Peanut is a Tinder-like app for making new mom friends

Being a new parent can become an isolating experience, where you’re thrust into a world of playdates over happy hours – a change that can lead to dwindling time spent with friends who share a different schedule and set of priorities. A new app called Peanut, now available on iOS, wants to help. The app connects moms with others like them, who are nearby and interested in hanging out.

Yes, it’s sort of like a Tinder for mom friendships.

The comparison is apt, given that one of Peanut’s co-founders, Michelle Kennedy, has a wealth of experience from the world of dating apps.

Kennedy spent six years at online dating company Badoo, where she worked as General Council and later deputy CEO. She also was involved with the creation of dating app, Bumble – where Badoo is a majority shareholder – advising Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe, and serving on Bumble’s board.

Peanut’s other co-founder (and parent), Greg Orlowski, is also familiar with the world of startups, having previously worked as Deliveroo co-founder and former CTO. He left the role last year, and now works in Chicago. Kennedy, meanwhile, is based in London, and the company also has staff in New York.

An App For Friendships

Using an app to make friends is something major dating apps are now trying to expand into, including with Bumble’s BFF feature and Tinder Social.

Like dating apps, Peanut uses a swiping mechanism to connect potential friends – a swipe up will give the other mom a wave, and a swipe down lets you skip their profile. But instead of playing the hot-or-not game, as on Tinder, Peanut focuses on helping users find others with shared interests. This may include things like what languages they speak, or if they work full-time, whether they’re an outdoorsy type, and more.

It also displays the age of the children, so you can work to find playdates.

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Users’ personal attributes are simply buttons you pick from during sign-up, and written in less stuffy language like “mom boss,” “fitness fiend,” “fashion killa,” for example. You can also go into your profile to add or remove these descriptions, if you choose.

On the face of it, matching people on interests seems to make sense – if you love shopping and relaxing more than hiking or dancing, you probably want to meet more moms like you. If you work full-time and are always scrambling, you may have troubling connecting with stay-at-home types who spend their days making their own baby food.

But this interest-based matching could, in turn, have an isolating effect – keeping friendships constrained to socio-economic bubbles where diversity is lacking. And this comes at a time when people need to better understand each others’ differences. As the political landscape has shown, we’re failing at that.

Having friends who think differently can be challenging, but also illuminating. Kennedy disagrees, coming down more on the side of connecting with people like yourself.

michelle-kennedy-headshot“I actually think the political climate right now demonstrates the need to hang out and need to connect with women are like-minded and share your values, more than ever,” she says. “If I can make that part a little easier, then that’s a good thing.”

A parent herself, Kennedy understands the difficulties in establishing female friendships after motherhood, having gone through the transition herself few years ago with the birth of her son.

She found that many of the mom communities today are still a bit “old-fashioned” – often websites, not apps, or online forums. Even Facebook groups, where many moms congregate today, are like a modern take on forums, and not necessarily a place to make close friends.

There have been a few newcomers to this space, including UK-based Mush or San Francisco-based Winnie, for example. But Mush has not had pickup stateside, and Winnie is focused on being a Yelp for moms, more than a social community. In other words, there’s still room for an app like Peanut to carve out its niche.

The app itself is simple to use, and has a clean, modern design. Nothing takes more than one hand to do, including sign-up, swiping, or arranging meetups with other moms.

Unlike on dating apps, where you can end up in go-nowhere chat sessions, Peanut’s goal is to get moms to connect in the real world. When two moms match, you can start a chat right from the match screen.

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You can also create a group chat in the app, where you’re able to suggest an activity and poll the others for a preferred time. When the poll wraps, you can tap to turn the poll into an invite and another tap adds it to your calendar.

Now live, the challenge for Peanut will be user adoption. The app essentially requires users to seed the app with their friends, if outside of one of the large metros. And many busy moms often complain they don’t want to install another app, so Peanut has its work cut out.

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But the team has enough runway to give it a shot, thanks to a larger-than-planned (but still undisclosed) seed round from NEA, Felix Capital, Partech, and other angel investors.

Peanut is available today on iOS as a free download. The app is currently in beta with version 1.0 planned for Wednesday.

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/09/peanut-is-a-tinder-like-app-for-making-new-mom-friends/?ncid=rss

Twitch launches Communities to help gamers organize around their shared interests

Twitch’s push to broaden the scope of its video game streaming site to include more types of content continues today with the launch of a new section on its site called “Communities.” Designed to cater to users’ unique interests, this section initially contains hundreds of categories, some which build on top of gamers’ interests as well as those that don’t. Here, you’ll find dedicated sections devoted to topics like cosplay, drawing, painting, comedy, food, music and more. Plus, Twitch says users can set up their own communities, if they choose.

Of course, many communities will also focus on specific gaming titles, types of gaming, like retro, or activities, like speedrunning.

The launch follows a number of changes to the Amazon-owned streaming site over the last year or so, which have put an emphasis on catering to the gaming audience in new ways, while also attracting new users. In fall 2015, the company debuted a new channel called Twitch Creative, which allowed gamers to show off their artistic endeavours – that is, their game-inspired paintings, drawing, songs, costumes and more.

It also dipped its toe into TV streaming, by offering classic programs like those from Bob Ross and Julia Child, as well as Amazon’s new TV show pilots. It even launched a “social eating” category to cater to its South Korean users, then more broadly opened up to vloggers through a new category called “IRL.” 

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Given the expanded scope of content on the site today, it’s not surprising that Twitch would now try to organize these many different communities to make them easier to find.

But the change is not just about enabling better discovery, users are also allowed to start their own communities, which are then added to the directory listing.

“We’ve heard from our streamers and viewers that they want the freedom to form specific groups, organizing around topics such as speedrunning, esports, cosplay, and painting,” said Sheila Raju, Product Marketing Manager at Twitch, in a statement. “With Communities, we are giving our users the power to create groups of their choosing, while providing creators with another tool to expand their audiences. If you have an interest that’s shared among others, Communities is where that collective can live.”

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These communities can be personalized by their creator, each with their own specific rules, a customizable banner and avatar, and they can have their own designated Community Leader. The leaders will also have access to moderation tools for the channels in their communities, which gives them permission to ban or timeout channels that go against their community’s rules.

Inside the communities, there’s also a “stream wall” which displays the live content from creators who are choosing to broadcast to the community. For broadcasters, associating themselves with a community could give them more exposure for their content, allowing them to pick up more fans.

The communities are all public, too, which means that viewers and creators alike can see the list of channels that are currently broadcasting at any time. This helps them to figure out if the community is right for them, and if they want to join.

The new Communities directory is available today, in beta, to all Twitch viewers and broadcasters.

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/09/twitch-launches-communities-to-help-gamers-organize-around-their-shared-interests/?ncid=rss

A new (old) way for product makers to defeat patent roadblocks

An arms race in patents. A surge in high-cost patent litigation. And the emergence of unscrupulous patent trolls who use the threat of lawsuits to extort nuisance settlements.

These are the costly side effects — the dark side, if you will — of America’s enormous technological progress over the last decade. That’s because while this progress has brought us wonderfully complex new products like smartphones that integrate many patented components, product makers must license each of these components individually from their owners. And the complexity and adversarial nature of bilateral licensing between the smartphone maker and each of the component rights holders imposes enormous transaction costs on all parties.

The economist Carl Shapiro analogized this process to assembling a pyramid. “In order to scale the pyramid and place a new block on the top,“ he said, “a [manufacturer] must gain the permission of each person who previously placed a block in the pyramid.”

Now, however, there’s a bright spot on the patent licensing front. The innovative licensing structure that ended the sewing machine patent wars of the 1850s — the patent pool — is attracting renewed interest from tech industry leaders and winning praise from product makers and patent owners alike, including even some of the patent system’s harshest critics.

“Google has been very clear about the need to prevent abuses in the patent system,” says Allen Lo, the company’s deputy general counsel for patents and one of the industry’s most influential figures on patent issues. “But we believe that patent pools offer an additional market-based approach to solving the costly and litigious licensing challenges companies face in bringing today’s complex products to market.”

Adds Comcast general counsel George Medlock: “Pools serve as a ‘one-stop shop’ for companies to license their IP rights, and also help companies avoid multiple costly litigation battles. It basically lowers transaction costs and litigation costs for the licensor and licensee.”

What’s a patent pool? Typically, patent pools bundle together related patents covering the building-block components of complex products — for example, the data compression protocols for transmitting high-density digital audio content that make up the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) patent pool administered by San Francisco-based Via Licensing Corp.

Via is a licensing organization spun out from Dolby Laboratories to license its own cutting-edge audio patent rights, as well as those of AT&T, the Fraunhofer Institute, Philips, Microsoft, NEC, NTT DOCOMO, Orange SA, Panasonic and Ericsson, to manufacturers. These manufacturers — including, as Allen Lo indicates, Google — then buy a single license to all the patents in the pool.

The pool’s advantages for product makers are significant: one-stop shopping for all the patents needed — these are curated by the pool administrator to include only the truly useful patents — at a huge cost saving compared to having to license each patent individually from disparate owners. It also reduces the opportunities for any one patent owner to hold out for exorbitant fees, as well as the chances that litigation may result from a stalled negotiation.

For patent owners, meanwhile, the pool also offers benefits. They receive appropriate compensation for their innovations without having to engage in lengthy high-cost negotiations with multiple prospective licensees, at least a few of whom are likely to refuse to negotiate until an even costlier lawsuit is filed that demonstrates the patent owner’s seriousness.

Patent pools bundle together related patents covering the building-block components of complex products.

By how much, exactly, do patent pools reduce transaction and litigation costs? Until now, hard data was unavailable. But Robert P. Merges, professor of law and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at the University of California at Berkeley, and Michael Mattioli, associate professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, have finally quantified the cost savings of patent pools.

Professors Merges and Mattioli first assessed the costs to the 805 manufacturer licensees (see list) participating in Via’s AAC patent pool. Then they estimated what the costs would have been to the product makers had they been forced to license those audio rights from each rights holder separately — i.e. identifying the owners of each audio component, contacting and negotiating licenses for each of those components with the various rights holders and defending against patent infringement suits in the likely event that at least some of those negotiations fail.

The study’s conclusion? By collaborating in Via’s AAC patent pool rather than going it alone, the licensees saved more than $600 million in costs.

Savings this large help explain why patent pools are growing in popularity (as are similar joint licensing arrangements like the new Avanci platform for standards essential for Internet of Things patents from Ericsson, Qualcomm, InterDigital, KPN and ZTE).

But as the surprise license deals signed by Chinese product makers Xiaomi and Lenovo in recent weeks for Via’s advanced audio patents show, there’s another key advantage to patent pools besides the large cost savings and litigation avoidance. By offering a discounted royalty rate that reflects the harsh reality of business conditions in China, they gave Chinese companies a way to achieve IP compliance and avoid having to fight a two-front patent war — against the growing army of litigants targeting them with patent suits on the one hand, and the more muscular China trade and IP policies likely to be implemented by President Trump on the other.

This is the first time a Western rights holder has voluntarily offered rates that reflect the conditions faced by businesses in emerging markets.

Xiaomi is the fifth largest smartphone maker in the world, with 70 million smartphones sold in China. As its head of patent strategy Paul Lin told the intellectual property business journal Intellectual Asset Management, “Xiaomi’s hardware business, like many other Chinese companies, has razor thin margins, which leaves a very small buffer to absorb patent royalty costs.” Therefore, he added, licensors need to develop a royalty rate that “reflects the reality” of business conditions in China. He noted that his patent pool deal with Via Licensing “met both parties’ needs.”

Added Via Licensing’s president Joe Siino: “Patent pool licenses are a very efficient way for companies to reduce IP risk. This is particularly valuable in today’s environment of lawsuits, saber-ratting, and talk of trade sanctions.”

Patent pools may not be appropriate for every technology or industry. But given the ever-larger numbers of patented components in today’s complex products — and the costly and litigious side effects of trying to license each of those components separately — patent pools offer manufacturers a sensible alternative to help speed new products to market.

Featured Image: Stadtratte/iStock

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/a-new-old-way-for-product-makers-to-defeat-patent-roadblocks/?ncid=rss

How startups thrive in emerging markets

“What is happening in Turkey?” is not a question you want to hear from friends and family abroad when you are trying to scale a business or raise funding for your startup.

Having to explain the intricacies of your geography (in addition to your own value proposition) is also not the position you want to be in when you’re launching a VC fund.

Plagued by terror attacks and distracted by volatility from within and by neighboring civil issues, Turkey has made quite a few headlines recently. These have been happening to a country that was once regarded the beacon of hope as a secular, democratic, Muslim country in the Middle East.

The consecutive hands Turkey recently got dealt have pushed the country’s “normal” to an unnerving state. Two days after the coup attempt, I remember getting a text from Dave. He first asked whether I was OK and secondly what I planned to do with 500 Istanbul, a $15 million early-stage micro VC fund we had launched only a couple of months prior.

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I told him there were no changes in the plans and that we would move forward. We did our first close for 500 Istanbul one week after, on the 22nd of July. While people were emailing me to make sure our families were OK, I was emailing out capital call notes. It is easy to look at Turkey as an outsider and come to certain conclusions, but as a local investor, I want to think there is still upside to be garnered from a region so big, so young and so hungry for VC capital and infrastructure.

What our emerging region lacks in predictability, it makes up in growth potential as an under-served landscape with serious funding gaps. What I wanted to undertake in this market is NOT a social impact mission.

Yes, our capital and services are needed now more than ever, but at the same time, our relative opportunity could be no greater, given the lack of investing competition in the market. The fact that the few existing institutional VCs in Turkey mostly focus on later-stage funding opens up an incredible market opportunity for early-stage investors.

This might be partly because of the preferences of the VCs investing in emerging markets, in trying to limit operational downside. As they feel they might already be exposed to a higher level of risk due to the volatilities of the region in which they operate, they often choose to invest in later-stage startups with a more mature track record. This is where 500 Istanbul comes in, to fill (albeit partially) the early-stage funding gap.

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In this environment of early-stage investing opportunities, I categorize early-stage investment potential in Turkey into two main segments:

Businesses with regional focus and audience

In the past 10 years, Turkey has been relatively successful in replicating proven Western models in the local market. We have a 75 million population with an average age of 26, who are incredibly engaged online and who have means to pay (second highest rate of credit cards in Europe). I understand creating “me-too” businesses is not as glamorous of a business model, but it is a very lucrative one, given the right executive team.

It is harder for foreign companies to scale in emerging markets due to constraints in localizing services, hiring local talent, contracting suppliers and negotiating with regulators. Taking a look at the examples of Gittigidiyor (acquired by eBay for $215 million in 2011), Markafoni (acquired by Naspers for +$200 million in 2011), Pozitron (acquired by Monitise for $100 million in 2014), Yemeksepeti (acquired by Delivery Hero for $589 million in 2015) and Mars (acquired by CJ-CGV for $800 million in 2016) quickly shows us how the global force could not claim the Turkish market from the local player.

This is not a concept originated in Turkey; many early success stories in SEA have also followed similar footsteps. The macroeconomic nature of the region is the main driver behind these success stories: as the market grows, the best performers grow with it.

Businesses with global focus and audience

500 Startups has been particularly lucky in this arena with some of the Turkish investments they’ve done in the past, like the unicorn Udemy (a 500 investments). All of these companies were built by Turkish entrepreneurs and bridged to the U.S., either in search of funding or global-scale growth. In fact, Udemy and Mobile Action still have significant development teams in Ankara, where the engineers can move between Turkey and San Francisco.

Turkey still remains a great test market for founders to conceptualize, test and iterate their service offerings prior to expanding into the global arena. This allows for a new generation of Turkish developers, learning by doing both in Turkey and in Silicon Valley, who can later help build innovative companies themselves.

The advantage of investing in these companies is the inconsequentiality of regional volatility on company performance.

By investing in immigrant founders or founders who have ambition of servicing a global audience, we are also investing into the future of the Turkish tech diaspora and ecosystem.

The advantage of investing in these companies is the inconsequentiality of regional volatility on company performance.

Israel, as a harbor of many global tech startups like Wix, Fiverr, Waze, Playtika and Similar Web, has been a great testament to this thesis. As Israel has been home to great talent and startups, I believe Turkey has the same potential.

I refuse to believe that volatility will cripple a region enough to eradicate all opportunity for innovation and investing. The people of our region are resilient, possibly because we have dealt with tumultuous dynamics for far longer than a lot of our peers in the Western world. The world just doesn’t stop because bad things happen. People continue to build and consume.

This is why I came back to Turkey 8 years ago and why with 500 Istanbul we have invested in 15 companies in the past 6 months (with the 5-year target of investing into another 85). I am very optimistic that in the next decade there will be numerous centaurs and hopefully a few unicorns that emerge from Turkey and Turkish entrepreneurs.

Featured Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/how-startups-thrive-in-emerging-markets/?ncid=rss

John Podesta talks email hack, fake news and Russia

Until October, John Podesta was most known as a diehard Democratic campaigner who worked in the White House under Bill Clinton and served as the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

But after WikiLeaks began publishing a trove of Podesta’s emails in the final month before the 2016 election, Podesta became perhaps the most widely recognized victim of hacking. U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russia stole Podesta’s emails — which contained everything from his risotto recipe to transcripts of Clinton’s private Wall Street speeches — and leaked them in an effort to tip the election in favor of President Trump.

Podesta reflected on the hack and its aftermath at the NewCo Shift Forum today, along with Shawn Henry, the president of the cybersecurity firm that investigated the DNC hacks, and Marc Elias, an attorney who worked as general counsel to the Clinton campaign. Podesta called out the FBI and WikiLeaks for damaging the campaign and issued a warning to tech and the media about the rise of fake news.

“I think to this day it’s inexplicable that they were so casual about the investigation of the Russian penetration of the DNC emails. They didn’t even bother to send an agent to the DNC; they left a couple of messages at the IT help desk saying, ‘You might want to be careful,’” Podesta said. “There are at least forces within the FBI that wanted her to lose.”

Henry, the president of CrowdStrike and a former executive assistant director at the FBI, also questioned the Bureau’s reaction to the hacks that plagued the Clinton campaign. Henry recalled personally notifying the Obama and McCain campaigns about breaches that occurred in the run-up to the 2008 election. 

It wasn’t just that they didn’t like Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit, it was that Putin had a vendetta about her.

— John Podesta

“Obviously the DNC should have been at the top of the list in terms of prioritization. The agents engaged there didn’t seem to recognize it for what it was. I believe they didn’t pay enough attention to the severity of the attack, what was being targeted by whom, and what the results might be,” Henry said. “There has to be a sense of urgency. If you don’t see an attack on the election system as a threat to our national security … then you’re in the wrong country.”

CrowdStrike investigated the DNC breach and attributed it to Russia in June, long before the intelligence community released its own attribution and before BuzzFeed published unverified allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to orchestrate the hacks.

The allegations have had little meaningful impact on Trump so far. Trump has been able to leverage fears about election hacking to suit his own agenda, Elias claimed. “Efforts to crack down on voting and make voting harder — it’s open season,” Elias noted. “I think what Trump is doing now is signaling the next stage: not just to cut down on convenience voting but to have the states be much more aggressive in the registration process.”

TechCrunch caught up with Podesta after the panel discussion to learn more about his experience with Russian hackers and what political campaigns need to do to step up their cybersecurity.

TechCrunch: When did you know your account was compromised? You were hacked in March but these emails didn’t start coming out until October. Did you know in between then that this was a possibility?

Podesta: In the summer, when the DNC hack documents started coming out, there was a document in that release that didn’t seem like it would have made its way to the DNC and may have come from my email account. So at least the possibility I’d been hacked rose during the course of the summer. In August, [Trump adviser] Roger Stone started pointing to WikiLeaks and pointing to me. So that seemed to be the second indicator that they at least had something, but it wasn’t until October 7th that the full extent of the loss was known to me and our team.

Hours after the leak started, you tweeted that you were attributing your hack to Russia. Did you already feel confident that was the case? 

Our tech people might know the answer to this, but I think we had a strong suspicion that this was going on. Other people’s emails had been compromised. They had done the forensics on those. So I think we knew that, and Shawn talked about this, that there were two different incursions into the DNC but the GRU, the Fancy Bear side of this, was active in going after personal emails.

A lot of the people I’ve talked to who have had their emails leaked are victims of doxing, and they go into hiding. But when you’re in the final month of a campaign, you can’t just hunker down — 

Put a bag over your head?

Yeah. How did you deal with it personally?

I was in the public eye, I was doing media. I had to answer to some of the specific questions that were being raised. Marc Elias raised this point on the panel, which was that my emails themselves weren’t all that sexy. So I was able to go out and put them in context and talk about them. In the final month of a campaign, you’ve just got to be in overdrive. So you can’t even take the time to feel the pain. You’ve just got to move forward. I noted the things that — hurtful things happened to people, including my own family, that obviously I paid attention to and cared about. But for the most part, it was just, ‘What did they put out today? What are we going to do about it?’ Try to knock down stories as best we could. Try to put the context of the fact that this was a foreign power directly interfering in our election in context. Get that story out.

I think we still needed to try to press the case and give the public a sense of what was happening, what the stakes were, and why. It wasn’t just that they didn’t like Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit, it was that Putin had a vendetta about her and her tenure as Secretary of State. But mostly it was about Trump having adopted positions that were extraordinarily friendly to Putin and strongly at odds with a bipartisan collection of national security officials and people overseas.

How do you think this changes the way a campaign needs to be run? Everyone’s freaking out about the risk of being targeted by an adversary that you’re wholly unprepared to deal with. 

I think there’s two aspects to that. One is the technical protection of your communications. The use of greater encryption, the sensitivity. I thought I was pretty sensitive. And I did learn one thing from this, which was a bitter experience. I just didn’t realize how much I had archived on Google. I’m fairly sophisticated, but it just was not in my consciousness how much, including in the delete folder, was still there. I should have known that. I should have thought about, on my personal email account, what my retention policy is. We have one in the campaign. But I didn’t and I bet you a lot of people don’t. They rely on the default and they don’t realize the retention risk, just the sheer volume of what’s there. 

The Russians have to feel empowered by what happened. This is probably the best money they ever spent.

— John Podesta

There’s a separate issue that floats through all this which is different, but also deployed by Russians and their actors, which is the fake news story. How one combats that, is able to put that genie back in the bottle, is going to be a big challenge for campaigns going forward. And you see that playing out not just in the U.S. but in other democratic elections. It’s just very hard. It’s easy to get mainstream media to say, ‘This is out there; it’s not true.’ That does not stop the spread of it. I think that the platforms have some responsibility to try to think about what solutions look like in that space. Are they creating technical tools and strategies that actually enhance fake news at the expense of real news? I think that was part of what was going on with Facebook. The way news was being delivered to the News Feed actually elevated fake news and suppressed the stuff that was debunking it.

But I think that’s an extraordinarily difficult problem, with a president for whom nothing is real. It is a context which authoritarians have been able to exploit. Ripping apart of basic reality — that’s what Putin’s done in Russia, that’s the way media channels work in Russia.

Is that a conversation you’re having with companies now? What are you telling them? 

I think it’s mostly, “You’ve got to fix this.” If InfoWars went ‘poof’ tomorrow, I’m not sure things would be all that different — although I wish that they would go ‘poof’ tomorrow. The normal inclination to support First Amendment values, to not be censors, to support a robust conversation which leads to good democratic outcomes, is really upended by this. I’m not sure you can solve the problem, but at least mitigate the problem.

You were talking about feeling more sophisticated with your security. I’m curious about what measures you were taking. Because in the security community, I hear people say, “His password was just ‘password’ or ‘runner4567’ and it should’ve been better, he should have used 2 factor.” 

But that’s sort of blaming the victim. That’s not particularly useful in this context and it’s kind of an excuse on that side. Look, as I said, I feel like I’m sensitive at least. And I’ve enhanced the technical security side of my life, but I guess I had a false sense of protection. I’m used to a lot of this and repelled a lot of it. That was naive I guess. I also feel like, this was pretty odd in that I never touched the keyboard. I had people who had access to my email, they checked with the security people, the security people told them to take a step they shouldn’t have taken.

If I knew there’d be a leak, I probably would have put [the Wall Street speeches] out earlier.

— John Podesta

So you don’t think it was you that clicked the phishing link?

No. And they checked, and were given bad information. Woulda coulda shoulda. I don’t think it was an issue of what the strength of my password was. Although I now have stronger passwords.

Did you feel any sense of vindication when BuzzFeed published the dossier on Trump, after having your personal information dragged through the mud? 

If I had a sense of vindication, it was not about tit for tat from my perspective. It was the frustration that our campaign had with getting real news sources to really push and look at — maybe not the most salacious issues that were in the report. Everyone was focused on the sex.

The golden shower was the thing that trended on Twitter. 

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/john-podesta-talks-email-hack-fake-news-and-russia/?ncid=rss

Facebook can now replace your weather app

Facebook is rolling out a useful new feature that puts a full weather forecast inside its mobile app and desktop site. The feature is accessible from News Feed or the mobile app’s “More” menu — the section that links you to areas like Friends, Events, Groups, Pages and other key Facebook features like On This Day or Saved items. Within the Weather section, you can view a full forecast for your week ahead, powered by data from Weather.com.

Facebook confirmed that the new feature, an updated version of its earlier “weather greetings,” has launched to around 95 percent of its global population as of this week.

This is not the first time Facebook has toyed with introducing weather information into its service. The company years ago added forecasts to events and public places, and more recently was spotted testing weather updates in its News Feed in the U.K.

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A year ago, Facebook also rolled out “weather greetings” in News Feed, which were short, informational weather updates that appeared at the top of your feed in the morning. The new feature is an extension on that. You’ll now see similar messages at the top of the News Feed with a link to the full, five-day forecast. These News Feed “greetings” will appear on both desktop and mobile, Facebook tells us.

Even if you miss the greeting, you can visit the Weather section in the app, where it exists as a new menu item.

In addition, Facebook will now offer an option to set notifications for receiving weather reports. The company says that Notifications and the more detailed greetings are rolling out for tests now, with all these updates being widely available by the end of the month.

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The Weather section will default to your current location, but you can click the Settings wheel in the top right to add other locations you want to track, just like any other weather app. You also can choose to display the temperatures in either Fahrenheit or Celsius.

However, you can’t swipe through your multiple locations once they’re set up, as you could in a typical app like Yahoo Weather or Apple’s Weather app — instead, if you want to change to a different location you have to return to the Settings and tap the one you want to view.

The weather information provided is fairly basic — it’s just the highs and lows, along with the general forecast, like sunny, partly cloudy, etc. At the top of the Weather page, you also can see the daily forecast by the hour, as is common in most weather apps today.

The information for the forecast comes from Weather.com’s API. The site also is linked at the bottom of the screen where it says “See more weather info,” followed by an icon indicating a new window will open if clicked.

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The cute, cartoon-style heading at the top of the page also will update based on the forecast. For example, a rainy day in San Francisco right now shows a picture of deer hiding out under a tree. Meanwhile, New York’s currently partly cloudy day shows puffy clouds over green grass, with a bird hiding in the bushes. (See above graphics).

This makes the feature feel more personalized, and Facebook-like, as the company has been using similar drawings in its News Feed informational messages for some time.

The addition is now one of several new bookmarks Facebook has rolled out to its mobile app in recent days, following useful utilities like its “Wi-Fi finder,” a new networking (or even dating) section called “Discover People” and now Weather.

Seemingly, the goal with the new feature is to keep Facebook users in the app by offering them the information they would otherwise need to look for elsewhere, while also offering similar experiences to those that are found in other third-party mobile applications today.

Facebook, however, says it’s more about delighting users instead.

“We are doing this because our goal is to develop products that connect people to the things they care about most and create moments of joy in people’s day, like simply telling you that it’s going to rain later,” a spokesperson said.

Thanks to TechCrunch reader Jose Gutierrez for the tip!

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/facebook-can-now-replace-your-weather-app/?ncid=rss

Android Wear 2.0 is an evolutionary update to Google’s smartwatch OS

Google is officially launching Android Wear 2.0 today — the biggest update to the company’s wearable operating system since its launch in 2014.

If you’re not a Wear aficionado who has been patiently waiting for this release, you probably remember Wear 2.0 from its Google I/O announcement last May. Even though in day-to-day use, the updated version feels very much like the next logical evolution of Wear, it took Google far longer than expected to launch it.

“The approach that we took as we got started was to build an ecosystem of partners — so not just do a one-size-fit all solution,” David Singleton, the head of the Google Wear project, told me. “But build an ecosystem of partners to create a diverse set of styles and sizes. We felt strongly that it was time to work with our traditional — but also non-traditional — partners to create this ecosystem.”

While the overall outlook on the market doesn’t always look positive, Singleton argues that Google saw double-digit growth in activations year-over-year. Only looking at the holiday season, Google says it saw 70 percent year-over-year growth.

Today, however, Wear 2.0 is launching with two new flagship watches from LG: the gargantuan, feature-rich LG Watch Sport and the comparatively demure and pared-down LG Watch Style. You can find our respective reviews here and here. A number of existing Wear watches will also get this update in the coming weeks and months.

Even though it took Google a few months longer than expected to roll out Wear 2.0, which meant its partners missed the ever-important December shopping season, the final version that’s launching today still sticks to the basics Google announced last year. New features include support for standalone apps, Android Pay, dials and — of course — the Google Assistant.

As Singleton stressed, the idea behind all of this work was to take what the team learned from how people used the previous version and focus on making exactly those things easier.

The one thing Singleton and his team seemed to be especially excited about was the ability to quickly change watch faces in Wear 2.0. In earlier versions, you had to perform a long press on the watch face to switch faces. Now you can simply sweep left or right to change them. I admit that I don’t fully share their enthusiasm for this feature, but, to be fair, it does make switching between a work-centric watch face with your calendar and a fancier one for after work a bit easier.

As far as the watch faces go, though, the one feature I definitely was able to get excited about is that the new designs now have slots for showing data from third-party applications. Maybe you want to see your battery life there, or your steps from Google Fit, or how much water you drank from Lifesum, or the outdoor temperature based on data from the Weather.com app. This is now a deep, built-in feature of Wear 2.0 that allows third-party services to make this data available on the watch face. It’s up to the designers to decide how they want to display this info, and the new LG watches already show a couple of different options for this.

screen-4Before any of this, though, the first thing you’ll notice when you get a 2.0 watch is the overall update to its design — both in terms of the overall look but also the user experience. The look of Wear 2.0 now skews closer to Google’s Material Design guidelines. While the overall look will still feel familiar to Wear 1.x users, the update put a stronger emphasis on cards, for example. This means every notification now gets a full screen to show its preview and you can use the watch’s dial to scroll through them (assuming your watch has a dial, of course. — otherwise you can obviously still use the touch screen to scroll).

The other marquee feature of Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps that don’t need a companion app to run on your phone. That means developers can write apps that are purely geared toward the watch and they can then publish it on the Google Play store, which is now also available directly on the watch. That sounds more useful than it is — unless you plan on getting an LTE-enabled watch and leave your phone at home. That’s an option now that you could run Hangout or Google Music directly on the watch, but, except for runners, that’s likely not a typical use case. At the end of the day, the most important use case for a smartwatch remains dealing with notifications. Everything else often feels like an unnecessary complication.

screen-2For the most part, the standalone apps that are available right now aren’t all that exciting either. There also aren’t all that many available right now. Some of the apps Google promised for the launch include Foursquare, Robin Hood, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Todoist, Nest and Uber. The team specifically singled out Google’s own Fit app, too, which now supports more exercises than before, in addition to an interactive coaching experience.

To be fair, Wear 2.0 does make it easier to use these apps. To get to them, you only have to push the watch’s dial. In addition, you also can use the dial to scroll through them. Instinctively, I assumed that I could then start an app by pressing the dial again, but that just takes you back to the home screen.

Still, the additional support for dials and buttons is an admission on Google’s part that smartwatches should have some kind of physical button. The Wear 1.0 launch device — the LG Watch — famously didn’t have any physical buttons (not even to turn it on). The new LG Watch Sport however has two buttons and a dial and Wear 2.0 makes it easy to assign various functions to them, too. That makes using these watches easier at times, but it’s not exactly a revolutionary breakthrough.

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/android-wear-20-is-an-adequate-update/?ncid=rss

Trump, tech, and the future of government surveillance

Beginning with 2013’s Snowden leaks, the Obama administration publicly wrestled with various thorny issues at the intersection of technology and government surveillance.

When, how, and for what purposes should the government collect personal communications and other data?  Is it ever appropriate for the government to exploit software flaws for intelligence gathering or crimefighting, rather than sharing them with the developer?  Is strong encryption a fundamental right or a threat to public safety?

These questions now fall to President Trump.  After a promising start with the Trump Tower tech summit last December, relations appear to have soured.  The tech sector, with its tens of thousands of international employees, reacted furiously to the administration’s recent executive order on immigration and refugees.  Some leading tech companies are now considering whether to file a lawsuit challenging the order.

Surveillance and data-privacy issues are likely to add additional tension to the already fraught relationship between Trump and tech.  While surveillance issues did not feature prominently during the campaign, the President and his advisors have promised an aggressive campaign to secure the homeland and defeat terrorist groups abroad.  Given that emphasis, it is fair to assume that the new administration will not be inclined to reduce or eliminate existing surveillance capabilities, and may consider adding new ones.

But while some surveillance-related friction is probably inevitable, it does not have to degenerate into outright hostility.  In a recent report on the future of surveillance policy, the Center for a New American Security offers more than 60 recommendations that can enable the Administration to fulfill its campaign promises — destroying terrorist groups, protecting the country against attacks, and ensuring that international relationships serve U.S. interests — and address controversial issues like encryption and government hacking while minimizing friction with the Congress, the courts, the technology community, and civil society.

Meanwhile, industry will need to build bridges to the administration and be open to reasonable compromises that protect its core interests and values.

On encryption, the new administration will likely seek to aid law enforcement with the very real challenges posed by encrypted mobile devices.  At the same time, newly confirmed CIA Director Mike Pompeo has opposed government-mandated “backdoors” in encrypted devices.

Whatever the merits of a decryption mandate from a pure public-safety perspective, reviving that battle would embroil the new administration in a public showdown with the tech industry and civil-society groups, distracting Congress and the country from the President’s other policy priorities.

Fortunately, there are alternatives.  Instead of renewing the push for backdoors, the Administration and Congress could give the FBI greater resources to crack encryption on its own in the toughest cases, without forcing companies to weaken or hack their own products.

FILE PHOTO  NSA Compiles Massive Database Of Private Phone Calls

NSA headquarters

 

This is the approach taken by Germany, which recently created a new agency to help law enforcement cope with encryption without mandatory backdoors.  Congress and the Administration can also give the FBI resources and authority to share its expertise on encryption with the thousands of state and local police agencies that don’t have the technological resources to deal with it on their own.

These proposals, which should enjoy bipartisan support, would help law enforcement deal with the encryption challenge without alienating the technology community or most civil libertarians.  To be sure, they are not a complete solution from law enforcement’s perspective.  But they would be an improvement—and without the political costs of a renewed fight over backdoors.

Another issue where the new administration will likely seek to add a sharper edge to existing policy is what commitments the U.S. government makes to respect the privacy interests of foreigners.  In January 2014, President Obama issued Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28), which imposed various limitations on electronic surveillance.  Among these new restraints was a promise to consider the “legitimate privacy interests” of “all individuals,” including non-Americans overseas.

Under PPD-28, the intelligence community must delete a foreigner’s personal information after five years unless officials specifically determine that the information has foreign intelligence value.  In addition, a 2015 law, the Judicial Redress Act, guarantees EU citizens protection under the U.S. Privacy Act, which includes the right to challenge certain privacy violations in U.S. courts. Yet European countries have granted none of these courtesies to Americans.

Some, including incoming CIA Director Pompeo, have proposed revoking PPD-28.  These critics are correct that PPD-28 is not perfect and could better serve American interests.  But the new Administration could gain more by modifying PPD-28 than by scrapping it altogether.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03:  U.S. President Donald Trump (C) delivers opening remarks at the beginning of a policy forum with business leaders with General Motors CEO Mary Barra (R) and chaired by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman in the State Dining Room at the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the automotive and manufacturing industries, the financial and retail services and other powerful global businesses were invited to the meeting with Trump, his advisors and family.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

For example, the Trump Administration could demand that other countries credibly promise comparable protections to Americans if they want to retain PPD-28’s privacy protections for their own citizens.  (Requiring the promises to be credible would exclude authoritarian foes such as Russia, China, and Iran.)  This would accord with the President-elect’s emphasis on ensuring that international agreements give the United States a fair deal.  And it would give the intelligence community more leeway to operate against our nation’s most dangerous adversaries.

Perhaps most importantly, however, demanding reciprocity would highlight that U.S. privacy commitments outstrip those made by our European allies—something European privacy advocates and institutions have long ignored.  Drawing this favorable contrast would help reinforce the critical Privacy Shield agreement, which permits companies to transfer European citizens’ data to the United States.  Without that ability, many transnational Internet services could not function. 

Privacy Shield is currently being challenged in European courts.  If the European Court of Justice invalidates Privacy Shield based on its perception of U.S. surveillance practices — a very real risk —it would create a major headache for the TrumpAdministration.

Raising European awareness of the U.S.’s stronger legal and oversight controls over surveillance would lessen that risk.  (This should include reminding the EU of the Judicial Redress Act, which guarantees EU citizens Privacy Act protections notwithstanding the Administration’s recent Executive Order.)  By contrast, canceling PPD-28’s privacy commitments to Europeans would substantially increase it.

Another area for potential compromise is how the government decides whether to disclose software vulnerabilities to the developer or retain them for use by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

nsa-red

The government cannot, and should not, promise to disclose all vulnerabilities; in some cases, the value for national security or public safety outweighs any risk of harm to ordinary users.  But it can provide greater transparency about the “Vulnerabilities Equities Process” it uses in making these decisions.

This could include clarifying which agencies have a say in the process, publicizing the standard they use to decide whether to retain or disclose, and issuing annual reports about the process’s operation.  These modest steps would enhance industry’s confidence that the government takes its§ equities seriously, without giving up the ability to retain vulnerabilities, under appropriate secrecy, where needed to protect the nation.

Finally, industry and the new administration should work together to ensure that there are clear channels of communication before a crisis occurs.  To do this, the NSA should create an industry advisory board composed of corporate officials who hold security clearances.  For companies uncomfortable with such close ties to a spy agency, the NSA could also create a one-way channel to receive comment from American companies about how intelligence practices affect their businesses.

The tech-Trump relationship will inevitably have its ups and downs over the next four years.  But both sides have an incentive to ensure that legitimate policy disagreements don’t descend into antagonism.  Finding reasonable middle ground on these surveillance issues would be a good start.

Featured Image: Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/trump-tech-and-the-future-of-government-surveillance/?ncid=rss

Pinterest adds visual search for elements in images and through your camera

Pinterest said today it’s launching three new products today that will point out specific elements in pictures — whether viewed live through a camera or through a typical image search — and use them as a jumping point for search.

All of these are designed to keep Pinterest coming back over and over to discover ideas based on images. Pinterest has been increasingly trying to close the gap from a user initially viewing an image to being able to jump to ideas and products with a single step, and adding these new in-image search capabilities is another step toward that.

“Early information technology used words to connect ideas, like hyperlinks,” co-founder and chief product officer Evan Sharp said. “Search engines we built today have drafted on that, they rely on words to get you answers to your questions. But when it comes to searching for ideas, words aren’t the right way. Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re looking for until you see it.”

So let’s break down each product, starting with the most important one, Lens. That gives users a way to open their camera, look at any image and Pinterest’s Lens feature will automatically pick apart the objects in an image. That can drill down into foods, animals, or even patterns like hexagons. That gives users the ability to start searching for related elements through that. Lens is launching in beta today on iOS.

pinterest lens results

The main reason why this is so critical is that it means Pinterest may be able to capture that brief moment that a customer might have to just make an impulse purchase. That moment can be incredibly fleeting, and lowering the friction toward seeing something in the real world and making that purchase can capture that in a way that other companies may not be able.

Pinterest is also updating its visual search when it comes to finding specific products, isolating each product within an image. So if you’re looking at a pin from a company that may be selling a jacket, it will also pick up the image of the boots and let you jump to them. Users can also jump to additional related content to those products or elements in the photo. With most of Pinterest’s content coming from Pinterest, this gives Pinterest a way to seamlessly jump through products — and offers businesses a way to build awareness for their other products.

pinterest shop the look

Instant Ideas adds a small little circle to the bottom of each pin, allowing them to jump straight into related elements and gather additional ideas related to that topic. This one seems pointed toward getting users to find products and ideas that they’ll save on their Pinboards — like recipes or potential styles.

pinterest instant ideas

Pinterest has largely become synonymous with visual search, which has become the company’s specialty and point of differentiation against other networks. With 150 million users, Pinterest is geared toward getting people to come in and start sort of wandering around to discover ideas and products they might not have known they wanted.

However, we’re starting to see some of these tools trickle down into other services, though maybe in a different fashion. Houzz, for example, breaks down specific products in a photo of a room or home that users can purchase. There are startups like Clarifai want to equip small businesses with similar visual search tools, though they take more of a metadata and tagging approach that can train their algorithms. And there’s always Google, which has invested heavily in visual search, but has yet to necessarily weaponize it in the same way Pinterest has for potential advertisers.

Nevertheless, these Pinterest products are a potential gold mine for those marketers. Pinterest is able to potentially engage with users at different points in their purchasing lifetime. Whether that’s in the mode where they are looking to discover ideas — and build brand awareness — to drilling them into finding a specific product and buying it, Pinterest offers a wide range of advertising products to get at each part of the customer’s shopping timeline.

Pinterest is going to have to solidify its pitch that it is one of the best visual search companies in order to continue to woo advertisers, which may still be treating Pinterest as more of a curiosity than a consistent ad buy. Pinterest is going to have to battle Snap, which is expected to go public next year, as a tool for building brand awareness and capture a potential customer’s attention at the beginning of their shopping lifetime. And there’s always Facebook, which has become a mainstay of marketers.

That’s going to come through a combination of new ad products — like its new addition of search ads — and also by improving its suite of products that it can present to advertisers as unique and differentiated from traditional ad buys. Pinterest, while growing quickly, was a bit off targets it initially set in early 2015 and has to figure out how to re-adjust its expectations as to what kind of advertising and consumer products marketers want.

“These three new products make anything in the world an entry point to the 100 billion ideas in Pinterest,” Pinterest CEO and co-foudner Ben Silbermann said. “Together they create a whole new discovery experience that’s unlike anything that’s out there today. You can get ideas whether you’re opening the app or walking through town. The more people the use it, the better the results become, the more we can recommend inspiring ideas.”

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/pinterest-adds-visual-search-for-elements-in-images-and-through-your-camera/?ncid=rss

Pinterest users can now jump to other products within an image

Pinterest is looking to continually decrease the friction from finding something they’re interested in and drilling further into newer products and ideas, and it now has another product to try to close that gap.

The company today said it’s launching a new feature that allows users to find and jump to additional products within a photo they’re currently viewing. So, for example, if a search for a jacket brings up an image of someone wearing that jacket, Pinterest will also identify other products like the jeans and shoes they’re wearing. That means that if a business is trying to show off their products, users will have yet another way to jump to similar products they’re showing on Pinterest.

The announcement came along with two other products at an event at its headquarters today, one of which was built around searching for ideas and products through pointing your camera at something.

This is going to be important for Pinterest, which needs to increasingly give marketers and companies a way to drive additional users to their products. If someone is simply looking for an idea for an outfit, they may inadvertently stumble onto a pair of shoes they like but don’t own. Pinterest now gives those users the ability to look for those shoes, and gives businesses yet another entry point for potential customers.

All this is a result of the company’s major investments in image search. Pinterest has largely built a name for itself because of its strong image search capabilities, and that thus far has been its selling point for advertisers. While companies like Google can capture the intent of a user directly searching for a product, Pinterest also taps into moments where potential customers are just meandering around and might stumble onto a product they may later buy. The act of saving that can also signal an intent to advertisers for a purchase, which is yet another touchpoint for those marketers to convert them into a sale.

This full-scope approach has at the very least piqued the interest of marketers. At the end of 2016, it was reported that Pinterest generated around $100 million in revenue in 2105. That’s not a trivial amount of money for a budding advertising business, though it’s certainly not like the break-neck growth of Snap, which generated more than $400 million in advertising revenue for its otherwise young product. But while Pinterest says it has around 150 million users, Snap says it has just as many that are going on the product every day.

So Pinterest needs to continually update its array of consumer and advertiser products in order to keep advertisers spending money on Pinterest campaigns — and not just from their “innovation” budgets. Pinterest has to make the jump from a curiosity for advertisers to a mainstay, which it’s tried to do by introducing new ad products like keyword search advertisements. It’s increasingly trying to build an array of products which can capture an entire customer’s lifetime.

It would make sense that Pinterest go for its sweet spot with searches for products within images. And if Pinterest can continue to build those new advertising products and decrease the amount of effort it takes to get to a new product, it’ll be able to make a better sell to its marketing partners.

Link : https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/pinterest-users-can-now-jump-to-other-products-within-an-image/?ncid=rss