Netflix aims to retain subscribers with launch of a feature to track new releases

Hoping to keep viewers engaged with its content, Netflix today announced the launch of a new section called “Latest” in its TV app, designed to highlight the streaming service’s recent and upcoming releases. The addition isn’t just another row or two within the main Netflix homepage. Instead, the “Latest” section gets its own dedicated area in the Netflix TV app, which is accessible from the left-hand sidebar navigation.

Here, it’s found beneath the “Home” button and above the links to the dedicated “Movies” and “TV Shows” pages.

The section will be personalized to the end user, based on their viewing history, the company says.

At the top of “Latest” is a row that showcases new content that arrived this week, which is then followed by two rows showing content that’s due to arrive this week and the next.

Users can also click on these future releases and set alerts to remind them when the TV show or movie they’re interested in watching has arrived.

Netflix says the feature is now globally available on its TV app, which means you’ll only find it on streaming devices like the Fire TV, Apple TV or Roku, for instance, or on other smart TV or game console platforms. However, the company tells TechCrunch it already has a similar feature for Android users and is currently testing the “Latest” section on iOS.

The company first spoke to Variety about the addition, adding that the personalized suggestions update several times per day.

Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson told the outlet the experience was similar, in a way, to movie trailers, as it’s also designed to get people interested in upcoming releases.

However, the launch comes at a time when people will soon be considering the value they receive from their Netflix subscription. The company recently posted a disappointing quarter where it announced it lost U.S. subscribers for the first time since 2011 and broadly missed estimates of 5 million subscriber additions, by adding just 2.7 million new subscribers globally.

The streamer blamed its light content slate for the declines. While it did claim a couple of bright spots in Q2, like the dark comedy Dead to Me and the limited series When They See Us, a good bit of Netflix’s original content is becoming formulaic and copycat-ish.

It’s now doing its own version of Project Runway, and has a slate of shows that are obviously inspired by (if not precisely copied from) popular reality TV hits like Million Dollar Listing, Say Yes to the Dress, Cupcake Wars, Top Chef, The Bachelor, Real Housewives, and others. It manages to snag beloved stars, but then puts them into mediocre fare. It underwhelms with its by-the-numbers original films.

That said, Netflix deserves credit for how far it has come since its early days as a mail-order movie service. Today, its multi-billion dollar investments in original content has led to the streamer being best known for its own breakout hits, like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards, for example.

But as its sheds its catalog content in favor of shifting its audience to in-house productions, its image has changed as well. It’s no longer thought of a one-stop-shop for anything you want to watch combined with a rich slate of quality originals. And now it’s poised to lose some of its most popular licensed content — Friends and The Office — as the traditional media license holders move into the streaming market.

Variety had reported in July that content from NBCU, Disney/Fox and Warner Bros. accounts for 60%-65% of Netflix’s viewing hours.

Now Netflix is facing competition from Disney+, which will undercut Netflix’s pricing at $6.99 per month and be offered in a $12.99 per month bundle that also includes Hulu and ESPN+. That’s the same price as Netflix’s standard U.S. plan.

More than ever, Netflix needs to keep its viewers locked in, and one of the best ways to do this is to remind them there are new movies and shows they will want to watch.

Image credit: Netflix

Shazam data is powering Apple Music’s newest chart, the Shazam Discovery Top 50

Apple continues to make use of Shazam, the music recognition app it acquired for $400 million in 2018. Earlier this month, Apple publicly launched its Music for Artists dashboard which included insights powered by Shazam data. Today, Apple announced that Shazam data will also now power a new Apple Music chart: the Shazam Discovery Top 50.

The chart will feature a weekly global ranking of the top 50 artists on the move and their trending track, based on Shazam data.

The Shazam app today has been downloaded a billion times and sees 20 million “Shazams” per day — that’s the number of times a user pushes the button to identify a song that’s playing. These Shazams will now be used to identify tracks that are poised for a breakout.

This is a different sort of metric than a traditional music chart would use, as it’s not a reference to how many downloads, purchases or streams a song has — instead, it lends itself more to insights about up-and-coming artists.

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That said, the chart may include a variety of songs at different points in their lifecycle. The majority may be emerging artists, but some songs may be experiencing a burst of momentum for other reasons. To rank on the chart, the song could be demonstrating a pattern of moving quickly through Shazam’s charts, rapid growth, steady growth, or it may be growing geographically, the company says. Of all of the above.

The new Apple Music chart will feature songs that are trending in the U.S. and over 10 other countries.

This isn’t Shazam’s first foray into music charts by any means. Today, you’ll find Shazam online offers a Top 200 chart for the U.S., various other countries, and as a global top chart, in addition to a 10-song “Discovery” chart for the U.S. and a smaller subset of other markets.

The Discovery Top 50 for Apple Music doesn’t currently match up with the online version of the Discovery chart, which may be related to the timing of its updates.

The launch of the new chart is another confirmation as to why Apple wanted to bring Shazam in-house — not for its nifty parlor trick of music recognition, but rather for the data it acquires on trending music. This gives Apple another means of competing with Spotify, whose own Artist dashboard launched exited beta back in 2017, giving it a big head start on serving artists and musicians with insights.

The new Shazam chart is being highlighted today in the Browse tab of the Apple Music app on iOS and Mac, and elsewhere in the app.

 

Google’s lightweight search app, Google Go, launches to Android users worldwide

Google Go, a lightweight version of Google’s search app, is today becoming available to all Android users worldwide. First launched in 2017 after months of beta testing, the app had been designed primarily for use in emerging markets where people are often accessing the internet for the first time on unstable connections by way of low-end Android devices.

Like many of the “Lite” versions of apps built for emerging markets, Google Go takes up less space on phones — now at just over 7MB — and it includes offline features to aid those with slow and intermittent internet connections. The app’s search results are optimized to save up to 40% data, Google also claims.

Beyond web search, Google Go includes other discovery features, as well — like the ability to tap through trending topics, voice search, image and GIF search, an easy way to switch between languages, and the ability to have web pages read aloud, powered by AI.

At Google’s I/O developer conference this spring, the company announced it was also bringing Lens to Google Go.

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Lens allows users to point their smartphone camera at real-world objects in order to bring up relevant information. In Google Go, the Lens feature will help users who struggle to read. When the camera is pointed at text — like a bus schedule, sign or bank form, for example — Lens can read the text out loud, highlighting the words as they’re spoken. Users can also tap on a particular word to learn its definition or have the text translated.

While Lens was only a 100KB addition, according to Google, the updates to the Go app since launch have increased its size. Initially, it was a 5MB app; now it’s a little more than 7MB.

Previously, Google Go was only available in a few countries on Android Go edition devices. According to data from Sensor Tower, it has been installed approximately 17.5 million times globally, with the largest percentage of users in India (48%). Its next largest markets are Indonesia (16%), Brazil (14%), Nigeria (6%) and South Africa (4%), Sensor Tower says.

In total, it has been made available to 29 countries on Android Go edition devices, including: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Google says the app now has “millions” of users.

Today, Google says it will be available to all users worldwide on the Play Store.

Google says it decided to launch the app globally, including in markets where bandwidth is not a concern, because it understands that everyone at times can struggle with problems like limited phone storage or spotty connections.

Plus, it’s a lightweight app for reading and translating text. At Google I/O, the company had noted there are more than 800 million adults worldwide who struggle to read — and, of course, not all are located in emerging markets.

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Google Go is one of many lightweight apps Google has built for emerging markets, along with YouTube Go, Files GoGmail Go, Google Maps Go, Gallery Go and Google Assistant Go, for example.

The Google Go app will be available on the Play Store to global users running Android Lollipop or higher.

Apple Card launches today for all U.S. customers, adds 3% cash back for Uber and Uber Eats

Apple this morning announced its highly anticipated new credit card, Apple Card, is launching today for all customers in the U.S. Customers will be able to apply for the Apple Card through the Wallet app on the iPhone, then immediately begin using it by way of Apple Pay — before the physical card arrives in the mail.

Powered by Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, the card will work both as a traditional credit card and through Apple Pay anywhere that Mastercard is accepted. In lieu of points, which are favored by many of today’s credit card users, Apple Card doles out cash back for purchases. And it especially incentivizes users to choose Apple Pay, which offers 2% back instead of just 1% for non-Apple Pay purchases.

In addition, purchases from Apple are rewarded with 3% back — making it an obvious choice for buying Apple hardware and other gear.

Apple says it’s now extending 3% back to Uber and Uber Eats, too.

The cash back is added to your Apple Cash balance or to the card’s monthly balance if you don’t want to use an Apple Cash account.

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The card is designed to be more transparent about interest and fees. It carries no annual fees, cash advances fees, over the limit or late fees. Its variable APR ranges from 12.99% to 23.99% based on the creditworthiness of the applicant. Information about the user’s charges and interest is clearly displayed in the app companion, and charges are color-coded for easier understanding.

For example, if you’re spending at restaurants, the card will become orange on your device. When you shop for entertainment-related items, it changes to a mix of orange and pink.

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The card benefits from its built-in nature on Apple devices, too.

Beyond the Wallet and Apple Cash integrations, Customers can text for support through iMessage and view transaction locations in Apple Maps.

“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming interest in Apple Card and its positive reception,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay, in a statement. “Customers have told us they love Apple Card’s simplicity and how it gives them a better view of their spending.”

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The launch follows an Apple Card preview earlier this month, where the card was offered to select users.

With today’s launch, Apple says it’s extending the 3% Daily Cash to more merchants and apps besides itself.

Starting today, Apple Card customers will receive 3% cash back on Apple Pay purchases with Uber and Uber eats. More merchants and apps will be added in the future, it says. In the fine print of today’s announcement, Apple notes that Apple Pay is coming soon to Uber services like Uber Cash, Scheduled Rides, and JUMP.

Purchases made with the physical, titanium Apple Card will continue to receive 1% cash back.

Apple touts the privacy benefits of its card as another advantage. Apple won’t know where a user has shopped, it says, and Goldman Sachs won’t share or sell data to third parties for marketing and advertising, the company says.

The physical card also doesn’t display its fixed number on the face of the card — that’s stored on the mag stripe and accessible through the app, if needed. No signature is required either.

The Card will be available to customers in the U.S. with an iPhone 6 or higher, running iOS 12.4.

TikTok’s new ‘Hashtag Challenge Plus’ lets video viewers shop for products in the app

TikTok, the short-form video platform favored by young adults and teens, has launched a new feature that allows users to shop for products associated with a sponsored Hashtag Challenge, without leaving its app. These sponsored challenges are Gen Z-friendly marketing campaigns where users are prompted to post videos of them using a product — like showing off favorite outfits from Uniqlo or Guess, for example. Or they might participate in some sort of manufactured viral trend, like singing favorite Disney songs ahead of a Disney-themed episode of American Idol.

The new e-commerce feature, called Hashtag Challenge Plus, adds a shoppable component to the hashtag.

In addition to creating and viewing videos featuring the brand’s sponsored hashtag, a separate tab features an in-app experience where products from the campaign can be purchased within TikTok itself.

Last week, Kroger was the first brand to try out the new feature, according to a report from AdWeek.

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While not exactly a company that exudes youth appeal, Kroger found a way to reach TikTok’s young adult audience through their hashtag campaign.

In partnership with four TikTok influencers — Joey Klaasen, Cosette Rinab, Mia Finney and Victoria Bachlet — Kroger prompted TikTok viewers to post videos of their dorm makeovers using the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. Digital agency i360 was involved in the videos’ creation.

What made Kroger’s challenge unique was that it also introduced a dedicated brand page where viewers could actually shop for products, too.

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Kroger paid for its sponsored hashtag to be given placement on TikTok’s Discover page for a week’s time. The tag can still be found via search, even though the campaign has wrapped.

Of course, many of its intended viewers found it by way of their favorite TikTok influencer’s profile, much like how Instagram ad campaigns work.

Since launch, the hashtag has since grown to around 477 million views across hundreds of videos — some labeled “Official,” if from the influencers. The rest is user-generated content from other TikTok users hoping to capitalize on the trend to gain a little TikTok fame for themselves.

On the hashtag’s landing page, there’s a separate tab also labeled “Discover,” but not to be confused with TikTok’s main Discover section. This directs viewers to the new shopping experience.

Here, Kroger shows off a scrollable row of featured products including things like a popcorn maker, a box of snack bars, a toaster, and other items.

Tapping the “Shop Now” link then opens up Kroger’s website where users can add items to their cart and check out online.

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This shoppable experience is really just a mobile-optimized Kroger website pointing to a special search term (btscollege19). It isn’t a TikTok creation, nor built with TikTok’s help. On the mobile site, you can scroll down through a random list of items — from shampoos to coffee filters to toothpaste to hangers and more — or you can filter by category or enter a search term.

It’s unclear if such an offering will actually significantly impact e-commerce sales.

If anything, a hashtag campaign like this is better utilized to remind viewers that Kroger’s grocery store is also a place to shop for back-to-school needs, as an alternative to big-box stores like Target or Walmart or online retailers like Amazon.

TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch that Kroger was the first to put it into action last week. A spokesperson declined to say if other campaigns using the new product were in the works, adding that the company couldn’t talk about any plans ahead of their launch.

Sponsored Hashtag Challenges are only one way TikTok is experimenting with generating revenue from its some 500 million monthly users, the majority who are under 30. The company has also tried out full-screen ads at launch, in-feed ads, 3D/AR lenses, stickers and more.

 

 

Developers accuse Apple of anti-competitive behavior with its privacy changes in iOS 13

A group of app developers have penned a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, arguing that certain privacy-focused changes to Apple’s iOS 13 operating system will hurt their business. In a report by The Information, the developers were said to have accused Apple of anti-competitive behavior when it comes to how apps can access user location data.

With iOS 13, Apple aims to curtail apps’ abuse of its location-tracking features as part of its larger privacy focus as a company.

Today, many apps ask users upon first launch to give their app the “Always Allow” location-tracking permission. Users can confirm this with a tap, unwittingly giving apps far more access to their location data than is actually necessary, in many cases.

In iOS 13, however, Apple has tweaked the way apps can request location data.

There will now be a new option upon launch presented to users, “Allow Once,” which allows users to first explore the app to see if it fits their needs before granting the app developer the ability to continually access location data. This option will be presented alongside existing options, “Allow While Using App” and “Don’t Allow.”

The “Always” option is still available, but users will have to head to iOS Settings to manually enable it. (A periodic pop-up will also present the “Always” option, but not right away.)

The app developers argue that this change may confuse less technical users, who will assume the app isn’t functioning properly unless they figure out how to change their iOS Settings to ensure the app has the proper permissions.

The developers’ argument is a valid assessment of user behavior and how such a change could impact their apps. The added friction of having to go to Settings in order to toggle a switch so an app to function can cause users to abandon apps. It’s also, in part, why apps like Safari ad blockers and iOS replacement keyboards never really went mainstream, as they require extra steps involving the iOS Settings.

That said, the changes Apple is rolling out with iOS 13 don’t actually break these apps entirely. They just require the apps to refine their onboarding instructions to users. Instead of asking for the “Always Allow” permission, they will need to point users to the iOS Settings screen, or limit the apps’ functionality until it’s granted the “Always Allow” permission.

In addition, the developers’ letter pointed out that Apple’s own built-in apps (like Find My) aren’t treated like this, which raises anti-competitive concerns.

The letter also noted that Apple in iOS 13 would not allow developers to use PushKit for any other purpose beyond internet voice calls — again, due to the fact that some developers abused this toolkit to collect private user data.

“We understand that there were certain developers, specifically messaging apps, that were using this as a backdoor to collect user data,” the email said, according to the report. “While we agree loopholes like this should be closed, the current Apple plan to remove [access to the internet voice feature] will have unintended consequences: it will effectively shut down apps that have a valid need for real-time location.”

The letter was signed by Tile CEO CJ Prober; Arity (Allstate) President Gary Hallgren; CEO of Life360 Chris Hullsan; CEO of dating app Happn Didier Rappaport; CEO of Zenly (Snap), Antoine Martin; , CEO of Zendrive, Jonathan Matus which; and chief strategy officer of social networking app Twenty, Jared Allgood.

Apple responded to The Information by saying that any changes it makes to the operating system are “in service to the user” and to their privacy. It also noted that any apps it distributes from the App Store have to abide by the same procedures.

It’s another example of how erring on the side of increased user privacy can lead to complications and friction for end users. One possible solution could be allowing apps to present their own in-app Settings screen where users could toggle the app’s full set of permissions directly — including everything from location data to push notifications to the app’s use of cellular data or Bluetooth sharing.

The news comes at a time when the U.S. Dept. of Justice is considering investigating Apple for anti-competitive behavior. Apple told The Information it was working with some of the impacted developers using PushKit on alternate solutions.

Roku launches a Kids & Family section on The Roku Channel, plus parental controls

Roku’s home entertainment hub, The Roku Channel, is expanding into kids’ programming. The company this morning announced plans to aggregate kids and family movies and TV alongside the channel’s other content, including its free, ad-supported movies and television, live TV, and subscriptions. In addition to the launch of the new “Kids & Family” section on The Roku Channel, Roku is also rolling out Parental Control features to give parents more control over what their kids can watch when accessing the channel.

The latter — while useful for families who don’t want the kids stumbling upon their HBO or Cinemax subscriptions — will also be a hindrance when the parents go to watch their own shows in The Roku Channel, due to Roku’s current lack of user profiles.

Meanwhile, the new kids section is not home to original content, but rather takes advantage of Roku’s ability to aggregate the streaming content on its own platform — including both free content from other channels and digital creators, as well as kid-friendly content from the family’s paid subscriptions.

At launch, the Kids & Family section will offer 7,000 free, ad-supported TV episodes and movies from 20 partners, including All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, and others. This will bring a mix of classic franchises and favorite characters to the channel, like Care Bears, The Cat in the Hat, Leapfrog, Little Baby Bum, My Little Pony, Rev & Roll, Super Mario Brothers, Thomas & Friends and more. 

This content will be mixed in with live, linear streams from Moonbug, pocket.watch, and XUMO-powered partners Ameba, BatteryPop, and KidGenius. There will also be five exclusive episodes of Ryan’s World by pocket.watch available.

In addition, the new section can pull in premium kids content from services like Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, HBO, Hopster, NOGGIN, Starz, or Up Faith.

That allows access to more well-known kids brands, like Bubble Guppies, Dora the Explorer, PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, and family-friendly movies, including Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand, Muppets Take Manhattan and more.

In total, there are nearly 30 partners participating in the Kids & Family section. Notably absent, however, are top sources for kids’ shows, like Netflix and Hulu. These larger streaming services want to own the user experience end-to-end and collect their own data.

Screen Shot 2019 08 19 at 9.12.49 AMRoku says it will collect “non-user level data” from the new section, in order to see, in aggregate, which programs are popular. But it will not use data to personalize the experience for kids, target kids with ads, or make recommendations.

Instead, the content in the Kids & Family section is organized by age range, character, and theme in an interface that resembles Netflix’s Kids’ profile layout.

The ad load is also lighter than elsewhere on The Roku Channel, the company says.

“For The Roku Channel overall, we have on average, approximately half of the advertising time of traditional ad-supported linear TV. So it’s a really light ad load. And we think that something’s really resonated with users. When we look at a Kids & Family viewing experience, we want to even further reduce that advertising time. So we’re taking it down to 40% of the advertising time on traditional linear,” says Roku’s Vice President of Programming Rob Holmes.

He adds that the advertisers are kid-appropriate, and are vetted and served internally by Roku.

Ad revenue is the only way the new section will be monetized. Roku tells us the premium kids content will only be displayed to existing subscribers, as it’s not in the business of trying to upsell to children.

The launch follows several other recent developments for The Roku Channel, now one of Roku’s top five channels and a big selling point for Roku devices and TVs.

Since its 2017 launch which focused on aggregating free movies, the company has expanded into newssports, TV shows and other entertainment offerings both from traditional studios and digital networks, as well as paid subscriptions from networks like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, EPIX and more.

Roku closed out its second quarter with 30.5 million active accounts, up by 1.4 million from the prior quarter, and revenue up 59% year-over-year to $250.1 million. The company’s platform business is now the primary revenue driver, up 86% year-over-year to reach $167.7 million in the quarter. Users streamed 9.4 billion hours of content on Roku in Q2.

Media companies have been heavily investing in kids’ programming, especially in the cord-cutting era, which gives Roku a large library to tap into. However, the biggest names in kids’ streaming — like Netflix and soon, Disney (with Disney+) — will not participate in aggregated sections like this, which ultimately limits their ability to become a true one-stop-shop for everything you want to stream.

The Roku Channel is rolling out in the U.S. today, on Roku devices, the web, the Roku mobile app, and select Samsung smart TVs.

Google discloses its acquisition of mobile learning app Socratic as it relaunches on iOS

Google publicly disclosed its acquisition of homework helper app Socratic in an announcement this week, detailing the added support for the company’s A.I. technology and its relaunch on iOS. The acquisition apparently flew under the radar — Google says it bought the app last year.

According to one founder’s LinkedIn update, that was in March 2018. Google hasn’t responded to requests for comment for more details about the deal, but we’ll update if that changes.

Socratic was founded in 2013 Chris Pedregal and Shreyans Bhansali with the goal of creating a community that made learning accessible to all students.

Initially, the app offered a Quora-like Q&A platform where students could ask questions which were answered by experts. By the time Socratic raised $6 million in Series A funding back in 2015, its community had grown to around 500,000 students. The company later evolved to focus less on connecting users and more on utility.

It included a feature to take a photo of a homework question in order to get instant explanations through the mobile app launched in 2015. This is similar to many other apps in the space, like Photomath, Mathway, DoYourMath, and others.

However, Socratic isn’t just a math helper — it can also tackle subjects like science, literature, social studies, and more.

In February 2018, Socratic announced it would remove the app’s social features. That June, the company said it was closing its Q&A website to user contributions. This decision was met with some backlash of disappointed users.

Socratic explained the app and website were different products, and it was strategically choosing to focus on the former.

“We, as anyone, are bound by the constraints of reality—you just can’t do everything—which means making decisions and tradeoffs where necessary. This one is particularly painful,” wrote Community Lead Becca McArthur at the time.

That strategy, apparently, was to make Socratic a Google A.I.-powered product. According to Google’s blog post penned by Bhansali — now the Engineering Manager at Socratic — the updated iOS app uses A.I. technology to help users.

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The new version of the iOS app still allows you to snap a photo to get answers, or you can speak your question.

For example, if a student takes a photo from a classroom handout or asks a question like “what’s the difference between distance and displacement?,” Socratic will return a top match, followed by explainers, a Q&A section, and even related YouTube videos and web links. It’s almost like a custom search engine just for your homework questions.

Google also says it has built and trained algorithms that can analyze the student’s question then identify the underlying concepts in order to point users to these resources. For students who need even more help, the app can break down the concepts into smaller, easy-to-understand lessons.

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In addition, the app includes subject guides on over 1,000 higher education and high school topics, developed with help from educators. The study guides can help students prepare for tests or just better learn a particular concept.

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“In building educational resources for teachers and students, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to them about challenges they face and how we can help,” writes Bhansali. “We’ve heard that students often get ‘stuck’ while studying. When they have questions in the classroom, a teacher can quickly clarify—but it’s frustrating for students who spend hours trying to find answers while studying on their own,” he says.

This is where Socratic will help.

That said, the acquisition could help Google in other ways, too. In addition to its primary focus as a homework helper, the acquisition could aid Google Assistant technology across platforms, as the virtual assistant could learn to answer more complex questions that Google’s Knowledge Graph didn’t already include.

The relaunched, A.I.-powered version of Socratic by Google arrived on Thursday on iOS, where it also discloses through the app update text the app is now owned by Google.

The Android version of the app will launch this fall.

 

Twitter to test a new filter for spam and abuse in the Direct Message inbox

Twitter is testing a new way to filter unwanted messages from your Direct Message inbox. Today, Twitter allows users to set their Direct Message inbox as being open to receiving messages from anyone, but this can invite a lot of unwanted messages, including abuse. While one solution is to adjust your settings so only those you follow can send you private messages, that doesn’t work for everyone. Some people — like reporters, for example — want to have an open inbox in order to have private conversations and receive tips.

This new experiment will test a filter that will move unwanted messages, including those with offensive content or spam, to a separate tab.

Instead of lumping all your messages into a single view, the Message Requests section will include the messages from people you don’t follow, and below that, you’ll find a way to access these newly filtered messages.

Users would have to click on the “Show” button to even read these, which protects them from having to face the stream of unwanted content that can pour in at times when the inbox is left open.

And even upon viewing this list of filtered messages, all the content itself isn’t immediately visible.

In the case that Twitter identifies content that’s potentially offensive, the message preview will say the message is hidden because it may contain offensive content. That way, users can decide if they want to open the message itself or just click the delete button to trash it.

The change could allow Direct Messages to become a more useful tool for those who prefer an open inbox, as well as an additional means of clamping down on online abuse.

It’s also similar to how Facebook Messenger handles requests — those from people you aren’t friends with are relocated to a separate Message Requests area. And those that are spammy or more questionable are in a hard-to-find Filtered section below that.

It’s not clear why a feature like this really requires a “test,” however — arguably, most people would want junk and abuse filtered out. And those who for some reason did not, could just toggle a setting to turn off the filter.

Instead, this feels like another example of Twitter’s slow pace when it comes to making changes to clamp down on abuse. Facebook Messenger has been filtering messages in this way since late 2017. Twitter should just launch a change like this, instead of “testing” it.

The idea of hiding — instead of entirely deleting — unwanted content is something Twitter has been testing in other areas, too. Last month, for example, it began piloting a new “Hide Replies” feature in Canada, which allows users to hide unwanted replies to their tweets so they’re not visible to everyone. The tweets aren’t deleted, but rather placed behind an extra click — similar to this Direct Message change.

Twitter is updating is Direct Message system in other ways, too.

At a press conference this week, Twitter announced several changes coming to its platform, including a way to follow topics, plus a search tool for the Direct Message inbox, as well as support for iOS Live Photos as GIFs, the ability to reorder photos and more.

YouTube shuts down music companies’ use of manual copyright claims to steal creator revenue

YouTube is making a change to its copyright enforcement policies around music used in videos, which may result in an increased number of blocked videos in the shorter term — but overall, a healthier ecosystem in the long-term. Going forward, copyright owners will no longer be able to monetize creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music via YouTube’s “Manual Claiming” tool. Instead, they can choose to prevent the other party from monetizing the video or they can block the content. However, YouTube expects that by removing the option to monetize these sorts of videos themselves, some copyright holders will instead just leave them alone.

“One concerning trend we’ve seen is aggressive manual claiming of very short music clips used in monetized videos. These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed,” explained YouTube in a blog post.

To be clear, the changes only involve YouTube’s Manual Claiming tool which is not how the majority of copyright violations are handled today. Instead, the majority of claims are created through YouTube’s Content ID match system. This system scans videos uploaded to YouTube against a database of files submitted to the site by copyright owners. Then, when a match is found, the copyright holder owner can choose to block the video or monetize it themselves, and track the video’s viewership stats. 

The Manual Claiming tool, on the other hand, is only offered to partners who understand how Content ID works. It allows them to search through publicly available YouTube videos to look for those containing their content and apply a claim when a match is found.

The problem with the Manual Claiming policy is that is was impacting creator content even when the use of the claimed music in videos was very short — even a second long — or unintentional. For example, a creator who was vlogging may have walked past a store that was playing the copyrighted song, but then could lose the revenue from their video as a result.

In April, YouTube said it was looking to address this problem. And just ahead of this year’s VidCon, YouTube announced several well-received changes to the Manual Claiming Policy. It began to require that copyright owners specify the timestamp in the video where the claim occurs — a change that YouTube hoped would create additional friction and cut down on abuse.

Creators were also given tools of their own that let them easily remove the clip or replace the infringing content with free-to-use tracks.

These newly announced changes go even further as they remove the ability for the copyright owner to monetize the infringing video at all. Copyright holders can now only prevent the creators themselves from monetizing the video, or they can block the content. However, given the new creator tools for handling infringing content, it’s likely that creators in those situations would just address the problem content in order to keep their video online.

“As always, the best way to avoid these issues is to not use unlicensed content in your videos, even when it’s unintentional music playing in the background,” noted YouTube.

It also urged creators to utilize its resources like the YouTube Audio Library and to read up on YouTube’s dispute process policies before uploading content that the creator believes is a copyright exception due to  Fair Use.

YouTube says the changes will apply to all new manual claims, starting in mid-September.

Once enforcement begins, copyright owners who repeatedly fail to adhere to the policies will lose access to the Manual Claiming tool.

The response from the creator community, not surprisingly, has been positive as creators thanked YouTube for finally listening to them and responding to their concerns over this sort of copyright claim abuse.