Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion.
Pronounced “Ka-pwing,” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $ 1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins.
Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay $ 20 a month to remove it.
While sites like Imgur and Imgflip offer lightweight tools for static memes and GIFs, “the tools and community for doing that for video are kinda inaccessible,” says co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven. “You have something you install on your computer with fancy hardware. You should able to create and riff off of people,” even if you just have your phone, she tells me. Indeed, 100,000 users are already getting crafty with Kapwing.
“We want to make these really relevant trending formats so anyone can jump in,” Enthoven declares. “Down the line, we want to make a destination for consuming that content.”
Enthoven and Eric Lu both worked at Google Image Search in the lauded Associate Product Manager (APM) program that’s minted many future founders for companies like Quip, Asana and Polyvore. But after two years, they noticed a big gap in the creative ecosystem. Enthoven explains that “The idea came from using outdated tools for making the types of videos people want to make for social media — short-form, snackable video you record with your phone. It’s so difficult to make those kinds of videos in today’s editors.”
So the pair of 25-year-olds left in September to start Kapwing. They named it after their favorite sound effect from the Calvin & Hobbes comics when the make-believe tiger would deflect toy gunshots from his best pal. “It’s an onomatopoeia, and that’s sort of cool because video is all about movement and sound.”
After starting with a meme editor for slapping text above and below images, Kapwing saw a sudden growth spurt as creators raced to convert landscape videos for vertical IGTV. Now it has a wide range of tools, with more planned.
The current selection includes:
- Meme Maker
- Multi-Video Montage Maker
- Video Collage
- Video Filters
- Image To Video Converter
- Add Overlaid Text To Video
- Add Music To Video With MP3 Uploads
- Resize Video
- Reverse Video
- Loop Video
- Trim Video
- Mute Video
- Stop Motion Maker
- Sound Effects Maker
Kapwing definitely has some annoying shortcomings. There’s an 80mb limit on uploads, so don’t expect to be messing with much 4K videos or especially long clips. You can’t subtitle a GIF, and the meme maker flipped vertical photos sideways without warning. It also lacks some of the slick tools that Snapchat has developed, like a magic eraser for Photoshopping stuff out and a background changer, or the automatic themed video editing found in products like Google Photos.
The No. 1 thing it needs is a selective cropping tool. Instead of letting you manually move the vertical frame around inside a landscape video so you always catch the action, it just grabs the center. That left me staring at blank space between myself and an interview subject when I uploaded this burger robot startup video. It’s something apps like RotateNFlip and Flixup already offer. Hopefully the funding that also comes from Shasta, Shrug Capital, Sinai, Village Global, and ZhenFund will let it tackle some of these troubles.
Beyond meme-loving teens and semi-pro creators, Kapwing has found an audience amongst school teachers. The simplicity and onscreen instructions make it well-suited for young students, and it works on Chromebooks because there’s no need to download software.
The paid version has found some traction with content marketers and sponsored creators who don’t want a distracting watermark included. That business model is always in danger of encroachment from free tools, though, so Kapwing hopes to also become a place to view the meme content it exports. That network model is more defensible if it gains a big enough audience, and could be monetized with ads. Though it will put it in competition with Imgur, Reddit and the big dogs like Instagram.
“We aspire to become a hub for consumption,” Enthoven concluded. “Consume, get an idea, and share with each other.”
Alex Jones’ Infowars is a fake news-peddler. But Facebook deleting its Page could ignite a fire that consumes the network. Still, some critics are asking why it hasn’t done so already.
This week Facebook held an event with journalists to discuss how it combats fake news. The company’s recently appointed head of News Feed John Hegeman explained that, “I guess just for being false, that doesn’t violate the community standards. I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice.”
In response, CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform. I didn’t get a good answer.” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel meanwhile wrote that allowing the Infowars Page to exist shows that “Facebook simply isn’t willing to make the hard choices necessary to tackle fake news.”
Facebook’s own Twitter account tried to rebuke Darcy by tweeting, “We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news. We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.” But harm can be minimized without full-on censorship.
There is no doubt that Facebook hides behind political neutrality. It fears driving away conservative users for both business and stated mission reasons. That strategy is exploited by those like Jones who know that no matter how extreme and damaging their actions, they’ll benefit from equivocation that implies ‘both sides are guilty,’ with no regard for degree.
Instead of being banned from Facebook, Infowars and sites like it that constantly and purposely share dangerous hoaxes and conspiracy theories should be heavily down-ranked in the News Feed.
Effectively, they should be quarantined, so that when they or their followers share their links, no one else sees them.
“We don’t have a policy that stipulates that everything posted on Facebook must be true — you can imagine how hard that would be to enforce,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “But there’s a very real tension here. We work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free expression and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that down-ranking inauthentic content strikes that balance. In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”
Facebook already reduces the future views of posts by roughly 80 percent when they’re established as false by its third-party fact checkers like Politifact and the Associated Press. For repeat offenders, I think that reduction in visibility should be closer to 100 percent of News Feed views. What Facebook does do to those whose posts are frequently labeled as false by its checkers is “remove their monetization and advertising privileges to cut off financial incentives, and dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”
The company wouldn’t comment directly about whether Infowars has already been hit with that penalty, noting “We can’t disclose whether specific Pages or domains are receiving such a demotion (it becomes a privacy issue).” For any story fact checked as false, it shows related articles from legitimate publications to provide other perspectives on the topic, and notifies people who have shared it or are about to.
But that doesn’t solve for the initial surge of traffic. Unfortunately, Facebook’s limited array of fact checking partners are strapped with so much work, they can only get to so many BS stories quickly. That’s a strong endorsement for more funding to be dedicated to these organizations like Snopes, preferably by even keeled non-profits, though the risks of governments or Facebook chipping in might be worth it.
Given that fact-checking will likely never scale to be instantly responsive to all fake news in all languages, Facebook needs a more drastic option to curtail the spread of this democracy-harming content on its platform. That might mean a full loss of News Feed posting privileges for a certain period of time. That might mean that links re-shared by the supporters or agents of these pages get zero distribution in the feed.
But it shouldn’t mean their posts or Pages are deleted, or that their links can’t be opened unless they clearly violate Facebook’s core content policies.
Why downranking and quarantine? Because banning would only stoke conspiratorial curiosity about these inaccurate outlets. Trolls will use the bans as a badge of honor, saying, “Facebook deleted us because it knows what we say is true.”
They’ll claim they’ve been unfairly removed from the proxy for public discourse that exists because of the size of Facebook’s private platform.
What we’ll have on our hands is “but her emails!” 2.0
People who swallowed the propaganda of “her emails”, much of which was pushed by Alex Jones himself, assumed that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails must have contained evidence of some unspeakable wrongdoing — something so bad it outweighed anything done by her opponent, even when the accusations against him had evidence and witnesses aplenty.
If Facebook deleted the Pages of Infowars and their ilk, it would be used as a rallying cry that Jones’ claims were actually clairvoyance. That he must have had even worse truths to tell about his enemies and so he had to be cut down. It would turn him into a martyr.
Those who benefit from Infowars’ bluster would use Facebook’s removal of its Page as evidence that it’s massively biased against conservatives. They’d push their political allies to vindictively regulate Facebook beyond what’s actually necessary. They’d call for people to delete their Facebook accounts and decamp to some other network that’s much more of a filter bubble than what some consider Facebook to already be. That would further divide the country and the world.
When someone has a terrible, contagious disease, we don’t execute them. We quarantine them. That’s what should happen here. The exception should be for posts that cause physical harm offline. That will require tough judgement calls, but knowing inciting mob violence for example should not be tolerated. Some of Infowars posts, such as those about Pizzagate that led to a shooting, might qualify for deletion by that standard.
Facebook is already trying to grapple with this after rumors and fake news spread through forwarded WhatsApp messages have led to crowds lynching people in India and attacks in Myanmar. Peer-to-peer chat lacks the same centralized actors to ban, though WhatsApp is now at least marking messages as forwarded, and it will need to do more. But for less threatening yet still blatantly false news, quarantining may be sufficient. This also leaves room for counterspeech, where disagreeing commenters can refute posts or share their own rebuttals.
Few people regularly visit the Facebook Pages they follow. They wait for the content to come to them through the News Feed posts of the Page, and their friends. Eliminating that virality vector would severely limit this fake news’ ability to spread without requiring the posts or Pages to be deleted, or the links to be rendered unopenable.
If Facebook wants to uphold a base level of free speech, it may be prudent to let the liars have their voice. However, Facebook is under no obligation to amplify that speech, and the fakers have no entitlement for their speech to be amplified.
Image Credit: Getty – Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, Flickr Sean P. Anderson CC
Twitter is ready to squeeze a lot more money out of its trending topics. After minimizing its mediocre Moments feature and burying it inside the renamed Explore tab, Twitter is now starting to test Promoted Trend Spotlight ads. These put a big visual banner equipped with a GIF or image background atop Explore for the first two times you visit that day before settling back into the Trends list, with the first batch coming from Disney in the U.S.
These powerful new ad units demote organic content in Explore, which could make it less useful for getting a grip on what’s up in the world at a glance. But they could earn Twitter strong revenue by being much more eye-catching than the traditional Timeline ads that people often skip past. That could further fuel Twitter’s turnaround after it soundly beat revenue estimates in Q1 with $ 665 million. Its share price of about $ 44 is near its 52-week high, and almost 3X its low for the year.
“We are continuing to explore new ways to enhance our takeover offerings and give brands more high-impact opportunities to drive conversation and brand awareness on our platform,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The Promoted Trend Spotlight ads are bought as an add-on to the existing Promoted Trends ads that are inserted amongst the list of Twitter’s most popular topics. When tapped, they open a feed of tweets with that headline with one of the advertiser’s related tweets at the top. Back in February, AdAge reported whispers of a new visual redesign for Promoted Trends. You can view a demo of the experience below.
Anthy Price, Disney’s executive vice president for Media, provided TechCrunch with a statement, saying “The Promoted Trend Spotlight on Twitter allowed us to prominently highlight Winnie the Pooh & celebrate the launch of ticket sales for Christopher Robin while four of the characters took over major Disney handles on the platform to engage with fans.”
Historically, Twitter’s biggest problem was that people skimmed past ads. The old unfiltered Timeline trained users to pick and choose what they read, looking past anything that didn’t seem relevant, including paid marketing. But with the shift to an algorithmic Timeline and bigger focus on video, Twitter has slowly retrained users to expect relevant content in every slot. Explore’s design, with imagery at the top followed by a text list of Trends, pulls attention to where these new Spotlight ads sit. With better monetization, Twitter will now have to concentrate on building better ways to get users to open Explore instead of just their feed, notifications and DMs.
Before Snapchat made social media about just today, Facebook made it about forever. The 2011 “Timeline” redesign of the profile and keyword search unlocked your past, encouraging you to curate colorful posts about your life’s top moments. That was actually an inspiration for Snapchat, as its CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in its IPO announcement that “We learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence.”
Now Facebook is finding a middle ground by optionally unlocking the history of your Stories that otherwise disappear after 24 hours. Facebook will soon begin testing Stories Highlights, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Similar to Instagram Stories Highlights, it will let you pick your favorite expired photos and videos, compile them into themed collections with titles and cover images and display them on your profile.
The change further differentiates Facebook Stories from the Snapchat Stories feature it copied. It’s smart for Facebook, because highly compelling content was disintegrating each day, dragging potential ad views to the grave with it. And for its 150 million daily users, it could make the time we spend obsessing over social media Stories a wiser investment. If you’re going to interrupt special moments to capture them with your phone, the best ones should still pay dividends of self-expression and community connection beyond a day later.
Facebook Stories Highlights was first spotted by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong, who specializes in generating screenshots of unreleased features out of the APK files of Android apps. TechCrunch inquired about the feature, and a Facebook spokesperson provided this statement: “People have told us they want a way to highlight and save the Stories that matter most to them. We’ll soon start testing highlights on Facebook – a way to choose Stories to stay on your profile, making it easier to express who you are through memories.”
These Highlights will appear on a horizontal scroll bar on your profile, and you’ll be able to see how many people viewed them just like with your Stories. They’ll default to being viewable by all your friends, but you can also restrict Highlights to certain people or make them public. The latter could be useful for public figures trying to build an audience, or anyone who thinks their identity is better revealed through their commentary on the world that Stories’ creative tools offer, opposed to some canned selfies and profile pics.
Facebook paved the way for Highlights by launching the Stories Archive in May. This automatically backs up your Stories privately to your profile so you don’t have to keep the saved versions on your phone, wasting storage space. That Archive is the basis for being able to choose dead Stories to show off in your Highlights. Together, they’ll encourage users to shoot silly, off-the-cuff content without that “fear of permanence,” but instead with the opportunity. If you want to spend a half hour decorating a Facebook Story with stickers and drawing and captions and augmented reality, you know it won’t be in vain.
While many relentlessly criticize Facebook for stealing the Stories from Snapchat, its rapid iteration and innovation on the format means the two companies’ versions are sharply diverging. Snapchat still lacks a Highlights-esque feature despite launching its Archive-style Memories back in July 2016. Instead of enhancing the core Stories product that made the app a teen phenomenon, it’s concentrated on Maps, gaming, Search, professional Discover content, and a disastrously needless redesign.
Facebook’s family of apps seized on the stagnation of Snapchat Stories and its neglect of the international market. It copied whatever was working while developing new features like Instagram’s Superzoom and Focus portrait mode, the ability to reshare public feed posts as quote tweet-style Stories and the addition of licensed music soundtracks. While writing this article, I even discovered a new Facebook Stories option called Blur that lets you shroud a moving subject with a dream-like haze, as demonstrated with my dumb face here.
The relentless drive to add new options and smooth out performance has paid off. Now Instagram has 400 million daily Stories users, WhatsApp has 450 million and Facebook has 150 million, while Snapchat’s whole app has just 191 million. As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom admitted about Snapchat, “They deserve all the credit.” Still, it hasn’t had a megahit since Stories and AR puppy masks. The company’s zeal for inventing new ways to socialize is admirable, though not always a sound business strategy.
At first, the Stories war was a race, to copy functionality and invade new markets. Instagram and now Facebook making ephemerality optional for their Stories signals a second phase of the war. The core idea of broadcasting content that disappears after a day has become commoditized and institutionalized. Now the winner will be declared not as who invented Stories, but who perfected them.
Bots, your days of tweeting politically divisive nonsense might be numbered. The Washington Post reported Friday that in the last few months Twitter has aggressively suspended accounts in an effort to stem the spread of disinformation running rampant on its platform.
The Washington Post reports that Twitter suspended as many as 70 million accounts between May and June of this year, with no signs of slowing down in July. According to data obtained by the Post, the platform suspended 13 million accounts during a weeklong spike of bot banning activity in mid-May.
Sources tell the Post that the uptick in suspensions is tied to the company’s efforts to comply with scrutiny from the congressional investigation into Russian disinformation on social platforms. The report adds that Twitter investigates bots and other fake accounts through an internal project known as “Operation Megaphone” through which it buys suspicious accounts and then investigates their connections.
Twitter declined to provide additional information about The Washington Post report, but pointed us to a blog post from last week in which it disclosed other numbers related to its bot-hunting efforts. In May of 2018, Twitter identified more than 9.9 million suspicious accounts — triple its efforts in late 2017.
When Twitter identifies an account that it deems suspicious, it then “challenges” that account, giving legitimate Twitter users an opportunity to prove their sentience by confirming a phone number. When an account fails this test it gets the boot, while accounts that pass are reinstated.
As Twitter noted in its recent blog post, bots can make users look good by artificially inflating follower counts.
“As a result of these improvements, some people may notice their own account metrics change more regularly,” Twitter warned. The company noted that cracking down on fake accounts means that “malicious actors” won’t be able to promote their own content and accounts as easily by inflating their own numbers. Kicking users off a platform, fake or not, is a risk for a company that regularly reports its monthly active users, though only a temporary one.
As the report notes, at least one insider expects Twitter’s Q2 active user numbers to dip, reflecting its shift in enforcement. Still, any temporary user number setback would prove nominal for a platform that should focus on healthy user growth. Facebook is facing a similar reckoning as a result of the Russian bot scandal, as the company anticipates user engagement stats to dip as it moves to emphasize quality user experiences over juiced-up quarterly numbers. In both cases, it’s a worthy trade-off.
Wikipedia’s Italian and Spanish language versions have temporarily shut off access to their respective versions of the free online encyclopedia in Europe to protest against controversial components of a copyright reform package ahead of a key vote in the EU parliament tomorrow.
Update: Polish Wikipedia has also now joined the black out.
The protest follows a vote by the EU parliament’s legal affairs committee last month which backed the reforms — including the two most controversial elements: Article 13, which makes platforms directly liable for copyright infringements by their users — pushing them towards pre-filtering all content uploads, with all the associated potential chilling effects for free expression; and Article 11, which targets news aggregator business models by creating a neighboring right for snippets of journalistic content — aka ‘the link tax’, as critics dub it.
Visitors to Wikipedia in many parts of the EU (and further afield) are met with a banner which urges them to defend the open Internet against the controversial proposal by calling their MEP to voice their opposition to a measure critics describe as ‘censorship machines’, warning it will “weaken the values, culture and ecosystem on which Wikipedia is based”.
Clicking on a button to ‘call your MEP’ links through to anti-Article 13 campaign website, saveyourinternet.eu, where users can search for the phone number of their MEP and/or send an email to protest against the measure. The initiative is backed by a large coalition of digital and civil rights groups — including the EFF, the Open Rights Group, and the Center for Democracy & Technology.
In a longer letter to visitors explaining its action, the Spanish Wikipedia community writes that: “If the proposal were approved in its current version, actions such as sharing a news item on social networks or accessing it through a search engine would become more complicated on the Internet; Wikipedia itself would be at risk.”
The Spanish language version of Wikipedia will remain dark throughout the EU parliament vote — which is due to take place at 10 o’clock (UTC) on July 5.
“We want to continue offering an open, free, collaborative and free work with verifiable content. We call on all members of the European Parliament to vote against the current text, to open it up for discussion and to consider the numerous proposals of the Wikimedia movement to protect access to knowledge; among them, the elimination of articles 11 and 13, the extension of the freedom of panorama to the whole EU and the preservation of the public domain,” it adds.
The Italian language version of Wikipedia went dark yesterday.
While the protest banners about the reform are appearing widely across Wikipedia, the decisions to block out encyclopedia content are less widespread — and are being taken by each local community of editors.
We are community driven and so each community makes their own decision. I think we should get more organized in the future so that we could vote more quickly or earlier!
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) July 3, 2018
We had only a very short time from the largely unexpected (by me anyway!) JURI committee vote to have a community discussion. We move slowly sometimes, and woke up too late. https://t.co/fVjIZ4aZPr
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) July 3, 2018
As you’d expect, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been a very vocal critic of Article 13 — including lashing out at whoever was in control of the European Commission’s Twitter feed yesterday when they tried to suggest that online encyclopedias will not be affected by the proposal — by suggesting they would not be “considered” to be giving access to “large amounts of unauthorised protected content” by claiming most of their content would fall outside the scope of the law because it’s covered by Creative Commons licenses. (An interpretation of the proposed rules that anti-Article 13 campaigners dispute.)
And the commissioners drafting this portion of the directive do appear to have been mostly intending to regulate YouTube — which has been a target for record industry ire in recent years, over the relatively small royalties paid to artists vs streaming music services.
But critics argue this is a wrongheaded, sledgehammer-to-crack a nut approach to lawmaking — which will have the unintended consequence of damaging free expression and access to information online.
Wales shot back at the EC’s tweet — saying it’s “deeply inappropriate for the European Commission to be lobbying publicly and misleading the public in this way”.
Deeply inappropriate for the European Commission to be lobbying publicly *and* misleading the public in this way.
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) July 3, 2018
A little later in the same Twitter thread, as more users had joined the argument, he added: “The Wikipedia community is not so narrow minded as to let the rest of the Internet suffer just because we are big enough that they try to throw us a bone. Justice matters.”
The EU parliament will vote as a whole tomorrow — when we’ll find out whether or not MEPs have been swayed by this latest #SaveYourInternet campaign.
3 political groups plus an additional 84 Parliamentarians have requested the vote to have a full plenary debate & the possibility to make amendments to the #copyright text. The vote will be tomorrow at noon. Results will be recorded. https://t.co/ukJFierEfU #SaveYourInternet pic.twitter.com/NayTGf8Grx
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) July 4, 2018
Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky, who has served on Snap’s board of directors since December 2012, is not expected to stand for re-election to Snap’s board of directors and will thus be stepping down, according to a report by The Information.
Early investors stepping down from the board of directors — or at least not seeking re-election — isn’t that uncommon as once-private companies grow into larger public ones. Benchmark partner Peter Fenton did not seek re-election for Twitter’s board of directors in April last year. As Snap continues to navigate its future, especially as it has declined precipitously since going public and now sits at a valuation of around $ 16.5 billion. Partners with an expertise in the early-stage and later-stage startup life cycle may end up seeing themselves more useful taking a back seat and focusing on other investments. The voting process for board member re-election happens during the company’s annual meeting, so we’ll get more information when an additional proxy filing comes out ahead of the meeting later this year.
Benchmark is, or at least was at the time of going public last year, one of Snap’s biggest shareholders. According to the company’s 424B filing prior to going public in March last year, Benchmark held ownership of 23.1% of Snap’s Class B common stock and 8.2% of Snap’s Class A common stock. Lasky has been with Benchmark since April 2007, and also serves on the boards of a number of gaming companies like Riot Games and thatgamecompany, the creators of PlayStation titles flower and Journey. At the time, Snap said in its filing that Lasky was “qualified to serve as a member of our board of directors due to his extensive experience with social media and technology companies, as well as his experience as a venture capitalist investing in technology companies.”
The timing could be totally coincidental, but an earlier Recode report suggested Lasky had been talking about stepping down in future funds for Benchmark. The firm only recently wrapped up a very public battle with Uber, which ended up with Benchmark selling a significant stake in the company and a new CEO coming in to replace co-founder Travis Kalanick. Benchmark hired its first female general partner, Sarah Tavel, earlier this year.
We’ve reached out to both Snap and a representative from Benchmark for comment and will update the story when we hear back.
In a letter to Sen. Wyden, Match Group General Counsel Jared Sine describes recent changes to the app, noting that as of June 19, “swipe data has been padded such that all actions are now the same size.” Sine added that images on the mobile app are fully encrypted as of February 6, while images on the web version of Tinder were already encrypted.
The Tinder issues were first called out in a report by a research team at Checkmarx describing the app’s “disturbing vulnerabilities” and their propensity for blackmail:
The vulnerabilities, found in both the app’s Android and iOS versions, allow an attacker using the same network as the user to monitor the user’s every move on the app. It is also possible for an attacker to take control over the profile pictures the user sees, swapping them for inappropriate content, rogue advertising or other type of malicious content (as demonstrated in the research).
While no credential theft and no immediate financial impact are involved in this process, an attacker targeting a vulnerable user can blackmail the victim, threatening to expose highly private information from the user’s Tinder profile and actions in the app.
In February, Wyden called for Tinder to address the vulnerability by encrypting all data that moves between its servers and the app and by padding data to obscure it from hackers. In a statement to TechCrunch at the time, Tinder indicated that it heard Sen. Wyden’s concerns and had recently implemented encryption for profile photos in the interest of moving toward deepening its privacy practices.
“Like every technology company, we are constantly working to improve our defenses in the battle against malicious hackers and cyber criminals,” Sine said in the letter. “… Our goal is to have protocols and systems that not only meet, but exceed industry best practices.”
Instagram’s future growth depends on the developing world, so it’s built a version of its app just for them. “Instagram Lite” for Android appeared today in the Google Play App Store without any announcement from the company. “The Instagram Lite app is small, allowing you to save space on your phone and download it quickly” the description reads.
At just 573 kilobytes, Instagram Lite is 1/55th the size of Instagram’s 32 megabyte main app. It lets you filter and post photos to the feed or Stories, watch Stories, and browse the Explore page, but currently lacks the options to share videos or Direct message friends.
Instagram Lite addresses many problems common amongst mobile users in the developing world who are often on older phones with less storage space, slower network connections, or who can’t afford big data packages. Users might not have to delete photos or other apps to install Instagram Lite, or wait a long time and pay more for it to download.
The release follows Instagram’s revamped mobile website that launched last month, also designed for the developing world. At the time I wrote, “The launch begs the question of whether Instagram will release an Instagram Lite version of its native app.” The answer is yes. Mobile analytics service Sensor Tower tipped TechCrunch off to the release.
When asked for comment, an Instagram spokesperson confirmed that Instagram Lite began testing in Mexico this week, and provided this statement: “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster.” The company wouldn’t say whether ads would be included. Later this year the app will expand to more countries, and get messaging and video posting capabilities.
The “Lite” trend has picked up steam recently. Facebook launched Facebook Lite in 2015, and it had 200 million users by 2017. That paved the way for the launch of Messenger Lite in April 2018, and Uber glommed on to the strategy with the release of its own Lite app earlier this month. Users have clearly been craving Instagram Lite, since a fake/unofficial Facebook Page with that has racked up over 2000 Likes.
Instagram announced last week at the IGTV unveiling that it had hit 1 billion monthly active users. It’s been growing at roughly 100 million users every four months, with much of that coming from the developing world. Snapchat neglected international markets to focus on US teens, leaving the door open for Instagram and WhatsApp’s clones of Snapchat Stories to grab big user bases in countries like India and Brazil.
With this new growth tool in its belt, Instagram may see even swifter adoption in emerging markets. It could score potentially score evenue straight from Lite if ads are included, then as phones and networks improve, hope to shift users onto the full-fidelity version. Now, eyes will be on Snapchat to see if it builds its own Lite app. Otherwise it risks continuing to slip further behind the Instagram juggernaut.
Set the “days without a Facebook privacy problem” counter to zero. This week, an alarmed developer contacted TechCrunch, informing us that their Facebook App Analytics weekly summary email had been delivered to someone outside their company. It contains sensitive business information, including weekly average users, page views and new users.
Forty-three hours after we contacted Facebook about the issue, the social network now confirms to TechCrunch that 3 percent of apps using Facebook Analytics had their weekly summary reports sent to their app’s testers, instead of only the app’s developers, admins and analysts.
Testers are often people outside of a developer’s company. If the leaked info got to an app’s competitors, it could provide them an advantage. At least they weren’t allowed to click through to view more extensive historical analytics data on Facebook’s site.
Facebook tells us it has fixed the problem and no personally identifiable information or contact info was improperly disclosed. It plans to notify all impacted developers about the leak today and has already begun.
Update: 1pm Pacific: TechCrunch was provided with this statement from a Facebook spokesperson:
“Due to an error in our email delivery system, weekly business performance summaries we send to developers about their account were also sent to a small group of those developer’s app testers. No personal information about people on Facebook was shared. We’re sorry for the error and have updated our system to prevent it from happening again.”
Below you can find the email the company is sending:
Subject line: We recently resolved an error with your weekly summary email
We wanted to let you know about a recent error where a summary e-mail from Facebook Analytics about your app was sent to testers of your app ‘[APP NAME WILL BE DYNAMICALLY INSERTED HERE]’. As you know, we send weekly summary emails to keep you up to date with some of your top-level metrics — these emails go to people you’ve identified as Admins, Analysts and Developers. You can also add Testers to your account, people designated by you to help test your apps when they’re in development.
We mistakenly sent the last weekly email summary to your Testers, in addition to the usual group of Admins, Analysts and Developers who get updates. Testers were only able to see the high-level summary information in the email, and were not able to access any other account information; if they clicked “View Dashboard” they did not have access to any of your Facebook Analytics information.
We apologize for the error and have made updates to prevent this from happening again.
One affected developer told TechCrunch “Not sure why it would ever be appropriate to send business metrics to an app user. When I created my app (in beta) I added dozens of people as testers as it only meant they could login to the app…not access info!” They’re still waiting for the disclosure from Facebook.
Facebook wouldn’t disclose a ballpark number of apps impacted by the error. Last year it announced 1 million apps, sites and bots were on Facebook Analytics. However, this issue only affected apps, and only 3 percent of them.
The mistake comes just weeks after a bug caused 14 million users’ Facebook status update composers to change their default privacy setting to public. And Facebook has had problems with misdelivering business information before. In 2014, Facebook accidentally sent advertisers receipts for other business’ ad campaigns, causing significant confusion. The company has also misreported metrics about Page reach and more on several occasions. Though user data didn’t leak and today’s issue isn’t as severe as others Facebook has dealt with, developers still consider their business metrics to be private, making this a breach of that privacy.
While Facebook has been working diligently to patch app platform privacy holes since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, removing access to many APIs and strengthening human reviews of apps, issues like today’s make it hard to believe Facebook has a proper handle on the data of its 2 billion users.