Author: Jordan Crook

YC-backed Basement is a social network for close friends only

The past few years have been a bit of a dark age for budding social media startups. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap and messenger apps took up all the time of their users, leaving little room for yet another social media platform.

But the tide is shifting. Privacy scandals have shaken some users’ faith giants like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and users have grown fatigued by the constant onslaught of #content.

Basement, a YC-backed startup, is looking to give users a new, simpler social network.

Basement allows users to only add up to 20 friends on the network. Cofounders Fernando Rojo and Jeremy Berman said they waited around for someone to build something like Basement after seeing their own friend groups migrate most of their communication to messenger apps from Facebook and other social networks.

On Basement, there are no filters or influencers. The hope is that users share with the people they actually want to share with.

It uses a feed-based system for sharing, letting users share content to their 20 friends. Users can also share to a smaller group of friends by tagging them, which limits the viewership to only mutual friends of those tagged.

Users who are friends can see one another’s comments on a mutual friend’s post. However, comments left by non-friends will always appear anonymous.

Alongside the main feed, Basement also has a meme feed, letting users choose from the internet’s top trending memes to share to their friend group.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Of course, Basement isn’t the first startup to try out the idea of a close-friends social network. Path was founded by Shawn Fanning and Dave Morin in 2010, giving users a photo-sharing and messaging platform that maxed out at 50 friends.

The network grew in the face of competition from Facebook, and at peak had around 50 million users. In fact, Path was raising money at a valuation of $500 million and turned down a $100 million offer from Google in its early months.

But it failed to retain talent, users and momentum. (A controversial privacy scandal in 2012 didn’t help.) In 2015, Path sold to Kakao for an undisclosed amount and was shut down for good just last year.

Rojo and Berman believe timing is more in their favor than it was with Path, but are also targeting a different audience. Whereas Path was aimed both at close friends and family, Basement wants to position itself squarely with young people who are already spending their time in meme-laden group chats.

“One of the challenges is that growth isn’t necessarily as inherently explosive in a micro-network as it would be with a broader social network,” said Rojo. “What’s exciting to us is that if anyone tries to spark up something similar to this, they’ll be one or two years behind. It’s harder to grow a micronetwork, but once it’s bigger it’s much more robust because it’s the place where people turn when they want to connect with their close friends.”

What’s more: Basement promises to never run ads on the platform.

The company plans to mimic the WhatsApp business model, giving users their first year free and then charging an inexpensive subscription after that.

JetBlue contest asks users to delete their Instagram pics to fly free for a year

In a move that’s both bold and bizarre, JetBlue is introducing a new contest that will give three winners a year of free flights on the carrier. But entrance to the contest comes at a steep price. Users must delete all of their Instagram photos, post a new photo using a JetBlue template and hope to be one of the lucky three.

Entrants must keep their Instagram clear, and set to Public, through March 8.

On the one hand, the Instagram-decimating contest may tap into some of the anti-social sentiment that’s cropped up over the past couple of years. In the wake of data misuse and privacy mishandling by Facebook, which owns Instagram, conversations around deleting social media and one’s own digital imprint have grown more frequent.

Plus, Instagram has tools to let users download all of their photos. Starting fresh on social media may be an attractive prospect to some people.

On the other hand, Instagram has been a modern-day photo album for many people, representing a place where they record the various steps of their life. For many, the request to delete their IG history is a very tall order.

The situation is made more baffling by the fact that JetBlue doesn’t really explain why you must delete all your Instagram photos before posting their promotional garbage content.

Perhaps the carrier would like to replicate the same viral moment that #FyreFestival did with that burnt orange square. Or maybe I’m falling into their trap as we speak, as a seemingly crazy request to delete an entire Instagram history is inherently a bit of a publicity stunt.

Whatever the case, we all have a very first-world decision to make. What’s worth more: your Instagram or the slim chance of free flights for a year?

Polite Fortnite Society

My parents are approaching 60. When they were young, they hung out at diners, or drove around in their cars. My generation hung out in the parking lot after school, or at the mall. My colleague John Biggs often talks of hanging out with his nerd buddies in his basement, playing games and making crank calls.

Today, young people are hanging out on a virtual island plagued by an ever-closing fatal storm. It’s called Fortnite .

The thread above describes exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, people most certainly log on and play the game. Some play it very seriously. But many, especially young folks, hop on to Fortnite to socialize.

The phenomenon of ‘hanging out’ on a game is not new.

Almost any popular game results in a community of players who connect not only through the common interest of the game itself, but as real friends who discuss their lives, thoughts, dreams, etc. But something else is afoot on Fortnite that may be far more effectual.

Gaming culture has long had a reputation for being highly toxic. To be clear, there is a difference between talking about someone’s skills in the game and making a personal attack:

“You are bad at this game.” = Fine by me
“You should kill yourself.” = Not fine at all

But many streamers and pro gamers make offensive jokes, talk shit about each other, and rage when they lose. It’s not shocking, then, that the broader gaming community that tries to emulate them, especially the young men growing up in a world where esports are real, tend to do many of the same things.

A new type of community

But Fortnite doesn’t have the same type of community. Sure, as with any game, there are bad apples. But on the whole, there isn’t the same toxicity permeating every single part of the game.

For what it’s worth, I’ve played hundreds of hours of both Fortnite and Call of Duty over the past few years. The difference between the way I’m treated on Fortnite and Call of Duty, particularly once my game-matched teammates discover I’m a woman, is truly staggering. I’ve actually been legitimately scared by my interactions with people on Call of Duty. I’ve met some of my closest friends on Fortnite.

One such relationship is with a young man named Luke, who is set to graduate from college this spring.

During the course of our now year-long friendship, Luke revealed to me that he is gay and was having trouble coming out to his parents and peers at school. As an older gay, I tried to provide him with as much guidance and advice as possible. Being there for him, answering his phone calls when he was struggling and reminding him that he’s a unique, strong individual has perhaps been one of the most rewarding parts of my life this past year.

I’ve also made friends with young men who, once they realize that I’m older and a woman and have a perspective that they might not, casually ask me for advice. They’ve asked me why the girl they like doesn’t seem to like them back — “don’t try to make her jealous, just treat her with kindness,” I advised, and then added “ok, make her a little jealous” — or vented to me about how their parents “are idiots” — “they don’t understand you, and you don’t understand them, but they’re doing their best for you and no one loves you like they do” — or expressed insecurity about who they are — “you’re great at Fortnite, why wouldn’t you be great at a bunch of other things?” and “have more confidence in yourself.”

(Though paraphrased, these are real conversations I’ve had with random players on Fortnite.)

There is perhaps no other setting where I might meet these young people, nor one where they might meet me. And even if we did meet, out in the real world, would we open up and discuss our lives? No. But we have this place in common, and as we multitask playing the game and having a conversation, suddenly our little hearts open up to one another in the safety of the island.

But that’s just me. I see this mentorship all the time in Fortnite, in both small and big ways.

Gaming culture is often seen as a vile thing, and there are a wide array of examples to support that conclusion. Though this perception is slowly changing, and not always fair, gamers are usually either perceived as lonely people bathed in the blue glow of the monitor light, or toxic brats who cuss, and throw out slurs, and degrade women.

So why is Fortnite any different from other games? Why does it seem to foster a community that, at the very least, doesn’t actively hate on one another?

One map, a million colors

First, it’s the game itself. Even though Fortnite includes weapons, it’s not a ‘violent’ game. There is no blood or gore. When someone is eliminated, their character simply evaporates into a pile of brightly colored loot. The game feels whimsical and cartoonish and fun, full of dances and fun outfits. This musical, colorful world most certainly affects the mood of its players.

Logging on to Fortnite feels good, like hearing the opening music to the Harry Potter movies. Logging on to a game like, say, Call of Duty: WWII feels sad and scary, like watching the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan.

Moreover, Fortnite Battle Royale takes place on a single large map. That map may change and evolve from time to time, but it’s even more “common ground” between players. Veterans of the game show noobs new spots to find loot or ways to get around. As my colleague Greg Kumparak said to me, “every time you go in, you’re going to the same place. Maybe it’s skinned a little different or there’s suddenly a viking ship, but it’s home.”

Of course, there are other colorful, bubbly games that still have a huge toxicity problem. Overwatch is a great example. So what’s the difference?

Managing expectations

Battle Royale has introduced a brand new dynamic to the world of gaming. Instead of facing off in a one-vs-one or a five-vs-five scenario as with Starcraft or Overwatch respectively, Battle Royale is either 1-vs-99, 2-vs-98 or 4-vs-96.

“It isn’t as binary as winning or losing,” said Rod “Slasher” Breslau, longtime gaming and esports journalist formerly of ESPN and CBS Interactive’s GameSpot. “You could place fifth and still feel satisfied about how you played.”

Breslau played Overwatch at the highest levels for a few seasons and said that it was the most frustrating game he’s ever played in 20 years of gaming. It may be colorful and bubbly, but it is built in a way that gives an individual player a very limited ability to sway the outcome of the game.

“You have all the normal problems of playing in a team, relying on your teammates to play their best and communicate and to simply have the skill to compete, but multiply that because of the way the game works,” said Breslau. “It’s very reliant on heroes, the meta is pretty stale because it’s a relatively new game, and the meta has been figured out.”

All that, combined with the fact that success in Overwatch is based on teamwork, make it easy to get frustrated and unleash on teammates.

With Fortnite, a number of factors relieve that stress. In an ideal scenario, you match up with three other players in a Squads match and they are all cooperative. Everyone lands together, they share shield potions and weapons, communicate about nearby enemies, and literally pick each other up when one gets knocked down. This type of teamwork, even among randos, fosters kindness.

In a worst case scenario, you are matched up with players who aren’t cooperative, who use toxic language, who steal your loot or simply run off and die, leaving you alone to fight off teams of four. Even in the latter scenario, there are ways to play more cautiously — play passive and hide, or third-party fights that are underway and pick players off, or lure teams intro trapped up houses.

Sure, it’s helpful to have skilled, communicative teammates, but being matched with not-so-great teammates doesn’t send most people into a blind rage.

And because the odds are against you — 1 vs 99 in Solos or 4 vs 96 in Squads — the high of winning is nearly euphoric.

“The lows are the problem,” says Breslau. “Winning a close game of Overwatch, when the team is working together and communicating, feels great. But when you’re depending on your team to win, the lows are so low. The lows aren’t like that in Fortnite.”

The more the merrier

The popularity of Fortnite as a cultural phenomenon, not just a game, means that plenty of non-gamers have found their way onto the island. Young people, a brand new generation of gamers, are obsessed with the game. But folks who might have fallen away from gaming as they got older are still downloading it on their phone, or installing it on the Nintendo Switch, and giving Battle Royale a try. Outsiders, who haven’t been steeped in the all-too-common hatred found in the usual gaming community, are bringing a sense of perspective to Fortnite. There is simply more diversity that comes with a larger pool of players, and diversity fosters understanding.

Plus, Fortnite has solid age distribution among players. The majority (63 percent) of players on Fortnite are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to Verto Analytics. Twenty-three percent of players are ages 24 to 35, and thirteen percent are 35 to 44 years old. However, this data doesn’t take into account players under the age of 18, which represent 28 percent of overall gamers, according to Verto. One way Fortnite is like other games is that 70 percent of players are male.

There aren’t many scenarios where four people, from different backgrounds and age groups, join up under a common goal in the type of mood-lifting setting that Fortnite provides. More often than not, the youngest little guy tries to make some sort of offensive joke to find his social place in the group. But surprisingly, for a shoot and loot game played by a lot of people, that’s rarely tolerated by the older members of a Fortnite squad.

All eyes on Fortnite

The popularity of the game also means that more eyes are on Fortnite than any other game. Super popular streamer Ninja’s live stream with Drake had more than 600,000 concurrent viewers, setting a record. The more people watching, the more streamers are forced to watch their behavior.

Fortnite streamers are setting a new example for gamers everywhere.

One such streamer is Nick “NickMercs” Kolcheff. Nick has been streaming Fortnite since it first came out and has a huge community of mostly male viewers. I consider myself a part of, albeit a minority in, that community — I’ve subscribed to his channel and cheered for him with bits and participated in the chat. In short, I’ve spent plenty of time watching Nick and have seen him offer a place of support and friendship for his viewers.

I’ve seen Nick’s audience ask him, in so many words, how to lose weight (Nick’s a big fitness guy), or share that they’re dealing with an illness in the family, or share that they’re heartbroken because their girlfriend cheated on them.

In large part, Nick says he learned how to be a mentor from his own dad.

“I remember being in those kinds of positions, but I have a great father that always sat me down and let me vent and then shared his opinion, and reminded me that it isn’t supposed to be easy,” said Kolcheff. “It feels good to bounce things off other people and hard things always feel much easier when you know you’re not alone, and I can relate to my chat the way my dad relates to me.”

Nick always has something positive to say. He reminds his audience that even if they feel alone IRL, they have a community right there in his Twitch channel to talk to. He sets an example in the way he talks about his girlfriend Emu, and the way he treats her on screen. When Nick loses a game and his chat explodes with anger, he reminds them to be cool and to not talk shit about other players.

And it’s easy to see his example followed in the chat, where young people are treating each other with respect and answering each other’s questions.

Nick wasn’t always like this. In fact, the first time that NickMercs and Ninja played together on stream, they brought up the time that Nick challenged Ninja to a fight at a LAN tournament years ago. But both Nick and Ninja have matured into something that you rarely find in online gaming: a role model — and it’s had an effect.

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, far and away the most successful Twitch streamer ever, decided to stop swearing and using degrading language as his influence in the community and his viewership grew. When his audience said they missed the old Ninja, he had this to say:

I’m the same person, you guys. 2018 can’t handle old Ninja and… guess what, I can’t handle old Ninja because the words that I used to say and the gaming terms I used to say… they weren’t ok, alright? I’ve matured.

Jack “Courage” Dunlop is another Fortnite streamer who uses his influence in the community to mentor young people. He has befriended a young fellow named Connor. Courage helped Connor get his first win and has since continued playing with him and talking to him.

Not only is he being kind to Connor, but he’s setting an example for his viewers.

“In comparison to games like Call of Duty and Gears of War and Halo, the top content creators like Ninja, Sypher PK, Timthetatman, are a little older now,” said Kolcheff. “They’ve come from other games where they already had a following. If you look at me five or six years ago, or any of us, we’ve all chilled out. We were more combative and crazy and had a lot more words to say, but I think we just grew up, and it bleeds through to the community.”

These guys are the exception in the wider world of gaming and streaming. But they represent the future of gaming in general. As esports explode with growth, pro players will undoubtedly be held to the same behavioral standards as pro players in traditional sports. That’s not to say that pro athletes are angels, and that’s not to say that bad actors won’t have a following. Just look at PewDiePie.

A matter of time

The esports world is realizing that they can’t let their professionals run their mouth without consequences. As the industry grows, highly dependent on advertisers and brand endorsements, with a young audience hanging on every word, it will become increasingly important for leagues, esports organizations and game makers to start paying closer attention to the behavior of their top players.

We’re already seeing this type of policing happening on Overwatch, both for pro players and amateurs alike.

There is plenty more work to do. But the problem of removing toxicity from any platform is incredibly difficult. Just ask Facebook and Twitter. Still, it’s only a matter of time before esports decision-makers raise the stakes on what they’ll allow from their representatives, which are pro players and streamers.

Toxic behavior is being rejected in most polite society anywhere (except Twitter, because Twitter), and it surely can’t be tolerated much longer in the gaming world. But Fortnite maker Epic Games hasn’t had to put too much effort forth to steer clear of toxic behavior. The community seems to be doing a pretty good job holding itself accountable.

Winning where it counts

Believe you me, Fortnite is not some magical place filled with unicorns and rainbows. There are still players on the game who behave badly, cheat, use toxic language and are downright mean. But compared to other shooters, Fortnite is a breath of fresh air.

No one thing makes Fortnite less toxic. A beautiful, mood-lifting game can’t make much of a difference on its own. A huge, relatively diverse player base certainly makes a dent. And yes, the game limits frustration by simply managing expectations. But with leaders that have prioritized their position as role models, and all the other factors above working in harmony, Fortnite is not only the most popular game in the world, but perhaps one of the most polite.

We reached out to Epic Games, Courage, and Ninja for this story, but didn’t hear back at the time of publication.

Koo! is a social network for short-form podcasts

Alexandre Meregan says that music, and audio in general, has always been core to his life. But one day on his five-minute commute to work, trying to listen to a podcast for the first time, he realized that by the time he arrived at work he had only heard an introduction and a commercial jingle.

He immediately went to work on Koo!, a short-form podcast app aimed at young people. Koo! lets users record up to one minute of audio, add “sound stickers” like a drum roll or a poop sound, and share the “Koo” in a feed with their friends and followers.

Meregan believes that some young people are hesitant to share their thoughts on social media, which is mostly picture or video-based, because of the quantification of their self-worth through Like counters. With Koo! users can simply speak their thoughts without having to share a picture or video.

“At Koo! we believe a lot of great content is being held back by teenagers due to insecurities that comes with photo and video,” said Meregan onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin on the Startup Battlefield. “We feel that what you say should be more important than how you look.”

Like most social networks, Koo! is primarily focused on acquiring new users before focusing on a revenue model. Ad-supported revenue is the most obvious option to make money, but Meregan says that the team has been floating around a few other ideas, as well.

[gallery ids="1752074,1752075"]

One user-acquisition tactic, according to Meregan, is to target YouTube content creators and give them a complimentary service to share their thoughts and voice.

A handful of startups have tried their hand at audio-based social networks, but few have managed to gain much traction.

Koo! is backed by Sweet Studio, though Meregan declined to share the amount of funding the company has received to date.

Chappy, the Bumble-backed dating app for gay men, inks partnership with GLAAD

Chappy, the dating app for gay men, has today announced a partnership with GLAAD. As part of the partnership, Chappy will make a donation to GLAAD for each conversation initiated on the dating app, from now throughout 2019.

The company won’t disclose the amount of the donation, but said that it hopes to raise “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Chappy launched in 2017 to give gay men an authentic, discrimination-free way to connect with one another. The app uses a sliding scale to let users indicate what they’re looking for in a relationship, ranging from “Cute” to “Sexy.” The app has more than 650,000 registered users, and has seen more than 1 billion swipes.

Chappy is backed by Bumble and controlled by Bumble shareholders, falling under the Badoo umbrella of dating apps. Last month, Bumble named Chappy its official dating app for gay men. As part of that relationship, Bumble and Chappy will be cross-promoting each other’s apps.

Adam Cohen-Aslatei, managing director at Chappy, says the donations to GLAAD will be unrestricted, and can be used by GLAAD however they see fit. Cohen-Aslatei also hopes to contribute to GLAAD’s research projects, and said that he sees the opportunity for the Chappy community to provide data-based insights to that research.

Cohen-Aslatei joins the Chappy team from Jun Group, where he was vice president of Marketing. He was appointed to the position last month.

“There are a lot of dating apps out there and a lot of gimmicks out there,” said Cohen-Aslatei. “We’re trying to improve the way the gay community meets each other and thinks about relationships, but also the way they think about their commitment to the community. We’re a relationship and advocacy app, and we want to partner with the right organizations to drive awareness to what we are.”

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 of the app.

Discord’s Jason Citron to chat it up at Disrupt SF

In September of 2013, Jason Citron hopped on to the Disrupt Startup Battlefield stage to pitch Fates Forever, a multiplayer online battle arena game for the iPad. Now, five years later, Citron is gearing up to join us once again on the Disrupt stage to discuss the stellar growth of Discord.

Though Fates Forever had all the components to be a great mobile game, users simply never took much interest. The company struggled to monetize, and like any good startup, the team began to reassess its own situation.

The conversation turned to communication, where the space contained a few players with lack-luster products.

“Can we make a 10X project?,” said CMO Eros Resmini, relaying the tale of the company’s pivot to TechCrunch. “Low-friction usage, no renting servers, beautiful design we took from mobile.”

That’s how Discord was born. The platform launched in 2016, and has since grown to 90 million registered users, and has raised nearly $80 million in funding.

Coming from the publishing side, the Discord team had a keen awareness of what gamers want and need: a clean, secure communications platform. Since launch, the team has launched features that let game developers integrate Discord chat into their own games, as well as video-chat and screen-sharing.

But the progress has not been without discord . The company shut down several servers associated with the alt-right for violating the terms of service, bringing Discord to the center of the on-going conversation around censorship and political bias.

That said, Discord has seemed to find its stride, forming partnerships with various esports organizations for verified servers.

There is plenty to discuss with Jason Citron at Disrupt SF, and we hope you’ll join us to check out the conversation live.

The full agenda is here. Passes for the show are available at the early-bird rate until August 1 here.

Twitter turns to academics to improve conversational health on the platform

Twitter is partnering with two groups of academic researchers to figure out how to measure the health of conversations happening on the platform.

It’s all part of the company’s continuing long game for social relevance. Despite the fact that it lost 1 million users, the company also posted $100 million in profit during last week’s earnings. But neither of these numbers seem to change the fact that Twitter needs to make some adjustments to the way people use the social network.

In March, Twitter called for proposals from researchers to see how they might approach the issue of analytics around the types and manner of conversations on Twitter. These proposals were thoroughly reviewed by Twitter employees from a variety of departments at the company, including Engineering, Product, Machine Learning, Data Science, Trust and Safety, Legal and Research. Twitter also says that the review committee was organized to include representatives from diverse groups across the company. (Reminder: less than 10 percent of Twitter employees are diverse, so it was likely a busy few months for those people.)

Well, the review process is now over and Twitter has decided on two research teams, who will focus on two different issues.

The first team, led by scholars from Leiden University, will look at how echo chambers form and their effect, as well as the difference between incivility and intolerance within Twitter conversations. The team — including Dr. Rebekah Tromble, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Leiden University, Dr. Michael Meffert at Leiden, Dr. Patricia Rossini and Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley at Syracuse University, Dr. Nava Tintarev at Delft University of Technology, and Dr. Dirk Hovy at Bocconi University — has found in past research that echo chambers can cause hostility and promote resentment towards those not having the same conversation.

The first set of metrics this team is focusing on will look at the extent to which people acknowledge and engage with diverse viewpoints on Twitter. The second set of metrics will look at the difference between incivility and intolerance. Past research by this group shows that incivility can serve important functions in political dialogue, though not without spurring its own problems. On the other hand, intolerant speech (hate speech, racism, xenophobia) threatens our democracy. The team plans to develop algorithms that will distinguish between more useful incivility and the very useless intolerance we encounter daily on Twitter.

The second research project will be led by Professor Miles Hewstone and John Gallacher at The University of Oxford, in partnership with Dr. Marc Heerdink at the University of Amsterdam. The work will be an extension of Prof. Hewstone’s long standing work to study intergroup conflict. The current findings from this study show that when conversation contains more positive sentiments, cooperative emotions, and more complex thinking and reasoning from multiple perspectives, prejudice will go down and the quality of the relationships will go up.

“As part of the project, text classifiers for language commonly associated with positive sentiment, cooperative emotionality, and integrative complexity will be adapted to the structure of communication on Twitter,” the Twitter blog says.

Just like any social network, Twitter provides scaffolding. Users, on the other hand, construct buildings made of dialogue. How exactly Twitter will be able to adjust the scaffolding to produce more useful, empathetic conversations is still a mystery. But bringing in the academic community to help is an excellent next step.

Tinder Loops, the dating app’s new video feature, rolls out globally

Tinder Loops, the recently announced video feature from Tinder, is today rolling out globally.

Tinder has been testing this feature in Canada and Sweden since April, when it was first announced, and has rolled out to a few other markets since then.

Today, Loops are available to Tinder users across the following markets: Japan, United Kingdom, United States, France, Korea, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Kuwait, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

Loops are two-second, looping videos that can be posted to users’ profiles. Users can’t shoot Tinder Loops from within the app, but rather have to upload and edit existing videos in their camera roll or upload a Live Photo from an iOS device.

Tinder is also expanding the number of images you can post to your profile to nine, in order to make room for Loops without displacing existing photos.

Given that Tinder has been testing the feature since early April, the company now has more data around how Tinder Loops have been working out for users. For example, users who added a Loop to their profile saw that their average conversation length went up by 20 percent. The feature seems to be particularly effective in Japan — Loops launched there in June — with users receiving an average of 10 percent more right swipes if they had a Loop in their profile.

In the age of Instagram and Tinder, people have used photos to represent themselves online. But, with all the editing tools out there, that also means that photos aren’t always the most accurate portrayal of personality or appearance. Videos on Tinder offer a new way to get to know someone for who they are.

Instagram tests questions in Stories

Instagram has been incredibly busy of late, announcing IGTV, Instagram Lite and a slate of features including Stories Soundtracks. But the Facebook-owned photo-sharing service doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

Android Police today noted that Instagram is testing a feature that would allow users to post questions to their followers and receive answers.

Instagram already offers the ability to publish polls to followers with multiple-choice options for answering. But this test seems to point toward the option to offer lengthier responses to users’ questions.

One user in Indonesia sent to Android Police a screencap of the feature(pictured above), and a user in Spain also spotted the feature. That said, we still have very little information on just how this might work.

Right now, when a user posts to their Story, their followers can respond via DM. With more open-ended questions and responses, it’s unclear if responses will still come in via DM or be bundled together as part of the story.

The latter seems more in keeping with Instagram’s push to make Stories as interactive as possible. The open-ended question could serve as a jumping off point for a collaborative story comprised of everyone’s responses.

That said, this feature hasn’t been confirmed by Instagram, though we’ve reached out and will update the post when we learn more.