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Showing posts from November, 2017

There are now 25M active business profiles on Instagram

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Instagram announced this morning that it now has 25 million active business profiles, up from 15 million in July. The company throws out a lot of different statistics (back in September it said it had 800 million monthly active users, 500 million daily active users and 2 million advertisers), but this one’s significant as a measure of how many businesses see Instagram as an important way to connect with customers. Instagram also says that more than 80 percent of Instagram accounts follow a business, with 200 million users visiting a business profile every day. The growth is impressive since Instagram only launched these business profiles — which allow for more functionality in the profile itself, as well as access to additional analytics — about a year and a half ago. Vishal Shah, director of product for Instagram Business, said that nearly 50 percent of business profiles don’t link to an outside website, suggesting that they see Instagram as their primary or sole online presence. Busine…

Volvo’s car subscription service sounds like good way to get the new XC40

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Volvo has a subscription car service, whereby you can get a new vehicle for a flat monthly fee, including insurance, maintenance and service. It’s not the first carmaker to provide this kind of ownership alternative, but it may have the best deal in the business at the moment, with its ‘Care by Volvo’ exclusively for the new XC40 SUV. The deal works thusly: Pay a monthly fee starting $600 per month, and you get the 2019 XC40, with a range of nice options and upgrades available if you’re willing to pay a bit more. That subscription price includes everything – vehicle insurance, regular service, and even maintenance fees. You just handle the local taxes, along with any state required registration fees, and you also pay for gas. Based on my current lease, this sounds like a pretty fantastic deal, given that the trim level you’re getting at $600 per month costs $35,200 to purchase outright, and that’s without taking into consideration any maintenance or insurance and financing fees. The XC40…

Apple TV App Adds Sports Section in Latest Betas Ahead of iOS 11.2 Launch

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Earlier this month, a report indicated that Apple was planning on rolling out the sports section to the TV app in December, which would bring live sports coverage to the first-party service. And, sure enough, that looks like it will be the case. According to folks running the latest betas of iOS 11.2 and tvOS 11.2, which Apple seeded yesterday, the sports section within the official Apple TV app is now live. It’s a dedicated tab at the bottom of the app, so it will go between the “Watch Now” and “Library” tabs for easy access. Apple wants the new sports section to work as the go-to source for an Apple user’s favorite teams. That means you’ll get notified when your team is about to start playing, live scores, game updates, and the TV app will also make it possible to watch multiple games at the same time. And Apple showcased back in September that the TV app will show live scores and time remaining for other games while you are watching within the app. You will be able to use the TV app t…

Expect GM Cruise self-driving vehicles to arrive in ‘quarters, not years’

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GM and Cruise are still reluctant to put any specific timeframes on their plans for self-driving vehicle deployment, but the company is getting a bit more specific about its intent to bring self-driving to market. It wants to do so only when it can manage it safely, at scale, and in busy urban markets where it’ll have the largest impact, according to GM President Dan Ammann – and while major hurdles remain in terms of being able to technically achieve that, he says we should think about it in terms of “quarters, not years.” That’s a statement he made in reference to achieving the company’s goals of launching commercially, and doing at a scale where it becomes “a really significant percentage of how people get around,” citing the fact that even today ride sharing in general accounts for a relatively small percentage of overall transportation and car use. GM and Cruise want to change that with automated driving – and deliver it through use of fully electric cars exclusively, too. The ‘qua…

Airbnb launches payment splitting for group trips

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In February of this year, Airbnb acquired social payments startup Tilt. Today, the fruits of that acquisition are being passed along to Airbnb users. Starting now, Airbnb users have the ability to split payments with their fellow travelers. Before now, one traveler was forced to front the cost of the trip and hope that their friends/colleagues/family were responsible enough to pay them back in a timely fashion. Payment splitting will work with up to 16 travelers, offering plenty of flexibility for large groups who travel together. Airbnb says that 30 percent of reservations booked with the payments splitting tool (which has been in testing), led to one or more new users on Airbnb. So, while this is a useful feature for users, it’s also a growth tool for Airbnb. On Christmas Day in 2016, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky asked users what features they want most on Airbnb. According to the company, payment splitting was one of the top requests in response to the tweet. As part of the announcement, Air…

Adobe previews new Photoshop feature that uses AI to select subjects

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While Photoshop users have gotten pretty damn good at masking humans and other subjects over the years, it still remains one of the most tedious tasks in the app. But the days of Magic Wand masking will soon be over. Adobe today teased an upcoming feature that uses AI to identify and automatically mask subjects in the image. The feature is called Select Subject and it uses Adobe’s AI platform, Sensei. From the “Select and Mask” menu, simply click anywhere on the image and it will automatically identify and select the various subjects in the image. From there, the same tools to change the background or edit the subject are available. Adobe teased the feature in a video, saying that it will be available in the next iteration of Photoshop. That said, there’s no timeline for Photoshop future releases. As Engadget notes, the Select Subject tool isn’t perfect and still has some trouble identifying fine details like strands of hair, but it should get better over time as the machine learning algor…

Baidu and Xiaomi are working together on internet of things and artificial intelligence

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Baidu, China’s answer to Google, and Xiaomi, which has modeled itself on the success of the America’s most successful technology manufacturer in Apple, have announced a strategic partnership to tackle two emerging technologies, internet of things and artificial intelligence. Announced today at Xiaomi’s first developer conference in Beijing, the alliance is a marriage between the third most valuable publicly traded Chinese technology company in Baidu and one of the world’s most valuable private firms, Xiaomi. Clocking in with a market capitalization of $86 billion, Baidu is no slouch on the global technology stage — with AI and deep learning among its core focuses — while Xiaomi has become a key player in China and made inroads in emerging markets like India thanks to its affordable phones and smart devices which punch well above their price tag. The duo are announcing a collaboration for the first time, but TechCrunch understands that Baidu’s conversational operating system — DuerOS — is…

StrideUp wants to help you buy a portion of your home

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StrideUp, a U.K. startup founded last year by Sakeeb Zaman and Rohan Trivedi, both formerly of Deutsche Bank, wants to make shared home ownership more readily available within the private housing sector. The company, which launched in the summer, lets you buy a portion of your home while you continue to rent the remainder. The idea, Trivedi tells me, is to provide an alternative to a mortgage, a form of financing that is increasingly out of reach for many. Citing official figures from 2016, the StrideUp co-founder says that house prices in the U.K. are an average 7.6 times the average annual salary, more than double the figure for 20 years ago. Conversely, average mortgage amounts offered to first time buyers sit at just 3.6 times salary. Shared ownership — where you and your landlord both own a percentage of the home you live in — is one solution to this problem. As and when you can afford to purchase more, you increase your stake at the current market valuation (and, in turn, reduce yo…

Senators introduce revenge porn bill

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Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as well as Rep. Jackie Speier introduced a bill today to address revenge porn. The bill, Ending Nonconsenual Online User Graphic Harassment (ENOUGH) Act of 2017, is designed to address the unwanted sharing of private, explicit images. The ENOUGH Act would specifically ensure the Department of Justice has tools in place to address revenge porn, and establish federal criminal liability for those who share revenge porn and other consensual images. In order to prosecute someone under the ENOUGH Act, there would need to be proof that the person knew the victim expected the image to remain private, and that sharing the image would harm the victim. “A prosecution would also have to prove that no reasonable person would consider the shared image to touch on a matter of public concern,” the release states. This bill comes after Rep. Speier introduced a version of the bill, the intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2016, …

Mobile application testing service HeadSpin launches from stealth

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HeadSpin, a mobile application testing service, launched today to give developers a one-stop shop for quality assurance and control for mobile application development. The company’s co-founder and chief executive, Manish Lachwani, knows the mobile appspace better than almost anyone. The former co-founder and chief technology officer of Appurify (which Google bought), Lachwani previously served as the CTO of game developer Zynga and was a principal architect of the Amazon Kindle — developing the first Kindle OS. At Appurify, Lachwani was one of the first to use hosted software to test automation with real devices, and the company’s subsequent acquisition by Google helped pave the way for in-house testing services that enabled Google developers to move faster and break fewer things, the company said. ““No one was enabling developers with automated real world testing, pre-release. All the attention was on post-launch monitoring and testing. In addition, testing and performance management so…

The Nordic Web launches an Angel fund to find the region’s under-the-radar startups

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The Nordic Web, a research and analysis company which specialises in covering data on tech companies emerging out of the Nordic region, has started a new Angel fund. The fund will invest across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Founder Neil Murray says ‘The Nordic Web Angel Fund’ plans to invest in 10-15 Nordic startups over the next 12 months. He claims this would make it one of the most active funds in the region. LPs backing the venture include some high profile names from the region such as Thomas Madsen-Mygdal (TwentyThree), Linda Liakus (Hello Ruby) and Johan Brand (Kahoot!) as well as VC investors from around Europe, such as Martin Mignot (Index Ventures), Christoph Janz (Point Nine Capital) and Philipp Moehring and Andy Chung (both of AngelList Europe). Murray says he has secured over 50 LPs backers with mix of location, gender and experience. A full list is here. In a statement he said: “By leveraging the expertise and knowledge of our investors in the fund, we can of…

Amazon debuts Elemental-based AWS Media Services for video app creation

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Video is what consumers are paying attention to these days, and Amazon’s AWS is hoping to capitalise on that with one of its latest launches. Doubling down on its video services for media companies, app publishers — and actually any other organization that has considered launching a video service — Amazon today announced a new suite of five video processing tools as part of AWS Media Services, cloud-based tools to help build, service and monetise video streams. The new launch puts it into competition to some extent with the likes of Google’s YouTube and its efforts to work with media companies and other creators to build and host live streams and ad-based videos. Interesting timing, given all the negative press YouTube has had over the kind of content that it’s been hosting over the years. The company also appears to refer to the product AWS Elemental Media Services. The “Elemental” in the name comes from AWS’s video business, formed largely on the back of its acquisition of Elemental T…

Imgur says 1.7M emails and passwords were breached in 2014 hack

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Image-hosting site turned meme social network, Imgur, is the latest tech service to ‘fess up to a security breach. In a blog post Friday it revealed that hackers had compromised its systems in 2014, with ~1.7M emails and passwords affected. No additional information was apparently compromised in the breach. “Imgur has never asked for real names, addresses, phone numbers, or other personally-identifying information (“PII”), so the information that was compromised did NOT include such PII,” it emphasizes. While the hack occurred three years ago, Imgur says it only came to light on November 23 — when it was contacted by security researcher, Troy Hunt, who had been sent the stolen data as a consequence of running the haveibeenpwned data breach notification service. Hunt has since tweeted to confirm that the majority of the stolen credentials were already in his  database (although he appears to have tweeted the wrong date for the Imgur hack): Imgur hasn’t confirmed how the breach occurred as y…

Bitcoin is over $9,000

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Well, it’s over $9,000. Even as you recoup from attempting to explain Bitcoin to your family over the Thanksgiving dinner table, the value of the cryptocurrency is growing at an increasingly hefty pace. As of the time of this writing, the value of a single Bitcoin was above $9,143, climbing nearly 6 points in the past 24 hours. At a certain point, news of clearing these incremental price hurdles are going to get old, but given the increasing speed in which Bitcoin prices are knocking through these barriers and hitting all-time-highs, it seems relevant to chronicle the march towards $10,000 at least. The cryptocurrency currently has a market cap north of $152 billion. via coinmarketcap.com My colleague Fitz Tepper said the case for Bitcoin at $10k was pretty strong by year’s endwhen it hit $8,000 just six days ago, but at this rate perhaps its more relevant to wonder how close to $15k the cryptocurrency will get in 2017 before the rate of investment at least cools.

OnePlus 5T makes the best deal in smartphones even better

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Three years and seven phones later, it’s hard to argue with OnePlus’s methods. That’s not to say it hasn’t made its share of missteps along the way (it definitely has), but the company has produced quality phones at affordable prices basically since day one. OnePlus’s whole “never settle” tagline is less about offering up handsets that live on the bleeding edge than it is giving smartphone buyers the bet bang for their buck. It’s an increasingly important service as flagships start to push right up against the $1,000 mark. User feedback has always been an important piece of OnePlus’s business model. The company fostered initial interest through an activity message board and an invite-only system, and much of that connection appears to still be intact, seven phones in. The company didn’t rush to include any features on the 5T — many like Portrait Mode and the 18:9 aspect ratio have already been a staple in flagship smartphones for six months or a year. The company makes no bones about wai…