Category Archives: Mobile

TikTok spotted testing native video ads

TikTok is testing a new ad product: a sponsored video ad that directs users to the advertiser’s website. The test was spotted in the beta version of the U.S. TikTok app, where a video labeled “Sponsored” from the bike retailer Specialized is showing up in the main feed, along with a blue “Lean More” button that directs users to tap to get more information.

Presumably, this button could be customized to send users to the advertiser’s website or any other web address, but for the time being it only opened the Specialized Bikes (@specializedbikes) profile page within the TikTok app.

However, the profile page itself also sported a few new features, including what appeared to be a tweaked version of the verified account badge.

Below the @specializedbikes username was “Specialized Bikes Page” and a blue checkmark (see below). On other social networks, checkmarks like this usually indicate a user whose account has gone through a verification process of some kind.

Typical TikTok user profiles don’t look like this — they generally only include the username. In some cases, we’ve seen them sport other labels like “popular creator” or “Official Account” — but these have been tagged with a yellowish-orange checkmark, not a blue one.

In addition, a pop-up banner overlay appeared at the bottom of the profile page, which directed users to “Go to Website” followed by another blue “Learn More” button.

Oddly, this pop-up banner didn’t show up all the time, and the “Learn More” button didn’t work — it only re-opened the retailer’s profile page.

As for the video itself, it features a Valentine’s Day heart that you can send to a crush, and, of course, some bikes.

The music backing the clip is Breakbot’s “By Your Side,” but is labeled “Promoted Music.” Weirdly, when you tap on the “Promoted Music” you’re not taken to the soundbite on TikTok like usual, but instead get an error message saying “Ad videos currently do not support this feature.”

The glitches indicate this video ad unit is still very much in the process of being tested, and not a publicly available ad product at this time.

TikTok parent ByteDance only just began to experiment with advertising in the U.S. and U.K. in January.

So far, public tests have only included an app launch pre-roll ad. But according to a leaked pitch deck published by Digiday, there are four TikTok ad products in the works: a brand takeover, an in-feed native video ad, a hashtag challenge and a Snapchat-style 2D lens filter for photos; 3D and AR lens were listed as “coming soon.”

TikTok previously worked with GUESS on a hashtag challenge last year, and has more recently been running app launch pre-roll ads for companies like GrubHub, Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and others. However, a native video ad hadn’t yet been spotted in the wild until now.

According to estimates from Sensor Tower, TikTok has grown to nearly 800 million lifetime installs, not counting Android in China. Factoring that in, it’s fair to say the app has topped 1 billion downloads. As of last July, TikTok claimed to have more than 500 million monthly active users worldwide, excluding the 100 million users it gained from acquiring Musical.ly.

That’s a massive user base, and attractive to advertisers. Plus, native video ads like the one seen in testing would allow brands to participate in the community, instead of interrupting the experience the way video pre-rolls do.

TikTok has been reached for comment, but was not able to provide one at this time. We’ll update if that changes. Specialized declined to comment.

First look at Twitter’s Snapchatty new Camera feature

Twitter has been secretly developing an enhanced camera feature that’s accessible with a swipe from the home screen and allows you to overlay captions on photos, videos, and Live broadcasts before sharing them to the timeline. Twitter is already used by people to post pictures and videos, but as it builds up its profile as a media company, and in the age of Snapchat and Instagram, it is working on the feature in hopes it will get people doing that even more.

Described in Twitter’s code as the “News Camera”, the Snapchat-style visual sharing option could turn more people into citizen journalists… or just get them sharing more selfies, reaction shots, and the world around them. Getting more original visual content into Twitter spices up the feed and could also help photo and video ads blend in.

Prototypes of the new Twitter camera were first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra a week ago, and he produced a video of the feature today.

He describes the ability to swipe left from the homescreen to bring up the new unified capture screen. After you shoot some media, overlays appear prompting you to add a location and a caption to describe “what’s happening”. Users can choose from six colored backgrounds for the caption and location overlay card before posting, which lets you unite words and imagery on Twitter for the first time to make a splash with your tweets.

Meanwhile, code digger and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong has found Twitter code describing how users should “Try the updated Twitter camera” to “capture photos, videos, and go live”. Bloomberg and CNBC had previously reported that Twitter was building an improved camera, but without feature details or screenshots.

Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s currently developing the new camera feature. A Twitter spokesperson told us “I can confirm that we’re working on an easier way to share thing like images and videos on Twitter. What you’re seeing is in mid-development so it’s tough to comment on what things will look like in the final stage. The team is still actively working on what we’ll actually end up shipping.” When asked when it would launch, the spokesperson told us “Unfortunately we don’t have a timeline right now. You could expect the first half of this year.”

Twitter has largely sat by as visual sharing overtook the rest of the social media landscape. It’s yet to launch a Snapchat Stories feature like almost every other app — although you could argue that Moments was an effort to do that — and it seems to have neglected Persicope as the Live broadcasting trend waned. But the information density of all the words on Twitter might make it daunting to mainstream users compared to something easy and visual like Instagram.

This month, as it turns away from reporting monthly active users, Twitter reported daily active users for the first time, revealing it has 126 million that are monetizable compared to Snapchat’s 186 million while Instagram has over 500 million.

The new Twitter camera could make the service more appealing for people who see something worth sharing, but don’t always know what to say,

Instagram is now testing a web version of Direct messages

Insta-chat addicts, rejoice. You could soon be trading memes and emojis from your computer. Instagram is internally testing a web version of Instagram Direct messaging that lets people chat without the app. If, or more likely, when this rolls out publicly, users on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac, a non-Android or iPhone, or that access Instagram via a mobile web browser will be able to privately message other Instagrammers.

Instagram web DMs was one of the features I called for in a product wishlist I published in December alongside a See More Like This button for the feed and an upload quality indicator so your Stories don’t look crappy if you’re on a slow connection.

A web version could make Instagram Direct a more full-fledged SMS alternative rather than just a tacked-on feature for discussing the photo and video app’s content. Messages are a massive driver of engagement that frequently draws people back to an app, and knowing friends can receive them anywhere could get users sending more. While Facebook doesn’t monetize Instagram Direct itself, it could get users browsing through more ads while they wait for replies.

Given Facebook’s own chat feature started on the web before going mobile and getting its own Messenger app, and WhatsApp launched a web portal in 2015 followed by desktop clients in 2016, it’s sensible for Instagram Direct to embrace the web too. It could also pave the way for Facebook’s upcoming unification of the backend infrastructure for Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct that should expand encryption and allow cross-app chat, as reported by the New York Times’ Mike Isaac.

Mobile reverse-engineering specialist and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong alerted us to Instagram’s test. It’s not available to users yet, as it’s still being internally “dogfooded” — used heavily by employees to identify bugs or necessary product changes. But she was able to dig past security and access the feature from both a desktop computer and mobile web browser.

In the current design, Direct on the web is available from a Direct arrow icon in the top right of the screen. The feature looks like it will use an Instagram.com/direct/…. URL structure. If the feature becomes popular, perhaps Facebook will break it out with its own Direct destination website similar to https://www.messenger.com which launched in 2015. Instagram began testing a standalone Direct app last year, but it’s yet to be officially launched and doesn’t seem exceedingly popular.

Instagram did not respond to requests for comment before press time. The company rarely provides a statement on internal features in development until they’re being externally tested on the public, at which point it typically tells us “We’re always testing ways to improve the Instagram experience.”

After cloning Snapchat Stories to create Instagram Stories, the Facebook-owned app decimated Snap’s growth rate. That left Snapchat to focus on premium video and messaging. Last year Instagram built IGTV to compete with Snapchat Discover. And now with it testing a web version of Direct, it seems poised to challenge Snap for chat too.

Bumble launches Spotlight, its own version of Tinder’s Boost

Bumble, currently Tinder’s biggest rival in the dating app market, today launched its own version of Tinder’s “Boost” feature. On Bumble, it’s being called “Spotlight” and allows users to pay to bump their profile up to the front of the queue, in order to be seen by more people than they would otherwise.

Very much like Tinder Boost, the idea here is that getting to the front of the line will allow you to pick up matches more quickly, as you don’t have to wait until users swipe through other profiles before they see yours. Plus, depending on how far in the back of the line you are typically, Spotlight could help you be seen by those who would have never made it to your profile page at all.

Spotlight – or Boost, for that matter – isn’t something every dating app user needs.

Dating apps today organize their queues with profiles based on a number of factors – including things like profile popularity, whether you swipe right on everyone or are more selective, whether your photos are higher quality or blurry, and many other signals. If you tend to get matches easily on the apps, you may not need Spotlight. But if you suspect your profile is further down the line, or just want to make sure your profile is getting seen, the feature could help.

To use Spotlight, Bumble users must pay 2 Coins (bought through a separate in-app purchase). 1 coin is $0.99 in the U.S., or £1.99 in the U.K. Spotlight will then show your profile to more users for the next 30 minutes. Your profile is not flagged or labeled in any way, so no one knows you used Spotlight to be promoted. However, the user who purchased Spotlight will know it’s active as they’ll see stars appear across the top part of the Bumble app while it’s enabled.

Spotlight represents another way that Bumble continues to challenges Tinder head-on by rolling out similar features, after already co-opting the swipe-to-like and the super-like, for example.

The move also comes just following another successful quarter by Match Group, led by the earnings from its flagship app Tinder.

Combined with its other dating app properties, Match pulled in $457 million in revenue, up 21 percent year-over-year, and topping analyst estimates. Tinder reported its paying subscriber base grew to 4.3 million as of year-end, out of a total user base that tops 50 million. (The company doesn’t disclose the number of users it has.)

Bumble, meanwhile, today says it has now reached 50 million worldwide users, with 84,000 new users being added daily.

Spotlight is one of several in-app purchases offered by Bumble, alongside the recently launched option to access more profile filters, for example, as well as free features, like Snooze, which let you take a digital detox from online dating.

Is Europe closing in on an antitrust fix for surveillance technologists?

The German Federal Cartel Office’s decision to order Facebook to change how it processes users’ personal data this week is a sign the antitrust tide could at last be turning against platform power.

One European Commission source we spoke to, who was commenting in a personal capacity, described it as “clearly pioneering” and “a big deal”, even without Facebook being fined a dime.

The FCO’s decision instead bans the social network from linking user data across different platforms it owns, unless it gains people’s consent (nor can it make use of its services contingent on such consent). Facebook is also prohibited from gathering and linking data on users from third party websites, such as via its tracking pixels and social plugins.

The order is not yet in force, and Facebook is appealing, but should it come into force the social network faces being de facto shrunk by having its platforms siloed at the data level.

To comply with the order Facebook would have to ask users to freely consent to being data-mined — which the company does not do at present.

Yes, Facebook could still manipulate the outcome it wants from users but doing so would open it to further challenge under EU data protection law, as its current approach to consent is already being challenged.

The EU’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, requires consent to be specific, informed and freely given. That standard supports challenges to Facebook’s (still fixed) entry ‘price’ to its social services. To play you still have to agree to hand over your personal data so it can sell your attention to advertisers. But legal experts contend that’s neither privacy by design nor default.

The only ‘alternative’ Facebook offers is to tell users they can delete their account. Not that doing so would stop the company from tracking you around the rest of the mainstream web anyway. Facebook’s tracking infrastructure is also embedded across the wider Internet so it profiles non-users too.

EU data protection regulators are still investigating a very large number of consent-related GDPR complaints.

But the German FCO, which said it liaised with privacy authorities during its investigation of Facebook’s data-gathering, has dubbed this type of behavior “exploitative abuse”, having also deemed the social service to hold a monopoly position in the German market.

So there are now two lines of legal attack — antitrust and privacy law — threatening Facebook (and indeed other adtech companies’) surveillance-based business model across Europe.

A year ago the German antitrust authority also announced a probe of the online advertising sector, responding to concerns about a lack of transparency in the market. Its work here is by no means done.

Data limits

The lack of a big flashy fine attached to the German FCO’s order against Facebook makes this week’s story less of a major headline than recent European Commission antitrust fines handed to Google — such as the record-breaking $5BN penalty issued last summer for anticompetitive behaviour linked to the Android mobile platform.

But the decision is arguably just as, if not more, significant, because of the structural remedies being ordered upon Facebook. These remedies have been likened to an internal break-up of the company — with enforced internal separation of its multiple platform products at the data level.

This of course runs counter to (ad) platform giants’ preferred trajectory, which has long been to tear modesty walls down; pool user data from multiple internal (and indeed external sources), in defiance of the notion of informed consent; and mine all that personal (and sensitive) stuff to build identity-linked profiles to train algorithms that predict (and, some contend, manipulate) individual behavior.

Because if you can predict what a person is going to do you can choose which advert to serve to increase the chance they’ll click. (Or as Mark Zuckerberg puts it: ‘Senator, we run ads.’)

This means that a regulatory intervention that interferes with an ad tech giant’s ability to pool and process personal data starts to look really interesting. Because a Facebook that can’t join data dots across its sprawling social empire — or indeed across the mainstream web — wouldn’t be such a massive giant in terms of data insights. And nor, therefore, surveillance oversight.

Each of its platforms would be forced to be a more discrete (and, well, discreet) kind of business.

Competing against data-siloed platforms with a common owner — instead of a single interlinked mega-surveillance-network — also starts to sound almost possible. It suggests a playing field that’s reset, if not entirely levelled.

(Whereas, in the case of Android, the European Commission did not order any specific remedies — allowing Google to come up with ‘fixes’ itself; and so to shape the most self-serving ‘fix’ it can think of.)

Meanwhile, just look at where Facebook is now aiming to get to: A technical unification of the backend of its different social products.

Such a merger would collapse even more walls and fully enmesh platforms that started life as entirely separate products before were folded into Facebook’s empire (also, let’s not forget, via surveillance-informed acquisitions).

Facebook’s plan to unify its products on a single backend platform looks very much like an attempt to throw up technical barriers to antitrust hammers. It’s at least harder to imagine breaking up a company if its multiple, separate products are merged onto one unified backend which functions to cross and combine data streams.

Set against Facebook’s sudden desire to technically unify its full-flush of dominant social networks (Facebook Messenger; Instagram; WhatsApp) is a rising drum-beat of calls for competition-based scrutiny of tech giants.

This has been building for years, as the market power — and even democracy-denting potential — of surveillance capitalism’s data giants has telescoped into view.

Calls to break up tech giants no longer carry a suggestive punch. Regulators are routinely asked whether it’s time. As the European Commission’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, was when she handed down Google’s latest massive antitrust fine last summer.

Her response then was that she wasn’t sure breaking Google up is the right answer — preferring to try remedies that might allow competitors to have a go, while also emphasizing the importance of legislating to ensure “transparency and fairness in the business to platform relationship”.

But it’s interesting that the idea of breaking up tech giants now plays so well as political theatre, suggesting that wildly successful consumer technology companies — which have long dined out on shiny convenience-based marketing claims, made ever so saccharine sweet via the lure of ‘free’ services — have lost a big chunk of their populist pull, dogged as they have been by so many scandals.

From terrorist content and hate speech, to election interference, child exploitation, bullying, abuse. There’s also the matter of how they arrange their tax affairs.

The public perception of tech giants has matured as the ‘costs’ of their ‘free’ services have scaled into view. The upstarts have also become the establishment. People see not a new generation of ‘cuddly capitalists’ but another bunch of multinationals; highly polished but remote money-making machines that take rather more than they give back to the societies they feed off.

Google’s trick of naming each Android iteration after a different sweet treat makes for an interesting parallel to the (also now shifting) public perceptions around sugar, following closer attention to health concerns. What does its sickly sweetness mask? And after the sugar tax, we now have politicians calling for a social media levy.

Just this week the deputy leader of the main opposition party in the UK called for setting up a standalone Internet regulatory with the power to break up tech monopolies.

Talking about breaking up well-oiled, wealth-concentration machines is being seen as a populist vote winner. And companies that political leaders used to flatter and seek out for PR opportunities find themselves treated as political punchbags; Called to attend awkward grilling by hard-grafting committees, or taken to vicious task verbally at the highest profile public podia. (Though some non-democratic heads of state are still keen to press tech giant flesh.)

In Europe, Facebook’s repeat snubs of the UK parliament’s requests last year for Zuckerberg to face policymakers’ questions certainly did not go unnoticed.

Zuckerberg’s empty chair at the DCMS committee has become both a symbol of the company’s failure to accept wider societal responsibility for its products, and an indication of market failure; the CEO so powerful he doesn’t feel answerable to anyone; neither his most vulnerable users nor their elected representatives. Hence UK politicians on both sides of the aisle making political capital by talking about cutting tech giants down to size.

The political fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal looks far from done.

Quite how a UK regulator could successfully swing a regulatory hammer to break up a global Internet giant such as Facebook which is headquartered in the U.S. is another matter. But policymakers have already crossed the rubicon of public opinion and are relishing talking up having a go.

That represents a sea-change vs the neoliberal consensus that allowed competition regulators to sit on their hands for more than a decade as technology upstarts quietly hoovered up people’s data and bagged rivals, and basically went about transforming themselves from highly scalable startups into market-distorting giants with Internet-scale data-nets to snag users and buy or block competing ideas.

The political spirit looks willing to go there, and now the mechanism for breaking platforms’ distorting hold on markets may also be shaping up.

The traditional antitrust remedy of breaking a company along its business lines still looks unwieldy when faced with the blistering pace of digital technology. The problem is delivering such a fix fast enough that the business hasn’t already reconfigured to route around the reset. 

Commission antitrust decisions on the tech beat have stepped up impressively in pace on Vestager’s watch. Yet it still feels like watching paper pushers wading through treacle to try and catch a sprinter. (And Europe hasn’t gone so far as trying to impose a platform break up.) 

But the German FCO decision against Facebook hints at an alternative way forward for regulating the dominance of digital monopolies: Structural remedies that focus on controlling access to data which can be relatively swiftly configured and applied.

Vestager, whose term as EC competition chief may be coming to its end this year (even if other Commission roles remain in potential and tantalizing contention), has championed this idea herself.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program in December she poured cold water on the stock question about breaking tech giants up — saying instead the Commission could look at how larger firms got access to data and resources as a means of limiting their power. Which is exactly what the German FCO has done in its order to Facebook. 

At the same time, Europe’s updated data protection framework has gained the most attention for the size of the financial penalties that can be issued for major compliance breaches. But the regulation also gives data watchdogs the power to limit or ban processing. And that power could similarly be used to reshape a rights-eroding business model or snuff out such business entirely.

The merging of privacy and antitrust concerns is really just a reflection of the complexity of the challenge regulators now face trying to rein in digital monopolies. But they’re tooling up to meet that challenge.

Speaking in an interview with TechCrunch last fall, Europe’s data protection supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, told us the bloc’s privacy regulators are moving towards more joint working with antitrust agencies to respond to platform power. “Europe would like to speak with one voice, not only within data protection but by approaching this issue of digital dividend, monopolies in a better way — not per sectors,” he said. “But first joint enforcement and better co-operation is key.”

The German FCO’s decision represents tangible evidence of the kind of regulatory co-operation that could — finally — crack down on tech giants.

Blogging in support of the decision this week, Buttarelli asserted: “It is not necessary for competition authorities to enforce other areas of law; rather they need simply to identity where the most powerful undertakings are setting a bad example and damaging the interests of consumers.  Data protection authorities are able to assist in this assessment.”

He also had a prediction of his own for surveillance technologists, warning: “This case is the tip of the iceberg — all companies in the digital information ecosystem that rely on tracking, profiling and targeting should be on notice.”

So perhaps, at long last, the regulators have figured out how to move fast and break things.

Instagram thinks you want IGTV previews in your home feed

If you can’t beat or join them… force feed ’em? That appears to be Instagram’s latest strategy for IGTV, which is now being shoved right into Instagram’s main feed, the company announced today. Instagram says that it will now add one-minute IGTV previews to the feed, making it “even easier” to discover and watch content from IGTV.

Uh.

IGTV, you may recall, was launched last year as a way for Instagram to woo creators. With IGTV, creators are able to share long-form videos within the Instagram platform instead of just short-form content to the Feed or Stories.

The videos, before today, could be viewed in Instagram itself by tapping the IGTV icon at the top-right of the screen, or within the separate IGTV standalone app.Instagram’s hope was that IGTV would give the company a means of better competing with larger video sites, like Google’s YouTube or Amazon’s Twitch.

Its users, however, haven’t found IGTV as compelling.

As of last fall, few creators were working on content exclusively for IGTV, and rumor was the viewing audience for IGTV content remained quite small, compared with rivals like Snapchat or Facebook. Many creators just weren’t finding it worth investing additional resources into IGTV, so were repurposing content designed for other platforms, like YouTube or Snapchat.

That means the bigger creators weren’t developing premium content or exclusives for IGTV, but were instead experimenting by replaying the content their fans could find elsewhere. Many are still not even sure what the IGTV audience wants to watch.

IGTV’s standalone app doesn’t seem to have gained much of a following either.

The app today is ranked a lowly No. 228 on the U.S. App Store’s “Photo and Video” top chart. Despite being run by Instagram — an app that topped a billion monthly users last summer, and is currently the No. 1 free app on iOS — fewer are downloading IGTV.

After seeing 1.5 million downloads in its first month last year — largely out of curiosity — the IGTV app today has only grown to 3.5 million total installs worldwide, according to Sensor Tower data. While those may be good numbers for a brand-new startup, for a spin-off from one of the world’s biggest apps, they’re relatively small.Instagram’s new video initiative also represents another shot across the bow of Instagram purists.

As BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos opined last year, “I’m Sorry To Report Instagram Is Bad Now.” Her point of concern was the impact that Stories had on the Instagram Feed — people were sharing to Stories instead of the Feed, which made the Feed pretty boring. At yet, the Stories content wasn’t good either, having become a firehose of the throwaway posts that didn’t deserve being shared directly on users’ profiles.

On top of all this, it seems the Instagram Feed is now going to be cluttered with IGTV previews. That’s. Just. Great.

Instagram says you’ll see the one-minute previews in the Feed, and can tap on them to turn on the audio. Tap the IGTV icon on the preview and you’ll be able to watch the full version in IGTV. When the video is finished, you’re returned to the Feed. Or, if you want to see more from IGTV, you can swipe up while the video plays to start browsing.

IGTV previews is only one way Instagram has been developing the product to attract more views in recent months. It has also integrated IGTV in Explore, allowed the sharing of IGTV videos to Stories, added the ability to save IGTV Videos and launched IGTV Web Embeds.

Official emoji debut for disabled folks, service dogs, waffles and more

A gaggle of new emoji have just been approved by the Unicode Consortium, meaning they’ll be standard across any platforms that choose to support them. This batch includes some much-needed representation for people with various disabilities, new animals from guide dogs to otters, food and many more objects.

Folks with disabilities get a nice variety of new emoji, though of course these aren’t exhaustive (for example, how do you represent a learning disability or mental illness?). Still, Apple’s proposal for the new emoji points out the necessity of, for example, having both mechanical and manual wheelchairs:

The type of assistive technology that is used by individuals is very personal and mandated by their own disability need. For someone who cannot self-propel and therefore uses an electric wheelchair, it would not be realistic to only show a manual chair. For those who can use a manual version, it would not be realistic to insinuate that they have less mobility than they do. Therefore, these should be seen as two totally separate forms of assistive device.

These images, as usual, are only samples; the final emoji that will be used depend on your device or service. However, since Apple proposed these ones and they are of course a popular platform for emoji use, you can probably expect these to be very like the final ones.

There are lots of other useful things added as well. Guide and service dogs; otters and flamingos; some tasty food like waffles and butter (my breakfast can now finally be represented accurately); and some items particularly relevant to Indian users — a sari, diya lamp and tuk-tuk.

Adding support for people of different colors and genders, including non-gendered imagery, has been an ongoing process for the last few years. The latest addition is a pair of non-gendered people holding hands, with the full set of color variations. Expect more along these lines; other proposals have been made but haven’t yet been finalized.

You can browse the full list of new emoji here; expect them to be added to your favorite messaging app after a handful of months once art and code updates are final.

Snapchat’s Android usage keeps falling but rebuild tests well

Snap has finally begun publicly testing the engineering overhaul of its slow and buggy Android app that for years has cost Snapchat users. Promising early results and reduction in app startup time could help Snapchat fix its growth problem after daily active users sank in Q2 and Q3 before staying put at 186 million in Q4, Snap announced today in its earnings report today.

“We ended the year with user engagement stabilizing and have started rolling out the new version of our Android application to a small percentage of our community” CEO Evan Spiegel wrote. “Early tests show promising results especially on less performant devices, including a 20 percent reduction in the average time it takes to open Snapchat.” The problem is that because “Our engineering team remains focused on rebuilding our Android application”, they haven’t been dedicated to fixing the existing version. That means that despite iOS daily active users and average time spent growing faster than last year, Android dragged Snapchat again to see no total daily user growth.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Lara Sweet noted that “While we are not going to give specific guidance on daily active users, we are cautiously optimistic and we do not foresee a sequential decline in daily active users in Q1 2019.” It seems Snap believes the new year is going well and the Android rollout could stem losses so it might finally grow its user count again, or at least stop shrinking.

Daily Crunch: Facebook lets you unsend recent messages

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:

1. Facebook now lets everyone unsend messages for 10 minutes

For up to 10 minutes after sending a Facebook Message, the sender can tap on it and they’ll find the delete button has been replaced by “Remove for you” and “Remove for everyone” options. If you select the latter, recipients will see an alert saying that you removed a message, and they can still flag the message.

The feature could come in handy in those moments when you realize, right after hitting send, that you’ve made an embarrassing typo or said something dumb. It won’t, however, let people change ancient history.

2. Alphabet revenues are up 22% but the stock is still dropping

The company’s beat of analyst estimates would have been a miss if not for a $1.3 billion unrealized gain “related to a non-marketable debt security.”

3. Toyota’s new car subscription company Kinto is gamifying driving behavior

Toyota has officially launched Kinto, a company first revealed late last year that will manage a car subscription program and other mobility services in Japan, including the sale and purchase of used vehicles as well as automotive repair and inspection.

4. Apple pays millions in backdated taxes to French authorities

“The French tax administration recently concluded a multi-year audit on the company’s French accounts, and those details will be published in our public accounts,” the company told Reuters. French authorities can’t confirm the transaction due to tax secrecy.

5. Self-driving truck startup Ike raises $52 million

The startup was founded by veterans of Apple and Google, as well as Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program. Its mission — expand and deploy — sounds a lot like other autonomous vehicle startups, but that’s where the parallels end.

6. Facebook bans four armed groups in Myanmar

Facebook has introduced new security features and announced plans to increase its team of Burmese language content translators to 100 people. While it doesn’t intend to open an office in Myanmar, it has ramped up its efforts to expel bad actors.

7. Backed by Benchmark, Blue Hexagon just raised $31 million for its deep learning cybersecurity software

According to co-founder Nayeem Islam, Blue Hexagon has created a real-time, cybersecurity platform that he says can detect known and unknown threats at first encounter, then block them in “sub seconds” so the malware doesn’t have time to spread.

Facebook now lets everyone unsend messages for up to 10 minutes

Facebook has finally made good on its promise to let users unsend chats after TechCrunch discovered Mark Zuckerberg had secretly retracted some of his Facebook Messages from recipients. Today Facebook Messenger globally rolls out “Remove for everyone” to help you pull back typos, poor choices, embarrassing thoughts, or any other message.

For up to 10 minutes after sending a Facebook Message, the sender can tap on it and they’ll find the delete button has been replaced by “Remove for you”, but there’s now also a “Remove for everyone” option that pulls the message from recipients’ inboxes. They’ll see an alert that you removed a message in its place, and can still flag the message to Facebook who’ll retain the content briefly to see if its reported. The feature could make people more comfortable having honest conversations or using Messenger for flirting since they can second guess what they send, but it won’t let people change ancient history.

The company abused its power by altering the history of Zuckerberg’s Facebook’s messages in a way that email or other communication mediums wouldn’t allow. Yet Facebook refused to say if it will now resume removing executives’ messages from recipients even long after they’re delivered after telling TechCrunch in April that “until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages.”

For a quick recap, here’s how Facebook got to Unsend:

-Facebook Messenger never had an Unsend option, except in its encrypted Secret messaging product where you can set an expiration timer on chats, or in Instagram Direct.

-In April 2018, TechCrunch reported that some of Mark Zuckerberg’s messages had been removed from the inboxes of recipients, including non-employees. There was no trace of the chats in the message thread, leaving his conversation partners looking like they were talking to themselves, but email receipts proved the messages had been sent but later disappeared.

-Facebook claimed this was partly because it was “limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages” for security purposes in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack, yet it never explained why only some messages to some people had been removed.

-The next morning, Facebook changed its tune and announced it’d build an Unsned button for everyone, providing this statement: “We have discussed this feature several times . . . We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time. And until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages. We should have done this sooner — and we’re sorry that we did not.”

-Six months later in October 2018, Facebook still hadn’t launched Unesned, but then TechCrunch found Facebook had been prototyping the feature.

-In November, Facebook started to roll out the feature with the current “Remove for everyone” design and 10 minute limit

-Now every iOS and Messenger user globally will get the Unsend feature

So will Facebook start retracting executives’ messages again? It’d only say that the new feature would be available to both users and employees. But in Zuckerberg’s case, messages from years ago were removed in a way users still aren’t allowed to. Remove for everyone could make messaging on Facebook a little less anxiety-inducing. But it shouldn’t have taken Facebook being caught stealing from the inboxes of its users to get it built.