Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 15:01
After the Food and Drug Administration ordered that 23andMe suspend use of its at-home gene testing kits, based on the government organization’s belief that it constitutes a medical device and thus requires further examination and testing before it can be sold. 23andMe followed up that bombshell with the news that it would be working with the FDA to try to resolve the issue, and as a next step it will stop health-related testing altogether.
In a notice posted to its website, 23andMe says it has suspended the sale of its health-focused tests, specifically during the review the FDA is conducting of its health-based claims regarding its product. The company was apparently able to avoid a blanket ban, however, and will still provide new and existing customers with tests that provide ancestry data, and access to raw, uninterpreted genetic data.
The cut off date for access to health-related testing was November 22, 2013, so anyone who bought before that date will still get their results as promised, and continue to have access to that info. They won’t get any new updates regarding health-related results. New customers who purchased after November 22 will get ancestry and raw data, and if all goes well with the ongoing FDA certification process, they’ll be eligible to receive health info in the future. They’re also eligible for a refund, and will receive emailed instructions on how to get one.
There has been a lot of debate about the validity of the FDA’s concerns regarding 23andMe’s service. The genetic testing company has never claimed to make prescriptive judgements regarding user health, but many argue that information it provides about potential genetic illnesses could provoke extreme reactions from customers, including taking preventative steps like advance mastectomies, based on information that could be erroneous or not fully contextualized. Others have argued the FDA is being overly sensitive, and that the data 23andMe provides is innocuous enough on its own, even that which falls into the health category. A good summary of both sides can be found on Hacker News, and 23andMe’s complete letter to website visitors can be found below.
Welcome to 23andMe.
At this time, we have suspended our health-related genetic tests to comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s directive to discontinue new consumer access during our regulatory review process.
We are continuing to provide you with both ancestry-related genetic tests and raw genetic data, without 23andMe’s interpretation.
If you are an existing customer please click the button below and then go to the health page for additional information. If you are a customer who purchased before November 22, 2013, you will still have access to your health-related results.
We remain firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives.
Upon entering the site, please confirm you understand the new changes in our services.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 14:52
As befitting the mass-market appeal of the morning TV program, Costolo admitted that Twitter can be confusing to some folks who are unfamiliar with the service.
“For many people, when they come to Twitter the language is opaque,” said Costolo. “We need to push the scaffolding to the background, and bring the content forward. The media, the photos, the videos.”
Costolo responded by saying that Twitter will focus on bringing content forward.
As Twitter tries to build on its current user base of 230 million monthly active users, there have been concerns that the social network isn’t as accessible to the mainstream as other social services. Twitter has yet to reach the same mainstream appeal of Facebook, which passed a billion users last year.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing Twitter is doing to make the social network more accessible to the mainstream.
Recently, Twitter launched a new feature that switches up the timeline to include responses to previous tweets. This prevents users from seeing a random, contextless response in their stream and instead puts the conversation right in the stream.
Costolo also gave some vague tips on being the best possible tweeter. Ultimately, he said, it’s all about the kind of person you are and expressing your personality within that infamous 140-character limit.
However, he was a bit more specific on how not to tweet.
“You have to speak with an authentic tone of voice,” said Costolo. “With the ubiquity of communication these days, people can sense inauthenticity. Authenticity is the key.”
To close the Twitter-sized interview (it was only about five minutes long), Costolo said that the people he most wants on Twitter are a “collection of female comedians” including Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Melissa McCarthy.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 14:24
Apple will kick off this weekend by launching iBeacons functionality in all of its 254 domestic U.S. stores, according to a new report by the AP. The location-based tech will work with the official iOS Apple Store app, and will allow Apple to do things like provide you with notifications of when your order has been assembled in the in-store stock room, to noticing that you’re in the iPhone section and offering you a notice about upgrading from your current device.
iBeacon transmitters use Bluetooth 4.0 tech, and can be dialed in to a range of different distance sensitivities, which means that it can work on a hyper local basis, sending specific information only when you’re in the area for demos and workshops, for instance, or next to a particular product display. At the same time, it can provide general alerts to anyone who enters a store’s doors.
The upside for retailers using iBeacons is two-fold: First, they can offer more specific, targeted information to customers, which in theory helps with customer service (and could cut down on minor requests that would normally occupy staff). Second, iBeacons provides them with hyper-local data regarding customer movements within a store (apps could contain an opt-in for allowing use of that info). That kind of granular look at shopper behaviour could pay huge dividends in terms of helping formulate evolving retail strategy.
Apple, however, told the AP that it doesn’t collect any info about the shoppers in its stores via iBeacons, which could mean that it’s using this mainly as a way of dogfooding – showing other retailers how the technology might be useful when implemented in a ‘best practices’ kind of way.
Apple isn’t the first to use iBeacons; Major League Baseball made headlines when it announced plans to implement the tech to delivery unique offers and content to patrons attending games at its stadium locations. That doesn’t go into effect until next year, however, and other projects like the iBeacons Newsstand subscription delivery service we wrote about earlier are likewise in a pilot phase. Apple’s use of iBeacons is likely the most mature and whole implementation to date, so it’ll be the one to watch in terms of something for other retailers to mimic.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 09:15
Maxthon’s 120 million monthly users are divided between 60% who access its browsers mainly on desktop and 40% on mobile products. Although its mobile business is growing three times as quickly as PC, Karl Mattson, vice president of Maxthon’s International Division, says the company believes that releasing new or upgraded PC products is still a crucial part of its overall business strategy.
Maxthon users are located in 150 countries. Over the last two years, its main base has shifted from the Asia region and users are now divided equally among the U.S., Russia, China and India.
One of its fastest growing markets is Russia, where close to a quarter of Maxthon users are now based. According to IDC, PC shipments there decreased 30.7% in volume year-over-year to 2.7 million units in the third quarter of 2013, a decline that reflects the desktop market’s slowdown throughout the world. But sales in the business sector, as well as new purchases after the expiration of the Windows XP operating system in April 2014, could still propel quarter-on-quarter growth, says the research firm.
“We still have a number of users around the world on the PC side and we’ve found that this is not a small market. For a company like us it would be foolish to disregard it for a couple of reasons,” says Mattson. Most people still prefer using a PC to work. Making desktop browsers is also an important part of Maxthon’s cross-platform philosophy.
“You still can’t beat PC or Mac browsers for monetization at a higher RPU. Mobile still has some catchup to do in terms of lifetime value per user,” says Mattson. “So any little bit that we can grow on our PC side is good for not only our cross-platform strategy and markets, but also for our bottom line financially.”
Maxthon’s new Windows PC browser includes these features:
- Broad support of HTML5
- Support for WebGL and GPU accelerator for enhanced graphics and image processing
- Reduced memory footprint and CPU usage
- Proprietary multi-threaded downloads
- Improved mobile app-promotion
- Lower RAM usage
So how does this translate into user experience? Maxthon claims that its new Windows PC browser is 10% faster than Chrome 30. The third-party cookie support enables “do not track” without users needing to download a plug-in first. Maxthon’s browser separates cookies from subframe pages, which means its cookie is saved in a different place. That means users can still take advantage of personalization features, including instant login, without worrying about the subframe page’s third-party cookie sharing information with other domains.
The new features also reduce bandwidth consumption, which is important for users paying for flat rate data packages or per gigabyte.
The multithreaded downloads, which are supposed to boost download speeds up to five percent, means that your browser downloads files through five different connections at the same time.
“We’re really proud of the multi-threaded piece because we’ve taken something that’s been relegated to a plug-in used by power users and made it a default experience that actually makes it a lot faster,” says Mattson. “What that translates into for users is that that movie, that video clip, that enormously large PowerPoint file that someone emailed you is going to arrive five times faster in a lot of cases.”
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 04:48
Spotify plans to make mobile access to its music service free, The Wall Street Journal reports. Now a source confirms with TechCrunch that the free mobile tier will launch December 11th at a press event in New York. We’ve also learned users won’t get unlimited on-demand access, but will be less restricted if they listen to playlists or collections they’ve previously created.
Spotify sent out invites for the December 11th event on December 3rd, but didn’t say what would be launched. It simply noted “We’re having a media event. Like to come? There will be donuts.” But now we’ve confirmed that unveiling limited free mobile access is a big part of the show.
Until now, Spotify has only allowed premium subscribers paying $10 a month to stream music from mobile devices. Free, ad-supported access was available on desktop and laptop computers, and for $5 a month users could remove the ads from those devices but not listen on mobile.
But those rules were put in place years ago when smartphone penetration was lower, high-speed wireless networks were less common, and there were fewer competitors. Now the world is going mobile, and shutting users out of listening on the go unless they pay over $100 a year seems restrictive. It could also endanger Spotify’s ability to grow its paying subscriber base beyond the six million customers it has today (out of 20 million total users).
Presumably, the idea before was that you’d get a taste of Spotify for free on the web, and that would tempt you to buy mobile access. However, now many people hardly use traditional computers, especially in developing markets where people never owned them and skipped straight to mobile. With no way to try out Spotify on mobile, the company had no way to upsell them to paid plans.
Meanwhile, Spotify’s advertising infrastructure has matured over the year. It may be able to more efficiently sell its audio ads, making them a more viable way of earning money or at least breaking even from ad-supported listeners. That means it may be more cost-effective to support free mobile users now than before.
Finally, the last year has seen Google launch a streaming music service while Apple launched iTunes Radio. It still faces competition from startups like Rdio, Slacker, and Deezer. And new music streaming services from Beats and YouTube are slated for next year, making music a crowded market. Spotify can’t risk going into the new year without a free mobile option.
As for how that option will work, The Wall Street Journal’s Hannah Karp reports Spotify has spent a year quibbling with major record labels Sony, Universal, and Warner about how much control free users would get over what they listen to on mobile. The WSJ says Spotify has successfully struck a deal with the labels but users will only be able to play a limited number of songs on demand. After that, it says they’ll be restricted to listening to Spotify’s Pandora-like radio service that’s based on their tastes and input.
A source gave TechCrunch more details on the restrictions, saying that users may have more freedom to listen to their previously compiled playlists or starred collection of songs. The reasoning may be that Spotify sees these subsequent plays of songs users have already shown interest in as less valuable than on-demand access to what they’ve never listened to before. Reserving infinite search-and-listen capabilities for premium customers ensures people don’t get the milk if they don’t buy the cow.
When the free tier launches, these limits may not be especially easy to understand, our source says. That could confuse users, leading to poor user experiences where people think they should be able to listen to something but they can’t. They’ll blame Spotify, but sadly, they should really be blaming the labels, as they’re the ones too stingy to realize a simple user experience creates the delight that keeps users coming back, and maybe even opening their wallets.
We’ll be at the December 11th event covering exactly how things shake out.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 03:29
Palantir, the big data company that secured clients like the NSA, the FBI and the CIA early on, is topping up its recent September funding round with a 50 percent bump in valuation.
The company is now valued at $9 billion, according to sources familiar with the deal. An SEC filing released today showed that they are raising an additional $57.5 million on top of a $196.5 million round three months ago. That round valued the company at $6 billion.
The company hasn’t shared the identities of the investors in both rounds. We’re hearing that the company’s revenues are set to top half a billion this year, and will do at least $1 billion in contracts next year.
Founded back in 2004, the company was the brainchild of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who believed that the payments company’s anti-fraud technologies could be used to fight terrorism.
Current CEO Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale (who went on to found Asia and Silicon Valley-focused investment firm Formation 8), Stephen Cohen and chief technology officer Nathan Gettings put together an initial product.
In its early years, Palantir grew into an analysis platform that government agencies use to manage the war against terrorism and drug trafficking. Palantir’s platform pulls disparate reams of data and puts them together in a way that makes otherwise hard-to-detect patterns and connections much more visible to users.
Since then, they’ve grown beyond their government clientele and have expanded into the private sector, cybersecurity and the pharmaceutical industry.
The company’s earlier investors include Founders Fund, Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman and Ben Ling among others and they’ve raised at least $650 million.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 02:55
At 14 years old, SurveyMonkey, the online feedback and survey company, is “not quite a startup anymore,” says its CEO David Goldberg. But the last year has marked what you might call a second childhood of sorts for the Silicon Valley company: a large raise of funds (some $850 million, all secondary); a launch of a whole new product branch (enterprise); and, now, for its hattrick, a new international push. It’s the third of these that has brought Goldberg — a seasoned enterpreneur, investor and husband to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — to London, to meet with me in a bar high above the city in the Shard, a new skyscraper near London Bridge.
We’re meeting here because although SurveyMonkey is announcing a new office in London, along with a hiring push for 50 new staff in sales, marketing and business development, it hasn’t yet found a place to call its own. Where will the company look? The answer is still (ahem) up in the air. Not in the glitzy Shard, where the rents are too high; and not necessarily in Shoreditch, where many other startups have laid down roots.
As it turns out, the Shard — with London spread out beneath us — is a fitting place to meet. SurveyMonkey is arriving here with opportunity in its eyes. London will represent its biggest investment yet outside of the U.S., and it comes directly as a result of its bigger enterprise push. It comes also as part of a concerted effort by the UK government to bring more tech business to London, including encouraging a new work visa scheme, faster broadband and more companies to commit to investing here.
Today the UK is SurveyMonkey’s biggest market after the U.S., with 1.5 million users, a position that is built on enterprise and customers across organisations like the National Health Service, the oil company BP, local councils and universities, and “100% of the FTSE 100″ says Goldberg.
Many of these have started out as individual accounts, and so these are connections that SurveyMonkey hopes to reinforce and expand under its new enterprise licensing scheme; and, down the line, with more analytics services to make the most of the data that the surveys snag.
While I had Goldberg’s attention, I got an update on what else might be happening at SurveyMonkey:
– Acquisitions. It’s an obvious way for companies from the U.S. to scale business abroad, not to mention a way to bolt on new technologies, so will the be a route for SurveyMonkey?
Goldberg says that for the moment there are no acquisitions on the cards for customer scaling purposes. “There’s not a lot of anything of any scale out there,” he told me. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t buy something. We have been looking internationally but haven’t found anything.”
As for technology acquisitions, that’s a different story. The key with SurveyMonkey is that it’s launching a new business area with enterprise, and that could lead it into offering new products and services, some of which may get built internally; and some of which will not.
One of those areas could be data, and specifically big data analytics. “How do we collect data and how can we help people make decisions?” Goldberg asked me rhetorically. “To call what we do a survey is very narrow. It’s data, and that’s a very, very big space.”
Data intelligence could also be one way that SurveyMonkey could stay competitive against the likes of Google Surveys and (to a lesser extent) Formstack.
Although SurveyMonkey counts the public sector as a strong vertical for its services, one company Goldberg rules out as a target of any kind is YouGov, the UK-based polling company. “That’s not a space we want to be in,” he said, noting that SurveyMonkey in fact already has its own panel business.
And there remains a plan as well to continue to expand partnerships and integrations via SurveyMonkey’s API. (One of the latest partnerships, announced just this week, was with Zendesk.) Integrations like these are an important customer retention tool: “Those who use us and also use MailChimp and Eventbrite churn from us at a lower rate,” Goldberg notes.
– Funding. The money that SurveyMonkey raised earlier this year — which included significant contributions from Tiger Global, Social + Capital, and others — was “100% secondary,” he said, with the funds going to employees and investors.
“None of it went into the company,” he added, meaning that any acquisitions that it would make will come from its own cash reserves, as well as debt if needed. In 2012, SurveyMonkey made $62m in EBITDA, and $113 million in revenue, he tells me. It has not disclosed 2013 revenues. That funding round, he pointed out, which valued the company at some $1.35 billion, will put off questions of an IPO for some time to come.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 02:43
With getTalent, customers (who supposedly include Walmart, MTV, and Box) can add a plug-in to their job listings and career pages, allowing visitors to sign up for a “talent community,” where they’ll receive targeted content and listings. Recruiters can also scan résumés and sign people up at job fairs.
Either way, the goal is to keep job candidates engaged with the company even if they’re not the right fit for the current openings, in case something might work out down the line.
Those features seems like a pretty natural fit for a job site. In fact, Shafi said getTalent will continue to operate as a standalone product. IT will also be offered as an additional service to Dice customers who want to more “source leads from all over the Internet” and incorporate “personalized messaging and engagement” into their recruiting efforts. Shafi, meanwhile, will become head of product at Dice, and the entire five-person getTalent team is moving over.
When I last wrote about the startup, Shafi told me that getTalent had raised $2.6 million in funding from HR software maker SuccessFactors (which itself is owned by SAP) and angel investors including Krutal Desai and Ray Wallin. He said today that it reached a point where he was considering raising more money or getting acquired.
When I asked if other companies (like, oh, say, SuccessFactors) had also made acquisition offers, Shafi replied, “I can make a larger impact at Dice, getTalent can make a larger impact at Dice. I can’t publicly say what was offered, but I can say that in my decision-making process that’s what inspired me. … I wouldn’t have done it if this was just another product that was going to be put on the backburner.”
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. I’ve also emailed Dice for confirmation and comment and will update if I hear back.
Update: Dice just sent me the following statement from President Shravan Goli: “We acquired the getTalent product in October. We are pleased to have the team behind getTalent join our Dice.com development team.”
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 02:33
Once upon a time, Instagram was a little app for sharing photos with friends and photography buffs. Its mostly public sharing model worked at that size. But now with over 150 million users, widespread awareness, and years of people following each other, users may be holding back from posting as much because they don’t want the whole world to see what they see. That’s why it may be the right time for Instagram to launch private messaging.
That time could come as soon as December 12th when Instagram holds a press event in New York, for which it sent out invitations today with the tagline “You are invited to share a moment with Kevin Systrom and the Instagram team.” The snail-mail invite came with a woodblock printed with an Instagram on it, leading writers, including our own Jordan Crook, to speculate Instagram might launch some sort of physical printing option. While that might be cute, and a nice holiday gift option, I suspect (with no inside knowledge) that Instagram is actually gearing up for the launch of private messaging, a feature that last month GigaOm’s Om Malik said ”well-placed sources” told him Instagram is preparing to release. There are a ton of reasons this makes sense. Let’s start with why physical printing isn’t worthy of its own launch event. Last year, Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, tested a postcard service for sending paper prints of your photos to friends. It never took off and was shut down. Facebook
also launched a physical Gifts service but eventually switched to only selling virtual gift cards. It seems Facebook hasn’t physical goods to be a big enough business to support. Meanwhile there are a slew of small startups like Postagram and CanvasPop that print Instagrams on everything from postcards to canvas
paintings. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of additional value for Instagram to add by launching its own printing service. A simpler native integration for sending photos to or buying prints from third-party services beyond its existing APIs doesn’t seem important enough to warrant its own press blitz (though it could be a small part of the show).
“Public Eyes / They’re Watching You”
So why messaging? Because Instagram has outgrown public sharing. Yes, you can set your entire profile to private so only people you approve can see everything you share, but that’s privacy with a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel. Most people are excited to share some photos publicly and have them shown right in the feeds of whoever follows them. In fact, they tag their photos with reams of hashtags just so they show up in more places and win them the sweet sweet validation of another Instagram heart or follower. Setting their account to private would mean their more benign pics of sunsets and lattes wouldn’t get as many eyeballs. While Instagram’s privacy model hasn’t changed much over the years from a functionality standpoint, a lot more people see the photos you post today. There’s better native discovery of photos, a web version of your profile, and an ecosystem of third-party apps for power users. That means someone who is curious about where you are and what you are doing has a lot easier time finding your photos now. But most importantly, Instagram just has way more users now than when some of its earliest, most loyal, and most engaged users joined. It’s gone from early tech adopters and artists to teens to mainstream young adults to even hosting a good number of parents. Does that growth progression ring any bells? It should because Facebook similarly went from young to mainstream to your mom. And what did that cause? A chilling effect on sharing. Posting party pics, silly jokes, or snarky perspectives on the world is a lot less appealing when you
know your dad, boss, little sister, or stalker are watching. That is a dangerous trend for Instagram. It needs people constantly sharing photos to fill its feed so other people check it, are delighted…and see its new ads. Less sharing = less happiness/revenue. Meanwhile, there are plenty of apps happy to help you share photos privately. Snapchat is building a powerhouse social network on the concept of private sharing. It doesn’t matter who joins Snapchat, as the only people who see your photos and videos are the ones you send them to. Then there’s a ton of international messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, and Line where people can share their precious moments privately. Perhaps if Facebook’s bid to acquire Snapchat was successful, it could use that as its private photo-sharing play. But it got rejected, and so the burden falls on Instagram. I’d imagine Instagram messaging could fit in the top left of the app, or be worked into the existing Activity tab alongside tags and likes. Anyone you follow would be eligible to send you messages, and group messaging would be allowed. Threads would typically start with a photo and caption, and permit both photo and text replies to let people have a conversation around the moments they’re sharing. Messages could also be a private back channel for discussing photos shared publicly. Done right, private photo sharing could be a huge
win for Instagram.
Messages 1. Boxing Out Competitors
Most people who have Snapchat probably have Instagram, too, and more of their friends are probably also on Instagram. Its size suddenly goes from a liability to an asset with private messaging.2. Notifications
Today if your best friend shares a photo on Instagram, you might not even know. There’s no notification sent. And since Instagram is an unfiltered feed like Twitter, it has the same issue where your favorite people can get drowned out by some shutter-happy person you followed but don’t even know. You might be missing some of Instagram’s most relevant content. Without the constant stream of
notifications like on Facebook, it’s easy to forget to even visit Instagram. I sometimes go weeks without checking as there’s nothing there addressed specifically to me to demand my attention. But with Instagram messaging private sharing, you can be damn sure I’d open any photo sent to me. And after that, I’d probably browse my feed,
get a few more smiles, and maybe see some ads. Instagram Messages could re-engage tuned-out users.
Messages could drive sign-ups for Instagram. You can already share a photo via email but then the engagement happens outside of Instagram in a decidedly crusty old medium. If I could privately message people by phone number (the identity basis for most modern messaging apps), I might lure my friends into signing up for Instagram.4. Intimate Sharing
Private messaging could get people sharing a whole new category of photos and videos on Instagram. Intimate ones. I’m not just talking about sexy ones (though who couldn’t benefit from some blur and filters to touch up their birthday suit or flirtatious smile). I mean the other stuff people currently share on Snapchat. Funny faces. Inside jokes. Lighthearted insults. Controversial or illegal activities. Flawed portraits. Random glimpses into their current scene. These are all things you probably wouldn’t want to share with everyone, and wouldn’t want permanently associated with your profile. They don’t necessarily need to be able to disappear like Snapchats (though
maybe that’d be useful), but having them buried in conversation threads would probably be enough privacy by obscurity. In a world where you get made fun of for sharing selfies, but people do it anyway, it seems clear that the world’s most beloved photo app gives a way to share on the down low. It’d certainly keep some of the photos that appear in this post from ending up on a blog somewhere. Instagram messaging could also turn the app into a true visual communication medium — one where people use it as a sort of replacement for text. Getting people constantly sending photos and
captions back and forth over Instagram could rack up more engagement in a single conversation than the social network side of that app sees in a week. Right now, conversation on Instagram is restricted to its messy, unthreaded comment system. And like the chilling effect on the photos in the first place, I’m often apprehensive to share a comment publicly, especially if I only really care if the person who shot the photo saw it. I’d often be inclined to message them directly, but currently have to resort to text or Facebook message. Messaging would fix that. Maybe I’m
drinking my own Kool-Aid but this seems like a wise move to make, and sooner rather than later. Sure, it would bloat Instagram a bit, making it less clear what the purpose of the once-lean app is. It might cannibalize some photos from the feed, though they might inspire more return visits and engagement as private messages. It could be seen, like Poke, as another desperate attempt by Facebook to compete with Snapchat. And it could flop, becoming a rarely used extra communication channel we’re loathe to check. But I don’t think those are big enough concerns to dissuade Instagram. The
company’s mission is “to capture and share the world’s moments.”
But right now it’s only broadcasting them.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 02:19
The mega rounds continue to drop, with enterprise-facing cloud storage company Box confirming that it has raised $100 million in fresh outside funds. TechCrunch reported and confirmed the funding in late November, meaning that Box took its time in disclosing the size of its new cash influx.
The round values Box in the neighborhood of $2 billion, meaning that the company sold around 5 percent of its equity in the deal.
Box, like Uber and Pinterest (and perhaps Snapchat shortly), have each raised huge sums in recent months, at valuations in the billions. Dropbox, a key competitor to Box, is said to be hunting for nine-figure funds with a valuation in the billions, as well.
As a company, Box has been almost magically well capitalized. As TechCrunch previously reported:
Box just raised $125 million in new funding last year, and another $25 million earlier this year. A new round would put Box’s funding at over $400 million total. Box famously turned down a $600 million acquisition offer from Citrix in 2011.International
According to Box, the United States accounts for 60 percent of its total activity, meaning that the company’s user and customer base is largely domestic. But that could soon change, as Box stated in its announcement today that it has signed “commercial agreements” with Japanese companies to “catalyze” its introduction into that market. It hired Katsunori Furuichi there to head up its efforts. Furuichi was formerly the CEO of Verisign Japan.
In addition, Box is partnering with firms in Latin America and Australia. Those firms, in conjunction with DST Global, which invested into Facebook, and Coatue, a hedge fund with a newly minted $300 million growth fund, provided the new capital.
There is a huge value stack to be built on top of file storage, and Box is well aware of it.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - ven, 06.12.2013 - 02:05
Google is promoting a White House petition calling for reform to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), amending it to require a warrant for the government to read the email of its citizens.
In a Google+ post – natch – Google asked its followers if they felt their online missives deserve the same protection as their physical mail. Sign the petition, the company continued, to “tell the government to get a warrant” before reading your email.
That the petition exists is not surprising. To see Google publicly promoting it is refreshing. Since Google’s post went live, around 6,000 more people have signed the petition, which is now over halfway to the needed 100,000 signatures.
What the hell is Google banging on about? Well, the ECPA is old, broken legislation that leaves us, the regular folk, unprotected from government intrusion into our affairs. As I reported earlier this year:
Written in a different era, it dictates that any email can be ordered by a mere subpoena provided that it is over 180 days old, or has been opened. Back in the last eighties, the amount of email you could store was constrained by ludicrously small hard disk space. With modern webmail systems today, you can store an unlimited amount of mail.
Thus, given that the bulk of your email is either a half year old or more, or read, the government can under current law access it with little to no oversight.
It’s like the NSA, but legal, and in the open.
In the larger discussion concerning privacy, the United States government has lied repeatedly, something that is incredibly frustrating. However, this specific law is something that we could change, that would in fact make a positive change to our society, and the relationship between our government and ourselves.
Bills have been written (including the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act) that would amend the ECPA, bringing it in line with our broader privacy rules, regulations and mores.
Good on Google for furthering the petition. It likely won’t do much but demonstrate that there exists market appetite for reform among the more active in the electorate. Perhaps that will job Congress. One can hope.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 19:35
Google has been good about offering a number data portability options through its Google Takeout service, which has previously allowed users to download data for over a dozen products, including Contacts, Drive, Voice, and more. But today, the company is adding two of its flagship properties to Google Takeout, with the new ability to export your all your Gmail and Google Calendar data.
Starting today, Google is rolling out Gmail and Calendar data downloads in Google Takeout, where you can download each service’s data individually or as a part of a larger export including data from other services. Gmail’s data is in MBOX format, and Calendar data is available as an iCalendar export. Both are bundled into a .zip file when you start the export.
The inbox format works in most common email clients including Microsoft Outlook 2011, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple’s Mail. Google says that it has implemented some limits on how often the data can be exported, however - three times a day, and up to seven times total per week, which shouldn’t be a problem for most people.
Each message’s labels are preserved in a special X-Gmail-Labels header, in CSV format, explains the export FAQ. This is an interesting inclusion as no mail client currently recognizes this header, but some could in the future, if extensions were involved.
The Gmail data option is also handy for those who need to download only a portion of their inbox by allowing you to select specific labels to export. This could be useful if you are moving work-related email from a personal inbox over to your new company, for example, or perhaps just exporting a folder containing large attachments eating up space.
Similarly, Google Calendar users can choose to include all their calendars or just specific ones.
The ability to download Gmail is being rolled out starting today over the next month, while Calendar exports are available now.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 19:24
As Microsoft promised during its BUILD developer conference earlier this year, the company today launched a first preview of its new maps app for Windows 8.1. The highlight of this release is the addition of 3D imagery, something Microsoft tried a few years ago with Bing Maps online but then shelved after it moved away from its proprietary Silverlight technology. The new app is now available in the Windows Store.
Microsoft says to create these 3D imagery, it processed over 121 trillion pixels to date to build this 3D environment. And it shows. The imagery is extremely clear and detailed and after a first look, it feels like it easily rivals and often bests Google’s efforts, especially when it comes to trees and smaller objects like cars and kiosks.
In total, Microsoft is making 3D maps of 70 cities available in this preview. These range from Canberra in Australia to Bremen, Germany and Portland, Maine. What’s missing, though, are most of the world’s larger cities. There’s no New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Berlin or London here so far, but Microsoft will likely add many of these before it releases the final version of the app.
As Microsoft is prone to do these days, the app is mostly optimized for touch. It works quite well with a mouse, but if you want to really enjoy it, it feels like you would need a Windows tablet or touch-enabled laptop because tilting and rotating by dragging buttons left or right just doesn’t feel all that natural with a mouse.
The app also makes Streetside, Microsoft’s version of Street View available for those who want to take a closer look at a street from ground level. While Microsoft experimented with different versions of this tool over the years. It is now essentially a Street View clone, though it does have one nice feature: you can optionally see a large map at the bottom of the screen, which makes navigating a bit easier than with the small map Google users in the corner of its Street View images.
As expected, the app also features the usual search functionality, traffic info and other features. It’s integrated with Open Table and when that’s not enough, you can also start a Skype call by clicking on a phone number.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 19:16
San Francisco-based startup and Y Combinator Winter 2013 class member Swapbox has raised $800,000 in seed funding, led by Tony Hsieh’s Vegas Tech Fund investment vehicle and including Fuel Capital, YC founder Trevor Blackwell, Base Ventures and Ace & Company. The startup is hoping to cash in on the rise of ecommerce and home delivery, with shared, centrally located delivery lockers so people never miss a package again.
Swapbox isn’t alone with that aim, and it’s pitting itself against some heavy hitters; both Google and Amazon already have delivery pick-up initiatives in place, Amazon via its Lockers programs in select cities, and Google through BufferBox, a Waterloo-based startup it acquired last year. BufferBox recently went live in San Francisco, where it has packages accepted by local businesses. Swapbox co-founder and CEO Neel Murthy thinks there’s still room for a startup in the space, however.
“We accept any packages from anywhere. Shop online, we give you a new address and you just ship to that address,” he said in an interview. “It’s an independent platform that works for all the other ecommerce players.”
The service is piloting in SF, where it has 15 locations currently. Each consists of heavily modified gym lockers located at businesses around the city, and Murthy says they’ve paid special attention to industrial design with their physical hardware, in order to help with branding. The plan is to expand to surrounding areas near SF within the next year, and then look further afield soon after. Swapbox has different arrangements with its location partners, but most involve some kind of rev share of the service fee paid for by its users.
The business as it stands looks like a prime target for some other online retailer hoping to keep up with Amazon and Google to gobble up, but Murthy says they’ve built Swapbox as a long-term play. There’s plenty they’re planning to add later on, and the intent is to hopefully move the burden of cost from the consumer to the ecommerce players once they get enough scale. There’s also a plan to use Swapbox’s capabilities to essentially build in a type of escro for small merchants and private sale deals, Murthy says.
That would work by allowing sellers, on Craigslist for example, to use the Swapbox locations to exchange goods, with a seller controlling access for a buyer based on when payment clears. It takes out any of the uncertainty around meeting a total stranger online with a wad of cash or expensive gadget in their pocket. The escrow play could extend beyond just the private exchange scenario in theory, too.
Swapbox chose its investors mostly for their value as strategic partners, according to Murthy, and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh is a very strategic one indeed for a company this tied to online commerce. Google and Amazon may have a head start on automated delivery, but there’s definitely room for an open platform to serve everyone else, and Swapbox could be the one to step up in that role.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 19:11
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…to build another social network around users’ recent shopping purchases. Trace is the latest startup to give social commerce a go, with a new iPhone app, launching now, which allows users to share what they’ve just bought with a network of friends.
Today, Instagram users will sometimes post their recent shopping purchases as an expression of joy over a new find (or bragging, if they’re rich kids). And Pinterest users like to collect items they plan to buy later. But Ryan Stevens, Trace founder and CEO, thinks photos of your favorite new things deserve their own, standalone destination.
It’s an idea that’s been tried before.
“Things get lost on social networks,” says Stevens of how Trace competes with existing social networks and photo-sharing sites. You may remember seeing a friend post a great new pair of shoes on Instagram, for example, but there’s a challenge in trying to retrieve that image weeks or months later when it comes to mind, he explains. “It’s very complicated. We’re trying to make Trace an aggregate of things that you buy.”
Sound familiar? If not, you must be new here.
The idea for a shopping-based social network of sorts has been tried in the past, most prominently with Blippy, a failed startup that dug into users’ credit card purchases to find their purchases and share them. Users were hesitant to provide their credit card details, though, and when dollar amounts are involved, sharing purchases feels a bit gauche. Then, more recently, a startup called Mine used an email importer to perform a similar task.
But Mine quickly closed up shop after launch, apparently the result of a small acquisition by Twitter for team and tech after it failed to grow as quickly as the company had hoped. (Mine raised $600K, and two of its co-founders are now Twitter engineers.)
Says Stevens, Trace is not auto-sharing purchases and dollar amounts, or trying to build a product database like Mine was, nor is it immediately focused on sending users directly to e-commerce sites to generate affiliate revenues (though that may come later on). Instead, he just wants Trace to serve as a “live feed of the cool things people are buying.”
Stevens, along with co-founder Sudhir Navalapakam, got started on the idea for Trace a little over a year ago, following their stint at now-shuttered mobile payments service ZipPay. At ZipPay, they noticed then that a number of users were already sharing their purchases out to other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. “We started talking about ways to make that a better experience for them,” says Stevens.
For the past 14 weeks, the app has been in private beta testing with around 1,500 users. Predominantly, the crowd is young, professional women, generally post-college grads now with a little extra income to spend.
Trace: A Pleasant App, But Busy Space
As for the app itself, there’s a familiar user interface involving a way to post and tag a product photo, a feed, a favoriting option, a friend finder, some suggested users to get you started, and a way to browse and explore through various categories.
Photos can also be shared out more broadly to Facebook or Twitter, and they do have their own dedicated, though not fully fleshed out, web pages which could later become the basis for Trace’s web version.
The app itself is pleasant enough to use, but it’s going to be tough for it to truly differentiate itself from other social commerce applications already out there. Though it’s focused on a user’s own purchases (at least in theory), more people are drawn to services like this not for the content creation aspects, but the consumption – that is, to see what others have shared. They browse Pinterest looking for ideas, or check out what’s trending on Wanelo or Svpply. Meanwhile, they’re still connecting with friends on Instagram, and shopping on a number of modern e-commerce sites on web and mobile, which have “popular” feeds of their own.
But Stevens though thinks there’s still room for something that’s solely focused on purchased items, and the resulting conversations around them. His team is working with bloggers and video bloggers (especially those doing the “haul videos“) to establish Trace’s core user base, he says.
The company has a small amount of seed funding ($250K) from Kae Capital and Tandem Entrepreneurs. They’re currently working out of Tandem’s auxiliary offices in Burlingame, California, after a fire destroyed Tandem’s main offices over the holidays. Fortunately for Trace, nothing was lost as they were working out of Hacker Dojo just before, and hadn’t yet set up shop. (Other teams weren’t so lucky).
Trace is a free download, here on iTunes.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 18:50
Google’s Android OS has many venerable traits, but the camera isn’t one of them. The software iterates with each release, but it doesn’t ever get all that much better, and the hardware on Android devices seems to disappoint pretty consistently. People had high hopes for the Nexus 5 making things better, but photos barely improved versus the dismal Nexus 4.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Google’s Nexus devices and the 5 is otherwise a great phone. The problem is that the camera falls completely flat, especially compared to those on iPhone devices. Luckily, Google has created an update to Android 4.4 KitKat (due out over the next few days), as reported by the Verge, that will improve camera performance on the Nexus 5, improving contrast, exposure, autofocus and more.
I’ll be somewhat skeptical until I actually get to try it out myself (it should be rolling out in the next few days, according to The Verge), but early examples show a pretty marked improvement.
Google’s inability to make a phone with a decent camera is somewhat mind-boggling, given all they’ve been able to accomplish with photos on other platforms. Their Google+ pictures update from June is actually remarkably impressive, delivering automatic adjustments and enhancements that take a lot of the standard busy work out of making small changes to photos that can result in big improvements to the final product.
It has the expertise, and with this update it also proves that it’s applying that know-how in intelligent ways. The missed target on the original Nexus 5 camera release might be ascribable to a rush to get the new OS out in time for the scheduled device launch, but at least shoring up this failing makes the Nexus 5 even more of a no-brainer for the budget conscious smartphone shopper than it was before.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 18:30
Houzz, the popular online platform for home remodeling and design, is launching a completely redesigned iOS app for iPhone and iPad today. The new version features an updated look and feel in line with Apple’s iOS 7 design guidelines, but also improved navigation, support for AirDrop and an emphasis on full screen photos.
As Alon Cohen, Houzz‘ president and co-founder, told me, the team considered to quickly release a new version after the launch of iOS 7. In the end, however, Houzz decided to hold back and use the switch to the new flat design language on iOS to give the app more than just a facelift.
“iOS 7 came along and we had the option to either just do a quick update, or use this opportunity to overhaul the UI completely and support some of the iOS 7 specific features,” he told me. This means the app now features many of the new graphical effects iOS 7 introduced, for example, and makes use of dynamic type and the new, and relatively little utilized, AirDrop capability in the updated OS.
Cohen was especially excited about the AirDrop functionality. This now allows somebody in a tile showroom, for example, to quickly share an image (or anything else) from Houzz with a designer there, something that was previously a bit more cumbersome.
As he stressed, though, an app that’s as popular as Houzz, which has reached over 12 million downloads now and streams over 600 terabytes of data every month, always has to ensure that it doesn’t alienate its users with an update that’s too radical. “We’ve seen incredible adoption of our mobile apps with 55 percent of users remodeling their homes with Houzz from a mobile device,” Cohen said and the team obviously doesn’t want to upset these users with a bad redesign. The new version definitely streamlines the navigation, though, and with the addition of full screen images, it also often hides it almost completely when necessary.
The team made another major change, though. In the new app, Cohen told me, the focus of the navigation has changed. Now the team has tried to put the content before the navigation. This means you don’t have to select a room first when you are browsing the app, for example. Instead you see the images first and then narrow your selection by room, style and location.
Cohen also noted that finding reviews of contractors, designers, landscapers and other professionals is now easier in the new design. The service currently features over 300,000 professionals on the site and they have uploaded over 2.4 million photos. For Houzz, this is also a major source of income, as many of these pros sign up for its paid Pro+ service to highlight their work for users in a specific area.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 18:04
This week on the TC Europe podcast we talk about the up and coming Mallzee that actually lets you tell your friends what to buy, the easy-to-use Kano Raspberry Pi, and Hoxton Ventures, a fund dropping a few million into the next billion Euro idea.
This is the TechCrunch Europe Podcast, wherein we European writers discuss tech news, as well as what’s happening in our startup scene. Join Steve O’Hear, Natasha Lomas, and John Biggs to hear what we think about those topics.
We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcast every Thursday.
Intro music by Espanto.
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 18:00
Way back in the ancient prehistory of 2009, Foursquare made its first foray into push notifications, at a time when using push at all was still rare. Two years later, it made an attempt to capitalize on those notifications with a vision of an app that would alert you proactively when you were near neat things to do, eat or see.
Unfortunately the world — and smartphones with their anemic battery life — weren’t quite ready for Foursquare’s Radar.
Now, after a limited pilot over the past couple of months, Foursquare is delivering location aware push notifications to all of its users across iOS and Android. The new alert system is launching in version 7.0 of the app, alongside a series of visual refinements that make the app more scannable and place the bits of info that you’ll find most useful right at the forefront.
“Our goal was to give users the best signal without impacting battery life,” says Foursquare VP of Product Experience Jon Steinback. Foursquare has been adjusting that and balancing out the needs of the battery and the limited attention that users have to give up to one of the many apps on their devices.
Steinback says that any time the Foursquare app reaches out to the user with information, it must be “something that makes your experience better.” To that end, the company has been investigating which notifications have elicited the most response from users. The most relevant and lowest hanging fruit by far has been the ‘when you get there’ signals.
When you arrive at a restaurant, for instance, Foursquare might alert you to what the best dishes are to eat at that location. When you land in a new city on the plane you might get a notification that spells out places to try, or that your friends have tried. When you trundle into a new neighborhood you might get a list of the best local places to check out.
Notably, the new Foursquare notifications do not take advantage of Apple’s new iOS 7 backgrounding APIs to work their battery saving magic. Instead, the team has been tweaking and prodding the feature over the past two years to use as little juice as possible. Foursquare is investigating using the new frameworks and Apple’s M7 chip in future releases, but that’s not in this release.
These notifications, though they’re something that Foursquare has been working on for years, play into a larger current trend. As wearable computing becomes more prevalent and our phones gain contextual awareness, we’re going to be relying more on proactive recommendations and alerts, rather than a device that waits for us to pull it out of our pockets to ask it questions. Google Now, with its constant monitoring of your personal data cloud and location-aware alerts is a prime example of this, and there are some very smart developers playing with programmatic push notifications that learn from user interaction and react accordingly.
We’re just at the beginning of the ‘push’ era, backed by context gathered from our data and information gathered by our pocket computers. Foursquare is a hearty participant in this, which i’m happy about, as I’m a regular and pleased user of the app.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Foursquare found the ‘highest signal’ notifications ended up being those that were sent as you ‘arrived’ at a destination. This is just my experience, of course, but I rarely open Foursquare in my home town. In a bigger city with a constantly evolving cadre of restaurants and venues, that might be different — but there are a lot of people living outside of urban centers, and their towns change a lot more slowly. However, once I begin traveling, the Foursquare app becomes a constant point of reference, and I’ve grown increasingly reliant on what I perceive to be accurate signals about things that it thinks I, personally, will like.
The visual changes in the app are designed to increase immediate value when you do launch the app. The listing pages have had their flow tweaked to emphasize large images at the top that are combined with the ’tips’ that people live. You can still drill down into those tips, but pairing them with images is a great decision, as I find a visual check of a place tells me a lot about whether I want to, say, bring my family there, or if it’s more of a dive I’ll go to when I’m alone.
When you open the app, you’ll also see a more compact and continuous feed of friends. There’s also now a running carousel of tips right above the feed that you can swipe through. The previous design had room for just one alert at a time, and Steinback says that there was so much activity on those that Foursquare expanded the opportunities to interact with them.
The update looks pretty great, to be honest. The design team at Foursquare is continuously iterating on the bones of the app, and rarely make a change that doesn’t make it better or prettier.
At this point, the Foursquare app itself is delivering pretty well on its early promise. But questions still remain about the company’s viability. It raised $41M in debt over the summer after rumors it was trying to raise a much larger amount at a $700-$800M valuation. No exact revenue numbers have been shared but investor Ben Horowitz told Fast Company that the company had brought in ‘more than four times’ the total from 2012, which led some to estimate a run rate between $15-$20M on the top end.
At the moment, Foursquare has a pretty stellar product that sits on top of an enormous treasure trove of location data. Foursquare’s API is one of the most widely used and holds one of the biggest and most accurate collections of point-of-interest not wholly owned by Apple or Google at this point. Foursquare has a sharing deal with Apple already — it’s one of over a dozen contributors to Apple’s Maps data. But when you’re a company as old as Foursquare, with a well-developed and spelled out product — and yards of money in — the acquisition whispers are never far away. And Foursquare’s suitors have been rumored to be everyone from Yahoo to Apple at this point.
There are a bunch of ways a company like Apple could leverage Foursquare’s data and product, not the least of which is a replacement for Yelp integration. But that’s 150 people and a bunch of money for more of what Apple’s already getting with its POI deal. Why buy the cow? Still, Apple has been on a tear trying to ‘own’ its core technologies, and point-of-interest and location data expertise certainly fall into that category.
Selfishly, I hope the company finds a way to make itself wildly profitable, just so I can keep using the app as an independent entity. I like my iPhone, but I also like the freedom to choose whatever platform I like — and still use services that make my life easier and more enjoyable. But in our increasingly siloed world, where the majors are hoarding apps and services like gold pressed latinum, I have my doubts. Still, this version of Foursquare is, yet again, the best ever — so we’ll see how it goes.
Top Image Credit: Nan Palmero/Flickr
Catégories: News informatiques
Techcrunch - jeu, 05.12.2013 - 17:57
What’s better than drones delivering your stuff?
Drones delivering your food*.
According to ATD, Amazon may be ready to announce the San Francisco launch of AmazonFresh, the online retailer’s grocery delivery service, on December 10.
As it stands now, Amazon is already running the AmazonFresh program in Seattle (the company’s home base) and Los Angeles. Alongside ATD’s unnamed sources, there is additional evidence pointing toward the forthcoming SF launch.
Users are already enjoying buying non-fresh grocery items on Amazon, and some even get two-day delivery with an Amazon Prime membership. AmazonFresh, on the other hand, will offer users fresh items like produce, meats, milk, etc. with either same- or next-day delivery. Pretty sweet, huh?
For existing members of the AmazonFresh program, the service costs $299/year.
Amazon may not make amazing margins in grocery delivery, but the move makes sense considering that Amazon wants to own the entire shopping experience, from electronics to clothes to household essentials and back again.
The more users Amazon can wrangle into a membership, such as Prime or AmazonFresh, the more opportunities Amazon has to sell those members items they wouldn’t normally get. If you pay a relatively high yearly fee for free delivery from a retailer, you’ll make sure to use that retailer for as much as possible. Gotta get your money’s worth.
Groceries are a great factor in this strategy as… well, a girl’s gotta eat.
*And, to be clear, AmazonFresh in San Francisco will not come with drone delivery.
Catégories: News informatiques