Category Archives: Mobile

Zoosk relaunches dating app Lively as a way to meet new people while playing trivia games

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of trivia applications like HQ Trivia, dating app maker Zoosk has just released an experimental app that combines trivia with the potential for meeting someone new. The app is a relaunch and complete makeover of Zoosk’s Lively, which first debuted in July 2016 as a dating app that used video to tell stories, instead of static profile images.

The new version of Lively is nothing like its former namesake.

As Zoosk explains, the previous version of Lively’s group video chat app was fun, but people didn’t know how to connect and relate to one another using the video format. It felt awkward to start conversations, with no reason to be there besides wanting to date.

The company went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to think about what sort of experiences could bring people together. Trivia, naturally, came to mind.

Lively aims to reproduce the feeling that comes with competing at a bar trivia night. When you join, you’re placed in a group video chat team of two to four people. Together, the team works to answer a series of 12 questions while discussing the answers over video in real-time. When they finish the questions, they’ll be able to see how their scores compared with other teams.

The “dating” component to the app isn’t quite what you would expect. In fact, it’s less of a way to find a date for a night out, than it is to just make new friends. After the game wraps, you’ll have the option to continue chatting with the other players, if you choose. You can also add people as a friend, if you hit it off.

And when trivia isn’t in session – the games run twice daily at 3 PM and 7 PM PST – you can group video chat with others on Lively.

Because you’re not added to a team with nearby players, your ability to make friends who are also possible real-life dating prospects is decidedly limited. That’s something that Lively could change to support in time, if it’s able to grow its user base. But for now, it needs to match users with any live players in order to fill out its teams.

It’s understandable why it went this route, but it doesn’t lend itself well to meeting someone special – unless you’re open to meeting people anywhere (which some are), or are fine with just making new friends and seeing where that leads.

Unlike HQ Trivia, which features live streams with a host, Lively is just group video chat with a trivia component. That means it won’t be as challenging for Zoosk to operate, as it doesn’t have to worry with bandwidth issues and other costs of putting on a live game show. Also, because there are no prizes or payouts, you can join anytime during the 30-minute gaming session to be placed into a team and play along.

Lively is not the first app to support a group video chat interface where gameplay is an option. A number of video chat apps over the years have integrated games into their experience, including older apps like Tango or Google+ Hangouts, Line, and more recently, Facebook Messenger. But none have integrated games for the purpose of facilitating new relationships.

Zoosk today has 38 million members, but wanted to find a way to reach a younger demographic, which is why it originally launched Lively. The app was the first product to emerge from Zoosk’s in-house incubator, Zoosk Labs, where the company experiments with new ideas to expand its core business.

Whether or not Zoosk can turn trivia players into love connections remains to be seen, but it’s interesting how HQ Trivia’s success has led to this wider market full of knock-offs (e.g. Genius, Joyride, Cash Show, The Q, TopBuzz, Live Quiz,, Halftime Live!, Jam Music, etc.) and other tweaks that follow its idea of live trivia games.

Lively is available on iOS only for now.

Facebook launches Express Wi-Fi app for its local-operated hotspots

Facebook wants you to pay for internet. This week TechCrunch was tipped off that Facebook had quietly launched an Express Wi-Fi Android app in the Google Play store that lets users buy data packs and find nearby hotspots as part of Facebook’s distributed Wi-Fi network. The company’s Express Wi-Fi program is live in five developing countries that see local business owners operating Wi-Fi hotspots where people can pay to access higher-speed bandwidth via local telecoms instead of paying steep prices for slow cellular data connections.

Previously, Express Wi-Fi users had to dig out a mobile website, or directly download an app from a telecom that required reconfiguring a phone’s settings. There wasn’t any way to look up where hotspots were located. The new Google Play app can be downloaded the normal way. It’s now live in Indonesia with bandwidth from telecom partner D-Net, and in Kenya through Surf. The app can also tell if a user’s Wi-Fi is turned on to help with set up, and they can file reports to Facebook about connectivity or retailer issues.

The launch signals Facebook expanding its pursuit of developing world audiences that first need internet access before they can become lucrative Facebook users. Unlike its much-criticized zero-rating program called Free Basics (formerly, Express Wi-Fi offers a full, unrestricted version of the web for a price instead of only low-bandwidth services approved by Facebook. This strategy could help it achieve its mission of getting more disconnected people in the developing world online without the net neutrality concerns. Making Express Wi-Fi an actual business might save Facebook from backlash about it masking a user growth driver inside a philanthropic initiative.

Facebook confirmed the launch to TechCrunch, with a spokesperson telling us, “Facebook is releasing the Express Wi-Fi app in the Google Play store to give people another simple and secure way to access fast, affordable internet through their local Express Wi-Fi hotspots.” Sensor Tower first tipped us off to the app.

Weak or expensive connectivity is a huge barrier to Facebook deepening its popularity in the developing world at a time when it’s reaching saturation or even shrinking in some developed world nations. Facebook saw its first user loss ever in the U.S. and Canada region in Q4, with daily active users decreasing by 700,000 in part because of News Feed changes that reduced the presence of engagement-drawing viral videos.

Facebook needs user growth more than ever, and the developing world is where it can find it. That’s why it’s developing advanced technologies like the Aquila solar drone and satellites that can beam down connectivity. It’s also working with telecoms that use microwave towers to beam backhaul bandwidth to its Express Wi-Fi units.

Monetizing the international market has been a big focus for the company. It’s launched new region-specific and low-bandwidth ad units like click-to-missed-call and slideshows. It’s paid off. From 2012 to 2016, average revenue per user grew 4X in the Rest of World region. And that revenue grows even faster when people can load Facebook quickly and cheaply thanks to strong Wi-Fi access. The more accessible Facebook makes this program, the more it could see those internet users turn into social networkers.

Facebook opens Instant Games to all developers

Facebook’s Instant Games are now open to all developers, Facebook announced this week in advance of the Game Developers Conference. First launched in 2016, the platform lets developers build mobile-friendly games using HTML5 that work on both Facebook and Messenger, instead of requiring users to download native apps from Apple or Google’s app stores.

The Instant Games platform kicked off its launch a couple of years ago with 17 games from developers like Bandai Namco, Konami, Taito, Zynga and King, who offered popular titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words with Friends. The following year, the platform had grown to 50 titles and became globally available. But it wasn’t open to all – only select partners.

In addition to getting users to spend more time on Facebook’s platform, Instant Games provides Facebook with the potential for new revenue streams now that Facebook is moving into game monetization.

In October, Facebook said it would begin to test interstitial and rewarded video ads, as well as in-app purchases. The tools were only available to select developers on what was then an otherwise closed platform for Facebook’s gaming partners.

Now, says Facebook, all developers can build Instant Games as the platform exits its beta testing period.

Alongside this week’s public launch, Facebook introduced a handful of new features to help developers grow, measure and monetize their games.

This includes the launch of the ads API, which was also previously in beta.

In-app purchases, however, are continuing to be tested.

Developers will also have access to Facebook’s Monetization Manager, where they can track manage ads and track how well ad placements are performing; as well as a Game Switch API for cross-promoting games across the platform, or creating deep links that work outside Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook says it also updated how its ranking algorithm surfaces games based on users’ recent play and interests, and updated its in-game leaderboards, among other things.

Soon, Instant Game developers will be able to build ad campaigns in order to acquire new players from Facebook. These new ad units, when clicked, will take players directly into the game where they can begin playing. 

Since last year, Facebook Instant Games have grown to nearly 200 titles, but the company isn’t talking in-depth about their performance from a revenue perspective.

It did offer one example of a well-performing title, Basketball FRVR, which is on track to make over 7-digits in ad revenue annually, and has been played over 4.2 billion times.

With the public launch, Facebook is offering Instant Games developer documentation page and a list of recommended HTML5 game engines to help developers get started. Developers can then build and submit games via Facebook’s App page.

Snapchat removes Giphy feature due to racial slur GIF

 Snapchat has temporarily removed its Giphy GIF sticker feature after a user saw an extremely racist GIF as an option. Snapchat confirms to TechCrunch “As soon as w were made aware, we removed the GIF and have disabled Giphy until we can be sure that this won’t happen again. The spokesperson says that all GIFs in Snapchat are meant to be “rated PG”, meaning… Read More

Facebook launches AR effects tied to real-world tracking markers

Facebook’s augmented reality camera is evolving beyond selfie masks and randomly placed 3D objects to using location markers in the real world that trigger AR experiences in a precise location. Spotted today, Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that it’s testing the feature in closed beta with promotions for the upcoming Ready Player One and Wrinkle In […]