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Twitter cracks down on API abuse, will charge B2B devs

March 20, 2019 No Comments

To prevent its own Cambridge Analytica moment and make sure it’s getting paid for its data, Twitter will audit developers using its APIs. Starting June 19th, Twitter will require developers of any app that calls recent tweets from or mentions a user more than 100,000 times per day to submit their app for review.

If a developer proves they have a legitimate consumer use case, like running a third-party Twitter client or doing research, they’ll be granted free access to the API at the same rate they have today. If they primarily use the data to serve business customers as a B2B tool, like for customer service or social media monitoring, they’ll have to pay to enter a commercial licensing agreement with Twitter with a custom price based on usage. Twitter refused to even specify the range those prices fall into, which won’t win it any extra trust.

Developers found to be breaking Twitter’s policies will be booted from the platform, while those that don’t submit for review will be capped at 100,000 requests per day for the user timeline and mentions APIs. Twitter says it suspended 162,000 apps in the second half of 2018, showing it’s willing to play hardball with developers that endanger its ecosystem.

The goal is “ensuring that our platform is safe and promoting the privacy and safety of our users, and providing a level playing field commercially,” Twitter’s head of site integrity Yoel Roth tells me. “We’re fundamentally different than other platforms that have APIs since almost everything that happens on our service is public. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a deep responsibility to our users.”

This is the second big platform safety move Twitter has made after last year requiring all new developers who sign up to have their use cases reviewed, and get white-listed if they publish more content to Twitter than a normal person could. But that still left all the old developers without proper oversight, which will change in June.

In the past, Twitter has thrashed developers with whiplash by suddenly changing its API policies. That led apps to break, businesses to fold and a perception of Twitter as an unreliable or even hostile place for developers to build. This time, Twitter is giving developers a three-month heads-up to minimize surprise and problems. At a time when developers are becoming increasingly suspicious of Facebook, treating them better so they keep building bonus experiences is a smart move for Twitter.


Social – TechCrunch


Twitter confirms a new ‘Subscribe to Conversation’ feature for following tweets of interest

March 18, 2019 No Comments

In addition to testing out a new format for conversations within a prototype app called twttr and other features like a “Hide Tweet” button, Twitter today confirmed it’s also developing a feature that would allow users to subscribe to individual conversations taking place on its platform.

The new option was first spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineer who often peeks inside popular apps to discover their yet-to-be-launched features and changes.

Wong tells TechCrunch she found the “Subscribe to conversation” feature within the Android version of the Twitter app, where it’s a user interface prototype for now. The button simply reads “Subscribe to conversation” and is positioned at the top right corner of a tweet view, she says.

Reached for comment, Twitter didn’t provide details about specific launch plans. It noted the feature was under development, and pointed TechCrunch to its tweet confirming this. The company’s short statement reads, “This is part of our work to make Twitter more conversational.”

Healthier and better structured conversations are among Twitter’s top goals at present, as the company tries to make its app easier to use and less prone to abuse.

The new subscription feature would allow someone to follow a thread without directly signaling their interest, or having to join in the conversation themselves. With a click of the button, users could instead opt to receive notifications when new tweets were added to that conversation.

To some extent, this feature is another example of how the change from stars to hearts as Twitter’s favoriting mechanism has had a ripple effect on Twitter’s development. The star had indicated interest, but didn’t convey an emotion. Twitter wanted to evoke a more positive vibe, so it shifted over to hearts several years ago. But as a result, people felt they could no longer save tweets they wanted to later reference using the default engagement mechanism, as it indicates an endorsement. (And not all tweets you’re saving are those you support.)

Twitter later addressed this problem with a separate tweet-saving feature, Bookmarks.

Now it’s creating yet another way to track tweets – and, in this case, the resulting conversation, too.

If Twitter had kept stars, it could have built out its “Likes” page with all these variations on tweet-saving and more. It could have added toggles for notifications, and who knows what else – keyword search across your saves? bookmarking with tags? private and public boards or collections, like Moments, but built from bookmarked collections?

Aggregating these features in one place could have made Twitter a valuable reference and “Read It Later” tool to rival apps like Pocket and Instapaper – or even web browser bookmarking itself.

But that’s not the path Twitter took, so now we’ll have Likes (hearts), Bookmarks, and conversation subscriptions, it seems.

Twitter declined to say when the new feature would arrive.

Update: 3/15/19, 5 PM ET to clarify Twitter spokesperson also directly confirmed the development of the feature, as did the tweet the company posted.


Social – TechCrunch


After Christchurch, Reddit bans communities infamous for sharing graphic videos of death

March 16, 2019 No Comments

In the aftermath of the tragic mosque massacre that claimed 49 lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, tech companies scrambled to purge their platforms of promotional materials that the shooter left behind. As most of the internet is now unfortunately aware, the event was broadcast live on Facebook, making it one of the most horrific incidents of violence to spread through online communities in realtime.

As Twitter users cautioned others from sharing the extraordinarily graphic video, some Reddit users actively sought the video and knew exactly where to look. The infamous subreddit r/watchpeopledie was quarantined (making it unsearchable) in September 2018 but until today remained active for anyone to visit directly. The subreddit has a long history of sharing extremely graphic videos following tragic events and acts of violence, like the 2018 murder of two female tourists in Morocco.

After Thursday’s shooting, the subreddit became extremely active with users seeking out a copy of the video, which was shot in first-person perspective from a head-mounted camera.

After the flurry of interest, one the subreddit’s moderators locked the a thread about the video and posted this statement:

“Sorry guys but we’re locking the thread out of necessity here. The video stays up until someone censors us. This video is being scrubbed from major social media platforms but hopefully Reddit believes in letting you decide for yourself whether or not you want to see unfiltered reality. Regardless of what you believe, this is an objective look into a terrible incident like this.

Remember to love each other.”

Late Thursday, the subreddit’s members were actively sharing mirrored links to the Christchurch video, though they did so largely via direct messaging. After watching the footage, many users returned to the thread to express that the content was extremely disturbing and to caution even their most violence-hardened peers from seeking the video.

The subreddit remained active until some time late Friday morning Pacific Time, when Reddit banned the controversial community.

Reddit declined to provide details about its decision to ban the long-running community after this particular act of violence. “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Subreddits that fail to adhere to those site-wide rules will be banned.”

The subreddit’s many detractors consider the act of seeking and sharing such graphic depictions of death both inherently disturbing and disrespectful to victims and their families.

The subreddit is unquestionably grisly but remains surprisingly well-loved by some devotees, who insist that its graphic depictions of death are in fact life-affirming.

“Definitely saved me and helped me figure out I didn’t necessarily have tomorrow to get my shit in order,” one former member said in a thread discussing the since-banned community.

“Don’t think it is the kind of place to spend too much time in but, we all need reminders.”

Reddit banned the adjacent subreddits r/gore and r/wpdtalk (“watch people die talk”) on Friday as well.


Social – TechCrunch


In a challenge to Twitch and YouTube, Facebook adds ‘Gaming’ to its main navigation

March 14, 2019 No Comments

Facebook’s gaming efforts and challenge to Twitch are taking another big leap today, as the social network begins the initial rollout of a dedicated Facebook Gaming tab in the main navigation of Facebook’s app. The goal with the new addition is to help people more easily find games, streamers and gaming groups they follow, as well as discover new content, based on their interests.

After clicking the new Gaming tab, there will be a feed of content that points you to instant games you can play with friends; videos to watch from top streamers, esports organizations, and game publishers; and updates from your various gaming groups, the company says.

The new Facebook Gaming tab builds on the gaming video destination the site launched last year as Fb.gg. That hub had offered a collection of all the video games streaming on Facebook, and a way to for gamers and fans to interact. As a top-level navigation item, Facebook’s new Gaming tab will now further extend the gaming hub’s reach.

While Twitch and YouTube are today dominating the gaming space, Facebook’s advantage – beyond its scale – are its promises of a reduced cut of transactions. On Fb.gg, gamers were able to attract new fans with the aid of Facebook’s personalized recommendations based on users’ activity, and then monetize those viewers through a virtual tipping mechanism.

Facebook’s cut of those tips ranges from 5 to 30 percent, with the cut getting smaller when users buy larger packs of the virtual currency. Meanwhile, Facebook’s fan subscriptions payments for streamers also see it taking a cut of up to 30 percent, the same as YouTube but smaller than Twitch’s roughly 50 percent.

That could potentially attract streamers who want to maximize their earnings and believe they can port their audience over to a new destination. Of course, some streamers may not trust Facebook to maintain those same percentages over time, nor believe it will ever offer the sorts of features and innovations that a more focused gaming destination like Twitch can.

Facebook also last year experimented with making its gaming hub mobile with the launch of Fb.gg as a standalone mobile app.

The app, like the web-based gaming hub, offered a way for gamers and fans to discover content, join communities, and even play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR, and others.

However, the strategy of keeping Facebook’s Gaming efforts more separated from Facebook’s main site may not have paid off – the Fb.gg Android app, for example, only has some 100,000+ installs according to Google Play.

Instead, much like YouTube recently decided – Facebook will now leverage the power of its platform to boost interest in its gaming content.

YouTube in September said it was giving its Gaming hub a new home right on the YouTube homepage, and would shut down its standalone Gaming app. (The latter doesn’t seem to have occurred, however). As YouTube noted, gaming was a popular category, but the majority of viewers weren’t looking for a separate app or experience – they were just visiting YouTube directly.

Similarly, Facebook today says that over 700 million people play games, watch gaming videos or engage in gaming groups on Facebook. That’s a far larger number than those who downloaded the Fb.gg app, and surely a much larger number than those who have been visiting the Fb.gg destination directly.

That said, Facebook is continuing its tests on mobile with a standalone (rebranded) Facebook Gaming app on Android, which will have more features that the Gaming tab.

Facebook says it will roll out the Gaming tab to a subset of the over 700 million Facebook game fans, and will expand it over time to more gaming enthusiasts across the network. If you don’t see the new tab in your main navigation bar, you can still find it by going to the Bookmarks menu on Facebook.

 

 


Social – TechCrunch


A first look at Twitter’s new prototype app, twttr

March 13, 2019 No Comments

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its much-anticipated prototype application to the first group of testers. We’ve now gotten our hands on the app and can see how the current version differs from the build Twitter introduced to the world back in January. While the original version and today’s prototype share many of the same features, there have been some small tweaks as to how conversation threads are displayed, and the color-coded reply labeling system is now much more subtle.

“Twttr,” as the prototype build is called, was created to give Twitter a separate space outside its public network to experiment with new ideas about how Twitter should look, feel and operate. Initially, the prototype focuses on changes to replies, with the goal of making longer conversations easier to read.

However, the company said it will likely continue to test new ideas within the app in the future. And even the features seen today will continue to change as the company responds to user feedback.

In the early build of the twttr prototype, the color-coded reply system was intentionally designed to be overly saturated for visibility’s sake, but Twitter never intended to launch a garish color scheme like this to its testers.

The new system is more readable and no longer color codes the entire tweet.

Below are a few screenshots of what the public Twitter app looks like when compared with the new prototype, plus other features found in twttr alone.

Feedback

Above: regular Twitter on the left; twttr on the right

Before digging into twttr’s key features, it’s worth noting there’s an easy way for testers to submit feedback: a menu item in the left-side navigation.

Here, you can tap on a link labeled “twttr feedback” that takes you directly to a survey form where you can share your thoughts. The form asks for your handle, and what you liked and disliked, and offers a space for other comments.

Reply threads

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is the big change Twitter is testing in the prototype.

In the photo on the left, you can see how replies are handled today — a thin, gray line connects a person replying to another user within the larger conversation taking place beneath the original tweet. In the photo, TechCrunch editor Jonathan Shieber is replying both to the TechCrunch tweet and the person who tagged him in a question in their own reply to the TC tweet.

In twttr, Shieber’s reply is nested beneath that question in a different way. It’s indented to offer a better visual cue that he’s answering Steven. And instead of a straight line, it’s curved. (It’s also blue because I follow him on Twitter.)

You’ll notice that everyone’s individual responses are more rounded — similar to chat bubbles. This allows them to pop out on the contrasting background, and gives an appearance of an online discussion board.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is even more apparent when the background is set to the white day theme instead of the darker night theme.

Color-coded replies

Here’s a closer look at nested replies.

People you follow will be prominently highlighted at the top of longer threads with a bright blue line next to their name, on the left side of their chat bubble-shaped reply. Twitter says the way people are ranked is personalized to you, and something it’s continuing to iterate.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

In the public version of the Twitter app, the original poster is also highlighted in the Reply thread with a prominent “Original Tweeter” label. In the prototype, however, they’re designated only by a colored line next to their name, on the left side of the chat bubble. (See Jordan’s tweet above.)

This is definitely a more subtle way to highlight the tweet’s importance to the conversation. It’s also one that could be overlooked — especially in the darker themed Night Mode where the gray line doesn’t offer as much contrast with the dark background.

In the day theme, it’s much easier to see the difference (see below).

Engagements are hidden

Another thing you’ll notice when scrolling through conversations on twttr is that engagements are hidden on people’s individual tweets. That is, there’s no heart (favorite) icon, no retweet icon, no reply bubble icon and no sharing icon, like you’re used to seeing on tweets today.

Instead, if you want to interact with any tweet using one of those options, you have to tap on the tweet itself.

The tweet will then pop up and become the focus, and all the interaction buttons — including the option to start typing your reply — will then become available.

“Show more”

Another change to conversations is that some replies are hidden by default when you’re reading through a series of replies on Twitter.

Often, in long conversation threads, people will respond to someone else in a thread besides the original Tweeter. Both are tagged in the response when that occurs, but the reply may not be about the original tweet at all. This can make it difficult to follow conversations.

Above: “Show more,” before being expanded

In twttr, these sorts of “side conversations” are hidden.

In their place, a “Show more” button appears. When tapped, those hidden replies come into view again. They’re also indented to show they are a part of a different thread.

This change highlights only those replies that are in response to the original tweet. That means people trolling other individuals in the thread could see their replies hidden. But it also means that those responding to a troll comment to the original poster — like one offering a fact check, for example — will also be hidden.

There are other reasons to hide some replies, notes Twitter — like if the original response was too large or the thread has too many replies. It’s not always about the quality of the responses.

Above: after being expanded

The icon!

Twttr is very much a prototype. That means everything seen here now could dramatically change at any point in the future. Even the twttr icon itself has gone through different iterations.

The first version of the icon was a very lovely bird logo that looked notably different from original Twitter. The new version (which we’ll dub twttr’s Yo icon), is a plain blue box.

Twitter has its reasons for that one… and clearly, it didn’t ask for feedback on this particular change.

Where’s that feedback form again?


Social – TechCrunch


YouTube under pressure to ban UK far-right activist after live-streamed intimidation

March 11, 2019 No Comments

The continued presence of a U.K. far-right activist on YouTube’s platform has been raised by the deputy leader of the official opposition during ministerial questions in the House of Commons today.

Labour’s Tom Watson put questions to the secretary of state for digital, Jeremy Wright, regarding Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s use of social media for targeted harassment of journalists.

This follows an incident on Monday night when Yaxley-Lennon used social media tools to live-stream himself banging on the doors and windows of a journalist’s home in the middle of the night.

“Every major social media platform other than YouTube has taken down Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s profile because of his hateful conduct,” said Watson, before recounting how the co-founder of the Far Right English Defence League — who goes by the made-up name “Tommy Robinson” on social media — used social media live-streaming tools to harass journalist Mike Stuchbery on Monday night.

Stuchbery has since written about the incident for Independent.

As we reported on Monday, Facebook removed the live stream for violating its policies after it was reported but not before Stuchbery had received a flood of abusive messages from other Facebook users who were watching the stream online.

Yaxley-Lennon appears to have been able to circumvent Facebook’s ban on his own account to live stream his intimidation of Stuchbery via Facebook Live by using another Facebook account with a fake name (which the company appears to have since suspended).

Following the incident, Stuchbery has reported receiving physical hate mail to his home address, which Yaxley-Lennon gave out during the live stream (an intimidation tactic that’s known as doxxing). He has also said he’s received further abuse online.

“Does the secretary of state think that it is right that YouTube, and the parent company Alphabet, continues to give this man a platform?” asked Watson, after highlighting another vlog Yaxley-Lennon has since uploaded to YouTube in which he warns other journalists “to expect a knock at the door.”

Wright responded by saying that “all internet companies, all platforms for this kind of speech need to take their responsibilities seriously.”

“I hope that YouTube will consider this very carefully,” he told the House of Commons. “Consider what [Yaxley-Lennon] has said. What I have said, and reconsider their judgement.”

“We all believe in freedom of speech. But we all believe too that that freedom of speech has limits,” Wright added. “And we believe that those who seek to intimidate others, to potentially of course break the law… that is unacceptable. That is beyond the reach of the type of freedom of speech that we believe should be protected.”

We’ve reached out to YouTube for comment.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was banned by Facebook last month for repeat violations of its policies on hate speech. Twitter banned Yaxley-Lennon a full year ago.

But he remains active on YouTube — where his channel has more than 350,000 subscribers.

The company has resisted calls to shutter his account, claiming the content Yaxley-Lennon posts to its platform is different to content he has posted elsewhere and thus he has not broken any of its rules. (Though YouTube did demonetize videos on his channel in January, saying they violated its ad policies.)

In a follow-up question, Watson raised the issue of online harassment more widely — asking whether the government would be including measures “to prevent hate figures, extremists and their followers from turning the online world into a cesspit of hate” in its forthcoming white paper on social media and safety, which it’s due to publish this winter — and thereby tackle a culture of hate and harassment online that he said is undermining democracy.

Wright said he would “consider” Watson’s suggestion, though he stressed the government must protect the ability for people to carry out robust debate online — and “to discuss issues that are sometimes uncomfortable and certainly controversial.”

But he went on to reiterate his earlier point that “no freedom of speech can survive in this country if we do not protect… people’s ability to feel free to say what they think, free of intimidation, free of the threat of violence.”

“Those who engage in intimidation or threats of violence should not find succour either online or anywhere else,” the minister added.

YouTube’s own community guidelines prohibit “harassment and cyberbullying,” so its continued silence on Yaxley-Lennon’s misuse of its tools does look inconsistent. (YouTube previously banned the InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for violating its policies, for example, and there’s more than a passing resemblance between the two “hate preachers”).

Moreover, as Watson noted in parliament, Yaxley-Lennon’s most recent video contains a direct threat to doorstep and doxx journalists who covered his harassment of Stuchbery. The video also contains verbal abuse targeted at Stuchbery. However, YouTube told us the video does not violate its policies.

In one of the live streams recorded outside Stuchbery’s home, Yaxley-Lennon can also be heard making allegations about Stuchbery’s sexual interests that the journalist has described as defamatory.

YouTube previously declined to make a statement about Yaxley-Lennon’s continued presence on its platform. It has not responded to our repeated requests for follow-up comment about the issue since Monday.

We’ll update this post if it does provide a statement following the government’s call to rethink its position on giving Yaxley-Lennon a platform.

This post was updated with information from YouTube regarding Yaxley-Lennon’s latest video.


Social – TechCrunch


Funerals are tough. Ever Loved helps you pay for them

March 9, 2019 No Comments

Alison Johnston didn’t plan to build a startup around death. An early employee at Q&A app Aardvark that was bought by Google, she’d founded tutoring app InstaEDU and sold it to Chegg. She made mass market consumer products. But then, “I had a family member who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I thought about how she’d be remembered” she recalls. Inventing the next big social app suddenly felt less consequential.

I started looking into the funeral industry and discovered that there were very few resources to support and guide families who had recently experienced a death. It was difficult to understand and compare options and prices (which were also much higher than I ever imagined), and there weren’t good tools to share information and memories with others” Johnston tells me. Bombarded by options and steep costs that average $ 9,000 per funeral in the US, families in crisis become overwhelmed.

Ever Loved co-founder and CEO Alison Johnston

Johnston’s startup Ever Loved wants to provide peace of mind during the rest-in-peace process. It’s a comparison shopping and review site for funeral homes, cemeteries, caskets, urns, and headstones. It offers price guides and recommends top Amazon funeral products and takes a 5 percent affiliate fee that finances Ever Loved’s free memorial site maker for sharing funeral details plus collecting memories and remembrances. And families can even set up fundraisers to cover their costs or support a charity.

The startup took seed funding from Social Capital and a slew of angel investors about a year ago. Now hundreds of thousands of users are visiting Ever Loved shopping and memorial sites each month. Eventually Ever Loved wants to build its own marketplace of funeral services and products that takes a 10 percent cut of purchases, while also selling commerce software to funeral homes.

“People don’t talk about death. It’s taboo in our society and most people don’t plan ahead at all” Johnston tells me. Rushing to arrange end-of-life logistics is enormously painful, and Johnston believes Ever Loved can eliminate some of that stress. “I wanted to explore areas where fewer people in Silicon Valley had experience and that weren’t just for young urban professionals.”

There’s a big opportunity to modernize this aging industry with a sustainable business model and empathy as an imperative. 86 percent of funeral homes are independent, Johnston says, so few have the resources to build tech products. One of the few big companies in the space, the $ 7 billion market cap public Service Corporation International, has rolled up funeral homes and cemeteries but has done little to improve pricing transparency or the user experience for families in hardship. Rates and reviews often aren’t available, so customers can end up overpaying for underwhelming selection.

On the startup side, there’s direct competitors like FuneralWise, which is focused on education and forums but lacks robust booking features or a memorial site maker. Funeral360 is Ever Loved’s biggest rival, but Ever Loved’s memorial sites looked better and it had much deeper step-by-step pricing estimates and information on funeral homes.

Johnston wants to use revenue from end-of-life commerce to subsidize Ever Loved’s memorial and fundraiser features so they can stay free or cheap while generating leads and awareness for the marketplace side. But no one has hit scale and truly become wedding site The Knot but for funerals.

I’ve known Johnston since college, and she’s always had impressive foresight for what was about to blow up. From an extremely early gig at Box.com to Q&A and on-demand answers with Aardvark to the explosion of online education with InstaEDU, she’s managed to get out in front of the megatrends. And tech’s destiny to overhaul unsexy businesses is one of the biggest right now.

Amazon has made us expect to see prices and reviews up front, so Ever Loved has gathered rate estimates for about two-thirds of US funeral homes and is pulling in testimonials. You can search for 4-star+ funeral homes nearby and instantly get high-quality results. Meanwhile, funeral homes can sign up to claim their page and add information.

Facebook popularized online event pages. But its heavy-handed prerogatives, generalist tone, and backlash can make it feel like a disrespectful place to host funeral service details. And with people leaving their hometowns, newspapers can’t spread the info properly. Ever Loved is purpose-built for these serious moments, makes managing invites easy, and also offers a place to collect obituaries, photos, and memories.

Rather than having to click through a link to a GoFundMe page that can be a chore, Ever Loved hosts fundraisers right on its memorial sites to maximize donations. That’s crucial since funerals cost more than most people have saved. Ever Loved only charges a processing fee and allows visitors to add an additional tip, so it’s no more expensive that popular fundraising sites.

Next, “the two big things are truly building out booking through our site and expanding into some of the other end of life logistics” Johnstone tells me. Since the funeral is just the start of the post-death process, Ever Loved is well positioned to move into estate planning. “There are literally dozens of things you have to do after someone passes away — contacting the social security office, closing out bank accounts and Facebook profiles…”

Johnston reveals that 44 percent of families say they had arguments while divvying up assets — a process that takes an average of 560 hours aka 3 months of full-time work. As the baby boomer era ends over the next 30 years, $ 30 trillion in assets are expected to transfer through estates, she claims. Earning a tiny cut of that by giving mourners tools outlining popular ways to divide estates could alleviate disagreements could make Ever Loved quite lucrative.

“When I first started out, I was pretty awkward about telling people about this. We’re death averse, and that hinders us in a lot of ways” Johnston concludes. My own family struggled with this, as an unwillingness to accept mortality kept my grandparents from planning for after they were gone. “But I quickly learned was this was a huge conversation starter rather than a turn off. This is a topic people want to talk about more and educate themselves more on. Tech too often merely makes life and work easier for those who already have it good. Tech that tempers tragedy is a welcome evolution for Silicon Valley.”


Social – TechCrunch


Instagram prototypes video co-watching

March 8, 2019 No Comments

The next phase of social media is about hanging out together while apart. Rather than performing on a live stream or engaging with a video chat, Instagram may allow you to chill and watch videos together with a friend. Facebook already has Watch Party for group co-viewing, and in November we broke the news that Facebook Messenger’s code contains an unreleased “Watch Videos Together” feature. Now Instagram’s code reveals a “co-watch content” feature hidden inside Instagram Direct Messaging.

It’s unclear what users might be able to watch simultaneously, but the feature could give IGTV a much-needed boost, or just let you laugh and cringe at Instagram feed videos and Stories. But either way, co-viewing could make you see more ads, drive more attention to creators that will win Instagram their favor or just make you rack up time spent on the app without forcing you to create anything.

The Instagram co-watch code was discovered by TechCrunch’s favorite tipster and reverse-engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, who previously spotted the Messenger Watch Together code. Her past findings include Instagram’s video calling, music soundtracks and Time Well Spent dashboard, months before they were officially released. The code mentions that you can “cowatch content” that comes from a “Playlist” similar to the queues of videos Facebook Watch Party admins can tee up. Users could also check out “Suggested” videos from Instagram, which would give it a new way to promote creators or spawn a zeitgeist moment around a video. It’s not certain whether users will be able to appear picture-in-picture while watching so friends can see their reactions, but that would surely be more fun.

Instagram declined to comment on the findings, which is typical of the company when a feature has been prototyped internally but hasn’t begun externally testing with users. At this stage, products can still get scrapped or take many months or even more than a year to launch. But given Facebook’s philosophical intention to demote mindless viewing and promote active conversation around videos, Instagram co-watching is a sensible direction.

Facebook launched Watch Party to this end back in July, and by November, 12 million had been started from Groups and they generated 8X more comments than non-synced or Live videos. That proves co-watching can make video feel less isolating. That’s important as startups like Houseparty group video chatrooms and Squad screenshare messaging try to nip at Insta’s heels.

It’s also another sign that following the departure of the Instagram founders, Facebook has been standardizing features across its apps, eroding their distinct identities. Mark Zuckerberg plans to unify the backend of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram to allow cross-app messaging. But Instagram has always been Facebook’s content-first app, so while Watch Party might have been built for Facebook Groups, Instagram could be where it hits its stride.

Speaking of the Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, this article’s author Josh Constine will be interviewing them on Monday 3/11 at SXSW. Come see them at 2 pm in the Austin Convention Center’s Ballroom D to hear about their thoughts on the creator economy, why they left Facebook and what they’ll do next. Check out the rest of TechCrunch’s SXSW panels here, and RSVP for our party on Sunday.


Social – TechCrunch


Barstool Sports founder reportedly blames company ‘idiots’ for copyright controversy

March 6, 2019 No Comments

In a recent Twitter thread, comedian Miel Bredouw recounted some shady behavior by Barstool Sports’ legal team. In fact, even Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy isn’t trying to defend it, and instead reportedly described it as “moronic,” admitting it, “makes us look like assholes.”

According to Bredouw (who backed up her account with screenshots of key correspondence), Barstool Sports uploaded one of her videos — a performance of “Slob on my Knob” set to the tune of “Carol of the Bells” — without attribution. When her request for credit was ignored, she filed a DMCA complaint, and the video was taken down.

However, she said various members of the Barstool team then began contacting her asking her to retract the complaint. They offered her a $ 50 gift card to Barstool’s online store, which was eventually upped to an offer of a $ 500 payment, and then $ 2,000 — the last one made in an email from the company’s general counsel Mark Marin.

What was going on? Bredouw theorized, “If they get too many DMCA copyright strikes, Twitter has to legally delete their account. I believe they get six. How much you want to bet mine was their fifth?”

Barstool founder Dave Portnoy seemed to confirm this in an email to Business Insider, where he said Barstool had to file a counter-notice in order to avoid getting shut down on Twitter.

“Unfortunately Barstool Sports has idiots in our company much like many other companies and those idiots acted like idiots,” Portnoy said. “I regret our lawyer offering a 50 dollar gift card to our store not because it’s illegal in any manner but it’s just so moronic and makes us look like assholes. That’s why lawyers should not be on social media.”

Speaking of the counter-notice — Twitter has apparently told Bredouw that as a result, she needs to file for a court order, or the company will “cease disabling access to the materials within 10 business days.”

When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson just pointed to the site’s copyright policy, which says that accounts facing copyright takedowns can file a counter-notice “if you believe that materials reported in the copyright complaints were misidentified or removed in error.”  When that happens, Twitter says:

If the copyright owner disagrees that the content was removed in error or misidentification, they may pursue legal action against you. If we do not receive notice within 10 business days that the original reporter is seeking a court order to prevent further infringement of the material at issue, we may replace or cease disabling access to the material that was removed.

We’ve also reached out to Barstool Sports for comment and will update if we hear back.


Social – TechCrunch