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Main article: Apps

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Netflix now lets you share a favorite title directly to Instagram Stories

22:00 | 22 January

Having reached critical mass, Netflix shows are now influencing culture — whether that’s prompting everyone to “tidy up” or causing chaos with “Bird Box”-inspired challenges. For good or bad, what happens on Netflix is talked about, memed and shared across the social media landscape. Today, Netflix is launching a new feature aimed at better inserting its brand into those online conversations: Instagram Story integration.

Launching first on iOS, Netflix users will be able to share their favorite movies and shows to their Instagram Story right from the Netflix mobile app.

The feature will add the title’s custom art to a users’ Instagram Story, where it remains visible for 24 hours. The Story can also be customized with other options, like a user poll, for example.

If the viewer has the Netflix app installed on their iPhone, they’ll see a “watch on Netflix” link in the Story that takes them to the show’s or movie’s page in the Netflix app when tapped.

This isn’t the first time you could share a show from Netflix’s app to a social platform — that’s been supported for some time. However, the existing experience will pull up iOS’s “share sheet” (the built-in sharing function in the iOS operating system).

According to a screenshot provided by Netflix, however, the new sharing feature is now a part of the Netflix app itself.

After tapping “share,” a screen appears with various options, including WhatsApp, Messages, Messenger, Twitter, Line and more, in addition to the newly added “Instagram Stories.”

The launch follows Facebook’s introduction of an option last year that allows third-party apps to share their in-app content to Instagram Stories. The idea was to provide users with an alternative to screenshotting what they wanted to share from other apps — like a song, a video, a playlist, etc. — to Instagram Stories. It’s also meant to provide a more seamless experience for the Story’s viewers, as they’re able to tap the Story to engage with the shared content — while also giving the brand more control over the look-and-feel of what’s being shared.

In Netflix’s case, it’s branding shared title art with the name of the show or film, as well as a teaser or slogan, and the words “Netflix Original,” where relevant. (The feature works with all titles, not just originals.)

The feature could prompt more word-of-mouth recommendations between friends and followers on Instagram, whose Stories platform alone is bigger than Snapchat, reaching more than 400 million users. And it could help content go viral within a certain fan base or demographic — like teen girl viewers or sci-fi fans, for instance — as prominent Instagram accounts shared the Netflix show.

“We’re always on the lookout for ways to make it easier for members to share the Netflix titles they’re obsessing about and help them discover something new to watch,” said Netflix in a statement about the launch.

Instagram Stories integration is launching today on iOS to Netflix users worldwide. An Android version is in the works.

 


0

Twitter will get an even darker ‘dark mode’

19:19 | 22 January

Twitter’s dark mode is about to get darker. In response to a customer’s

that Twitter’s dark theme isn’t really black, but more of a blue-ish shade, company CEO Jack Dorsey replied that’s
. Though a seemingly minor tweak, dark mode settings for apps have become increasingly popular as a means of conserving battery life on high-end devices and making the apps we use often for long stretches easier on our eyes.

The interest in dark themes has grown steadily since Twitter first debuted its own “Night mode” back in mid-2016.

A number of apps now support darker themes, including YouTube, Google, Medium, Reddit, Wikipedia, Instapaper, Pocket, IMDb, iBooks, Kindle, Google Maps, Waze, Opera Mini, and many more. It’s even rumored that the upcoming version of the Android OS will have a system-wide dark mode setting – something dark mode users have wanted for years.

This weekend, the topic made its way to The Wall Street Journal, which made the case for dark modes becoming a standard setting across all apps and devices – not only for ease of use and battery benefits – specifically on OLED screens – but also because it may help lessen device addiction, and improve sleep.

In other words, having a decent dark mode is no longer just an aesthetic choice like skinning your Gmail with a cute photo – it’s an option that has real-world benefits. And for many, a dark mode is now their default.

Twitter’s dark mode, however, has been on the lighter end of the spectrum. (You can view a screenshot of its dark theme on Darkmodelist.com, where you can compare it to others.)

The app doesn’t go for a true black, but rather a blue-black shade.

That’s being addressed, according to @jack’s tweet.

Was just talking about this with

. Will fix.

— jack (@jack)

Of course, there’s an argument to made here that Twitter is overly concerned with tweaking minor product details, as if things like a better dark mode or differently threaded conversations matter that much at a time when the company is facing significant issues with regard to how it handles extremism, harassment, doxing, spam, fake news, flat user growth, and more on its platform. (And that its CEO doesn’t seem to have good answers for how it’s handling these issues.)

But for those who are on Twitter anyway and addicted to browsing the timeline, a “blacker” dark mode will improve their use of the product.

Neither Dorsey, nor Twitter itself, has yet shared more information on when we’ll see this update, or which platforms will receive the “black” dark mode first. (Reached for comment, Twitter couldn’t offer more details). However, Twitter first launched its original dark mode on Android, so that may be a place to watch.

 

 


0

Roger Dickey ditches $32M-funded Gigster to start Untitled Labs

01:36 | 22 January

Most founders don’t walk away from their startup after raising $32 million and reaching 1000 clients. But Roger Dickey’s heart is in consumer tech, and his company Gigster had pivoted to doing outsourced app development for enterprises instead of scrappy entrepreneurs.

So today Dickey announced that he’d left his role as Gigster CEO, with former VMware VP Christopher Keane who’d sold it his startup WaveMaker coming in to lead Gigster in October. Now, Dickey is launching Untitled Labs, a “search lab” designed to test multiple consumer tech ideas in “social and professional networking, mobility, personal finance, premium services, health & wellness, travel, photography, and dating” before building out one

Untitled Labs is starting off with $2.8 million in seed funding from early Gigster investors and other angels including Founders Fund, Felicia Ventures, Caffeinated Capital, Joe Montana’s Liquid Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, Nikita Bier of TBH (acquired by Facebook), and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron.

Investors lined up after seeing the success of Dickey’s last two search labs. In 2007, his Curiosoft lab revamped classic DOS game Drugwars as a Facebook game called Dopewars and sold it to Zynga where it became the wildly popular Mafia Wars. He did it again in 2014, building Gigster out of Liquid Labs and eventually raising $32 million for it in rounds led by Andreessen Horowitz and Redpoint. Dickey had proven he wasn’t just dicking around and his search labs could experiment their way to an A-grade startup.

“I loved learning about B2B but over the years I realized my true passions were in consumer and I kinda got the itch to try something new” Dickey tells me. “These things happen in the life-cycle of a company. The person who starts it isn’t always the same person to take it to an IPO. Gigster’s doing incredibly well. It was just a really vanilla separation in the best interest of all parties.”

Gigster co-founders (from left): Debo Olaosebikan and Roger Dickey

Gigster’s remaining co-founder and CTO Debo Olaosebikan will stay with the startup, but tells me he’ll be “moving away from a lot of the day-to-day management.” He’ll be in a more public facing role, evangelizing the vision of digital transformation to big clients hoping Gigster can equip them with the apps their customers demand. “We’ve gotten to a really good place on the backs of the founders and to get it to the next level inside of enterprise, having people who’ve done this, lived this, worked in enterprise for a long time makes sense for the company.”

Olaosebikan and Dickey both confirm there was no misconduct or other funny business that triggered the CEO’s departure, and he’ll stay on the Gigster board. Dickey tells me that Gigster’s business managing teams of freelance product managers, engineers, and designers to handle product development for big clients has grown revenue every quarter. It now has 1200 clients including almost 10% of Fortune 500 companies. Olaosebikan says “We have a great repeatable sales model. We can grow profitably and then we can figure out financing. We’re not in a hurry to raise money.”

Since leaving Gigster, Dickey has been meeting with investors and entrepreneurs to noodle on what’s in their “idea shelf” — the product and company concepts these techies imagine but are too busy to implement themselves. Meanwhile, he’s seeking a few elite engineers and designers to work through Untitled’s prospects.

Dickey said he came up with the “search labs” definition since he and others had found success with the strategy that no one had formalized. The search labs model contrasts with three other ways people typically form startups:

  • Traditional Startup: Founders come up with one idea and raise from venture firms to build it into a company that’s quick to start and lets them keep a lot of equity, but these startups often fail because they lack product market fit. Examples: Facebook, SpaceX.
  • Startup Accelerators and Incubators: Founders come up with one idea and enter an accelerator or incubator that provides funding and education for lots of startups in exchange for a small slice of equity. Founders sometimes learn their idea won’t work and pivot during the program, which is why accelerators seek to fund great teams, but otherwise operate traditionally. Examples: Y Combinator, 500 Startups.
  • Startup Studio: The studios’ founders work with entrepreneurs to come up with a small number of ideas while keeping a significant of the equity. The entrepreneurs operate semi-autonomously but with the advantage of shared resources. Examples: Expa, Betaworks.
  • Search Lab: Founders conceptualize and experiment with a small number of startup ideas, then focus the company around the most promising prototype. Examples: Untitled Labs, Midnight Labs (turned into TBH)

Dickey tells me that after 80 angel investments, going to every recent Y Combinator Demo Day, and talking with key players across the industry, the search lab method was the best way to hone in on his best idea rather than just going on a hunch. Given that approach, he went with “Untitled” so he could save the branding work for when the right product emerges. Dickey concludes “We’re trying to keep it really barebones. We don’t have an office, don’t have a logo, and we’re not going to make swag. We’re just going to find the next business as efficiently as possible.”

 


0

‘Anti-Uber’ taxi strikes kick off again in Spain

15:28 | 21 January

Taxi drivers in major cities in Spain are on strike again to apply pressure for more stringent regulations to control app rivals such as Uber and Cabify which they view as unfair competition.

In Barcelona the taxi sector called an indefinite strike on Friday, using their vehicles to block Gran Vía in the Catalan capital, with protest action carrying on through the weekend and continuing into today.

Taxi drivers in Madrid are also on strike from this morning.

De aquí no nos movemos hasta que nos den una solución.
No admitimos promesas. Sólo realidades.
No pueden dar la espalda a miles de familias que vivimos del taxi en Catalunya.
No vamos a permitir el intrusismo y la suplantación de nuestra profesión por buitres

pic.twitter.com/VcC3loEIrB

— Elite Taxi Bcn #1Vtc30Taxis (@Elite_TaxiBcn)

In Barcelona, the strike was called after the Catalan government announced proposals for regulating the vehicle for hire (VTC) sector which include a 15 minute wait time between a passenger booking and being able to take a ride.

The taxi drivers want the wait time to be much longer than that; at least 24 hours.

There were reports of violence during Friday’s action. The Huffington Post said a Cabify driver suffered a panic attack after his car was attacked by a group of protestors. It reports the police used cardiopulmonary resuscitation manoeuvers on the driver to stabilize him.

A journalist for El Pais also posted a video of the attack and resulting damage to the vehicle on Twitter.

Agresión a un

pic.twitter.com/vtz057ka7C

— Alfonso Congostrina (@alfcongostrina)

The AP reports that local police arrested seven people in connection with the violence.

On Sunday, Elite Taxi BCN, one of the main associations backing the strike action, issued a video of its spokesman, Alberto Álvarez, calling for protestors to keep things peaceful.

"Por favor, nada de violencia"

pic.twitter.com/1lIfL7kwLL

— Elite Taxi Bcn #1Vtc30Taxis (@Elite_TaxiBcn)

The latest strikes follow a summer of action by the sector which also kicked off in Barcelona, also with violent scenes and reports of attacks on VTC drivers.

In that case Uber and Cabify temporarily paused services in the city on safety grounds. The pair do not appear to have stopped their services this time.

Although some VTC drivers have been holding counter protests by parking their vehicles along a stretch of Avenue Diagonal, causing further disruption to the flow of traffic in the city.

Les

tallen part de la Diagonal entre Francesc Macià i la plaça Pius XII. Dos carrils de sortida i un d'entrada a la ciutat. Els autobusos de les línies 6, 7, 33, 34, 63 i 67 no efectuen parada en aquest tram, en sentit Llobregat, segons TMB.
pic.twitter.com/hYk80mVXi3

— Catalunya Informació (@Catinformacio)

The taxi strike in the summer only ended after the government agreed to transfer regulatory competency for the VTC sector to the regions. The Catalan government is the first regional authority to have put forward proposals for regulating VTCs.

But the move devolving regulatory competency has not ended the ‘taxi war’. Far from it; it’s cranking up a gear as taxi associations demand a firewall for their sector by overruling the on-demand convenience of app-based rivals, and they’re counter protesting in the hopes of steering out of a regulatory bind.

The latter group argues that imposed wait limits would be unconstitutional because they would go against the general interest of citizens. They also point out that waiting time based regulations have not been successfully enforced anywhere in Europe (London’s TfL proposed a five minute waiting time after a booking back in 2015 but dropped the measure after a public consultation, for instance).

While the taxi sector argues that existing laws aren’t being enforced meaning that a regulated public service is being unfairly undercut and undermined by multinationals which also only bring precarious work, rather than sustainable employment…

¡SOMOS TAXISTAS NO TERRORISTAS!!!
No respondamos a la violencia de Uber y Cabify que se enriquecen a consta de precarizar a los trabajadores con violencia física.

No respondamos al terrorismo de estado que pone una alfombra roja a estas compañías con más violencia.

pic.twitter.com/Y3daqajq3B

— Elite Taxi Sevilla (@EliteTaxiSevil1)

In Barcelona the annual Mobile World Congress tradeshow, which takes place in just over a month’s time — bringing an influx of around 100,000 techie visitors — is a strategic ratchet for the taxi industry to pressure authorities. Threats to paralyze the city are at their most politically and economically potent. So there’s plenty of uncertainty about where the latest huelga indefinida will lead.

If wait limits are imposed the VTC sector claims it would result in scores of drivers being put out of work. Commenting on the Barcelona government’s proposals for regulating the sector, an Uber spokesman told us: “Recent developments could have major consequences for drivers as well as the thousands of riders who enjoy new mobility services in the city. We continue to call for dialogue with all local stakeholders, including taxis, to shape the future of urban mobility in Spain together.”

We’ve also reached out to Cabify for comment.

Unauto VTC, a VTC association, issued a press release on Saturday decrying the blockade of the city and what it dubbed “intolerable levels of violence” by taxi associations, as well as attacking the “absolutely disproportionate” proposed VTC regulations. It also denounced the local government minister in charge of the regulation, Damià Calvet, accusing him of caving in to taxi industry “blackmail”.

“The Catalan Government’s umpteenth caving in to taxi sector blackmail has ensured it will no longer be satisfied with anything other than the disappearance of the VTC sector. We hope the government rectifies this immediately and allows the general interest of the citizens of Catalonia to prevail,” said association president, Eduardo Martín, in a statement (which we’ve translated).

“I wonder what the next thing Barcelona’s taxi sector will be asking for under threat of blocking the Mobile World Congress. Maybe the Metro closes an hour earlier, or that the Aerobus disappears. In view of the attitude of the current Government of the Generalitat it is possible that they will achieve it.”

The city government pointed us to a statement today, from the councillor for mobility and president of metropolitan transport, Mercedes Vidal, calling for an “acceptable” proposal so taxis and VTC drivers do not do the same work.

 


0

Dolby quietly preps augmented audio recorder app “234″

22:37 | 17 January

Dolby is secretly building a mobile music production app it hopes will seduce SoundCloud rappers and other musicians. Codenamed “234” and formerly tested under the name Dolby Live, the free app measures background noise before you record and then nullifies it. Users can also buy “packs” of audio effects to augment their sounds with EQs settings like “Amped, Bright, Lyric, Thump, Deep, or Natural”. Recordings can then be exported, shared to Dolby’s own audio social network, or uploaded directly to SoundCloud through a built-in integration.

234 is Dolby Labs’ first big entrance into the world of social apps that could give it more face time with consumers than its core business of integrating audio technology into devices by other manufacturers. Using 234 to convince musicians that Dolby is an expert at audio quality could get them buying more of those speakers and headphones. And by selling audio effect packs, the app could earn the company money directly while making the world of mobile music sound better.

Dolby has been covertly testing Dolby Live/234 since at least June. A source tipped us off to the app and while the company hasn’t formally announced it, there is a website for signing up to test Dolby 234. Dolby PR refused to comment on the forthcoming app. But 234’s sign-up site advertises it saying “How can music recorded on a phone sound so good? Dolby 234 automatically cleans up the sound, gives it tone and space, and finds the ideal loudness. it’s like having your own producer in your phone.”

Those with access to the Dolby 234 app can quickly record audio or audio/video clips with optional background noise cancelling. Free sound editing tools including trimming, loudness boost, and bass and treble controls. Users can get a seven-day free trial of the Dolby’s “Essentials” pack of EQ presets like ‘Bright’ before having to pay, though the pack was free in the beta version so we’re not sure how much it will cost. The “Tracks” tab lets you edit or share any of the clips you’ve recorded.

Overall, the app is polished and intuitive with a lively feel thanks to the Instagram logo-style purple/orange gradient color scheme. The audio effects have a powerful impact on the sound without being gimmicky or overbearing. There’s plenty of room for additional features, though, like multi-tracking, a metronome, or built-in drum beats.

For musicians posting mobile clips to Instagram or other social apps, 234 could make them sound way better without much work. There’s also a huge opportunity for Dolby to court podcasters and other non-music audio creators. I’d love a way to turn effects on and off mid-recording so I could add the feeling of an intimate whisper or echoey ampitheater to emphasize certain words or phrases.

Given how different 234 is from Dolby’s traditional back-end sound processing technologies, it’s done a solid job with design and the app could still get more bells and whistles before an official launch. It’s a creative move for the brand and one that recognizes the seismic shifts facing audio production and distribution. As always-in earbuds like Apple’s AirPods and voice interfaces like Alexa proliferate, short-form audio content will become more accessible and popular. Dolby could spare the world from having to suffer through amazing creators muffled by crappy recordings.

 


0

NPR turns comedy game show ‘Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!’ into an Alexa and Google voice app

22:26 | 17 January

NPR is turning its popular game show program “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” into a voice application for smart speakers, including both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered devices. The new app lets listeners play along at home by answering the fill-in-the-blank questions from this week’s news – just like the players do on the NPR podcast and radio show, that’s today aired on more than 720 NPR Member stations.

Also like the NPR program, the new smart speaker game includes the voice talent of the comedy quiz show’s hosts, Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis.

To get started, you just say either “Alexa, open Wait Wait Quiz” or “Hey Google, talk to the Wait Wait Quiz,” depending on your device.

After hearing the question, you can then speak – or shout – your answer at your smart speaker to find out if you got it right.

The game is five minutes long and updated every week, NPR says.

In addition to bragging rights around your home if you win, game players get to compete for an offbeat prize – the chance to have the show’s talent personalize their voicemail, as well as hear their name announced on the air.

The new game was developed in collaboration with VaynerMedia’s internet-of-things-division, VaynerSmart, NPR notes.

It’s not NPR’s first foray into the smart speaker market, but it is its first game.

To date, NPR’s other voice apps have included news briefings, like Up First, News Now, and Story of the Day (plus its variations like World Story of the Day; Business Story of the Day). NPR also offers a live radio app and its NPR One app, as well as dedicated apps for its Planet Money program.

NPR’s continual expansion into smart speakers has to do with the growing popularity of these devices. Its own Smart Audio Report says that 53 million people (or 21% of the adult population) now own one of these devices, and it wants its content there to reach them.

 

 

 


0

Spotify launches Car View on Android to make using its app less dangerous behind the wheel

20:10 | 17 January

Spotify is making it easier to use its streaming app in the car, when the phone is connected to the vehicle over Bluetooth. The company today confirmed the launch of a new feature called “Car View,” which is a simplified version of the service’s Now Playing screen that includes larger fonts, bigger buttons, and no distractions from album art. In Car View, you’re only shown the track title and artist, so you can read the screen with just a glance.

The site 9to5Google was the first to spot the feature’s appearance in Spotify’s settings. However, some users have had the option for weeks in what had appeared to be a slow rollout or possibly a test, pre-launch.

Spotify this morning formally announced the launch of Car View in a post to its Community Forums.

The company says the feature is currently available only on Android devices, and only when the device is connected over Bluetooth.

When the phone connects, Car View is automatically enabled when your music or podcast starts playing.

Above: Car View in action; credit: 9to5Google

While Spotify already offers several in-car experiences through integrations with other apps like Google Maps, Waze, as well as through Android Auto, using the music app while behind the wheel has been very distracting and difficult.

I’ve personally found Spotify so dangerous to navigate while in the car, that I just won’t use it unless I set it up to stream before I drive. Or, in some cases, I’ll hand the phone to a passenger to control instead.

Given the difficulty with Spotify in the car, Car View’s lack of support for those who use the app over an AUX cable is a little disappointing.There’s no good reason why users should not be allowed to manually enable Car View from the Settings, if they choose. After all, it’s just a change to the user interface of a single view – and it’s been built!

Of course, manually toggling Car View on might not feel as seamless as the Bluetooth experience, but a feature like this could prevent accidents caused by people fiddling with their phone in the car. Hopefully, Spotify will make Car View more broadly accessible in time.

According to Spotify, once Car View is enabled, you can access your Library, tap to Browse, or use Search. While listening, you can use the seek bar to skip to another part of the song.

In the case that a passenger is controlling the music on your phone, they can temporarily disable Car View by way of the three dots menu. And if, for some reason, you don’t want to use Car View, the feature can be disabled in the Settings. (But keep it on, OK?)

Spotify also noted Car View supports landscape view, and will arrive on iOS in the future. It didn’t offer a time frame.

Car View officially launched on Android this week, and is now rolling out globally to all users.

 

 


0

On-demand workspace platform Breather taps new CEO

17:00 | 17 January

Breather’s new CEO Bryan Murphy / Breather Press Kit

Breather, the platform that provides on-demand private workspace, announced today that it has appointed Bryan Murphy as its new CEO.

Before joining Breather, Murphy was the founder and President of direct-to-consumer mattress startup, Tomorrow Sleep. Prior to Tomorrow Sleep, Murphy held posts as an advisor to investment firms and as an executive at eBay after the company acquired his previous company, WHI Solutions – an e-commerce platform for aftermarket auto parts – where Murphy was the co-founder and CEO.

Breather believes Murphy’s extensive background scaling e-commerce and SaaS platforms, as well as his experience working with incumbents across a number of traditional industries, can help it execute through its next stage of global growth.

Murphy is filling the vacancy left by co-founder and former CEO Julien Smith, who stepped down as chief executive this past September, just three months after the company completed its $45 million Series C round, which was led by Menlo Ventures and saw participation from RRE Ventures, Temasek Holdings, Ascendas-Singbridge, and Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec.

In a past statement on his transition, Smith said: “As I reflect on my strengths and consider what it will take for the company to reach its full potential, I realize bringing on an executive with experience scaling a company through the next level of growth is the best thing for the business.”

Smith, who remains with the company as Chairman of the Board, believes Murphy more than fits the bill. “Bryan’s record of scaling brands in competitive markets makes him an ideal leader to support this momentum, and I’m excited to see where he takes us next,” Smith said.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Murphy explained that Breather’s next growth phase will ultimately come down to its ability to continue the global expansion of its network of locations and partner landlords while striking the optimal balance between rental economics and employee utility, productivity and performance. With new spaces and ramped marketing efforts, Murphy and the company expect 2019 to be a big year for Breather – “I think this year, you’re going to start hearing a lot about Breather and it really being in a leadership role for the industry.”

Breather’s workspace at 900 Broadway in New York City is one of 500+ network locations accessible to users.

On Breather’s platform, users are currently able to access a network of over 500 private workspaces across ten major cities around the world, which can be booked as meeting space or short-term private office space.

Meeting spaces can be reserved for as little as 30 minutes, while office space can be booked on a month-to-month basis, providing businesses with financial flexibility, private and more spacious alternatives to coworking options, and the ability to easily change offices as they grow. For landlords, Breather allows property owners to generate value from underutilized space by providing a turnkey digital booking system, as well as expertise in the short-term rental space.

Murphy explained to TechCrunch that part of what excited him most about his new role was his belief in Breather’s significant product-market fit and the immense addressable market that he sees for flexible workspaces longer-term. With limited penetration to date, Murphy feels the commercial office space industry is in just the third inning of significant transformation. 

Murphy believes that long-term growth for Breather and other flexible space providers will be driven by a heightened focus on employee flexibility and wellness, a growing number of currently underserved companies whose needs fall between coworking and traditional direct leasing, and the need for landlords to support a wider variety of office space options as workforce demographics and behaviors shift. 

Murphy believes that the ease, flexibility and unlocked value Breather provides puts the platform in a great position to win share.

“Breather has built a remarkable commercial real estate e-commerce and services platform that offers one-click access to over 500 workspaces around the world,” said Murphy in a press release. “To our customers, having access to workspace that is turnkey, affordable, beautiful, productive and that can flex up and down based on needs is a total game changer.”

To date, Breather has served over 500,000 customers and has raised over $120 million in investment.

 


0

Behold, Slack’s new logo

22:23 | 16 January

New year, new you, new Slack. The popular workplace chat service’s resolution clearly involved a bit of a facelift, starting with a new logo. A redesigned version of the familiar grid logo launched this week, and appears to have rolled out on most major platforms.

Slack did the customary thing of explaining the hell out of the new design over of its blog. There’s all of the usual stuff there, about maintaining the spirit while moderning thing up a bit. The company also calls the design “simpler,” which is certainly up for debate. That’s fair enough from the standpoint of the color scheme, but try drawing this one from memory. It’s considerably tougher that the old tic-tac-toe version.

 

The new logo does away with the tilted hashtag/pound symbol of overlapping translucent colors in favor of a symmetrical arrangement of rounded rectangles and pins. The multiplying colors have been pared down to four (light blue, magenta, green and yellow) and the whole effect is reminiscent of a video game console or hospital.

“It uses a simpler color palette and, we believe, is more refined, but still contains the spirit of the original,” the company writes. “It’s an evolution, and one that can scale easily, and work better, in many more places.”

Created by Michael Bierut at the New York firm, Pentagram Design, the new logo marks the first major redesign since the company was launched (in fact, the original apparently predates Slack’s official launch). “The updated palette features four primary colors, more manageable than the original’s eleven, which suffered against any background color other than white,” the firm writes in its own post. “These have been optimized to look better on screen, and the identity also retains Slack’s distinctive aubergine purple as an accent color.”

The new design does potentially open up another issue:

The negative space in the new Slack logo makes it look like a whimsical swastika.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk about how the internet has ruined my brain forever. pic.twitter.com/6Mv1FiuJY4

— Eric Scott Johnson (@HeyHeyESJ)

Slack.

Slack come on.

Making your logo a swastika is literally the easiest fucking thing to avoid in design.

How does no one catch this. pic.twitter.com/77MZlasDFJ

— Abomina-Sean (@Sean8UrSon)

Unintentional, obviously, and the orientation of the above negative space addition is the ancient symbol that was later mirrored and coopted by the worst people, ever. As a number of designers have noted, well, these things can happen, though the association and “once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it” effect could eventually prove the new logo’s ultimate undoing.

 


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Anchor says it’s ‘powering’ 40 percent of new podcasts

20:00 | 16 January

Podcasting’s greatest asset has always been its accessibility — for consumer and creator alike. But even the simplest medium requires a little know-how, and Anchor’s overarching goal has long been to further lower the barrier of entry for those looking to take the leap.

It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone, but the service done a pretty decent job leveling the playing field for many users. In fact, if Anchor’s self-reported numbers are to be believed, it’s been a major driving force for new podcasts.

The company tells TechCrunch it believes it’s currently “powering” 40 percent of new podcasts. That’s up from the around 33 percent it reported over the summer. The service also believes that it’s effectively doubled the number of podcasts running ads since launching its new monetization platform back in November.

The service isn’t disclosing specific numbers here, but says those estimates come through Magellan, a podcasting analytic service that works with some big names like WNYC and Gimlet. In November (just ahead of Anchor’s ad platform launch), the service reported that in the neighborhood of 7,000 podcasts were running ads.

The number seems low, but Magellan notes that expectations have been altered by uneven ad distribution. If you listen exclusively to popular podcasts, that number probably seems a lot closer to 100.

It ought to be noted that podcast analytics are far from an exact science. It’s a very fractured landscape, and while services like iTunes and Spotify are doing a better job serving information up to show hosts, aggregating data is still imperfect.

“In total, we estimate that 6,954 podcasts have ads,” Magellan notes. “Since we were only sampling podcasts, we could still be wrong — but we can say that with 90 percent confidence that between 5,914 and 7,994 podcasts have ads.”

Magellan’s analytics suggested that around one-percent of podcasts were actually running ads at the time. Anchor’s apparently effectively doubled that number, implying that it’s brought advertisements to somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 podcasts, excluding redundancies.

Anchor’s goal of making the medium more accessible to users also finds the company launching a second New York City studio for betaworks users this week. From the looks of it, the lab revolves around Rode’s terrific new podcasting mixing board.

 


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