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Monthly Archives: January 2020

Daily Crunch: IBM names new CEO



The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Arvind Krishna will replace Ginni Rometty as IBM CEO in April

Krishna, IBM’s senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, will take over on April 6 after a couple months of transition. Rometty will remain with the company as chairman of the board.

Krishna reportedly drove the massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat at the end of 2018, and there was some speculation at the time that Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst was the heir apparent. Instead, the board went with a more seasoned IBM insider for the job, while naming Whitehurst as president.

2. Apple’s redesigned Maps app is available across the US, adds real-time transit for Miami

The redesigned app will include more accurate information overall as well as comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and other public places. It will also bring Look Around to more cities and real-time transit to Miami.

3. Social media boosting service exposed thousands of Instagram passwords

The company, Social Captain, says it helps thousands of users to grow their Instagram follower counts by connecting their accounts to its platform. But TechCrunch learned this week Social Captain was storing the passwords of linked Instagram accounts in unencrypted plaintext.

4. Elon Musk just dropped an EDM track on SoundCloud

That is a real headline and I probably don’t need to say much else. Listen to the track, or don’t.

5. Being a child actress prepared me for a career in venture capital

Crystal McKellar played Becky Slater on “The Wonder Years,” and she writes about how that experience prepared her to be a managing partner at Anathem Ventures. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Moda Operandi, an online marketplace for high-end fashion, raises $100M led by NEA and Apax

High-end fashion might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about online shopping, but it has actually been a ripe market for the e-commerce industry.

7. Why Sony’s PlayStation Vue failed

Vue launched in March 2015, offering live and on-demand content from more than 85 channels, including many local broadcast stations. But it failed to catch on with a broader audience, despite — or perhaps, because of — its integration with Sony’s PS3 and PS4 devices, and it shut down this week. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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Streaming the Super Bowl? Don't look at Twitter.



If you’re one of the growing numbers of viewers who will stream this year’s Super Bowl LIV, beware of spoilers.

While the idea of “spoilers” in live sports might seem counter-intuitive, it’s a growing reality in the streaming era. Why? Because streaming services often serve up live content on a delay of up to a minute or more. 

CNET flagged a study from Phenix, a company focused on reducing streaming delays and providing real-time video support, that showed streams of last year’s Super Bowl saw delays of between 28 and 47 seconds depending on which service you were using. 

Image: Phenix
Read more…

More about Streaming, Latency, Super Bowl Liv, Tech, and Streaming Services

PSA: The 1TB Xbox One X just hit a new all-time low price on Amazon



TL;DR: The 1TB Xbox One X normally retails for $499.99, but right now you can score it on sale on Amazon for just $336.99 — a 33% savings.


Every gamer’s got an origin story. Maybe you got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas one year and you’ve been playing ever since. Maybe your childhood self was obsessed with arcade games, so console gaming was just a natural progression. Maybe you’re a recovering horse girl who loved watching her college boyfriend play Red Dead Redemption in his dorm room and decided one day to pick up a controller herself. (Howdy, it me.)

Or hey, maybe you stumbled upon an amazing deal on a console and decided it was too good to pass up. Read more…

More about Xbox, Video Games, Xbox One, Mashable Shopping, and Xbox One X

The best laptop and tablet deals you'll find this weekend: Save on iPad Air and more



You may have heard that there is a certain sporting event happening this weekend… 

But you may also be that certain type of person who couldn’t care less about it. No, you’d rather bundle up under a cozy blanket all weekend with your laptop or tablet to watch through the latest season of Sex Education. That’s what we’ll be doing, anyway.

If you want to join us, check out these deals on both laptops and tablets that we found — we’ve got our hearts set on this iPad discount (which is almost sold out), but there are plenty more to go around. Read more…

More about Apple, Tablets, Laptops, Mashable Shopping, and Tech

You can glimpse the eerie depths of the planet’s most threatening glacier



It’s OK to be nervous about the Thwaites Glacier.

If this Florida-sized Antarctic glacier collapsed, it could ultimately unleash enough ice to boost sea levels by ten feet. Thwaites is already dumping “huge amounts of ice into the ocean,” and in 2019, Antarctic researchers located a cavity two-thirds the size of Manhattan near the bottom of Thwaites.

And it’s here, at the bottom, where Thwaites’ destiny lies. 

Where this colossal river of ice extends out from Antarctica and meets the seafloor is called the “grounding line.” This point acts like a plug, holding Thwaites back so bounties of ice on land can’t flow unimpeded into the sea, raising sea levels. Read more…

More about Science, Global Warming, Antarctica, Climate Change, and Thwaites Glacier

How Dubsmash revived itself as #2 to TikTok



Lip-syncing app Dubsmash was on the brink of death. After a brief moment of virality in 2015 alongside Vine (R.I.P), Dubsmash was bleeding users faster than it could recruit them. The app let you choose an audio track like a rap song or movie quote and shoot a video of you pretending to say the words. But there was nowhere in the app to post the videos. It was a creation tool like Hipstamatic, not a network like Instagram. There’s a reason we’re only using one of those today.

So in 2017 Dubsmash‘s three executives burned down the 30-person company and rebuilt something social from the ashes with the rest of the $15.4 million it’d raised from Lowercase Capital and Index Ventures. They ditched its Berlin headquarters and resettled in Brooklyn, closer to the one demographic still pushing Dubsmashes to the Instagram Explore page: African-American teenagers posting dances and lip-syncs to indie hip-hop songs on the rise.

Dubsmash stretched its funding to rehire a whole new team of 15. They spent a year coding a new version of Dubsmash centered around Following and Trending feeds, desperately trying to match the core features of Musically, which by then had been bought by China’s ByteDance. It’s got chat but still lacks the augmented reality filters, cut transitions, and photo slideshows of TikTok. But Dubsmash has the critical remix option for soundtracking your clip with the audio of any other video that sets it apart from Instagram and Snapchat.

“We realized to build a great product, we needed a depth of expertise that we just didn’t have access to in Berlin” Dubsmash co-founder and CEO Jonas Druppel tells me. “It was a risky move and we felt the weight of it acutely.  But we also knew there was no other way forward, given the scale and pace of the other players in the market.”

Few social apps have ever pulled off a real comeback. Even Snapchat had only lost 5 million of its 191 million users before it started growing again. But in the case of Dubsmash, its biggest competitor was also its savior.

The pre-relaunch version of Dubsmash

In August 2018, ByteDance merged Musically into TikTok to form a micro-entertainment phenomenon. Instead of haphazardly sharing auto-biographical Stories shot with little forethought, people began storyboarding skits and practicing dances. The resulting videos were denser and more compelling than content on Snapchat and Instagram. The new Dubsmash, launched two months later, rode along with the surge of interest in short-form video like a Lilliputian in a giant’s shirt pocket. The momentum helped Dubsmash raise a secret round of funding last year to keep up the chase.

Now Dubsmash has 1 billion video views per month.

Dubsmash rebuilt its app and revived its usage

“The turnaround that we executed hasn’t been done in recent memory by a consumer app in such a competitive marketplace. Most of them fade to oblivion or shut down” Dubsmash co-founder and President Suchit Dash tells me. “By moving the company to the United States, hiring a brand new all-star team & relaunching the product, we gave this company & product a second life. Through that journey, we obsessed only on one metric: retention.”

Now the app has pulled 27% of the US short-form video market share by installs, second only to TikTok’s 59%, according to AppAnnie. Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch that TikTok has about 3X as many US lifetime installs as Dubsmash, and 11X more between when Musically became TikTok in August 2018 and now.

In terms of active users outside of TikTok, Dubsmash has 73% of the US market, compared to just 23% on Triller, 3.6% on Firework, and an embarrassing 0% on Facebook’s Lasso. And while Triller began surpassing Dubsmash in downloads per month in October, Dubsmash has 3X as many active users and saw 38% more first-time downloads in 2018 than 2019. Dubsmash now sees 30% retention after a month, and 30% of its daily users are creating content.

It’s that stellar rate of participation that’s brought Dubsmash back to life. It also attracted a previously unannounced round of $6.75 million in the Spring of 2019, largely from existing investors. While TikTok’s superstars and huge visibility could be scaring some users away from shooting videos while a long-tail of recent downloaders watch passively, Dubsmash has managed to make people feel comfortable on camera.

“Dubsmash is ground zero for culture creation in America—it’s where  the newest,  most popular hip-hop and dance challenges on the Internet originate” Dash declares.  “Members of the community are developing content that will make them the superstars of tomorrow.”

Being #2 might not be so bad, given how mobile video viewing is growing massively thanks to better cameras, bigger screens, faster networks, and cheaper data. Right now, Dubsmash doesn’t make any money. It hopes to one day generate revenue while helping its creators earn a living too, perhaps through ad revenue shares, tipping, subscriptions, merchandise, or offline meetups.

One advantage of not being TikTok is that the app feels less crowded by semi-pro creators and influencers. That gives users the vibe that they’re more likely to hit the Trending or Explore page on Dubsmash. The Trending page is dominated by hot new songs and flashy dances, even if they’re shot with a lower production quality that feels accessible.

Dubsmash tries to stoke that sense of opportunity by making Explore about discovering accounts and all the content they’ve made rather than specific videos. While popular clips might have tens of thousands of views rather than the hundred-thousand or multi-million counts on TikTok’s top content, there’s enough visibility to make shooting Dubsmashes worth it.

TikTok has already taken notice. Shown in a leak of its moderation guidelines from Netzpolitik, the company’s policy is to downrank the visibility of any video referencing or including a watermark from direct competitors including Dubsmash, Triller, Lasso, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. That keeps Dubsmash videos, which you can save to your camera roll, from going viral on TikTok and luring users away.

TikTok’s content moderation guidelines show it downranks content featuring the watermarks of competitors like Dubsmash

TikTok also continues to aggressively buy users via ads on competing apps like Facebook thanks to the billions in funding raked in by its parent ByteDance. In contast, Dash says Dubsmash has never spent a dollar on user acquisition, influencer marketing, or any other source of growth. That makes it achieving even half to a third of as many installs as TikTok in the US an impressive fete.

Why would creators choose Dubsmash over TikTok? Dash clinically explains that its a “decoupled audio and video platform that enables producers and tastemakers to upload fresh, original tracks that are utilized by creators and  influencers alike” but that it’s also about “Its role as a welcoming home for a community that’s underrepresented on social platforms.”

If Dubsmash keeps growing, though, it will encounter the inevitable content moderation problems that come with scale. It’s already doing a solid job of requiring users to sign up with their birthdate to watch or post videos, and it blocks those under 13. Only users who follow each other can chat.

Any piece of content that’s flagged by users is hidden from the network until it passes a review by its human moderation team that works around the clock, and it does proactive takedowns too. However, brigading and malicious takedown reports could be used by trolls to silence their enemies. Dubsmash is working off of a common sense model of what’s allowed rather than firm guidelines, which will be tough to keep consistent at scale.

“Being a social media app in 2020 means you need to take greater responsibility for the well being of the community” says Dash. “We decided upon relaunch to take a strict perspective. Our goal is to be intentional and proactive early, and invest in safety and healthy growth rather than growth at all costs. This may not be the most popular approach amongst the market, but we believe this is the most effective way to build a social platform.”

Dubsmash proves that short-form video is so compelling to teens that the market can sustain multiple apps. That will have to be the case given Instagram is preparing to release its TikTok clone Reels, and Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann just launched his successor Byte. The breakdown could look like:

  • TikTok: A slightly longer-form combo of comedy, dance, and absurdity
  • Dubsmash: Mid-length dance and music videos with a diverse community
  • Byte: Super short-form comedy featuring slightly older ex-Vine stars
  • Triller: Mid-length life blogging clips from Hollywood celebrities
  • Instagram Reels: International influencers making videos for a mainstream audience

Perhaps we’ll eventually see consolidation in the market, with giants like TikTok and Instagram acquiring smaller players to grow their content network effect with more fodder for remixes. But fragmentation could breed creativity. Different tools and audiences beg for different types of videos. Make something special, and there’s an app out there to enter your into pop culture cannon.

For more on the short-form video wars and the future of micro-entertainment, read:

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After earnings, Amazon joins the $1T club as Alphabet dips out



American tech companies almost did something neat today before messing it up.

After reporting earnings yesterday, Amazon’s shares shot higher this morning, pushing the company’s value north of $1 trillion. Its growth and profits proved toothsome to the investing classes, bolstering the Seattle area’s tech pedigree by adding a second trillion-dollar business to its rolls.

Microsoft and Apple, also flush after reporting their own well-received earnings, are also worth north of $1 trillion apiece. Amazon’s ascension would have brought the group of trillion-dollar American tech shops to four, if Alphabet hadn’t gone and spoiled the fun.

Here’s the chart, on which you can spot Alphabet’s dip back under the $1,000 billion mark:

So close, right?

Perhaps Google and its cadre of money-losing subsidiaries will manage to skate back over $1 trillion today, leaving only little Facebook out of the Cool Kid Clubhouse.

Get it together, Zuck! A billion dollars isn’t cool. You know what is? Being yet another trillion-dollar tech company. Gosh.

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This '1917' and 'SpongeBob' mashup is surprisingly perfect



Are ya ready, kids?

The Oscar-nominated World War I drama 1917 has been remixed with the non-Oscar-nominated show SpongeBob Squarepants in an epic trailer. Why? Because if there’s one thing the mind immediately goes to when it thinks “SpongeBob,” it’s war. 

Since being uploaded by YouTube account Carnage-Boy on Thursday, the video has racked up over 248,000 views at the time of writing with no sign of stopping soon1917 and SpongeBob apparently share plenty in common, including explosions, high stakes action, ad lots of crying.

This intense trailer mashup is today’s reason why we’re grateful the internet exists. Read more…

More about Trailer, Spongebob Squarepants, 1917, Culture, and Movies Tv Shows

Hackers are using AI & facial recognition on Tinder — Mashable Originals



Frustrated with the online dating scene, male hackers have been using AI to create bots that swipe and speak for them. “It swiped 10,000 or 20,000 times,” one hacker said. “At one point, the bot was having 200 conversations at the same time.” Read more…

More about Mashable Video, Artificial Intelligence, Online Dating, Sex And Relationships, and Facial Recognition Technology

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