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November 19, 2018
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mobile

WhatsApp could wreck Snapchat again by copying ephemeral messaging

in Apps/Delhi/ephemeral messaging/Evan Spiegel/India/instagram/Instagram Direct/mobile/Politics/Snapchat/Social/TC/WhatsApp by

WhatsApp already ruined Snapchat’s growth once. WhatsApp Status, its clone of Snapchat Stories, now has 450 million daily active users compared to Snapchat’s 188 million. That’s despite its 24-hour disappearing slideshows missing tons of features including augmented reality selfie masks, animated GIFs, or personalized avatars like Bitmoji. A good enough version of Stories conveniently baked into the messaging app beloved in the developing world where Snapchat wasn’t proved massively successful. Snapchat actually lost total users in Q2 and Q3 2018, and even lost Rest Of World users in Q2 despite that being where late stage social networks rely on for growth.

That’s why it’s so surprising that WhatsApp hasn’t already copied the other big Snapchat feature, ephemeral messaging. When chats can disappear, people feel free to be themselves — more silly, more vulnerable, more expressive. For teens who’ve purposefully turned away from the permanence of the Facebook profile timeline, there’s a sense of freedom in ephemerality. You don’t have to worry about old stuff coming back to haunt or embarass you. Snapchat rode this idea to become a cultural staple for the younger generation.

Yet right now WhatsApp only lets you send permanent photos, videos, and texts. There is an Unsend option, but it only works for an hour after a message is sent. That’s far from the default ephemerality of Snapchat where seen messages disappear once you close the chat window unless you purposefully tap to save them.

Instagram has arrived at a decent compromise. You can send both permanent and temporary photos and videos. Text messages are permanent by default, but you can unsend even old ones. The result is the flexibility to both chat through expiring photos and off-the-cuff messages knowing they will or can disappear, while also being able to have reliable, utilitarian chats and privately share photos for posterity without the fear that one wrong tap could erase them. When Instagram Direct added ephemeral messaging, it saw a growth spurt to over 375 million monthly users as of April 2017.

Snapchat lost daily active users the past two quarters

WhatsApp should be able to build this pretty easily. Add a timer option when people send media so photos or videos can disappear after 10 seconds, a minute, an hour, or a day. Let people add a similar timer to specific messages they send, or set a per chat thread default for how long your messages last similar to fellow encrypted messaging app Signal.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s memo leaked by Cheddar’s Alex Heath indicates that he views chat with close friends as the linchpin of his app that was hampered by this year’s disastrous redesign. He constantly refers to Snapchat as the fastest way to communicate. That might be true for images but not necessarily text, as BTIG’s Rich Greenfield points out, citing how expiring text can causes conversations to break down. It’s likely that Snapchat will double-down on messaging now that Stories has been copied to death.

Given its interest in onboarding older users, that might mean making texts easier to keep permanent or at least lengthening how long they last before they disappear. And with its upcoming Project Mushroom re-engineering of the Snapchat app so it works better in developing markets, Snap will increasingly try to become WhatsApp.

…Unless WhatsApp can become Snapchat first. Spiegel proved people want the flexibility of temporary messaging. Who cares who invented something if it can be brought to more people to deliver more joy? WhatsApp should swallow its pride and embrace the ephemeral.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Stoop aims to improve your news diet with an easy way to find and read newsletters

in Apps/Delhi/India/Media/mobile/Politics/Startups by

Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”

To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.

“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”

Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.

That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that publications need to “establish the right relationship to readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”

“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party and that software is choosing what to surface next not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”

So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.

Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address where they can be sent along to whomever you like.

The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said they could get access to additional analytics and also make subscriptions easier by integrating with the app’s instant subscribe option.

And the company’s ambitions even go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers. They’re also working on OpenBundle, an initiative around bundled news subscriptions with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.

“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Weather Up’s app can give you forecasts for your calendar events

in Apps/Delhi/India/indie/iOS apps/mobile/Politics/weather by

There are plenty of weather apps to choose from on the App Store, but the newly released Weather Up app is doing something different. Instead of just offering the daily weather, it will now offer Event Forecasts – meaning forecasts that sync with your calendars so you can see what the weather will be for your upcoming appointments and various events.

The feature is customizable, so you don’t have to use it with all your calendars – or even all your events. You can opt to tag specific events in order to show the weather forecast for just those.

Event Forecasts is useful for planning your outdoor activities like the kid’s soccer games, outdoor concerts, and more, but also for planning for events you’ll walk to or drive to.

The app itself is not new. It actually began its life last year as Weather Atlas, from LauncherPro developer David Barnard. He admits the first version app struggled with retention so he’s now overhauled it from a usability perspective, based on user feedback and testing.

The revamped app – basically the 2.0 release of Weather Atlas – is now rebranded as Weather Up, as a result of these and other changes, which also includes a new set of cute app icons.

“Apps that don’t take off are often abandoned, but the weather category is just so interesting to me I’m going to keep pushing until I carve out a decent niche. And I think Weather Up is a great step in the right direction,” says Barnard.

He says a lot of time was spent on making the app feel more intuitive – especially in terms of its gestural interface. The new design makes use of the extra vertical space on X-series iPhones and makes most of its buttons and gestures easily accessible from the lower portion of the screen, he says.

Another interesting thing he’s trying in the new app is an in-app Merch Store, which is certainly a first for a weather application – or productivity apps in general, for the most part.

To help with monetization, the store will sell things like shirts, mugs, bags, hats and more emblazoned with the new icons – which Barnard recently showed off on Twitter.

The store is also available on the developer’s website.

The app’s core feature set, of course, is its weather forecasts. In addition to temperature, it also shows humidity and precipitation accumulation, and warns about weather events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical tracks.

As an indie developer, Barnard hopes people will choose his app over others because he vows not to sell user data or even location data to advertisers – even though that would be more profitable, he says.

Weather Up is a free download on the App Store, with a pro feature set available for $9.99/year or $1.99/month.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook Messenger is building a “Watch Videos Together” feature

in Airtime/Apps/co-watching/Delhi/Facebook/facebook messenger/Facebook Video/India/mobile/Politics/Social/TC by

Netflix and chill from afar? Facebook Messenger is now internally testing simultaneous co-viewing of videos. That means you and your favorite people could watch a synchronized video over group chat on your respective devices while discussing or joking about it. This “Watch Videos Together” feature could make you spend more time on Facebook Messenger while creating shared experiences that are more meaningful and positive for well-being than passively zombie-viewing videos solo. This new approach to Facebook’s Watch Party feature might feel more natural as part of messaging than through a feed, Groups, or Events post.

The feature was first spotted in Messenger’s codebase by Ananay Arora, the founder of deadline management app Timebound as well as a mobile investigator in the style of frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. The code he discovered describes Messenger allowing you to “tap to watch together now” and “chat about the same videos at the same time” with chat thread members receiving a notification that a co-viewing is starting. “Everyone in this chat can control the video and see who’s watching” the code explains.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that this is an “internal test” and that it doesn’t have any more to share right now. But other features originally discovered in Messenger’s code like contact syncing with Instagram have eventually received official launches.

Watch Party exists on Facebook but could be more popular as a chat feature

A fascinating question this co-viewing feature brings up is where users will find videos to watch. It might just let you punch in a URL from Facebook or share a video from there to Messenger. The app could put a new video browsing option into the message composer or Discover tab.  Or if it really wanted to get serious about chat-based co-viewing, Facebook could allow the feature to work with video partners, ideally YouTube.

Co-viewing of videos could also introduce a new revenue opportunity for Messenger. It might suggest sponsored videos, such as recent movie trailers. Or it could simply serve video ads between a queue of videos lined up for co-viewing. Facebook has recently been putting more pressure on its subsidiaries like Messenger and Instagram to monetize as News Feed ad revenue growth slows down due to plateauing users growth and limited News Feed ad space.

Other apps like YouTube’s Uptime (since shut down), and Facebook’s first president Sean Parker’s Airtime (never took off) have tried and failed to make co-watching a popular habit. The problem is that coordinating these synced-up experiences with friends can be troublesome. By baking simultaneous video viewing directing into Messenger, Facebook could make it as seamless as sharing a link.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Walmart and Target embrace in-store mobile checkout for the holidays

in black friday/checkout/Delhi/eCommerce/India/mobile/Politics/retail/shopping/Target/Walmart by

Two of the U.S.’s largest brick-and-mortar retailers, Walmart and Target, are launching new mobile checkout systems in their stores to accommodate the influx of shoppers expected during the 2018 holiday season. Walmart says it’s expanding its “Check Out With Me” service to every Supercenter by Black Friday, while Target’s recently launched “Skip the Line” mobile checkout service is available nationwide and will have extra staff throughout the store during the busier shopping days.

Walmart first began testing Check Out With Me in April this year across hundreds of U.S. stores.

The system involves store staff wearing a small carrying case equipped with a Bluetooth receipt printer, and a cellular device that works as both a barcode scanner and credit card swiper for transactions.

Initially, Walmart tested the solution in its Lawn & Garden centers across 350 stores, where there’s more need for a mobile checkout solution.

Instead of customers having to lug heavy items – like bags of mulch and potted plants – to a checkout station, a Walmart team member could instead just scan the item on the shelf, so it can be loaded directly into the customer’s car afterwards.

Now that checkout system will make its way to Walmart’s over 3,000 Supercenters across the U.S. Starting on Black Friday, store associates will be positioned in the busiest areas of the stores, including not only the garden center as before, but also in other high-traffic areas like electronics and “action alley” – the areas featuring special promotions in the aisles.

“Associates will help customers pay and go by simply swiping their credit card and providing them with a paper or electronic receipt for their purchase,” the retailer explained.

The expansion of mobile checkout was one of several holiday plans Walmart announced, including also an expanded assortment of brands, digital maps inside the Walmart app, the updated Walmart.com website, free two-day shipping from marketplace sellers, and more.

Meanwhile, Target is recently said it’s launching mobile checkout in its stores in time for the holidays, as well.

The company had begun testing its “Skip the Line” mobile checkout experience in select stores in February 2018, but has expanded that as of last month to all Target stores nationwide.

Similar to Walmart, Target’s solution includes equipping store staff with special handheld devices they can use to scan merchandise and process payments. From this same device, staff can also help customers place online orders if the store doesn’t carry an item they want.

During peak events – like Thanksgiving, Black Friday and others – team members will be positioned in the busiest areas of the store, including at the front-of-the-store and in the electronics department, the retailer says.

Today, more consumers are turning to e-commerce – and particularly to Amazon – for their holiday shopping needs out of convenience.

Now, those customers are looking for similar conveniences when they shop brick-and-mortar retailers, too. Stores are now catering to customer demand for faster, easier shopping by offering services like ship-to-store for online order pickup, same day order pickup (and driveup), and more.

With mobile checkout, retailers can address one of the remaining challenges of shopping in-store – those long checkout lines – without having to invest in expensive Amazon Go-like technology like camera systems and shelf sensors for a cashier-less experience.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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