Author Archives: Nouri

Vine cofounder finally releases his next viral video app: Byte



If you’re still mourning the loss of Vine, you now have a new video app to fill the void and, no, I’m not talking about TikTok.

That’s because Vine cofounder Dom Hofmann is finally launching byte, the video app that’s meant to be a successor to the video app that was mercilessly killed by Twitter in 2016. Hofmann has been teasing the app, which he has described as a “follow-up” to Vine, since 2017, though the self-funded project has run into delays.

“Today we’re bringing back 6-second looping videos and a new community for people who love them,” the company wrote on Twitter. “It’s called byte and it’s both familiar and new. We hope it’ll resonate with people who feel something’s been missing.” Read more…

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Vine reboot Byte officially launches



Two years after Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofman announced he was building a successor to the short-form video app, today Byte makes its debut on iOS and Android. Byte lets you shoot or upload and then share six-second videos. It comes equipped with standard social features like a feed, Explore page, notifications, and profiles. For now, though Byte lacks the remixability, augmented reality filters, transition effects, and other bonus features you’ll find in apps like TikTok.

The big question will be whether Byte can take off despite its late start. Between TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and more, do people need another short-form video app?

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Google backtracks on search results design



Earlier today, Google announced that it would be redesigning the redesign of its search results as a response to withering criticism from politicians, consumers and the press over the way in which search results displays were made to look like ads.

Google makes money when users of its search service click on ads. It doesn’t make money when people click on an unpaid search result. Making ads look like search results makes Google more money.

It’s also a pretty evil (or at least unethical) business decision by a company whose mantra was “Don’t be evil”(although they gave that up in 2018).

Users began noticing the changes to search results last week, and at least one user flagged the changes earlier this week.

Google responded with a bit of doublespeak from its corporate account about how the redesign was intended to achieve the opposite effect of what it was actually doing.

“Last year, our search results on mobile gained a new look. That’s now rolling out to desktop results this week, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently, along with a bolded ‘Ad’ label for ads,” the company wrote.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) took a break from impeachment hearings to talk to The Washington Post about just how bad the new search redesign was.

“We’ve seen multiple instances over the last few years where Google has made paid advertisements ever more indistinguishable from organic search results,” Warner told the Post. “This is yet another example of a platform exploiting its bottleneck power for commercial gain, to the detriment of both consumers and also small businesses.”

Google’s changes to its search results happened despite the fact that the company is already being investigated by every state in the country for antitrust violations.

For Google, the rationale is simple. The company’s advertising revenues aren’t growing the way they used to, and the company is looking at a slowdown in its core business. To try and juice the numbers, dark patterns present an attractive way forward.

Indeed, Google’s using the same tricks that it once battled to become the premier search service in the U.S. When the company first launched its search service, ads were clearly demarcated and separated from actual search results returned by Google’s algorithm. Over time, the separation between what was an ad and what wasn’t became increasingly blurred.

“Search results were near-instant and they were just a page of links and summaries – perfection with nothing to add or take away,” user experience expert Harry Brignull (and founder of the watchdog website darkpatterns.org) said of the original Google search results in an interview with TechCrunch.

“The back-propagation algorithm they introduced had never been used to index the web before, and it instantly left the competition in the dust. It was proof that engineers could disrupt the rules of the web without needing any suit-wearing executives. Strip out all the crap. Do one thing and do it well.”

“As Google’s ambitions changed, the tinted box started to fade. It’s completely gone now,” Brignull added.

The company acknowledged that its latest experiment might have gone too far in its latest statement and noted that it will “experiment further” on how it displays results.

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The Pentagon pushes back on Huawei ban in bid for ‘balance’



Huawei may have just found itself an ally in the most unexpected of places. According to a new report out of The Wall Street Journal, both the Defense and Treasury Departments are pushing back on a Commerce Department-led ban on sales from the embattled Chinese hardware giant.

That move, in turn, has reportedly led Commerce Department officials to withdraw a proposal set to make it even more difficult for U.S.-based companies to work with Huawei.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper struck a fittingly pragmatic tone while speaking with the paper, noting, “We have to be conscious of sustaining those [technology] companies’ supply chains and those innovators. That’s the balance we have to strike.”

Huawei, already under fire for allegations of flouting sanctions with other countries, has become a centerpiece of a simmering trade war between the Trump White House and China. The smartphone maker has been barred from selling 5G networking equipment due to concerns over its close ties to the Chinese government.

Last year, meanwhile, the government barred Huawei from utilizing software and components from U.S.-based companies, including Google. Huawei is also expected to be a key talking point in upcoming White House discussions, as officials weigh actions against the repercussions they’ll ultimately have for U.S. partners.

The Commerce Department has yet to offer any official announcement related to the report.

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Watch Kyle the rooster totally lose it when it's time to eat



Kyle is the baddest rooster on the farm, and we think this video proves it. It captures the moment a man’s life likely flashed before his eyes when he was out feeding his flock.

Kyle doesn’t play games when it’s time to eat. Out of seemingly nowhere, Kyle turns on the afterburners and charges at the videographer, who, against all odds, appeared to make it out unscathed. Cluck cluck, motherfucker. Kyle is, as it turns out, all of us when we’re hangry.

The video also features a delightful appearance from a bird named “Birdie Sanders,” who minds its business while the chaos ensues. What did we take from this? Never trust anyone (or anything) named Kyle.  Read more…

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Kraftful raises $1M to help smart home companies make better apps



 

If a thousand companies make their own smart light bulb, do a thousand companies also have to design a light switch app to control them?

Kraftful, a company out of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 class, doesn’t think so. Kraftful builds the myriad components that an IoT/Smart Home company might need, puzzle piecing them together into apps for each company without requiring them to reinvent the light switch (or the pad lock button, or the smart thermostat dial) for the nth time.

Because no company wants an app that looks identical to a competitor’s, much of what Kraftful does is built to be tailored to each company’s branding — all the surface level stuff, like iconography, fonts, colors, etc. are all customizable. Under the hood, though, everything is built to be reusable.

This focus on finding the parts that can be built once makes sense, especially given the team’s background. CEO Yana Welinder and CTO Nicky Leach were previously Head of Product and a Senior Engineer, respectively, at IFTTT — the web service made up of a zillion reusable, interlinking “recipe” applets that let you hook just about anything (Gmail, Instagram, your cat’s litterbox, whatever) into anything else to let one trigger actions on the other.

Kraftful founders Nicky Leach and Yana Welinder

So why now? More smart devices are coming onto the market every day, many of them from legacy appliance companies who don’t have much (or any) history in building smartphone apps. Good apps are the exception — the Philips Hue app is one of the better ones out there, and even it’s a little wonky sometimes. Many of them are… real bad.

Bad apps get bad App Store reviews, and bad reviews dent sales. And even for those who dive in and buy it without checking the reviews first, bad apps means returned devices. According to this iQor survey from 2018, 22% of smart home customers give up and return the products before getting them to work.

“We kind of looked around and realized that 80% of all smart home apps have zero, one, or two stars on the app store,” Welinder tells me.

Knowing what’s working and what’s not with buyers is a strength of Kraftful’s approach; behind the scenes, they can run all sorts of analytics on how users are actually interacting with components in the apps they’re powering and adjust all of them accordingly. If they make a tweak to the setup process in one app, do more users actually get all the way through it? Great. Now roll that out everywhere.

“If you look at some of the leading smart lock apps, they all have very… very similar interfaces. They’ve basically gotten to a standardized user experience, but they’ve all be developed individually.” says Welinder. “So all of these companies are spending the resources designing and developing these apps, but they’re not getting the benefit of being standardized across the board and being able to leverage data from all of these apps to be able to improve them all at once”

Kraftful builds the app for both iOS and Android, tailors it to the brand’s needs, offers cloud functionality like push notifications and activity history, provides analytics for insights on how users are actually using an app, and keeps everything working as OS updates roll out and as device display sizes grow ever larger.

Of course, the entire concept of a dedicated app for a smart home device has some pretty fierce competition — between Apple’s Homekit and Google Home, the platform makers themselves seem pretty set on gobbling up much of the functionality. But most buyers still expect their shiny devices to have their own apps — something branded and purpose-built, something for the manual to point them to. Power users, meanwhile, will always want to do things beyond what the all-encompassing solutions like Homekit/Home are built for.

Folks at Google seem to agree with Kraftful’s approach, here — the team counts the Google Assistant Investments Program as one of the investors in the $1M they’ve raised. Other investors include YC, F7 Ventures, Cleo Capital, Julia Collins (co-founder of Zume Pizza and Planet Forward), Lukas Biewald (co-founder of CrowdFlower), Nicolas Pinto (co-founder of Perceptio), and a number of other angel investors.

Welinder tells me they’re already working with multiple companies to start powering their apps; NDAs prevent her from saying who, at this point, but she notes that they’re “some of the largest brands that provide smart lights, plugs/switches, thermostats, and other smart home products.”

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Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant team up in chilling teaser for 'The Undoing'



Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, HBO’s forthcoming limited series The Undoing sees Nicole Kidman as Grace Fraser, a therapist based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. After she becomes embroiled in a missing person’s case, a chain of catastrophic events force her to begin a new life alongside her young son (Noah Jupe).

Hugh Grant plays Grace Fraser’s husband, JonathanThe Undoing also stars Donald Sutherland, Lily Rabe, and Edgar Ramirez. The limited series is created by David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies), and premieres on HBO in May 2020. Read more…

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