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Main article: Video

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 243

YouTube rolls out autoplaying (but silent) videos on its mobile app’s homepage

19:39 | 4 December

YouTube on Monday announced a significant change to its mobile app – it will now autoplay videos by default when users are browsing the app’s home page, aka the “Home” section of the app. Fortunately, the videos will not autoplay with the sound enabled, the company says. Instead, the feature is meant to give users a preview of the video while scrolling through the Home section, so they can better decide if it’s something they want to watch.

The feature, which YouTube calls “Autoplay on Home,” is enabled by default. However, the app will introduce settings that will allow users to control their experience. Users can opt to turn the feature off entirely, if they choose, or they can opt to have autoplay only enabled when they’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Autoplay for Home is not an entirely new feature, however. It’s actually been up-and-running for over half a year for YouTube Premium members on Android. Premium is YouTube’s subscription offering, which removes the ads from YouTube while also offering other perks like downloads for offline access to videos, background play, and access to YouTube Music and YouTube Originals.

Now, Autoplay on Home is rolling out beyond Premium subscribers to all those who use the YouTube app on iOS and Android. As with most launches across YouTube, it’s a staged rollout – meaning you may not see autoplay immediately. YouTube says it will take a few weeks for the rollout to complete.

The company notes it made the decision to expand autoplay because it increases users’ engagement time with videos.

As YouTube explains in an announcement on its product forum (spotted first by Tubefilter): “previewing videos helps you make more informed decisions about whether you want to watch a video, leading to longer engagement with videos you choose to watch.”

The company also detailed its decision further in a YouTube Help video (below) where it noted that autoplay’s launch doesn’t mean thumbnails are going away. Instead, YouTube will display the thumbnail first during a brief pause, before the video begins to autoplay.

With the launch of autoplay, YouTube also noted that captions would become more important.

Today, the number of videos with captions enabled tops 2 billion, it said. The site offers a variety of options for captions, including automated captions (which aren’t always perfect), creator-uploaded captions, and crowdsourced community captions.

It’s not surprising to see YouTube adopt autoplay, given that rivals including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others already do the same, as do some streaming services, like Netflix.

 


0

Facebook launches Watch Party for all, tests Live PiP commentating

17:00 | 27 November

Facebook Watch has failed to capture viewers with its content, so it’s hoping to differentiate through the company’s core strength: social. Today Facebook fully launches Watch Party, its co-viewing feature where users can see and comment on the same video at the same time, to all profiles and Pages around the world.

Watch Party had previously launched in Groups and been in testing with other types of accounts. But now any profile or business can post a Watch party invite to sync up with other users and simultaneously view videos they’ve discovered on Facebook.

Watch’s content lineup is still lackluster compared to YouTube, Netflix, or even Snapchat Discover. CNBC reports Facebook is giving up on younger teens that are already ditching its app, and pivoting the video hub towards an older audience. Facebook is hoping a shared experience with users commenting together on clips could make Watch more appealing, but it’s a genuinely new behavior that may prove difficult to instill.

Facebook is also testing a few other tricks to breathe life into Watch. Pages and Groups will be able to schedule a Watch Party to draw more viewers, maybe by setting up a nightly gathering. Watch Parties with lots of activity will have their comments threaded so it’s easier to follow discussions.

And most interestingly, Facebook will try allowing Watch Party hosts to go Live picture-in-picture so they can commentate in real-time. This could be a hit with celebrities, as it will make users feel like they’re sitting beside them watching TV together. Basketball star Shaq will test out the Live Commentating feature through his Page tomorrow.

Watch Party’s statistics sound impressive, with 12 million started from Groups so far, 7X more daily Watch Parties in Groups per day since its launch in July, and 8X more commenting than on non-Live/synced videos. Pages are using it to let fans binge watch playlists of their old videos, replay their TV content for users in different time zones, and let fans ask each other and the hosts questions about recipes as they cook.

But given Facebook’s 2.2 billion total monthly users, billion-plus Groups users, and the fact that measuring growth in multiples is easy when you start with a low number, the feature clearly hasn’t reached the zeitgeist yet.

Perhaps the best hope for Watch and Watch Party is a feature TechCrunch broke the news on last week. Facebook is now internally testing a Watch Party-like co-viewing feature inside Messenger. Baking the option into chat might be a lot more natural, especially in group texts. 

Facebook has been desperately trying to shift video consumption behavior from passive zombie viewing to interactive and social engagement with fellow viewers. But that only works if the content is compelling.

Beyond a reboot of MTV’s The Real World, nothing on Watch truly stands out. Facebook may need to open up its wallet and pay big for more tent pole shows to pull in users and hope they get lost commenting on clips with friends and like-minds.

 


0

Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

16:00 | 15 November

The best parts of gaming are the jokes and trash talk with friends. Whether it was four-player Goldeneye or linking up PCs for Quake battles in the basement, the social element keeps video games exciting. Yet on mobile we’ve lost a lot of that, playing silently by ourselves even if we’re in a squad with friends somewhere else. Bunch wants to bring the laughter back to mobile gaming by letting you sync up with friends and video chat while you play. It already works with hits like Fortnite and Roblox, and developers of titles like Spaceteam are integrating Bunch’s SDK to inspire longer game sessions.

Bunch is like Discord for mobile, and the chance to challenge that gaming social network unicorn has attracted a $3.8 million seed round led by London Venture Partners and joined by Founders Fund, Betaworks, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups and more. With Bunch already cracking the top 100 social iOS app chart, it’s planning a launch on Android. The cash will go to adding features like meeting new people to game with or sharing replays, plus ramping up user acquisition and developer partnerships.

“I and my co-founders grew up with LAN parties, playing games like Starcraft and Counter Strike – where a lot of the fun is the live banter you have with friends” Bunch co-founder and CEO Selcuk Atli tells me. “We wanted to bring this kind of experience to mobile; where players could play with friends anytime anywhere.” 

Bunch Team

Atli was a venture partner at 500 Startups after co-founding and selling two adtech companies: Manifest Commerce to Rakuten, and Boostable to Metric Collective. But before he got into startups, he co-founded a gaming magazine called Aftercala in Turkey at age 12, editing writers twice his age because “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” he tells me. Atli teamed up with Google senior mobile developer Jason Liang and a senior developer from startups like MUSE and Mox named Jordan Howlett to create Bunch.

Over a year ago, we built our first prototype. The moment we tried it ourselves, we saw it was nothing like what we’ve experienced on our phones before” Atli tells me. The team raised a $500,000 pre-seed round and launched its app in March. “Popular mobile games are becoming live, and live games are coming to mobile devices” says David Lau-Kee, general partner at London Venture Partners. “With this massive shift happening, players need better experiences to connect with friends and play together.”

When you log on to Bunch’s iOS app you’ll see which friends are online and what they’re playing, plus a selection of games you can fire up. Bunch overlays group voice or video chat on the screen so you can strategize or satirize with up to eight pals. And if developers build in Bunch’s SDK, they can do more advanced things with video chat like pinning friends’ faces to their in-game characters. It’s a bit like OpenFeint or iOS Game Center mixed with HouseParty.

For now Bunch isn’t monetizing as it hopes to reach massive scale first, but Atli thinks they could sell expression tools like emotes, voice and video filters, and more. Growing large will require beating Discord at its own game. The social giant now has over 130 million users across PCs, consoles, and mobile. But it’s also a bit too hardcore for some of today’s casual mobile gamers, requiring you to configure your own servers. “I find that execution speed will be most critical for our success or failure” Atli says. Bunch’s sole focus on making mobile game chat as easy as possible could win it a mainstream audience seduced by Fortnite, HQ Trivia and other phenomena.

Research increasingly shows that online experiences can be isolating, and gaming is a big culprit. Hours spent playing alone can leave you feeling more exhausted than fulfilled. But through video chat, gaming can transcend the digital and become a new way to make memories with friends no matter where they are.

 


0

YouTube VR finally lands on the Oculus Go

04:53 | 13 November

Today, Google’s YouTube VR app arrives on the $199 Oculus Go, bringing the largest library of VR content on the web to Facebook’s entry-level VR device.

YouTube brings plenty of content in conventional and more immersive video types. It’s undoubtedly the biggest single hub of 360 content and native formats like VR180, though offering access to the library at large is probably far more important to the Oculus platform.

One of the interesting things about Oculus’s strategy with the Go headset is that gaming turned out to be the minority use case following media consumption. If you find it hard to believe that so many people are out there binging on 360 videos it’s because they probably aren’t. Users have kind of co-opted the device’s capabilities to make it a conventional movie and TV viewing device, there are apps from Netflix and Hulu while Facebook has also built Oculus TV, a feature that’s still in its infancy but basically offers an Apple TV-like environment for watching a lot of 2D content in a social environment.

At the company’s Oculus Connect conference this past year CTO John Carmack remarked how about 70 percent of time spent by users on the Go has been watching videos with about 30 percent of user time has gone to gaming. Oculus has positioned itself as a gaming company in a lot of ways via its investments so it will be interesting to see how it grows its mobile platform to make the video aspect of its VR business more attractive.

With YouTube, the company has pretty easy access to effortlessly bringing a bunch of content onboard, this would have been a great partner for Oculus TV, but a dedicated app brings a lot to users. It wasn’t super clear whether Google was going to play hardball with the YouTube app and keep standalone access confined to its Daydream platform, as the company’s homegrown VR ambitions seem to have grown more subdued, it looks like they’ve had some time to focus on external platforms.

You can download the YouTube VR app here.

 


0

What’s next? The top media executives on the job market

00:24 | 13 November

Keep an eye out for the next moves by these entrepreneurs and executives. A number of the biggest names in media left their jobs over the last year (or announced they will be leaving soon), including a handful of now-billionaires who have resources, ambition, and time on their hands to explore something new.

We are experimenting with new content forms at TechCrunch. This is a rough draft of something new —provide feedback directly to the author, Eric Peckham (@epeckham), our columnist focused on the intersection of media and technology.

Most notably, there are Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch (with rumored plans to launch a VC firm), Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, VICE founder/CEO Shane Smith (who transitioned to a Chairman role), Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe, and Oath’s CEO Tim Armstrong.

There’s also a long list of other names you may not recognize but should keep on your radar in the months ahead as they found new startups or take key leadership roles at top media/tech companies.

Today, Snap’s VP of Content Nick Bell

he will be leaving the company by the end of the year. He oversaw all media partnerships and content operations for the Snapchat Discover section over the last 5 years. The 34-year old sold his first company, Teenfront.com, at age 16 and started multiple ventures afterward until joining global media conglomerate News Corp (where he became SVP of Digital Product). As a serial entrepreneur and one of the most sought-after experts in digital video, expect Bell’s next move to be noteworthy.

Nick Bell was one of the smartest, most in-tune people when it came to the future of content. His exit bodes poorly for Snapchat fixing Discover & winning at original content. Bet Instagram wouldn’t mind having him run IGTV https://t.co/JBlAx6E7xr

— Josh Constine (@JoshConstine)

Here are twelve other leaders at the intersection of media and technology who are currently available (publicly, at least) and plotting their next endeavor:

Joanna Coles, Photo by Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Joanna Coles, former Chief Content Officer at Hearst
Joanna Coles, who oversaw all editorial operations for the 300-title global publishing group Hearst since September 2016, announced with a fun

on August 6 that she would be stepping down. The former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire (as they shifted into a digital-first era) said she would announce her next adventure sometime this fall after taking a break. Coles has been a board member of Snap since 2015 and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Rich Battista, former CEO of Time Inc
Time Inc’s CEO left the helm of the publishing group upon its $2.8 billion acquisition by Meredith Corp in the spring. Battista held a range of major publishing, TV, and digital media roles before then, from leading Fox’s cable networks to running Mandalay Sports Media to turning around Gemstar-TV Guide and selling it for $2.3 billion. At various points in his career Battista has been a big company executive, an investor, and an entrepreneur.

Joel Stillerman, former Chief Content Officer at Hulu
Stillerman was one of several executives who departed Hulu in May in a leadership reshuffle by the company’s new CEO. Stillerman was previously President of Original Programming and Development for AMC and SundanceTV. At a time when nearly every major TV company is vying to compete with Netflix through another streaming video platform (on their own or in partnership with others), there’s a lot of expertise to be had from the executive to oversaw all content for Netflix’s top competitor.

George Strompolos, Founder and former CEO of Fullscreen
After AT&T acquired The Chernin Group’s remaining stake in Otter Media (Fullscreen’s parent company) in September, Fullscreen’s George Strompolos stepped down as CEO of the multi-channel network he founded in 2011. According to his LinkedIn profile, LA-based Strompolos in advising and investing in startups for the time being.

Erik Huggers, former CEO of VEVO
Huggers stepped down from VEVO in April after 3 years. He was previously an SVP at Verizon and President of Intel Media (which Verizon acquired). As a supervisory board member of Germany’s largest broadcasting group, ProSiebenSat.1, Huggers has also recently joined the board of ProSiebenSat.1’s streaming TV service 7TV, which is a joint venture with Discovery Inc.

Photo courtesy of Sophie Watts.

Sophie Watts, former President of STX Entertainment
Sophie Watts joined investor Robert Simonds in 2011 to develop a new film/TV studio with backing from TPG Growth. According to the WSJ, STX Entertainment has been planning a $500 million IPO in Hong Kong. As president, she primarily oversaw unscripted TV, digital, and VR operations. She left in January to explore new opportunities. Watts—who started her career in London producing videos for Beyoncé, Elton John, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and others—was named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in 2016 and is still just 32.

Jonathan Carson, former President of Mic
Carson founded 3 startups (music social network Outer Sound, interactive media consultancy Intercities, and social media intelligence company BuzzMetrics) before becoming the “CEO of Digital” at Nielsen and then the Chief Revenue Officer at VEVO. In July, he stepped down from VC-backed news startup Mic after one year as President. Expect his next move to be within the same realm of video, social, mobile, and data that he’s worked in thus far.

Colin Carrier, former Chief Strategy Officer at Twitch
Carrier joined Twitch in 2013, leaving the Eversport Media startup he co-founded to become General Manager of Justin.TV which operated independently from the rest of Twitch. He transitioned to become Twitch’s Chief Strategy Officer in 2014 upon Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of the live-streaming platform. While CSO, he oversaw the acquisition of CurseMedia and ClipMine and developed a personal angel investment portfolio of over 30 startups (including Cruise, which GM acquired for over $1B). He departed Twitch over the summer.

Troy Carter speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Troy Carter, former Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify
A career talent manager in the music industry who worked with artists like Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor, Carter joined Spotify in June 2016 as the face of the streaming service within the music industry. Having stepped down in September, he is among several top executives who have left Spotify in 2018 before and after it listed on the NYSE. Carter—who also built an angel investing portfolio of over 40 startups—hasn’t announced his next endeavor but appears to still be making investments through the VC fund he co-founded, Cross Culture Ventures.

Stefan Blom, former Chief Content Officer of Spotify
Blom left Spotify early this year just before the music streaming service went public with a $29 billion market cap. He had been Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Content Officer over the prior 4 years, working in part on Spotify’s early steps into original video (which it retreated from). Before Spotify, he was CEO of the Nordic division at EMI (a notable record label group).

Matthew Ball, former Head of Strategy at Amazon Studios
Ball joined Amazon Studios as Head of Strategy in 2016 after working within The Chernin Group as Director of Strategy & Business Development for Otter Media (which is now fully owned by AT&T). Since leaving Amazon earlier this year, he has continued to publish widely-read blog posts about the future of media for MediaREDEF—which he has been doing since 2014—and, according to his Twitter bio, is currently “tinkering away on a small idea that could be more”.

Matt Pincus, Founder and former CEO of SONGS Music Publishing
Last December, Pincus sold his innovative music publishing firm SONGS Music Publishing, which had become the largest independent publishing of contemporary music in the US, to Kobalt for a rumored $150 million. He departed in March and has since become a Special Advisor to Snap Inc and taken an Entrepreneur-in-Residence title at leading digital media merchant bank LionTree.

Who are other top executives at the intersection of media + tech who are launching new companies or available to fill open CEO roles? Let me know on Twitter at @epeckham.

 


0

China can apparently now identify citizens based on the way they walk

14:29 | 7 November

China is home to the world’s largest network of CCTV cameras — over 170 million — and its police have adopted Google Glass-like ‘smart specs’ to seek out suspects in crowds, but now its surveillance efforts have hit a new level with technology that can apparently identify individuals based on their body shape and the way they walk.

The ‘gait recognition’ technology is already being used by police in Beijing and Shanghai where it can identify individuals even when their face is obscured or their back is turned, according to an AP report.

The technology is developed by Chinese AI startup Watrix, which recently picked up a $14.5 million funding round to further develop its systems. CEO Huang Yongzhen told the AP that it can ID individuals at up to 50 meters (165 feet) which, in conjunction with existing facial recognition technology, can help police and surveillance systems operate more efficiently in busy areas.

The positive impact is in finding criminals but there’s a less savory edge. Besides law enforcement, media reports have shown that China has deployed surveillance technology for more sinister purposes that include controlling its people.

In particular, the government has been criticized for the way it uses its databases and facial recognition tech to police China’s ethnic minorities. A system deployed in Xinjiang — a Western province with a population of some 10 million ‘Uighur’ Muslims — is reportedly designed to notify authorities when “target” individuals go beyond their home or place of work, according to Bloomberg.

China stands accused of detaining as many of one million Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang. The province, which includes a number of cities that are located closer to Baghdad than to Beijing, has been the scene of unrest and ethnic tension in the past, and that’s one reason why the government has deployed these systems. It isn’t clear, however, whether the gait analysis tech has made its way to Xinjiang at this point. If not yet, you’d imagine it will soon.

 


0

China’s obsession with short videos has its internet giants worried

05:44 | 7 November

Take a subway ride in China and expect to see a lot of commuters’ eyes glued to TikTok videos on their phones.

Video clips like TikTok’s are now consuming nearly nine percent of Chinese people’s time online, a 5.2 percent jump from 2017, according to app analytics firm QuestMobile.

Apps such as TikTok — which is operated by ByteDance, the world’s highest valued startup at $75 billion — have become popular among previously camera-shy users. Those who lack editing experience can now easily add beautifying filters and music to spice up their work.

tiktok gif 1

Elderly couple having a moment on Douyin / Credit: Douyin ID @淘气陈奶奶

It also helps that smartphone data became cheaper and internet penetration kept growing in recent years — China now has 800 million smartphone users, according to government data. In 2013, just under 40 percent of China’s online population streamed videos on their phones, according to database CBNData. In 2017, that ratio surged to 80 percent.

Initially geared towards Chinese youth, short-video apps have increased in popularity across all age groups – including the elderly. Over a third of the country’s 1.4 billion people are active on these apps every month. People above the age of 50 now spend as much as 50 minutes on them every day, compared to only 17 minutes a year ago.

And TikTok, called Douyin in China, is spearheading the short-video game.

Tencent’s nerves

In recent years, few mobile apps in China have captured as many stares as WeChat, Tencent’s messaging app that’s evolved into a one-stop platform allowing people to shop, order cabs, book hotels, and complete other daily tasks.

Then short video apps came along, eating people’s eyeball time away. Apps like TikTok do not compete directly with WeChat as they serve different purposes, but data suggests that use of instant messaging services has waned amid the fledgling video scene.

This year WeChat and its peers occupied 30.5 percent of people’s online time, a 3.6 percent drop year-over-year per the QuestMobile report.

It comes as no surprise that Tencent is fretting over the clip craze and in particular, ByteDance’s rise. In May, Tencent’s usually low-profile boss Pony Ma got in a rare online spat with ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming over plagiarism and WeChat blocking TikTok content.

Typical miming and finger dancing performed by teens / Credit: Douyin ID @李雨霏2007

Elsewhere, Tencent took action. Since April, the tech giant has rolled out a number of TikTok rivals but so far none has gotten close to the latter’s lion’s share: 500 million monthly active users worldwide. That’s excluding the 100 million total users on Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in late 2017 and merged into TikTok this August.

Tencent’s got other backup plans, though. It owns shares in TikTok’s China archrival Kuaishou, which had a 22.7 percent penetration rate in September according to data service provider Jiguang. That’s however, dwarfed by TikTok’s 33.8 percent, which means the app was installed on over a third of all mobile devices monitored by Jiguang. Plus, ByteDance’s other short-video apps for different niches, Huoshan and Xigua, are also faring well, commanding 13.1 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.

Alibaba: not quite an ally

Until recently, ByteDance appeared to be making nice with China’s other internet giant — Alibaba. The companies kicked off a partnership in March that saw TikTok using Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao to process ecommerce transactions on its app. Authorized TikTok users, usually those with a big following, can link videos to their Taobao shops. This money-making setup allows TikTok to lure more quality content creators. Alibaba, on the other hand, gets traffic from the fledgling social media app that could absorb some of the loss from WeChat blocking its ecommerce apps.

Things can go south anytime, however, as ByteDance makes forays into Alibaba’s territories. The startup recently introduced an ecommerce platform and entered the business of long-form video streaming, an area where Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu’s iQIYI dominate.

tiktok douyin

Life hacks are popular, too: guy sharing his gardening tips / Credit: Douyin ID @速效三元化合肥

ByteDance seems set to grow independently. Unlike many of China’s promising startups, six-year-old ByteDance hasn’t accepted financing from any of the tech trio of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent — known as the BAT such is their dominance in China’s consumer technology.

ByteDance’s moves into new space may also signal the firm’s urge to explore additional monetization channels besides advertising on feeds. It lifted its revenue target to $7.2 billion for 2018, well above the $2.5 billion it earned last year, according to Bloomberg.

At home and afar

Despite the boom, China’s short-video market faces increasing regulatory headwinds. In recent months, authorities have been clamping down on Kuaishou, ByteDance’s video apps, and smaller players on account of eradicating content that’s deemed illegal or inappropriate.

Violation could result in app store bans and those that underwent such severe punishment like Miaopai, which is backed by China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, suffered from a tumble in app installs.

tiktok douyin

Sometimes Douyin does get serious – a Beijing TV channel has its own account and it covers news here / Credit: Douyin ID @BTV新闻

ByteDance didn’t get a ban – yet, but it came under fire for its AI-driven recommendation algorithms. It’s something the startup prides itself on but has irritated media watchdogs who reprimanded TikTok for showing users “unacceptable” content, such as videos depicting adolescent pregnancies. ByteDance’s popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, or “today’s headlines,” received similar criticisms for giving its 120 million daily users “fluff”.

In response, ByteDance added thousands of censors to screen content on top of AI-driven recommendation across its apps.

ByteDance’s expanding territory through TikTok goes well beyond China. This year, the short-video platform has been climbing app store rankings around the world, an ascend accelerated by its incorporation of Musical.ly. Now it’s not just Tencent that’s taking note; Facebook is also building a TikTok clone, TechCrunch reported recently.

 


0

Tencent is launching its own version of Snap Spectacles

20:24 | 2 November

Some were surprised to see Snap release a second version of its ‘face-camera’ Spectacles gadget, since the original version failed to convert hype into sales.

But those lackluster sales — which dropped as low as 42,000 per quarter — didn’t only fail to dissuade the U.S. social firm from making more specs, because now Tencent, the Chinese internet giant and Snap investor, has launched its own take on the genre.

Tencent this week unveiled its answer to the video-recording sunglasses, which, you’ll notice, bear a striking resemblance to Snap’s Spectacles.

Called the Weishi smart glasses, Tencent’s wearable camera sports a lens in the front corner that allows users to film from a first-person perspective. Thankfully, the Chinese gaming and social giant has not made the mistake of Snap’s first-generation Spectacles, which highlighted the camera with a conspicuous yellow ring.

's version of Snap Spectacles will go on sale Nov 11th pic.twitter.com/sNuSezdVgS

— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina)

Tencent, which is best known for operating China’s massively popular WeChat messenger, has been an investor in Snap for some time after backing it long before it went public. But, when others have criticized the company and its share price struggled, Tencent doubled down. It snapped up an additional 12 percent stake one year ago and it is said to have offered counsel to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on product strategy. We don’t know, however, if the two sides’ discussions have ever covered Spectacles and thus inspired this new Tencent take on then.

The purpose behind Tencent’s new gadget is implicit in its name. Weishi, which means “micro videos” in Chinese, is also the name of the short-video sharing app that Tencent has been aggressively promoting in recent months to catch up with market dominators TikTok and Kuaishou .

TikTok, known as Douyin in China, is part of the entertainment ecosystem that Beijing-based ByteDance is building. ByteDance also runs the popular Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and is poised to overtake Uber as the world’s most-valued tech startup when it closes its mega $3 billion funding round.

Weishi’s other potential rival Kuaishou is, interestingly, backed by Tencent. Kuaishou launched its own video-taking sunglasses in July.

Alongside the smart sunglasses, Tencent has also rolled out a Go Pro-like action camera that links to the Weishi app. Time will tell whether the gadgets will catch on and get more people to post on Weishi.

Snap Spectacles V1 (top) and V2

The spectacles will go on sale November 11, a date that coincides with Singles Day, the annual shopping spree that Tencent’s close rival Alibaba runs. Tencent does not make the gadget itself and instead has teamed up with Shenzhen-based Tonot, a manufacturer that claims to make “trendy” video-taking glasses. Tonot has also worked with Japan’s Line chat app on camera glasses.

“There isn’t really a demand for video-recording glasses,” says Mi Zou, a Beijing-based entrepreneur working on an AI selfie app. That’s because smart glasses are “not offering that much more to consumers than smartphones do,” she argues. Plus, a lot of people on apps like Douyin and Kuaishou love to take selfies, a need that smart glasses fail to fulfil.

“Tencent will have to work on its marketing. It could perhaps learn a few things from the Apple Watch, which successfully touts a geeky product as a fashionable accessory,” suggests Mi, who points out Snap Spectacles’ so-far dim reception.

Weishi had not responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment at the time of writing, but we’ll update this story with an additional information should the company provide it.

 


0

Vince Staples has fun with Google Maps in new video

18:01 | 2 November

Vince Staples’ latest record FM! drops today on Def Jam records — that’s some very good news from one of the best and brightest rappers in the game today. Staples is celebrating the release by giving us a glimpse into his home of North Long Beach, California (Norfy, as it were) the same way we all experience the world these days: Google Maps.

The video for the single “Fun” — which also features Oakland hip-hop mainstay E-40 — captures the idiosyncrasies of Google’s Street View right down to the blurry transitions. The novel execution aside, things captured by the fictional Street View car are tellingly not always as positive as the track’s three-word title implies. The shots culminate with arrest of three youths on bicycles and retaliation against the camera that brings to mind a recent Douglas Rushkoff title.

It’s a well-executed video for a great track from one of the most dynamic voices in hip-hop today. Just maybe don’t listen with the sound on at work.

 


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YouTube’s new beta program will test stability, not new features

21:08 | 23 October

Google sometimes experiments with new features in beta versions of its various Android applications on Google Play. However, the recently spotted YouTube beta program will not, unfortunately, be a testbed for upcoming additions to the video-sharing service. Instead, Google says it only plans to test the stability of the YouTube app at this time, not features.

The company quietly rolled out a YouTube beta program last week on Google Play, where it was soon spotted by the folks at Android Police.

Originally, the belief was that Google would use this new beta to try out features it was planning to bring to the YouTube app – in fact, that’s what Google’s own help documentation about the beta said!

Not only that, but the documentation urged testers not to share information about the features they see in the app until they’re publicly launched.

That all sounds pretty exciting, right? (At least for us early adopters who love to get mess around with the latest new thing before anyone else.)

But after asking Google for more information on the program, the company updated its help documentation to remove the wording about “experimental features.” It now says testers will only help YouTube to stabilize its app.

We also understand, too, that YouTube has always run a beta program, the only change is that, as of last week, it become more broadly accessible.

Users can now join the program to help YouTube test stability of the app and can then opt out at any time they choose. At this point, however, Google doesn’t plan on trying out new features in the beta build. That could, of course, change at any time in the future. So if you really want to be the first to know, you may want to join the beta program just in case.

But YouTube for a long time now has been testing its new additions by way of server-side testing. It even decided this year to be more public about those tests – disclosing its experiments by way of its @TeamYouTube handle and the Creator Insider channel.

For example, this is where the company first announced its test of a new Explore tab on iPhone a few months ago, and more recently said it would try different ways of inserting ads into videos, to see if users prefer fewer interruptions even if it meant multiple ads per interruption.

YouTube beta program members may or may not be opted into those same experiments, as they roll out. It will depend on if they’re in the testing bucket that’s targeted at that time.

 


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