This week’s News of Note from the Silicon Valley – Dec 12, 2014

News – Instagram overtakes Twitter

Instagram’s active users grew 50 percent in the last nine months to a total of 300 million monthly users—higher than Twitter’s 284 million. Those numbers reflect the increasing importance of visual posts in social networking.

Instagram also announced that it will begin verifying celebrity and brand accounts. With the ads they now offer as well, the platform’s commitment to brands and advertisers is clear.

Newest – Distracted from writing?

Wasted another day on Facebook and YouTube when you should have been writing that paper? Introducing the Hemingwrite ($499). It’s basically an electronic typewriter for the modern era. The only thing you can do with it is write, but it syncs to the cloud automatically and at all times so you can work on documents in Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, SpiderOak, and Google Docs.

True, you can get a ChromeBook for less. But if you really need distraction-free writing time, the Hemingwrite is probably the best solution. If Kickstarter is any indication, the product could be a big success: It reached $230,000 of its $250,000 goal in the first 24 hours.

Next – Humans Need Not Apply

A company called Beam is selling telepresence robots that let you attend meetings without actually being there. It’s basically a glorified conference call system.

How do you buy one? At the company’s store in Palo Alto, California, the robots sell themselves. Well, the sales people are there on screens attached to the robots, but there’s no human staff on site in the flesh. Even the front door opens in the morning via the Internet. Definitely check out the video of customers interacting with the “salespeople”—it’s hilarious.