My least favorite part of Snapchat is mistakenly opening a video Snap when I can’t hear it, like in a noisy public place or when my sound is off. Snapchat tried to address that today with an experimental new Replay feature that lets you rewatch one old Snap per day. But by fixing that problem it created a much bigger one. It killed off some of its ephemerality.
A lot of the excitement and urgency of Snapchat stems from the fact that you only get one shot to look at a Snap. That means you have to pay close attention and be fully engaged.
But with Replay, you can be lazy. Once a day you can re-view a Snap a second time if you don’t close the app or get another Snap first. “Oh, that looked funny. Wow, they looked sexy. I’ll watch it again.”
It’s not quite the “forever” of Facebook’s Timeline, but suddenly I’m a bit more self-conscious of what I send. Did I line up the shot right? Does my stupid hair look ok?
A big draw of Snapchat was that once someone had viewed your Snap, it only lived on in their imperfect memory. That made sending them carefree and lightweight — something I’d do without second guessing what could happen. That encouraged the silly and racy behavior Snapchat thrives on, and set it apart from other photo sharing services that create a permanent record you have to worry about.
Now whoever I send a Snap to can verify their first impression, show it to someone else, or get a second camera or phone out and secretly screenshot it. This makes sexting with Snapchat a lot more risky. Who wants to flash their jubblies if they have to worry they’ll get replayed in front of a crowd or a camera?
There are certainly times when the Replay feature could come in handy, but the whole feature is poorly designed right now. There’s no explanation of how it works, you have to enable it in the buried Manage Additional Services menu, and then it’s not at all intuitive that turning it on means you can replay Snaps, not that your recipients can. In fact, you can’t prevent your recipients from replaying your pics and vids.
Snapchat deviated slightly from its self-destructing style in October with the Stories feature. It lets you share a Snap publicly or with friends that can be viewed an unlimited number of times for the next 24 hours, and then it’s gone. But with Stories, it’s the sender who chooses to make a Snap viewable multiple times, whereas Replay hands that immense power to the recipient.
If Snapchat wanted to help you avoid missing the sound in a video, it could tell you whether a Snap you’ve received is a photo or video before you open it. [Update: Or at least do it more clearly, as I didn't even realize red Snaps are photos and purple Snaps are videos] If it wanted to keep you from accidentally slipping and starting the timer on a Snap you then don’t, it could make you double-tap-and-hold or swipe-and-hold to open a Snap.
Instead, it broke the core mechanic that’s the foundation of its budding social empire. CEO Evan Spiegel better be dead certain this is the right move, or he should remove the Replay feature before Snapchat’s ephemerality itself vanishes.
Snapchat Adds Filters, A Replay Function And For Whatever Reason, Time, Temperature And Speed Overlays
Snapchat busted out an update to its app today just before the holidays. The new version of the ephemeral messaging app includes several color filters, a new ‘special text’ font and a few other additions.
The main update is the ‘visual filters’ that will add juiced up color effects to your images. If you’re stumped at how to activate them it is likely because you are not a teen. It took me 10 minutes to figure out that you have to swipe from right to left to trigger the filters. You’ve got 3 filters including two color and one black & white to choose from.
Bizarrely, the update also adds 3 ‘smart filters’ which overlay the time your image was taken, the temperature when it was taken and — get this — how fast you were going when you shot it, in MPH. I foresee a whole new sport being made of snaps being sent at the highest possible speeds.
There’s also now a larger Helvetica font to choose from. You can activate this — also obscurely — by tapping again on the text entry box when you’re typing out a message.
There’s a front-facing flash option now as well, which flashes white on the screen while you shoot, lightening up those selfies. You can now also choose up to 7 best friends if you choose. All of these options are enabled under the Settings>Additional Services>Manage section and none of them add a single additional indicating UI element to the interface.
There’s also a Replay option, which lets you re-view snaps once a day if you have it enabled. This seems to go against some of the major point of Snapchat, which is that messages are once-only briefs that are ‘gone forever’ once you’ve seen them. You can only replay the most recent image or video in your stream — but it’s opt-in by the recipient, not the sender. So if you get sent a snap you can now view it up to twice whether the sender wants you to or not.
Still, it’s a limited use option — you can only do it once per day. And this could help if your finger was covering an important bit in the image or if you missed a video clip because you thought it was a still image.
Snapchat has been experimenting with less and less ephemeral content with its ‘Stories’ feature, which lets people see your images as many times as they want for a 24 hour period. Our writer Josh Constine has more analysis on how Replay kills off some of Snapchat’s ephemerality.
Snapchat continues to have some of the worst feature discoverability and user experience in any consumer app that I use regularly — but maybe that’s sort of the point? And perhaps because these functions are experimental maybe the UI will get a bit of polish once they’re ‘real’ features. The app is still a lot of fun, but I wish the design held up a bit better under use. Anyhow, snappers should have some more options over their winter break.
For more on Snapchat’s big update, read Snapchat Sacrifices Ephemerality With New Replay Feature
In a letter posted on the Chinese bitcoin trading site BTC China CEO Bobby Lee attempted to calm the markets by posting a long, detailed description of the way forward for the company. “As China’s first Bitcoin and Bitcoin trading platform company, we have more than two and half years of operating experience and a good reputation,” he wrote. ”I believe you love Bitcoin and will fully understand our decision.”
Lee also clarified that the ban on RMB deposits is temporary and that the People’s Bank Of China saw bitcoin markets as similar to any commodity market and that “ordinary people have the freedom to participate in them at their own risk.” He also announced a number of improvements and changes to the platform aimed at retaining customers.
The company announced a new product called “Currency Lock” that stores bitcoin in “cold storage” with “bank-level” security. Commentators see this as a move to prevent a bitcoin sell-off by skittish investors who could see their wallets disappear while they wait out the RMB ban. They have also added a 0.3% transaction fee to all deposits and withdrawals to discourage rampant bitcoin conversion or transfers and to prevent large accounts from buying or selling speculatively.
In short, it’s business as usual at BTC China, but with a few caveats. The company recently closed a $5 million Series A round from institutional investors Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. BTC China was bootstrapped prior to this round, with money put in by its three co-founders, Bobby Lee, Linke Yang, and Xiaoyu Huang. The closure of RMB deposits by the People’s Bank Of China this week precipitated a 50% decline in the currency which has stabilized at about $700 on Mt. Gox.
When Kiip announced last week that that it’s powering rewards in Zepto Labs’ popular Cut the Rope mobile games, co-founder and CEO Brian Wong said it didn’t share one of the key details (because, uh, reasons) — that this is the debut of a new Kiip product called Challenges.
The company is best-known for allowing advertisers to sponsor rewards in games and other apps at key moments, say when players beat a level. With Challenges, instead of just giving each user a reward, brands can run contests and sweepstakes and give prizes to the winners. For example, Wong said Cut the Rope players will have a chance to win plush toys today (and you’ll see them on the Kiip rewards site tomorrow).
That concept may sound familiar to readers who have been following Kiip, because it first started offering these types of user contests about two years ago, through a product called Swarm. (At the time, Wong told me that Swarm would allow Kiip to enlist advertisers in new industries like automotive, where “you can’t give away a million cars.”) Since then, however, Kiip has been relatively quiet about Swarm — Wong told me this week that the product is doing fine, but it’s really meant to be integrated with games, and he’s been spending more time talking up Kiip’s efforts to bring rewards to other non-gaming apps, such as Any.Do, 8Tracks, and Recipe Search.
Challenges are supposed to address several of the main limitations to Swarms. For one thing, they could only be activated at a specific point in the game, which meant that if a player wanted another chance to win the prize, they’d have to go back and play that same level again. Now, however, Wong said that contests can now be “run dynamically” on any game level. He also said they can now be triggered server-side, which means they can be updated more easily, without requiring any changes to the software development kit.
Even though Wong describes Challenges as a specific product within the broader umbrella of Kiip’s Swarms, he also suggested that all Swarm campaigns would have access to the new features. This might seem like a pedantic point, but honestly, going back-and-forth with Wong about the relationship between the two products made me a little nuts. So I asked Wong why he didn’t just call it Swarm 2.0 (or, you know, something like that), and he replied, “That’s great feedback. Challenges just stuck. We might rename it.”
In a deliciously detailed post, security writer Brian Krebs has explained the path taken by credit card numbers stolen in the Target breach on their way to the carder black market. Krebs has far more information in his post but he’s discovered that some card shops have created Target-only sections for the trove of numbers.
Krebs described visiting a particularly infamous card shop where he and an anonymous bank representative found sets of cards belonging to a “base” called Tortuga. In carder slang, a base is simply a source of cards. And Tortuga cards, according to Krebs, belonged to a set of numbers stolen from target stores. Amazingly, many of the cards included zip code or state data, thereby circumventing the fraud protections, as many banks automatically treat out-of-state card purchases as suspect.
How quickly did customer react on hearing about the breach? Clearly not fast enough:
Should you be worried? If you shopped in a physical Target store and swiped your credit or debit card there between November 27 and December 15, then the answer is “Yes.” However, thieves cannot fully recreate your card and, say, withdraw cash from your account or make an online purchase. Target media representative Molly Snyder wrote:
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel said that customers can enjoy a brief discount on everything at the store as well as free credit monitoring for a year.
The small bank Krebs assisted in the exploration of the carder site will probably re-issue all 5,300 of its customer’s cards after Christmas. That just leaves thirty-nine million nine hundred ninety-four thousand seven hundred more cards to check for fraud.
Hello, future IKEA Swedish meatballs! How are you this Friday? Ready to be torn to bits by sharp, gnashing, robotic teeth? I bet you are. In this exciting edition of TIDWRTWHUFOO we meet some tiny flying robots, some big climbing robots, and some bigger flying robots.
First, say hello to the DelFly Explorer. This teeny weenie little flying robot weighs 4 grams – as much as four sheets of paper – and flies autonomously around the room using on-board computing and vision to keep the robot from crashing into anything. All of the processing power is on board the ultralight robot and it moves by flapping its funny little wings. But don’t let it hear you calling it funny. It will cut you. You can learn more about it here.
Think you can escape from the DelFly by climbing a tree? Not so fast, buster. Take a look at RiSE from Boston Dynamics, a six-legged robot that can climb walls, hump over ledges, and even jump from tree to tree. It’s a little old, but it tells you just what Google has in store for us when we get out of line in the woods.
Finally we see these exciting flying robots that self-right themselves when they’re thrown in the air. The InstantEye from PSITactical is a tool for creating instant vantage points above a scene without having to take the time to launch devices into the air. I can also imagine them self-righting after we smack at them with baseball bats. Again… and again… and again.
Today Reuters reported that the NSA paid RSA, a security company and subsidiary of EMC, $10 million to use a flawed random generator technology as the “preferred” option in its BSafe software, increasing its popularity.
In September of this year, the New York Times reported that the NSA was working to, in its own words, “break widely used Internet encryption technologies.” That the NSA wanted to get past encryption was not surprising.
How far along it was, however, came as a shock. An NSA memo was blunt in its assessment of its own progress: “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”
After being implicated in the NSA’s efforts to get around encryption, RSA told its customers that they should stop using the flawed algorithm. As the Wall Street Journal reported at that time, the warning was “one of the first instances of a security company acknowledging the U.S. government may have been involved in propping open a backdoor into a product.”
Reuters’ revelation that the NSA had paid RSA $10 million to use the flawed algorithm changes the discussion. Instead of the NSA being some sort of evil mastermind, bent on making popular security standards obsolete, it was instead buying its way into companies.
And for small sums to boot. Who wants to wager that this is the only time the NSA paid a security company to use flawed code that it prefers so that it can better beat back encryption?
And if it can get a company with as long a history as RSA to bend so far to its quarter for a mere ten million dollars, the NSA could have bought any sort of access and influence that it wanted.
Depressing, but probably true.
Top Image Credit: Flickr
Facebook said this afternoon that it has priced its previously-announced secondary offering of 70 million shares of Class A stock at $55.05 per share. At this price, some $3.85 billion in stock will be offered in the sale. The offering is expected to close on December 26th.
Facebook also said that Standard & Poor’s has officially added Facebook’s stock to the venerated ranks of the S&P 500 Index, as of market close today.
Here’s the breakdown of where the 70 million shares are coming from: “A total of 27,004,761 shares are being offered by Facebook, and a total of 42,995,239 shares are being offered by certain selling stockholders, including 41,350,000 shares offered by Mark Zuckerberg.” Facebook says that the money it makes in the sale will be utilized for “working capital and other general corporate purposes.”
It’s important to note that Zuckerberg’s participation in this stock sale does not mean that he’s cashing out of the company he helped found. This week Zuckerberg exercised a stock option to purchase 60 million shares of Class B stock, and Facebook says that the bulk of proceeds from his Class A sale will be used to “satisfy taxes that he incurred” with the Class B purchase. CEO problems, I guess.
In this week’s episode of Ask A VC, we had GGV Capital’s Glenn Solomon in the studio to talk about the developing technology market in China, and his predictions for 2014.
Solomon, who has taken 32 trips to China in the past eight years, tells me in our interview that developing for the Chinese market is completely different than developing for the Western markets. And any U.S. company that wants to expand to China has to be aware of this, and take into account these differences when introducing a product in China.
Solomon explains, “Several years ago, VCs thought they would create the blank of China, and a company that was successful here would work in China. But China is unique and the way you grow and start companies there has to be local.”
Solomon also made his predictions for the IPO market in 2014, investing changes and more.
Windows Phone, Microsoft’s smartphone platform has ground out its place at the mobile table employing a combination of tenacity, marketing dollars, improving firmware, and, at last, a world-class device lineup.
It has not been an easy road for Microsoft, who launched Windows Phone 7 Series straight from the ashes of Kin, a time in which your uncle had more credibility in the mobile market. It came to the public nearly 2 years before Windows 8 did the same, for perspective.
And yet, following the release of Windows Phone 8 at the end of last year, along with new hardware from Nokia that could match, at last, rival devices, Windows Phone has outlasted BlackBerry, made market share progress, bolstered its app store depth, and has more or less become the accepted third place mobile platform.
Or, as Paul Thurrott wrote recently, “We’re number three. And no, that doesn’t suck.” But is that right?
It is something like vindication to see Windows Phone walk on its own two feet. If you were around when user interface experiments landed on Zune helped set the groundwork for much of Windows Phone’s GUI, there is a historical element at play in this narrative.
And, personally, I loved the idea behind Windows Phone the first time we got a taste, eventually calling for Microsoft to release a Windows Phone tablet in the pre-Windows 8 days. They did, but they called it Surface.
Still, we need to be careful. That Microsoft has answered the ”can we beat BlackBerry and become an accepted mobile player” question aside, most of its work still remains ahead of the company.
As Thurrott notes, Windows Phone ended 2012 with 2.8% global market share. It is concluding 2013 with 3.6%, a mere 28.57% increase in a year that we in the media are generally heralding as pivotal in the best possible sense for the company.
So, what gives? The mobile market is growing, and while Windows Phone is growing more quickly — hence its market share improvements — it is hardly tearing up the charts, and Android is increasingly taking on the mantle of smartphone hegemon.
Thurrott details the precise issue that I think could constrain Windows Phone’s forward momentum, perhaps lowering a ceiling onto to how far it can grow in 2014 and beyond:
2013 was, alas, the year that Android became the Windows of the mobile world. Android surpassed 80 percent market share in Q3, which was a big story.
I completely agree with the above.
Here’s a question that you should have an answer to: If Android can show up late to Apple’s game, and utterly crush its market share around the world, what chance does the scrappy, and far smaller Windows Phone have?
It depends on what we decide to call success. Surely 5% market share is not success for Microsoft. 10% could be, but Apple won’t cede that space, and still builds the best smartphone hardware, while Android has been all but unstoppable in recent years. I again agree with Thurrott here, who says “Windows Phone needs double digit market share globally before we can truly declare success.”
So, where to next is my question for Windows Phone. If it manages another year of 28% market share growth, it will end 2014 with around 4.6% share of the global smartphone market. That’s soft, and won’t provide enough increased unit volume to really get developers excited.
So, Microsoft needs to greatly accelerate its unit volume to at once lower the gap between it and Apple — this would greatly drive developer interest, I think — and manage to slow Android before it becomes not just the de facto mobile smartphone platform, but merely that in fact.
So while we have seen a great year for Windows Phone, its new targets will be harder to mark than BlackBerry. In fact, you could very easily make the argument that Windows Phone’s ascent is almost the result of BlackBerry’s implosion, lessening its implicit internal momentum.
It is without a doubt that this moment is the healthiest we have ever seen Windows Phone. But as we shift the perspective from which we view it from the bottom up to the top down, scale changes, and we must now treat the platform as the want-to-be big player that it now is.
Top Image Credit: Flickr