Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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TikTok Reaches 3 Billion Downloads, the First Non-Facebook App to Do So

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TikTok App - Image by Nitish Gupta
TikTok App - Image by Nitish Gupta

TikTok has hit a major milestone, becoming the first mobile app outside of Facebook’s ecosystem to reach 3 billion downloads.

TikTok has been one of the fastest growing social media platforms, despite ongoing privacy concerns. The service has now become the first non-Facebook app to cross 3 billion downloads, according to SensorTower.

“With the 3 billion install milestone, TikTok is the fifth non-game app to join a tier that’s historically been the exclusive domain of Facebook,” writes Stephanie Chan, SensorTower Mobile Insights Strategist. “Based on worldwide installs from the App Store and Google Play and excluding pre-installed apps, the four other apps that have accrued more than 3 billion installs since January 2014 include WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram.”

The milestone is even more impressive when considering the pressure TikTok has been under, being banned in India and narrowly surviving a US attempt to ban it.

Dogecoin Creator Slams His Own Creation

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Dogecoin
Dogecoin

Dogecoin co-creator Jackson Palmer has slammed the cryptocurrency market, dashing hopes he might one day return to it.

Palmer co-created Dogecoin as a meme, although the currency has since gone on to become a major force in the crypto market. In fact, at one point Dogecoin was the fourth most valuable cryptocurrency.

Despite its success, and despite crypto’s reputation as a decentralized currency, Palmer has no intention of returning to the market and is now slamming it.

Palmer says the crypto market, rather than being decentralized, is actually controlled by a wealthy few.

Palmer’s commentary is likely to anger some and validate others, but is nonetheless a fascinating take on the crypto industry.

Netflix Hires Former EA Exec Mike Verdu to Lead Gaming Venture

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Video Game Controller - Image by Anton Porsche
Video Game Controller - Image by Anton Porsche

Netflix is looking to expand beyond TV and movies, hiring former Electronic Arts executive Mike Verdu to lead its video gaming endeavor.

Streaming platforms are increasingly looking for ways to expand their offerings and increase customer engagement. fuboTV is preparing to offer sports betting and Netflix is looking to expand into video gaming. 

To help it break into the highly competitive market, Netflix is hiring Mike Verdu as Vice President of Game Development, according to Bloomberg. In addition to EA, Verdu also worked as a vice president at Facebook, helping developers bring their gams to the company’s Oculus VR system.

Verdu should bring valuable insights and expertise to Netflix, giving it a major leg up in its efforts to break into the market.

Clubhouse Branching Out Into Direct Messaging

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Android Smartphone - Image by Niek Verlaan
Android Smartphone - Image by Niek Verlaan

Clubhouse is adding a much-requested feature, giving users the ability to direct message each other.

Clubhouse is the popular, invitation-only, audio-only social media platform. The app has gained users at a phenomenal rate, and has been a popular option among many tech icons.

The platform is now adding direct messaging, according to TechCrunch. The new feature, called Backchannel, allows users to send one-on-one messages, as well as group messages.

The feature is currently live on both iOS and Android.

Apple Increasing 2021 iPhone Production by 20%

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iPhone 11 Pro Production
iPhone 11 Pro Production

Apple appears to be gearing up for a significant increase in iPhone sales, raising its 2021 production by 20%.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has been fairly steady in recent years, ordering 75 million units a year for the period between a launch and the end of the year. With its next phone, however, the company is asking suppliers to build an initial run of up to 90 million.

The next version of the iPhone is not expected to be a revolutionary upgrade, but a rather modest evolutionary improvement. Nonetheless, Bloomberg reports that Apple expect post-pandemic demand to drive increased sales.

Apple is notoriously cautious about estimates and projections, and demand often outstrips supply. For the company to order 90 million units is a testament to how popular Apple expects the next iPhone to be.

Facebook Groups Will Be Able to Assign “Experts” to Combat Misinformation

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Facebook - Image by Gerd Altmann
Facebook - Image by Gerd Altmann

Facebook is taking another major step in its battle to combat misinformation, allowing groups to assign “experts.”

Misinformation has become one of the biggest challenges facing social media platforms. From elections to vaccines to current events, misinformation runs rampant on social media. Facebook, in particular, has faced accusations of not doing enough to combat it.

The company is adding a major new feature that will allow groups to appoint experts, according to CNET. The experts will have a badge next to their name, which will inform other users of their expertise.

Facebook hopes having experts in groups will help combat misinformation, providing a bit more accountability within groups, rather than them being a complete free-for-all.

Ring Rolls Out Video End-to-End Encryption

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Ring Camera
Ring Camera

Ring has announced end-to-end encryption is now available to customers internationally.

Ring made headlines in late 2019 with a string of security issues, including devices being hacked and giving outsiders the ability to watch and communicate with a home’s occupants. VICE reviewed Ring’s security and found it was abysmal, not doing nearly enough to protect user privacy. Ultimately, the issues led to a lawsuit over Amazon and Ring’s failure to protect users.

Ring has now announced end-to-end encryption for its products, with a goal to protecting user privacy.

“We believe that our customers should control who sees their videos,” writes Ring’s Josh Roth. “By default, Ring already encrypts customer videos when they are uploaded to the cloud (in transit) and stored on Ring’s servers (at rest). Now, customers around the world, with eligible Ring devices, can opt into video End-to-End Encryption, to add an extra layer of security that only allows their videos to be viewed on their enrolled mobile device. This advanced security option is simple to set up via the Control Center in the Ring App, and offers additional peace of mind and protection.”

While Ring is to be commended for finally adding end-to-end encryption, it’s puzzling why the company has made it opt-in instead of opt-out. Given the issues Ring has already experienced, one would think the company would take every measure possible to protect users, while giving them the ability to opt-out.

Android 12 Supports Google Play Instant

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Google Play Store - Image by Markus Winkler
Google Play Store - Image by Markus Winkler

Google has announced that Android 12 now supports Google Play Instant, a feature that allows users to run apps before they’ve finished downloading.

Virtually every mobile user has experienced trying to downloading a large app or game and having to wait on a slow data connection before running it. Google hopes to address that with Google Play Instant, a new feature that lets apps and games run before they’re completely downloaded.

Developers can start implementing the feature immediately, as long as they’re using the Android Studio 3.3 beta release.

With Google Play Instant, people can use an app or game without installing it first. Increase engagement with your Android app or gain more installs by surfacing your instant app across the Play Store and Google Play Games app.

Developers can get started here.

BEUC File Complaint Against WhatsApp Over Privacy Update

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WhatsApp Icon - Image by Alfredo Rivera
WhatsApp Icon - Image by Alfredo Rivera

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has filed a complaint over WhatsApp’s privacy update.

Facebook and WhatsApp sparked a furor over a proposed privacy update, in which Facebook would share data from WhatsApp with other Facebook-owned companies. Initially, Facebook said users would be locked out of their accounts if they did not accept the new terms by a certain date.

The backlash was swift and severe, with many WhatsApp users (including yours truly) closing their accounts. Signal and Telegram, in particular, saw huge increases in their user bases as a result of Facebook’s plans. Facebook postponed the cutoff deadline in response, before finally saying they would not close accounts that did not accept the new terms.

Despite Facebook walking back its position, the BEUC has filed a complaint, according to SFGate. The BEUC has accused WhatsApp of bombarding users with prompts to accept the new terms, and says the service has not been clear or transparent regarding the terms of the new agreement.

“WhatsApp has been bombarding users for months with aggressive and persistent pop-up messages to force them to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy,” BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said. “They’ve been telling users that their access to their app will be cut off if they do not accept the new terms. Yet consumers don’t know what they’re actually accepting.”

The complaint is the latest setback Facebook has faced, and is further demonstration of the increasing importance of privacy to consumers.

iCloud Outage Impacting Users

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iCloud Over Apple Park
iCloud Over Apple Park

Apple has confirmed an issue with iCloud, following reports of people not being able to log in or retrieve email.

iCloud is Apple’s suite of cloud-based tools that includes email. Monday morning, reports of issues started spiking on Downdector.com, with users reporting issues logging into iCloud and checking email.

Apple System Status Page

Apple’s System Status page confirms there are issues with iCloud email, although the issues do not seem to be impacting all users. It appears mitigation efforts are already working, as Downdetector reports are also dropping.

Downdetector iCloud Issues