Contentstack raises $80M to grow its headless CMS platform for the enterprise

The market for enterprise content management systems (CMS) is steeply growing as the need to organize and manage documents, images and other forms of digital content increases. According to Allied Market Research, the entire CMS sector combined could be worth $53.2 billion by 2030, up from $21.5 billion in 2020.

While the concept of CMS has been around for decades, a relatively new innovation — so-called headless CMS — is beginning to attract both market share and the interest of investors. Headless CMS systems act primarily as content repositories, managing back-end infrastructure while affording plenty of customization on the front end. They’re similar to widgets or plug-ins on a website; a headless CMS is usually combined with a separate presentation layer that handles the design and structure elements, templates and the like.

Contentstack is one of several vendors offering a headless CMS geared toward enterprise customers. The company today announced that it raised $80 million in a Series C round co-led by Georgian and Insight Partners, which also saw participation from Illuminate Ventures. Having raised $169 million to date, Contentstack plans to put the funding toward customer acquisition, geographic expansion, new partnerships and product development, CEO Neha Sampat tells TechCrunch.

“Contentstack empowers marketers and developers to deliver composable digital experiences at the speed of their imagination through automated headless CMS technology,” Sampat said via email. “Composable architectures ensure that enterprises can innovate swiftly, deploy new features rapidly, and remain agile in the face of digital disruption. Nobody gets ‘stuck’ with monolithic systems that don’t grow with the business or the world.”

Contentstack, which was founded in 2018, was created on the back of fifteen-year-old consulting firm Raw Engineering and, an app development platform that Raw Engineering launched in 2013. (Closing the loop, Contentstack eventually bought the CMS division of Raw Engineering in 2018). Sampat — who co-founded — teamed up with Nishant Patel, the former VP of engineering at Software AG (which ended up acquiring and’s second co-founder, to launch Contentstack.


A look at Contentstack’s CMS platform for enterprises, which leans into workflow automation and customization. Image Credits: Contentstack

Contentstack competes with headless CMS vendors, including Storyblok, which raised $47 million in May for its CMS aimed at nontechnical users, and Prismic, which recently raised $20 million to build out its fully managed CMS. (An interesting data point: VCs have invested over $118 million in CMS startups in the last year alone.) Strapi and Kontent are among the startup’s other rivals. But Sampat makes the case that Contentstack is the only CMS offering automation capabilities that don’t require code.

Using the workflows in Contentstack, users can review, approve and publish content across their organization. A marketplace offers a hub for extensions, apps and integrations built by customers, partners and the company’s own engineering team.

“Typically, content management requires a lot of backend development and programming skills. There is a risk that comes with that, for example, the risk of breaking other processes, enduring the cumbersome and lengthy requirements to implement the solution into the tech stack, and a lack of flexibility to change or maintain the flow of content,” Sampat said. “With Contentstack’s composable architecture, enterprises can tailor their martech stack and tools to their unique brand, team and customer experience needs quickly and easily unlocking the full potential of a composable tech stack.”

Is Contentstack’s platform that much easier to use than the competition’s? Perhaps. Data shows, however, that many organizations struggle to use CMS to its full potential regardless of the vendor. In a 2021 survey released by the Content Marketing Institute, 56% of employees said that integration issues stymied their implementation of CMS while 55% blamed a lack of training.

The company, which has more than 400 employees, appears to have won over enterprises regardless, though, with a client base that includes Shell, JPMorgan Chase, HP, McDonald’s and Mattel and several unnamed public sector agencies. The company claims to have doubled its customers since last summer and surpassed 50,000 users on the platform.

“The pandemic and recent economic pressure has generated a major shift in the market, causing enterprises to review the performance of their existing digital investments and shift focus to efficiency. Ultimately, this means enterprises now have a higher standard for the return on investment in digital investments,” Sampat continued. “For digital strategy, having a composable architecture enables the speed to iterate and keep up with the constantly changing conditions and demands. Contentstack is well-positioned to empower these digital leaders to outperform through a ‘value- and success-based’ approach coupled with a proven path to a modern, composable architecture that will scale and adapt for the long term.”

Contentstack raises $80M to grow its headless CMS platform for the enterprise by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Headless CMS platform Kontent secures new capital to grow its customer base

Kontent, a platform designed to help companies manage business-related content in the cloud, today announced that it raised $40 million from Expedition Growth Capital as part of a growth capital infusion. Newly appointed CEO Bart Omlo says that the proceeds from Kontent’s first external investment will be put toward expanding the company’s marketing and sales teams, opening a new office in New York and supporting product development.

Kontent launched in 2015 as an internal startup of 18-year-old bootstrapped software developer Kentico. Kentico was the brainchild of Petr Palas, who saw an opportunity to build a content management system (CMS) for developers using Microsoft’s .NET framework.

“Many companies and digital agencies [have historically] built their systems in-house, and Petr wanted to provide them with a flexible solution they could buy at an affordable price,” Omlo told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Petr bootstrapped the company and Kentico’s CMS gained strong traction in the market, quickly becoming one of the most popular .NET CMSes. Over time, the product evolved into a comprehensive digital experience platform for marketers.”

In 2015, Kentico started to explore the emerging trend of “headless CMSes,” trying to rethink some of the core concepts of content management and sell it as a software-as-a-service solution. A headless CMS is a back-end only content management system for apps and websites that acts primarily as a repository. Kentico’s inaugural headless CMS product was released under the brand “Kontent” and eventually grew to power over 2,000 websites, apps, and e-commerce experiences across customers, including the University of Oxford and Anaplan.

A website created using Kontent’s headless CMS product. Image Credits: Kontent

“In recent years, businesses of all sizes have been increasingly moving to a headless content architecture to improve the speed and agility of their digital experiences. This has led to hyper-growth in the headless CMS category,” Oliver Thomas, a co-founder and partner at Expedition, told TechCrunch via email. “ has been a first mover and innovator in the space.”

Kontent’s platform allows users to create and review content like text, images and objects within the confines of prebuilt workflows. On the developer side, customers can integrate Kontent with other apps and technologies through APIs and “flexible content models,” enabling control over the structure of content and how it’s delivered to websites and apps.

Angling to stand apart from the other headless CMS platforms out there, Kontent offers a “Recommendation API” that uses AI to analyze “recommendable” items and show them to specific users of apps and websites or segments of users. Another feature, Web Spotlight, provides businesses a “page-centric” view of content for making changes to copy and trying layouts, while Collections lets customers share and reuse content across teams and control access to specialized (e.g., region- or product-specific) content.

“The traditional CMS industry has reached its biggest inflection point. The incumbent solutions were designed for on-premise, monolithic architecture. Since then, the customers have moved to the cloud,” Omlo continued. “We see a lot of appetite in the market towards using modern API-first solutions … It resonates with CIOs and enterprise architects who want to move away from traditional all-in-one monolithic solutions, such as Adobe or Sitecore, to a more flexible technology stack of carefully chosen solutions that fit the needs of the organization.

Image Credits: Kontent

Kontent competes against Contentful, Contentstack, Strapi and Storyblok in a headless CMS software market that could be worth $1.6 billion by 2027, according to an estimate by Research and Markets. While Omlo wouldn’t share revenue metrics — or any growth metrics at all, for that matter — he argued that Kontent’s “bootstrapped and capital-efficient” history gives it an advantage heading into a challenging economic climate.

“CMS solutions are part of companies’ critical digital infrastructure with a lifecycle of 5–10 years. The pandemic didn’t represent a major change up or down in the business, but it accelerated the digital transformation in enterprises that are now asking for a cloud-native, composable approach,” Omlo said. “Based on our previous experience from the financial crisis in 2007–2009, an economic slowdown pushes companies to rethink their digital strategy which is often connected with rebuilding their website. This represents a potential switching opportunity to modern CMS solutions.”

Kontent says that it plans to hire 100 employees within the next year, expanding its current headcount of 120 people across five offices. (Kontico is based in the Czech Republic.)

Strapi lands $31M for its ‘headless’ CMS platform

Strapi, an open source content management system (CMS), today announced that it raised $31 million in Series B funding led by CRV with participation from Flex Capital, Index Ventures, and angel investors including former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman. With the capital, CEO Pierre Burgy tells TechCrunch that the plan is to launch a new product, Strapi Cloud, while bringing in additional tech and solution partners and further developing the Strapi project.

Strapi has it origins in software that Burgy, Aurélien Georget, and Jim Laurie created together while working as freelance developers in college. Annoyed by the limitations of traditional frameworks and CMSes, many of which weren’t developed with mobile websites in mind, they decided to create their own solution, Strapi, to use for clients’ projects.

Burgy, Georget, and Laurie published Strapi on GitHub in 2015. “For us, making the project open source was a no-brainer,” Burgy said in an email interview. “We were using lots of open source software, and we were convinced that collaboration would lead to better software. Most of our clients wanted to host their CMS on their own servers; customization capabilities were only possible through source-code access.”

In the beginning, Strapi was a mix between a framework for building APIs and a CMS. The name “Strapi,” in fact, is a creative abbreviation of the phrase “Bootstrap your API.” Today, Strapi allows developers to connect and manage different databases, frontend frameworks, and static site generators. Users can run Strapi on a server and connect to Strapi’s admin interface, relying on the frontend to fetch content from Strapi using an API.


Strapi’s content management dashboard.

“There is a fair amount of confusion and overlap between CMS, knowledge management, and enterprise wiki software,” Burgy said. “These platforms were always viewed as separate solutions by users because of their distinguished technical architecture. They were perceived by what they were instead of what they accomplished. This is changing.”

From Burgy’s perspective, Strapi — competing with Contentful, Storyblok, and Sanity — solves some the major issues with legacy CMS software, like a lack of adaptability to custom use cases. To address other perceived limitations, the Strapi team has launched features in recent months like Strapi Market, which offers a library of integrations with third-party platforms.

Acknowledging that Strapi isn’t perfect, Burgy said that the near-term goal is to put resources toward the content editing experience, including pre-built templates, publication workflows, rich text editors, and custom fields as well as plugins for personalization, visualization, and ecommerce. Work is also underway on Strapi Cloud, a fully managed Strapi service that will let customers start a project locally, customize it according to their needs, and deploy it on the web.

Strapi Cloud is scheduled to become generally available next year. It’s currently in beta.

“WIth the pandemic, a lot of businesses facing uncertainty were forced to adapt by moving online. On the other hand, individuals are consuming more content online than ever before and also need to adapt to the reality of remote work,” Burgy said. “As a result, companies are focusing more and more on the holistic overall experience for all stakeholders. Strapi helps companies in that process by providing a more versatile and composable platform to help them future-proof their applications and deliver a consistent experience across channels for all users.”

In addition to thousands of open source users, Burgy says that Strapi has 450 paying customers including AT&T, eBay, IBM, and Toyota and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe. The company’s workforce stands at 70 employees; Burgy expects it’ll grow to 110 by the end of the year.

To date, Strapi has raised $45 million.

iHeartRadio modernizes the radio call-in with launch of ‘Talk Back,’ a tool for sending voice messages to show hosts

In a move to make radio and podcasts more interactive, iHeartRadio today is launching a new feature called Talk Back which allows listeners to participate with their favorite shows directly from the iHeartRadio mobile app. With a push of a button, listeners can offer feedback or respond to hosts’ questions by recording a 30-second voice message. What makes this offering unique is that the recordings aren’t just going to some inbox somewhere — Talk Back is integrated with the proprietary iHeartRadio CMS (content management system), so the voice recordings are available to use, live on air, within about 10 seconds after sending.

In the current version of the iHeartRadio app, there are a couple of ways to access the new Talk Back feature. Its red microphone button will appear on the full-screen player page for the show or podcast, and there’s a Talk Back button on the station’s profile or podcast’s profile page, too.

When you push the button, a countdown timer will appear to let you know the recording is about to start, then users can record their message. The 30-second limit is meant to keep the recordings concise, but there’s nothing to prevent users from sending multiple messages. However, if the system is abused, the host can block users on their end — though this may not be obvious to the user as the in-app feature would still appear to work.

After recording, you can hit play to preview the message before sending it. And if you don’t like your recording, you have the option to re-record.

Image Credits: iHeartRadio

On-air posts may prompt users to introduce themselves by name when leaving a recording, but there’s nothing in the feature that specifically requires you to identify yourself. That said, you’re not really anonymous — all iHeartRadio users would be identifiable on the backend by their user ID, which is associated with their email address and a general location. In some cases, the company may have a full name and cell phone number, as well, if the user had engaged with other features in the past — like contests — where this information is required.

In other words, it wouldn’t be a good idea to use the new tool for online bullying or harassment.

According to iHeartMedia’s Chief Product Officer Chris Williams, Talk Back has been in active development since Q3 2021, which also happens to be when Spotify rolled out its own interactive podcast tools, including polls and Q&As, to those who use its Anchor podcast creation platform to publish and distribute their shows. But iHeartRadio’s tool isn’t limited to podcasts — in fact, it’s largely designed for on-air talent who want to make their radio programs more interactive, given the tool’s near real-time nature.

The feature will initially be made available to all 900-plus owned and operated broadcast stations across iHeartMedia starting today, and will roll out to interested iHeartRadio podcasters who opt-in sometime in early April.

The idea for Talk Back was conceptualized early last year by the iHeartRadio air talent and podcast hosts themselves, notes Williams. The on-air talent loved that the audience would text them and post on social media, but they also wanted their voices to be heard.

“That’s our lifeblood. We want the audience to participate as much as possible,” Williams explains. “We want to be able to hear from them and to use that to help drive the conversation and expand the voices that are being heard on the air.”

Image Credits: iHeartRadio

Longer-term, iHeartRadio hopes the feature will help it to attract and retain more publishers, including those beyond its own. The feature may not be always limited to iHeartRadio’s owned-and-operated broadcasters and over 750 original podcasts programs — it’s could later become available to anyone who wants to use it.

“We not only distribute an extra 500,000 podcasts beyond the ones that are produced by us, we also distribute 3,000 broadcast stations that aren’t owned and operated by us from NPR to Cumulus to Cox,” notes Williams. “We’re very open to the idea of a phased rollout and offering up to third-party broadcasters and podcast publishers down the line as well.”

This wouldn’t prevent the show hosts from having their shows and podcasts distributed elsewhere, of course, but it could attract more consumers to iHeartRadio’s digital app in order to participate in the program by sending messages.

Though sometimes left out of a discussion about podcast streaming services, iHeartRadio still has significant reach thanks to its broadcast radio listener base. The service today reaches over 270 million monthly listeners, per Nielsen, who spent around 30 minutes per day listening to broadcast radio across platforms. On mobile, the iHeartRadio app has over 150 million registered users, the comapny says, and is a top U.S. podcast publisher with a monthly audience of over 30.3 million, per Podtrac data.

To save independent journalism, media must embrace web3 innovation

As the innovation budgets for Big Tech platforms and content giants like Meta, Alphabet, Microsoft, Disney and Netflix have soared amid the ascent of web3 and metaverse, news media is currently hibernating when it comes to innovation. This leads us to a critical question: Is journalistic news media missing a huge opportunity in having a concrete role in shaping emerging digital ecosystems?

Do news media organizations choose to optimize for the short-term (again) at the expense of long-term success? Has the pace of innovation really slowed down or even come to a halt? Three revealing exhibits:

First, the Oxford Reuters Institute’s recent trend report points out that news media organizations around the world are now focusing on tinkering and optimizing instead of making big bets on innovation or R&D. As the study reveals, most news media organizations aren’t actively focusing on experimenting with new technologies or launching new products for emerging platforms. Podcasts, newsletters and video, that’s all folks – for 2022, at least.

Second, the biggest public splash in news media innovation was recently made by “the Smiths” – Ben Smith of The New York Times and formerly BuzzFeed News, and Justin Smith, the CEO of Bloomberg Media. They aim to build a global newsroom that will experiment with “new formats of storytelling.” Anita Zielina and Isabelle Roughol provided great analysis on the challenges of the target market and the need for the “globally literate media.” And Clare Malone tried to get a whiff of the new product itself. All in all, the Smiths’ intentions were widely commented on, but their concrete thoughts on innovation were thin.

Third, misinformation is spreading in social media platforms, continuously weakening trust in established legacy institutions. For too many, the last U.S. presidential election is still stolen. For a great number of people, COVID is a non-issue shrouded in conspiracy theories.

Democracy itself is at risk when people don’t share the same baseline reality, and news media hasn’t been able to change this development. Fact-checking innovations, despite their importance, don’t help at scale when people can’t agree on what constitutes a fact in the first place.

In short, when the rest of the digital ecosystem is moving very quickly, news media is bound to fail if it can’t keep up.

AI, web3 and metaverse

There’s been a lot of talk about journalism and artificial intelligence (AI). Importantly, news organizations have been concretely working on a wide variety of AI solutions, from content recommendation and moderation to advanced analytics, deep-fake detection and optimizing subscription pipelines.

But have we seen anything truly disruptive and transformative yet? Something that will really move the needle for news organizations in the longer run, giving them a business advantage in the digital information ecosystem?

Today, content recommendation should be a basic feature, not a spearhead of the current innovation efforts.

Adoption of AI technologies is still slow in the field partly due to the high cost of development. Additionally, news media needs more use cases and business cases for AI that have been born out of pure journalistic thinking and need.

What about web3 and metaverse, and their combination? So far, news organizations haven’t actively explored or developed solutions for these emerging digital ecosystems. Yes, there is a lot of hype and misconception related to both, but it doesn’t mean that web3 and metaverse won’t become “the next big thing.”

In fact, there exists a great window of opportunity for news organizations. As both web3 and the metaverse — as concepts and as technological stacks — are still in flux, news media can actually affect how they are shaped now and in the future.

What should news media do?

News media should participate actively in the conversation and development of web3 and metaverse as soon as possible with concrete ideas and solutions. News media should start collaborating with people in this space and leverage all the concrete lessons from AI and machine learning in taking an active role in this new frontier.

Below are some ideas for the future iteration:

Rethink content

It’s still all around articles, more or less. Yes, podcasts are now the gold standard for news innovation. Real-time live feeds have been reinvented for some news sites (after giving real-time away to Twitter, for example). But what does creating content mean and look like in the web3 era or in the metaverse? What’s the look and feel for next-generation news media content in these environments?

In content creation, some of the basic building blocks need to be rethought. What’s the news media’s content creation process (or content management system) for metaverse? Can NFT-type thinking and blockchain technologies be embedded in visualized storytelling or collaborative creation of news content?

I’ve written before about personalized news media content. There’s already been interesting experimentation with the help of AI around modular journalistic content and news summarization that could provide new tools for content personalization. At the same time, it’s in the best interest of news media organizations to figure out how trustworthy content is created in web3 (and metaverse) environments. Can trust and trustworthiness be coded into the very content and their representations?

Web3 technologies offer new possibilities for creating exclusive personalized content experiences, but they might also offer new tools for content verification and fact-checking. For example, the trustworthiness and credibility of given news content could be evaluated through transparent and traceable analysis, using already verified and trusted information stored in the blockchain.

Content verification would become an open-sourced and decentralized process rather than depending on a single authority. In the process, the facts constituting the baseline reality would be checked and, if needed, iterated collectively.

Rethink distribution

In the field of news media, the adoption of personalized content recommendations has been slow and uneven. Today, content recommendation should be a basic feature, not a spearhead of the current innovation efforts.

Again, there are crucial questions to be explored and answered in rethinking distribution for news media. What is the interface for news in a digital ecosystem that’s not tied into the rectangular thing you carry around in your pocket? (Tip: Voice interface doesn’t count as an answer here.)

With web3 solutions, people can have (and might be able to create) their own interfaces for news. Personalization gets a new dimension when the agency is transferred to users.

Also, social graphs, relevance graphs and interest graphs are owned by the current tech giants and used to personalize user interfaces such as news feeds, video streams or search results. What if news media focused on impact in personalization? In the age of climate change and a global healthcare crisis, news media could offer a personalized view to information based on impact graphs instead of interest or social graphs.

News content would be weighted and ranked based on its impact on different areas of life. Web3 ecosystems could even be used to make the impact analysis and ranking community-driven. Thus, news could be recommended and prioritized based on the impact on the things the user considers valuable, or things that might have a direct effect on the user. If you’re interested in following news affecting climate change or healthcare, for example, news about things and events that have a greater impact on climate change or healthcare would be prioritized in recommendations.

Rethink business and monetization

Until today, the main question for news media has been: Are we in the ad business or subscription business? In the wake of web3 and metaverse, the question is: Who is actively looking into new business opportunities in these emerging ecosystems?

Web3 is likely to change the content and data ownership. What are the marketplaces for trustworthy news experiences in a potentially more decentralized digital ecosystem? What if people could invest in news content or news media organizations through DAOs, or as individuals using blockchain? Also, can the monetization be somehow rethought: Could there be transactions based on impact? The higher the impact on you or your personally selected interest area, the higher the purchase price for the news content.

Of course, web3 or metaverse aren’t guaranteed bets, nor do they offer any silver bullets for the business of journalistic news media. However, they both represent a recognized path for technological development that will have a significant impact on our cultural, social, economic and political realities.

Innovation doesn’t need to mean one-off showcases with bells and whistles, but long-term strategic investment in future methods, technologies and ecosystems. The mission of independent news media should guide all new innovations and their prioritization.

I strongly suggest that independent news media start injecting their mission, values and business cases in exploring and creating new, concrete solutions for web3 and metaverse. Who shall lead the way?

Berlin’s Tilo raises seed round to tackle unstructured data sets with a serverless platform

As is commonly the case, datasets used inside companies almost always come from diverse sources and in different, unstructured formats. Connecting them up can lead to a be a very large headache. But if it can be done, there are all sorts of benefits, especially in finance, such as fraud detection, KYC/AML checks etc. This is a problem particularly faced by financial firms, but it could also be useful in the areas of Covid contact tracing or general business intelligence.

The main platforms used at this point include Neo4j, Senzing, or Neptune from AWS. Alternatively, companies try to build their own solutions using Elasticsearch. But it remains a big problem to solve.

Now a new Berlin startup, which has tested its theories after being spun out from a larger corporate, is poised to tackle this thorny problem.

Tilo’s data infrastructure tool TiloRes says it helps companies match data points from different sources and formats, by being both serverless and doing it in near real-time and at scale, claims the company.

Tilo has now raised €1,200,000 in pre-Seed funding led by European VC Peak Capital which put in €640,000). The funding round was joined by Berlin-based Tiny VC (Philipp Moehring), First Momentum Ventures, Enduring Ventures and Angel Investors including the founder of Algolia and the former CMO of Contentful to name a few.

Peak’s investments include global auction marketplace Catawiki, headless content management system GraphCMS, and omnichannel communications platform Trengo.

As well as applications for KYC/AML, Tilo plans to offer its solution for free to anybody working in Covid contact tracing.

Founded in November 2021, Tilo has started pilot projects together corporates and startups. As its business model, Tilo charges a license fee based on the volume of data companies are processing through TiloRes. Because its serverless, the costs scale with the usage, making it cheaper than server-based solutions.

The market Tilo is taking on is large, and worth approximately $65 Billion according to Gartner.
Steven Renwick, Tilo CEO, said: “Our biggest advantage is that searching, matching and evaluating data (e.g. when checking for fraudulent behaviour in an online payment process) happens in near real-time, no matter how much data is added, or how complicated the entities become. This is important for modern needs, which nearly always demand real-time response rates.” 

Tilo’s founding team, Renwick (CEO), Hendrik Nehnes (CTO), and Stefan Berkner (Chief Development Officer), were formerly the technology team at Regis24, a German consumer credit bureau. However, Regis24 agreed to spin out their solution and take a strategic stake in the startup.

Madeline Lawrence, Head of DACH Peak commented: “To be really honest, I didn’t grasp what Tilo was solving at first. Then I realized: we struggle with data matching ourselves. If CRM duplicates and spelling differences cause us such a headache, imagine the pain when the stakes are higher, the need is real-time, and the data in question is an order of magnitude larger.”

Instagram announces plans for parental controls and other safety features ahead of Congressional hearing

On Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate for the first time on the issue of how the app is impacting teens’ mental health, following the recent testimonies from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen which have positioned the company as caring more about profits than user safety. Just ahead of that hearing, Instagram has announced a new set of safety features, including its first set of parental controls.

The changes were introduced through a company blog post, authored by Mosseri.

Not all the features are brand-new and some are smaller expansions on earlier safety features the company already had in the works.

However, the bigger news today is Instagram’s plan to launch its first set of parental control features in March. These features will allow parents and guardians to see how much time teens spend on Instagram and will allow them to set screen time limits. Teens will also be given an option to alert parents if they report someone. These tools are an opt-in experience — teens can choose not to send alerts, and there’s no requirement that teens and parents have to use parental controls.

The parental controls, as described, are also less powerful than those on rival TikTok, where parents can lock children’s accounts into restricted experience, block access to search, as well as control their child’s visibility on the platform, and who can view their content, comment or message them. Screen time limits, meanwhile, are already offered by the platforms themselves — that is, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems offer similar controls. In other words, Instagram isn’t doing much here in terms of innovative parental controls, but notes it will “add more options over time.”

Another new feature was previously announced. Instagram earlier this month launched a test of its new “Take a Break” feature which allows users to remind themselves to take a break from using the app after either 10, 20, or 30 minutes, depending on their preference. This feature will now officially launch in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Image Credits: Instagram

Unlike on rival TikTok, where videos that push users to get off the app appear in the main feed after a certain amount of time, Instagram’s “Take a Break” feature is opt-in only. The company will begin to suggest to users that they set these reminders, but it will not require they do so. That gives Instagram the appearance of doing something to combat app addiction, without going so far as to actually make “Take a Break” enabled by default for its users, or like TikTok, regularly remind users to get off the app.

Another feature is an expansion of earlier efforts around distancing teens from having contact with adults. Already, Instagram began to default teens’ accounts to private, restrict target advertising and unwanted adult contact — the latter by using technology to identify “potentially suspicious behavior” from adult users, then preventing them from being able to interact with teens’ accounts. It has also restricted other adult users from being able to contact teens who didn’t already follow them, and sends the teen notifications if the adult is engaging in suspicious behavior while giving them tools for blocking and reporting.

Now it will expand this set of features to also switch off the ability for adults to tag or mention teens who don’t follow them, and to include their content in Reels Remixes (video content), or Guides. These will be the new default settings, and will roll out next year.

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram says it will also be stricter about what’s recommended to teens in sections of the app like Search, Explore, Hashtags, and Suggested Accounts.

But in describing the action it’s taking, the company seems to have not yet made a hard decision on what will be changed. Instead, Instagram says it’s “exploring” the idea of limiting content in Explore, using a newer set of sensitive content control features launched in July. The company says it’s considering expanding the “Limit Even More” — the strictest setting — to include not just Explore, but also Search, Hashtags, Reels and Suggested Accounts.

Image Credits: Instagram

It also says if it sees people are dwelling on a topic for a while it may nudge them to other topics, but doesn’t share details on this feature, as it’s under development. Presumably, this is meant to address the issues raised about teens who are exploring potentially harmful content, like those that could trigger eating disorders, anxiety, or depression. In practice, the feature could also be used to direct users to more profitable content for the app — like posts from influencers who drive traffic to monetizable products, like Instagram Shopping, LIVE videos, Reels, and others.

Instagram will also roll out tools this January that allows users to bulk delete photos and videos from their account to clean up their digital footprint. The feature will be offered as part of a new hub where users can view and manage their activity on the app.

Image Credits: Instagram

This addition is being positioned as a safety feature, as older users may be able to better understand what it means to share personal content online; and they may have regrets over their older posts. However, a bulk deletion option is really the sort of feature that any content management system (that’s behaving ethically) should offer its users — meaning not just Instagram, but also Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

The company said these are only some of the features it has in development and noted it’s still working on its new solution to verify people’s ages on Instagram using technology.

As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety,” Mosseri wrote, “and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” he added. 

GoDaddy says data breach exposed over a million user accounts

Web hosting giant GoDaddy has reported a data breach with U.S. financial regulators, and warns that data on 1.2 million customers may have been accessed.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, GoDaddy’s chief information security officer Demetrius Comes said the company detected unauthorized access to its systems where it hosts and manages its customers’ WordPress servers. WordPress is a web-based content management system used by millions to set up blogs or websites. GoDaddy lets customers host their own WordPress installs on their servers.

GoDaddy said the unauthorized person used a compromised password to get access to GoDaddy’s systems around September 6. GoDaddy said it discovered the breach last week on November 17. It’s not clear if the compromised password was protected with two-factor authentication.

The filing said that the breach affects 1.2 million active and inactive managed WordPress users, who had their email addresses and customer numbers exposed. GoDaddy said this exposure could put users at greater risk of phishing attacks. The web host also said that the original WordPress admin password created when WordPress was first installed, which could be used to access a customer’s WordPress server, was also exposed.

The company said that active customers had their sFTP credentials (for file transfers), and the usernames and passwords for their WordPress databases, which store all the user’s content, exposed in the breach. In some cases, the customer’s SSL (HTTPS) private key was exposed, which if abused could allow an attacker to impersonate a customer’s website or services.

GoDaddy said it’s reset customer WordPress passwords and private keys, and is in the process of replacing new SSL certificates.

The web host has more than 20 million customers worldwide. A spokesperson for GoDaddy did not immediately comment.

Read more:

Mark Cuban and former Oculus CEO back 3D e-commerce startup VNTANA

As Facebook and Apple charge headlong into a more 3D future for the consumer web with big plans for mixed reality headsets, most web content out there is still firmly 2D. And while some are pushing for a completely separate “metaverse” where 3D content lives, that’s likely going to be a hard sell for existing web platforms who want to invest resources where the users are today.

VNTANA builds a content management system which helps e-commerce retailers show off products on their sites in glorious 3D, while also allowing users to view objects in augmented reality and try items on virtually. The startup, founded back in 2012, has had a central focus on 3D content for years but has shifted its attention from bringing holograms to live events pre-pandemic to bringing 3D content to storefronts across the web.

“It was always about creating this interactive way for consumers to engage with their products in meaningful ways,” CEO Ashley Crowder says.

The startup tells TechCrunch it has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding across multiple raises. Backers of the startup’s latest fundings include Mark Cuban, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Flexport and Anorak Ventures, among others. The company announced a $6 million seed round back in 2019.

The startup’s software suite includes products which optimize large 3D files for quicker loading times so consumers can view every angle of a new product while also allowing e-commerce platforms to leverage the 3D files they already own to craft 2D digitally rendered showroom images and videos, saving time and money on marketing. The company has recently partnered with wholesale management platform Joor and software maker PTC to build out its reach.

Consumers can leverage the startup’s software to get a sense of an object’s size and real-world appearance in their physical space with augmented reality before making a purchase, something that can lead to fewer returned items, Crowder says.

Despite some major announcements from Apple, Google and Facebook, the developer opportunity for augmented reality has been more limited than many investors in the space expected when the wave of interest first kicked off several years ago. Websites have been slow to embrace 3D content for its own sake, but players like VNTANA have found opportunities to ship experiences that use 3D content to solve known issue for e-commerce retailers while setting them up to be ready for an AR/VR future.

After a proxy fight victory, it’s time for Box to make some bold moves

Throughout its history as a public company, Box has had a bit of a bumpy ride. The company was founded back in 2005 as a simple consumer file sharing service, but shifted a few years later to focus on enterprise and build a modern content management system for the still-developing cloud and mobile world.

Once a Silicon Valley startup darling, Box fell hard after filing its S-1 to go public in 2015 as people questioned its cash burn rate. That led to its IPO being delayed for months, perhaps a sign of the struggles it would have finding traction in the market in later years. Most recently, Box had a proxy battle with one of its larger shareholders, Starboard Value, which the company eventually won.

It is now a pivotal moment for the cloud content management company. Box has a $500 million investment from KKR, which means it has funds to buy some small companies, fill in the product road map and perhaps fuel some inorganic growth, as it did when it bought e-signature company SignRequest in February.

Box has been on a bit of a revenue roll as well, in recent quarters. After posting 13.6% growth in in the third quarter of FY20, it began a downward trend that saw growth drop to 8.3% in the fourth quarter of FY21. That was when Starboard decided to pick its proxy fight. But Box came off the mat from that nadir, beginning a slow upward trajectory that its management is projecting will continue for the next few quarters.

Box revenue growth and projections.

Image Credits: Box

This chart doesn’t detail huge growth, but it shows growth all the same. Co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie has faced down trouble before, and he took a mostly conciliatory tone when it came to his detractors, admitting that there was much to learn and he’s always been about improving the company.

We spoke to Levie about his trials and tribulations and where he expects to take his company from here.

Onward through it all

The last year hasn’t been easy for Levie as leader of a company in the midst of a proxy battle, but the CEO says he has not lost his optimism or his enthusiasm for the job. That is impressive when you consider he started the company in a dorm room at USC in 2005 — he’s been working on Box his entire adult life.

“If there’s one thread that runs through any difficult situation we’ve ever been in, it’s actually just my sheer excitement and optimism for the future. And I have that optimism about technology in general and its impact on the world, and what it can do for us. I have that even more so for Box, specifically, and the opportunity around what we’re building,” Levie told TechCrunch.