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Zyl is now a nostalgia-powered photo app

AI-powered photo management app Zyl is going back to the drawing board with a streamlined, more efficient redesign. The app is now focused on one thing only — resurfacing your old memories. Taking photos on a smartphone is now a daily habit. But what about looking back at photos you took one year, three years or even eight years ago? It can pile up quite quickly. Zyl thinks there’s emotional value in those long-forgotten photos. Before this update, Zyl helped you delete duplicates, create smart photo albums based on multiple criteria and collaborate on photo albums. In other words, it was a utility app. But when the company started talking with some of their users, they realized that one feature stood out and had more value than the rest. Applying those AI-powered models to your photo library is a great way to find interesting photos. But nobody was really looking at them. When you open the app, you get a view of your camera roll with your last photos at the bottom. There’s also a big green button at the bottom. When you tap on it, Zyl creates a satisfying animation and unveils an important photo. If you took multiple photos to capture this moment, the app stitches together those photos and create a GIF. You can then share this Zyl with a friend or family member. But the true magic happens if you try to get another Zyl. You have to wait 24 hours to unlock another photo. The next day, the app sends you a notification when your photo is ready. You can always open the app again and look at your past Zyls in a new tab with your most important photos. Unlike Timehop or Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, Zyl doesn’t look at your social media posts and focuses on your camera roll. Zyl isn’t limited to anniversaries either. Just like before, Zyl respects your privacy and leaves your photos alone. They’re never sent to the company’s server — Zyl uses the same photo database as the native one on your iPhone or Android phone so…

Relike lets you turn a Facebook page into a newsletter

French startup Ownpage has recently released a new product called Relike. Relike is one of the easiest ways to get started with email newsletters. You enter the web address of your Facebook page and that’s about it. The company automatically pulls your most recent posts from your Facebook page and lets you set up an emailing campaign in a few clicks. You can either automatically pick your most popular Facebook posts or manually select a few posts. Just like any emailing service, you can choose between multiple templates, decide the day of the week and time of the day, import a database of email addresses and more. If you’ve used Mailchimp in the past, you’ll feel right at home. But the idea isn’t to compete directly with newsletter services. Many social media managers, media organizations, small companies, nonprofits and sports teams already have a Facebook page but aren’t doing anything on the email front. Relike is free if you send less than 2,000 emails per month and don’t need advanced features. If you want to get open rates, click-through rates and other features, you’ll need to pay €5 per month and €0.50 every time you send 1,000 emails. The company’s other product Ownpage is a bit different. Ownpage has been working with media organizations to optimize their email newsletters. The company is tracking reading habits on a news site and sending personalized email newsletters. This way, readers will get tailored news and will more likely come back to your site. Many big French news sites use Ownpage for their newsletters, such as Les Echos, L’Express, 20 Minutes, BFM TV, Le Parisien, etc. Ownpage founder and CEO Stéphane Cambon told me that Relike was the obvious second act. Using browsing data for customized newsletters is one thing, but many talented social media managers know how to contextualize stories and maximize clicks (even if it means clickbait, sure). The startup was looking at a way to get this data, and ended up creating Relike, which could appeal to customers beyond news organizations. For now, both products will stick around. In the future,…

Berkanan is a Bluetooth-powered group messaging app

A new messaging app is looking to give folks a way to communicate in situations with poor or no cellular connectivity. Berkanan, founded by Zsombor Szabó, is a group messaging app that uses Bluetooth to send and receive messages. This means that Berkanan works in a plane, at a festival, camping, or anywhere else where cellular coverage is disappointing. Imagine people on a plane asking each other for top movie recommendations from the in-flight entertainment system, or folks at a festival figuring out a rally point to meet up between sets. Public messages auto-delete after 24 hours. Alongside group messaging, Berkanan also allows private one-to-one messaging, as well as audio calls placed over Bluetooth. The range for these calls and messages is about 50 meters, but if there are people between you and your intended recipient with the app installed, Berkanan can send messages further by going through other users devices. Berkanan will also show users if they are getting closer or further away from the user they’re messaging with, without ever showing either person’s exact location. Group chatting with strangers in your location might seem a bit icky at first glance, but group chatting with strangers is essentially the basis of Twitter. With Berkanan, however, a common location replaces the #topic. Berkanan is entirely bootstrapped, but Szabo has implemented a somewhat unconventional method of generating revenue. Inspired by games like Fortnite, which make money off of custom skins, dances, and other virtual items, Berkanan will charge users to edit their profile. When a user logs on, their profile will consist of the name they assigned to their iPhone and their profile picture will be their initials, similar to the iOS Contacts interface. Users can pay to add their own profile picture and add a short bio to their profile. To be clear, it’s already possible to send SMS via Bluetooth. But Berkanan offers a way to broadcast that message to everyone (with the app) in your location. Of course, user acquisition is critical for the app, which is why Szabó is considering ways for the enterprise to take advantage…

Facebook poisons the acquisition well

Who should you sell your startup to? Facebook and the founders of its former acquisitions are making a strong case against getting bought by Mark Zuckerberg and Co. After a half-decade of being seen as one of the most respectful and desired acquirers, a series of scandals has destroyed the image of Facebook’s M&A division. That could make it tougher to convince entrepreneurs to sell to Facebook, or force it to pay higher prices and put contractual guarantees of autonomy into the deals. WhatsApp’s founders left amidst aggressive pushes to monetize. Instagram’s founders left as their independence was threatened. Oculus’ founders were demoted. And over the past few years, Facebook has also shut down acquisitions, including viral teen Q&A app TBH (though its founder says he recommended shutting it down), fitness tracker Moves, video advertising system LiveRail, and still-popular mobile app developer platform Parse. [Correction: Voice control developer tool Wit.ai has not shut down, just its Bot Engine.] Facebook’s users might not know or care about much of this. But it could be a sticking point the next time Facebook tries to buy out a burgeoning competitor or complementary service. Broken promises with WhatsApp The real trouble started with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton’s departure from Facebook a year ago before he was fully vested from the $22 billion acquisition in 2014. He’d been adamant that Facebook not stick the targeted ads he hated inside WhatsApp, and Zuckerberg conceded not to. Acton even got a clause added to the deal that the co-founders’ remaining stock would vest instantly if Facebook implemented monetization schemes without their consent. Google was also interested in buying WhatsApp, but Facebook’s assurances of independence sealed the deal. WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits Facebook due to privacy intrusions WhatsApp’s other co-founder, Jan Koum, left Facebook in April following tension about how Facebook would monetize his app and the impact of that on privacy. Acton’s departure saw him leave $850 million on the table. Captivity must have been pretty rough for freedom to be worth that…

Uber fires up its own traffic estimates to fuel demand beyond cars

If the whole map is red and it’s a short ride, maybe you’d prefer taking an Uber JUMP Bike instead of an UberX. Or at least if you do end up stuck bumper-to-bumper, the warning could make you less likely to get mad mid-ride and take it out on the driver’s rating. This week TechCrunch spotted Uber overlaying blue, yellow, and red traffic condition bars on your route map before you hail. Responding to TechCrunch’s inquiry, Uber confirmed that traffic estimates have been quietly testing for riders on Android over the past few months and the pilot program recently expanded to a subset of iOS users. It’s already live for all drivers. The congestion indicators are based on Uber’s own traffic information pulled from its historic trip data about 10 billion rides plus real-time data from its drivers’ phones, rather than estimates from Google that already power Uber’s maps. If traffic estimates do roll out, they could make users more tolerant of longer ETAs and less likely to check a competing app since they’ll know their driver might take longer to pick them up because congestion is to blame rather than Uber’s algorithm. During the ride they might be more patient amidst the clogged streets. Uber’s research into traffic in India But most interestingly, seeing traffic conditions could help users choose when it’s time to take one of Uber’s non-car choices. They could sail past traffic in one of Uber’s new electric JUMP Bikes, or buy a public transportation ticket from inside Uber thanks to its new partnership with Masabi for access to New York’s MTA plus buses and trains in other cities. Cheaper and less labor intensive for Uber, these options make more sense to riders the more traffic there is. It’s to the company’s advantage to steer users towards the most satisfying mode of transportation, and traffic info could point them in the right direction. Through a program called Uber Movement, the company began sharing its traffic data with city governments early last year. The goal was to give urban planners the proof they need to make their streets more…

HQ Trivia nabs Target to sponsor game with biggest ever single winner prize of $100K

HQ Trivia is aiming to attract more players following a slight decline in downloads with a new, large prize. The company announced today it has bagged Target to sponsor to sponsor a special Emmy-themed game featuring its biggest-ever single winner prize of $100,000. The game will air on Monday, September 17 at 9 PM ET, but will be played in a different fashion than usual. Typically, HQ Trivia players compete to win or split a cash prize, which often doesn’t amount to much more than enough for a cup of coffee. But this time around, HQ Trivia will run in a “one winner takes all” format, meaning only one individual will earn the winnings from the game. Instead of a normal 12-question round with 10 second to answer, the game will continue until only one winner remains. Players can still use their extra lives, but only until question number 15. After that, they won’t work. The game’s content will be Emmy Awards-themed, featuring questions about shows, actors, the Emmy telecast, and other historical facts. Target is stepping up as the game’s sponsor for this winner-takes-all milestone game. The game itself will also be branded, but the exact nature of the creative is something Target is keeping under wraps for the time being as it’s a first for the retailer. HQ Trivia has worked with a number of other big-name brands in the past through its game, including Warner Bros, Nike, MillerCoors, National Geographic, Chase, Viacom, and NBCUniversal. The news of the milestone game comes at a time when HQ Trivia’s downloads have been trending slightly downwards. As TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reported last month for the app’s Apple TV launch, the iOS version of HQ Trivia had fallen from being the No. 1 U.S. trivia game to No. 10, and the No. 44 game to No. 196. Today, it’s the No. 135 game and No. 467 Overall app. According to data from Sensor Tower, the app has 12.8 million downloads across platforms, the majority of which (11M) were this year. HQ Trivia claims the app continues to have the “largest live audience on…

Bumble launches Snooze button to pause dating for a digital detox

Bumble doesn’t want you to delete your account when you get into a relationship, go on vacation or just need a break from your phone. So today it’s launching a Snooze button that lets you stop showing up to people swiping through potential matches for a day, three days, a week or indefinitely. You’ll also get to select an away message, like “I’m traveling,” “I’m on a digital detox,” “I’m focusing on work” or “I’m prioritizing myself,” that will show up with existing matches with whom you’re chatting. The feature could ensure that Bumble’s 50 million registered users (announced today) aren’t flirting with an empty vacuum if their match goes AWOL from Bumble temporarily. And for users who turn it on, Snooze could reduce their FOMO about potentially missing out on a match or looking like they ignored someone’s message. “The impact of social media, especially on young women, has the potential to be very harmful and we have a responsibility to give our users the power to disconnect on their own terms whenever they see fit,” writes Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. “We know Snooze will allow them to come back to us feeling refreshed and more open to new connections.” Tinder has its own Pause button, but it’s bundled alongside the account deletion button and has less intention and flexibility behind it. You can merely turn it on or off. Without the proper away messages, matches could think you’re just trying to ghost them. When Bumble and non-Bumble users were recently surveyed, more than 60 percent of women ages 18 to 24 said they felt overwhelmed by social media. Sixty percent of women surveyed also spend more than two hours a day on social media. Bumble’s in-house sociologist, Dr. Jessica Carbino, writes that “On social media, young women can develop unrealistic perceptions of what they should be or how others see them. These unrealistic expectations may ultimately have negative consequences for their physical and emotional well-being.” Wolfe Herd explains that “Yes, we are absolutely social media and with that comes both healthy and unhealthy behaviors. That’s…

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop “Login with Coinbase” or a similar identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded in 2015 that was building an identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol. The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and his co-founder Alex Kern are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the Login with Coinbase product. They’ll be building it atop the “know your customer” anti-money laundering data Coinbase has on its 20 million customers. Srinivasan tells me the goal is to figure out “How can we allow that really rich identity data to enable a new class of applications?” Distributed Systems had raised a $1.7 million seed round last year led by Floodgate and was considering raising a $4 million to $8 million round this summer. But Srinivasan says, “No one really understood what we’re building,” and it wanted a partner with KYC data. It began talking to Coinbase Ventures about an investment, but after they saw Distributed Systems’ progress and vision, “they quickly tried to move to find a way to acquire us.” Distributed Systems began to hold acquisition talks with multiple major players in the blockchain space, and the CEO tells me it was deciding between going to “Facebook, or Robinhood, or Binance, or Coinbase,” having been in formal talks with at least one of the first three. Of Coinbase the CEO said, they “were able to convince us they were making big bets, weaving identity across their products.” The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Coinbase’s plan to roll out the Login with Coinbase-style platform is an SDK that others apps could integrate, though that won’t necessarily be the feature’s name. That mimics the way Facebook colonized the web with its SDK and…

HQ Trivia downloads spiral downward as it hits Apple TV

HQ Trivia’s app store ranking has continued to sink the past three months, but it’s hoping a new version on your television could revitalize growth. HQ today launched an Apple TV app that lets users play the twice-daily live quiz game alongside iOS Android players. “Everything about the game is still the same – same questions, same time, same rules,” says a spokesperson, except you’ll play with the Apple TV remote instead of your phone’s screen. But that might not be enough to get HQ’s player count rapidly growing again. According to App Annie’s app store ranking history, on iOS HQ has fallen from the No. 1 U.S. trivia game to No. 10, from the No. 44 game to No. 196, and from the No. 151 overall app to No. 585. It’s exhibited a similar decline on Android. Analytics firm Sensor Tower estimates HQ has seen 12.5 million lifetime installs by unique users, with about 68 percent on iOS. “Installs have been on the decline. For last month, we estimate them with about 560K, which is down from their height of more than two million per month back in February,” Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights Randy Nelson tells TechCrunch.   The question is whether this is just a summer lull as people spend time outside and students aren’t locked in the schedule of school, or if HQ is in a downward spiral beyond seasonal fluctuations. But if we zoom out, you can see that HQ has been dropping down the charts through the school year since peaking in January. At one point it climbed as high as the No. 3 game and No. 6 overall app. The app’s record high of concurrent players has also declined from a peak of 2.38 million in late March. [Update: The CEO of HQ Trivia parent company Intermedia Labs and the former co-founder of Vine, Rus Yusupov, weighed in on the decline in downloads and HQ’s plans. He says, “Games are a hits business and don’t grow exponentially forever,” signalling the drop-off was expected and the team is still optimistic. But he also notes that…

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward. That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while. For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen.…

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