Telegram cuts subscription fee by more than half in India

Telegram has cut the monthly subscription fee for its premium tier by more than half in India, just months after introducing the offering as it attempts to aggressively cash in on a large user base in one of its biggest markets.

In a message to users in India on Saturday, Telegram said it was making the subscription available in the country at a discount. The monthly subscription now costs customers 179 Indian rupees ($2.2), down from 469 Indian rupees ($5.74) earlier. The app’s monthly subscription, called Telegram Premium, costs between $4.99 to $6 in every other market.

Users who have not received the message are also seeing the new price in the settings section of the app, they said and TechCrunch independently verified.

India is one of the largest markets for Telegram. The instant messaging app has amassed over 120 million monthly active users in the country, according to analytics firm data.ai. (An industry executive shared the figures with TechCrunch.) That figure makes the app the second most popular in its category in the country, only second to WhatsApp, which has courted over half a billion users in the South Asian market.

Telegram, which claims to have amassed over 700 million monthly active users globally, introduced the optional subscription offering in June this year in a move it hopes will improve its finances and continuing to support a free tier. Premium customers gain access to a wide-range of additional features such as the ability to follow up to 1,000 channels, send larger files (4GB) and faster download speeds.

The Dubai-headquartered firm joins a list of global tech firms that offer their services for lower cost in India. Apple’s music app charges $1.2 for the individual monthly plan in the country, whereas Netflix’s offerings starts at as low as $1.83 in the country.

Telegram cuts subscription fee by more than half in India by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Google goes visual, Twitter copies TikTok, OG app drama

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has diminished. But overall, the app economy is continuing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.

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Top Stories

So we’re just TikTok-ing all the things now

The TikTok-ification of today’s web is nearly overwhelming. Already we’ve seen top social apps like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube clone the vertical feed format in their own apps. And it seems not a day goes by when some other app announces its own TikTok-like feed has arrived. This week, it was the NBA app that added a vertical video feed of sports content, for some reason, while Twitter announced the introduction of a TikTok-inspired feed for watching videos on its app.

It’s all starting to get a little ridiculous, isn’t it?

Twitter video feed

Image Credits: Twitter

Still, there’s something more going on here, it seems.

This isn’t just about adopting a new format — as apps did when Stories became popular, for example. What’s really happening is that there’s a broader shift in how younger people are using the web, and apps are rushing to adapt. Younger users are looking for more immersive content, visual experiences and easy access to information through intuitive user interfaces that allow for fast scrolling or simple navigation.

Throwing a TikTok feed into an app is a quick way to address these users’ unique interests, but they’re certainly not the only way.

Google Goes Visual

Image Credits: Google

Google, to its credit, has identified this shift as a threat to its core business. It understands that the days when people taught themselves how to use Boolean operators to narrow search results, then clicked back and forth through dozens of blue links, are now behind us.

At an event this week, Google introduced how it’s revamping its products as a result of these behavioral changes, starting with Google Search and Maps.

One of the most notable updates is how Google now plans to redesign Google Search for the TikTok generation.

Instead of starting with a list of links, some Google searches will return highly visual results, where pieces of information are presented in colorful cards alongside other imagery and videos — including both YouTube content and TikToks. For instance, if you search for a place, you might see maps and directions, weather, photos and snippets from Wikipedia all placed in boxes at the top of the search results. And all this could be interspersed with creator-based content that shows off famous landmarks, sights, tourist attractions, places to dine and other ideas.

The changes follow Google’s recent acknowledgment that it had been losing younger users to apps like Instagram and TikTok for some types of searches. This is its attempt to bring those users back to its search engine instead.

The idea now is that you wouldn’t just come to Google to be informed, but to also discover and be inspired — much like you do on social video apps.

The company will cater to users’ interest in visual content in other ways as well, including with shopping searches, where it will integrate more 3D imagery, allow users to browse through “shoppable looks” where they can buy outfits, not locate individual pieces, and have their experiences customized to their own interests in terms of product categories and favorite brands.

Meanwhile, in Google Maps the company is allowing users to explore cities in an “Immersive View” that leverages a combination of computer vision and AI technology to fuse Street View and aerial imagery together. This gives users a way to more visually explore an area, like a bird in flight, then glide down to the street level. Here, users can even go inside places, like restaurants, to get a sense of what they look like inside, layered with “busy-ness” data — so you know if the restaurant would be likely to have a table for you at that time.

Google Maps is also updating its new Live View feature — the AR experience that overlays information atop the real world in Maps just by holding up your phone’s camera. With Live View, you can find places like shops, restaurants or ATMs highlighted over the view of the street your camera displays. And now, you can search within Live View, too.

Another interesting feature is Neighborhood Vibe — a way for Google Maps users to get a sense of the most popular and trendy places in a given neighborhood by adding reviews, photos and videos directly atop Google Maps. (Why turn to TikTok, after all, if you can open a real maps app and watch videos there, attached to exact locations?)

Then there’s the feature that seemingly sets the stage for an AR future — multisearch near me.

This allows you to view items in the real world and find out where to find them nearby. For instance, you could point your phone’s camera (and maybe one day, your AR glasses) toward a dress, then find out which shops in your town carry it. This is a step beyond video-based e-commerce experiences, as seen on TikTok or YouTube, because you’re instead shopping from the real world — not a recorded version of it.

Now, whether Google’s investments will pay off in the long term remain to be seen, of course. These are broader bets on the future of search and discovery. But at least we can say this for it — it’s not ignoring the market shifts or thinking that simply cramming a TikTok-like feed into its apps will keep it relevant.

OG Drama

Instagram on mobile

Image Credits: Un1feed

Hoping to cater to user demand for a more classic version of Instagram without the clutter from ads and suggested posts, a pair of developers built a customized app for viewing Instagram content, called OG App. While users may have briefly appreciated the experience of what felt like the old Instagram experience, the app’s existence was short-lived and filled with drama.

Apparently, the company didn’t exactly have permission to use Instagram’s API the way it was doing. Because soon after the app launched, Meta took enforcement actions against the app, confirming it was in violation of its policies. Apple also then removed the app from its App Store as a result of its behavior, noting that its rules state that apps displaying content from third-party services must do so in accordance with the service’s own terms of use.

OG App had already racked up nearly 10,000 downloads by the time of its removal, after just a couple of days of availability.

While this particular app is no more, it does serve as a test case for consumer interest in an algorithm-free photo-sharing experience that looks and feels more like Instagram once did.

Of course, a number of apps have entered the market hoping to capture users’ interest on that front, but have failed to gain significant traction. Among those were apps like Poparazzi, Later Cam and the ill-fated Dispo, which offer some sort of spin on analog photo-sharing — like replicating the disposable camera experience or only allowing friends to post pics of you. Then there were the apps that try to elevate photo-sharing, like Glass.

But many users either churned out of these experiences or never joined to begin with. Instead, users found a variation on casual, social photo-sharing with the app BeReal. But its notification-based “time to post” trick still needs to prove it can be a successful draw in the long term — and that’s not a given.

That’s why, as we said last week, now is a great time for developers to test the waters by building other privacy-focused social networking experiences — including those centered around photos.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple’s latest iOS 16 developer beta allows Stage Manager to work with older iPad Pro models, but that support doesn’t allow extending the display to an external monitor. The feature was previously only compatible with the M1-powered iPad Air and the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models released last year.
  • Apple pulled from its App Store apps owned by the Russian tech giant VK, including the music service VK Music. Apple said the apps have been removed due to new U.K. sanctions on Russian-owned companies. Apple also terminated the developer accounts associated with these apps.
  • References to Apple Music Classical, a new Apple Music service, were spotted in the latest iOS beta.
  • Apple rolled out iOS 16.1 beta 3, iPadOS 16.1 beta 4, watchOS 9.1 beta 3, tvOS 16.1 and macOS Ventura beta 9. It appears that iOS 16.1 could bring Adaptive Transparency to the original AirPods Pro, reports said.
  • Apple launched a new App Store Foundations Program in the U.K., with a focus on supporting women developers. The program will feature both one-on-one and group sessions with App Store leaders across the U.K. and Europe.
  • Apple News partner Fast Company’s account was hacked, leading the Apple News app to send offensive news notifications to users.

Platforms: Google

Image Credits: Google

  • Google officially announced the Play Store reorg that has been rolling out for some days. The changes make it easier to filter for and remotely install non-phone apps, including those for watches, tablets, cars and smart TVs.
  • Google upgraded its Speech Services by Google speech engine to provide “more natural voices.” The company says all 421 voices in 67 languages have been updated with a new voice model and synthesizer.

E-commerce and Food Delivery

Image Credits: Walmart

  • Walmart updated its AR feature, View in Your Home, to all users to view TV models to see if the set they liked looks good in their space.
  • Instagram began a new test in its app that ditches the Shopping tab. In one version, Messages takes the place of Shopping on the app’s home screen, while others saw the Notifications tab in its place.
  • iFood in Brazil controls more than 80% of the delivery market. A new report by Rest of World analyzes the impact of the government’s own delivery app Valeu on the market.
  • Shopify announced new mobile hardware, POS Go, that allows merchants to take payments anywhere via their phone, including through tapping, swiping or an integrated reader for chip cards.

Fintech

  • Robinhood debuted a new non-custodial crypto wallet with Polygon, Robinhood Wallet. The crypto wallet, the company’s first international app, was initially rolled out to 10,000 beta testers on its waitlist. It expects to reach over a million users at the beta test’s end before the end of 2022.
  • Public.com added support for alternative asset investing, which includes contemporary art, high-end trading cards, luxury items, vintage comics and more. Users can manage these new investments alongside their portfolio of stocks, crypto and ETFs.
  • Square added support for Tap to Pay on iPhone, which allows users to accept contactless payments directly in the Square Point of Sale app for iOS.

Social

  • TikTok is said to be bleeding U.S. executives, Forbes reported, because China is still calling the shots. Ex-employees said their ability to lead departments was minimized in the U.S. because of corporate reorgs that had them reporting to ByteDance leadership in Beijing, rather than TikTok leadership.
  • TikTok said it removed 33.6 million fake accounts in the past quarter, a 61% increase from the 20.8 million accounts it removed in the prior quarter. TikTok’s fake account removal rate has grown by more than 2,000% over 12 months.
  • Meta is testing a new interface that allows users to more easily create, manage and switch between multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts. When logged into either Facebook or Instagram’s app, users will be able to toggle between the two apps now through the profile menu.
  • Meta said all Facebook and Instagram users in the U.S. can now share NFTs and cross-post between both apps, after announcing the start of the rollout last month.

Meta Instagram NFT

Image Credits: Meta

  • Snapchat is going to pay out $100,000 to creators across 12 Spotlight Challenges from October 3 through the end of the month. Most will focus on Halloween or fall themes and will be used to help promote Snapchat features.
  • Twitter said Elon Musk has failed to provide Signal messages, with Marc Andreessen, relevant to the case involving Musk’s attempt to exit the $44 billion acquisition. It also said Musk’s own data scientists had estimated Twitter spam at 5-11% of users. Meanwhile, other court filings provided insight into Musk’s conversations ahead of the deal, including exchanges with former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, revealing that Dorsey had wanted to give Musk a board seat.
  • Twitter rolled out a redesigned DM experience on Android, catching up to iOS with an improved composer, better forwarding, clearer read receipts and more.

Photos

Messaging

Image Credits: WhatsApp

  • WhatsApp rolled out a way to share links for video calls, similar to apps like FaceTime or Zoom. The new link is found under the calls tab and can be sent to family and friends so they can tap to join the call. The company additionally confirmed it’s now testing 32-person encrypted video calls as well.
  • Intel announced the Unison app that allows Intel PC users to text, take calls and send files to their iOS and Android devices. The app will launch with 12th-gen PCs this fall.
  • The U.S. SEC and CFTC fined 16 financial firms $1.1 billion and $710 million in penalties, respectively, for employees’ use of unauthorized messaging apps. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America were among those fined.

Dating

  • The NYT examined the dating market in China, where the number of apps with over 1,000 downloads grew to 275 in 2022, up from 81 in 2017 and have received $5.3 billion in funding in 2021, up from $300 million in 2019. Despite a nationwide crackdown on tech, the dating app market has been allowed to flourish, the report found.
  • Dating app Inner Circle launched a new group of anti-ghosting features called “The Date Conscious Suite.” The toolset includes things like anti-ghosting reminders, end conversation options, closure messages, pinned conversations and decision prompts.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • An iOS 16 bug appears to be impacting videos recorded in Cinematic Mode, which are no longer recognized by iMovie and Final Cut Pro, users are reporting.
  • YouTube added support for narration voiceovers for Shorts on iOS, copying another popular feature from TikTok’s app.
  • Even the NBA app is copying TikTok. The updated app includes a “For You” vertical video feed that offers highlights from NBA games and behind-the-scenes footage, content from influencers, NBA clips and more.
  • Deezer launched a new technology called SongCatcher music ID, which can search for songs based on humming, whistling and singing.
  • Twitter rolled out podcasts to its Twitter Blue subscribers on Android after first launching the feature on iOS a few weeks ago.

Gaming

  • Google is shutting down its cloud-based game streaming service Stadia. The service allowed users to stream games across platforms, including Chromecast Ultra, Android TV, computers, Google Chrome’s browser, Chromebook and Chrome OS tablets, the Stadia app for Android phones and on iOS via a progressive web app. Subscribers will have access to their games library through January 18 and refunds will be issued. The company says it will apply Stadia’s technology to other areas, including Google Play, YouTube and AR in the future.
  • Netflix is establishing an internal games studio based in Helsinki, Finland, led by the former co-founder and general manager of the Zygna Helsinki game development studio, Marko Lastikka. The studio will be the fourth for Netflix, joining others including Next Games, Night School Studio and Boss Fight Entertainment, each designed to develop games catering to different tastes.
  • India’s financial crimes agency searched the premises of Coda Payments India, the distributor of Sea’s Free Fire — a game banned by the government earlier this year over its China ties. The Enforcement Directorate said it searched three premises as part of an “ongoing investigation” into the distributor.
  • Android’s share of hypercasual game advertising spending reached a record high of 57%, according to a report from Tenjin.
  • Walmart launched metaverse experiences in Roblox, including Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play, designed to reach younger shoppers. The virtual worlds let Roblox players collect new virtual merchandise, play games featuring toys and characters, earn toys from a blimp, attend live concerts, win fashion competitions and more.

Image Credits: Walmart

Health & Fitness

  • YouTube announced a new feature called “Personal Stories” that will appear in search results when users enter health-related queries. When people now search for certain health conditions on the app, YouTube will display a panel featuring videos from people who are diagnosed with those disorders.

Utilities

  • Microsoft says it will end support for the predictive keyboard app SwiftKey on iOS and remove it from the App Store on October 5 but will continue to support the app on Android.
  • Apple’s Dark Sky weather app has been removed from the App Store. The app was supposed to be available through January 1, 2023, according to a prior notification display in the app, making its removal ahead of schedule. The app’s technology had been merged into Apple’s own Weather app following the acquisition.

Government & Policy

  • South Korean antitrust officials raided Apple’s offices in the country to investigate allegations raised by mobile game developers that Apple is actually taking a 33% cut of their business, due to the way it handles the local sales tax — or VAT (value added tax).
  • TikTok is facing a $29 million fine in the U.K. for “failing to protect children’s privacy.” The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provisionally said the company breached child data protection laws for a two-year period by processing data for kids under 13 without parental consent, among other things.
  • The North London Coroner’s Court has concluded that social media, including content on Instagram and Pinterest, played a role in the death of a 14-year-old British girl, who died by suicide in November 2017. The coroner will now compile a report laying out the concerns, which will be shared with the government and Ofcom, which will be responsible for regulating content under the Online Safety Bill.

Security & Privacy

  • Researchers found 75 apps on Google Play and 10 on the App Store that were engaging in ad fraud. The apps collectively had 13 million installs before their removal by the app stores.
  • WhatsApp warned users of a critical vulnerability, now patched, that could impact users on older versions of the app that haven’t been updated. The bug could allow an attacker to execute their own code on a victim’s phone.

Funding and M&A

💰 Milan-based developer Bending Spoons, makers of apps like Splice and Remini, raised $340 million from Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and Banco BPM, plus Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort Holdings, the former CEO of Vimeo Kerry Trainor, and others.

💰 Scout, a mobile app that helps Gen Z invest in cars, food, games and other “themes,” raised $2.6 million in seed funding led by Chingona Ventures. The app is iOS only for now. It doesn’t charge transaction fees, but rather a subscription of $1/mo. for users with less than $1,000 AUM or 1% of AUM for larger accounts.

💰 Solvo, a new fintech app allowing users to invest in cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-related financial products, raised $3.5 million in seed funding from Index Ventures and others. The app, launching in October, was founded by two former Revolut employees and will feature 10 cryptocurriences to start.

💰 A new group camcorder app, Studio, raised $3.3 million in seed funding led by GV for an app that allows groups of friends to privately share everyday videos in albums.

💰 Triller said it raised $310 million from Luxembourg-based investment group Global Emerging Markets ahead of its IPO. The company, however, is not obligated to draw the entire amount — it can issue stock to investors on each draw, as needed.

 

This Week in Apps: Google goes visual, Twitter copies TikTok, OG app drama by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter is rolling out a refreshed user interface for DMs on Android

Twitter is launching a redesigned user interface for DMs on Android, the company announced on Friday. Starting today, Twitter users on Android will see a more modern interface for direct messages that is consistent with the rest of the app. With this rollout, Twitter is bringing the Android experience on par with its iOS interface.

The refresh also brings an improved composer, as well as better tweet forwarding, context for message requests and clearer read receipts. The social network is also introducing improvements to the interface’s scrolling performance and responsiveness.

Twitter Android refresh

Image Credits: Twitter

Now, when Android users open their DMs, they will no longer see the boxy design they’re used to. They will now also see if they have received message requests from people they may know. The three-dot menu in the top right corner of the UI has also been replaced with a Settings symbol.

Twitter says it saw a need to improve how people use DMs on Twitter on Android devices, which is why it decided to revamp the interface. The Android refresh is arguably long overdue, considering that iOS users have had access to the redesign for quite some time now, while Android users were stuck with a somewhat outdated one. 

Twitter DM refresh

Image Credits: Twitter

The launch of the new interface comes as Twitter has been working to improve the DM experience for users over the past year. In February, the company rolled out the ability for users to pin up to six DM conversations to the top of their inbox for easy access. The social network also rolled out the option for users to search for specific messages in their DMs in March.

Last year, Twitter made some long-awaited changes to DMs, including the ability to DM a tweet to multiple people at once in individual conversations. Also, instead of timestamping individual messages with the date and time, Twitter started grouping messages by day to reduce timestamp clutter.

Twitter is rolling out a refreshed user interface for DMs on Android by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

The biggest moonshots from 500 Global’s latest Demo Day

It’s demo day season. This morning marked the kickoff of VC firm 500 Global’s Fall 2022 Demo Day, which saw over a dozen startups give their best pitches to prospective investors — and customers. Participants ran the gamut from fintech and sustainability to edtech and developer tools, and several stood out from the rest of the pack.

The event comes just weeks after Y Combinator had its bi-annual Demo Day, its first since moving operations back to in-person. 500 Global, formerly branded under 500 Startups, has an accelerator that competes with YC. Both outfits look to back early-stage founders with money and advice in exchange for equity. YC has backed over 3,500 founders, while 500 Global has backed more than 2,800 founders, according to each institution’s websites. Unlike YC, 500 Global has geographic-specific accelerator programs, similar to Techstars, with focus on areas like Aichi, Japan, Cambodia, and Alberta, Canada.

That said, today’s debut from 500 Global is from its first and flagship program, hailing back from 2010 and, fittingly, including companies from all around the globe. All companies go through a four-month program but start at different times, thanks to 500 Global’s somewhat new rolling admissions strategy. Let’s dig into some of the moonshots of the batch and end with some notes from Clayton Bryan, partner and head of 500 Global’s Accelerator Fund.

The moonshots

For example, there’s Taiwan-based Rosetta.ai, an ecommerce startup tapping AI to let customers search for products — particularly apparel and cosmetic — through specific attributes. Rosetta’s AI algorithm “sees” which attributes (e.g., sleeveless, ruffled, microbeads) a shopper might want as they browse an online store and builds a “preference profile” for them, which merchants can use to cross-sell or set up promotions that trigger if it seems likely the shopper will abandon their cart.

Rosetta.ai

Image Credits: Rosetta.ai

It’s early days for Rosetta. But the company, which was founded in 2016, has raised $2.4 million in capital to date and claims to have customers including Shu Uemura, in which L’Oréal owns a majority stake. The trick will be continuing to win customers over rivals like Lily AI, which similarly attempts to match customers with products using attributes and AI models.

Elsewhere on Demo Day, Lydia.ai walked through its health assessment service for insurance carriers. Designed to do away with lengthy medical exams and forms, Lydia has insurance plan applicants answer a few questions about their health — e.g., whether they have a chronic illness, have recently been hospitalization and so on — via their smartphones. The platform then generates an abstracted health score supposedly devoid of sensitive medical details, which insurers can use for risk management and underwriting.

Lydia.ai

Image Credits: Lydia.ai

Lydia isn’t the first to attempt this. Health tech startup Fedo also algorithmically generates health scores, quantifying a person’s risk for diseases and their propensity to claim. The opaqueness of Lydia’s approach also raises questions, like whether its algorithms account for demographic differences and historic biases in health care. But if the startup remains true to its mission — insuring the next billion people — it could be one to watch, particularly given the capital (~$13 million) already behind it.

One of the more unique Demo Say startups that presented was BetaStore, a supplier for the “informal” retail outlets common in Africa. Informal retailers are unlicensed and unregistered retailers that don’t report to tax agencies, typically operating out of open markets and shops. BetaStore serves as a goods marketplace for informal retailers, providing access to staples such as dish soap, laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaner at wholesale prices and delivering them to the retailers (within 48 hours).

BetaStore

Image Credits: BetaStore

BetaStore customers can order products via chat, text message or WhatsApp. On the backend, the platform provides sales analytics to manufacturers, which BetaStore notes can be leveraged to make “data-driven” decisions to scale up shipments.

BetaStore appears to be off to a strong start. Founded in 2020, the Nigeria-based startup claims to have distributed over 140,000 goods to retail customers in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal and fielded over 20,000 orders. Recently, BetaStore began offering financing to retailers and plans to launch a buy now, pay later product in the coming months.

One year after the rebrand

Minutes after Demo Day ended, Bryan spoke to TechCrunch about 500 Global and how it’s growing within an increasingly volatile (and competitive) market.

“It’s been kind of gloomy, but we’ve told our companies time and time again that the silver lining is that 2021 was a phenomenal year for venture funds raising financing,” he said, fitting into the news that U.S. based investors are sitting on $290 billion in dry powder right now. The accelerator’s top advice was to start fundraising earlier, ready the company more before going out to the market, and stay smart on managing expenses. His advice these days is that startups should be preparing for at least 18 months of runway.

It has been almost a year since 500 Global rebranded from 500 startups, a move that Bryan said was meant to reposition the institution as less of an accelerator, and more of a venture firm. Its more than semantics; former batch participants have come back to 500 for follow-on funding, during their Series A but up till their series D.

“Historically, we haven’t had any any optionality, but now we’re going multi-strategy and we’re working on later stage funds,” he said. “We have the demand with our founder community, we have a demand even within our partner community that they want to have access to more de-risked companies.”

He added: “We’re very proud of our accelerator. It is a key vantage…but now it’s helped unlock other opportunities for us as a firm that we’re exploring with a lot of enthusiasm.”

As for if 500 will change its investment cadence, check size or focus – similar to YC as it prepared for a downturn –  Bryan said there’s more to come.

“We’re not immune to the the changes that are happening in our ecosystem, we’re aware of what other funds are doing and other programs are doing,” he said. “Our program has been operating strongly for the last 10 plus years. But at the same time, we can’t rest on our laurels, and we’ve got to make sure that we have compelling deal terms.”

The biggest moonshots from 500 Global’s latest Demo Day by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter is adding a new TikTok-like full-screen video feature

Twitter is adding new features to make it easier for users to watch and discover videos on its platform, the social network announced on Thursday. Most notably, the company is launching a scrollable TikTok-like scrollable video feed.

In the coming days, users on iOS will be able to click on a video in their feed to enter the new scrollable video feed. Once you finish watching the video you clicked on, you will be able to scroll up to start browsing more video content. You’ll then be in a scrollable feed of videos, which is similar to the browsing experience on TikTok. If you want to exit the viewer and go back to the original tweet, you can click the back arrow in the top left corner.

Twitter says the purpose of the new immersive media viewer is to make it easier for users to discover engaging videos. The social network didn’t say when the immersive media viewer will roll out to users on Android.

In addition, Twitter is launching a new video carousel within its Explore tab. Users will see a new “Videos for you” category that will display popular and trending videos that the app thinks you would be interested in.

Twitter video section

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter began testing a TikTok-like video feed back in December 2021 to give users a more personalized Explore page. In this test, Twitter turned the entire Explore page into a video feed, complete with a “For You” tab. With the changes announced today, Twitter isn’t focused on replacing the entire Explore page with a TikTok-like feed.

The company’s approach to a TikTok-like feed can be seen a somewhat tolerable one, especially considering that it isn’t directly forcing it onto users, as the previous TikTok-like video feed test did. People who like scrollable video feeds can access the immersive view if they like, and users who don’t want a video feed can choose to not open up the immersive viewer.

But of course, not everyone likes change, especially when it’s the introduction of a copycat feature from another platform. Instagram learned this the hard way, as it was essentially forced to walk back it TikTok-like full-screen home feed a few months ago due to immense backlash from users. It’s possible that Twitter wants to avoid a similar situation, which is why it’s opting to add a more controllable experience when its comes to scrollable video feeds.

Twitter is adding a new TikTok-like full-screen video feature by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

TikTok breaks records as top grossing app in Q3, as overall app store revenue declines

Consumers reduced their mobile app spending in the third quarter of 2022 by roughly 5%, but the social video app TikTok just delivered another record-breaking quarter on this front. For the fourth straight quarter in a row, TikTok continued its streak as the app that has ever generated the most revenue in a quarter.

These new findings, in a report published today by Sensor Tower, see TikTok again becoming the highest-grossing app in the world even as the overall market is seeing a slight decline. However, the report does combine TikTok revenue with its Chinese version, known as Douyin — so it’s technically the revenue generated by the two apps offering the same feature set of short-form, vertical videos — not one.

TikTok’s global app along with Douyin on iOS together retained the position as the top-grossing non-game app across the App Store and Google Play combined, with approximately $914.4 million in consumer spending in the quarter.

Reached for comment, Sensor Tower explained that Douyin alone had generated approximately $433.5 million in consumer spending, or about 47% of that total.

On the App Store, TikTok was the No. 1 top-grossing non-game app, while it was No. 2 on Google Play, behind Google’s own storage subscription service, Google One, which had generated just over $330 million in the quarter.

To date, TikTok and Douyin’s apps have generated around $6.3 billion in total revenue, the report notes.

Across the broader app market, the trends weren’t quite as positive.

Consumer spending across in-app purchases, subscriptions and paid app downloads on both the App Store and Google Play dropped by 4.8% year-over-year to $31.6 billion in Q3, while app downloads fell a slight 1% to 35.3 billion.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

The App Store continues to contribute to the vast majority of consumer spending, at more than double that of Google Play. In Q3, Apple’s App Store pulled in $21.2 billion, which was down 2.3% year-over-year from the $21.7 billion seen in the year-ago quarter. Google Play’s decline was even sharper, down $9.6% year-over-year from $11.5 billion to now $10.4 billion.

In the games segment, specifically, consumer spending fell 12.7% year-over-year to $19.3 billion. On the App Store, game spending was down 9.8% year-over-year to $11.9 billion while Google Play revenue was down 16.9% to  $7.4 billion.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Meanwhile, app installs only dropped slightly. But as Google Play is responsible for driving downloads, the nearly 1% decline in terms of app installs was largely due to its 2.2% drop to 27 billion downloads in the quarter. The App Store had actually saw app installs grow by 3.8% to 8.2 billion, but this couldn’t cancel out Google Play’s larger decline.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

TikTok was again the most downloaded non-game app with 196.5 million installs across both app stores combined and on iOS. But when Google Play is examined alone, Facebook moved into the No. 1 spot with 150.3 million installs, replacing Instagram.

TikTok breaks records as top grossing app in Q3, as overall app store revenue declines by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

All Facebook and Instagram users in the US can now share NFTs, cross-post between both apps

Meta announced today that all Facebook and Instagram users in the U.S. can now connect their wallets and share their NFTs. All users in the U.S. also have the ability to cross-post the NFTs that they own across both Facebook and Instagram. The official roll out comes a few months after Meta first began testing NFTs with select users on Instagram in May, and on Facebook in June.

The company also launched NFT support on Instagram in 100 countries in August with select users. Today, Meta announced that all users in these 100 countries can now access the feature on Instagram.

Facebook and Instagram users can connect their wallets like Rainbow, MetaMask, Trust Wallet, Coinbase Wallet and Dapper Wallet to post digital collectibles minted on Ethereum, Polygon and Flow.

To share your NFTs on Facebook or Instagram, you need to first make sure that you have the latest version of the apps downloaded. Next, you need to ensure that you have your preferred digital wallet installed on your phone. After signing into your Facebook or Instagram app, you can connect your preferred wallet by selecting the “digital collectibles” tab under settings.

Meta says a notification will then open on your screen and ask for your wallet password. You then need to follow the onscreen instructions for your installed wallet application. A  second notification will open on your screen, after which you will have to click “Sign” and then tap “OK” to confirm your wallet connection.

Once your digital wallet is connected, you can view your NFTs from the wallet within the Facebook or Instagram app. Now, you will be able to share your NFTs to your feed by posting as usual and you will see a new collectibles section available for you to select from. Or, you can also share your NFTs directly from your wallet by selecting “Share to Feed.”

After selecting an NFT to share, you can add a caption and then post it. Your NFT post will have a shimmer effect on it to set it apart from regular posts. Meta says that there are no fees associated with posting or sharing a digital collectible on Instagram or Facebook.

All Facebook and Instagram users in the US can now share NFTs, cross-post between both apps by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Dating app Inner Circle adds a suite of anti-ghosting features

Online daters everywhere fear “ghosting.” Inner Circle, a global dating app, is hoping to address this ongoing problem with the launch of five new features that aim to put a stop to the hurtful online dating experience where people cut off contact with another person without any warning or explanation.

Inner Circle dubbed this new group of features designed to provide more closure to online daters “The Date Conscious Suite.” The new toolset includes things like anti-ghosting reminders, end conversation options, closure messages, pinned conversations, and decision prompts.

Image Credits: Inner Circle

With anti-ghosting reminders, Inner Circle notifies users if there is a message that they haven’t replied to in 48 hours. This helps remind a user who possibly didn’t see the message and gives them a second chance to connect.

However, users can also decline the message with Inner Circle’s new decision prompts. This allows the user to say no to opening a message, signifying to the potential match that they’re not looking for new connections right now.

This may be a less sensitive way of telling someone to move on, but it does make it easier for people to cut to the chase.

Image Credits: Inner Circle

It can be hard to let a stranger know you’re not interested face-to-face, let alone through an app. With Inner Circle’s new “End Conversation” feature, users can let the person know they’re just not that into you.

Users can swipe on the message to select “End Chat.” The app will then prompt them to choose a reason for ending the conversation — whether that’s because they’ve already met the person, just not feeling it, into someone else, or other reasons. Users can also end the conversation because they think they are being ghosted. The other match will be notified that the conversation has been closed and why.

Pinned conversations allow Inner Circle users to pin up to five chats so they can focus on matches they want to prioritize.

Through a study commissioned by Censuswide, Inner Circle also found that many users experience dating fatigue. Two in five daters have even said they’ve gotten matches confused with each other, the company wrote in today’s announcement.

“Right now, online dating is giving daters more hassle than it’s worth,” Masha Kodden, CEO of Inner Circle, said in a statement. “We’re putting a stop to that. It’s always been our mission to help people date better, and this suite is the latest development on that path. Singles are right to expect better quality from both the apps they use and the people they talk to, so for anyone who’s sick of ghosting, poor chat and low effort, this one’s for you!”

Inner Circle is an Amsterdam, Netherlands-based bootstrapped startup founded in 2012 by David Vermeulen. The app has grown to over 4.8 million members.

According to the company, its team screens each user to ensure they only see “quality profiles from people you’d actually want to go on a date with,” Inner Circle wrote on its website. Because of the screened profiles, there is less chance for catfish profiles and spammers, the company claims.

Inner Circle is available to download on Android and iOS devices.

Ghosting is a common practice among online daters. Dating apps have tried to stop the trend with various features.

For instance, Match Group—the company that owns Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and other leading dating apps–announced a feature in 2021 that nudges users suspected of ghosting so the user can unmatch or send a message that they’re not interested.

Also, Hinge has a “Your Turn” feature that reminds users when it’s their turn to respond.

The video-first dating app, Snack, has an anti-ghosting feature that reports users that ghost too frequently. The more someone ghosts, the less a user’s profile gets seen.

There’s even an anti-ghosting dating app called Elate, specifically designed with features that help prevent ghosting.

Dating app Inner Circle adds a suite of anti-ghosting features by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

Twitter is rolling out podcasts to Blue subscribers on Android

Twitter is rolling out its redesigned Spaces tab, which includes podcasts, to Twitter Blue subscribers on Android. The Android launch comes a few weeks after Blue subscribers on iOS got access to podcasts and the redesigned Spaces tab.

When Twitter first announced that it was introducing podcasts to its platform, the social network said they would be accessible to a group of iOS and Android users. Now, Twitter is instead going to test podcasts exclusively with Twitter Blue subscribers.

The redesigned Spaces tab introduces personalized hubs for users called “Stations” that group content together based on different topics, such as news, music, sports and more. The recommendations you see are based on the themes and people that you follow. Twitter Blue users will now be able to access a personalized selection of live and recorded Spaces. The hubs will also feature the most popular podcasts from around the world.

Twitter says podcasts are part of its plans to provide users with an “all-in-one, personalized audio destination” by giving users even more audio content to listen to. The company says its internal research shows that 45% of people who use Twitter in the U.S. also listen to podcasts monthly, so the company will automatically suggest podcasts to help users discover content based on the topics they’re interested in.

Twitter is rolling out podcasts to Blue subscribers on Android by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Studio’s private group camcorder app lets friends create ‘episodes’ by combining 10-second videos

As younger consumers are shifting to social apps that focus on video and more personal forms of social networking, a new social app called Studio, launching today, is introducing a group camcorder experience that allows groups of friends to share videos with one another in private albums.

These albums, or “studios” as they’re called, are available to everyone in the group as a way to record and share everyday memories or vlogs in a more creative format than seen in your standard group chat.

The app is today launching to the general public, backed by $3.3 million in seed funding led by GV’s M.G. Siegler.

Studio co-founder and CEO Matt Hidalgo, previously of Cockroach Labs and Twitter, explains how the startup landed on this idea of collaborative short-form video.

Initially, the team had explored other ideas in social, including a photo-based bookmarking tool called Collie, which confirmed there was some level of user demand for a collaborative, but private, social networking experience. That app gained traction with high schoolers over the summer who used it to make bucket lists.

But the format Collie used didn’t quite hit the mark, leading the team to turn to the idea of using video instead.

“The younger generation…have this insatiable appetite and desire to consume video and to create video,” says Hidalgo. “And it’s still a format that I would say is very under-explored — a lot of the bigger apps that are out there do video and video editing in a very distinct way that stems from where they started,” he says. “We believe that there’s a lot more interactivity and dimension to explore with video.”

Image Credits: Studio

With Studio, users open up the app to a camera that looks like an old-fashioned camcorder, then record videos that are up to 10 seconds long which are saved to the private, shared albums known as studios. The idea is to use the albums as a way to record and stitch together the group’s everyday memories in a way that elevates them creatively. It shouldn’t feel like you’re recording causal Snapchat videos, but rather mini-episodes of a broader story. Hidalgo likens the experience to crafting collaborative “TV shows,” in a sense.

The company landed on this idea when it found its power users were leveraging the app to record highlights for their school clubs or sports teams — like recording videos for game day or other events. It reminded Hidalgo of how his parents would film home movies that would entertain the family as they watched them back over the years. Studio aims to offer a similar vibe.

Image Credits: Studio app

However, the app as it stands today, is more barebones than some might expect from today’s social apps which are often cluttered with AR effects, filters, editing tools, and more. In Studio, you can invite friends to a room, record 10-second videos together (which are aggregated each day as “episodes”), add captions — and not much more.

It felt odd that there wasn’t even a built-in way to “react” to friends’ videos, by adding likes or comments, as is standard on social apps. But that’s by design, Hidalgo notes.

“Our prevailing way of building product was to build the most stripped-down version possible [and] test out the core mechanic,” he says, adding that the app has no commenting or chatting. Instead, users are meant to react by recording their own videos to continue the “episode.”

Of course, the idea for a group video app isn’t novel. Studio shares some similarities with other video apps from years past, like the video texting app Glide which once topped Instagram for a time. The concept is also reminiscent of Flashtape, the video texting app from the creators of YOLO, but lengthens the supported video time frame from 1 second to 10 as a differentiator.

Still, top social app BeReal wasn’t entirely novel either — it’s very much inspired by an older social app, FrontBack. It simply introduced the dual camera concept to a new generation of users, and has now grown to reach 46 million global installs and a top 10 position on the App Store in over a dozen countries.

GV’s Siegler, who returned to seed investing around a year and a half ago, says he’s interested in the potential for new social apps catering to a younger audience.

“With what’s going on with the large companies…it does feel like there’s this time of — if it’s not a full-on changing of the guard, it feels like people are at least opening up again to trying new things,” he explains. “There’s been this lingering feeling that these [larger social] networks are getting up there in age. The demographics have shifted — and young people are looking for what’s next and are trying different types of networks.”

Image Credits: Studio co-founders

He believes Studio’s team is looking to build more slowly and methodically to capture its audience, instead of trying to blow up overnight as a viral sensation, as many social apps now do today on TikTok.

“There’s going to be a lot of micro-pivots along the way and, listening to their user base about what it is that they actually want to build,” he notes.

New York-based Studio is a team of three co-founders, including Aditya Mohile (previously of Facebook) and Chris Chao, in addition to Hidalgo, as well as two interns. It’s currently hiring a founding designer and founding engineer.

Other investors include Mercury Fund, Pareto Holdings, and various angels such as Cockroach Labs CEO and cofounder Spencer Kimball, Gumroad CEO and cofounder Sahil Lavingia, Behance CEO and cofounder Scott Belsky, Anchor cofounder Mike Mignano, Square founding designer Robert Andersen, Yummy CEO and cofounder Vicente Zavarce, Kevin Carter, Brat CEO and cofounder Darren Lachtman, and the Black Angel Group.

Studio’s private group camcorder app lets friends create ‘episodes’ by combining 10-second videos by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch