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Yik Yak returns from the dead

August 17, 2021 No Comments

After meeting an ignominious end in 2017, the anonymous gossip app once popular with college students lives again. Yik Yak returned to the iOS App Store on Monday (sorry, Android users) under new ownership, inspiring a fresh round of interest in the long-dead social network.

With a reputation for rampant cyber-bullying and harassment, moderation woes were central to the app’s failure. Once ubiquitous on many college campuses, Yik Yak limped into 2016, laying off most employees and struggling to keep users engaged. The app tried to pivot away from campus gossip and toward location-based social networking that same year, but it wasn’t enough and the once high-flying social network was sold for scrap.

As co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington wound down the app in 2017, Square paid $ 1 million for several Yik Yak engineers and rights to some of the company’s intellectual property. The company had raised $ 73 million and was valued around $ 400 million in 2014, during its peak. TechCrunch contacted the company for information about its new ownership, which is apparently based in Nashville, but has yet to receive a response.

Though we’re still not sure who re-launched it, the new version of Yik Yak is well aware of the original app’s pitfalls. After providing a phone number to sign up, a short onboarding sequence warns users of a zero tolerance “one strike and you’re out” policy for bullying and threats.

“We’re committed to combating bullying and hate speech on the Yik Yak platform by any means necessary,” the new Yik Yak team, which acquired the rights to develop the app in February, wrote on a relaunched website.

Being aware of what issues will inevitably arise on a social network and being prepared to moderate those issues at scale are two very different propositions. Yik Yak is anonymous, but it’s also an app focused on what’s happening IRL nearby within a tight radius, two factors that could combine to pose even more of a moderation challenge.

Within the new app, a sidebar points users toward “stay safe” resources address and array of issues that could arise on the app, like ridesharing, bullying, sexual consent and COVID-19, though the app doesn’t yet include explicit misinformation policies.

Another section in the sidebar offers a list of mental health resources and encourages users to downvote and report any bullying on the app so it can be reviewed by the Yik Yak team. The company says that yaks with a negative ranking from five or more downvotes will be automatically removed from the app’s feed, though we’ve asked the company for more details about its content moderation plans, including if a team at Yik Yak is dedicated to the task.

The new Yik Yak is built around location-based sharing and users can share messages, called “yaks,” to anyone within a five-mile radius. If you’re in a rural area or otherwise quiet zone devoid of yaks, you can amuse yourself with the confessions that show up on a chart of popular national posts.

For now, many high-ranking posts are excited chatter about the app’s return from former Yik Yak devotees — mostly younger millennials who’ve since graduated from college. A smattering of popular posts warns that Gen Z-ers too young to have used Yik Yak during its heyday won’t know what hit them.

“Is this app now 100% 25-30 year olds?” one post reads. “The Zoomers aren’t ready for the return of the Yak,” another user wrote.


Social – TechCrunch



Twitter now in compliance with India’s new IT rules, government says

August 10, 2021 No Comments

Twitter is now complying with India’s new IT rules, New Delhi told a court Tuesday, in a move that is expected to ease months-long tension between the American social media network and the government of the key overseas market.

A lawyer representing the Indian government told the Delhi High Court that Twitter’s recent steps — appointment of chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer in the country — have made the social network “prima facie” compliant with the new law.

A Twitter spokesperson in India didn’t immediately return a text.

India’s new IT rules, which were unveiled in February this year, mandates significant social media firms, among other things, to appoint officials to address on-ground concerns in the country.

Facebook and Google complied with this requirement in May, when the proposed rules went into effect in the South Asian market.

Twitter, which was facing heat from the Indian government for not blocking some tweets that the Indian government had deemed objectionable, had requested additional few months to comply with the new rules and in the meantime filled the required roles with temporary staff.

Tension has been brewing between the two for several months. Twitter labeled a tweet from Sambit Patra, the spokesperson of India’s ruling party BJP, in May as “manipulated media.” Days later, a special squad of Delhi police that investigates terrorism and other crimes made a surprise visit to two of Twitter’s offices in the country to seek information about Twitter’s rationale to term Patra’s tweets as manipulated.

Twitter at the time said it was “concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.”

The firm’s slow-efforts to comply with the new IT rules had cost the firm liability protection in the country last month, the Indian government said earlier. Separately, it warned Twitter that the firm was in “total noncompliance” with the law.

Internet services enjoy what is broadly referred to as “safe harbor” protection that say that tech platforms won’t be held liable for the things their users post or share online.

Twitter also received public criticism from several top Indian ministers.

“All social media platforms are welcome to do business in India. They can criticize Ravi Shankar Prasad, my Prime Minister or anyone. The issue is of misuse of social media. Some of them say we are bound by American laws. You operate in India, make good money, but you will take the position that you’ll be governed by American laws. This is plainly not acceptable,” Prasad, who was the IT minister of India until resigning from the position last month, said at a virtual conference early July.

The new rules also require significant social media firms operating encrypted messaging services to devise a way to trace originator of messages for special cases. Several firms including Facebook’s WhatsApp and Signal have not complied with this requirement. WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over this requirement.


Social – TechCrunch


Oh, Facebook changed its privacy settings again

August 8, 2021 No Comments

Ever considerate of its users, Facebook has determined that its privacy settings needed a bit of a shuffle to keep things clear and easy to find. To that end they’ve taken the “privacy settings” settings and scattered them mischievously among the other categories.

“We’ve redesigned our entire settings menu on mobile devices from top to bottom to make things easier to find. Instead of having settings spread across nearly 20 different screens, they’re now accessible from a single place,” writes Facebook in a blog post announcing the changes.

Oh, sorry — that’s from 2018, when they centralized privacy settings to make them easier to find. This is the one from today about decentralizing them into a bunch of different places.

“Settings are now grouped into six broad categories, each containing several related settings: Account, Preferences, Audience and Visibility, Permissions, Your Information, and Community Standards and Legal Policies … We’ve unbundled the Privacy Settings category and moved the settings previously contained within it into other categories.”

Facebook unbundling its privacy settings (but the image is actually a guy sprinkling salt in the wind)

Pictured: Facebook unbundling its privacy settings into new categories.

Under which of those categories do you think privacy settings belong? Facebook “renamed them to more closely match people’s mental models,” so it should be obvious. Just use your mental model.

If your answer is “all of them, conceivably,” congratulations, you got it! Now if you want to update your privacy settings, all you need to do is visit all of these new categories and subcategories individually. Any one of them might have a crucial toggle inside — it’s like a treasure hunt!

Facebook’s settings page, from oldest to newest. Which do you prefer? Image Credits: TechCrunch

We joke, but Facebook did also make the “Privacy Checkup” item much more prominent in this update. This “guided review” may give the company opportunities to employ dark patterns that lure users away from less desirable (for the company) privacy choices, but does certainly go through many of the more important settings and let people change them.

“We’re confident this new settings page will make it easier for people to visit their settings, find what they came for, and make the changes they want,” Facebook writes. We’ll all find out one way or another later today when the redesign rolls out for iOS, Android, mobile web and FB Lite.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter Spaces now let you invite co-hosts

August 7, 2021 No Comments

Fleets weren’t long for this world, but Twitter’s product teams aren’t slowing down on bringing new stuff to Spaces, the company’s own take on audio rooms. Twitter introduced Spaces in a limited test last year, expanding the Clubhouse copycat feature more broadly to anyone with at least 600 followers in May.

Now, Twitter is giving Space hosts the ability to add two co-hosts, who they can rope in through an invite system. Spaces will allow one main host, two additional co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Additional co-hosts will make the task of moderation much more manageable, as they’ll be able to vet speaker requests, tap speakers and give anyone in the Space the boot.

With Fleets out of the picture, Twitter’s Spaces are the only feature for now that lives above the main feed in the Twitter app. That virtual real estate, which has echoes of Instagram’s Stories, draws the eye to anything that a social network wants its users to check out first. Twitter also began rolling out a dedicated tab to make it easier to discover Spaces, surfacing live audio rooms in real time in a central location.

A number of major apps spliced live audio chat rooms into their platforms in light of Clubhouse’s breakout run. In June, Spotify launched Greenroom, a standalone app that allows people to create 1,000-person voice events. Naturally, Facebook also launched its own spin on live audio rooms (called Live Audio Rooms) in June. Discord, already a leader in voice-based chat, added its own Clubhouse-like event channels in March. Twitter followed the same trend with Spaces, but unlike with Fleets, it looks like the company plans to continue supporting the relatively new feature.


Social – TechCrunch


Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week

August 2, 2021 No Comments

Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.

The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.

The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.

So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.

Fortnite Rift Tour

Image Credits: Epic Games

At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.

Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.

Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.

Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.


Social – TechCrunch


Livestream e-commerce: Why companies and brands need to tune in

July 31, 2021 No Comments

What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $ 60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $ 6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $ 20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $ 50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines

July 29, 2021 No Comments

Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”

The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.

“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.

The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.

The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”


Social – TechCrunch


Discord rolls out threads, side conversations that auto-archive

July 27, 2021 No Comments

After announcing that threads were on the way earlier this year and teasing the feature on Twitter, Discord is now introducing the long-requested way to make conversations in bustling servers more comprehensible.

Starting today, any server with “community” features enabled will be able to transform messages into threaded conversations across mobile and desktop. Threads are designated by their own subject name, making it easy to compartmentalize an off-topic idea into its own mini-conversation.

Image Credits: Discord

 

Channel members can create a thread by selecting a new hashtag symbol that now appears in the contextual menu when hovering over messages or pressing the plus sign in the chat bar and choosing “create thread.” The feature will be enabled in all servers automatically by August 17.

“[W]e wanted to help communities stay engaged while avoiding having to shut down conversation to maintain organization,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the feature, noting that hopping into a busy new channel can “feel like walking into the middle of three different movies.” Discord introduced replies last year to help the flow of conversations; threads is an expansion of that same idea.

From the flow of a channel, Discord’s new threads open up into a split-view pane instead of taking over the full screen, serving their function as side conversations naturally. Threaded topics will also show up in the list of channels and will open to the full screen if selected from the channel list.

Discord thread about plants

Image Credits: Discord

Threads will auto-archive after 24 hours of inactivity — a nice way to keep channels from being clogged up with off-topic or time-sensitive chats. Boosted servers can keep a thread around for a week instead of a single day, giving a channel’s members more time to hop into relevant side conversations.

Servers that are boosted through Discord’s premium features will also be able to create private threads that don’t show up in the channel list. Private threads only appear to users who are manually added to them or mentioned by name within a thread.

Discord designed private threads so that users could hold group conversations without adding each person in the conversation as a friend, a feature that may be a boon to moderators looking to have one-on-one or small group chats more easily.

Discord private thread

Image Credits: Discord

Moderators will also be able to designate who can create threads within a channel. Channel members can be given permissions to use private threads, manage threads or just be allowed to use public threads (“send messages” must be toggled on to allow them to create new threads). Threads will work the same way regular channels do for moderation bots.


Social – TechCrunch


Jack Dorsey says bitcoin will be a big part of Twitter’s future

July 26, 2021 No Comments

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to investors that bitcoin will be a “big part” of the company’s future, as he sees opportunities to integrate the cryptocurrency into existing Twitter products and services, including commerce, subscriptions and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.

Dorsey has been a staunch bitcoin advocate for years, but how it would be put into action on Twitter’s platform had not yet been spelled out in detail. However, Dorsey has often publicly touted the cryptocurrency, saying it reminds him of the “early days of the internet” and that there wasn’t “anything more important” in his lifetime for him to work on.

More recently, Dorsey launched a $ 23.6 million bitcoin fund with Jay Z and announced plans to lead his other company Square into the decentralized financial services market by way of bitcoin. Square also this year acquired a majority stake in Jay-Z’s TIDAL music service with an eye toward how blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies could change the music business.

Today, Dorsey also dubbed bitcoin one of three key trends for Twitter’s future, along with AI and decentralization — the latter which Twitter is pursuing through its “Bluesky” initiative.

He touted bitcoin to investors on Twitter’s second quarter earnings call, saying it could help the company move faster in terms of its product expansions, while explaining that it was the “best candidate” to become the “native currency” of the internet. (Incidentally, Square’s $ 50 million in bitcoin purchased in 2020 was worth $ 253 million by February 2021, and it purchased $ 170 million more earlier this year.)

“If the internet has a native currency, a global currency, we are able to able to move so much faster with products such as Super Follows, Commerce, Subscriptions, Tip Jar, and we can reach every single person on the planet because of that instead of going down a market-by-market-by-market approach,” Dorsey explained. “I think this is a big part of our future. I think there is a lot of innovation above just currency to be had, especially as we think about decentralizing social media more and providing more economic incentive. So I think it’s hugely important to Twitter and to Twitter shareholders that we continue to look at the space and invest aggressively in it,” he added.

A Twitter rep confirmed this is the first time that Dorsey has spoken publicly about how Twitter could integrate bitcoin into its product lineup.

Dorsey also pointed out Twitter would not be alone in pursuing a crypto strategy, noting that Facebook was backing the digital currency Diem.

“There’s an obvious need for this, and appreciation for it. And I think that an open standard that’s native to the internet is the right way to go, which is why my focus and our focus eventually will be on bitcoin,” he noted.

Overall, Twitter delivered strong earnings in a pandemic rebound, which saw the company posting its fastest revenue growth since 2014, according to CNBC, which drove Twitter shares 9% higher in extended trading. The company pulled in Q2 revenue of $ 1.19 billion versus the $ 1.07 billion Wall Street expected, a majority ($ 1.05 billion) from its advertising business. It also saw earnings per share of 20 cents versus the 7 cents expected.

However, monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) — Twitter’s own invented metric meant to fluff up often flat monthly user growth — were only at 206 million, an 11% year-over-year increase, while analysts were counting on 206.2 million. The company blamed the decline on a slower news cycle and end of shelter-in-place in many U.S. communities, which may have impacted Twitter usage during the quarter.

 


Social – TechCrunch


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