Facebook will demote spammy scraper website links in the News Feed

Facebook will automatically demote links from websites that post stolen content in the News Feed, according to TechCrunch. The social network has been trying to get its feed under control over the past few years in an effort to strike a balance betwe...

Blockchain media startup Civil is issuing full refunds to all buyers of its cryptocurrency

Many doubted The Civil Media Company‘s ambitious plan to sell $8 million worth of its cryptocurrency, called CVL. 

The skeptics, as it turns out, were right. Civil’s initial coin offering, meant to fund the company’s effort to create a new economy for journalism using the blockchain, failed to attract sufficient interest. The company announced today that it would provide refunds to all CVL token buyers by October 29.

Civil’s goal was to sell 34 million CVL tokens for between $8 million and $24 million. The sale began on September 18 and concluded yesterday. Ultimately, 1,012 buyers purchased $1,435,491 worth of CVL tokens. A spokesperson for Civil told TechCrunch an additional 1,738 buyers successfully registered for the sale, but never completed their transaction.

Civil isn’t giving up. The company says “a new, much simpler token sale is in the works,” details of which will be shared soon. Once those new tokens are distributed, Civil will launch three new features: a blockchain-publishing plugin for WordPress, a community governance application called The Civil Registry and a developer tool for non-blockchain developers to build apps on Civil.

ConsenSys, a blockchain venture studio that invested $5 million in Civil last fall, has agreed to purchase $3.5 million worth of those new tokens. The purchase is not an equity; all capital from the token sale is committed to the Civil Foundation, an independent nonprofit initially funded by Civil that funds grants to the newsrooms in Civil’s network.

In a blog post today, Civil chief executive officer Matthew Iles wrote that the token sale failure was a disappointment but not a shock. Days prior, he’d authored a separate post where he admitted things weren’t looking good.

“This isn’t how we saw this going,” Iles wrote. “The numbers will show clearly enough that we are not where we wanted to be at this point in the sale when we started out. But one thing we want to say at the top is that until the clock strikes midnight on Monday, we are still working nonstop on the goal of making our soft cap of $8 million.”

A recent Wall Street Journal report claimed Civil had reached out to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dow Jones and Axios, among others, but failed to incite interest in its token.

Separate from its token sale, Civil has inked strategic partnerships with media companies like the Associated Press and Forbes, both of which confirmed to TechCrunch today that the failed token sale doesn’t impact their partnerships with Civil. 

Forbes became the first major media brand to test Civil’s technology when it announced earlier this month that it would experiment with publishing content to the Civil platform. As for the AP, it granted the newsrooms in Civil’s network licenses to its content. 

Civil, of course, isn’t the only blockchain startup targeting journalism. Nwzer, Userfeeds, Factmata and Po.et, which was founded by Jarrod Dicker, a former vice president at The Washington Post, are all trying their hand at bringing the new technology to the content industry.

Which, if any, will actually find success in the complicated space, is the question.

Google tweaks Android licensing terms in Europe to allow Google app unbundling — for a fee

Google has announced changes to the licensing model for its Android mobile operating system in Europe,  including introducing a fee for licensing some of its own brand apps, saying it’s doing so to comply with a major European antitrust ruling this summer.

In July the region’s antitrust regulators hit Google with a recordbreaking $5BN fine for violations pertaining to Android, finding the company had abused the dominance of the platform by requiring manufacturers pre-install other Google apps in order to license its popular Play app store. 

Regulators also found Google had made payments to manufacturers and mobile network operators in exchange for exclusively pre-installing Google Search on their devices, and used Play store licensing to prevent manufacturers from selling devices based on Android forks.

Google disputes the Commission’s findings, and last week filed its appeal — a legal process that could take years. But in the meanwhile it’s making changes to how it licenses Android in Europe to avoid the risk of additional penalties heaped on top of the antitrust fine.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of platforms & ecosystems, revealed the new licensing options in a blog post published today.

Under updated “compatibility agreements”, he writes that mobile device makers will be able to build and sell Android devices intended for the European Economic Area (EEA) both with and without Google mobile apps preloaded — something Google’s same ‘compatibility’ contracts restricted them from doing before, when it was strictly either/or (either you made Android forks, or you made Android devices with Google apps — not both).

“Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA),” confirms Lockheimer.

However the company is also changing how it licenses the full Android bundle — which previously required OEMs to load devices with the Google mobile application suite, Google Search and the Chrome browser in order to be able to offer the popular Play Store — by introducing fees for OEMs wanting to pre-load a subset of those same apps under “a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA”.

Though Google stresses there will be no charge for using the Android platform itself. (So a pure fork without any Google services preloaded still wouldn’t require a fee.)

Google also appears to be splitting out Google Search and Chrome from the rest of the Google apps in its mobile suite (which traditionally means stuff like YouTube, the Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, although Lockheimer’s blog post does not make it clear which exact apps he’s talking about) — letting OEMs selectively unbundle some Google apps, albeit potentially for a fee, depending on the apps in question.

“[D]evice manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser,” is what Lockheimer unilluminatingly writes.

Perhaps Google wants future unbundled Android forks to still be able to have Google Search or Chrome, even if they don’t have the Play store, but it’s really not at all clear which configurations of Google apps will be permitted under the new licensing terms, and which won’t.

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source,” Lockheimer adds, without specifying what the fees will be either. 

“We’ll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome. As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours,” he continues to complete his trio of poorly explained licensing changes.

We’ve asked Google to clarify the various permitted and not permitted app configurations, as well as which apps will require a fee (and which won’t), and how much the fees will be, and will update this post with any response.

The devil in all those details should become clear soon though, as Google says the new licensing options will come into effect on October 29 for all new (Android based) smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA.

Hot Wheels’ real-life ‘Rocket League’ RC cars land November 1st

If you've ever wondered what Rocket League would be like in real life, this RC version is as close of an approximation as you'll get to the video game. As teased earlier this year, Hot Wheels and Psyonix have teamed up to build an actual physical ver...

10 lessons from Marketo’s growth to a multi-billion-dollar exit

With Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo, I have been reflecting on what an amazing and pioneering company Marketo has been since it was founded in 2006. There are very few tech companies that have defined a new category, executed a successful IPO, been acquired by a private equity firm for more than four times the company’s initial IPO market value and now, at a price of $4.75 billion, become the largest acquisition of a world-class company like Adobe.

The credit for this dream-come-true Silicon Valley company goes to the co-founding team of Phil Fernandez, Jon Miller and David Morandi, who together built an amazing customer-first product, defined a breakthrough category and launched a marketing automation company that continues to delight and amaze partners and customers alike.

I had the unique pleasure of meeting the founding team in 2006 when they shared their vision and passion for marketing automation. At the time, all they had was a PowerPoint deck. But it was clear then that they had a special idea and the unique capability to build a breakthrough product to deliver on their vision.

In all honesty, I couldn’t know how truly extraordinary the company would become. Thankfully, I was lucky enough that the team chose me and my former partner Bruce Cleveland as their first investor and also was fortunate to serve on the board for 10 years. Most recently, I was thrilled that Phil joined me at Shasta. One of the qualities I admire most about Phil — which was apparent all those years ago and continues to this day — is that he never stops iterating to do things better or faster or more efficiently or more thoughtfully. Phil always carried a notebook that said “THINK” on the cover, which epitomizes how he approaches his work.

Phil recently shared his “10 Things I’d Do Even Better If I Did It Again” presentation with our team and our founder/CEO community. We believe his insights are “10 Must-Dos” for today’s software entrepreneurs. It’s hard for entrepreneurs to know the trade-offs required when making the tough decisions — especially early on ­– but what follows is what I learned from Phil, and the key takeaways from his talk that I believe can help more founders create iconic companies with lasting value. (Note: Click here to view excerpts of Phil’s talk.)

Have one person own revenue

If your company is like every other company, there are two executives — vice president of Sales and the chief marketing officer — who are regularly locking horns because they are each tasked with taking different approaches to the same goal of increasing revenue. How do you solve this?

Hire a chief revenue officer (CRO) who can see both perspectives, plus give the context that sales and marketing are missing. This seat understands the big picture and doesn’t belong in marketing or sales. The CRO needs to talk strategically about life cycle revenue — across the customer journey. She or he should be a storyteller who can look at the numbers and the models and explain it all in plain English to the executive team so that everyone understands. Like a chief people officer, you’re going to have to spend on a CRO — but it’s worth it in the long run.

Hire a chief people officer (CPO) ASAP

Your company needs a leader of “all things people” who can make sure your workplace is welcoming, diverse and responsive to employee needs. For the staff to have trust, this person needs to be in a role that is empowered by the organization and not just by the CEO. Hire the most senior, overqualified HR executive into your business as early as possible — Series A level — and have him or her report directly to the CEO. By constantly listening to people — which is really hard when you’re working really hard — the CPO will help build your culture and be the eyes and ears for the CEO. Investing early in HR will come back to you tenfold through employee retention, team morale and an enviable culture.

Give back when it makes no sense

The day you think you’ve got to get a product release out the door and there’s no time to do anything else is the day you get out and give back in whatever way makes sense for your company and your community. Give employees time off to volunteer. Pick a cause for your company to support. Or, consider starting a charitable foundation with pre-public stock. It will create a spirit and energy that will give back to your team five or 10 times whatever it is costing you.

Charge your first customer

Phil personally wrote a stupid thing on their website that said, “At Marketo, your success doesn’t have a price.” That copy stayed up for years as a testament to how customer-centric they were. They were proud that they weren’t charging for services. But as Phil said, that was a big mistake; they should have been charging from day one.

When you’re a startup, short-range thinking is seductive, but long-range thinking is powerful.

There really isn’t any friction about asking customers to pay for services. If you say, “Look, this product is great. It’s going to transform your business but it’s not easy and it will cost money,” they will spend it. Feature-level sales is a great way to justify why you are charging what you are charging, and it keeps customers renewing services and adding more features as their business grows and changes. To make this strategy work, gear your sales metrics toward incremental increases over time­ instead of pushing sales reps to sell as much as they can all at once. Customers will pay for quality products that meet their needs.

Build a world-class Rev Ops/Sales Enablement team

You need a VP-level Rev Ops/Sales Enablement executive by the time your company reaches $2-3 million in revenue. That individual must think holistically about how revenue is happening, from the early lead in the door and the sale to renewal and the up-sale; understanding full lifetime value and thinking about it in a modeling sense. She or he needs to be a storyteller — one who can look at the numbers, look at the models and then explain it in plain English to the executive team. That’s gold.

Focus on continuous ARPU expansion

Today, to increase ARPU (average revenue per user), you need to design feature-level packaging every bit as much as how you design product functionally. The same people on product management ought to be thinking together with Rev Ops and Sales about how you dish out the product, how you launch the pieces, how you turn on pieces and how you enable pieces. It becomes a part of the art of product design as much as the art of revenue design — and that’s where these two rules of thought really come together. Basically, you need to design an expansion pass.

Incubate new product initiatives

Marketo failed in defining a multi-product company, from when it was $30 million a year to when it was $300 million a year. If you’re going to bring a second product line into the company — whether it’s organic or inorganic — it needs to be incubated. It needs to have its own dedicated sales team and its own separate quotas. If you’re thinking about becoming a multi-product company, do not pass Go, do not collect $200; go read Geoffrey Moores’ Zone to Win, the only business book Phil has ever recommended.

Pursue constant technology renewal

The pace at which tech is moving and the competitive advantage that new tech is providing over old tech has never been like this during the past 35 years. Today, you need someone that’s charged with thinking not about product but about the future. You need to value technical currency. If you’re three years old on your technology and a new company enters your market — the degree of agility, pace and performance the new entrant has in running circles around your company will win over a five-year cycle. Every time.

Always be seeking more TAM

No matter how good your initial tenure is, no matter how good it feels, no matter how amazing you see your company, as the CEO, as a leader, have a Plan B. Know what’s next, know where you’re going next and make sure you’re always talking about it. Be absolutely zealous about ensuring you know the next piece of TAM you’re going to go after. Think about what’s going to happen if you have more money; what would you do next? Give yourself that opportunity to dream, but make it real, make it defensible.

Watch the clock during scale up

When you’re a startup, short-range thinking is seductive, but long-range thinking is powerful. Always be watching the time. The tension between operating leverage and scale-up investment is really dangerous. At Marketo, they got to it late and their growth slowed a little too much. Live in the real world and focus on cash and on making the investments so you have the capacity when you need it. Have a long-range planning process and understand the day when you’ll need $2 million of ramp capacity. Don’t let the tyranny of a seductive short-range model triumph over what the real world is telling you about the dynamics of growing the business. Understand what it takes to really scale.

‘Spider-Man’ DLC arrives next Tuesday with new suits, more web slinging

People can't stop talking about the PS4 exclusive game Marvel's Spider-Man, and now they'll have even more to chat about. The first chapter of a new DLC called The City that Never Sleeps launches on Tuesday, October 23rd.

Pokemon Go October Community Day: Start Time, Featured Pokemon, And Everything You Need To Know – GameSpot


GameSpot

Pokemon Go October Community Day: Start Time, Featured Pokemon, And Everything You Need To Know
GameSpot
Pokemon Go's next Community Day is just around the corner. The monthly event returns this Sunday, October 21, which means Pokemon Go players around the world will soon have another opportunity to capture rare Pokemon, take advantage of in-game ...
Here Are The 23 New Gen 4 Pokémon Now Live In 'Pokémon GO' (So Far)Forbes

Pokémon Go already has fourth-gen region exclusivesPolygon
Pokémon Go update bringing 'mon from the Sinnoh region is liveTechCrunch
Heavy.com -Kotaku -VG247 -BGR
all 86 news articles »

FCC Chairman calls out carriers for Hurricane Michael response, Verizon says it’ll give credits for service

Verizon logo large

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today issued a statement slamming the U.S. carriers for their Hurricane Michael recovery efforts.

“Even though efforts to restore communications services have been going well in most of the areas affected by Hurricane Michael, the slow progress in restoring wireless service in areas close to where the hurricane made landfall is completely unacceptable," Pai said in his statement. He explains that he's been in regular contact with the carriers and feels that their urgency in repairing their networks affected by Hurricane Michael hasn't matched the urgency that Pai and the FCC have conveyed in their meetings.

Because of this, Pai says that the U.S. carriers should waive the October bills of Floridians in areas affected by Hurricane Michael and let them change carriers wihout penalty. The carriers should also disclose publicly how long it will take to restore service to affected areas. Finally, Pai says that he's directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to begin an investigation into this situation.

Meanwhile, Verizon said today that all of its customers in Bay and Gulf counties in Florida will automatically be credited for three months of wireless service. This includes both consumer and business accounts. "Verizon is 100% focused on repairing our network in the Florida Pandhandle," the carrier said. "We are making progress every hour, and we expect that trend to continue at a rapid pace. We won't rest until service is completely restored."

Netflix shares are up after the streaming service adds nearly 7M new subscribers in Q3

After a disappointing second quarter, Netflix is back in Wall Street’s good graces. The company just released its third-quarter earnings report, and as of 5:30pm East Coast time, the stock is up 12 percent in after-hours trading.

The most important number here is subscriber growth, and that’s where Netflix came in way ahead of expectations, with 6.96 million net additions, compared to the 5.07 million that analysts predicted. The service now has a total of 137 million members, and 130 million paying members.

The company also reported earnings of 89 cents per share on revenue of $4 billion — analysts had predicted EPS of 68 cents.

In addition to reporting on the latest financials, Netflix’s letter to shareholders also offers an update on its original content strategy. It distinguishes between two different types of Netflix Originals — the ones like “Orange Is the New Black,” where Netflix gets the first window for distribution, and others like “Stranger Things,” where it actually owns the content.

The company says:

Today, we employ hundreds of people in physical production, working on a wide variety of owned titles spread across scripted and unscripted series, kids, international content, standup, docs and feature films from all over the world. To support our efforts, we’ll need more production capacity; we recently announced the selection of ​Albuquerque, New Mexico​ as the site of a new US production hub, where we anticipate bringing $1 billion dollars in production over the next 10 years and creating up to 1,000 production jobs per year. Our internal studio is already the single largest supplier of content to Netflix (on a cash basis).

Netflix subscription adds Q3

Netflix also says romance has been big recently, thanks to its “Summer of Love” slate of original films, which have been watched by more than 80 million accounts. Apparently “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” did particularly well, becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched original films, “with strong repeat viewing.”

The service plans to release “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón’s new film “Roma” in December, which has already been getting rave reviews at film festivals. While Netflix’s original movies generally have a minimal presence in theaters, the company says “Roma” (like Paul Greengrass’ “22 July”) will be released on more than 100 screens worldwide — not a blockbuster rollout, but not a perfunctory release, either.

The company is forecasting the addition of 9.4 million new members in the fourth quarter.

Bill Gates remembers Paul Allen: ‘I will miss him tremendously’

Yesterday, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen passed away at the age of 65 following a battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and today, Bill Gates shared a few thoughts on the man he says changed his life. "When I think about Paul, I remember a passionate...

Get ready for a lot more facial recognition at the airport

airport

The TSA knows our phones have made us more comfortable with biometric tech.

The TSA outlined their plans for moving forward with biometric security at airports.

Hulu to offer ‘skinnier’ live TV packages to cut costs

A year and a half after getting into the live TV game, Hulu plans to scale back their live offerings. With a new "skinnier" bundle, Hulu would offer less live channels but more shows on-demand. Hulu CEO Randy Freer told The Information that the decis...

Passport, a customer service company focused on shipping, has raised $3 million in seed funding from some notable names

Founders building a brand today are largely relying on new infrastructure to do it, though they’re still heavily reliant on legacy carriers like FedEx and DHL when it comes to international shipping. In fact, prohibitively high prices, along with not a ton of support or tools, are a few reasons why more American products aren’t shipped abroad. Many startups especially decide it’s simply not worth it.

Enter Passport, a 1.5-year-old. San Francisco-based startup that sees an opportunity to make it easier for brands to reach their far-flung customers and that has raised $3 million in seed funding toward that end, including from Resolute Ventures; Precursor Ventures; Product Hunt cofounder Ryan Hoover; Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso; and April Underwood, the chief product officer of Slack, among others.

What piqued investors’ interest? The team, for starters, including cofounder and COO Aaron Schwartz, who previously founded his own e-commerce company (Modify Watches) and CEO Alex Yancher, who, among other things, cofounded a smart fridge kiosk company called Pantry that was acquired.  The two have some experience in moving packages from one point to another, as well as the pain of dealing with lost and delayed packages.

The company is also “asset light,” which investors like to see. Indeed, the company is largely a customer service business focused on shipping. How it works: one of its customers — and these include Native Deodorants — will hold its inventory in a third party logistics warehouse. In Native’s case, it’s a Connecticut company called Fulfillment Works, and Fulfillment Works slaps a label on Native’s packages that have been created by Passport (it stamps out a parent tracking number of each order), then gets the packages ready for pickup.

After that, Passport arranges for a daily pickup of all of Native’s internationally bound parcels, working through a third-party freight company like Old Dominion or FedEx Freight. That company brings the parcels to a consolidation point, where the parcels are sorted by country and final mile. After that, the Canada parcels, say, are sent on a truck to the border and perhaps injected into the Canadian Postal system, or they’re flown to Australia on a Qantas flight and shipped out to the recipient via the Australian Post. Passport then acts as a reference point so that if a customer has any questions about his or her package, they are fielded by Passport.

It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but in an age where consumer expectations are higher than ever when it comes to at-home delivery, an aggregator that connects all the pieces to provide a better customer experience may well prove worth it to some brands. (Others of Passport’s early customers include men’s outfitter Shinesty, backpack maker ISM, the socks manufacturer Bombas, and the clothing company Betabrand.) We were in touch yesterday with Yancher and Schwartz to learn more.

TC: How did you identify this particular sliver of industry as a problem worth tackling?

AY: I ran a personal shopping service — Lynks.com — that helped people abroad buy products from the U.S., and I saw that demand for American goods is booming abroad. In fact, half of a brand’s Instagram followers are from abroad, but only 10 percent of its sales are. Despite the boom in cross-border, current international shipping options are lacking a lot of what a merchant needs to successfully sell and ship abroad.

This pain doesn’t just exist for individual brands alone but also for third party logistics facilities — the operations companies that partner with brands and that receive, warehouse and fulfill customer orders.  They have incredible buying power for shipping customers, and yet they’re also unsatisfied.

TC: It sounds like your differentiator is customer service, but couldn’t another startup come in and strike relationships with international carriers and do precisely the same thing?

AY: Shipping a package internationally is complicated. Building a consistent experience across hundreds of partners with different transit times expectations, technical backends and terms and conditions requires technological as well as logistical expertise. I’ve spent years stringing together custom shipping routes. This isn’t something you just jump into, there’s a ton of nuance into how you work with global posts and private carriers.

What we do differently is embed customer support via Intercom on the tracking page, which is where consumer anxiety happens. Anyone can offer customer experience, but for international shipping, it’s pretty darn hard. You have to get detailed data from a bunch of carriers. You also have to know what the “exceptions” are. We automate a lot of the support behind the scenes, which has taken a year to get going.

We also offer proactive notifications when door tags are left, so a customer can follow-up directly with their local carrier and packages aren’t set back to the U.S.; we set up direct Slack channels with brands in order to help their own customer experience teams deal with any other questions about international shipping; and we do in-shopping-cart integrations, like a fully landed cost calculator, so consumers know exactly what they are paying for an item and won’t get hit with a “your item is held at customs.”

TC: Which international carriers are you working with, and do you have any kind of exclusive deals with them?

AS: We ship to 195 countries around the world and use a different last mile provider in each country and use a variety of trucks (to Canada and Mexico) and air transport partners to get parcels all over the world. In total we work with over 300 carriers and posts. We don’t have exclusive deals on the carrier side of the business.

TC: How do you price packages? How much more do you mark them up in exchange for the hand-holding you provide?

AS: Our price depends on multiple factors from the origin point to the quantity of shipments. Our markup range is between 5 percent to 50 percent depending on the client, but our pricing is 100 percent transparent. If you ship with DHL, FedEx, etc. you’ll get a rate sheet. But then you’ll also have a bunch of hidden fees like fuel surcharges, or “remote area surcharges” of up to 30 percent that will be sent 30 days later, after you’ve charged your customer.  They’ll charge you extra for certain deliveries. They’ll charge you extra for the fully-landed cost calculator — or tell you to partner with a different party. And if your package is lost, they’ll say, “Fill out this form. We’ll be in touch in 90 days after an investigation.”

Our point of view is that great logistics is necessary but insufficient when it comes to international shipping. You also need to deliver a great digital experience for brands. Everything that goes into delivering that gets bundled into our postage price.

Facebook News Feed now downranks sites with stolen content

Facebook is demoting trashy news publishers and other websites that illicitly scrape and republish content from other sources with little or no modification. Today it exclusively told TechCrunch that it will show links less prominently in the News Feed if they have a combination of this new signal about content authenticity along with either clickbait headlines orlanding pages overflowing with low-quality ads. The move comes after Facebook’s surveys and in-person interviews with discovered that users hate scraped content.

If illgotten intellectual property gets less News Feed distribution, it will receive less referral traffic, earn less ad revenue, and the there’ll be less incentive for crooks to steal articles, photos, and videos in the first place. That could create an umbrella effect that improves content authenticity across the web.

And just in case the scraped profile data stolen from 29 million users in Facebook’s recent massive security breach ended up published online, Facebook would already have a policy in place to make links to it effectively disappear from the feed.

Here’s an example of the type of site that might be demoted by Facebook’s latest News Feed change. “Latet Nigerian News” scraped one of my recent TechCrunch articles, and surrounded it by tons of ads.

An ad-filled site that scraped my recent TechCrunch article. This site might be hit by a News Feed demotion

“Starting today, we’re rolling out an update so people see fewer posts that ink out to low quality sites that predominantly copy and republish content from other sites without providing unique value. We are adjusting our Publish Guidelines accordingly” Facebook wrote in an addendum to its May 2017 post about demoting sites stuffed with crappy ads. Facebook tells me the new publisher guidelines will warn news outlets to add original content or value to reposted content or invoke the social network’s wrath.

Personally, I think the importance of transparency around these topics warrants a new blog post from Facebook as well as an update to the original post linking forward to it.

So how does Facebook determine if content is stolen? It’s systems compare the main text content of a page with all other text content to find potential matches. The degree of matching is used to predict that a site stole its content. It then uses a combined classifier merging this prediction with how clickbaity a site’s headlines are plus the quality and quantity of ads on the site.

Facebook News Feed now downranks sites with stolen content

Facebook is demoting trashy news publishers and other websites that illicitly scrape and republish content from other sources with little or no modification. Today it exclusively told TechCrunch that it will show links less prominently in the News Feed if they have a combination of this new signal about content authenticity along with either clickbait headlines orlanding pages overflowing with low-quality ads. The move comes after Facebook’s surveys and in-person interviews with discovered that users hate scraped content.

If illgotten intellectual property gets less News Feed distribution, it will receive less referral traffic, earn less ad revenue, and the there’ll be less incentive for crooks to steal articles, photos, and videos in the first place. That could create an umbrella effect that improves content authenticity across the web.

And just in case the scraped profile data stolen from 29 million users in Facebook’s recent massive security breach ended up published online, Facebook would already have a policy in place to make links to it effectively disappear from the feed.

Here’s an example of the type of site that might be demoted by Facebook’s latest News Feed change. “Latet Nigerian News” scraped one of my recent TechCrunch articles, and surrounded it by tons of ads.

An ad-filled site that scraped my recent TechCrunch article. This site might be hit by a News Feed demotion

“Starting today, we’re rolling out an update so people see fewer posts that ink out to low quality sites that predominantly copy and republish content from other sites without providing unique value. We are adjusting our Publish Guidelines accordingly” Facebook wrote in an addendum to its May 2017 post about demoting sites stuffed with crappy ads. Facebook tells me the new publisher guidelines will warn news outlets to add original content or value to reposted content or invoke the social network’s wrath.

Personally, I think the importance of transparency around these topics warrants a new blog post from Facebook as well as an update to the original post linking forward to it.

So how does Facebook determine if content is stolen? It’s systems compare the main text content of a page with all other text content to find potential matches. The degree of matching is used to predict that a site stole its content. It then uses a combined classifier merging this prediction with how clickbaity a site’s headlines are plus the quality and quantity of ads on the site.

Qualcomm’s new 60GHz WiFi chips promise better VR

Mobile chip manufacturer Qualcomm has announced a family of 60GHz WiFi chips, the QCA64x8 and QCA64x1, which can deliver speeds of over 10Gbps. The WiFi 802.11ay standard that these chips use bring with it theoretical speeds that can surpass even mos...

New study dissects FCC net neutrality commenter backgrounds

A new study out of Stanford University has found that while nearly every unique comment filed in response to the FCC's proposal to repeal net neutrality opposed the agency's plan, net neutrality support was geographically widespread and spanned party...

Google Maps amplifies its app for electric vehicle owners

Google Maps is beefing up its app to help electric vehicle owners find the most suitable and closest place to charge up.

Google Maps said Tuesday it’s adding an EV charging feature to the app that will give users information about charging stations. Google has featured charging stations for a number of years now. But now, Google Maps is displaying more stations from supported networks and providing information about the stations themselves, including how many charging ports are available and how quickly they’ll be able to charge.

Users can type in keywords like “ev charging” or “EV charging stations” to see the nearest supported stations.

The EV charging search feature starts rolling out Tuesday on Android and iOS, with desktop launching in the coming weeks.

Google Maps now supports charging stations around the world, including Tesla and ChargePoint globally. In the U.S., the feature also includes SemaConnect, EVgo and Blink. ChargeMaster and Pod Point are included in Google Maps in the UK and ChargeFox stations will be shown in Australia and New Zealand.

Google Maps will show information about the business where the station is located, the types of ports available, charging speeds, and how many ports there are. Users will also see information about the station from drivers, including photos, ratings, reviews and questions.

There are other third-party apps out there with this kind of information, notably PlugShare, which has been a go-to source for many electric vehicles owners in the past. Innogy recently acquired PlugShare’s parent company Recargo.

Google Maps amplifies its app for electric vehicle owners

Google Maps is beefing up its app to help electric vehicle owners find the most suitable and closest place to charge up.

Google Maps said Tuesday it’s adding an EV charging feature to the app that will give users information about charging stations. Google has featured charging stations for a number of years now. But now, Google Maps is displaying more stations from supported networks and providing information about the stations themselves, including how many charging ports are available and how quickly they’ll be able to charge.

Users can type in keywords like “ev charging” or “EV charging stations” to see the nearest supported stations.

The EV charging search feature starts rolling out Tuesday on Android and iOS, with desktop launching in the coming weeks.

Google Maps now supports charging stations around the world, including Tesla and ChargePoint globally. In the U.S., the feature also includes SemaConnect, EVgo and Blink. ChargeMaster and Pod Point are included in Google Maps in the UK and ChargeFox stations will be shown in Australia and New Zealand.

Google Maps will show information about the business where the station is located, the types of ports available, charging speeds, and how many ports there are. Users will also see information about the station from drivers, including photos, ratings, reviews and questions.

There are other third-party apps out there with this kind of information, notably PlugShare, which has been a go-to source for many electric vehicles owners in the past. Innogy recently acquired PlugShare’s parent company Recargo.

Apple Watch Series 4 review: The best smartwatch just got better

Just because the overall design of the Apple Watch Series 4 resembles the previous generation doesn't mean it didn't received a big refresh. No, in fact, the Apple Watch Series 4 received the biggest update we've ever seen made to the product line.

Google Maps adding EV charging station info

Google Maps EV charging station info

Google Maps can already help you find things like coffee shops, gas stations, and grocery stores, and now it can help you find EV charging stations, too.

Google is adding info on electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to Google Maps. Just search for "EV charging" or "EV charging stations" and you'll see the nearest supported stations, complete with info like location, the types of ports available, charging speeds, and the number of ports. There will also be details like photos, ratings, and reviews from drivers.

Additionally, businesses that have EV charging stations will have a link to info about their chargers.

Globally, you'll see Tesla and Chargepoint charging stations in Google Maps. Folks in the U.S. will get info on SemaConnect, EVgo, and Blink chargers as well, while users in the U.K. will see info on Chargemaster and Pod Point chargers. Those folks in Australia and New Zealand will get info on Chargefox charging stations.

EV charging station info in Google Maps is now rolling out on the Android and iOS versions of Google Maps. It'll appear for desktop users in the coming weeks.

Netflix expects to hit 146 million subscribers in Q4

Three months ago, Netflix failed to meet its own prediction for worldwide subscriber growth, so there are a lot of eyes on today's results. Since then it's announced that CFO David Wells is leaving, snapped up property in LA, announced a new producti...

Google to split Chrome and Search from Android in EU

Google is fighting the EU's Android antitrust fine tooth and nail, but it's also making major changes to its licensing policy to comply with that decision in the meantime. To begin with, it's separating the license for its standard apps from Chrome...

Coinbase now lets you buy and sell ZRX

Coinbase’s newest asset is live. On Tuesday the popular U.S.-based cryptocurrency platform added support for ZRX, the token representing the 0x Project. On Coinbase, ZRX joins the rarified ranks of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic and Litecoin.

Coinbase ZRX

The addition doesn’t come as a surprise. Last week, Coinbase added ZRX to Coinbase Pro, the so-called “evolution of GDAX,” Coinbase’s more feature-rich trading platform. Coinbase also previously signaled its intentions to “explore” the addition of a number of new cryptocurrencies including 0x (ZRX), Cardano (ADA), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Stellar Lumens (XLM) and Zcash (ZEC).

By showing its hand well in advance and being more transparent about its regulatory hurdles, the platform will hopefully avoid another debacle like the volatile launch of Bitcoin Cash last December, which prompted an insider trading investigation.

“One of the most common requests we hear from customers is to be able to trade more assets on Coinbase,” Coinbase said in a blog post.

ZRX should show up soon for most users across the desktop, iOS and Android versions of Coinbase. At launch time, ZRX won’t be available in the state of New York or the United Kingdom due to unresolved regulatory issues.

Coinbase now lets you buy and sell ZRX

Coinbase’s newest asset is live. On Tuesday the popular U.S.-based cryptocurrency platform added support for ZRX, the token representing the 0x Project. On Coinbase, ZRX joins the rarified ranks of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic and Litecoin.

Coinbase ZRX

The addition doesn’t come as a surprise. Last week, Coinbase added ZRX to Coinbase Pro, the so-called “evolution of GDAX,” Coinbase’s more feature-rich trading platform. Coinbase also previously signaled its intentions to “explore” the addition of a number of new cryptocurrencies including 0x (ZRX), Cardano (ADA), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Stellar Lumens (XLM) and Zcash (ZEC).

By showing its hand well in advance and being more transparent about its regulatory hurdles, the platform will hopefully avoid another debacle like the volatile launch of Bitcoin Cash last December, which prompted an insider trading investigation.

“One of the most common requests we hear from customers is to be able to trade more assets on Coinbase,” Coinbase said in a blog post.

ZRX should show up soon for most users across the desktop, iOS and Android versions of Coinbase. At launch time, ZRX won’t be available in the state of New York or the United Kingdom due to unresolved regulatory issues.

A major UK energy supplier is now 100 percent wind power

Scottish Power has become the first of the UK's "big six" energy companies to completely drop fossil fuels for electricity generation, after selling off its remaining gas plants to power company Drax in a £702 million deal. In a statement, Scot...

Are you going to buy the new Palm phone?

New Palm phone

Palm is back. Kind of. The original company might not be, but the brand is, and we've got a new phone coming to market to prove it. The Palm Phone is a phone, technically, but it's not meant to be your daily driver. We've apparently reached a point where we have "weekend phones" now, designed to link with your big phone and reduce your reliance on it.

Companion devices aren't new, as long as you are willing to accept that our smartwatches, especially now, are designed to be the same thing. But the Palm device is meant to offer the same functionality on a device that has a bigger display than a smartwatch, while also offering the Android platform, Google Assistant, and cameras.

A tiny phone to help you stop using your big phone so much.

The new Palm Phone launches in November, and it comes along with a price tag that's actually pretty high. At over $300 it puts the device in the same league as other mid-range handsets that are a lot more powerful and feature heavy. Of course, it's also priced similarly to most smartwatches, too, so maybe this is just what companion devices are marked at.

But I can't imagine this flying off the shelves, especially because of the price and the fact it is still a phone. Yes, you can put on Life Mode and you won't have to worry about notifications. Which is great, but my big phone does that, too.

And that's really most of it right there for me, and this actually extends to smartwatches, too. On a personal note I just don't want, or need, another device to either show me notifications or not. I've tried so many different smartwatches over the years and it always comes down to this same result. My phone is enough, for whichever situation I need.

I don't know that I'd need a companion device like the new Palm Phone either way, but I think I might be a bit more willing to consider it if it didn't cost so much. But that's just me, and I'm more curious to know what you think about Palm's new companion device. Is this a new gadget on your radar, and one you're excited to pick up when it launches? Let me know!

Periscope broadcasters can now assign their own chat moderators

It’s going to be harder for trolls to disrupt Periscope broadcasts. The Twitter-owned live streaming app has offered chat moderation capabilities for years, but it has so far relied on group moderation. That means when users flagged a comment as abuse, spam or harassment, Periscope would randomly select a few other viewers to take a look and decide if that’s true. Violators would be banned if the users agreed. That worked well in some cases, but it still put control in the hands of the crowd, not the live streamer. Now, Periscope is changing that.

Instead of relying solely on group moderation, the company says broadcasters will instead be allowed to assign chat moderators before they start streaming.

These moderators can then watch the chat during the live broadcast and actively mute commenters in the audience who are disruptive.

After being muted, the person will not be allowed to chat for the remainder of the broadcast. This muting activity will be visible to anyone joining the broadcast from either Periscope or Twitter, but assigning chat moderators can only be done from Periscope, the company says.

When the live stream wraps, the broadcaster can then view a list of all the muted accounts and can choose to block those users from joining in future broadcasts.

The addition, which arrived alongside new replay editing tools, is another step towards improving the health of conversations on Periscope, the company claims. It follows another change announced this past summer, which focused on stricter enforcement of its rules around abuse and harassment.

Before, trolls whose comments were flagged during a broadcast were only temporarily blocked from chatting. They wouldn’t be able to comment on that live broadcast, but they could still join others in the future and continue to disrupt, threaten or abuse the video creator or the community.

The change that rolled out this summer made it so that those people who repeatedly got suspended for violating the guidelines would have their Periscope accounts reviewed and suspended.

Online harassment is not a new problem, to be sure, but the major social platforms have been struggling to get a handle on the issues.

In Twitter’s case, in particular, it’s been called out for being too tolerant of online harassment and hate speech, under the guise of protecting free speech. But Twitter has been trying to better handle abuse complaints, in more recent months, including through the acquisition of anti-abuse technology provider Smyte, which is helping to automate some of the processes here, as well as with the rollout of more stringent policies and anti-abuse features. Periscope hasn’t received as much attention, but is focusing on reducing the abuse that occurs during the real time conversations on live broadcasts.

More info on how the new chat moderation feature works is here.

 

Pixel 3 XL teardown reveals Google’s switch to a Samsung display

When people noticed that the Pixel 3 XL's display was much better than its predecessor's, a common question emerged: did Google ditch LG for someone else? Yes, according to iFixit. The DIY repair house has torn down both the 3 XL and its smaller co...

Huawei unveils giant Mate 20 X phone, regular-sized wearable

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei just showed off its latest flagship devices, including the Mate 20 smartphone and the Watch GT smartwatch. While those devices make a play for broader audiences, Huawei also went niche with a smartphone aimed at...

Fox Sports’ new virtual studio runs on Unreal Engine

It's no secret that Epic Games has enabled a number of gaming studios to create more-realistic visuals with its Unreal game engine. Since its debut in 1998, powering the first-person shooter Unreal, the technology has evolved to power hundreds of gam...

Google Maps adds EV charging station info

Following recent updates that help users plan their commutes and group events, Google Maps is now helping EV drivers figure out where to charge their vehicles. A new feature is rolling out today that will let you search for charging stations and prov...

Google will start charging Android manufacturers to use its apps in Europe – Digital Trends


Digital Trends

Google will start charging Android manufacturers to use its apps in Europe
Digital Trends
It looks like Google is set to significantly change how it works with Android manufacturers, at least in Europe. To date, Android device makers have been able to load Google's apps and services onto their Android phones free of charge. Now, however ...
Google will start charging European Android device makers a fee for its appsThe Verge

Google will charge Android device makers a licensing fee to preinstall its apps in EuropeVentureBeat
Google to Charge Phone Makers for Android Apps in EuropeNew York Times
Wall Street Journal -CNET -SlashGear -CNBC
all 60 news articles »

Google-incubated AdLingo uses chatbot integration to create conversational ads

“Conversational marketing” is a phrase that I hear a lot, but when the team at AdLingo uses it, they mean something specific — namely, bringing chatbots and other conversational assistants into online advertising.

The startup is part of Google’s Area 120, and co-founder and general manager Vic Fatnani said he’s worked on advertising at Google for more than a decade.

“One of the things we saw happening was this paradigm shift with users and consumers going towards more of a conversational medium,” he said. “Everything is becoming more conversational, whether it’s through devices such as your phone, your speaker and eventually your car … We asked ourselves, ‘Hey if this shift is happening, why can’t marketing be more conversational?'”

You may be wondering whether consumers are really clamoring to interact with ads, but Fatnani said he and his co-founder Dario Rapisardi were determined not to build “a solution that needs a problem,” so they spent months talking to marketers and chatbot developers.

Apparently, when they asked about what challenges everyone was facing, the big answer was “discovery.” As Fatnani put it, “Hey, I have this amazing conversational assistant, but it’s really hard for me to bring this in front of audience.”

General Manager Vic Fatnani, Head of Partnerships Stephanie Lyras, Head of Engineering Dario Rapisardi

In his view, advertising provides the perfect medium to solve this problem. Instead of building a chatbot and just letting consumers find it on their own website or app, brands can integrate it into their advertising, allowing people who see the ad to ask questions and provide feedback.

“Imagine you want to launch a new soda drink in Brazil, a market that you’ve never entered before,” he added. “Imagine you can now run a conversational display ad and actually have people vote to say what kind of flavor would you like to drink.”

Or for a real example, there’s the Allstar Kia experience that you can see at the top of this post. Che company’s director of internet marketing Chris Ferrall said in a statement that “AdLingo lets our customers browse inventory, determine car trade-in value and make an appointment with a salesperson — all within an engaging, interactive experience that meets them right where they are.”

To be clear, Adlingo isn’t building the chatbots. Instead, Fatnani said, “The brands and developers bring the conversational experience to us, and we distribute that experience all over the web.”

To do this, the platform integrates with chatbot tools like Dialogue Flow, Microsoftbot Framework, LiveEngage and Blip. It’s also partnered with Valassis Digital and LivePerson (the Kia campaign happened through Valassis).

How does this all fit into Google’s larger plans for advertising? Fatnani said it doesn’t, at least not yet.

“We are completely separate efforts in terms of our product roadmap and what we execute,” he said, later adding, “At this point, we just want to make sure we’re really, really focused on our customer.”

Facebook is reportedly making a video chat camera for your TV

Facebook's Portal cameras might just be the start of the company's plans to bring video chat to your home. Cheddar sources claimed that the social network is making a "camera-equipped device" that brings video chat and streaming services (including F...

No, your Twitter was not hacked

Twitter users on iOS were hit with a strange bug today. Instead of receiving notifications that included the tweet itself, they received a string of alphanumeric characters. The issue only affected iOS users, we confirmed with the company, and has since been resolved.

Twitter was quick to address the problem, following complaints from Twitter users about the weird notifications.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted at 12:42 PM ET today that Twitter was aware of the issue and was working on a fix.

Minutes later, he tweeted again that the issue was resolved.

We asked Twitter for more details on what went wrong, as a lot of people were wondering why their phones’ notification screen looked like this.

Some were also concerned it was a security issue of some kind, and didn’t know if a password reset was in order.

Twitter now says the issue was only a bug – nothing to be concerned about.

The company pointed us to a tweet from its Support channel (see below), which explains the issue in layman’s terms. It says the bug was related to the code used for iOS notifications – specifically the “red bubbles” (meaning the app icon’s badges).

Normally, you would not see this in “numbers and code,” Twitter explains.

But the issue is fixed, it’s not a hack, and we can all rest easy.

Whew. 

 

 

Report: Lyft picks JPMorgan to lead IPO in 2019

Lyft and Uber’s race to an IPO is heating up.

Lyft has selected JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its initial public offering along with Credit Suisse Group and Jefferies Group, the WSJ reported, citing “people familiar with the company’s plans.”

Lyft declined to comment.

Lyft is expected to file an IPO in the first half of 2019. Choosing an underwriter marks the next official step in the process. Meanwhile, Uber is making it’s own preparations.

Uber, which has received proposals from banks that placed its value as much as $120 billion, is also considering an early 2019 listing.

Some people familiar with the plan said Lyft’s valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued earlier this year. While Lyft’s value is still considerably lower than Uber’s, it’s on the upswing.

Lyft said in June 2018 that it raised an additional $600 million in a Series I financing round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, pushing its post-money valuation to $15.1 billion. The valuation had more than doubled in a 14-month span.

Lyft has spent the past 18 months aggressively expanding into new U.S. cities, as well as into Canada and pursuing its autonomous vehicle ambitions. Lyft has increased its market share in the U.S. to 35 percent. In January 2017, Lyft had just 22 percent market share in the United States.

Lyft has raised $2.9 billion in primary capital since April 2017. In total, Lyft has raised $5.1 billion since its inception.

Google to begin charging Android device makers in Europe for its apps

Google Pixel 2 XL

In response to a recent European Commission decision to fine Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules with Android, Google today announced some changes to how it'll handle Android with device makers.

Google says that it will now allow Android device makers to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search app and Chrome browser. The new paid licensing agreement will be available for tablets and smartphones shipped into the European Economic Area (EEA).

Google will also offer separate licenses for the Google Search app and Chrome browser. The company will also offer new commercial agreements to its partners for the non-exclusive preinstallation and placement of the Google Search and Chrome apps.

Finally, any device makers will be able to build non-compatible, forked smartphones and tablets for the EEA and license Google apps for those devices.

These changes will go into effect on October 29th, 2018 for all new smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA.

In its ruling earlier this year, the European Commission said that Google had "imposed illegal restrictions on Android device makers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search." The European Commission said that Google had required device makers to preinstall the Google Search and Chrome apps in order to also license the Play Store while also preventing manufacturers from preinstalling Google apps on devices with forked versions of Android.

While Google has said that it has filed the European Commission's ruling, today's announcement from Google is a move to comply with that ruling. Now device makers will need to pay a licensing fee to install apps like the Play Store and YouTube, though they'll be able to license Google Search and Chrome separately. Google says that Android itself "will remain free and open source".

Macaw will curate Twitter for you, help expand your network

Twitter today inserts activity-based tweets into your timeline, alerting you to things like the popular tweets liked by people you follow, or those Twitter accounts that a lot of people in your network have just started to follow. These alerts can be useful, but their timing is sporadic and they can be easily missed. Plus, if you turn off Twitter’s algorithmic timeline (as may be possible for some), you’ll lose access to this sort of info. A new Twitter app called Macaw aims to help.

Macaw, which recently launched on Product Hunt, offers a set of similar information as Twitter does, with a few changes.

Macaw works by first pulling in a list of people you follow. It then tracks what tweets they like throughout the day and turns that into a feed of tweets that were most popular. Macaw does the same thing for users, too – that is, it shows you if a number of people have suddenly started following someone, for example.

Beyond this, Macaw will also show you the “Latest” tweets receiving likes from your network in a separate tab, as well as tweets where someone has asked a question.

This “Asks” section will highlight tweets where someone on Twitter has asked something like “Does anyone know…?” or “what are the best…?”, for example. This can help you find new conversations to participate in and help you expand your network.

The end result is a curated version of Twitter, where you can catch up with what’s important, without so much endless scrolling through your timeline.

Even if you’re on Twitter itself a lot, Macaw can still be useful.

Its default setting will hide top tweets posted by someone in your network – because, chances are, you’ve already read them. With this setting turned on, you’ll only be shown top tweets by users you don’t yet follow.

You can also configure how many likes are required for something to be considered a “top” tweet. By default, this is set to 25, but you can change it to 10, 100, or even 1,000. You can adjust the default setting for the age of the tweet, too, from 6 hours to 2 hours, 24 hours, or 96 hours, based on how often you check in.

The app, however, is not a Twitter client.

That is, it doesn’t take the place of Twitter or other apps like Twitterific or Tweetbot, as you can’t use it to post tweets, access direct messages, update your profile, or follow users. You’ll need a different app, like the main Twitter client, for that. But a tap in Macaw will launch Twitter for you, making the transition feel seamless.

The app was built by Zachary Hamed, who had previously built Daily 140 for tracking a similar set of data, shared via email. He says he started building Macaw as a side project and launched it into private beta in August. It doesn’t currently have a business model, beyond a plan to maybe charge for additional features later on.

In some ways, Macaw is similar to Nuzzel, another Twitter summarization app that provides a list of top links that your network is sharing and discussing. But many of the best things on Twitter aren’t links, they’re individual tweets or tweetstorms. (Like that recent Google+ rant, for example).

Hamed admits Nuzzel was a source of inspiration for Macaw (a bird that screams constantly, by the way. Ha!)

“I was actually inspired by those notifications in the main Twitter app since I’ve always found them fascinating and by Nuzzel, which is one of my most used apps – and whose founder Jonathan I really respect,” Hamed says. “I think there is a lot of hidden insight to be found in posts people have liked and who they start following, especially if there is momentum around certain names or topics. As of now, Twitter only shares one to two of those recommendations, not all of it,” he adds.

*While we do like Macaw, the app, one thing we’re not a fan of are the fake reviews on the Macaw website, which pretend to be from @Jack, Mary Meeker, and Chamath Palihapitiya. It’s obviously meant to be a joke, but it falls flat – Macaw doesn’t need this sort of false promotion, and it’s wrong because it could confuse less savvy users.

Macaw is a free download on the App Store.

 

Sony says it fixed message bug that crashed PS4s

You might not have to dread receiving a message on your PS4. Sony's Twitter-based PlayStation UK support has told customers that the company has "fixed the issue" that let malicious PSN messages crash consoles. While the team didn't explain what ha...

Adobe’s Project Brush Bounty uses AI to paint animation into static illustrations

Adobe animated brushes

These brushes can make it rain or add flowing hair to pretty much anything

Adobe's Project Brush Bounty uses AI to animate images.

Keeps parent company Thirty Madison raises $15 million to fight male pattern baldness

Thirty Madison, the healthcare startup behind the hair loss brand Keeps, has brought in a $15.25 million Series A co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

The company provides a subscription-based online marketplace for men’s hair loss prevention medications Finasteride and Minoxidil. Keeps sells these drugs direct-to-consumer, working with manufacturers to keep the costs low.

On Keeps, a subscription of Minoxidil, an over-the-counter topical treatment often referred to as Rogaine, is $10 monthly. A subscription to Finasteride, a prescription drug taken daily, is $25 per month.

It’s an end-to-end platform that is the single best place for guys who are looking to keep their hair,” Thirty Madison co-founder Steven Gutentag told TechCrunch.

Keeps is tapping into a big market. According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of American men experience some hair loss by the age of 35.

You may have heard of Hims, a venture-backed men’s healthcare company that similarly sells subscriptions to hair loss treatments, as well as oral care, skin care and treatments for erectile dysfunction. Keeps is its smaller competitor. For now, the company is focused solely on haircare, though with the new funds, Thirty Madison plans to launch Cove, a sister brand to Keeps that will provide treatments to migraine sufferers.

The company was founded last year by Gutentag and Demetri Karagas with a plan to develop several digital healthcare brands under the Thirty Madison umbrella.

“Going through this process myself of starting to experience hair loss, I was not sure where to turn,” Gutentag said. “I went online and looked up ‘why am I losing my hair,’ and if you search on Google, really for any medical condition, you usually walk away thinking you’re going to die … I was so fortunate that I got access to this high-quality specialist who could help me with my problem and I was in the position to afford those treatments but most people don’t get that access.”

Keeps also provide digital access to a network of doctors at a cost of roughly $30 per visit.

TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos wrote last year that “it’s never been a better time to be a man who privately suffers from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss” because of advances and investments in telemedicine. Since then, even more money has been funneled into the space.

Hims has raised nearly $100 million to date and is rumored to be working on a line of women’s products. Roman, a cloud pharmacy for erectile dysfunction, raised an $88 million Series A last month and is launching a “quit smoking kit.” And Lemonaid Health, which also provides prescriptions to erectile dysfunction medications and more, secured $11 million last year.

Greycroft, Steadfast Venture Capital, First Round, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, HillCour and Two River also participated in Thirty Madison’s fundraise, which brings its total raised to date to $22.75 million.

Discord’s game store is open to everyone

Discord is marching further onto Steam's turf by opening up its game store to all users. The store arrived in August in a limited beta, and now everyone can pick up games directly from the app.

Pokémon Go update bringing ‘mon from the Sinnoh region is live

If you’ve been laying off the Pokémon Go for a while due to a lack of new monsters, prepare to be glued to your phone again. Niantic is now adding pokémon from the rugged Sinnoh region that first appeared in 2007’s Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum games.

Of course, it’s not so simple as a dump of a hundred new ‘mon into your area. The new guys are arriving in waves, likely meaning the most common sorts will start appearing today, while cooler ones and sets of themed critters will arrive over the coming weeks.

These are part of the Generation 4 set, but it’s not clear yet which will be appearing first or indeed at all. It’s entirely up to Niantic and you can be sure they’re going to mete these little guys out over several months, interspersed with other events — anything to keep you catching.

Everyone will probably have a Chimchar on their shoulder soon, because that sucker is cute, but ultimately everyone is going to want a Dialga. I get the feeling they’re going to be a regular feature at gyms soon. I for one will be working to evolve a Glaceon.

There are also some new evolutions, so don’t trash your mid-tier pokémon just yet. Magmortar, Electivire, Tangrowth, and Rhyperior mean you’ll have a use for all that extra candy.

Update your app and start draining that battery, Trainer! And don’t forget that we’ve got Niantic’s Ross Finman at our AR/VR Session in LA this Thursday. Drop by if you’re in the area.

Huawei Mate 20 X official with 7.2-inch OLED screen, 5000mAh battery

Huawei introduced several devices today, and rounding them all out is the Mate 20 X.

One of the highlight features of the Huawei Mate 20 X is its OLED screen, which measures 7.2 inches and has a resolution of 2244x1080. Now that phones regularly launch with screens around the 6-inch size, we don't often use the term "phablet", but the Mate 20 X and its 7.2-inch screen seems like it'd fit the bill for a phablet device in 2018.

To help you take advantage of that big screen, Huawei has included stylus support with the Mate 20 X. The new phone works with Huawei's M-Pen stylus to let you take notes and more on the Mate 20 X's huge screen.

Like its Mate 20 siblings, the Mate 20 X also offers a triple rear camera setup, which includes a 40MP wide angle lens, 20MP ultra wide angle sensor, and 8MP telephoto camera. There's autofocus and Huawei AI Image Stabilization included as well as a flash. And around front in the Mate 20 X's waterdrop-style notch is a 24MP selfie camera.

Huawei Mate 20 X triple rear camera setup

Huawei is also placing a big focus on gaming with the Mate 20 X. In addition to its big screen, the phone offers a Kirin 980 processor and GPU Turbo 2.0 tech for faster gaming performance. There's also Huawei SuperCool tech, a cooling system that uses Vapour Chamber and Graphene Film to help keep your Mate 20 X cool during intense gaming sessions. And when it comes to audio, the Mate 20 X offers a stereophonic sound system.

To help keep the Mate 20 X going all day long, Huawei has included a 5000mAh battery. Thankfully, there's also Huawei's SuperCharge high-speed charging tech included so that you can refill that big battery in a hurry.

The Huawei Mate 20 X will launch with Android 9 Pie running below Huawei's custom EMUI 9 user interface. It'll arrive in Europe on October 26th at a price of €899 ($1,041 USD).

Arm launches Neoverse, its IP portfolio for internet infrastructure hardware

Arm-based chips are ubiquitous today, but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. After announcing its ambitions for powering more high-end devices like laptops a few months ago, the company today discussed its roadmap for chips that are dedicated to internet infrastructure and that will power everything from high-performance servers to edge computing platforms, storage systems, gateways, 5G base stations and routers. The new brand name for these products is ‘Neoverse’ and the first products based on this IP will ship next year.

Arm-based chips have, of course, long been used in this space. What Neoverse is, is a new focus area where Arm itself will now invest in developing the technologies to tailor these chips to the specific workloads that come with running infrastructure services. “We’ve had a lot of success in this area,” Drew Henry, Arms’ SVP and GM for Infrastructure, told me. “And we decided to build off that and to invest more heavily in our R&D from ourselves and our ecosystem.”

As with all Arm architectures, the actual chip manufacturers can then adapt these to their own needs. That may be a high core-count system for high-end servers, for example, or a system that includes a custom accelerator for networking and security workloads. The Neoverse chips themselves have also been optimized for the ever-changing data patterns and scalability requirements that come with powering a modern internet infrastructure.

The company has already lined up a large number of partners that include large cloud computing providers like Microsoft, silicon partners like Samsung and software partners that range from RedHat, Canonical, Suse and Oracle on the operating system side to container and virtualization players like Docker and the Kubernetes team.

Come 2019, Arm expects that Neoverse systems will feature 7nm CPUs. By 2020, it expects that will shrink to 5nm. What’s more important, though, is that every new generation of these chips, which will arrive at an annual cadence, will be 30 percent faster.

Fujifilm X-T3 review: An X-Series camera that gets video right

Fujifilm's X-T3 sure looks a lot like the X-T2, but don't be deceived. Aside from the handsome, compact body, this is a smarter, more capable mirrorless camera in almost every way. It's got a higher-resolution sensor, much improved autofocus and...

22 things that make traveling way less stressful

Don't let dead batteries, dirty socks, or bad headphones ruin your vacation.

22 must-have travel items you won't want to leave at home. Read on.

Fortnite Patch Notes (Update 6.10): Tournaments, Quadcrasher — Here’s What’s New – GameSpot


GameSpot

Fortnite Patch Notes (Update 6.10): Tournaments, Quadcrasher -- Here's What's New
GameSpot
Epic Games has released the patch notes for Fortnite's 6.10 update, which is rolling out on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android now. The major new addition to Fortnite's Battle Royale mode is the Quadcrasher, a two-seater vehicle that ...
Turbo-powered Quadcrasher crashes the party in new 'Fortnite' update 6.01Digital Trends

Fortnite Update Adds Quadcrasher VehicleGame Rant
Fortnite patch notes detail Quadcrasher vehicle, new Events tabSlashGear
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Twitter sent out strange, nonsensical notifications to its users

If you got a super weird Twitter notification today, featuring a seemingly random string of numbers a letters ending in a colon and another number, you're not alone. Quite a few users posted screenshots of the ones they received today, noting that wh...

GitHub launches Actions, its workflow automation tool

For the longest time, GitHub was all about storing source code and sharing it either with the rest of the world or your colleagues. Today, the company, which is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft, is taking a step in a different but related direction by launching GitHub Actions. Actions allow developers to not just host code on the platform but also run it. We’re not talking about a new cloud to rival AWS here, but instead about something more akin to a very flexible IFTTT for developers who want to automate their development workflows, whether that is sending notifications or building a full continuous integration and delivery pipeline.

This is a big deal for GitHub . Indeed, Sam Lambert, GitHub’s head of platform, described it to me as “the biggest shift we’ve had in the history of GitHub.” He likened it to shortcuts in iOS — just more flexible. “Imagine an infinitely more flexible version of shortcut, hosted on GitHub and designed to allow anyone to create an action inside a container to augment and connect their workflow.”

GitHub users can use Actions to build their continuous delivery pipelines, and the company expects that many will do so. And that’s pretty much the first thing most people will think about when they hear about this new project. GitHub’s own description of Actions in today’s announcement makes definitely fits that bill, too. “Easily build, package, release, update, and deploy your project in any language—on GitHub or any external system—without having to run code yourself,” the company writes. But it’s about more than that.

“I see CI/CD as one narrow use case of actions. It’s so, so much more,” Lambert stressed. “And I think it’s going to revolutionize DevOps because people are now going to build best in breed deployment workflows for specific applications and frameworks, and those become the de facto standard shared on GitHub. […] It’s going to do everything we did for open source again for the DevOps space and for all those different parts of that workflow ecosystem.”

That means you can use it to send a text message through Twilio every time someone uses the ‘urgent issue’ tag in your repository, for example. Or you can write a one-line command that searches your repository with a basic grep command. Or really run any other code you want to because all you have to do to turn any code in your repository into an Action is to write a Docker file for it so that GitHub can run it. “As long as there is a Docker file, we can build it, run in and connect it to your workflow,” Lambert explained. If you don’t want to write a Docker file, though, there’s also a visual editor you can use to build your workflow.

As Corey Wilkerson, GitHub’s head of product engineering also noted, many of these Actions already exist in repositories on GitHub today. And there are now over 96 million of those on GitHub, so that makes for a lot of potential actions that will be available from the start.

With Actions, which is now in limited public beta, developers can set up the workflow to build, package, release, update and deploy their code without having to run the code themselves.

Now developers could host those Actions themselves — they are just Docker containers, after all — but GitHub will also host and run the code for them. And that includes developers on the free open source plan.

Over time — and Lambert seemed to be in favor of this — GitHub could also allow developers to sell their workflows and Actions through the GitHub marketplace. For now, that’s not an option, but it it’s definitely that’s something the company has been thinking about. Lambert also noted that this could be a way for open source developers who don’t want to build an enterprise version of their tools (and the sales force that goes with that) to monetize their efforts.

While GitHub will make its own actions available to developers, this is an open platform and others in the GitHub community can contribute their own actions, too.

GitHub will slowly open Actions to developers, starting with daily batches for the time being. You can sign up for access here.

In addition to Actions, GitHub also announced a number of other new features on its platform. As the company stressed during today’s event, it’s mission is to make the life of developers easier — and most of the new features may be small but do indeed make it easier for developers to do their jobs.

So what else is new? GitHub Connect, which connects the silo of GitHub Enterprise with the open source repositories on its public site, is now generally available, for example. GitHub Connect enables new features like unified search, that can search through both the open source code on the site and internal code, as well as a new Unified Business Identity feature that brings together the multiple GitHub Business accounts that many businesses now manage (thanks, shadow IT) under a single umbrella to improve billing, licensing and permissions.

The company also today launched three new courses in its Learning Lab that make it easier for developers to get started with the service, as well as a business version of Learning Lab for larger organizations.

What’s maybe even more interesting for developers whose companies use GitHub Enterprise, though, is that the company will now allow admins to enable a new feature that will display those developers’ work as part of their public profile. Given that GitHub is now the de facto resume for many developers, that’s a big deal. Much of their work, after all, isn’t in open source or in building side projects, but in the day-to-day work at their companies.

The other new features the company announced today are pretty much all about security. The new GitHub Security Advisory API, for example, makes it easier for developers to find threads in their code through automatic vulnerability scans, while the new security vulnerability alerts for Java and .NET projects now extend GitHub’s existing alerts to these two languages. If your developers are prone to putting their security tokens into public code, then you can now rest easier since GitHub will now also start scanning all public repositories for known token formats. If it finds one, it’ll alert you and you can set off to create a new one.

These AI-generated fortunes are just as mysterious as the real thing

Fortune cookies are as American as baseball and apple pie. Initially popularized in California at the turn of the 20th century, these after meal treats have long counseled casual diners with sage advice, prophetic phrases and lucky numbers. But why s...

Huawei Watch GT is a new smartwatch with a two-week battery life

Huawei Watch GT smartwatch official

Alongside its new Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro flagships, Huawei today took the wraps off of a brand new smartwatch.

The Huawei Watch GT is the company's latest wearable device, but unlike previous models, the Watch GT doesn't run Google's Wear OS. Instead, it runs Huawei's custom LiteOS. The software is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones and places a focus on fitness. Huawei says that the Watch GT includes tracking for a variety of sports as well as fitness coaching features.

As you might expect from a fitness-focused wearable, the Huawei Watch GT offers heart rate tracking. Huawei touts its TruSeen 3.0 heart rate monitoring tech that uses PPG optical, hardware design, and algorithms to track active and resting heart rate. When in Active Mode, the Watch GFT can notify you to adjust the intensity of your workout based on heart rate interval. There's also sleep tracking that uses invisible lights to monitor your heart rate while not disturbing your sleep.

Another notable feature of the Huawei Watch GT is its battery life. Using smart power-saving algorithms and its custom softtware, the Watch GT can get up to two weeks of battery life on a single charge. The algorithms can switch between performance and efficiency modes based on your activity.

Other notable features of the Huawei Watch GT include a round 1.39-inch 454x454 AMOLED screen, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2 support, and water resistance up to 50 meters. The case features a ceramic bezel design, stainless steel shell, and DLC coating.

While some folks may be disappointed that the Huawei Watch GT doesn't use Google's Wear OS, the trade-off might be worth it to get two weeks of battery life. If you're looking for a fitness-focused wearable that can also be dressed up and look like a nice, traditional watch, the Huawei Watch GT may be worth a look.

Google’s Piano Genie lets anyone improvise classical music

Google has taken the idea of Rock Band and Guitar Hero and pushed it one step further, creating an intelligent controller that lets you improvise on the piano and makes it sound like you actually know what you're doing, no matter how unskilled you ar...

Sega Fans Will Get A High End Retro Console Of Their Own – Kotaku


Kotaku

Sega Fans Will Get A High End Retro Console Of Their Own
Kotaku
The Mega Sg comes in four different variants, three of which are black with different colored power buttons and lettering, and one that's all white. Image: Analogue. Analogue, the Seattle-based retro console maker, has announced its latest project: the ...
Sega Genesis finally gets the HD console it deservesPolygon

Analogue Announces The Mega Sg, A Sega-Focused Retro Console Coming In April 2019GameSpot
The Mega Sg will play almost every classic 1990s Sega gameCNET
The Verge -Gizmodo -Ars Technica -IGN
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Amazon announces recycling and green energy initiatives in US and UK

Amazon has announced two new green initiatives in the US and the UK aimed at reducing waste and its carbon footprint. In the US, the company shared plans to invest $10 million in Closed Loop Fund, which supports recycling infrastructure throughout th...

Huawei’s latest phones use proprietary storage cards for some reason

Huawei's Mate 20 phones bring some clever new features to the table, but there's one that you might not be so thrilled about: a proprietary storage format. The new handsets are the first to take NM Card, a Huawei-made design that offers the capacity...

In an emotional statement, Bill Gates says he’s ‘heartbroken’ by the death of his Microsoft cofounder – Chron.com


Chron.com

In an emotional statement, Bill Gates says he's 'heartbroken' by the death of his Microsoft cofounder
Chron.com
Bill Gates says he is "heartbroken" by the death of his childhood friend and Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen. Related Stories. Paul Allen's legacy: His 'life transformed the world' · 'Inexpressible loss': Reactions pour in following Allen's death ...
Paul Allen, Co-Founder of Microsoft, Passes Away at 65New York Magazine


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Medical device maker Medtronic finally fixes its hackable pacemaker

Medtronic, a maker of medical devices and implants, has pulled the plug on its internet-based software update system, which security researchers had found had a dangerous security vulnerability

The company said in a notice this week that it’s switching off the software distribution network after researchers found that a hacker could update the pacemaker’s software with malicious software that could manipulate the impulses that regulate a patient’s heartbeat. The researchers, Jonathan Butts and Billy Rios, revealed the vulnerability at the Black Hat conference in August, more than a year after first reporting the vulnerability to Medtronic.

The bug isn’t within the pacemaker itself but the devices that are used by doctors to connect to the pacemaker to check its battery and status. These “programmer” devices weren’t checking if downloaded software hadn’t been tampered with.

Medtronic issued several updates throughout the year to try to mitigate the vulnerability, but only this month shut down the internet updating feature, per a security advisory issued by the Federal Drug Administration.

Now, patients with one of the 34,000 CareLink affected pacemakers will have to receive the update over USB from their doctor when new software is released, according to Medtronic’s statement.

It’s a turnaround from how the medical device maker reacted when the flaws were first reported. Butts said at the time that the company “spent more time trying to twist the story than fixing it.”

Medtronic said that it’s not received any reports to date of anyone exploiting the vulnerabilities.

Facebook rolls out checks for UK political ads

Facebook has announced it rolled out a system of checks on political ads run on its platform in the UK which requires advertisers to verify their identity and location to try to make it harder for foreign actors to meddle in domestic elections and referenda.

This follows similar rollouts of political ad transparency tools in the U.S. and Brazil.

From today, Facebook said it will record and display information about who paid for political ads to run on its platform in the UK within an Ad library — including retaining the ad itself — for “up to seven years”.

It will also badge these ads with a “Paid for by” disclaimer.

So had the company had this system up and running during the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, the Canadian data firm AIQ would, presumably, have had to pass its political advertiser verification process, and display “Paid for by” Vote Leave/BeLeave/Veterans for Britain badges on scores of pro-Brexit ads… If it didn’t just get barred for not being based in the UK in the first place.

(How extensively Facebook will be checking up on political advertisers’ ‘paid for by’ claims is one pertinent question to ask, and we have asked; otherwise this looks mostly like a badging exercise — which requires other doing the work to check/police claims… ).

Ditto during Ireland’s referendum earlier this year, on overturning a constitutional ban on abortion. In that instance Facebook decided to suspend all foreign-funded ads a few weeks before the vote because it did not yet have a political ad check system in place.

In the UK, the new requirement on political advertisers applies to “all advertisers wanting to run ads in the UK that reference political figures, political parties, elections, legislation before Parliament and past referenda that are the subject of national debate”, Facebook said.

“We see this as an important part of ensuring electoral integrity and helping people understand who they are engaging with,” said Richard Allan, VP of global public policy, and Rob Leathern, director of product management in a blog post announcing the launch. “We recognise that this is going to be a significant change for people who use our service to publish this type of ad. While the vast majority of ads on Facebook are run by legitimate organisations, we know that there are bad actors that try to misuse our platform. By having people verify who they are, we believe it will help prevent abuse.”

UK lawmakers have been highly critical of Facebook’s response to their attempts to investigate how social media ads were used and mis-used during the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.

This summer the parliamentary committee that has been investigating online disinformation called for a levy on social media to ‘defend democracy’. And earlier this year Facebook told the same committee it would roll out an authentication process for political advertisers in time for the UK’s local elections, in May 2019 — with CTO Mike Schroepfer telling MPs the company believes “radical transparency” can fix concern about the societal and democratic impacts of divisive social media ads.

In response, MPs quizzed Schroepfer on whether Facebook’s political ad transparency tool would be so radical as to include “targeting data” in the disclosures — i.e. “will I understand not just who the advertiser was and what other adverts they’d run but why they’d chose to advertise to me”.

The Facebook CTO’s response in April suggested the company did not plan to go that far. And, indeed, Facebook says now that the details it will disclose in the Ad library are only: “A range of the ad’s budget and number of people reached, and the other ads that Page is running.”

So not, seemingly, any actual targeting data: Aka the specific reasons a particular user is seeing a particular political ad. Which could help Facebook users contextualize political ads and be wiser to attempts to manipulate their opinion, as well as generally better understand how their personal information is being used (and potentially misused).

It’s true that Facebook does already provide some data about broad-brush targeting, with a per-ad option users can click to get a response on ‘why am I seeing this?’. But the targeting categories the company serves via this feature are so broad and lacking in comprehensiveness as to be selectively uninformative and thus pretty useless at very best.

Indeed, the results have even been accused of being misleading.

If Facebook was required by law to rip away its adtech modesty curtain entirely there’s a risk, for its business model, that users would get horribly creeped out by the full bore view of the lidless eye in the digital wall spying on them to target ads.

So while Schroepfer teased UK MPs with “radical transparency” the reality, six months on, is something a whole lot more dilute and incremental.

Facebook itself appears to be conceding as much, and trying to manage expectations, when it writes: “We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time — not just for Facebook but for advertisers as well.”

So it remains to be seen whether UK lawmakers will be satisfied with this tidbit. Or call for blood, as they set themselves to the task of regulating social media.

The other issue is how comprehensively (or otherwise) Facebook will police its own political ad checks.

Its operational historical is replete with content identification and moderation failures. Which doesn’t exactly bode well for the company to robustly control malicious attempts to skew public opinion — especially when the advertisers in question are simultaneously trying to pour money into its coffers.

So it also remains to be seen how many divisive political ads will simply slip under its radar — i.e. via the non-political, non-verified standard route, and get distributed anyway. Not least because there is also the trickiness of identifying a political ad (vs a non-political ad).

Malicious political ads paid for by Kremlin-backed entities didn’t always look like malicious political ads. Some of the propaganda Russia was spreading via Facebook in the US targeted at voters included seemingly entirely apolitical and benign messages aimed at boosting support among certain identity-based groups, for example. And those sorts of ads would not appear to fit Facebook’s definition of a ‘political ad’ here.

In general, the company also looks to be relying on everyone else to do the grunt-work policing for it — as per its usual playbook.

“If you see an ad which you believe has political content and isn’t labeled, please report it by tapping the three dots at the top right-hand corner of the ad,” it writes. “We will review the ad, and if it falls under our political advertising policy, we’ll take it down and add it to the Ad Library. The advertiser will then be prevented from running ads related to politics until they complete our authorisation process and we’ll follow up to let you know what happened to the ad you reported.”

Pinterest is turning more of its window shoppers into buyers with newest features

Visual search engine Pinterest is rolling out new features this morning that will make it easier for people to purchase the products on its platform.

The $12 billion company, which has 250 million monthly active users, has rebuilt the infrastructure behind its product pins with a goal of making the mobile app and website more “shoppable,” per Pinterest’s head of shopping product Tim Weingarten.

The company says since it began testing the new features in the previous quarter, clicks on products to retail sites increased by 40 percent. That’s a big win for Pinterest, whose business model relies greatly on advertising revenue.

The three new features include up-to-date pricing and stock information on all product pins, with links that take pinners to the retailer’s website, plus a new “Products like this” category under each fashion and home decor pin, which includes stylistically similar products that Pinterest thinks that user will like. It’s also added a new shopping shortcut within the app that connects users to similar products to a given pin. That new feature is accessible when users hold down on any home or style pin and click on the price tag logo (second image below).

[gallery ids="1733233,1733234,1733235"]

“When you see something on Pinterest you’d like to own you should be able to buy it, or something just like it, that matches your unique style. That’s our vision for shopping with Pinterest,” Weingarten wrote in a blog post announcing the features. “Pinterest is like your personal stylist. We can give you recommendations for products to buy based on your unique taste and what’s trending, and show you a range of visual ideas.”

Pinterest has been trying to convert its users to buyers for a long time. Last year, the company launched Pinterest Lens, which lets users take a photo of something in their existing wardrobe or a cool pair of shoes they saw someone wearing on the subway, for example, upload it into the app and instantly view that product or similar ones.

The company has no choice but to beef up its e-commerce features, not only because it’s expected to make the transition into the public markets sometime in 2019 but because even larger players in the space, namely Facebook and Instagram, have begun integrating features that make it easier for their users to discover and consider purchases.

According to a CNBC report, Pinterest is expected to double its ad revenue to $1 billion this year. To date, it’s secured more than $1 billion in venture capital funding, most recently raising $150 million at a $12.3 billion valuation.

With $300M in new funding, Devoted Health launches its Medicare Advantage plan in Florida

Devoted Health, a Waltham, Mass.-based insurance startup, has raised a $300 million Series B and is enrolling to its Medicare Advantage plan members in eight Florida counties.

The company, which helps Medicare beneficiaries access care through its network of physicians and tech-enabled healthcare platform, has raised the funds from lead investor Andreessen Horowitz, Premji Invest and Uprising.

The company declined to disclose its valuation.

Devoted’s founders are brothers Todd and Ed Park — the company’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, respectively. Todd co-founded a pair of now publicly traded companies, Athenahealth, a provider of electronic health record systems, and health benefits platform Castlight Health. He also served as the U.S. chief technology officer during the Obama administration. Ed, for his part, was the chief operating officer of Athenahealth until 2016 and a member of Castlight’s board of directors for several years.

Venrock partners Bryan Roberts — Devoted’s founding investor — and Bob Kucker — its chief medical officer — are also part of the company’s founding team.

The Park brothers have tapped Jeremy Delinsky, the former CTO at Wayfair and Athenahealth, as COO; DJ Patil, a former data scientist at the White House, as its head of technology; and Adam Thackery, the former CFO of Universal American, as its chief financial officer.

Its board includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. As part of the latest round, a16z’s Vijay Pande will join its board, too.

The company says it’s committed to treating its customers as if they were members of its employees’ own families. For Patil, the startup’s head of tech, that’s made the entire process of building Devoted a very emotional one.

“I’ve cried a lot at this company,” Patil told TechCrunch. “You meet these seniors and they’ve done everything right. They’ve worked so incredibly hard their entire lives. They’ve given it their all for the American dream. They’ve paid into this model of healthcare and they deserve better.”

Devoted, which previously raised $69 million across two financing rounds in 2017 from Oak HC/FT, Venrock, F-Prime Capital Partners, Maverick Ventures and Obvious Ventures, has begun enrolling to its Medicare Advantage plan seniors located in Broward, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk and Seminole counties. It will begin providing care January 1, 2019.

Its long-term goal is to offer insurance plans to seniors nationwide.

“We are responsible for these people’s healthcare, so we need to get it right,” Patil said.

Pinterest rolls out product recommendations for easier shopping

Over the last few years, Pinterest has become not just a place to pin your favorite clothing or home decor ideas, but also where you would go to shop. Buyable pins would let you purchase items directly from Pinterest, while recommendation tools like...

Microsoft’s Cortana mobile beta adds conversational voice control

Microsoft just made Cortana considerably more useful on smartphones -- provided you're an early adopter. It has announced a version 3.0 beta for Android and iOS that delivers a major interface overhaul with some valuable features. Gone is the blue-la...

Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro flagships revealed with triple rear camera setups

Huawei Mate 20 official

October has been a big month for smartphones, and that continues today with the debut of the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

First up is the Huawei Mate 20, which features a triple rear camera setup in the shape of a square. There's a wide angle 12MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, an ultra wide angle 16MP camera with f/2.2 aperture, and an 8MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom and f/2.4 aperture. In the fourth corner of the camera square is the camera flash. Below the rear cameras is the Mate 20's fingerprint reader.

Around front is a 6.5-inch 2244x1080 LCD screen, and while there is a notch at the top of that display, it's a pretty small waterdrop-style notch with only room for the 24MP front-facing camera. Diving inside the phone, we're met by Huawei's Kirin 980 processor that's been paired with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 128GB of built-in storage, and dual SIM slots, with one slot supporting Huawei's new NM Card memory card format. Also included is a 4000mAh battery, wireless charging support, and Android 9 Pie below a custom EMUI 9 user interface.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

And then there's the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. While this device may share a design with the Huawei Mate 20, it's got some notable upgrades to help it earn that "Pro" moniker. For example, the triple rear camera setup on the Mate 20 Pro includes a 40MP wide angle camera, 20MP ultra wide angle camera, and an 8MP telephoto camera. This triple rear camera setup is finished off with a flash.

The front of the Mate 20 Pro features a display that's smaller than the Mate 20's but is higher res. The Mate 20 Pro boasts a 6.39-inch 3120x1440 OLED screen that has a larger notch than the Mate 20, but that's because it's got facial recognition tech inside of it along with a 24MP front camera. And rather than rely on a rear fingerprint reader like the Mate 20, the Mate 20 Pro has been equipped with an in-display fingerprint sensor.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro in-display fingerprint sensor

Inside the Mate 20 Pro is the same Kirin 980 processor as the Mate 20, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of built-in storage. Huawei has also included dual SIM slots, though you can use one of those slots for Huawei's custom NM Card memory card to add more storage. There's a 4200mAh battery powering the Huawei Mate 20, and there's wireless charging support included, too. In fact, the Mate 20 Pro is actually capable of wirelessly charging other devices. The software is Android 9 Pie running below the EMUI 9 user interface.

The Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro will be launched globally, but unfortunately, they're not expected to arrive in the U.S. Pricing for the Huawei Mate 20 will be set at €799 ($926 USD), while the Mate 20 Pro will cost €1049 ($1,215 USD).

Huawei's Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro could be big devices. They tick many of the boxes that you'd expect from a flagship smartphone in 2018, and the multi-camera setups sound enticing. The big batteries on both phones are attractive as well. Now we just have to wait to get the phones in our hands to see if they can live up to their loaded spec lists.

Huawei announces Watch GT and Band 3 Pro: Made for urban explorers as companions to the Mate 20 series – ZDNet


ZDNet

Huawei announces Watch GT and Band 3 Pro: Made for urban explorers as companions to the Mate 20 series
ZDNet
huawei-watch-gt2.jpg Image: Huawei. Featured stories. ​We're killing off passwords. But are we ready for what will replace them? Google Pixel 3 XL first impressions: There's (even) more to like · Google, grow up: Drop the Apple-like arrogance or Chrome ...
Huawei's Watch GT is a fitness band disguised as a watch, and that's greatThe Verge

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Huawei Mate 20 and 20 Pro unveiled: More AI, better cameras, wireless charging – ZDNet


ZDNet

Huawei Mate 20 and 20 Pro unveiled: More AI, better cameras, wireless charging
ZDNet
This device is unable to play the requested video. Huawei has unveiled the 2018 updates to last year's 5.9-inch Mate 10 and 6.0-inch Mate 10 Pro smartphones. There are no surprises with the naming of the two new handsets, the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 ...
The Huawei Mate 20 X has a colossal 7.2" display with a waterdrop notch and practically no bezelAndroid Police

Huawei's Mate 20 Pro Is Absolutely LoadedGizmodo
Huawei Mate 20 Pro priced at 1049 euros, available in Europe nowCNET
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‘Fortnite’ Tournaments pit controller against keyboard and mouse

Fortnite's 6.10 update arrives today, and with it, a new Tournaments feature giving everyone what developer Epic says is the chance to "compete directly alongside the pros for prizes and glory." Each tournament session lasts several hours, and everyo...

Facebook is building a camera TV set-top box – TechCrunch


TechCrunch

Facebook is building a camera TV set-top box
TechCrunch
A mysterious product called “Ripley” appeared hidden beside Facebook's new Portal smart displays in Facebook for Android's code. Dug up by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong a week ago, Ripley's name squared with Facebook's VP of ...
Facebook Is Developing A Camera-Equipped TV Device Capable Of Streaming — ReportDeadline

Facebook's follow-up to Portal will sit on your TV, says reportCNET
Facebook is reportedly making a video chat camera for your TVEngadget
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Facebook is building a camera TV set-top box codenamed Ripley

A mysterious product called “Ripley” appeared hidden besides Facebook’s new Portal smart displays in Facebook for Android’s code. Dug up by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong a week ago, Ripley’s name squared with Facebook’s VP of Portal Rafa Camargo telling us that “we’re already investing in expanding the product line with more products we want to launch next year.”

That Facebook device will be a camera-equipped device that connects to televisions to allow video chat and media content viewing, according to Cheddar’s Alex Heath.

Facebook’s Portal’s devices sit on a desk or countertop and cost $199 for a smaller screen and $349 for a bigger one. But with Ripley, Facebook could sell a much cheaper screen-less add-on for the televisions people already have. Facebook could build hardware network effect by releasing its Portal technology in many form factors.

The Ripley name could change before the eventual launch next year that Cheddar says is coming in Spring 2019. It might become something more evocative of the device’s purpose. But regardless of the name, it’s sure to encounter heavy skepticism due to Facebook’s history of privacy and security troubles. Many users don’t trust Facebook enough to put one of its cameras and microphones in its house.

Ripley is said to run on the same Portal operating system that builds off the same Android open source framework. That means it might carry a similar slate of features. Those include Portal’s auto-zooming camera that can follow users to keep them in frame, video chat through Messenger, a smart photo frame for while it’s not in use, Facebook Watch videos, Alexa voice control, and a third-party app platform including video content from outside developers.

While users might occasionally watch recipe or news videos on Portal, entertainment could be core to Ripley. The device would allow Facebook to compete with Roku, Amazon, Apple, and other set-top boxes. The device could also eventually be a natural home for Facebook’s video ads, even though it’s not putting them on Portal right now.

Along with smart speakers, whoever creates what plugs into our TVs will control a fundamental wing of future home computing. Facebook won’t surrender this market, despite its disadvantage due to its many scandals.

Elon Musk’s settlement with the SEC approved by judge, sending shares higher

The saga between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which began with a now infamous “funding secured” tweet about taking the electric automaker private, is officially resolved.

A federal judge has approved Musk’s settlement with the SEC over securities fraud allegations. Bloomberg was the first to report the judge’s approval.

Tesla shares jumped more than 4 percent on the news.

The SEC alleged in a complaint filed in September that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share. Federal securities regulators reportedly served Tesla with a subpoena just a week after the tweet. The SEC filed a complaint alleging securities fraud six weeks later.

The complaint was filed after Musk and Tesla’s board abruptly walked away from an agreement with the SEC. The board not only pulled out of the agreement, it issued a bold statement of support for Musk after the charges were filed. The NYT reported that Musk had given an ultimatum to the board and threatened to resign if the board pushed him to settle.

A settlement was eventually reached anyway, albeit with stiffer penalties than the original agreement. However, this problematic chapter in Tesla’s history wasn’t over despite the two parties reaching a settlement.

An order by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan asked the SEC and Tesla to submit a joint letter explaining why the court should approve the consent judgment. The joint letter was filed October 11. Nathan determined the consent judgment was “fair and reasonable,” and approved it Tuesday.

Musk agreed, in the settlement reached on September 29, to step down as chairman of Tesla and pay a $20 million fine.

Musk is supposed to resign from his role as chairman of the Tesla board within 45 days of the agreement. He cannot seek reelection or accept an appointment as chairman for three years. An independent chairman will be appointed, under the settlement agreement.

Tesla agreed to pay a separate $20 million penalty, according to the SEC. The SEC said the charge and fine against Tesla is for failing to require disclosure controls and procedures relating to Musk’s tweets.

Substack celebrates its first birthday with 25K paying newsletter subscribers

It’s been a year since the launch of Substack, a platform that allows newsletter writers to build a subscription business. Today, on its first birthday, the startup has a simple message: Yes, people really are willing to pay for newsletters.

In fact, the company says there are more than 25,000 paying subscribers for Substack -powered newsletters (up from 11,000 in July). And newsletters published on the platform reach a total of 150,000 paying active readers.

Co-founder and CEO Chris Best described the pitch as, “We’ll do everything for you except the hard part,” namely writing the newsletter. It offers way to publish newsletters, charge a subscription fee and then decide which content only goes to paying subscribers.

“It’s a really simple idea,” Best said — and in his view, that’s part of what makes it powerful.

At the same time, the startup has been adding more features like gift subscriptions, podcast support and subscriber-only comments, which have the bonus of reducing troll-ish commentary from random visitors.

“We can be like, ‘Comments are for people that are paying,'” Best said. “That actually fixes a lot of the problem.”

Substack launched with Sinocism, a China-focused newsletter written by MarketWatch co-founder Bill Bishop, and apparently the paid subscription sign-ups on Bishop’s first day added up to six figures in annual revenue. Since then, writers like Judd Legum (who quit his job as editor in chief of ThinkProgress to launch his newsletter Popular Information), Toast founders Nicole Cliffe and Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Slate political correspondent Jamelle Bouie have also used Substack to create paid newsletters (though again, it’s not all behind a paywall — the platform allows them to publish a mix of free and paid content).

“One of the things striking to us is the kinds of writers,” Best added. “It’s not a particular genre or type of writer, it’s not the subject matter that determines [success]. The kinds of writers who make it work are people who have a dedicated following, that have a particular point of view that makes them indispensable.”

Best also said this is “the kind of thing you want to do whole hog.” In other words, the successful writers are passionate about their subjects and committed to the newsletter format and subscription business model, rather than asking, “How can I diversify my revenue?”

At the same time, co-founder Hamish McKenzie (a journalist himself) noted that Substack isn’t just a platform for well-known writers to start charging their existence audience for their work. For example, there’s Petition, which was launched on Substack as an anonymously-written newsletter about corporate restructuring and bankruptcy.

The Substack team didn’t get specific about plans for the year two, but Best and McKenzie made it clear that they think this reflects a broader shift away from a news and commentary model driven by social distribution and monetized by ads.

“The core thing is really simple,” Best said. “The core thing is: Publish some stuff, get people to love it and then charge them for it.”

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