Category Archives: Mobile

Say “Aloha”: A closer look at Facebook’s voice ambitions

Facebook has been a bit slow to adopt the voice computing revolution. It has no voice assistant, its smart speaker is still in development, and some apps like Instagram aren’t full equipped for audio communication. But much of that is set to change judging by experiments discovered in Facebook’s code, plus new patent filings.

Developing voice functionality could give people more ways to use Facebook in their home or on the go. Its forthcoming Portal smart speaker is reportedly designed for easy video chatting with distant family, including seniors and kids that might have trouble with phones. Improved transcription and speech-to-text-to-speech features could connect Messenger users across input mediums and keep them on the chat app rather than straying back to SMS.

But Facebook’s voice could be drowned out by the din of the crowd if it doesn’t get moving soon. All the major mobile hardware and operating system makers now have their own voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung Bixby, as well as their own smart speakers. In Q2 2018, Canalys estimates that Google shipped 5.4 million Homes, and Amazon shipped 4.1 million Echoes. Apple’s HomePod is off to a slow start with less than 6 percent of the market, behind Alibaba’s smart speaker according to Strategy Analytics. Facebook’s spotty record around privacy might deflect potential customers to its competitors.

Given Facebook is late to the game, it will need to arrive with powerful utility that solves real problems. Here’s a look at Facebook’s newest developments in the voice space, and how its past experiments lay the groundwork for its next big push.

Aloha Voice

Facebook is developing its own speech recognition feature under the name Aloha for both the Facebook and Messenger apps, as well as external hardware — likely the video chat smart speaker it’s developing. Code inside the Facebook and Messenger Android apps dug up by frequent TechCrunch tipster and mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong gives the first look at a prototype for the Aloha user interface.

Labeled “Aloha Voice Testing”, as a user speaks while in a message thread, a horizontal blue bar expands and contracts to visualize the volume of speech while recognizing and transcribing into text. The code describes the feature as having connections with external WiFi or Bluetooth devices. It’s possible that the software will run on both Facebook’s hardware and software, similar to Google Assistant that runs both on phones and Google Home speakers.

Facebook declined to comment on the video, with its spokesperson Ha Thai telling me “We test stuff all the time – nothing to share today but my team will be in touch in a few weeks about hardware news coming from the AR/VR org.” It unclear if that hardware news will focus on voice and Aloha or portal, or if it’s merely related to Facebook’s Oculus Connect 5 conference on September 25th.

A source previously told me that years ago, Facebook was interested in developing its own speech recognition software designed specifically to accurately transcribe how friends talk to each other. These speech patterns are often more casual, colloquial, rapid, and full of slang than the way we formally address computerized assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Wong also found the Aloha logo buried in Facebook’s code, which features volcano imagery. I can confirm that I’ve seen a Facebook Aloha Setup chatbot with a similar logo on the phones of Facebook employees.

If Facebook can figure this out, it could offer its own transcription features in Messenger and elsewhere on the site so users could communicate across mediums. It could potentially let you dictate comments or messages to friends while you have your hands full or can’t look at your screen. The recipient could then read the text instead of having to listen to it like a voice message. The feature could also be used to power voice navigation of Facebook’s apps for better hands-free usage.

Speaker And Camera Patents

Facebook awarded patent for speaker

Facebook’s video chat smart speaker was reportedly codenamed Aloha originally but later renamed Portal, Alex Heath of Business Insider and now Cheddar first reported in August 2017. The $499 competitor to the Amazon Echo Show was initially set to launch at Facebook’s F8 in May, but Bloomberg reported it was pushed back amid concerns that it would exacerbate the privacy scandal ignited by Cambridge Analytica.

A new patent filing reveals Facebook was considering building a smart speaker as early as December 26th, 2016 when it filed a patent for a cube-shaped device. The patent diagrams an “ornamental design for a speaker device” invented by Baback Elmieh, Alexandre Jais, and John Proksch-Whaley. Facebook had acquired Elmieh’s startup Nascent Objects in September of that year and he’s now a technical project lead at Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware lab.

The startup had been building modular hardware, and earlier this year he was awarded patents for work at Facebook on several modular cameras. The speaker and camera technology Facebook has been developing could potentially evolve into what’s in its video chat speaker.

The fact that Facebook has been exploring speaker technology for so long and that the lead on these patents is still running a secret project in Building 8 strengthens the case that Facebook has big plans for the voice space.

Patents awarded to Facebook show designs for a camera (left) and video camera (right)

Instagram Voice Messaging

And finally, Instagram is getting deeper into the voice game too. A screenshot generated from the code of Instagram’s Android app by Wong reveals the development of a  voice clip messaging feature heading to Instagram Direct. This would allow you to speak into Instagram and send the audio clips similar to a walkie-talkie, or the voice messaging feature Facebook Messenger added back in 2013.

You can see the voice button in the message composer at the bottom of the screen, and the code explains that to “Voice message, press and hold to record”. The prototype follows the recent launch of video chat in Instagram Direct, another feature TechCrunch broke the news on thanks to Wong’s research. An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment, as is typical when features are spotted in its code but aren’t publicly testing yet, saying “unfortunately nothing more to share on this right now.”

The Long Road To Voicebook

Facebook has long tinkered in the voice space. In 2015, it acquired a natural language processing startup Wit.ai that ran a developer platform for building speech interfaces, though it later rolled Wit.ai into Messenger’s platform team to focus on chatbots. Facebook also began testing automatically transcribing Messenger voice clips into text in 2015 in what was likely the groundwork for the Aloha feature seen above. The company also revealed its M personal assistant that could accomplish tasks for users, but it was only rolled out to a very limited user base and later turned off.

The next year, Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus claimed at TechCrunch Disrupt that voice “is not something we’re actively working on right now,” but added that “at some point it’s pretty obvious that as we develop more and more capabilities and interactions inside of Messenger, we’ll start working on voice exchanges and interfaces.” However, a source had told me Facebook’s secretive Language Technology Group was already exploring voice opportunities. Facebook also began testing its Live Audio feature for users who want to just broadcast sound and not video.

By 2017, Facebook was offering automatic captioning for Pages’ videos, and was developing a voice search feature. And this year, Facebook began trying voice clips as status updates and Stories for users around the world who might have trouble typing in their native tongue. But executives haven’t spoken much about the voice initiatives.

The most detailed comments we have come from Facebook’s head of design Luke Woods at TechCrunch Disrupt 2017 where he described voice search saying it was, “very promising. There are lots of exciting things happening…. I love to be able to talk to the car to navigate to a particular place. That’s one of many potential use cases.” It’s also one that voice transcription could aid.

It’s still unclear exactly what Facebook’s Aloha will become. It could be a defacto operating system or voice interface and transcription feature for Facebook’s smart speaker and apps. It could become a more full-fledged voice assistant like M but with audio. Or perhaps it could become Facebook’s bridge to other voice ecosystems, serving as Facebook’s Alexa Skill or Google Assistant Action.

When I asked Woods “How would Facebook on Alexa work?”, he said with a smile “That’s a very interesting question! No comment.”

Facebook assigns you a fake news flagging trustworthiness score

A new way to attack Facebook is to fraudulently report a news story as false in hopes of reducing its visibility, either because someone wants to censor it or just doesn’t agree with it. Sometimes known as “brigading”, a concerted effort by trolls to flag a piece of content can reduce its visibility. Facebook now sends stories reported as false to third-party fact checkers, and these purposefully inaccurate reports can clog the already-overcrowded queues that fact checkers struggle to worth through.

That’s why Facebook gives users a trustworthiness score ranging from 0 to1 dependon the reliability of their flags of false news, the Washington Post reports. If they flag something as false news but fact checkers verify it as true, that could hurt their score and reduce how heavily Facebook factors in their future flagging. If users consistently report false news that’s indeed proven to be false, their score improves and Facebook will trust their future flagging more.

Facebook’s News Feed product manager Tessa Lyons confirmed the scoring system exists. There’s currently no way to see your own or someone else’s trustworthiness score. And other signals are used to compute the score as well, though Facebook won’t reveal them for fear of trolls gaming the system.

Friend Ranking Scores

This isn’t the only way Facebook ranks users, though. It assigns you a shifting score of affinity towards each of your friends that determines how frequently you see them in the News Feed. This “friend ranking” score is essentially a measure of graph distance from you to someone else.

If you like a ton of someone’s posts, get tagged in photos with them, search for them, view their profile, communicate with them, have lots of mutual friends, are in the same Groups, and have similar biographical characteristics like location and age, your score towards them is lower and you’ll see more of them in feed. However, they have a different score for you depending on their behavior, so constantly viewing someone else’s profile won’t make you show up in their feed more if they don’t reciprocate the interest.

I first reported on these friend scores almost exactly seven years ago, and you can still view them for yourself using this browser bookmarklet built by Jeremy Keeshin. Visit this site, drag the “Facebook Friends Rankings” link into your desktop browser’s bookmark bar, open Facebook while logged in, and tap the bookmarklet to reveal the Friend Ranking scores of your friends. It snoops the Facebook JavaScript to pull out the scores. The people you see at the top are who you’re closest to.

Facebook clearly The need for this score highlights the difficulties of Facebook’s battle against fake news. Between subjectivity and purposeful trolling, there’s a lot noise coming in with the signal about what should be removed. Anyone saying Facebook should have easily solved the fake news problems is likely underappreciating the nuance required and the intelligent human adversaries Facebook must defeat.

Facebook has a huge array of signals it can use to calculate Friend Rankings or trustworthiness scores. The question will be whether it can intelligently sort those signals to make coherent inferences about what to show us and when to believe us.

Tinder’s latest feature, Tinder U, is only for college students

Tinder is today rolling out what may be one of its smartest additions yet with the launch of Tinder U, a feature designed specifically for Tinder users in college. Once enabled, students with a .edu email address will be able to register with their school, then swipe on students who also attend their school or others nearby. Beyond limiting potential matches to other students, the overall Tinder experience is unchanged.

Students will still be able to view each others’ profiles, swipe right and left to match or pass, message mutual matches, use Super Likes, and more.

To use Tinder U, students will first have to be geolocated on campus and log in to the Tinder app using their .edu email address. They’ll then have to check their inbox for the verification email and tap the button to confirm their account.

After completing this process, users will be in the Tinder U experience the next time they launch the app.

Here, students will see their school’s logo appear at the top of the screen, and individual profile photos will have flair on the bottom left to indicate the user’s school. Tinder U doesn’t prevent users from swiping off campus, however – using a toggle button at the top of the screen, users can choose to swipe by location instead, or by Tinder Picks by toggling over to the diamond icon (if available).

Tinder U makes sense for the company, whose user base already skews younger – it has said before that half its user base is between 18 and 24, for example. And dating apps’ usage, in general, among this age group has roughly tripped from 10% in 2013 to 27% by 2016, according to Pew Research. And of course, there’s the fact that Tinder itself got its start on college campuses – a market that’s young, single, and more willing to adopt mobile dating apps than other, older demographics.

Tinder says the new feature is launching initially on iOS devices at 4-year, accredited, not-for-profit schools in the U.S. that deliver courses in a traditional face-to-face learning format – meaning, no online universities or virtual schools will be supported. The company didn’t provide a timeframe for the Android release.

Facebook cracks down on opioid dealers after years of neglect

Facebook’s role in the opioid crisis could become another scandal following yesterday’s release of harrowing new statistics from the Center for Disease Control. It estimated there were nearly 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the US in 2017, up from roughly 20,000 the year before. When recreational drugs like Xanax and OxyContin are adulterated with the more powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl, the misdosage can prove fatal. Xanax, OxyContin, and other pain killers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook.

Hours after the new stats were reported by the New York Times and others, a source spotted that Facebook’s internal search engine stopped returning posts, Pages, and Groups for searches of “OxyContin”, “Xanax”, “Fentanyl”, and other opioids, as well as other drugs like “LSD”. Only videos, often news reports deploring opiate abuse, and user profiles whose names match the searches are now returned. This makes it significantly harder for potential buyers or addicts to connect with dealers through Facebook.

However, some dealers have taken to putting drug titles into their Facebook profile names, allowing accounts like “Fentanyl Kingpin Kilo” to continue showing up in search results. It’s not exactly clear when the search changes occurred.

On some search result pages for queries like “Buy Xanax”, Facebook is now showing a “Can we help?” box that says “If you or someone you know struggles with opioid misuse, we would like to help you find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance use, prevention and recovery.” A “Get support” button opens the site of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the US department of health and human services that provides addiction resources. Facebook had promised back in June that this feature was coming.

Facebook search results for many drug names now only surface people and video news reports, and no longer show posts, Pages, or Groups which often offered access to dealers

When asked, Facebook confirmed that it’s recently made it harder to find content that facilitates the sale of opioids on the social network. Facebook tells me it’s constantly updating its approach to thwart bad actors who look for new ways to bypass its safeguards. The company confirms it’s now removing content violating its drug policies, it’s blocked hundreds of terms associated with drug sales from showing results other than links to news about drug abuse awareness. It’s also removed thousands of terms from being suggested as searches in its typeahead.

Prior to recent changes, buyers could easily search for drugs and find posts from dealers with phone numbers to contact

Regarding the “Can we help?” box, Facebook tells me this resource will be available on Instagram in the coming weeks, and it provided this statement:

“We recently launched the “Get Help Feature” in our Facebook search function that directs people looking for help or attempting to purchase illegal substances to the SAMHSA national helpline. When people search for help with opioid misuse or attempt to buy opioids, they will be prompted with content at the top of the search results page that will ask them if they would like help finding free and confidential treatment referrals. This will then direct them to the SAMHSA National Helpline. We’ve partnered with the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to identify these search terms and will continue to review and update to ensure we are showing this information at the most relevant times.”

Facebook’s new drug abuse resource feature

The new actions follow Facebook shutting down some hashtags like “#Fentanyl” on Instagram back in April that could let buyers connect with dealers. That only came after activists like Glassbreakers’ Eileen Carey aggressively criticized the company demanding change. In some cases, when users would report Facebook Groups or Pages’ posts as violating its policy prohibiting the sale of regulated goods like drugs, the posts would be removed but Facebook would leave up the Pages. This mirrors some of the problems it’s had with Infowars around determining the threshold of posts inciting violence or harassing other users necessary to trigger a Page or profile suspension or deletion.

Facebook in some cases deleted posts selling drugs but not the Pages or Groups carrying them

Before all these changes, users could find tons of vendors illegally selling opioids through posts, photos, and Pages on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook also introduced a new ads policy last week requiring addiction treatment centers that want to market to potential patients be certified first to ensure they’re not actually dealers preying on addicts.

Much of the recent criticism facing Facebook has focused on it failing to prevent election interference, privacy scandals, and the spread of fake news, plus how hours of browsing its feeds can impact well-being. But its negligence regarding illegal opioid sales has likely contributed to some of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in America last year. It serves as another example of how Facebook’s fixation on the positive benefits of social networking blinded it to the harsh realities of how its service can be misused.

Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that learning of the depths of the opioid crisis was the “biggest surprise” from his listening tour visiting states across the U.S, and that it was “really saddening to see.” The fact that he called this a “surprise” when some of the drugs causing the crisis were changing hands via his website is something Facebook hasn’t fully atoned for, nor done enough to stop. The new changes should be the start of a long road to recovery for Facebook itself.

Twitter company email addresses why it’s #BreakingMyTwitter

It’s hard to be a fan of Twitter right now. The company is sticking up for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, when nearly all other platforms have given him the boot, it’s overrun with bots, and now it’s breaking users’ favorite third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterific by shutting off APIs these apps relied on. Worse still, is that Twitter isn’t taking full responsibility for its decisions.

In a company email it shared today, Twitter cited “technical and business constraints” that it can no longer ignore as being the reason behind the APIs’ shutdown.

It said the clients relied on “legacy technology” that was still in a “beta state” after more than 9 years, and had to be killed “out of operational necessity.”

This reads like passing the buck. Big time.

It’s not as if there’s some other mysterious force that maintains Twitter’s API platform, and now poor ol’ Twitter is forced to shut down old technology because there’s simply no other recourse. No.

Twitter, in fact, is the one responsible for its User Streams and Site Streams APIs – the APIs that serve the core functions of these now deprecated third-party Twitter clients. Twitter is the reason these APIs have been stuck in a beta state for nearly a decade. Twitter is the one that decided not to invest in supporting those legacy APIs, or shift them over to its new API platform.

And Twitter is the one that decided to give up on some of its oldest and most avid fans – the power users and the developer community that met their needs – in hopes of shifting everyone over to its own first-party clients instead.

The company even refused to acknowledge how important these users and developers have been to its community over the years, by citing the fact that the APIs it’s terminating – the ones that power Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Tweetings and Talon – are only used by “less than 1%” of Twitter developers. Burn! 

Way to kick a guy when he’s already down, Twitter.

But just because a community is small in numbers, does not mean its voice is not powerful or its influence is not felt.

Hence, the #BreakingMyTwitter hashtag, which Twitter claims to be watching “quite often.”

The one where users are reminding Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about that time he apologized to Twitter developers for not listening to them, and acknowledged the fact they made Twitter what it is today. The time when he promised to do better.

This is…not better:

The company’s email also says it hopes to eventually learn “why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps.”

Its own apps?

Oh, you mean like TweetDeck, the app Twitter acquired then shut down on Android, iPhone and Windows? The one it generally acted like it forgot it owned? Or maybe you mean Twitter for Mac (previously Tweetie, before its acquisition), the app it shut down this year, telling Mac users to just use the web instead? Or nearly maybe you mean the nearly full slate of TV apps that Twitter decided no longer needed to exist?

And Twitter wonders why users don’t want to use its own clients?

Or perhaps, users want a consistent experience – one that doesn’t involve a million inconsequential product changes like turning stars to hearts or changing the character counter to a circle. Maybe they appreciate the fact that the third parties seem to understand what Twitter is better than Twitter itself does: Twitter has always been about a real-time stream of information. It’s not meant to be another Facebook-style algorithmic News Feed. The third-party clients respect that. Twitter does not.

Yesterday, the makers of Twitterific spoke to the API changes, noting that its app would no longer be able to stream tweets, send native push notifications, or be able to update its Today view, and that new tweets and DMs will be delayed.

It recommended users download Twitter’s official mobile app for notifications going forward.

In other words, while Twitterific will hang around in its broken state, its customers will now have to run two Twitter apps on their device – the official one to get their notifications, and the other because they prefer the experience.

A guide to using Twitter’s app for notifications, from Iconfactory

“We understand why Twitter feels the need to update its API endpoints,” explains Iconfactory co-founder Ged Maheux, whose company makes Twitterrific. “The spread of bots, spam and trolls by bad actors that exploit their systems is bad for the entire Twitterverse, we just wish they had offered an affordable way forward for the developers of smaller, third party apps like ours.”

“Apps like the Iconfactory’s Twitterrific helped build Twitter’s brand, feature sets and even its terminology into what it is today. Our contributions were small to be sure, but real nonetheless. To be priced out of the future of Twitter after all of our history together is a tough pill to swallow for all of us,” he added.

The question many users are now facing is what to do next?

Continue to use now broken third-party apps? Move to an open platform like Mastodon? Switch to Twitter’s own clients, as it wants, where it plans to “experiment with showing alternative viewpoints” to pop people’s echo chambers…on a service that refuses to kick out people like Alex Jones?

Or maybe it’s time to admit the open forum for everything that Twitter – and social media, really – has promised is failing? Maybe it’s time to close the apps – third-party and otherwise. Maybe it’s time to go dark. Get off the feeds. Take a break. Move on.

The full email from Twitter is below:

Hi team,

Today, we’re publishing a blog post about our priorities for where we’re investing today in Twitter client experiences. I wanted to share some more with you about how we reached these decisions, and how we’re thinking about 3rd party clients specifically.

First, some history:

3rd party clients have had a notable impact on the Twitter service and the products we build. Independent developers built the first Twitter client for Mac and the first native app for iPhone. These clients pioneered product features we all know and love about Twitter, like mute, the pull-to-refresh gesture, and more.

We love that developers build experiences on our APIs to push our service, technology, and the public conversation forward. We deeply respect the time, energy, and passion they’ve put into building amazing things using Twitter.

But we haven’t always done a good job of being straightforward with developers about the decisions we make regarding 3rd party clients. In 2011, we told developers (in an email) not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience. In 2012, we announced changes to our developer policies intended to make these limitations clearer by capping the number of users allowed for a 3rd party client. And, in the years following those announcements, we’ve told developers repeatedly that our roadmap for our APIs does not prioritize client use cases — even as we’ve continued to maintain a couple specific APIs used heavily by these clients and quietly granted user cap exceptions to the clients that needed them.

It is now time to make the hard decision to end support for these legacy APIs — acknowledging that some aspects of these apps would be degraded as a result. Today, we are facing technical and business constraints we can’t ignore. The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a “beta” state for more than 9 years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We’re not changing our rules, or setting out to “kill” 3rd party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients. And it has not been a realistic option for us today to invest in building a totally new service to replace these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.

We’ve heard the feedback from our customers about the pain this causes. We check out #BreakingMyTwitter quite often and have spoken with many of the developers of major 3rd party clients to understand their needs and concerns. We’re committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps. And we’re going to try to do better with communicating these changes honestly and clearly to developers. We have a lot of work to do. This change is a hard, but important step, towards doing it. Thank you for working with us to get there.

Thanks,

Rob

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop ‘Login with Coinbase’ or a similar identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded in 2015 that was building identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol.

The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and his co-founder Alex Kern are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the ‘Login with Coinbase’ product. They’ll be building it atop the “know your customer” anti-money laundering data Coinbase has on its 20 million customers. Srinivasan tells me the goal is to figure out “How can we allow that really rich identity data to enable a new class of applications?”

Distributed Systems had raised a $1.7 million seed round last year led by Floodgate and was considering raising a $4 million to $8 million round this summer. But Srinivasan says “No one really understood what we’re building”, and it wanted a partner with KYC data. It began talking to Coinbase Ventures about an investment, but after they saw Distributed Systems’ progress and vision, “they quickly tried to move to find a way to acquire us.”

Distributed Systems began to hold acquisition talks with multiple major players in the blockchain space, and the CEO tells me it was deciding between going to “Facebook, or Robinhood, or Binance, or Coinbase”, having been in formal talks with at least one of the first three. Coinbase “were able to convince us they were making big bets, weaving identity across their products.” The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Coinbase’s plan to roll out the ‘Login with Coinbase’-style platform is an SDK that others apps could integrate, though that won’t necessarily be the feature’s name. That mimics the way Facebook colonized the web with its SDK and login buttons that splashed its brand in front of tons of new and existing users. This made turned Facebook into a fundamental identity utility beyond its social network.

Developers eager to improve conversions on their sign up flow could turn to Coinbase instead of requiring users to set up whole new accounts and deal with crypto-specific headaches of complicated keys and procedures for connecting their wallet to make payments. One prominent dApp developer told me yesterday that forcing users to set up the MetaMask browser extension for identity was the part of their signup flow where they’re losing the most people.

This morning Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong confirmed these plans to work on an identity SDK. When Coinbase investor Garry Tan of Initialized Capital wrote that “The main issue preventing dApp adoption is lack of native SDK so you can just download a mobile app and a clean fiat to crypto in one clean UX. Still have to download a browser plugin and transfer Eth to Metamask for now Too much friction”, Armstrong replied “On it :)”

In effect, Coinbase and Distributed Systems could build a safer version of identity than we get offline. As soon as you give your social security number to someone or it gets stolen, it can be used anywhere without your consent and that leads to identity theft. Coinbase wants to build a vision of identity where you can connect to decentralized apps while retaining control. “Decentralized identity will let you prove that you own an identity, or that you have a relationship with the Social Security Administration, without making a copy of that identity” writes Coinbase’s PM for identity B Byrne, who’ll oversee Srinivasan’s new decentralized identity team. “If you stretch your imagination a little further, you can imagine this applying to your photos, social media posts, and maybe one day your passport too.”

Considering Distributed Systems and Coinbase are following the Facebook playbook, they may soon have competition from the social network. It’s spun up its own blockchain team and an identity and single sign-on platform for dApps is one of the products I think Facebook is most likely to build. But given Coinbase’s strong reputation in the blockchain industry and its massive head start in terms of registered crypto users, today’s acquisition well positions it to be how we connect our offline identity with the rising decentralized economy.

HQ Trivia downloads spiral downward as it hits Apple TV

HQ Trivia’s app store ranking has continued to sink the past three months, but it’s hoping a new version on your television could revitalize growth. HQ today launched an Apple TV app that lets users play the twice-daily live quiz game alongside iOS Android players. “Everything about the game is still the same – same questions, same time, same rules” says a spokesperson, except you’ll play with the Apple TV remote instead of their phone’s screen. But that might not be enough to get HQ’s player count rapidly growing again.

According to App Annie’s app store ranking history, on iOS HQ has fallen from the #1 US Trivia game to #10, from the #44 game to #196, and from the #151 overall app to #585. It’s exhibited a similar decline on Android.

 

The question is whether this is just a summer lull as people spend time outside and students aren’t locked in the schedule of school, or if HQ is in a downward spiral beyond seasonal fluctuations. But if we zoom out, you can see that HQ has been in dropping down the charts through the school year since peaking in January. At one point it climbed as high as the #3 game and #6 overall app. The app’s record high of concurrent players has also declined from a peak of 2.38 million in late March.

Meanwhile, new clones keep popping up. After the initial wave of Chinese live trivia apps, now US television studios are getting into the mix. This week Fox unveiled ‘FN Genius’ which looks and works almost exactly that same as HQ. There are also new 1-on-1 trivia games like ProveIt that let players bet real money on whether they can outsmart their opponent.

Fox’s FN Genius. Image via Deadline

With themed games, celebrity hosts, big jackpots like a recent $400,000 prize, and new features like the ability to see friends’ answers, HQ has tried to keep its app novel. But it’s also encountered cheaters and people playing with multiple phones that make normal players feel like they’ll never win. While the live aspect adds urgency, it can also feel interruptive with time as users aren’t always available for its noon and 6pm pacific games. HQ may need to launch a second game app, come up with some new viral hooks, or find ways to revive lapsed players if it’s going to make good on the $15 million its parent company raised in March.