3 fixes for Netflix’s “What to watch?” problem

Wasting time every night debating with yourself or your partner about what to watch on Netflix is a drag. It burns people’s time and good will, robs great creators of attention, and leaves Netflix vulnerable to competitors who can solve discovery. Netflix itself says the average user spends 18 minutes per day deciding.

To date, Netflix’s solution has been its state-of-the-art artificial intelligence that offers personalized recommendations. But that algorithm is ignorant of how we’re feeling in the moment, what we’ve already seen elsewhere, and if we’re factoring in what someone else with us wants to watch too.

Netflix is considering a Shuffle button. [Image Credit: AndroidPolice]

This week Netflix introduced one basic new approach to discovery: a shuffle button. Click on a show you like such as The Office, and it will queue up a random episode. But that only works if you already know what you want to watch, it’s not a movie, and it’s not a linear series you have to watch in order.

Here are three much more exciting, applicable, and lucrative ways for Netflix (or Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or any of the major streaming services) to get us to stop browsing and start chilling:

Netflix Channels

For the history of broadcast television, people surfed their way to what to watch. They turned on the tube, flipped through a few favorite channels, and jumped in even if a show or movie had already started. They didn’t have to decide between infinite options, and they didn’t have to commit to starting from the beginning. We all have that guilty pleasure we’ll watch until the end whenever we stumble upon it.

Netflix could harness that laziness and repurpose the concept of channels so you could surf its on-demand catalog the same way. Imagine if Netflix created channels dedicated to cartoons, action, comedy, or history. It could curate non-stop streams of cherry-picked content, mixing classic episodes and films, new releases related to current events, thematically relevant seasonal video, and Netflix’s own Original titles it wants to promote.

For example, the comedy channel could run modern classic films like 40-Year Old Virgin and Van Wilder during the day, top episodes of Arrested Development and Parks And Recreation in the afternoon, a featured recent release film like The Lobster in primetime, and then off-kilter cult hits like Monty Python or its own show Big Mouth in the late night slots. Users who finish one video could get turned on to the next, and those who might not start a personal favorite film from the beginning might happily jump in at the climax.

Short-Film Bundles

There’s a rapidly expanding demographic of post-couple pre-children people desperately seeking after-work entertainment. They’re too old or settled to go out every night, but aren’t so busy with kids that they lack downtime.

But one big shortcoming of Netflix is that it can be tough to get a satisfying dose of entertainment in a limited amount of time before you have to go to bed. A 30-minute TV show is too short. A lot of TV nowadays is serialized so it’s incomprehensible or too cliffhanger-y to watch a single episode, but sometimes you can’t stay up to binge. And movies are too long so you end up exhausted if you manage to finish in one sitting.

Netflix could fill this gap by bundling three or so short films together into thematic collections that are approximately 45 minutes to an hour in total.

Netflix could commission Originals and mix them with the plethora of untapped existing shorts that have never had a mainstream distribution channel. They’re often too long or prestigious to live on the web, but too short for TV, and it’s annoying to have to go hunting for a new one every 15 minutes. The whole point here is to reduce browsing. Netflix could create collections related to different seasons, holidays, or world news moments, and rebundle the separate shorts on the fly to fit viewership trends or try different curational angles.

Often artful and conclusive, they’d provide a sense of culture and closure that a TV episode doesn’t. If you get sleepy you could save the last short, and there’s a feeling of low commitment since you could skip any short that doesn’t grab you.

The Nightly Water Cooler Pick

One thing we’ve lost with the rise of on-demand video are some of those zeitgeist moments where everyone watches the same thing the same night and can then talk about it together the next day. We still get that with live sports, the occasional tent pole premier like Game Of Thrones, or when a series drops for binge-watching like Stranger Things. But Netflix has the ubiquity to manufacture those moments that stimulate conversation and a sense of unity.

Netflix could choose one piece of programming per night per region, perhaps a movie, short arc of TV episodes, or one of the short film bundles I suggested above and stick it prominently on the home page. This Netflix Zeitgeist choice would help override people’s picky preferences that get them stuck browsing by applying peer pressure like, “well, this is what everyone else will be watching.”

Netflix’s curators could pick content matched with an upcoming holiday like a Passover TV episode, show a film that’s reboot is about to debut like Dune or Clueless, pick a classic from an actor that’s just passed away like Luke Perry in the original Buffy movie, or show something tied to a big event like Netflix is currently doing with Beyonce’s Coachella concert film. Netflix could even let brands and or content studios pay to have their content promoted in the Zeitgeist slot.

As streaming service competition heats up and all the apps battle for the best back catalog, it’s not just exclusives but curation and discovery that will set them apart. These ideas could make Netflix the streaming app where you can just turn it on to find something great, be exposed to gorgeous shorts you’d have never known about, or get to participate in a shared societal experience. Entertainment shouldn’t have to be a chore.

Apple could be adding Siri Shortcuts and Screen Time to macOS

Apple wants to add more iOS features to macOS according to a report from 9to5mac’s Guilherme Rambo. And it starts with improvements to Siri.

While Siri has been available on macOS for a while, it feels like a scaled-down version of Siri. Sure, you can ask for the weather, NBA scores or a word translation. You can also turn off the Wi-Fi or look up a file on your hard drive.

But Siri on macOS doesn’t work with any third-party app. You can’t send a message on WhatsApp, you can’t send some money using Square Cash, you can’t order an Uber.

According to 9to5mac, this will change with macOS 10.15 this fall. Apple is working on adding support for Siri Shortcuts, which means that you’ll theoretically be able to create custom voice shortcuts to trigger actions in third-party apps.

Existing macOS apps won’t be able to add hooks for Siri Shortcuts — the feature should be limited to iOS ports that leverage the upcoming Marzipan framework. As a result, you can also expect a Shortcuts app to create your own scripts in a visual interface. Shortcuts has become the equivalent of Automator for iOS. Let’s see what happens to Automator after macOS 10.15.

The macOS update won’t just focus on Siri. You should expect to see Screen Time, the iOS feature that tells you how much time you spent in each app on your devices. The current implementation of Screen Time combines your usage across all your iOS devices, such as your iPhone and your iPad. But adding macOS data to the mix is key if you want to see the full picture.

Finally, Apple will let you control your Apple ID more easily from the Mac. Instead of relying on Apple’s website, you’ll be able to set up family sharing and more from a new panel in System Preferences.

Instagram hides Like counts in leaked design prototype

“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who share a post will see the total number of likes it gets.” That’s how Instagram describes a seemingly small design change test with massive potential impact on users’ well-being.

Hiding Like counts could reduce herd mentality, where people just Like what’s already got tons of Likes. It could reduce the sense of competition on Instagram, since users won’t compare their own counts with those of more popular friends or superstar creators. And it could encourage creators to post what feels most authentic rather than trying to rack of Likes for everyone to see.

The design change test was spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, the prolific reverse engineering expert and frequent TechCrunch tipster whose spotted tons of Instagram features before they’re officially confirmed or launched. Wong discovered the design change test in Instagram’s Android code and was able to generate the screenshots above.

You can see on the left that the Instagram feed post lacks a Like count, but still shows a few faces and a name of other people who’ve Liked it. Users are alerted that only they’ll see their post’s Like counts, and anyone else won’t. Many users delete posts that don’t immediately get ‘enough’ Likes or post to their fake ‘Finstagram’ accounts if they don’t think they’ll be proud of the hearts they collect. Hiding Like counts might get users posting more since they’ll be less self-conscious.

An Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that this design is an internal prototype that’s not visible to the public yet. A spokesperson told us: “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.” Other features we’ve reported on in the same phase, such as video calling, soundtracks for Stories, and the app’s time well spent dashboard all went on to receive official launches.

Instagram’s prototypes (from left): feed post reactions, Stories lyrics, and Direct stickers

Meanwhile, Wong has also recently spotted several other Instagram prototypes lurking in its Android code. Those include chat thread stickers for Direct messages, augmented reality filters for Direct Video calls, simultaneous co-watching of recommended videos through Direct, karaoke-style lyrics that appear synced to soundtracks in Stories, emoji reactions to feed posts, and a shopping bag for commerce.

It appears that there’s no plan to hide follower counts on user profiles, which are the true measure of popularity but also serve a purpose of distinguishing great content creators and assessing their worth to marketers. Hiding Likes could just put more of a spotlight on follower and comment counts. And even if users don’t see Like counts, they still massively impact the feed’s ranking algorithm, so creators will still have to battle for them to be seen.

Close-up of Instagram’s design for feed posts without Like counters

The change matches a growing belief that Like counts can be counter-productive or even harmful to users’ psyches. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom told me back in 2016 that getting away from the pressure of Like counts was one impetus for Instagram launching Stories. Last month, Twitter began testing a design which hides retweet counts behind an extra tap to similarly discourage inauthentic competition and herd mentality. And Snapchat has never shown Like counts or even follower counts, which has made it feel less stressful but also less useful for influencers.

Narcissism, envy spiraling, and low self-image can all stem from staring at Like counts. They’re a constant reminder of the status hierarchies that have emerged from social networks. For many users, at some point it stopped being fun and started to feel more like working in the heart mines. If Instagram rolls the feature out, it could put the emphasis back on sharing art and self-expression, not trying to win some popularity contest.

Amazon launches ad-supported music service to Echo owners

Amazon today announced the launch of a free, ad-supported music service in the U.S. that will be available to anyone who wants to play free music on their Echo speaker.

Until today, Echo owners who wanted to stream music from Amazon could either pay for an annual Prime membership for access to Prime Music, or they could pay $3.99 per month to stream from Amazon Music Unlimited (or $9.99/month to stream on non-Echo devices, as well.)

The new service has the same catalog as Prime Music, which today has just over two million songs. Amazon Music Unlimited, meanwhile, has 50 million songs.

The new service gives Echo owners a way to enjoy free music from Amazon on their Echo, instead of having having to turn to a third-party free provider, like Spotify or Pandora. It will also offer a way to push Echo owners to upgrade to the paid subscription services Amazon offers, including its Amazon Music Unlimited service and even Prime itself.

Amazon’s plans to wade into the free streaming market and more directly compete with Spotify had been previously leaked by Bloomberg. The report noted that Amazon had been in discussions with the labels in order to obtain the licenses to stream the free music — something it agreed to pay for, regardless of how much advertising it sells.

In addition to being a differentiating and attractive feature for potential smart speaker buyers — something that could have them opt for an Echo over a Google Home device or Apple HomePod, for example — the service also offers Amazon a new way to monetize its large and growing installed base of Echo speakers.

Amazon’s ad revenue was $10.1 billion in 2018, or 4.3 percent of its total revenues, and now it’s looking for new ways to grow that number.

The news also comes on the heels of a 2018 forecast from eMarketer that had predicted Amazon’s share of the smart speaker market would decline in 2020, as competition from rivals — including Google Home, Sonos One and Apple HomePod — would heat up. But there’s still plenty of time for that to change.

The market for smart speakers hit critical mass in 2018, with around 41 percent of U.S. consumers now owning a voice-activated speaker. Amazon also said at the beginning of the year that more than 100 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold to date — but this number includes non-Echo devices, including those from third-party manufacturers.

The launch of a free music service will be a significant blow to Spotify which, before now, was the only subscription music streaming service with a free tier. The free customers often then convert to paid subscribers as they use the service over time, something that has helped Spotify grow to reach 96 million paid users and 116 million free users. Apple Music has 56 million paying subscribers, but no free funnel.

Sift’s ‘news therapy’ app aims to promote understanding, not anxiety

Is reading the news feeling a little stressful today? Can’t imagine why. Don’t worry: you’re not alone. A Pew Research study found that seven of 10 Americans today suffer from “news fatigue” — meaning they feel worn out and like they can’t keep up. Meanwhile, an APA survey found that 56 percent of Americans want to stay informed, but it stresses them out. A new app called Sift, launching today, wants to help. Instead of trying to overwhelm news consumers with breaking news and incremental updates, it aims to thoughtfully approach tough topics in order to encourage a deeper understanding of the issues.

The app will tackle the big issues du jour — like immigration, healthcare and climate change, for example — which are released in a series on a subscription basis. For each topic, Sift will examine the backstory and history of the issue. And each section will include interactive features — like polls, sliders and other data visualizations — that promote critical thinking skills and keep users engaged while they learn.

The app also avoids inflammatory language in presenting the facts, allowing users time to reflect rather than react. And all the sources are linked so users can dig into the supporting material.

According to Sift co-founder Gabe Campodonico, the goal was to come up with a concept for an app that would allow people to stay informed while reducing anxiety and stress.

“We built Sift to be an active learning experience that engages more of your brain — a tool for people to interact with, trust, and learn from. And one that doesn’t have to live within a distracted ecosystem of noisy newsfeeds and headlines competing for attention,” he explained.

The original concept began over two years ago, and has gone through several iterations.

The team earlier tested a reference product — but it ended up feeling too much like Wikipedia. They also tried a digital news magazine, but didn’t feel it offered anything new. And they tested a gamified education product, but felt it lacked substance.

Eventually they landed on the idea for Sift, which they call an “experiment in news therapy.”

In October 2018, Sift launched its first topic: the U.S. immigration policy and its impact on the economy and cultural identity. The company tested the topic with a group of users over a couple of months. At the end, 33 percent said they felt less overwhelmed, and 30 percent felt less anxious. Twenty-two percent said they felt more informed.

These numbers, of course, could be better — but they’re potentially an improvement over how it feels today to get the news from other media sources. (Not that they quantify how their coverage impacts readers’ emotions.)

Today, Sift is launching its first, full series for the price of $19.99 for a six-month subscription. The business model was chosen so the app won’t have to include ads or other distractions, nor will it use data targeting. Each week, the app will release a new topic, beginning with immigration, then guns, healthcare, education, climate change and media literacy.

Part one of each topic will look to the past to set the foundation, and part two will look at potential solutions and ways to move forward.

The app is produced by former Evernote CEO Phil Libin’s AI-focused startup studio All Turtles, but it doesn’t use AI as it had originally planned. In fact, the team found that AI was part of the problem. As the Sift website explains, its user research showed that “users value human curation, not based on algorithms that clutter news consumption.”

It’s interesting that Sift is positioning itself almost as a self-care app, but for news consumption. The idea that we should take time for ourselves, reduce our stress, meditate and prioritize our mental health and wellness is a more modern concept — one attributed to the millennial and Gen Z demographic, who have grown up in the always-on digital age. These concepts have led to a booming self-care market, where the top apps are raking in multi-millions annually. 

News organizations, by comparison, often struggle. Over the course of 2018, media businesses saw numerous layoffs, hiring freezes and shutdowns. But subscription-based publications can be a bright spot — as with The NYT hitting a 13-year high, or Apple rounding up all-you-can-eat news into a subscription add-on for Apple News.

Sift aims to appeal to both markets: those who want quality news by subscription, and those focused on self-care.

Whether either of these demographics at all overlap with the crowd of news consumers who actually need more education and time to reflect, however, remains to be seen.

Sift was co-founded by Chris Ploeg, and includes engineer Steve White and Kelly Chen on editorial. It also works with contributors Nithin Coca, Laura Dorwart, Hilary Fung, MJ Gimenez, Tekendra Parmar, Casey O’Brien, Lewis Wallace and Rowan Walrath.

The app is a free download on the App Store.

Chipotle customers are saying their accounts have been hacked

A stream of Chipotle customers have said their accounts have been hacked and are reporting fraudulent orders charged to their credit cards — sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars.

Customers have posted on several Reddit threads complaining of account breaches and many more have tweeted at @ChipotleTweets to alert the fast food giant of the problem. In most cases, orders were put through under a victim’s account and delivered to addresses often not even in the victim’s state.

Many of the customers TechCrunch spoke to in the past two days said they used their Chipotle account password on other sites. Chipotle spokesperson Laurie Schalow told TechCrunch that credential stuffing was to blame. Hackers take lists of usernames and passwords from other breached sites and brute-force their way into other accounts.

But several customers we spoke to said their password was unique to Chipotle. Another customer said they didn’t have an account but ordered through Chipotle’s guest checkout option.

Tweets from Chipotle customers. (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

When we asked Chipotle about this, Schalow said the company is “monitoring any possible account security issues of which we’re made aware and continue to have no indication of a breach of private data of our customers,” and reiterated that the company’s data points to credential stuffing.

It’s a similar set of complaints made by DoorDash customers last year, who said their accounts had been improperly accessed. DoorDash also blamed the account hacks on credential stuffing, but could not explain how some accounts were breached even when users told TechCrunch that they used a unique password on the site.

If credential stuffing is to blame for Chipotle account breaches, rolling out two-factor authentication would help prevent the automated login process — and, put an additional barrier between a hacker and a victim’s account.

But when asked if Chipotle has plans to roll out two-factor authentication to protect its customers going forward, spokesperson Schalow declined to comment. “We don’t discuss our security strategies.”

Chipotle reported a data breach in 2017 affecting its 2,250 restaurants. Hackers infected its point-of-sale devices with malware, scraping millions of payment cards from unsuspecting restaurant goers. More than a hundred fast food and restaurant chains were also affected by the same malware infections.

In August, three suspects said to be members of the FIN7 hacking and fraud group were charged with the credit card thefts.

Wonderloop’s networking app lets you swipe left on video profiles instead of pictures

There isn’t much left to be done in online networking apps. We are all familiar with professional (LinkedIn), social (Facebook), realtime (Twitter), and dating (Tinder, Bummble etc). But profile photos of the people you’re interacting with only get you so far. And we’ve all known that person who looked smart in the photo and turned out to be not so amazing in real life. Photos don’t communicate a person’s energy, body language or their voice.

An app called Wonderloop hopes to solve this problem, with video profiles, like this one.

It’s now added swiping people, Tinder-style. Left for “later and right for “favorite”. In addition, you can see who’s “Nearby” with a location feature, making it more likely you may even bump into this person. How’s that for making your day more… interesting?

Founder Hanna Aase says Wonderloop is not so much “LinkedIn with video” as much as it is “About.me with video”. Why? Well, because it also has a web-platform, allowing you to share your video profile outside the app, as well as message inside it.

I must admit, it’s fair to say that the impression you get from a person from watching them for 10 seconds on a video is pretty persuasive.

Aase says Wonderloop could end up being your personal “video ID” providing each user with their unique video profile. She says Wonderloop’s aim is to create a search engine out of people on video.

“To see people on video creates trust. Wonderloop’s goal is that every person in the world should have a video identity. We want to help users get seen in this world. You use Wonderloop for the first step of turning a stranger into a potentially cool person in your life,” she added.

She thinks the app will be used by people to make new friends, connect influencers with fans, connect entrepreneurs, connect freelancers and travelers and of course a bit of dating here and there.

She’s also hoping the app will appeal to Millennials and Generation-Z who, as frequent travelers, are often into meeting people “nearby.” “We did research and were surprised to the extent the age group 16-20 wish to find new friends,” she says. For instance, apps like Jodel are used by young people to reach out to chat to complete strangers nearby (although with no names attached).

Right now the app is invite-only, but users can apply inside the app. Aase says: “We hope to do it in stages as the company grows and in a way where users feel the community is a place they feel safe and can share who they are on video. But being invite-only also makes us differentiated to all other services.”

How-to video maker Jumprope launches to leapfrog YouTube

Sick of pausing and rewinding YouTube tutorials to replay that tricky part? Jumprope is a new instructional social network offering a powerful how-to video slideshow creation tool. Jumprope helps people make step-by-step guides to cooking, beauty, crafts, parenting and more using voice-overed looping GIFs for each phase. And creators can export their whole lesson for sharing on Instagram, YouTube, or wherever.

Jumprope officially launches its iOS app today with plenty of how-tos for making chocolate chip bars, Easter eggs, flower boxes, or fierce eyebrows. “By switching from free-form linear video to something much more structured, we can make it much easier for people to share their knowledge and hacks” says Jumprope co-founder and CEO Jake Poses.

The rise of Snapchat Stories and Pinterest have made people comfortable jumping on camera and showing off their niche interests. By building a new medium, Jumprope could become the home for rapid-fire learning. And since viewers will have tons of purchase intent for the makeup, art supplies, or equipment they’ll need to follow along, Jumprope could make serious cash off of ads or affiliate commerce.

The opportunity to bring instruction manuals into the mobile video era has attracted a $4.5 million seed round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and joined by strategic angels like Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky and Thumbtack co-founders Marco Zappacosta and Jonathan Swanson. People are already devouring casual education content on HGTV and the Food Network, but Jumprope democratizes its creation.

Jumprope co-founders (from left): CTO Travis Johnson and CEO Jake Poses

The idea came from a deeply personal place for Poses. “My brother has pretty severe learning differences, and so growing up with him gave me this appreciation for figuring out how to break things down and explain them to people” Poses reveals. “I think that attached me to this problem of ‘how do you organize information so its simple and easy to understand?’. Lots and lots of people have this information trapped in their heads because there isn’t an a way to easily share that.”

Poses was formerly the VP of product at Thumbtack where he helped grow the company from 8 to 500 people and a $1.25 billion valuation. He teamed up with AppNexus’ VP of engineering Travis Johnson, who’d been leading a 50-person team of coders. “The product takes people who have knowledge and passion but not the skill to make video [and gives them] guard rails that make it easy to communicate” Poses explains.

Disrupting incumbents like YouTube’s grip on viewers might take years, but Jumprope sees its guide creation and export tool as a way to infiltrate and steal their users. That strategy mirrors how TikTok’s watermarked exports colonized the web

How To Make A Jumprope.

Jumprope lays out everything you’ll need to upload, including a cover image, introduction video, supplies list, and all your steps. For each, you’ll record a video that you can then enhance with voice over, increased speed, music, and filters.

Creators are free to suggest their own products or enter affiliate links to monetize their videos. Once it has enough viewers, Jumprope plans to introduce advertising, but it could also add tipping, subscriptions, paid how-tos, or brand sponsorship options down the line. Creators can export their lessons with five different border themes and seven different aspect ratios for posting to Instagram’s feed, IGTV, Snapchat Stories, YouTube, or embedding on their blog.

“Like with Stories, you basically tap through at your own pace” Poses says of the viewing experience. Jumprope offers some rudimentary discovery through categories, themed collections, or what’s new and popular. The startup has done extensive legwork to sign up featured creators in all its top categories. That means Jumprope’s catalog is already extensive, with food guides ranging from cinnabuns to pot roasts to how to perfectly chop an onion. 

“You’re not constantly dealing with the frustration of cooking something and trying to start and stop the video with greasy hands. And if you don’t want all the details, you can tap through it much faster” than trying to skim a YouTube video or blog post, Poses tells me. Next the company wants to build a commenting feature where you can leave notes, substitution suggestions, and more on each step of a guide.

Poses claims there’s no one building a direct competitor to its mobile video how-to editor. But he admits it will be an uphill climb to displace viewership on Instagram and YouTube. One challenge facing Jumprope is that most people aren’t hunting down how-to videos every day. The app will have to work to remind users it exists and that they shouldn’t just go with the lazy default of letting Google recommend the videos it hosts.

The internet has gathered communities around every conceivable interest. But greater access to creation and consumption necessitates better tools for production and curation. As we move from a material to an experiential culture, people crave skills that will help them forge memories and contribute to the world around them. Jumprope makes it a lot less work to leap into the life of a guru.

ZenGo wants to become the crypto wallet for the masses

KZen is about to release ZenGo, a mobile app to manage your cryptocurrencies securely and more easily. There are already countless of crypto wallets out there, but the startup thinks they’re all either too complicated or too insecure.

If you own cryptocurrencies, chances are they’re sitting on an exchange, such as Coinbase or Binance. If somebody manages to log in to your account, nothing is stopping them from sending those assets to other wallets and stealing everything.

Worse, if somebody hacks an exchange, they could potentially divert cryptocurrencies from that exchange’s wallets. In other words, leaving your cryptocurrencies on an exchange means you give your assets to that exchange and hope they properly take care of them.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can manage your private keys yourself and rely on a hardware wallet from Ledger and Trezor. The learning curve is too hard for many people. And if you don’t follow instructions properly, you might end up losing access to your wallet or accidentally sharing private keys.

Enough about other wallets, let’s talk about ZenGo. Former TechCrunch editor Ouriel Ohayon and his team think the perfect wallet app involves a smartphone you own paired with ZenGo’s servers.

The company uses threshold signatures, which means that you need both ZenGo’s servers and your smartphone to initiate a transaction. If you lose your device, you can recover your funds. But the startup can’t access your cryptocurrencies on its own.

Behind the scene, ZenGo still uses a public key and private secrets, but everything is completely transparent for the end user.

When you set up your wallet, two private secrets are generated separately and stored in multiple ways — one part is on your smartphone, the other is on the servers. You need both parts to sign a transaction. If you back up your device part to ZenGo’s servers, you can recover all parts in case you lose your device for instance.

ZenGo can’t directly access the second part on its own because it is encrypted using a decryption code that is stored on your iCloud account. But accessing your iCloud is not enough — if you want to recover your wallets, you need to prove your identity.

That’s why the company stores a 3D biometric face map to let you restore your wallets on a new device. The company partners with ZoOm so that you can create a face map from any smartphone with a selfie camera.

The security model has been open-sourced and I hope many security experts will try and find vulnerabilities. That’s the only way you can know for sure that it’s a secure system.

All of this sounds complicated, but most users won’t even realize what’s happening. I tried the app and it’s a well-designed mobile app. Right now, it only supports Bitcoin and Ethereum but more assets are on the way. The company tracks your public addresses to notify you when you receive funds.

The app isn’t available just yet. It should launch as a beta this week and arrive in the stores pretty soon.

Just Eat acquires iPad POS system Practi in attempt to lock-in restaurants

Just Eat — the marketplace for online food delivery which IPO’d but which is now under increasing pressure from several avenues, not least Uber and Deliveroo — has decided to add to its ‘quiver of arrows’ by acquiring Practi, a software service that provides independent restaurants and small chains with tablet-based Point of Sale (PoS) and restaurant management systems.

The acquisition cost is an initial £6.7m ($8.7m) with further payments dependent on the business achieving certain commercial milestones.

The hope is that this will strengthen Just Eat’s hold on restaurant partners on its platform, either by deploying new tablets with new restaurants or by incorporating Practi’s software on Just Eat’s Orderpads. By using the Orderpads Just Eat will effectively ‘lock in’ these restaurants because it incorporates both PoS, cash and card payment handling, inventory management, kitchen operation and employee management systems, all within a single software package across multiple devices.

Previously, Just Eat acquired Flyt, which connects Just Eat’s platform to restaurants chains’ existing PoS systems. The Practi platform will, instead, be used to target restaurants that do not already have PoS and restaurant management systems.

Practi’s founders, Ohad Folman and Edan Folman, will stay on to manage the business.

Peter Duffy, Just Eat’s interim CEO said in a statement: “We are very excited about the acquisition of Practi. We found that many of our restaurant partners were calling for this type of software to help manage their businesses. It will play a vital role in supporting small and medium sized restaurants as it transforms how they run their restaurants and deliver the best service for customers through Just Eat.”