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Facebook threatens to block news sharing in Australia as it lobbies against revenue share law

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Adtech giant and self-styled ‘free speech champion’, Facebook, has threatened to pull the plug on the public sharing of news content on Facebook and Instagram in Australia.

The aggressive threat is Facebook’s attempt to lobby against a government plan that will require it and Google to share revenue with regional news media to recompense publishers for distributing and monetizing professionally produced content on their platforms.

Consultation on a draft of the mandatory code — which Australia’s lawmakers say is intended to address “acute bargaining power imbalances” between local news businesses and the adtech duopoly — closed on August 28, with a final version expected imminently from Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and then due to be put before parliament.

Facebook’s threat thus looks timed to turn the heat up on lawmakers as they’re about to debate the details of the code. However dangling the prospect of blocking professionally produced news in an attempt to thwart a law change that’s not in its commercial interests will do nothing to reduce lawmakers’ concerns about the level of market power being wielded by tech giants.

Last month Google also warned that if Australia goes ahead with the plan then the quality of regional search results and YouTube recommendations will suffer — becoming “less relevant and helpful” if the law goes into effect.

Both platform giants are essentially saying that unless the bulk of professional reportage can be freely distributed on their platforms, leaving them free to monetize it via serving ads and through the acquisition of associated user data, then unverified user generated content will be left to fill the gap.

The clear implication is that lower grade content — and potentially democracy-denting disinformation — will be left to thrive. Or, in plainer language, the threat boils down to: Give us your journalism for free or watch your society pay the price as our platforms plug the information gap with any old clickbait.

“The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true. News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us. Still, we recognize that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we offer free tools and training to help media companies reach an audience many times larger than they have previously,” writes Facebook in the same blog post where it threatens — as a ‘last choice’ — to pull the plug on content it describes as playing “a vitally important role in society and democracy” because it doesn’t want to have to pay for it.

Facebook’s calculus is clearly elevating its own commercial interests above free speech. And indeed above democracy and society. Yet the tech giant’s go-to defence for not removing all sorts of toxic disinformation and/or hateful, abusive content — or indeed lying political ads — from circulating on its platform is a claim that it’s defending ‘free speech’. So this is a specially rank, two-faced kind of platform hypocrisy on display.

Last year the comic Sacha Baron Cohen slammed Facebook’s modus operandi as “ideological imperialism” — warning then that unaccountable Silicon Valley ‘robber barons’ are “acting like they’re above the reach of law”. Well, Australians are now getting a glimpse of what happens when the mask further slips.

The ACCC has responded to Facebook’s flex with a steely statement of its own, attributed to chair Rod Sims.

“Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived,” he writes. “The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.”

“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses,” he adds.

“As the ACCC and the Government work to finalise the draft legislation, we hope all parties will engage in constructive discussions.”

A similar battle is playing out in France over Google News, following a recent pan-EU law change which extended copyright to news snippets. France has been at the forefront of implementing the change in national law — and Google has responded by changing how it displays news media content in Google News in the country, switching to showing headlines and URLs only (so removing snippets).

However earlier this year France’s competition watchdog slapped down the tactic — saying Google’s unilateral withdrawal of snippets to deny payment to publishers is likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant market position, which it asserted “seriously and immediately damaged the press sector.”

Google’s share of the search market in Europe remains massively dominant — with the tech giant taking greater than 90% marketshare. (Something that underpins a number of regional antitrust enforcements against various aspects of its business.)

In Australia, Facebook’s position as a news distributor appears to be less strong, with the ACCC citing the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report which found that 39% of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49% use Facebook for news about COVID-19.

However information and disinformation do not distribute equally, with plenty of studies indicating a faster spread for fake news — which suggests Facebook’s platform power to distribute bullshit is far greater than its role in informing societies by spreading bona fide news. That in turn makes its threat to block genuine reportage an antisocial weaponization of its dominance of social media.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/01/facebook-threatens-to-block-news-sharing-in-australia-as-it-lobbies-against-revenue-share-law/

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China roundup: Meng Wanzhou’s release and Huawei’s future

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Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

On Friday, Huawei’s chief financial executive Meng Wanzhou was released from house arrest in Vancouver after reaching a breakthrough deal with the U.S. Justice Department. Chinese startups that announced major funding rounds this week include Momenta, a Daimler-backed autonomous driving startup, Nreal, an augmented reality company, and Hai Robotics, a warehouse robotics maker.

Landmark deal

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, entered an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in which she admitted to some wrongdoing while prosecutors deferred wire and bank fraud charges against her and could dismiss the indictment in 2022.

In 2018, Meng was arrested in Vancouver, Canada on suspicion she violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran. Over the years, her case has become an irritant in straining U.S.-China relations. Around the time Meng took off for Shenzhen, home to Huawei’s headquarters, on Friday, China released two Canadians who have been detained on spying charges. Beijing has repeatedly denied connections between the detention of the two Canadians and Meng’s arrest.

Through a remote court appearance via video on Friday, Meng pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud. However, she admitted to the basic facts underpinning the DOJ’s charges, which include “multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in an effort to preserve Huawei’s banking relationship with the financial institution.”

“Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies, admitted today that she failed to tell the truth about Huawei’s operations in Iran, and as a result, the financial institution continued to do business with Huawei in violation of U.S. law. Our prosecution team continues to prepare for trial against Huawei, and we look forward to proving our case against the company in court,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division in a release.

China’s news outlets have largely left out Meng’s confirmation of wrongdoings and internet users rushed to triumph the Huawei executive’s release after three years. Within hours, posts hashtagged #MengWanzhouReturningToMotherland have garnered over 1 billion views on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

“We look forward to seeing Meng Wanzhou returning home safely to be reunited with her family. Huawei will continue to defend itself against the allegations in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York,” the company said in a statement.

Ment said upon her release the past three years have been “a disruptive time” for her as “a mother, a wife and a company executive.” In a statement, she said support from China, both at the governmental and civil level, gave her faith and kept her going during the “dark moments.”

Meng’s return might boost employee morale at Huawei but the telecom equipment and smartphone giant continues to suffer from the aftershocks caused by U.S. sanctions. Huawei will see revenue from its smartphone business drop by at least $30-40 billion in 2021, its chairman Eric Xu said Friday. Once a global handset leader, Huawei has fallen out of the top ranks and been unseated by its Chinese rivals, with Xiaomi overtaking Apple as the second best-selling brand worldwide in Q2.

In 2019, Huawei lost access to critical chip components and software after the Trump Administration put it on an export blacklist. The firm has since stepped up efforts to make its own handset chips and operating system but these technologies have proven hard to come by in a short span of time.

Fundings

In other news, General Motors said it will pour $300 million into Chinese autonomous driving technology provider Momenta, which already counts Toyota, Chinese state-backed SAIC Motor and Mercedes-Benz AG among its investors.

Substantial funding has become necessary for competing in China’s autonomous driving race, and coalition with entrenched automakers are even more important as robotaxi upstarts begin testing their commercial viability by deploying advanced or autonomous driving solutions in trucks, buses and passenger cars.

Over the past year, we’ve seen Momenta’s rivals Pony.ai, WeRide, and Deeproute securing financings in the hundreds of million dollars.

Nreal, founded by Magic Leap veteran Xu Chi, said it has raised $100 million to expand overseas and develop new AR products. We covered its $15 million Series A round back in 2019 and the startup has reportedly reached a staggering $700 million valuation as of the current raise, according to CNBC. Nreal has been touting headsets that are more affordable and lightweight to its Western peers.

Lastly, Hai Robotics, a Shenzhen-based startup that makes case handling robots for warehouses, just raised $200 million. Industrial robots are in demand in China as the government calls for greater efficiency to deal with labor shortage in its manufacturing sector. As Huang He, an investor focused on industrial autoamtion, previously told me:

Youngsters these days would rather become food delivery riders than work in a factory. The work that robots replace is the low-skilled type, and those that still can’t be taken up by robots pay well and come with great benefits.

Nonetheless, he warned that the market might be overheated:

 There’s this bizarre phenomenon in China, where the most funded and valuable industrial robotic firms are generating less than 30 million yuan in annual revenue and not really heard of by real users in the industry.

In August, another warehouse robotics startup, Syrius, which is also based in the hardware haven of Shenzhen, announced it had raised over $20 million led by ByteDance.



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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/26/china-roundup-meng-wanzhous-release-and-huaweis-future/

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Facebook’s wearable glasses can succeed where Google Glass flopped

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Facebook recently announced its highly anticipated wearable sunglasses that can record video from a user’s perspective. Despite many of our legitimately squeamish reactions to this new product, one of Facebook’s decisions in this launch is likely to make it a success where Google Glass failed.

Taking a page from the business school curriculum, Facebook leveraged an effectual approach to its launch by partnering with Ray-Ban — a lesson all new product managers would do well to remember.

To best understand this, we need to first revisit Google Glass. It launched in 2011 as a prototype for only select users. Consistent with Google’s approach with beta launching at the time, these users paid $1,500 for their chance to play and test out what looked and felt like the future.

Despite being named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of the year, Google Glass was riddled with problems and very much an unfinished product. Many have commented previously on how one of the key failures of Google Glass was that it was a classic example of putting out new technology without a clear use case. What were people to do with Google Glass?

Another important aspect of the Google Glass launch was that the design of the product was done in-house and marketing was carried out by a somewhat unintentional public relations campaign led by co-founder Sergey Brin, seen wearing them everywhere from Silicon Valley to Fashion Week. Effectively, Google was surfing on the wave of its success and offering up a new toy that seemed to be inevitable — but had no clear use.

Fast forward to earlier this month. Facebook launched new wearable sunglasses that are immediately and often compared to Google Glass. The question on everyone’s mind (other than whether the person next to me will be recording me without my permission) is whether Facebook’s attempt will tank like Google Glass. However, the decision to partner with top sunglass maker Ray-Ban to utilize one of the most recognized brands, the Wayfarer glasses, as the actual wearable is likely to make Facebook’s version a success.

While Facebook is more than a decade from its entrepreneurial beginnings, like many large technology companies, it necessarily must explore at the edges of innovation in order to prevent the product or service from making its platforms outdated. This means that many of the product launches that Facebook considers require them to navigate not risky nor unknown situations — but unknowable ones. What’s the difference?

The issue that Facebook and many technology futurists face is what many refer to as Knightian uncertainty. In 1921, Frank Knight published research that emphasized an important difference between risk and uncertainty. For the Big Four technology companies, the risk is the management of revenue to ensure that the market share between Facebook’s ad revenue growth next year continues to outpace Google’s.

Both companies have a track record of revenue growth, so we can utilize some historical data to make fairly decent predictions about the future. The key here is that tools of prediction have strength and thus are leveraged in decision-making.

Now comparing that situation to whether Facebook’s glass will be successful is an entirely different situation. What historical records can we draw from? Will demand be similar to Apple Watch in its first year? Or will it be more like Zune, Microsoft’s attempt at competing with the iPod? The point is that the demand for this product is unknowable, and there is very little value to prediction in unknowable situations — which we can also refer to as Knightian uncertainty.

So why will Facebook be more successful? Because while Facebook is no longer a startup, it leveraged a key entrepreneurial method to improve its chances. Namely, it leveraged an effectual approach to its launch of the Facebook glass by partnering with Ray-Ban.

While Google tried to invent the design of its new glasses — using its imagination about what people wanted — Facebook leveraged a design that already has some certainties around it. When a company or entrepreneur is launching a new product or service, working collaboratively is a key way to gain control of outcomes when predictive tools fail. Effectuation is an entrepreneurial method that encourages entrepreneurs to leverage aspects that are in or can be in their control.

You do this by starting with who you are, what you know and who you know. Instead of trying to predict what people will like in a pair of glasses and instead of learning itself how to market those glasses, Facebook chose to leverage the know-how of the largest player in the market.

Facebook moved forward through the unknowable by finding someone it knew to help it navigate a key uncertainty of its new product. For that reason alone, it has a better chance of success.

Ultimately, new consumer product innovations are incredibly uncertain (not risky), and most will fail. That means that even with Ray-Ban’s partnership, it can easily flop on so many other parameters, but like a good entrepreneur, Facebook has upped its chances by leveraging a key entrepreneurial approach to its product launch — improving its chances of success.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/26/facebooks-wearable-glasses-can-succeed-where-google-glass-flopped/

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This Week in Apps: PayPal launches ‘super app,’ Twitter adds crypto tips, Apple won’t take Fortnite back

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Epic Games dares Apple to let Fortnite for iOS back in the App Store

Image Credits: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Following the judge’s ruling in the Epic-Apple antitrust lawsuit, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney asked Apple to reinstate Epic’s developer account. But as Epic said, it aims to appeal the court’s ruling, Apple informed the company that it won’t be reinstating Epic’s account until the appeals have been resolved. In effect, that means Fortnite may not return to iOS for years, if Epic is forced to wait for the appeal’s decision to be made final.

Sweeney made the request public by tweeting out a letter he sent to Apple making the request and the company’s response. The letter promises Apple that Fortnite would play by the rules — something that it didn’t do before, when it breached its contract with Apple by implementing its own payments to force the lawsuit. The letter also noted it had already disabled Epic payments server-side since it can’t update the app on users’ devices. And it said it paid Apple the $6 million in fees ordered by the court, which had been gained as a result of routing around Apple’s in-app purchases with its own system.

But what makes the letter interesting is that it’s not just Epic asking for re-entry. It’s daring Apple to follow the current court order.

The judge’s decision deemed Apple “not a monopoly,” which Apple then jubilantly celebrated, saying it’s something “we’ve known all along,” quoting the judge’s statement that Apple’s success was “not illegal.” However, the one part of the case where Epic won was where the judge declared Apple’s current in-app purchase (IAP) system anticompetitive. The court’s decision was that Apple would now have to accommodate developers by giving them the choice to include buttons or links to other places where users could pay for their in-app purchases outside the App Store, in addition to Apple’s IAP option.

Sweeney’s letter tells Apple Fortnite will play by the rules if Apple will. That is, if Apple follows the court’s guidelines to allow buttons and external links to other purchasing mechanisms, then Epic would resubmit the Fortnite app. In other words, Epic is ready to take advantage of the now legal option to route around Apple’s IAP system.

Apple, though, wasn’t having it. Apple’s legal team called Epic’s behavior in the past “duplicitous” when it breached its contract, and Apple saw no reason to reinstate the account until the court’s decision is made final. And of course, Sweeney tweeted that too, noting that appeals may take up to five years. (So bad news, Fortnite players.)

Apple’s decline may help to signal to other developers not to try to break its rules, but for Epic it sets the stage for the next battle — one where it’s not just daring Apple to let it back in based on the new terms, but one where it’s also daring Congress to act, too. After all, Epic’s position seems to be, if Apple can boot out a multibillion-dollar company that made amends for breaking rules it believed to be illegal, then what hope would smaller developers have to ever fight back against the tech giant? And once kicked out, there is no other path to iOS. This seems to try to position Apple as the monopolist that the court said it wasn’t — which is what the appeal is all about.

Apps to have a record Q3, with $34B in consumer spending 

Image Credits: App Annie

A new forecast from (the recently busted) App Annie indicates the third quarter will be another good one for the app economy. Consumers worldwide will spend $34 billion on apps and games in Q3, a 20% year-over-year increase in spending. The jump indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on consumer habits and behavior is having a lasting effect when it comes to how people are now using apps for entertainment, shopping, work and education. Consumer spending on iOS apps grew 15% year over year to $22 billion, and 15% year-over-year on Google Play, to reach around $12 billion. Most of this revenue is generated by gaming apps, which account for 66% of the spend across both app stores. In terms of non-gaming apps, iOS commands 76% of consumer spending

Downloads in Q3 will also grow by 10% year-over-year to reach a record high of 36 billion, driven by Google Play and particularly downloads in emerging markets like India and Brazil, and others.

Apple Updates & News

  • Apple released the public versions of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8. iOS 15 adds a number of new features, most notably Focus modes, which allow you to personalize your experience based on your current context (work, sleep, driving, etc.); a revamped (and sort of controversial) Safari update; improvements to Apple’s core apps; and more.
  • Apple also released to developers iOS 15.1, beta 1. The new beta adds SharePlay, the co-viewing feature for FaceTime, which did not make it in time for the public release of iOS 15. It also allows users to store their vaccination records in the Health app by taking a photo. (Or, if your health provider syncs your medical records, it may be in there already.)
  • But! New data from Mixpanel indicates users are taking longer to upgrade to iOS 15 compared with iOS 14 at launch. In its first two days, iOS 14 had been adopted by 14.5% of users, compared with 8.5% for iOS 15.
  • Apple rolled out StoreKit 2 and new in-app purchase capabilities. StoreKit 2 adds new Swift-based APIs that allow developers to determine product entitlements and eligibility for offers, get a user’s history of in-app purchases, find out the latest status of a subscription, provide a way to request refunds and manage subscriptions from within an app, and more. An App Store Server API is also in production for getting users’ IAP history and subscription status. App Store server notifications, which provide real-time updates on IAPs to enable developers to create customized experiences, are coming soon.
  • iOS 15 brings a major ASO update to the App Store. Now, the store will hide the screenshots for the apps you already have installed on your phone, which allows other apps and games to gain more visibility. This will be particularly important for those that appear in searches for major brands.

Android Updates & News

Image Credits: Google

  • Google’s Android Automotive OS will come to Honda vehicles in 2022. The integrated version of Android Auto is already available in select Ford, GM and Volvo vehicles.
  • Google booted a game and suspended a developer’s account for using sexually explicit ads to direct users to their app. The ads were causing outrage across social media, including Twitter and TikTok, due to the nature of the ads, which encouraged players to commit sexual assault.

E-commerce/Food Delivery

  • Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Go app. The app allowed shoppers to go checkout-free at Amazon’s high-tech convenience stores where cameras and shelf sensors track what you buy. The functionality provided by Amazon Go is now being integrated into Amazon’s main app, the company said.
  • Uber Eats added a new map feature that allows users to search for food nearby by typing in either words or an emoji. That is, you could type in an emoji of a hamburger 🍔, and the map would display the exact distance from your location. The company said the change was introduced because a majority of users would switch to other map apps to find nearby food. Users will also be able to see delivery and pickup options within Uber Eats and the Uber app itself.

Image Credits: Uber Eats

Fintech

  • PayPal launched its new “super app,” which combines a variety of fintech tools under the hood. The app offers direct deposit with the ability to get paid up to two days early, improved bill pay, a digital wallet, peer-to-peer payments, messaging, shopping tools ported over from its acquisition of Honey, crypto capabilities and a “high-yield” savings account (well, it’s 0.40% APY) powered by Synchrony Bank. Some of the features are arriving now, others in the weeks and months ahead. And the rollout itself is staggered so you might not see the update right away, either.

Image Credits: PayPal

  • Following the threat of an SEC lawsuit, Coinbase canceled its planned launch of a “Lend” product which would have allowed users to lend their crypto holdings back to the exchange for the promise of earning interest rates that are much higher than traditional savings accounts offer. This sort of functionality is already offered by other platforms, like Gemini, which is why Coinbase was proceeding toward a launch before the SEC’s intervention.
  • Robinhood has begun quietly testing a new crypto wallet feature and cryptocurrency transfer features in a beta version of its app.
  • European fintech app Revolut launched commission-free stock trading in the U.S. to compete with Robinhood and others.
  • Square’s payment processing app glitched last weekend, which caused its automatic tipping screen to disappear for hours. The bug hurt restaurant workers, baristas and small business owners who lost out on what would have otherwise been hundreds of thousands in tips.
  • China banned crypto. The country’s central bank said all cryptocurrency-related activities are now prohibited and overseas exchanges providing services in China are now illegal.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Twitter continued to accelerate its product releases with this week’s introduction of even more features, including those in the crypto space. The company added support for Bitcoin tipping in its recently launched “Tip Jar” feature, which allows users to receive one-time payments through third-party services. Now, users will be able to add a Bitcoin Lightning wallet (via Strike’s API) or their Bitcoin address to accept crypto tips. Twitter also plans to support NFT authentication so creators could connect their crypto wallets to Twitter to showcase their NFTs. And Twitter said it’s planning to roll out recording to Spaces, launch a creator fund and other safety features, among other things.
  • Tumblr launched its subscription service Post+ into open beta in the U.S. The product has been controversial, as users worried about how it could impact the site’s culture. Some users were concerned it gave the appearance of something akin to Twitter’s verified badge, offering an elevated status. Tumblr has since responded to user feedback by removing the blue Post+ badge that appeared next to the names of users who enabled the feature.

Image Credits: Tumblr

  • Facebook’s stock tumbled after the company announced Apple’s privacy changes would have a bigger impact in Q3 and noted it had been underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%. The latter had greatly panicked advertisers into thinking Apple’s ATT changes were even worse than feared. Investors didn’t respond well to the admission of the forecast, however, and the stock dropped several points after the announcement was made.
  • Pinterest partnered with Albertsons to make recipe pins shoppable. The grocery chain is looking to drive recipe hunters from pins to checkout.

Photos

  • Apple said it would add a new setting to its iPhone 13 that would allow users to turn off automatic camera switching to the macro camera when users get too close to their subject. There was already a setting that would disable the switching for video recording, which indicated that Apple knew that some people would prefer manual control over the switching.

Messaging

  • Telegram added a host of new features, including interactive emoji that display full-screen when tapped, new chat themes and livestream recording in an effort to continue to better compete with Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage and other messaging apps. The latter new addition could be particularly useful for creators, as admins will be able to record video and audio directly from a livestream or video chat. The recorded sessions are then stored in the Saved Messages section.

Image Credits: Telegram

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Apple’s Podcasts app in iOS 15 added personalized recommendations to its “Listen Now” tab, in an effort to improve podcast discovery. Sections titled “If you Like [Show Name]” will suggest other sows that listeners like you are engaging with, while other recommendations will be based on topics you like. A new Shared with You section in Listen Now will display recommendations from friends and family.

Image Credits: Apple

  • TikTok celebrated the return of Broadway shows in New York with a slate of live programming produced by artists, Broadway partners and creators, including performances from Broadway casts; backstage tours showing off costumes, props and practice spaces; costume and makeup tutorials; and tips and tricks from theater professionals; and more.
  • Discord started testing YouTube integration just weeks after YouTube cracked down on popular Discord music bots. The feature, called Watch Together, lets Discord members watch YouTube videos (including music videos) together, either via a playlist or by pasting in YouTube links.
  • Clubhouse announced Wave, a new way to casually talk with friends on the app. The feature will replace starting private rooms with friends. After you “wave” at people who follow you, anyone who accepts will be able to join your private room as a speaker.
  • Clubhouse also hired Chelsea Macdonald as head of entertainment partnerships. She previously worked in similar roles at Community, Red Bull and Instagram.

Gaming

  • The Pokémon Company offered a sneak peek at the upcoming Pokémon Trading Card Game Live, which will be available on iOS, Android, PC and Mac devices. In addition to the classic card trading game, the new mobile game will also offer customization options and accessories for your trainer.
  • Outfit7’s newly launched My Talking Angela 2, a pet simulation game in its popular Talking Tom franchise, jumped to No. 1 by global downloads for its debut, while Genshin Impact reclaimed the No. 2 spot.
  • Pokémon Unite reached the No. 1 spot in game downloads in over 62 Countries on Day 1 (September 21st, 2021) of its release on the iOS App Store.

Health & Fitness

  • A report claims disgruntled Noom users said they felt misled by the diet app which had claimed to be an “anti-diet” lifestyle app, but whose plans were really just calorie restriction — like any other diet app. They were also frustrated by its expensive pricing and canned responses sent by burned-out diet coaches.
  • Apple’s Research app was updated with the option to transfer study progress data to other devices via iCloud backup.

Productivity

  • Google updated its suite of apps for iOS 15, adding support for new features like Focus Mode, Spotlight integrations and iPad widgets.

Government & Policy

  • TikTok parent company ByteDance added time limits for kids under 14 for the Chinese version of TikTok, called Douyin. Now, teens under 14 will be able to access Douyin only between the hours of 6 AM and 10 PM and will be limited to 40 minutes per day of usage. The changes follow a broader crackdown by the government on the tech industry, which includes reducing the time kids spend online, which it views as harmful.
  • An Indian antitrust probe determined Google abused its dominant position in the country to illegally hurt competitors by reducing device manufacturers’ ability and incentive to sell devices running their own version of Android. It also found that Google’s requirement to pre-install its own apps is in violation of India’s competition law.

Security & Privacy

  • Apple improved its Face ID security with iOS 15 to make it more difficult to spoof by using a 3D model for someone’s face.
  • Apple patched a new zero-day bug that was exploited in the wild by attackers to hack into iPhones and Macs running older versions of iOS and macOS. Successful exploitation of the bug leads to arbitrary code execution with kernel privileges on compromised devices. Meanwhile, a researcher has published a complaint that Apple has been non-responsive to their reports of other zero-days.
  • A report from The Washington Post dug into the shady ways apps were tracking users in the post-IDFA era. For instance, the game Subway Surfers was shown to be sending specific data points to Chartboost, which could then potentially use the data to uniquely identify your iPhone, a technique known as fingerprinting. This continues even if the user has asked the app not to track them.

Image Credits: Lightricks

💰 Facetune maker Lightricks raised $130 million in Series D funding, which included $100 million in primary and $30 million in secondary funding, and values the company at $1.8 billion. The new round was co-led by New York-based VC firm Insight Partners and Hanaco Venture Capital and will be put toward further product growth across its line of editing and creativity apps, as well as acquisitions.

💰 Digital bookkeeping app FloBiz raised $31 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital India, Think Investments and its existing investors Elevation Capital and Beenext. The app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and has a heavier presence in regions like Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

💰 London-based grocery delivery app Jiffy raised $28 million in Series A funding led by family-owned investment company Heartland. The app has over 20,000 customers across six London-area delivery zones and promises fresh groceries in 15 minutes.

📈 Seattle fintech Remitly, available on web and mobile, priced its IPO at $43 per share, above the expected range of $38 to $42, valuing the business at $6.9 billion.

💰 Pakistan fintech TAG raised $12 million in funding from investors, including New York-based Liberty City Ventures and Canaan Partners, valuing the company at $100 million. Pakistan is the third-largest unbanked market with 100 million users without a bank account, which is driving demand for digital banking services.

💰 Livestream shopping app NTWRK raised $50 million from Goldman Sachs and luxury group Kering. NTWRK had previously raised a $10 million Series A, according to Crunchbase data.

Lounge (iOS, Mac, web)

Image Credits: Lounge

Lounge launched a remote work app into open beta which creates a more social environment for smaller, fully remote teams. The app introduces the concept of virtualized “desks” showing the time of day for that individual. It also offers “rooms” that can be organized by the company’s org chart or projects, or the rooms can be virtual representations of physical spaces — like a meeting room for gatherings or company cafeteria, where employees could hang out virtually. Desks and rooms can be locked and made private or they can be unlocked and open. Lounge also adopts features from consumer social apps like photo-sharing and drop-in audio for virtual “desk visits,” and displays employee’s participation in company-wide events, like steps or meditation challenges. Lounge is entering a public beta, which means you’ll have to request access for entry. (Read the details on TechCrunch)

Pokémon Unite (iOS and Android)

Image Credits: The Pokémon Company

The strategic battle game that first arrived on Nintendo Switch this summer has now arrived on mobile. Pokémon Unite offers the same free-to-start multiplayer online battle arena game, with the same maps and monsters as on the Switch. It also introduces Unite Squads for teaming up Trainers, who can create either their own squads or search for existing ones. With the mobile launch, the game supports cross-platform play, allowing users to continue their Switch game on their smartphone, and to play along with others regardless of which device is being used. Both Android and iOS are supported. Following its debut, Pokémon Unite reached the No. 1 spot in game downloads in over 62 Countries on Day 1 (September 21st, 2021) of its release on the iOS App Store, App Annie found. (Read the details on TechCrunch)

Amplosion

Image Credits: Amplosion

With iOS 15, there are a number of new and improved Safari extensions now available. But one worth checking out is Amplosion, created by Christian Selig, also the developer of popular Reddit client app Apollo. The extension allows you to easily redirect from Google AMP pages to their normal, non-AMP counterparts. If, however, you prefer the AMP versions of some websites, you can add them to an in-app Allowlist. The extension will show you how many pages it’s blocked via an in-app counter and home screen widgets. There’s even an Easter egg in the form of a digital dog named Lord Waffles that lives in the app who has his own widget too. The extension is also fully open source for transparency. The app is a $2.99 download on the App Store.

We have to agree, this is waaaay better than “bug fixes:” 

Yes, it is:

Image Credits: David Barnard on Twitter (opens in a new window)

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/this-week-in-apps-paypal-launches-super-app-twitter-adds-crypto-tips-apple-wont-take-fortnite-back/

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Techcrunch

When the biggest Disruption is to just sit down and focus

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Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here. 

And just like that, TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 has come to an end. I’m exhausted, but it’s hard not to feel optimistic for the future after spending three days hearing vulnerable thoughts from some of the brightest minds in tech, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins to comic-turned-creator Alexis Gay.

If I had to distill a singular takeaway from the hours of programming, demo floor and Startup Battlefield, it would be this: Disruption needs direction. We’re in the middle of unprecedented times, and while that’s been good news for some entrepreneurs (and bad news for very many), focus may be what leads us out of it.

The theme kept popping up in the panels that I hosted or tuned into. For example, when I bugged BBG Ventures’ Nisha Dua about how to best spend first-check capital, she kept homing in on the need for entrepreneurs to invest their north star, aka the most defensible and innovative part of their business, over flashier alternatives. When I bugged Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn about where his now-public company is going next, he drew a line that stopped right before disrupting the college degree. And of course, when I asked Reid Hoffman about how early-stage founders can better attract capital, he outlined why it’s important to have an opinion and stick by it — controversy preferred. Even Nth Cycle, the runner up of TC Battlefield, wants to revolutionize metals processing by complementing existing processes, not ignoring them altogether.

It was refreshing to hear grounded yet inventive perspectives throughout the week. For those who missed it, we’ll be publishing recaps of all panels over the next week. Here are some of my favorite panels so far:

And of course, check out our podcast about TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield, where we go behind the scenes and talk about the finalists.

Thanks to all of you that came out to learn, listen and support. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into bootstrapping and a crypto crackdown that you should probably be paying attention to.

Bootstrapping 101

Young woman standing on top of tall green bar graph against white background

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Mailchimp’s sale sparked a conversation about bootstrapping, so my colleagues Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into what it means to skip capital and grow off of revenues (imagine!). In their latest collab, the duo explained what bootstrapping is like today — in a world of infinite APIs, well-trained techies and ample demand for better software services.

Here’s what to know: They argue that the money is reaching farther than it ever has in the past.

But startups that don’t need — or perhaps simply do not want — to raise expensive equity capital while scaling have more tools within arm’s reach than ever before. Revenue-based financing is now an established concept. Some companies are taking it even further. Pipe has built a marketplace where companies can sell revenue — or perhaps we should describe it as a marketplace where revenue can be traded. A more active market for the buying and selling of revenue should help with price discovery, perhaps resulting in more attractive prices for founders and a more liquid market for their future receipts; the more capital that founders can access by selling top line instead of shares, the more viable bootstrapping may prove.

Beyond this:

China’s latest crackdown

crypto

Image Credits: Robinhood

China’s central bank said that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal in the country and must be banned. The crackdown, within the world’s most populated nation, will limit internal, financial and payment companies from facilitating trading on their platforms, reports Manish Singh.

Here’s what to know, according to Singh: “Regulators in China have been weighing a ban on crypto mining for several years. But in recent quarters, several local firms have started to embrace crypto. Chinese app maker Meitu bought Bitcoin and Ether worth $40 million in March.” It’s unclear if this ban will be different from other tensions, or if the home of the largest crypto mining services will soon be chilled.

Crypto digest:

Around TC

Thanks to all who attended TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. It was heartwarming to see such an engaged, disruptive and genuinely fun audience come out to our virtual stage. In classic TC fashion, though, one event done, another one to go!

Next up we’re going to have TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS 2021. It’s our debut event that is laser focused on software as a vertical, and given how booming the subsector is, the timing couldn’t be better. Buy discounted passes to the event and check out the agenda for a sneak peek at some announced speakers.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

California makes zero-emission autonomous vehicles mandatory by 2030

Attack of the $200M robotic raises

Clubhouse announces Wave, making it easier to start casual private rooms

A rewards program for your rent payments? Meet Bilt

The iPhone 13 Pro goes to Disneyland

Freshworks, Toast go public and we have takes

Seen on Extra Crunch

Dear Sophie: What’s the difference between IEP and the latest proposed startup visa?

It turns out fintech is worth as much as SaaS

Indications of a hot market abound as Freshworks, Toast price IPOs

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/25/when-the-biggest-disruption-is-to-just-sit-down-and-focus/

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