Menu

Timesdelhi.com

March 25, 2019
Category archive

social media

PicsArt hits 130 million MAUs as Chinese flock to its photo editing app

in Apps/Asia/China/Delhi/Entertainment/India/instagram/mobile applications/photo sharing/Picsart/Politics/Russia/Social/social media/Tammy Nam/the avengers/tiktok/VSCO by

If you’re like me, who isn’t big on social media, you’d think that the image filters that come inside most apps will do the job. But for many others, especially the younger crowd, making their photos stand out is a huge deal.

The demand is big enough that PicsArt, a rival to filtering companies VSCO and Snapseed, recently hit 130 million monthly active users worldwide, roughly a year after it amassed 100 million MAUs. Like VSCO, PicsArt now offers video overlays though images are still its focus.

Nearly 80 percent of PicsArt’s users are under the age of 35 and those under 18 are driving most of its growth. The “Gen Z” (the generation after millennials) users aren’t obsessed with the next big, big thing. Rather, they pride themselves on having niche interests, be it K-pop, celebrities, anime, sci-fi or space science, topics that come in the form of filters, effects, stickers and GIFs in PicsArt’s content library.

“PicsArt is helping to drive a trend I call visual storytelling. There’s a generation of young people who communicate through memes, short-form videos, images and stickers, and they rarely use words,” Tammy Nam, who joined PicsArt as its chief operating officer in July, told TechCrunch in an interview.

PicsArt has so far raised $45 million, according to data collected by Crunchbase. It picked up $20 million from a Series B round in 2016 to grow its Asia focus and told TechCrunch that it’s “actively considering fundraising to fuel [its] rapid growth even more.”

PicsArt wants to help users stand out on social media, for instance, by virtually applying this rainbow makeup look on them. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

The app doubles as a social platform, although the use case is much smaller compared to the size of Instagram, Facebook and other mainstream social media products. About 40 percent of PicsArt’s users post on the app, putting it in a unique position where it competes with the social media juggernauts on one hand, and serving as a platform-agnostic app to facilitate content creation for its rivals on the other.

What separates PicsArt from the giants, according to Nam, is that people who do share there tend to be content creators rather than passive consumers.

“On TikTok and Instagram, the majority of the people there are consumers. Almost 100 percent of the people on PicsArt are creating or editing something. For many users, coming on PicsArt is a built-in habit. They come in every week, and find the editing process Zen-like and peaceful.”

Trending in China

Most of PicsArt’s users live in the United States, but the app owes much of its recent success to China, its fastest growing market with more than 15 million MAUs. The regional growth, which has been 10-30 percent month-over-month recently, appears more remarkable when factoring in PicsArt’s zero user acquisition expense in a crowded market where pay-to-play is a norm for emerging startups.

“Many larger companies [in China] are spending a lot of money on advertising to gain market share. PicsArt has done zero paid marketing in China,” noted Nam.

Screenshot: TikTok-related stickers from PicsArt’s library

When people catch sight of an impressive image filtering effect online, many will inquire about the toolset behind it. Chinese users find out about the Armenian startup from photos and videos hashtagged #PicsArt, not different from how VSCO gets discovered from #vscocam on Instagram. It’s through such word of mouth that PicsArt broke into China, where users flocked to its Avengers-inspired disappearing superhero effect last May when the film was screening. China is now the company’s second largest market by revenue after the U.S.

Screenshot: PicsArts lets users easily apply the Avengers dispersion effect to their own photos

A hurdle that all media apps see in China is the country’s opaque guidelines on digital content. Companies in the business of disseminating information, from WeChat to TikTok, hire armies of content moderators to root out what the government deems inappropriate or illegal. PicsArt says it uses artificial intelligence to sterilize content and keeps a global moderator team that also keeps an eye on its China content.

Despite being headquartered in Silicon Valley, PicsArt has placed its research and development center in Armenia, home to founder Hovhannes Avoyan. This gives the startup access to much cheaper engineering talents in the country and neighboring Russia compared to what it can hire in the U.S. To date, 70 percent of the company’s 360 employees are working in engineering and product development (50 percent of whom are female), an investment it believes helps keep its creative tools up to date.

Most of PicsArt’s features are free to use, but the firm has also looked into getting paid. It rolled out a premium program last March that gives users more sophisticated functions and exclusive content. This segment has already leapfrogged advertising to be PicsArt’s largest revenue source, although in China, its budding market, paid subscriptions have been slow to come.

picsart 1

PicsArt lets users do all sorts of creative work, including virtually posing with their idol. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo

“In China, people don’t want to pay because they don’t believe in the products. But if they understand your value, they are willing to pay, for example, they pay a lot for mobile games,” said Jennifer Liu, PicsArt China’s country manager.

And Nam is positive that Chinese users will come to appreciate the app’s value. “In order for this new generation to create really differentiated content, become influencers, or be more relevant on social media, they have to do edit their content. It’s just a natural way for them to do that.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook says its new A.I. technology can detect ‘revenge porn’

in Abuse/AI/Artificial Intelligence/Delhi/Facebook/India/Politics/privacy/revenge porn/Social/social media by

Facebook on Friday announced a new artificial intelligence powered tool that it says will help the social network detect revenge porn – the nonconsensually shared intimate images that, when posted online, can have devastating consequences for those who appear in the photos. The technology will leverage both A.I. and machine learning techniques to proactively detect near nude images or videos that are shared without permission across Facebook and Instagram.

The announcement follows on Facebook’s earlier pilot of a photo-matching technology, which had people directly submit their intimate photos and videos to Facebook. The program, which was run in partnership with victim advocate organizations, would then create a digital fingerprint of that image so Facebook could stop it from ever being shared online across its platforms. This is similar to how companies today prevent child abuse images from being posted to their sites.

The new A.I. technology for revenge porn, however, doesn’t require the victim’s involvement. This is important, Facebook explains, because victims are sometimes too afraid of retribution to report the content themselves. Other times, they’re simply unaware that the photos or videos are being shared.

While the company was short on details about how the new system itself works, it did note that it goes beyond simply “detecting nudity.”

After the system flags an image or video, a specially trained member of Facebook’s Community Operations team will review the image then remove it if it violates Facebook’s Community Standards. In most cases, the company will also disable the account, as a result. An appeals process is available if the person believes Facebook has made a mistake.

In addition to the technology and existing pilot program, Facebook says it also reviewed how its other procedures around revenge porn reporting could be improved. It found, for instance, that victims wanted faster responses following their reports and they didn’t want a robotic reply. Other victims didn’t know how to use the reporting tools or even that they existed.

Facebook noted that addressing revenge porn is critical as it can lead to mental health consequences like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and sometimes even PTSD. There can also be professional consequences, like lost jobs and damaged relationships with colleagues. Plus, those in more traditional communities around the world may be shunned or exiled, persecuted or even physically harmed.

Facebook admits that it wasn’t finding a way to “acknowledge the trauma that the victims endure,” when responding to their reports. It says it’s now re-evaluating the reporting tools and process to make sure they’re more “straightforward, clear and empathetic.”

It’s also launching “Not Without My Consent,” a victim-support hub in the Facebook Safety Center that was developed in partnership with experts. The hub will offer victims access to organizations and resources that can support them, and it will detail the steps to take to report the content to Facebook.

In the months ahead, Facebook says it will also build victim support toolkits with more locally and culturally relevant info by working with partners including the Revenge Porn Helpline (UK), Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (US), Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan), SaferNet (Brazil) and Professor Lee Ji-yeon (South Korea).

Revenge porn is one of the many issues that results from offering the world a platform for public sharing. Facebook today is beginning to own up to the failures of social media across many fronts – which also include things like data privacy violations, the spread of misinformation, and online harassment and abuse.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a pivot to privacy, where Facebook’s products will be joined together as an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network – but the move has shaken Facebook internally, causing it to lose top execs along the way.

While changes are in line with what the public wants, many have already lost trust in Facebook. For the first time in 10 years Edison Research noted a decline in Facebook usage in the U.S., from 67 to 62 percent of Americans 12 and older. Still, Facebook still a massive platform with its over 2 billion users. Even if users themselves opt out of Facebook, that doesn’t prevent them from ever becoming a victim of revenge porn or other online abuse by those who continue to use the social network.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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

in Apps/conversations/Delhi/India/iOS apps/Politics/replies/Social/social media/Twitter/twttr by

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback

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

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

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

Reply Threads

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

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

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

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

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

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

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

Color coded Replies

Here’s a closer look at nested replies.

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

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

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

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

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

Engagements are hidden

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

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

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

“Show More”

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

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

Above: “Show more,” before being expanded

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

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

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

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

Above: after being expanded

The icon!

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

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

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

Where’s that feedback form again?

News Source = techcrunch.com

Twitter launches its first podcast, ‘Character Count,’ focused on its ad business

in advertising/Delhi/Headline/India/Marketing/Media/podcast/Politics/Social/social media/TC/Twitter by

Twitter today is joining the podcasting arena. This morning, the social network is launching its first-ever podcast series with a new show focused on Twitter’s advertising business, which it’s calling “Character Count.” The company says, for now, it’s testing the waters with five already-produced episodes of around 25 to 30 minutes in length. It plans to wait to record more shows after getting the crowd’s reaction to the first few episodes, so it can make adjustments if need be.

The podcast will be hosted by Joe Wadlington, a marketer at Twitter who’s specifically supporting Twitter’s Business initiatives.

Each episode will involve talking to people behind the scenes of some of Twitter’s advertising stories, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq), Dropbox (@dropbox), and Simon & Schuster (@SimonBooks). The companies will speak about how they built effective ad campaigns and why Twitter’s audience mattered to them. The goal, says Twitter, is to offer others in the industry a look into which brands are “doing it right on Twitter,” and potentially spark more brands to do the same.

The launch of the podcast arrives when Twitter is trying to shift Wall Street’s attention away from the network’s stagnant user growth. Twitter recently said it would stop reporting monthly users, in favor of daily users, as a result of its inability to grow this key number. The change was announced in Twitter’s Q4 2018 earnings release, where the company said it had lost another 5 million monthly users in the final quarter of 2018 bringing its total down to 321 million.

Instead, Twitter wants more attention on its ability to turn a profit from the users it does have – as it did in Q4 for the fifth quarter in a row, and the fifth time ever. Its Q4 revenues were $909 million, which were more than the expected $868.1 million and up 24 percent on the year ago quarter. Advertising accounted for 87 percent of those revenues, Twitter said. It’s no surprise, then, that Twitter now wants to help advertisers learn from others succeeding in this space and grow that figure further.

Twitter is not the only company that’s tapping into the popular audio format of podcasting to talk to advertisers and marketers more directly.

In January, Facebook also launched its first U.S. podcast with a series focused on entrepreneurship – the larger, unspoken goal being to position Facebook as a place where entrepreneurs come to advertise their business. And somewhat related, LinkedIn debuted LinkedIn Live, a new video broadcast service which gives people and organizations the ability to stream real-time videos to groups in a sort of cross between YouTube Live and video podcasting, perhaps.

Twitter, like Facebook and LinkedIn, will not be running other ads within its programming. That makes sense, as the podcast itself is effectively an ad for Twitter’s business and advertising tools.

New episodes will debut every two weeks on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, and Stitcher.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Venture investors and startup execs say they don’t need Elizabeth Warren to defend them from big tech

in Amazon/AT&T/ben narasin/coinbase/Companies/Delhi/Economy/elizabeth warren/Entrepreneurship/Facebook/Federal Trade Commission/Google/IBM/India/kara nortman/Los Angeles/Microsoft/new enterprise associates/Politics/Private equity/social media/Startup company/TC/Technology/Technology Development/United States/upfront ventures/us government/venky ganesan/Venture Capital/Walmart/world wide web/zappos by

Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up some of the nation’s largest technology companies, the venture capitalists that invest in technology companies are advising the presidential hopeful to move slowly and not break anything.

Warren’s plan called for regulators to be appointed to oversee the unwinding of several acquisitions that were critical to the development of the core technology that make Alphabet’s Google and the social media giant Facebook so profitable… and Zappos.

Warren also wanted regulation in place that would block companies making over $25 billion that operate as social media or search platforms or marketplaces from owning companies that also sell services on those marketplaces.

As a whole, venture capitalists viewing the policy were underwhelmed.

“As they say on Broadway, ‘you gotta have a gimmick’ and this is clearly Warren’s,” says Ben Narasin, an investor at one of the nation’s largest investment firms,” New Enterprise Associates, which has $18 billion in assets under management and has invested in consumer companies like Jet, an online and mobile retailer that competed with Amazon and was sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion.

“Decades ago, at the peak of Japanese growth as a technology competitor on the global stage, the U.S. government sought to break up IBM . This is not a new model, and it makes no sense,” says Narasin. “We slow down our country, our economy and our ability to innovate when the government becomes excessively aggressive in efforts to break up technology companies, because they see them through a prior-decades lens, when they are operating in a future decade reality. This too shall pass.”

Balaji Sirinivasan, the chief technology officer of Coinbase, took to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Warren plan. “If big companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are prevented from acquiring startups, that actually reduces competition,” Sirinivasan writes.

“There are two separate issues here that are being conflated. One issue is do we need regulation on the full platform companies. And the answer is absolutely,” says Venky Ganesan, the managing director of Menlo Ventures. “These platforms have a huge impact on society at large and they have huge influence.”

But while the platforms need to be regulated, Ganesan says, Senator Warren’s approach is an exercise in overreach.

“That plan is like taking a bazooka to a knife fight. It’s overwhelming and it’s not commensurate with the issues,” Ganesan says. “I don’t think at the end of the day venture capital is worrying about competition from these big platform companies. [And] as the proposal is composed it would create more obstacles rather than less.”

Using Warren’s own example of the antitrust cases that were brought against companies like AT&T and Microsoft is a good model for how to proceed, Ganesan says. “We want to have the technocrats at the FTC figure out the right way to bring balance.”

Kara Nortman, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm Upfront Ventures, is also concerned about the potential unforeseen consequences of Warren’s proposals.

“The specifics of the policy as presented strike me as having potentially negative consequences for innovation. These companies are funding massive innovation initiatives in our country. They’re creating jobs and taking risks in areas of technology development where we could potentially fall behind other countries and wind up reducing our quality of life,” Nortman says. “We’re not seeing that innovation or initiative come from the government — or that support for encouraging immigration and by extension embracing the talented foreign entrepreneurs that could develop new technologies and businesses.”

Nortman sees the Warren announcement as an attempt to start a dialog between government regulators and big technology companies.

“My hope is that this is the beginning of a dialogue that is constructive,” Nortman says. “And since Elizabeth Warren is a thoughtful policymaker, this is likely the first salvo toward an engagement with the technology community to work collaboratively on issues that we all want to see solved and that some of us are dedicating our career in venture to help solving.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

1 2 3 121
Go to Top