Blog of the website «TechCrunch» Прогноз погоды

People

John Smith

John Smith, 49

Joined: 28 January 2014

Interests: No data

Jonnathan Coleman

Jonnathan Coleman, 32

Joined: 18 June 2014

About myself: You may say I'm a dreamer

Interests: Snowboarding, Cycling, Beer

Andrey II

Andrey II, 41

Joined: 08 January 2014

Interests: No data

David

David

Joined: 05 August 2014

Interests: No data

David Markham

David Markham, 65

Joined: 13 November 2014

Interests: No data

Michelle Li

Michelle Li, 41

Joined: 13 August 2014

Interests: No data

Max Almenas

Max Almenas, 53

Joined: 10 August 2014

Interests: No data

29Jan

29Jan, 32

Joined: 29 January 2014

Interests: No data

s82 s82

s82 s82, 26

Joined: 16 April 2014

Interests: No data

Wicca

Wicca, 37

Joined: 18 June 2014

Interests: No data

Phebe Paul

Phebe Paul, 27

Joined: 08 September 2014

Interests: No data

Артем Ступаков

Артем Ступаков, 93

Joined: 29 January 2014

About myself: Радуюсь жизни!

Interests: No data

sergei jkovlev

sergei jkovlev, 59

Joined: 03 November 2019

Interests: музыка, кино, автомобили

Алексей Гено

Алексей Гено, 8

Joined: 25 June 2015

About myself: Хай

Interests: Интерес1daasdfasf, http://apple.com

technetonlines

technetonlines

Joined: 24 January 2019

Interests: No data



Main article: Android

<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 148

Sundance: In Miss Americana, Taylor Swift demotes the Internet

20:06 | 26 January

In nearly a decade of attending Sundance, I’ve never seen a scene like the premiere of the documentary Miss Americana, detailing the last year and a half or so of Taylor Swift’s life. The crowd before letting into the theater was huge, blistering with rumors about whether or not there was so many guests and press that there wouldn’t be room for ticketed attendees and whispers about which door Swift would use when arriving.

A large crowd of hopeful waitlister fans, largely young women (not extremely common for Sundance) sang Swift songs in the 30 degree chill. When Swift did arrive, the cheers were off the charts for a normally relatively reserved crowd used to seeing celebrities.

All of this buildup, of course, served to underscore the major themes of Lana Wilson’s intimate and focused profile of Swift during a period of her life that typified a major shift in her attitude towards her public and private life.

If you’re like most people, your feelings about what kind of person Swift might be are decided by crowd-sourced panel of the top few percent of the most vocal Internet users. Among those, of course, are the media.

We’re far enough now into the Internet’s third age where it’s not represented as some sort of holistic and separate entity. Instead it’s woven like a tapestry into the daily life of Swift and her camp. Tweets, Instagram posts and articles on sites like this one are presented as a third conversant in any conversation, both between Swift and Wilson and between Swift and her family.

Basically, Swift is like most of us in that regard, we have all begun to treat the collective output of the internet as an entity with a right to wedge itself into any two beings attempts to reason.

But Miss Americana is not just about Taylor vs. The Internet, it’s also reflection on how that same panel lowers its gavel differently for women, especially young women, than it does men.

The closest parallel for me is probably Lady Gaga’s 2018 documentary Five Feet Two. There are similar segments that show the teardown of the modern pop song-making process.

Swift says that those were her most nerve wracking to film because of the messy way songs sometimes come together. But they were fascinating to me, and are some of the most fun bits. Swift and her collaborators often write and sing words right off of their iPhones (I saw no Android devices at all) as they work through a track. Songs that come to have intense meaning for fans are often snapshots of Swift’s life quickly jotted down in the notes app.

About that oddity, and pretty much every other way that the public perceives her, Swift proves to be firmly and calmly self-aware. She even acknowledges that this very awareness of how she is perceived often comes across as calculation or manipulation on her part.

While Swift gets all of this criticism powered by attention economy jet fuel, her self-awareness is not unique. I see it on TikTok and other young platforms, as teens and young people come to grips with and analyze how they are manipulated and judged by those very platforms. Swift may represent a sort of prime exemplar, but the attitude is generational, imo.

The Kids are just more capable of awareness of the systems at work on them than any previous generation.

The aforementioned Gaga doc, for me, worked very well when it showcased the real physical and psychological toll of a pop career. Miss Americana does this as well, even though Gaga has focused on her ability to challenge and provoke, while Swift has — as she herself admits in the doc — held onto the concept of being a ‘good girl’, liked by everyone as her guiding principle.

Swift’s realization of the completely impossible task of pleasing the networked apparatus of fickle outrage machines that pass as the deciding body of public opinion now is the core pivot point for the doc.

That’s typified by a scene where she is faced by a panel of people, all men, who are telling her all of the reasons taking a public political stance would be dangerous, costly to her brand and damaging to her financially. The impetus is Swift’s opposition to Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn’s re-election. Swift’s experience with her sexual assault trial and Blackburn’s opposition to the Violence Against Women Act are the tipping point that pushes her to take a public political stance for the first time. Provoking her team to have a conversation that takes the rough shape of an intervention.

There are sincere elements of concern for Swift — her father gets all of her death threats and arranges for security, she said after the screening. But the comments from her staff and team included by Wilson are telling — “what is the most effective way we could ensure that half as many people come to a Taylor Swift show?”

What you won’t find in this doc is some sort of lurking personal demon. Instead the demon is the way that internet culture reduces anyone with a modicum of fame to slivers of projected personality. And, by extension, becomes the most potent engine of self doubt ever invented.

By demoting the Internet to a tool vs. a deciding force in her well being, Swift is showing fans and viewers a healthier path forward.

The two major themes explored include Swift’s desire to please an ever-demanding audience, and the endemic separation between the way creative men and women are judged in the public sphere.

Both are addressed cleverly, if not in a wholly (and perhaps impossibly) satisfying way.

Wilson has executed the prime directive of a documentary film with Miss Americana. If you were of a slightly negative opinion of Swift going in, based on casual impressions generated for you by vocal minorities amplified via algorithm you will find yourself coming away with more empathy, understanding and likely respect for the Swift presented here. A portrait of a powerful woman in control coming to grips with the current costs of that command.

People on the other side of the love/hate coin are unlikely to be converted. But given that one of the through lines of the doc is Swift’s increasing ability to separate opinion from directive, it’s not likely that it will bother her — as much.

Image: Sundance

 


0

Opera and the firm short-selling its stock (alleging Africa fintech abuses) weigh in

09:12 | 23 January

Internet services company Opera has come under a short-sell assault based on allegations of predatory lending practices by its fintech products in Africa.

Hindenburg Research issued a report claiming (among other things) that Opera’s finance products in Nigeria and Kenya have run afoul of prudent consumer practices and Google Play Store rules for lending apps.

Hindenburg — which is based in NYC and managed by financial analyst Nate Anderson — went on to suggest Opera’s U.S. listed stock was grossly overvalued.

That’s a primer on the key info, though there are several additional shades of the who, why, and where of this story to break down, before getting to what Opera and Hindenburg had to say.

A good start is Opera’s ownership and scope. Founded in Norway, the company is an internet services provider, largely centered around its Opera browser.

Opera was acquired in 2016 for $600 million by a consortium of Chinese investors, led by current Opera CEO Yahui Zhou.

Two years later, Opera went public in an IPO on NASDAQ, where its shares currently trade.

Web Broswers Africa 2019 Opera

Though Opera’s web platform isn’t widely used in the U.S. — where it has less than 1% of the browser market — it has been number-one in Africa, and more recently a distant second to Chrome, according to StatCounter.

On the back of its browser popularity, Opera went on an African venture-spree in 2019, introducing a suite of products and startup verticals in Nigeria and Kenya, with intent to scale more broadly across the continent.

In Nigeria these include motorcycle ride-hail service ORide and delivery app OFood.

Central to these services are Opera’s fintech apps: OPay in Nigeria and OKash and Opesa in Kenya — which offer payment and lending options.

Fintech focused VC and startups have been at the center of a decade long tech-boom in several core economies in Africa, namely Kenya and Nigeria.

In 2019 Opera led a wave of Chinese VC in African fintech, including $170 million in two rounds to its OPay payments service in Nigeria.

Opera’s fintech products in Africa (as well as Opera’s Cashbean in India) are at the core of Hindenburg Research’s brief and short-sell position. 

The crux of the Hindenburg report is that due to the declining market-share of its browser business, Opera has pivoted to products generating revenue from predatory short-term loans in Africa and India at interest rates of 365 to 876%, so Hindenburg claims.

The firm’s reporting goes on to claim Opera’s payment products in Nigeria and Kenya are afoul of Google rules.

“Opera’s short-term loan business appears to be…in violation of the Google Play Store’s policies on short-term and misleading lending apps…we think this entire line of business is at risk of…being severely curtailed when Google notices and ultimately takes corrective action,” the report says.

Based on this, Hindenburg suggested Opera’s stock should trade at around $2.50, around a 70% discount to Opera’s $9 share-price before the report was released on January 16.

Hindenburg also disclosed the firm would short Opera.

Founder Nate Anderson confirmed to TechCrunch Hindenburg continues to hold short positions in Opera’s stock — which means the firm could benefit financially from declines in Opera’s share value. The company’s stock dropped some 18% the day the report was published.

On motivations for the brief, “Technology has catalyzed numerous positive changes in Africa, but we do not think this is one of them,” he said.

“This report identified issues relating to one company, but what we think will soon become apparent is that in the absence of effective local regulation, predatory lending is becoming pervasive across Africa and Asia…proliferated via mobile apps,” Anderson added.

While the bulk of Hindenburg’s critique was centered on Opera, Anderson also took aim at Google.

“Google has become the primary facilitator of these predatory lending apps by virtue of Android’s dominance in these markets. Ultimately, our hope is that Google steps up and addresses the bigger issue here,” he said.

TechCrunch has an open inquiry into Google on the matter. In the meantime, Opera’s apps in Nigeria and Kenya are still available on GooglePlay, according to Opera and a cursory browse of the site.

For its part, Opera issued a rebuttal to Hindenburg and offered some input to TechCrunch through a spokesperson.

In a company statement opera said, “We have carefully reviewed the report published by the short seller and the accusations it put forward, and our conclusion is very clear: the report contains unsubstantiated statements, numerous errors, and misleading conclusions regarding our business and events related to Opera.”

Opera added it had proper banking licenses in Kenyan or Nigeria. “We believe we are in compliance with all local regulations,” said a spokesperson.

TechCrunch asked Hindenburg’s Nate Anderson if the firm had contacted local regulators related to its allegations. “We reached out to the Kenyan DCI three times before publication and have not heard back,” he said.

As it pertains to Africa’s startup scene, there’ll be several things to follow surrounding the Opera, Hindenburg affair.

The first is how it may impact Opera’s business moves in Africa. The company is engaged in competition with other startups across payments, ride-hail, and several other verticals in Nigeria and Kenya. Being accused of predatory lending, depending on where things go (or don’t) with the Hindenburg allegations, could put a dent in brand-equity.

There’s also the open question of if/how Google and regulators in Kenya and Nigeria could respond. Contrary to some perceptions, fintech regulation isn’t non-existent in both countries, neither are regulators totally ineffective.

Kenya passed a new data-privacy law in November and Nigeria recently established guidelines for mobile-money banking licenses in the country, after a lengthy Central Bank review of best digital finance practices.

Nigerian regulators demonstrated they are no pushovers with foreign entities, when they slapped a $3.9 billion fine on MTN over a regulatory breach in 2015 and threatened to eject the South African mobile-operator from the country.

As for short-sellers in African tech, they are a relatively new thing, largely because there are so few startups that have gone on to IPO.

In 2019, Citron Research head and activist short-seller Andrew Left — notable for shorting Lyft and Tesla — took short positions in African e-commerce company Jumia, after dropping a report accusing the company of securities fraud. Jumia’s share-price plummeted over 50% and has only recently begun to recover.

As of Wednesday, there were signs Opera may be shaking off Hindenburg’s report — at least in the market — as the company’s shares had rebounded to $7.35.

 


0

Whatever happened to the Next Big Things?

17:00 | 22 December

In tech, this was the smartphone decade. In 2009, Symbian was still the dominant ‘smartphone’ OS, but 2010 saw the launch of the iPhone 4, the Samsung Galaxy S, and the Nexus One, and today Android and iOS boast four billion combined active devices. Smartphones and their apps are a mature market, now, not a disruptive new platform. So what’s next?

The question presupposes that something has to be next, that this is a law of nature. It’s easy to see why it might seem that way. Over the last thirty-plus years we’ve lived through three massive, overlapping, world-changing technology platform shifts: computers, the Internet, and smartphones. It seems inevitable that a fourth must be on the horizon.

There have certainly been no shortage of nominees over the last few years. AR/VR; blockchains; chatbots; the Internet of Things; drones; self-driving cars. (Yes, self-driving cars would be a platform, in that whole new sub-industries would erupt around them.) And yet one can’t help but notice that every single one of those has fallen far short of optimistic predictions. What is going on?

You may recall that the growth of PCs, the Internet, and smartphones did not ever look wobbly or faltering. Here’s a list of Internet users over time: from 16 million in 1995 to 147 million in 1998. Here’s a list of smartphone sales since 2009: Android went from sub-1-million units to over 80 million in just three years. That’s what a major platform shift looks like.

Let’s compare each of the above, shall we? I don’t think it’s an unfair comparison. Each has had champions arguing it will, in fact, be That Big, and even people with more measured expectations have predicted growth will at least follow the trajectory of smartphones or the Internet, albeit maybe to a lesser peak. But in fact…

AR/VR: Way back in 2015 I spoke to a very well known VC who confidently predicted a floor of 10 million devices per year well before the end of this decade. What did we get? 3.7M to 4.7M to 6M, 2017 through 2019, while Oculus keeps getting reorg’ed. A 27% annual growth rate is OK, sure, but a consistent 27% growth rate is more than a little worrying for an alleged next big thing; it’s a long, long way from “10xing in three years.” Many people also predicted that by the end of this decade Magic Leap would look like something other than an utter shambles. Welp. As for other AR/VR startups, their state is best described as “sorry.”

Blockchains: I mean, Bitcoin’s doing just fine, sure, and is easily the weirdest and most interesting thing to have happened to tech in the 2010s; but the entire rest of the space? I’m broadly a believer in cryptocurrencies, but if you were to have suggested in mid-2017 to a true believer that, by the end of 2019, enterprise blockchains would essentially be dead, decentralized app usage would still be measured in the low thousands, and no real new use cases would have arisen other than collateralized lending for a tiny coterie — I mean, they would have been outraged. And yet, here we are.

Chatbots: No, seriously, chatbots were celebrated as the platform of the future not so long ago. (Alexa, about which more in a bit, is not a chatbot.) “The world is about to be re-written, and bots are going to be a big part of the future” was an actual quote. Facebook M was the future. It no longer exists. Microsoft’s Tay was the future. It really no longer exists. It was replaced by Zo. Did you know that? I didn’t. Zo also no longer exists.

The Internet of Things: let’s look at a few recent headlines, shall we? “Why IoT Has Consistently Fallen Short of Predictions.” “Is IoT Dead?” “IoT: Yesterday’s Predictions vs. Today’s Reality.” Spoiler: that last one does not discuss about how reality has blown previous predictions out of the water. Rather, “The reality turned out to be far less rosy.”

Drones: now, a lot of really cool things are happening in the drone space, I’ll be the first to aver. But we’re a long way away from physical packet-switched networks. Amazon teased Prime Air delivery way back in 2015 and made its first drone delivery way back in 2016, which is also when it patented its blimp mother ship. People expected great things. People still expect great things. But I think it’s fair to say they expected … a bit more … by now.

Self-driving cars: We were promised so much more, and I’m not even talking about Elon Musk’s hyperbole. From 2016: “10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020.” “True self-driving cars will arrive in 5 years, says Ford“. We do technically have a few, running in a closed pilot project in Phoenix, courtesy of Waymo, but that’s not what Ford was talking about: “Self-driving Fords that have no steering wheels, brake or gas pedals will be in mass production within five years.” So, 18 months from now, then. 12 months left for that “10 million” prediction. You’ll forgive a certain skepticism on my part.

The above doesn’t mean we haven’t seen any successes, of course. A lot of new kinds of products have been interesting hits: AirPods, the Apple Watch, the Amazon Echo family. All three are more new interfaces than whole new major platforms, though; not so much a gold rush as a single vein of silver.

You may notice I left machine learning / AI off the list. This is in part because it definitely has seen real qualitative leaps, but a) there seems to be a general concern that we may have entered the flattening of an S-curve there, rather than continued hypergrowth, b) either way, it’s not a platform. Moreover, the wall that both drones and self-driving cars have hit is labelled General Purpose Autonomy … in other words, it is an AI wall. AI does many amazing things, but when people predicted 10M self-driving cars on the roads next year, it means they predicted AI would be good enough to drive them. In fact it’s getting there a lot slower than we expected.

Any one of these technologies could define the next decade. But another possibility, which we have to at least consider, is that none of them might. It is not an irrefutable law of nature that just as one major tech platform begins to mature another must inevitably start its rise. We may well see a lengthy gap before the next Next Big Thing. Then we may see two or three rise simultaneously. But if your avowed plan is that this time you’re totally going to get in on the ground floor — well, I’m here to warn you, you may have a long wait in store.

 


0

The Top Apps and Games of the 2010s

21:15 | 16 December

In addition to its new report on the top apps of 2019, app store intelligence firm App Annie also closed out the year with its Decade in Review analysis, which looks at the most popular apps over the past 10 years. Not surprisingly, Facebook dominated the charts, claiming four of the most-downloaded apps of the decade with Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Subway Surfers, meanwhile, became the most-downloaded game of the decade, thanks to strong adoption in India.

To be clear, the analysis excludes third-party app stores in China, instead relying on iOS and Google Play data to come up with the list of top apps. But this still provides a way of examining worldwide app trends, despite that exception.

Making a good case for its monopoly status, Facebook didn’t just operate four of the most-downloaded (non-game) apps of the past ten years — it runs the top four most-downloaded apps. In order, that’s Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

Right on Facebook’s heels is Snapchat as the No. 5 most-downloaded app of the 2010s — a big reason why Facebook was ready to spend billions earlier on in the decade to bring the app under its roof.

Communication and social media apps were also among the most popular over the past 10 years, claiming 7 out of the 10 top spots of the decade’s most-downloaded apps thanks to Skype at No. 6 and Twitter at No. 10.

In terms of consumer spending, video streaming and music apps ruled the charts (outside of games), with top apps including Netflix (No. 1), Pandora Music (No. 3), and Tencent Video (No. 4) also in the top 5.

And though dating app Tinder was the most profitable app this year, Netflix was the No. 1 app by all-time consumer spend over the past decade.

The rest of the list included No. 4 LINE, followed by iQIYI, Spotify, YouTube, HBO NOW, and Kwai.

On the gaming side, however, Subway Surfers by Kiloo was the somewhat surprising top game of the decade, in terms of downloads. It can attribute its No. 1 spot to the demand from Indian users, as the country accounted for over 15% of Subway Surfers’ all-time downloads across iOS and Google Play combined.

No one publisher dominated the charts, as a wide range of major gaming companies were represented.

Following Subway Surfers, the most-downloaded games of the decade included Candy Crush Saga from Activision Blizzard, Temple Run 2 from Imangi, My Talking Tom from Outfit7, Clash of Clans from Supercell, Pou from Zakeh, Hill Climb Racing from Fingersoft, Minion Rus from Vivendi, Fruit Ninja from Halfbrick, and 8 Ball Pool from Miniclip.

The top games by consumer spending were almost an entirely different list.

Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga were the only two games to appear on both the top games by downloads and consumer spend lists, App Annie found.

Instead, the top games by consumer spending were led Supercell’s Clash of Clans, followed by Monster Strike by mixi, then Candy Crush.

The rest of the list was rounded out by Puzzle & Dragons by GungHo Online Entertainment, Fate/Grand Order by Sony, Honour of Kings by Tencent, Fantasy Westward Journey by NetEase, Pokémon Go by Niantic, Game of War – Fire Age by MZ, and Clash Royale by Supercell.

Many of the decade’s most-downloaded and most profitable apps and games have also appeared on the top apps list at the end of every year, but some of the apps are growing in popularity while others are waning.

For example, the most profitable game of the decade, Clash of Clans, was ranked No. 8 as opposed No. 1 on 2019’s list of the most profitable games. HBO NOW had a big showing in the 2010s thanks to its hit series, “Game of Thrones,” but didn’t make this year’s list at all now that the show has wrapped. And though Facebook ruled the 2010s, there are now signs that consumers may be ready for something new as short-form video apps TikTok and Likee moved onto 2019’s most-downloaded app list, as No. 4 and No. 7, respectively.

 


0

The top mobile apps and games of 2019

20:25 | 16 December

Mobile consumers worldwide will have downloaded a record 120 billion apps from Apple’s App Store and Google Play by the end of 2019, according to App Annie’s year-end report on app trends. This represents a 5% increase from 2018 — a notable achievement given that the number doesn’t include re-installations or app updates. Consumer spending on apps, meanwhile, approached $90 billion in 2019 across both apps stores, up 15% from last year. The new report also examined the year’s biggest apps, including the most downloaded apps and games as well as the most profitable.

Worldwide, the most downloaded non-game apps remained relatively consistent in 2019, with only one new entry on the list of the most downloaded apps — a short-form video creation and sharing app called Likee, which is benefitting from the overall popularity of short-form video. Elsewhere on the chart, TikTok came in at No. 4, beating out Facebook-owned Instagram, plus Snapchat, Netflix and Spotify.

However, Facebook still owned the top of the charts. Its Messenger app was the most downloaded non-game app of 2019, followed by Facebook’s main app, then WhatsApp.

The top 10 games chart showed more volatility in 2019, as 7 out of the top 10 games were new to the chart this year. This included the hyper-casual title Fun Race 3D as well as the anticipated Call of Duty: Mobile, representing the battle royale genre.

While mobile gaming drives the majority of consumer spending on apps, the subscription economy in 2019 played a big role in increasing app revenues, as well.

Specifically, the non-game apps driving revenue growth this year included those in the Photo & Video and Entertainment categories — a trend App Annie predicts will continue in 2020, as new video services, like Disney+, continue to rise. 2020 will additionally see the launch of several other video services, including HBO Max, NBCU’s Peacock, and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi, which could aid in those increases.

Already, many of the top apps are subscription-based, App Annie had previously noted. During the 12 months ending in September 2019, over 95% of the top 100 non-gaming apps by consumer spend were offering subscriptions through in-app purchases. Publishers’ growing use of subscription services will continue in 2020 to drive consumer spending even higher, the firm says.

 

This year, Tinder switched places with Netflix for the No. 1 spot on this chart — last year, it was the other way around. HBO NOW, which saw a surge in spending thanks to “Game of Thrones” also fell out of the top chart this year, allowing LINE Manga to take its spot. Tencent Video and iQIYI have the same positions as 2018, while YouTube grew from No. 7 to No. 5, and Pandora slipped from No. 5 to No. 6, compared with last year.

App Annie also took a look at a new category of apps which it’s calling the “breakout” apps of the year. These are those that saw the largest absolute growth in downloads or consumer spending between 2018 and 2019. On this list, the No. 7 most-downloaded app of the year, Likee, from YY Inc., becomes the No. 1 “breakout” app of the year, followed by YY Inc.’s Noizz and Helo. Meanwhile, Indian users drove the adoption of social gaming app Hago at No. 4, which is also popular with Gen Z users in Indonesia.

Breakout apps by consumer spending included YouTube, iQIYI, DAZN, and Tencent Video — similar to the top 10 list.

On the gaming side, hyper-casual titles were successful, claiming 7 out of 10 slots on the breakout games of the year chart. Hot releases like Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty: Mobile also appeared. But by consumer spending, core games like No. 1 Game of Peace and No. 2 PUBG Mobile, both published by Tencent, made up the top spots.

 


0

China Roundup: GitHub’s China ambitions and WeWork rival’s big hopes

05:58 | 16 December

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. This week, we are looking at how WeWork’s largest rival in China — UCommune — is pulling ahead with its initial public offering and GitHub’s potential big move in China.

GitHub turns to China

The world’s largest source code repository host GitHub is mulling to open a Chinese subsidiary, the company’s CEO told the Financial Times recently. The plan comes at a time when the technological rift between China and the U.S. is deepening. The U.S.’s trade sanctions on Huawei, which includes limiting the company’s access to certain Android services, has stirred concerns of further “decoupling” between the two countries. Since then Huawei has stepped up efforts to cut its reliance on American suppliers and develop its own core chips and software operating system.

American tech companies are feeling a similar chill from the trade war. Opening a China office could potentially help GitHub hedge against trade war bans and alleviate the company’s risks in its second-largest market. The demand for a China backup plan appears to have grown after GitHub restricted accounts of users in Cuba, Iran and a few other countries to comply with U.S. sanctions, a decision that sparked an outcry from open-source developer communities around the world and worried Chinese users that the same could befall them.

On the other hand, developers in China and overseas worry that maintaining a China-based operation might subject GitHub’s local projects to Beijing censorship as the country requires foreign companies operating in China to store users’ data locally. Though GitHub has previously been blocked in China seemingly for sharing anti-censorship tools, the restriction was usually temporary. As of now, the site remains largely accessible in China, according to Greatfire.org, a website that monitors China’s online censorship. But the concerns are justified. LinkedIn and Bing, sharing the same parent company — Microsoft — with GitHub, have been roundly criticized for practicing censorship in China.

Big hopes and losses

China’s shared space provider UCommune is moving ahead of its rival WeWork as it filed with the U.S. securities exchange for an IPO this week. Like its American counterpart, UCommune — which rebranded from UrWork after a name dispute with WeWork — hasn’t yet found its way to profitability. The Beijing-based company posted a net loss of 573 million yuan ($80.13 million) for the first three quarters ended September 30, 2019, up from 271 million yuan a year earlier, shows its F1 filing.

UCommune founder Mao Daqing, a real estate veteran, has previously forecasted that China’s co-working industry would be valued close to 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) by 2030. The reality is a bit more dismal. WeWork is reportedly coping with high vacancy rates across major Chinese cities, although sources told TechCrunch that spaces could be easily filled up with one or two large corporate contracts per location.

Perhaps more notably, half of UCommune’s revenue is derived from so-called “marketing and branding services,” which include content design as well as online and offline advertising services it sells to customers. The marketing segment, curiously, is attributed to one single subsidiary, a digital marketing services provider it acquired in late 2018. UCommune warns in its prospectus that “the historical financial results of our marketing and branding services may not serve as an adequate basis for evaluating the future financial results of this segment” because revenue from the unit relies overwhelmingly on a small number of major enterprise clients.

Also worth your attention…

Despite Huawei’s push to build its own alternative operating system — HarmonyOS — the Chinese giant is sticking with Android for the foreseeable future. At a company event this week in Shenzhen, its home city, consumer software executive Wang Chenglu announced (in Chinese) that all of Huawei’s handsets, tablets and laptops will continue to carry Android-based OS in 2020. Meanwhile, Huawei’s other products, including a broad range of Internet of Things that make up a smaller chunk of its consumer revenue, will ship with HarmonyOS.

Kuaishou, the largest rival to TikTok in China has reached 100 million daily active users, the company announced (in Chinese) this week. Tencent-backed Kuaishou was one of China’s first short-video apps to have attracted a meaningful following, but it was quickly leapfrogged by a latecomer, ByteDance’s Douyin, which is TikTok’s brand in China.

Though similarly focused on bite-sized videos, the two apps differ fundamentally in the way they distribute content. Trending videos on Douyin tend to come from pedigreed influencers and professional creators; users are fed what Douyin’s complex algorithms determine as “quality” content. Kuaishou, in comparison, works to cultivate a sense of community as its users get exposed to a broader range of long-tail content — often from creators with insignificant followings.

That places Douyin closer to a form of “media” and Kuaishou closer to a “social network,” suggested (in Chinese) Liu Jianing, managing director of China’s top boutique investment bank China Renaissance, at a recent industry conference. For that reason, the two apps also monetize differently — while Douyin generates revenue mainly from ads, Kuaishou harnesses its social graphs to enable social commerce wherein shoppers leverage other users’ recommendations to make purchases.

 


0

Android’s ‘Focus Mode’ exits beta, adds new scheduling features

17:00 | 4 December

Google is expanding its suite of “Digital Wellbeing” tools for Android devices with a new feature, Focus Mode, launching today. This feature allows users to turn off distractions — like social media updates or email notifications — for a period of time, so you can get things done without interruption. Focus Mode was first announced at Google’s I/O developer conference this May, and has been in beta testing until now, Google says.

Unlike Do Not Disturb, which can mute sounds, stop vibrations and block visual disturbances, Focus Mode is only about silencing specific apps.

Within the Digital Wellbeing settings, users select which apps they find most distracting — like Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, games or anything else that tends to steal their attention. These apps can be paused temporarily, which stops those apps’ notifications. Plus, if you try to open the app, Focus Mode reminds you they’re paused.

During beta testing, Google said tester feedback led to the creation of a new enhancement for Focus Mode: the ability to set a schedule for your app breaks. This allows you to continually block app notifications for the days and times you choose — like your 9 AM to 5 PM working hours, for example.

There’s also a new option to take a break from Focus Mode, which allows you to use to use the blocked apps for a time, then return to Focus Mode without entirely disabling it to do so. In addition, if you finish your work or other tasks early one day, you can now turn off Focus Mode for that day without breaking its ongoing weekly schedule.

The Focus Mode feature is one of now many investments Google has made into its comprehensive Digital Wellbeing feature set, which was originally introduced at Google I/O 2018 but initially only on Pixel devices. Since then, Google has expanded access to Digital Wellbeing features and further integrated its features — including parent control app Family Link — into the Android OS.

It has also developed digital wellbeing apps outside of its core Digital Wellbeing product, with October’s launch of a handful of wellbeing experiments. This set of apps included a notification mailbox, unlock clock, and even an easy way to printout important information from your phone so you don’t have to keep checking your device throughout the day, among other things.

Elsewhere across Google’s product line it has developed settings and controls devoted to wellbeing, like YouTube’s reminders to “take a break,” automations for Gmail, downtime settings for Google Home, and more.

Google says the new version of Focus Mode exits beta testing today and is rolling out to all devices that support Digital Wellbeing and parental controls, including Android 9 and 10 phones.

 


0

Android’s Ambient Mode will soon come to ‘select devices’

21:00 | 26 November

You’ve probably heard murmurs about Google’s forthcoming Ambient Mode for Android . The company first announced this feature, which essentially turns an Android device into a smart display while it’s charging, in September. Now, in a Twitter post, Google confirmed that it will launch soon, starting with a number of select devices that run Android 8.0 or later.

At the time, Google said Ambient Mode was coming to the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 HD and Smart Tab tablets, as well as the Nokia 7.2 and 6.2 phones. According to the Verge, it’ll also come to Sony, Nokia, Transsion and Xiaomi phones, though Google’s own Pixels aren’t on the company’s list yet.

“The ultimate goal for proactive Assistant is to help you get things done faster, anticipate your needs and accomplish your tasks as quickly and as easily as possible,” said Google Assistant product manager Arvind Chandrababu in the announcement. “It’s fundamentally about moving from an app-based way of doing things to an intent-based way of doing things. Right now, users can do most things with their smartphones, but it requires quite a bit of mental bandwidth to figure out, hey, I need to accomplish this task, so let me backtrack and figure out all the steps that I need to do in order to get there.”

Those are pretty lofty goals. In practice, what this means, for now, is that you will be able to set an alarm with just a few taps from the ambient screen, see your upcoming appointments, turn off your connected lights and see a slideshow of your images in the background. I don’t think that any of those tasks really consumed a lot of mental bandwidth in the first place, but Google says it has more proactive experiences planned for the future.

 

 


0

This Week in Apps: TikTok security check, app store cleanups, GameClub takes on Apple Arcade

20:00 | 26 October

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support, and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry in 2018 saw 194 billion downloads and more than $100 billion in purchases. This past quarter, consumer spending exceeded $23 billion and installs topped 31 billion. And there’s no sign of the app economy slowing down.

But with app marketplaces growing this large and powerful, they’re also now coming under more scrutiny from government officials as this intersection between apps and politics can no longer be overlooked.

This week, U.S. Senators asked for a TikTok security check, Google hosted its Android Developer Summit, a whole bunch of malicious apps got booted off Google Play (and a few on the App Store, too.) Plus, a great alternative to Apple Arcade launched; it’s called GameClub and delivers some of the best App Store games for $5 per month.

Headlines

TikTok comes under more political pressure

The world’s most downloaded app, TikTok, continues to draw attention not for its fun skits and lip-synced songs, but for censorship issues and potential security risks. This week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter (PDF) to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, formally requesting that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-owned content platforms in the U.S.

GettyImages 1073256498 1

Their concerns revolved around the storage of U.S. TikTok user data (TikTok parent company ByteDance claims it’s in the U.S.), its data collection capabilities, censorship concerns, and the potential for the app to be a counterintelligence threat. As a Chinese-owned company, TikTok still has to adhere to Chinese law. That’s a potential problem. 

By the way, a press release circulated about the letter, which said the senators claimed TikTok was a “national security threat.” They actually did not write those words in the letter — and it’s a step beyond what they were claiming. The senators wanted a risk assessment performed.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. TikTok said it was “carefully reviewing” the letter. Good thing they just hired those lawyers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is now the top advisor to a business school called China’s Harvard

The issues around the App Store’s intersection with U.S. politics aren’t limited to TikTok.

Apple, already under scrutiny for removing a crowdsourced mapping app that showed police presence in Hong Kong, last week attracted a letter from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers who urged to have the app reinstated. 

Now (with a lack of concern over the optics apparently), Apple CEO Tim Cook has been appointed as chairman of Tsinghua University’s business school advisory board. The university is known as “China’s Harvard,” and is one of the most country’s most elite institutions; Chinese President Xi Jinping is a noted alumnus. The university has a history of relationships with Western leaders — last year, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Satya Nadella were listed as board members, and its previous chairman was American VC Jim Breyer.

But given the issues around Apple’s capitulation to China’s demands to censor its App Store in the region — not to mention the U.S.-China trade war, or how Apple had told Apple TV+ showrunners not to anger China — everyone pretty much agrees it was not the best timing for this news.

Unfortunately for Apple, it can’t abandon China now, as it’s grown too dependent on its business there. As Vox recently reported:

Unlike tech companies that haven’t broken into the country or only do minor business in it, Apple is now so deep in China that leaving it could be catastrophic. Even if the company was willing to forgo the $44 billion a year in sales it makes in China, it can’t leave the deep network of suppliers and assemblers that build hundreds of millions of iPhones every year.

Millions of malicious apps get booted from Google Play…and malicious apps spotted on the App Store, too

Malicious apps were found on both Google Play and the App Store this week. But these stories are not at all the same.

Security researchers found dozens of Android apps in the Google Play store serving ads to unsuspecting victims as part of a money-making scheme. The 42 apps containing adware had been downloaded more than 8 million times since they first launched in July 2018. The apps were also sending back data about the user’s device, TechCrunch reported — including if certain apps are installed and if the device allows apps from non-app store sources — which could be used to install more malicious software.

Sadly, this kind of thing happens a lot on Google Play.

What’s less common, however, is to find malware on the App Store — which happened this week, when 17 malicious apps were removed.

Screen Shot 2019 10 22 at 12.52.56 PM 1024x502

 


0

Google’s Play Store is giving an age-rating finger to Fleksy, a Gboard rival 🖕

14:11 | 23 October

Platform power is a helluva a drug. Do a search on Google’s Play store in Europe and you’ll find the company’s own Gboard app has an age rating of PEGI 3 — aka the pan-European game information labelling system which signifies content is suitable for all age groups.

PEGI 3 means it may still contain a little cartoon violence. Say, for example, an emoji fist or middle finger.

Now do a search on Play for the rival Fleksy keyboard app and you’ll find it has a PEGI 12 age rating. This label signifies the rated content can contain slightly more graphic fantasy violence and mild bad language.

The discrepancy in labelling suggests there’s a material difference between Gboard and Fleksy — in terms of the content you might encounter. Yet both are pretty similar keyboard apps — with features like predictive emoji and baked in GIFs. Gboard also lets you create custom emoji. While Fleksy puts mini apps at your fingertips.

A more major difference is that Gboard is made by Play Store owner and platform controller, Google. Whereas Fleksy is an indie keyboard that since 2017 has been developed by ThingThing, a startup based out of Spain.

Fleksy’s keyboard didn’t used to carry a 12+ age rating — this is a new development. Not based on its content changing but based on Google enforcing its Play Store policies differently.

The Fleksy app, which has been on the Play Store for around eight years at this point — and per Play Store install stats has had more than 5M downloads to date — was PEGI 3 rating until earlier this month. But then Google stepped in and forced the team to up the rating to 12. Which means the Play Store description for Fleksy in Europe now rates it PEGI 12 and specifies it contains “Mild Swearing”.

Screenshot 2019 10 23 at 12.39.45

The Play store’s system for age ratings requires developers to fill in a content ratings form, responding to a series of questions about their app’s content, in order to obtain a suggested rating.

Fleksy’s team have done so over the years — and come up with the PEGI 3 rating without issue. But this month they found they were being issued the questionnaire multiple times and then that their latest app update was blocked without explanation — meaning they had to reach out to Play Developer Support to ask what was going wrong.

After some email back and forth with support staff they were told that the app contained age inappropriate emoji content. Here’s what Google wrote:

During review, we found that the content rating is not accurate for your app… Content ratings are used to inform consumers, especially parents, of potentially objectionable content that exists within an app.

For example, we found that your app contains content (e.g. emoji) that is not appropriate for all ages. Please refer to the attached screenshot.

In the attached screenshot Google’s staff fingered the middle finger emoji as the reason for blocking the update:

Fleksy Play review emoji violation

 

“We never thought a simple emoji is meant to be 12+,” ThingThing CEO Olivier Plante tells us.

With their update rejected the team was forced to raise the rating of Fleksy to PEGI 12 — just to get their update unblocked so they could push out a round of bug fixes for the app.

That’s not the end of the saga, though. Google’s Play Store team is still not happy with the regional age rating for Fleksy — and wants to push the rating even higher — claiming, in a subsequent email, that “your app contains mature content (e.g. emoji) and should have higher rating”.

Now, to be crystal clear, Google’s own Gboard app also contains the middle finger emoji. We are 100% sure of this because we double-checked…

Gboard finger

Emojis available on Google’s Gboard keyboard, including the ‘screw you’ middle finger. Photo credit: Romain Dillet/TechCrunch

This is not surprising. Pretty much any smartphone keyboard — native or add-on — would contain this symbol because it’s a totally standard emoji.

But when Plante pointed out to Google that the middle finger emoji can be found in both Fleksy’s and Gboard’s keyboards — and asked them to drop Fleksy’s rating back to PEGI 3 like Gboard — the Play team did not respond.

A PEGI 16 rating means the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) “reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life”, per official guidance on the labels, while the use of bad language can be “more extreme”, and content may include the use of tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs.

And remember Google is objecting to “mature” emoji. So perhaps its app reviewers have been clutching at their pearls after finding other standard emojis which depict stuff like glasses of beer, martinis and wine…  ‍♀️

Over on the US Play Store, meanwhile, the Fleksy app is rated “teen”.

While Gboard is — yup, you guessed it! — ‘E for Everyone’…

image 1 1

 

Plante says the double standard Google is imposing on its own app vs third party keyboards is infuriating, and he accuses the platform giant of anti-competitive behavior.

“We’re all-in for competition, it’s healthy… but incumbent players like Google playing it unfair, making their keyboard 3+ with identical emojis, is another showcase of abuse of power,” he tells TechCrunch.

A quick search of the Play Store for other third party keyboard apps unearths a mixture of ratings — most rated PEGI 3 (such as Microsoft-owned SwiftKey and Grammarly Keyboard); some PEGI 12 (such as Facemoji Emoji Keyboard which, per Play Store’s summary contains “violence”).

Only one that we could find among the top listed keyboard apps has a PEGI 16 rating.

This is an app called Classic Big Keyboard — whose listing specifies it contains “Strong Language” (and what keyboard might not, frankly!?). Though, judging by the Play store screenshots, it appears to be a fairly bog standard keyboard that simply offers adjustable key sizes. As well as, yes, standard emoji.

“It came as a surprise,” says Plante describing how the trouble with Play started. “At first, in the past weeks, we started to fill in the rating reviews and I got constant emails the rating form needed to be filled with no details as why we needed to revise it so often (6 times) and then this last week we got rejected for the same reason. This emoji was in our product since day 1 of its existence.”

Asked whether he can think of any trigger for Fleksy to come under scrutiny by Play store reviewers now, he says: “We don’t know why but for sure we’re progressing nicely in the penetration of our keyboard. We’re growing fast for sure but unsure this is the reason.”

“I suspect someone is doubling down on competitive keyboards over there as they lost quite some grip of their search business via the alternative browsers in Europe…. Perhaps there is a correlation?” he adds, referring to the European Commission’s antitrust decision against Google Android last year — when the tech giant was hit with a $5BN fine for various breaches of EU competition law. A fine which it’s appealing.

“I’ll continue to fight for a fair market and am glad that Europe is leading the way in this,” adds Plante.

Following the EU antitrust ruling against Android, which Google is legally compelled to comply with during any appeals process, it now displays choice screens to Android users in Europe — offering alternative search engines and browsers for download, alongside Google’s own dominate search  and browser (Chrome) apps.

However the company still retains plenty of levers it can pull and push to influence the presentation of content within its dominant Play Store — influencing how rival apps are perceived by Android users and so whether or not they choose to download them.

So requiring that a keyboard app rival gets badged with a much higher age rating than Google’s own keyboard app isn’t a good look to say the least.

We reached out to Google for an explanation about the discrepancy in age ratings between Fleksy and Gboard and will update this report with any further response. At first glance a spokesman agreed with us that the situation looks odd.

 


0
<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 148

Site search


Last comments

Walmart retreats from its UK Asda business to hone its focus on competing with Amazon
Peter Short
Good luck
Peter Short

Evolve Foundation launches a $100 million fund to find startups working to relieve human suffering
Peter Short
Money will give hope
Peter Short

Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane
Peter Short
Great
Peter Short

Is a “robot tax” really an “innovation penalty”?
Peter Short
It need to be taxed also any organic substance ie food than is used as a calorie transfer needs tax…
Peter Short

Twitter Is Testing A Dedicated GIF Button On Mobile
Peter Short
Sounds great Facebook got a button a few years ago
Then it disappeared Twitter needs a bottom maybe…
Peter Short

Apple’s Next iPhone Rumored To Debut On September 9th
Peter Short
Looks like a nice cycle of a round year;)
Peter Short

AncestryDNA And Google’s Calico Team Up To Study Genetic Longevity
Peter Short
I'm still fascinated by DNA though I favour pure chemistry what could be
Offered is for future gen…
Peter Short

U.K. Push For Better Broadband For Startups
Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short