims will offer a more secure alternative to Skype.

The in-browser service forms part of the wider Mega web app (now on a new .nz domain), which also offers encrypted file storage and sharing. The technical details are currently hard to come by – I can only guess that it’s WebRTC-based, as it doesn’t require a plugin.

According to scoundrelpreneur/wannabe-politician Dotcom, vanilla audio and video chat is just the start:

Mega has previously had poor ratings from security experts for its cloud storage encryption, but the New Zealand–based operation is offering a security bounty for anyone who finds flaws in its new services. That’s not the same as opening up the code for audit, of course – one reason to be somewhat skeptical about Dotcom’s claims.

Skype is certainly not a good choice for the security-minded: it’s not peer-to-peer anymore, and the Snowden documents suggested that the NSA has had access to Skype communications since 2011. [company]Microsoft[/company] has denied giving intelligence agencies “blanket access” to its services.

Security aside, in-browser video calls are set to become ubiquitous with the proliferation of WebRTC-based tools (Skype itself is heading in this direction, though its browser-based beta currently requires a plugin). Mozilla’s Firefox browser now even comes with a built-in Skype rival called Firefox Hello, which allows for Skype-style accounts and ad-hoc anonymous chats, too.

New Zealand fund invests $60M into biofuel startup LanzaTech

The New Zealand government’s $27 billion fund set up to cover future pension payments has invested $60 million into startup LanzaTech, which uses microbes to turn industrial waste gas into biofuels and chemicals. LanzaTech was founded in 2005 in New Zealand, but now has headquarters in the U.S. in Illinois, and plans to have its first commercial plant in operation in 2016.

The $60 million from The New Zealand Superannuation Fund is an extension of the Series D round that was announced earlier this year (and we covered here), bringing the Series D round to $112.6 million. In total LanzaTech has raised $160 million to date. The New Zealand fund has also backed other later stage energy startups like fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, and says it has a return of 9.9 percent.

LanzaTech demo plant at BaoSteel Steel Mill.

LanzaTech demo plant at BaoSteel Steel Mill.

Other investors in LanzaTech include Khosla Ventures, Mitsui, Siemens, CICC Growth Capital Fund I, Qiming Venture Partners, K1W1 and the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund. Khosla Ventures, which funded the company early on and has a large portfolio of biofuel and biochemical startups, is LanzaTech’s largest shareholder.

LanzaTech’s secret sauce is that it’s developed genetically modified microbes that eat waste gases — like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide — that are produced in industrial processes, like steel manufacturing and oil refining. The microbes digest the gases and can produce various biofuels, like ethanol, or biochemicals, which can then be sold or used.

LanzaTech demo plant with WBT in Taiwan.

LanzaTech demo plant with WBT in Taiwan.

LanzaTech has been working with Chinese steel manufacturers Baosteel and Capital Steel and Chinese coal producer Yankuang Group to commercialize its technology. In China, LanzaTech’s partners have been willing to fund these initial plants, which has helped keep Lanzatech’s capital costs relatively low.

If the technology works as advertised at scale, the company’s technology could be a powerful tool to help clean up toxic gases that are spewed out at power plants and factories. The byproducts of the cleaning is the renewable fuels and chemicals, which can help cover the costs of installing the LanzaTech technology.

Netflix will launch in Australia and New Zealand next March

Netflix is going to launch in Australia and New Zealand in March of 2015, the company announced Tuesday. The launch will bring the number of countries Netflix is available in to over 50, and the announcement is not unexpected: Netflix CFO David Wells said earlier this month that the company plans a “sizeable expansion” for 2015, and Netflix has reportedly been preparing to enter Australia by hiring local agencies for a launch campaign.

Kim Dotcom announces the launch of his Internet Party in New Zealand

No matter what you think of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, you have to admit that he has a talent to rally the masses — and now, Dotcom wants to take that  talent to the next level. Dotcom took to Twitter Tuesday to say that he is going to launch a political party simply called the Internet Party next week at his birthday party in Auckland, New Zealand, to which he has invited some 15,000 guests. Details about the program and candidates of the party are still scarce, but Dotcom has said that it wants to oppose government spying and advocate for better internet access. It sounds a bit like the Pirate Party, except that it’s run by someone who’s actually been accused of being a pirate.

Judge steps down over U.S. ‘enemy’ comment in Megaupload case

The surreal global saga pitting the entertainment industry against a technology cult hero has taken a new twist. The judge presiding over the extradition of Kim Dotcom, founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, has stepped down over a controversial comment about US copyright law.

LanzaTech raises $56M, targets Asia with biofuel tech

Asia, with its rapidly growing number of car owners and large pollution problems, could very well be the biggest market for biofuels and green chemicals one day. LanzaTech, which announced Monday it has raised $55.8 million, is certainly finding more willing customers and partners Asia.