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Join us for a live Q&A with Sapphire’s Jai Das on Tuesday at 2 pm ET/11 am PT

November 25, 2020 No Comments

Sure, we’re heading into a holiday weekend here in America, but that doesn’t mean that the good ship TechCrunch is going to slow down. We’re diving right back in next week with another installment in season two of Extra Crunch Live, our regular interview series with startup founders, venture capitalists, and other leaders from the technology community.

This series is for Extra Crunch members, so if you haven’t signed up you can hop on that train right here.

Next week I’m virtually sitting down with Jai Das, a well-known managing director at Sapphire Ventures.

Das as invested in companies like MuleSoft (sold for $ 6.5 billion), Alteryx (now public), Square (also public), Sumo Logic (yep, public) while at Sapphire, having previously worked corporate venture jobs at Intel Capital and Agilent Ventures. (Sapphire was itself originally SAP’s corporate venture capital arm, but it split off from its parent in 2011, rebranded, and kept on raising funds.)

Here are notes from the last episode of Extra Crunch Live with Bessemer’s Byron Deeter.

It’s going to be fun as there’s so much to talk about. I’m still bubbling up my question list, so to avoid giving the Sapphire PR team too much pre-discussion ammo let’s just say that corporate venture capital’s place in the 2020 boom is an interesting topic for both founders, and investors alike.

And I’ll want to press Das on the current market for software startups, where we are in the historical arc of SaaS multiples, the importance of API-led tech upstarts, where founders might look to build the next great enterprise startup, and if there are any new platforms bubbling up that could be a foundation for future founders to later leverage.

As this is an Extra Crunch Live, I’ll also work in a few questions from the audience (that means you, make sure you Extra Crunch subscription is live), to augment my own clipboard of notes.

This is going to be a good one. I’ll see you next Tuesday for the show.

Details

Below are links to add the event to your calendar and to save the Zoom link. We’ll share the YouTube link shortly before the discussion:


Startups – TechCrunch


Daily Crunch: Snapchat adds Spotlight

November 24, 2020 No Comments

Snapchat introduces a TikTok-style feed, Amazon Echo Buds add fitness tracking and Vettery acquires Hired. This is your Daily Crunch for November 23, 2020.

The big story: Snapchat adds Spotlight

Snapchat has introduced a dedicated feed where users can watch short, entertaining videos — pretty similar to TikTok. This comes after the app also added TikTok-like music features last month.

Starting today, users will be able to send their Snaps to the new Spotlight feed. Viewers will be able to send direct messages to creators with public profiles (Spotlight will also include anonymous content from private accounts), but there will be no public commentary on these videos.

To encourage creators to post to Spotlight, Snapchat says it will be distributing more than $ 1 million every day who create the top videos on Spotlight.

The tech giants

Amazon’s Echo Buds get new fitness tracking features — Say “Alexa, start my workout” with the buds in, and they’ll begin logging steps, calories, distance, pace and duration of runs.

Uber refused permission to dismiss 11 staff at its EMEA HQ —The Dutch Employee Insurance Agency has refused to give Uber permission to dismiss 11 people at the company’s EMEA headquarters.

Facebook launches ‘Drives,’ a US-only feature for collecting food, clothing and other necessities for people in need — The feature is being made available through Facebook’s existing Community Help hub.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Relativity Space raises $ 500M as it sets sights on the industrialization of Mars — LA-based rocket startup Relativity had a big 2020, completing work on a new 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach.

Resilience raises over $ 800M to transform pharmaceutical manufacturing in response to COVID-19 — The company will invest heavily in developing new manufacturing technologies across cell and gene therapies, viral vectors, vaccines and proteins.

Video mentoring platform Superpeer raises $ 8M and launches paid channels — The Superpeer platform allows experts to promote, schedule and charge for one-on-one video calls with anyone who might want to ask for their advice.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Seven things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans — Steve O’Hear interviews Luciana Lixandru and Matt Miller about the firm’s plans.

Founders seeking their first check need a fundraising sales funnel — Start digging the well before you’re thirsty.

Will Brazil’s Roaring 20s see the rise of early-stage startups? — In September, homegrown startups raised a record $ 843 million.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. And until November 30, you can get 25% off an annual membership.)

Everything else

Vettery acquires Hired to create a ‘unified’ job search platform — Vettery CEO Josh Brenner said the two platforms are largely complementary.

Gift Guide: Which next-gen console is the one your kid wants? — This holiday season, the next generation of gamers will be hoping to receive the next generation of gaming consoles.

Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana — The new season focuses on Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Secret Service Investigates 700 Cases of Covid Relief Fraud

November 22, 2020 No Comments

Ransomware as a service, exposed SMS photos, and more of the week’s top security news.
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Lime touts a 2020 turnaround and 2021 profitability

November 20, 2020 No Comments

Micromobility company Lime says it has moved beyond the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a milestone that seemed unthinkable earlier this year.

In short, the company is now largely profitable.

Lime said it was both operating cash flow positive and free cash flow positive in the third quarter — a first — and is on pace to be full-year profitable, excluding certain costs (EBIT), in 2021.

During the WSJ Future of Everything event Thursday, Lime CEO Wayne Ting painted a far rosier picture of the company’s future than one might have expected.

There was a time when Bird and Lime, competing domestic scooter rental companies, were raising capital at a torrid pace, fighting for market share, regulatory breathing room and sidewalk real estate. Then, the pandemic hit and the companies had to take shelter.

Lime underwent a round of layoffs in April, taking on capital from Uber the next month in a down-round that brought its valuation under the $ 1 billion mark. As it announced in a blog post that TechCrunch reviewed before publication, it paused most of its operations for a month during the early COVID-19 days.

“It was certainly a very, very tough decision for us earlier this year and I know we weren’t the only company during COVID,” Ting said during the event.I think it’s been in so many ways helpful to us to realize how hard these choices can be. We’re going to be growing headcount again. We’re going to do so in a careful way so that we’re not going have to make hard choices like the ones we made earlier this year.”

Now things are better, Lime says. Much better. Indeed, the company claims that it is the “first new mobility company to reach cash-flow positive for a full quarter.”

Cash flow positivity, in general, is an important threshold for a startup to reach as it implies that the company can largely self-fund from that point forward, limiting its dependency on external cash for survival.

Lime also claims that it “reached EBIT positive at the company level over the summer.” The specifics of the phrase “EBIT positive” are important. Was the company employing strict EBIT on its math and not discounting share-based compensation, or was it measuring using adjusted EBIT as many startups do, removing the cost of share-based compensation that shows up in GAAP results? According to the company the number did exclude share-based compensation, making the news slightly smaller.

Perhaps the most bullish data point from Lime is that it expects to be full-year profitable in 2021. TechCrunch asked for specifics because again how one measures profitability matters. It turns out, Lime is basing this projection on EBIT, as opposed to more traditional net income. For a startup this is not a surprising decision, but before we declare Lime fully “profitable,” we’ll want some more GAAP metrics.

Still, it appears that Lime is not going to die, and is, importantly, putting capital into developing new products. The company provided the first example of that new product pipeline on Thursday with the launch of the Gen4 scooter in Paris. It also teased a so-called “third and fourth mode” in the first quarter of 2021 as well as the addition of a swappable battery.

The scooter company wouldn’t give TechCrunch much information about what these third and fourth modes will be. The first two modes are bikes and scooters, which leaves skateboards, cars, flying cars and boats?

Lime did give TechCrunch a little bit of clarification, stating that “move beyond,” means the company will be operating an additional mode, accessed through the Lime app, in line with its goal to serve any trips under five miles. These modes will build on the Lime Platform play, but this will be operated by Lime rather than a partner.

Lime has long discussed reaching profitability. Perhaps because it and its competitor Bird were infamous for their losses during their early unicorn period.

By November of 2019, Lime was talking about reaching EBIT positivity in 2020. But the start of 2020 was not kind on the company, with 100 of its staff losing their jobs and 12 markets getting dropped. At the time TechCrunch wrote that “Lime is hoping to achieve profitability this year by laying off about 14% of its workforce and ceasing operations in 12 markets,” with the company itself writing at the time that “financial independence [was its] goal for 2020, and [that it was] confident that Lime will be the first next-generation mobility company to reach profitability.”

Depending on how you measure profitability, that could be true.

Things didn’t get easier for Lime later in the year. Its competitor Bird underwent layoffs, and Lime cut more staff in April. At the time, Lime said that it was focused on coming “back stronger than ever when this is over.”

The company is certainly in better shape than it was in April and May. So, how did Lime come back from the brink? In its own estimation, the company took time during its pause to “drill down on getting the business right, narrowing [its] focus and strengthening [its] fundamentals.” That might sound like corporate babble, but by taking a nearly full stop in its operating business, Lime could probably see a bit more clearly what was working and what was not. And with some cuts to what wasn’t, it could set up a future in which its operations were leaner, and more unit-economically positive.

And, now, here we are asking niggling questions about just what sort of profit Lime is really making. Instead of, you know, who might buy its leftover office furniture. It’s a nice turnaround.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Charge, please: Apple will pay $113M to settle 34-state ‘batterygate’ lawsuit

November 18, 2020 No Comments

Apple has agreed to pay $ 113 million to 34 states and the District of Columbia to settle allegations that it broke consumer protection laws when it systematically downplayed widespread iPhone battery problems in 2016. This is in addition to the half billion the company already paid to consumers over the issue earlier this year and numerous other fines around the world.

The issue, as we’ve reported over the years, was that a new version of iOS was causing older (but not that old) iPhones to shut down unexpectedly, and that an update “fixing” this issue surreptitiously throttled the performance of those devices.

Conspiracy-minded people, which we now know are quite numerous, suspected this was a deliberate degradation of performance in order to spur the purchase of a new phone. This was not the case, but Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who led the multistate investigation, showed that Apple was quite aware of the scale of the issue and the shortcomings of its solution.

Brnovich and his fellow AGs alleged that Apple violated various consumer protection laws, such as Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act, by “misrepresenting and concealing information” regarding the iPhone battery problems and the irreversible negative consequences of the update it issued to fix them.

Apple agreed to a $ 113 million settlement that admits no wrongdoing, to be split among the states however they choose. This is not a fine, like the €25 million one from French authorities; if Apple had been liable for statutory penalties those might have reached much, much higher than the amount agreed to today. Arizona’s CFA provides for up to $ 10,000 per willful violation, and even a fraction of that would have added up very quickly given the amount of people affected.

In addition to the cash settlement, Apple must “provide truthful information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance and power management” in various ways. The company already made changes to this effect years ago, but in settlements like this such requirements are included so they can’t just turn around and do it again, though some companies, like Facebook, do it anyway.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Demon’s Souls: The first truly next-gen game is a lopsided but impressive showcase

November 17, 2020 No Comments

The next generation of gaming is here with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X — except it isn’t, because there are almost no next-generation games to play on them. Demon’s Souls is the first title that can truly be called next-gen, and it shows — even though it’s a remake of a PS3 game… which also shows.

The original Demon’s Souls was an incredibly influential game. Its sequel, Dark Souls, was more popular and improved on the first quite a bit, but much of what made the now major series good had already been established. “Souls-like” is practically a genre now, though the originals are unsurprisingly still the nonpareil.

The comparative few who played Demon’s Souls were elated to hear that it was being remade, and by Bluepoint at that (who also remade the legendary Shadow of the Colossus), but worried that the game might not stand up by modern standards.

Can an old game, the essentials of which are a decade behind its descendants, be given a really, really, really ridiculously good-looking coat of paint and still act as a blockbuster next-gen debut? Well, it kind of has to — there’s no other option! Fortunately the game really does hold up, and in fact makes for a harrowing, cinematic experience despite a few significant creaks.

I don’t want to give a full review of the game itself; let it suffice to say that, although it looks and runs much better, the core of the game is almost entirely unchanged. Any review from the last decade is still completely relevant, down to the “magic is overpowered” and “inventory burden is annoying.”

As a next-gen gaming experience, however, Demon’s Souls is as yet without comparison. It serves as a showcase not only for the PS5’s graphical prowess, but its sound design, haptics, speed and OS.

Image Credits: Sony

First, the graphics. It’s clear that Sony and Bluepoint intended this to be a truly lavish remake, and the game’s structure — essentially five long, mostly linear levels — provides an excellent platform for breathtaking visuals carefully tuned to the user’s experience.

The environments themselves are incredibly detailed, and the various enemies you fight very well realized, but what I kept being impressed by was the lighting. Realistic lighting is something that has proven difficult even for top-tier developers, and it’s only now that the hardware has enough headroom to start doing it properly.

Demon’s Souls doesn’t use ray-tracing, the computation-heavy lighting technique perennially on the cusp of being implemented, but the real-time lighting effects are nevertheless dramatic and extremely engaging. This is a dark, dark world and the player is very limited as far as personal light sources, meaning the way you experience the environment is carefully designed.

Although the detailed armor, props and monsters are all very nice, it’s the realistic lighting that really sets them off in a way that seems truly new and beautiful. Dynamic range is used properly, to have actually dark areas illuminated dramatically, such as the still-terrifying Tower of Latria.

Image Credits: Sony

The game isn’t a huge leap over the best the PC has to offer right now, but it does make me excited for game designers who really want to use light and shadow as gameplay elements.

(Incidentally, don’t bother with the “cinematic” option versus “performance.” The latter keeps the game silky smooth, which for Souls games is a luxury, and the other setting didn’t improve the look much if at all, while severely affecting the framerate. Skip it unless you’re taking glamour shots.)

Similarly sound is extremely well done in the game, though I’m cautious about hyping Sony’s “3D audio” — really, games have had this sort of thing for years on many platforms. Having a decent pair of headphones is the important bit. But perhaps the PS5 offers improved workflows for spatializing sound; at all events in Demon’s Souls it was very good, with great separation, location and clarity. I have reliably dodged an enemy attack from offscreen after recognizing the characteristic grunt of an attacking foe, and the screeches and roars of dragons and boss monsters (as well as the general milieu of Latria) were suitably chilling.

A Sony DualSense controller seen from above.

Image Credits: Sony

This combined well with the improved haptics of the DualSense controller, which seemed to have a different “sensation” for every event. A dragon flying overhead, a demon stomping the ground, a blocked attack, an elevator ride. Mostly these were good and only aided immersion, but some, like the elevators, felt to me more like an annoying buzz than a rumble, like holding a power tool. I hope that developers will be sensible about these things and identify vibration patterns that are irritating. Fortunately the intensity can be adjusted universally in the PS5’s controls.

Likewise the adaptive triggers were nice but not game-changing. It was helpful when using the bow to know when the arrow was ready to release, for instance, but beyond a few things like that it was not used to great advantage.

Something that had a more immediate effect on how I played was the incredibly short load times. The Souls series has always been plagued by long load times when traveling and dying, the latter of which you can expect to do a lot. But now it’s rare that I can count to three before I’m materializing at the bonfire again.

This significantly reduces (but far from eliminates) frustration in this infamously unforgiving game, and actually makes me play it differently. Where once I could not be bothered to briefly travel to another area or the hub in order to accomplish some small task, now I know I can return to the Nexus, fuss around a bit with my loadout and be back in Boletaria in 30 seconds flat. If I die, I’m back in action in five seconds rather than 20, and believe me, that adds up real fast. (Load times are improved across the board in PS4 games running on the PS5 as well.)

Aiding this, kind of, is the new fancy pause screen Sony has implemented on its new console. When hitting the (annoyingly PS-shaped) PS button, a set of “cards” appears showing recent achievements and screenshots, but also ongoing missions or game progress. Pausing in Latria to take a breath, the menu offered up the ability to instantly warp to one of the other worlds, losing my souls but skipping the ordinarily requisite Nexus stop. This will certainly change how speedruns are accomplished, and provides a useful, if somewhat immersion-breaking option for the scatterbrained player.

The pause menu also provides a venue for tips and hints, in both text and video form. Again, this is a funny game to debut these in (I don’t count Astro’s Playroom, the included game/tech demo, which is fun but slight), because one of the Souls series’s distinctive features is player-generated notes and ghosts that alternatively warn and deceive new players. In another game I might have relied on the PS5’s hints more, but for this specific title they seem somewhat redundant.

As arguably the only “real” PS5 launch title, Demon’s Souls is a curious but impressive creature. It definitely shows the new console to advantage in some ways, but the game itself (while still amazing) is dated in many ways, limiting the possibilities of what can be shown off in the first place.

Certainly the remake is the best (and for many, only) way to play a classic, and for that alone it is recommended — though the $ 70 price (more in Europe and elsewhere) is definitely a bit of a squinter. One would hope that for the new higher asking price, we could expect next-generation gameplay as well as next-generation trimmings. Well, for now we have to take what we can get.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


As COVID surges, what can data tell us about Airbnb’s recovery?

November 15, 2020 No Comments

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

DoorDash filed to go public on Friday, meaning we’ll have at least one more unicorn IPO before 2020 comes to a close. For a high-level look at its numbers, I wrote this, Danny covered who will profit from the deal, and I noodled on the impact of COVID-19 on its business.

I bring all that up because there is another COVID-19 impacted unicorn that we are expecting to see go public in very short order: Airbnb.

When Airbnb filed to go public in August, it seemed like a solid plan. The company was widely reported to be on an upswing from its COVID-doldrums, the public markets were hot for growth and tech shares, and the pandemic’s caseload in the United States was coming down from its summer highs. It looked great for Airbnb to wrap its Q3, drop its public S-1 with the new numbers, and laugh all the way to the bank after showing investors that even a global pandemic and travel industry depression couldn’t stop it.

And yet. The United States and world at large are now in the midst of the worst COVID-19 spike yet, and consumer spend is going down right before we get the company’s S-1. November feels less winsome for an Airbnb recovery than August or September did. Still, when Airbnb files — next week, the scuttlebutt indicates, so get ready — we’ll only have a look at its numbers through the third quarter.

That’s effectively the same timeframe for a dataset that the folks at Cardify sent over and I dug through. Per the company, which tracks real-time consumer spend data, here’s a look at how well Airbnb recovered ahead of its larger industry after the initial recession in pandemic lodging spend:

Impressive, right? Sadly for Airbnb, the initial boom of demand through late June into July tapered as time continued.

Zooming in somewhat, here’s Airbnb spend data from July 2020 through the end of October, the first month of Q4, compared to the same period of 2019:

Declines, then, but still an encouraging set of data for the company regardless. I would not have expected Airbnb spend — via third-party, admittedly — to be this strong.

The trend of folks renting a house for a month seems to have diminished somewhat, in case you are factoring that into your mental math concerning Airbnb revenues from the above charts. Cardify told TechCrunch that after peaking at around +70% in the March-April timeframe, “average booking sizes have now normalized and are approximately 30% higher on a YTD basis.”

There is weakness in October, the charts show, but that appears to be at least partially seasonal given the 2019 line, so I don’t want to over-ascribe rising COVID cases as the cause. The drooping line, however, was echoed in similar SimilarWeb data that was also shared with The Exchange. The dataset concerned accommodation booking volume around the world for a number of travel services, including Airbnb. Its data tracking the US market showed that a bookings recovery through September that made up some ground on March lows was undercut by October declines. Europe’s bookings’ recovery peaked in July and has been falling ever since. Asian volume is creeping higher, but down sharply from prior levels.

It was a mixed picture, but as Airbnb is doing better than its broader industry per Cardify, the aggregated data could be leading us to be more pessimistic than we otherwise need to be. We’ll see shortly what the real numbers are, but I couldn’t help but share what I was reading with you. On to the S-1!

Before DoorDash filed, we were going to talk about Brex today in this space after Airbnb. But, since we got extra busy, expect those notes early next week on The Exchange.

Market Notes

The week was super busy with earnings, so I’ve collected a few notes from calls with select companies after they reported. Apologies to everyone’s’ favorite reporting firm, but we’re space-limited.

Appian crushed earnings expectations. What drove the low-code application development services’ growth forward? According to CEO Matt Calkins, it wasn’t a single thing. Instead, the company’s performance was driven by a long ramp he said, though he did also state that the concept of low-code has reached the public consciousness in new, higher levels during the last few quarters.

Why? The year’s chaos pushed companies into new patterns faster than they had anticipated. Chalk this result up to the accelerating digital transformation being real, which is good news for startups. (For more on Appian and the low-code space, head here.)

Alteryx gave The Exchange an earnings first, providing both its newly former CEO Dean Stoecker and its new CEO Mark Anderson to chat results. The company crushed Q3 expectations, but its Q4 projections did not excite investors. What was up? Anderson argued that ARR growth, not forward GAAP revenue projections, is the most transparent and clear view of an expanding software company, to paraphrase his thinking. You can’t ignore revenue, he said, but given the nuances in how revenue is counted, pay attention to ARR.

Alteryx has a solid ARR target for 2021. We’ll see how investors view its Q4 results and if they align their thinking to that of the new CEO. Alteryx’s former CEO is bullish, saying that in time the market will realize that analytics is at the epicenter of digital transformation. And his company will be there with code to sell.

Moving along, earlier this week I asked a number of VCs about the software venture capital market in the wake of Monday’s sharp selloff and my question about what might happen to public and private software companies if other stocks suddenly became more attractive — strong vaccine news on Monday was later overwhelmed by surging cases as the week went along, but on Monday Zoom lost billions in value as investors fled.

One set of responses came in late, but I wanted to share them all the same as they were more bullish than I anticipated. In the view of Laela Sturdy, a general partner at Alphabet Capital G, “private software investors are unlikely to change their investing patterns much as a result of fluctuations in the public market,” adding later that “public market changes would have to be very extreme — as in 30 percent or more — in order to impact growth stage valuations.”

The connection between public valuations and trading patterns and private capital deployment exists, but how closely the two are linked depends on what’s happening at any given moment, and it appears that at the moment private investor excitement about software is durable.

Sturdy explained why that may be: “Long-term secular trends around cloud adoption, automation and AI, data, security, fintech infrastructure, and the ongoing rapid acceleration of digital transformation will help tech companies maintain their status as the darlings of growth investors in both the private and public markets.”

Various and Sundry

And finally, the rest of the stuff that I couldn’t get to this week. Here we go:

  • Chatted with Cambridge Innovation Capital, a neat venture capital firm from Cambridge in the U.K. — not the Cambridge on the American East Coast. More to say here, but the good news is that hubs of innovation really are maturing into startup factories the world around.
  • I got my hands on an early copy of a survey of LPs put together by Allocate. It comes out Monday I think, but it said that “only 20% of [LP] respondents said COVID had slowed their investment activities,” which helps explain all the funds we’ve seen in the past few months.

Closing with something fun, remember that look we did of the performance of various startups in Q3? That was fun. Anyhoo, no-code “online form builder” JotForm told The Exchange that its revenue is up 50% from its 2019 results, that its enterprise customer base is up 620%, and that it expects to reach “100,000 total paid users by end of year.” Neat!

Alex

 


Startups – TechCrunch


Netflix’s latest experiment is a TikTok-like feed of funny videos

November 13, 2020 No Comments

Netflix already borrowed the concept of short-form video “Stories” from social apps like Snapchat and Instagram for its Previews feature back in 2018. Now, the company is looking to the full-screen vertical video feed, popularized by TikTok, for further inspiration. With its latest experiment, Fast Laughs, Netflix is offering a new feed of short-form comedy clips drawn from its full catalog.

The feed includes clips from both originals and licensed programming, Netflix says. It also includes video clips from the existing Netflix social channel, “Netflix Is A Joke,” which today runs clips, longer videos and other social content across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Fast Laughs resembles TikTok in the sense that it’s swiped through vertically, offers full-screen videos and places its engagement buttons on the right side. But it’s not trying to become a place to waste time while being entertained.

Like many of Netflix’s experiments, the goal with the Fast Laughs feed is to help users discover something new to watch.

Instead of liking and commenting on videos, as you would in a social video app, the feed is designed to encourage users to add shows to their Netflix watch list for later viewing. In this sense, it’s serving a similar purpose to Netflix’s “Previews” feature, which helps users discover shows by watching clips and trailers from popular and newly released programming.

As users scroll through the new Fast Laughs feed, they’ll encounter a wide range of comedy clips — like a clip from a Kevin Hart stand-up special or a funny bit from “The Office,” for example. The clips will also range in length anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds.

In addition to adding clips to Netflix’s “My List” feature, users can also react to clips with a laughing emoji button, share the clip with friends across social media, or tap a “More” button to see other titles related to the clip you’re viewing.

The feature was first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra, based in the U.K. In his app, Fast Laughs appeared in front of the row of Previews, where it was introduced with text that said “New!”

Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the experiment had been tested with a small number of users earlier this year, but has recently started rolling out to a wider group this month — including users in the U.K., the U.S. and other select markets.

It’s currently available to a subset of Netflix users with adult profiles or other profiles without parental controls on iOS devices only. However, users don’t need to be opted in to experiments nor do they need to be on a beta version of the Netflix app to see the feature. It’s more of a standard A/B test, Netflix says.

And because it’s a test, users may see slightly different versions of the same feature. The product may also evolve over time, in response to user feedback.

Netflix is hardly the first to “borrow” the TikTok format for its own app. Social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, have also launched their own TikTok rivals in recent months.

But Netflix isn’t a direct competitor with TikTok — except to the extent that any mobile app competes for users’ time and attention, as there are only so many hours in a day.

Instead, the new feed is more of an acknowledgment that the TikTok format of a full-screen vertical video feed with quick engagement buttons on the side is becoming a default style of sorts for presenting entertaining content.

“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix experience,” a Netflix spokesperson said, confirming the experiment. “A lot of our members love comedy so we thought this would be an exciting new way to help them discover new shows and enjoy classic scenes. We experiment with these types of tests in different countries and for different periods of time — and only make them broadly available if people find them useful,” they added.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Free, Unlimited Google Photos Storage Will End Next Year

November 12, 2020 No Comments

As of June 1, 2021, all uploads to the cloud-based storage service will count against your 15-GB data cap.
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How to Watch Today’s Apple Event (It’s About Laptops)

November 10, 2020 No Comments

The company will hold a media event Tuesday to announce the debut of Apple-made silicon in its computers.
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