More SpaceX Starlink terminals will go to Ukraine following new order from Pentagon

The Department of Defense said Thursday it is buying more Starlink terminals from SpaceX for use in Ukraine, as the conflict between that country and Russia wages well into its second year.

The Pentagon provided little other details about the order, however, including the number of terminals it would purchase or pricing. SpaceX did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

“Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “However, for operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems, we do not have additional information regarding specific capabilities, contracts, or partners to provide at this time.”

Russian armed forces have repeatedly targeted internet and mobile networks in Ukraine – including attacking fiber optic cables, cell phone towers, and radio antennas. At times, these campaigns that have left parts of the country in temporary communication blackouts. Starlink, however, has comparatively little ground infrastructure beyond each small terminal, making it more resilient to attack.

Last October, Ukrainian politician Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted that the country was able to quickly restore communications to critical areas after a series of Russian cruise missile attacks thanks to Starlink.

SpaceX first sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine at the very beginning of the conflict, with CEO Elon Musk saying on Twitter that SpaceX was footing the bill for their ongoing operation. Those costs were later picked up by several EU countries, after Musk threatened to stop financing them (though he later rescinded that statement).

The news comes as the Pentagon separately announced that it would send more equipment to Ukraine – including munitions and missiles – in a security assistance package valued at $300 million. In total, the U.S. has provided $37.6 billion in weapons and other assets to Ukraine’s military since the start of Russia’s invasion.

More SpaceX Starlink terminals will go to Ukraine following new order from Pentagon by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch

Tech investment portfolios suffer write-downs amid global economic slowdown

Some high-profile venture capital and private equity firms are slashing the valuation of their holdings, causing billions in apparent profits to evaporate as the economic downturn undermines the sustained growth of the last 13 years.

The California Pension System, the largest pension system in the U.S. whose investments are sprinkled across the globe, injected $368.8 million into Silver Lake Partners’ 2015 V fund. In the quarter ending September 2021, the value on that return stood at $668.3 million. However, by the same quarter in 2022, this figure was reduced by $100 million, according to documents released by the pension firm in response to a request for public records made by TechCrunch.

Similarly, TCV’s X fund, established in 2019, noted a decrease in value on its holdings in CalPERS to $245 million in September 2022, from $333 million the previous year, in spite of additional capital inflows.

Insight Partners’ 2015 Growth-Buyout Coinvestment Fund experienced a drop in its net internal rate of return (IRR) to 33.8% for the quarter ending in September last year, down from 39.4% the previous year. Its flagship IX fund also reduced its value multiple from 4.4 to 3.7 during the same period.

Sequoia Capital disclosed the value of UTIMCO’s $100 million investment into a 2021 fund as $81.3 million as of February this year, as per records from the University of Texas, another high-profile endowment, obtained via request for public records.

Insight Partners’ 2021 twelfth fund reported a reduced value of UTMICO’s $104 million investment at $85.8 million in the same month. Thoma Bravo’s fourteenth fund from 2020 listed a value of $108.8 million on a $124.2 million investment from UTMICO, and Thrive Capital’s eighth growth fund reported a value of $5.5 million on a $7.6 million investment.

The trend is widespread, with nearly all funds reporting a decrease in the value of their holdings over the past year. Though it’s a little surprising that it has not plunged more, it’s likely in the quarters since stakes have plunged further in value.

Tiger Global’s XV fund reported a $230.5 million value on a $247 million investment from CalPERS as of September last year. Advent’s ninth fund, initiated in 2019, saw its anticipated return multiple sliced in half to 1.5 at the end of September last year from the year prior, per CalPERS filings.

Older funds, established over a decade ago, are also feeling the pinch from the economic downturn. SAIF Partners’s China III fund, inaugurated in 2007, valued its returns on CalPERS’ $127 million investment at $300 million in September 2021. This value fell to $230 million one year later. Khosla Ventures’ 2009 third fund, also experienced a considerable markdown in returns from $447 million to $380 million.

In spite of the challenging market dynamics, a selection of funds have nonetheless either expanded or sustained notable performance. UTMICO has backed seven separate funds of Union Square Ventures, established between 2004 and 2016. According to data available as of February this year, these investments have yielded IRR ranging from 21.6% to an impressive 66.42%.

Meanwhile, Valor Equity Partners’ fourth fund, initiated in 2017, has maintained a stable performance over time. CalPERS invested $71.6 million in the fund, which was reported to be worth $172.6 million as of September the previous year, demonstrating a virtually unchanged value from the prior annual assessment.

You can read the full documents below. Figures from UTIMCO were first reported by journalist Eric Newcomer.

Tech investment portfolios suffer write-downs amid global economic slowdown by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Fintech giant Stripe is getting into the credit game

Stripe wants to make it easier for businesses to access credit.

The private financial infrastructure giant announced a new charge card program today from Stripe Issuing, its commercial card issuing product, Denise Ho, head of product for BaaS at Stripe, told TechCrunch exclusively.

The company originally launched its Issuing product in 2018 and since then, it’s helped companies such as Shopify and Ramp issue more than 100 million cards in the U.S., the United Kingdom and the European Union. The product is today one of Stripe’s fastest-growing, Ho said – supporting half a million transactions a day. Fintechs like Klarna “build entire businesses on it,” the company claims. 

Previously, Stripe-issued cards could only be used to spend money from a prefunded account. Its expansion into charge cards, according to Ho, will companies the ability to create and distribute virtual or physical charge cards that allow their customers to spend on credit rather than using the funds in their accounts. 

“Among our suite of products, Issuing has been doing really, really well,” Ho told TechCrunch. “And the No. 1 top demand within issuing has been the ability for Stripe to enable our platforms to offer credit to their users.”

This has a twofold benefit for Stripe – giving it a new revenue stream as well as the option to offer new financing capabilities to their customers “with little additional operational cost,” Stripe touts. (Operational efficiency is in vogue, after all.)

For example, platforms that use Stripe Connect offering can white label products from Stripe and provide a range of embedded financial services, such as financial accounts, working capital loans and now charge cards as well, Ho said.

Further, she added, Stripe Issuing provides the core components of a charge card program — such as funds flows, network connections, printing, and integration APIs — and then aims to “streamline” all the necessary compliance, bank partnerships and ledgering. 

Ramp, Emburse, Karat and Coast are among the current users of the charge card program, which is available in beta in the US. In the coming months, Stripe will launch charge card programs in the EU and the UK.

“In the U.S., the banks are the ones that have been our sponsor … and that’s regulated,” Ho explained. “And because you’re letting the small businesses spend, that is a form of lending so that lending compliance has to come from the bank.”

For its part, she said Stripe is partnering with startups to help guide them through the process and help provide the necessary compliance and risk oversight so that they don’t get in over their heads.

When it comes to underwriting, Ho said that Stripe has received feedback that its clients ultimately want to own the underwriting decision.

“What we do is we help them put together the set of policies and ensure that these policies are actually compliant,” she said. “So we offer both sort of flexibility and the control but with guardrails.”

Over time, Ho said its clients may want “more modules” to do their own underwriting so that’s something Stripe will work on over time as it matures its offering.

Anyone can sign up for the new program, she said, even if they are not an existing Stripe user.

For its part, Stripe will make money off of interchange fees so as customers’ volume grows and users spend more, Stripe will earn more. There will also be compliance fees associated with the program.

On May 31, TechCrunch reported exclusively on Stripe’s acquisition of Okay, a startup that developed a low-code analytics software to help engineering leaders better understand how their teams are performing.

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Got a news tip or inside information about a topic we covered? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at maryann@techcrunch.com. Or you can drop us a note at tips@techcrunch.com. Happy to respect anonymity requests. 

Fintech giant Stripe is getting into the credit game by Mary Ann Azevedo originally published on TechCrunch

Germany’s antitrust watchdog questions the future of behavioral advertising

Germany’s antitrust watchdog made some interesting comments vis-a-vis the programmatic advertising market yesterday — which question the appropriateness and sustainability of the (still dominant) tracking-and-profiling ad targeting business model.

In a statement accompanying publication of a sectoral report (the full report is here in German), the Federal Cartel Office’s (FCO) president, Andreas Mundt, wrote:

We should seriously ask ourselves whether we want to have virtually ‘transparent’ internet users only because we are supposed to buy certain products or services. What appears to be particularly problematic from a competition point of view is that only a very small number of companies have access to large amounts of a variety of current, first-hand user data. This imbalance must always be taken into account in the case of potential interventions.

The FCO’s review of the programmatic (non-search) ad sector found insufficient transparency for market players other than Alphabet, the dominant force — which it observes is “present at almost all levels of the value chain of non-search online advertising and has an extraordinarily strong market position with regard to practically all relevant services”.

This is a more typical observation for an antitrust regulator to make (and something other competition watchdogs have previously called out in their own reviews of the online ad market, such as the UK’s CMA in its 2020 market study). Google’s ad business also remains under antitrust probe in a number of European markets.

But the FCO’s wider questioning of the programmatic industry’s surveillance of web users implies the German regulator is uneasy about the idea of imposing what might be viewed as a ‘classic’ competition remedy to address the imbalance it’s identified around data access — say by boosting less dominant players’ visibility of web users info, such as by requiring Alphabet to share first party data with rivals so they’re not at such a disadvantage vs its high dimension view (a step which would of course mean even more surveillance and even less privacy for web users).

The FCO’s review of programmatic advertising is also notable in calling out insufficient transparency for web users whose information is subject to ad surveillance:

The situation is also intransparent from the users’ perspective. Their data form the most important basis for programmatic advertising. However, it is hardly possible for users to assess what happens to their data, who receives them and how they are used. Several legal policy proposals have been made for restricting data collection and the use of data for advertising purposes. The Bundeskartellamt [FCO] has looked into this issue from a competition law perspective.

A line in the executive summary of the report goes on to posit that “from a competition point of view consideration can thus be given to the question as to whether, overall, it would seem advisable to move away from such a system of data-driven advertising” — on account of what the FCO finds to be systemic complexity, opacity and privacy hostility in the programmatic ad market (which it also points out hinges upon “highly detailed personal profiles [being] created, which include highly sensitive information, solely for the purpose of facilitating advertising”).

This nuanced view of a situation where competition and privacy might — through an overly simplistic lens — be perceived as being in tension (i.e. if greater privacy for users results in greater market power for the handful of giants which have amassed tonnes of first party data) is not so surprising when you consider the FCO’s pioneering case against Facebook’s ‘superprofiling’, where the regulator has taken the view that the social network’s exploitative abuse of privacy is an antitrust abuse too. (That case is subject to a referral to the EU’s top court where a ruling remains pending.)

The FCO has also been investigating Google’s terms and conditions for processing user data since May 2021 — when it announced it would look into whether the adtech giant gives users sufficient choice over data processing or makes use of its services conditional on users agreeing to its processing of their information.

Earlier this year — in January — it issued a preliminary statement of objections on Google after finding it does not offer users sufficient choice. It also said it enjoys a strategic advantage over other ad businesses due to “established access to relevant data gathered from a large number of different services” — signalling it intends to require Google to offer users more choice over its processing.

Final enforcement of that case is still pending but the FCO’s review of the programmatic ad industry seems likely to bolster its preliminary take that Google dominates off the back of an unfair data advantage — and may lead it on to a conclusion that fixing that component might be the least harmful way to go about rebalancing a competitively skewed ad market that’s simultaneously and systematically exploiting consumer privacy.

What the FCO’s perspective on the programmatic ad industry’s problems might mean for other market interventions remains to be seen. But it writes of the insights gleaned from the sectoral inquiry: “There will be a particular focus on the large digital companies which play a key role in the online advertising sector.”

It also specifies that its review of the programmatic ad sector will inform “current and future proceedings” — which is relevant to the aforementioned Google/Alphabet data processing probe; and also to an open investigation of Apple’s app privacy framework (the latter has been accused by the ad industry of being anti-competitive yet clearly aligns with user privacy since it empowers iOS users to deny tracking requests from third party apps which Apple mandates must ask users if they want to be tracked).

Applying specific measures on Apple that demand it applies the same up-front request standard to its own tracking of iOS users might be one way to smooth competition concerns raised over its App Tracking Transparency without having to row back on privacy protections the feature delivers for users.

In Germany, both Google/Alphabet and Apple have been subject to a special abuse control regime since the FCO confirmed (in January 2022; and April 2023 respectively) they meet the requirement of having paramount significance across digital markets. This designation allows the competition regulator to intervene proactively on their businesses when it suspects anti-competitive behavior, rather than having to first investigate and establish a breach before being able to intervene.

Returning to the tangled issue of tracking, it’s also notable that the German antitrust regulator is zooming out for a big picture view: Its remarks highlight wider digital policy proposals that are bringing in new limits on use of data for tracking ads, such as the EU’s incoming Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act — which suggests it’s holding out hope for regionally rebooted (joint) digital enforcement to achieve structural reform of the surveillance ad industry.

So far, no single regulator — of any stripe — has been able to unpick the tangled issue of tracking and its systemic toxicity. But maybe, just maybe, joint working that chips away at the industrial data complex from multiple angles will finally turn the tanker in a way that works for a competition agenda and web users too.

Germany’s antitrust watchdog questions the future of behavioral advertising by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch

Meta announces over 20 new games for Quest headsets

In addition to news of a $499 Quest 3 headset arriving this fall, Meta today announced over 15 new titles for Quest VR headsets at the Meta Quest Gaming Showcase today. The games include “Stranger Things VR,” a new version of “NFL Pro Era,” “Assassin’s Creed: Nexus VR” and “Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord.”

The company is partnering with multiple game studios to bring different kinds of games to the Quest platform. A VR take on SEGA’s classic 1999 arcade game “Samba de Amigo” is releasing soon. “Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice” lets you become a vampire in Venice. Players also have to be evil and play Vecna in the “Stranger Things VR” game. “Racket Club” mixes tennis and pickleball to create a new racket sport.

Here is the full list of games announced at the show today:

  • Samba de Amigo
  • I Expect You To Die 3: Cog in the Machine
  • Silent Slayer: Vault of the Vampire
  • Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord

Image Credits: Meta

  • UNDERDOGS
  • The next evolution of NFL PRO ERA
  • Racket Club

Image Credits: Meta

  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice
  • Dungeons of Eternity
  • The 7th Guest
  • Stranger Things VR
  • Attack on Titan VR: Unbreakable
  • Bulletstorm
  • Assassin’s Creed: Nexus VR
  • No More Rainbows

Image Credits: Meta

  • Little Cities
  • Death Game Hotel
  • Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game
  • Onward

Image Credits: Meta

  • Walkabout Mini Golf
  • Demeo Battles
  • We Are One
  • Powerwash Simulator
  • Arizona Sunshine 2

Image Credits: Meta

Meta’s announcement comes days before Apple is expected to present its much-awaited headset at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week.

Mark Zuckerberg-owned company is persisting on having great metaverse ambitions despite setbacks. Last year, it unveiled the expensive $1,500 Quest Pro VR headset and now it is working on bringing more gaming titles to the platform. Earlier this year, reports suggested that Roblox was planning to launch its game on Quest sometime in 2023.

Meta is also trying to expand the content library on these headsets. The company announced a deal with NBA in January to offer 52 live games on the platform. In April, Meta announced that it’s partnering with Peacock for content streaming on Quest devices.

Meta announces over 20 new games for Quest headsets by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Ceibo unearths $30M Series B to extract more copper out of existing mines

When it comes time to fret about minerals critical to the energy transition, lithium, cobalt, and nickel may get all the attention, but another metal is keeping plenty of analysts up at night.

Though those other minerals are key ingredients for batteries, copper is used across every sector that will be touched by electrification. Transmission wires, electric motors, inverters, and battery packs all rely on the 29th element.

“There’s no energy transition, no decarbonization without some critical minerals,” Ceibo CEO Cristóbal Undurraga told TechCrunch+.

But less than a decade from now, demand for copper is expected to outstrip supply by 6.5 million metric tons, according to McKinsey. That portends a 25% shortfall.

One answer to that dilemma is to find more copper buried in the earth and dig it up. But that costs a lot, takes a ton of time and damages the environment. A better approach is to extract more copper out of the mines we have today.

There are several ways to do that — bacteria is an option; more on that later — but the one that helped Ceibo dig up a $30 million Series B relies on tweaking a century-old process. The round was led by Energy Impact Partners with participation from existing investors Khosla Ventures and Aurus Ventures and new investors including CoTec Holdings, Audley, Orion Industrial Ventures, Unearth Capital, and Pincus Green.

Ceibo unearths $30M Series B to extract more copper out of existing mines by Tim De Chant originally published on TechCrunch

Kaspersky says attackers hacked staff iPhones with unknown malware

The Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky said that hackers working for a government targeted its employees’ iPhones with unknown malware.

On Monday, Kaspersky announced the alleged cyberattack, and published a technical report analyzing it, where the company admitted its analysis is not yet complete. The company said that the hackers, whom at this point are unknown, delivered the malware with a zero-click exploit via an iMessage attachment, and that all the events happened within a one to three minute timeframe. At this point, it’s unclear if the hackers exploited new vulnerabilities that were unpatched at the time, meaning they were so-called zero-days.

Kaspersky researchers said that they discovered the attack when they noticed “suspicious activity that originated from several iOS-based phones,” while monitoring their own corporate Wi-Fi network.

The company called this alleged hack against its own employees “Operation Triangulation,” and created a logo for it. Neither Kaspersky nor Apple immediately responded to requests for comment.

Kaspersky researchers said they created offline backups of the targeted iPhones and inspected them with a tool developed by Amnesty International called the Mobile Verification Toolkit, or MVT, which allowed them to discover “traces of compromise.” The researchers did not say when they discovered the attack, and said that they found traces of it going as far back as 2019, and that “attack is ongoing, and the most recent version of the devices successfully targeted is iOS 15.7.”

While the malware was designed to clean up the infected devices and remove traces of itself, “it is possible to reliably identify if the device was compromised,” the researchers wrote.

In the report, the researchers explained step by step how they analyzed the compromised devices, outlining how others can do the same. They did not, however, include many details of what they found using this process.

The researchers said that the presence of “data usage lines mentioning the process named ‘BackupAgent’,” was the most reliable sign that an iPhone was hacked, and that another one of the signs was that compromised iPhones could not install iOS updates.

“We observed update attempts to end with an error message “Software Update Failed. An error occurred downloading iOS,” the researchers wrote.

The company also published a series of URLs that were used in the operation, including some with names such as Unlimited Teacup and Backup Rabbit.

The Russian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), a government organization that shares information on cyberattacks, published an advisory on the cyberattack, along with the same domains mentioned by Kaspersky.

In a separate statement, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused U.S. intelligence of hacking “thousands” of Apple phones with the goal of spying on Russian diplomats, according to an online translation. The FSB did not provide evidence for its claims.

The FSB’s description of the attacks echoes what Kaspersky wrote in its report, but it’s unclear if the two operations are connected.

This is not the first time hackers target Kaspersky. In 2015 the company announced that a nation-state hacking group, using malware believed to be developed by Israeli spies, had hacked its network.


Do you have more information about these cyberattacks? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, or via Wickr, Telegram and Wire @lorenzofb, or email lorenzo@techcrunch.com. You can also contact TechCrunch via SecureDrop.

Kaspersky says attackers hacked staff iPhones with unknown malware by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai originally published on TechCrunch

Verizon’s +Play is the first to bundle Netflix and Paramount+ with Showtime

Verizon announced Thursday a new streaming bundle through its +Play subscription-aggregation hub that will combine Netflix’s premium plan and Paramount’s upcoming merged streaming service, Paramount+ with Showtime. This marks the first time that rivals Netflix and Paramount+ have been offered in a bundle together.

The limited-time deal will cost $25.99 per month– a 19% discount on the regular price of the two services. Netflix Premium is usually $19.99 per month. When Paramount+ with Showtime launches next month, it will be $11.99 per month.

The subscription bundle gives Verizon customers about $70 in annual savings, the company wrote in its announcement.

“With partners like Netflix and Paramount+ with Showtime on +play, we’re leading the industry in offering customers the content they want, with never-before-seen bundles they can’t get anywhere else,” said Erin McPherson, Verizon’s chief content officer, said in a statement.

Verizon’s +Play is exclusively available for Verizon mobile, 5G Home and LTE Home Internet customers in the U.S. It includes over 30 services, such as Disney+, Discovery+, Max (formerly HBO Max), Hulu, AMC+, A+E Networks, ESPN+, NFL+, NBA League Pass, the Peloton App and Duolingo, among others. The company plans to keep adding services over time.

When +Play launched in open beta in December 2022, users received one year of Netflix Premium for a limited time.

Verizon’s +Play is the first to bundle Netflix and Paramount+ with Showtime by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

WordPress.com challenges Substack with launch of paid newsletters

WordPress.com is taking on Substack and others with today’s news that its Newsletter product will now support paid subscriptions and premium content. First launched in December, WordPress.com Newsletter allows writers to automatically send out posts via email to connect directly with their audience, while still being able to leverage WordPress.com’s other capabilities. Writers can opt to use the feature solely for newsletters or they could add the option to their blog to cater to readers who want to receive new posts via email instead.

While, for years, there have been plug-ins and third-party services that allow blog owners to send out their posts via email, WordPress.com’s decision to move more directly into this space was a reflection of how people now prefer to read news and information. As the state of websites has worsened — dominated by clutter, ads, overlays, pop-ups, and cookie acceptance banners — many have turned to email as an easier way to stay connected to writers, journalists, essayists, and other publishers they want to follow.

Given its sizable footprint — WordPress powers 43% of the web, including its open source version — WordPress.com’s shift into the newsletters market is significant.

The initial version of the WordPress.com Newsletter product, however, was not a tool that would be competitive with those trying to run a revenue-generating newsletter business. It offers a host of features for general newsletter management, though, like the ability to import subscribers from other platforms, use ready-made newsletter themes or customizable designs, scheduling tools, the ability to connect custom domains, support for posting via email, and more.

With today’s expansion, WordPress.com publishers will be able to add paid subscriptions and premium content, allowing them to generate income from their newsletter operations. The option to use these features is available to all WordPress.com blogs, even those on the free plan, the company says. But as their newsletter business scales, publishers may choose to move up to paid WordPress.com plans, which will also lower the transaction fees on their newsletter subscription emails.

For instance, free plan users pay newsletter transaction fees of 10%, while those on the Commerce plan pay 0%. WordPress.com is processing the transactions via Stripe, it says, which limits availability to only those markets where Stripe is supported.

By comparison, Substack charges a 10% fee for its customers, also processed through Stripe.

And, similar to Substack, WordPress.com authors can pick and choose which of their posts will be free or paid only at the time of publishing. When posting, they’ll just check the box to indicate whether the post is for everyone, subscribers, or only paid subscribers.

The company suggests the benefit of running a newsletter on WordPress.com is the flexibility it offers.

Because WordPress.com is a broader publishing platform, not just a newsletter platform, creators could expand their efforts over time to turn their newsletter into a website, for instance. They could also collect one-time tips or donations, as needed, to keep their projects funded outside of subscriptions, or opt to run an online store. Plus, WordPress.com’s extensibility provides access to a wider set of plug-ins, themes, and design patterns to customize their website further.

That said, because WordPress.com isn’t focused solely on newsletters, that may mean it will lack some of the more specific tools designed for this market that competitors may offer, particularly for those with large-scale newsletter operations or online businesses.

And it won’t be as competitive on the social side compared with companies like Substack, which has been working to make its platform not just a place to discover and subscribe to newsletters, but also an online community of sorts. The company this year launched features like Notes and Chat which allow writers to communicate directly with readers in different ways than email alone. In fact, it was seen as an attempt to move into Twitter’s territory, angering Twitter owner Elon Musk, who then punished Substack by censoring tweets with Substack links on Twitter’s platform.

WordPress.com wouldn’t come with any built-in social community necessarily, but parent company Automattic recently acquired an ActivityPub plugin that blog owners could use to join the Fediverse, posting their updates directly to Mastodon, an open source Twitter rival that’s gained traction following Musk’s Twitter takeover.

The new paid newsletters options are available today, the company says.

WordPress.com challenges Substack with launch of paid newsletters by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Google Play Books adds new practice feature to help kids learn how to read

Google Play Book is getting a new feature that is designed to help new readers independently improve their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Google announced today that the new feature, called “Reading Practice,” is available in the United States on the on the Google Play Books Android app and in Google Kids Space. The tools are intended for children between the ages of 0-8.

With Reading Practice, early readers can track their reading position, as text is highlighted as they read out loud. If the reader is stuck on a how to pronounce a word, they can tap it to hear what it sounds like. If you need more help and want to sound out the word, you can hear the word broken down by syllable.

The feature lets you listen to an entire sentence and get a child-friendly definition of a word so you can give your child more context about the story you’re reading. Readers can also tap any word to update their position in the book and start tracking from there. At the end of the page, readers have the option to practice any words they skipped or mispronounced.

“To get started with Reading practice, check out our hand-picked collection of kid-friendly reads on Google Play Books, including some no-charge options,” said Vitaliy Dikker, a Product Manager at Google Play Books, in a blog post. “Or you can browse thousands of English language books designated for younger readers. The majority of these titles have Reading practice enabled, indicated by a “Practice” badge on the book detail page.”

In addition, you can use the “Reading practice” filter in Google Play Books to narrow down your store or library searches to ebooks that specifically offer Reading practice.

Google Play Books adds new practice feature to help kids learn how to read by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch