Snapchat Steps On Twitter’s Toes, Lets You Follow Remote Events Live

Snapchat has just updated its app with a brand new Live section that will incorporate Our Story into everyone’s feed, regardless of location. Our Story is a Snapchat product that lets users contribute snaps to a single Story (or, thread of snaps) from a single event.

The product first launched back at Electronic Daisy Carnival, and then went on to Rio, Outside Lands, and Lollapalooza. The reaction was great and users contributed over 350 hours of snaps over the course of those events.

Today, the feature is going Live (if you will) for all users, letting them “experience Stories contributed by the Snapchat community at all sorts of events [...] around the world,” according to the official blog post.

It’s unclear how events will be chosen to be a part of Snapchat’s new Live “Our Story” section, or whether or not this will one day act as a revenue stream for Snapchat. It’s not hard to imagine music festivals, sporting events, concert tours, colleges, or other ‘location-based communities’ paying for access to a marketing channel like Snapchat’s main feed page.

We’ve reached out to Snapchat for more clarity on just how the company plans to select various events, but for now you can update the app to take a look at the new “Live” section. It can be found under Recent Updates.

Courtesy: Techcrunch

Instagram’s New Hyperlapse App Makes Mobile Timelapse And Steady Video Capture Easy

Instagram is building new apps that aim to do more with mobile photography, and today they’re launching Hyperlapse, which allows you to make timelapse videos using standard video captured with your smartphone camera on the fly. The Hyperlapse app launch closely follows the international launch of Bolt, Instagram’s Snapchat-style photo sharing app, but this one looks like it has more of the ingredients that made Snapchat such a success.

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The app, which is due to be released at 10 AM PT today, offers iPhone users a way to make professional-looking timelapses without expensive photography equipment like pro cameras, steady-mounts or tripods, and takes advantage of image stabilization tech that makes use of movement data gathered by gyroscopes to mimic the effect of ultra-expensive motion stabilization software used by film studios, but using a fraction of the processor power to get it done.

One impulse at Instagram was to build it into its existing app, but doing so would’ve hidden the functionality too much for those really eager to try it, and made it virtually invisible to the average user who might not realize they even want it, per Wired. To me, this sounds like Instagram learned a lesson from Instagram Video and Direct, and wanted to give this cool new tech the attention it deserved as its own app, where it stands a good chance of going viral rather than being adopted by just some of Instagram’s existing user community.

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Instagram’s Hyperlapse is, like its original product, focused on       simplicity – the only thing that you can change about your captures is the speed of playback. You use a slider to control how fast the video you eventually share will play at, from standard 1x speed (i.e. the normal speed at which it was recorded) to 12x.

Even at 1x, you get to take advantage of the advanced image stabilization techniques, but the same video is bound to produce an extremely different final effect depending on what playback speed you combine with the automatic stabilization effects.

This looks to be one of the coolest new mobile apps released in a while, particularly from the Facebook/Instagram crowd. The app is live now for iPhone owners (Android users will have to wait for a later version, unfortunately), and we’ll soon post our impressions regarding this new stabilization tech and its effectiveness.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Roomlia Takes On HotelTonight With Mobile Hotel Reservations App

Today Roomlia has launched into the App Store to provide the fastest hotel booking on mobile.

Started by two former Expedia employees, Michael Reichartz and Jim Ferguson, Roomlia offers discounted hotel rooms up to seven days in advance with only a few clicks to complete booking. Unlike Expedia and its counterparts, Roomlia links you directly with your chosen hotel the moment you book, as opposed to negotiating rates and payments through the hotel site and the hotel itself.

Roomlia links directly with hotels’ operations systems to make sure that the experience is super quick and painless. When you first log in, you’re given an extensive list of cities. You can choose one, or search for one that isn’t on the list, and you’re immediately shown a list of hotels with pictures, ratings, and average prices.

Certain hotel rooms have extra deep discounts, which is displayed with a red flag on the listing. These only last a limited time.

Users can put in their hotel dates on the bottom using a calendar or a slider to show the number of nights desired. Roomlia users have the opportunity to book a stay as long as five nights.

HotelTonight, on the other hand, only gets you discounts on the day of booking.

Once you choose a hotel, you can simply swipe to the left to book, sending you directly into contact with the hotel to complete booking. Everything is done in two taps.

On the hotel side, hotels will be able to handle their inventory and minimize vacancy with greater lead times than traditional last-minute services.

The hospitality industry is aflutter with new technology, with smaller players coming in to streamline back-end operations, and bigger guys launching interesting tech initiatives to keep competitive. For example, Starwood launched a robotic butler, while Hilton Hotels has a new app that allows you to choose your room and check out without speaking to another human.

Roomlia launches today on the App Store with access to over 250 hotels and growing.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace will soon use crowd-curation for apps (exclusive)

Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace will soon use crowd-curation for apps (exclusive)

But Mozilla has some of the same problems that other app stores do. They need a way to surface the really good apps, and push down the apps that are a little less inspired. DeVaney believes at least part of the answer lies in audience curation of apps.

“It would be giving people a playground, and letting them rate and review apps, letting people vote the best app reviews up to the top,” he told VentureBeat. “It’s creating a space that’s a little less polished than the homepage [of the app store].”I asked DeVaney what this method of app curation might look like to a user. He said it will be a separate space at the app store that has a slightly different look and feel than the home page of the Firefox Marketplace.

DeVaney knows something about curation. Before arriving at Mozilla, he managed a team at Apple charged with creating the promotional language around iTunes, App Store, and iBookstore content.

At the Firefox Marketplace, DeVaney says, there will be a central scroll that will display apps based on the geographic location of the user. The selection of these apps might be informed by what apps other people in the user’s area find useful.

You might also find curated lists of “best apps” by people who have a special interest in a certain class of apps, like productivity apps or games.

The thinking is that the best people to promote apps are not the people who make them, but rather the people who have used them. “We’re really trying to democratize app discovery,” DeVaney said at a retreat for app developers Friday.

Some app stores are looking at using algorithms and automation to identify good apps, and DeVaney says he’s interested in that approach — to a point. “Analysis only takes you so far in predicting the next hit,” he says.

“I could have a staff of 100, but I still wouldn’t know what people in a little village in Nairobi are going to want, or what the people in the village 100 miles away will want,” DeVaney said.

DeVaney said you’ll be seeing the new crowd curation features show up at Mozilla’s app store “very soon.”

-Courtesy: VentureBeat

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Today is a bit like Christma-Hanu-Kwanz-ukkah for brands that use Instagram in their marketing efforts, as the photo-sharing network just announced three new tools for them.

The new tools, “account insights,” “ad insights,” and “ad staging,” are now available to all Instagram advertisers and are meant to give brands better control over their campaigns and results.

From Instagram’s blog post:

The new tools will help brands monitor their posts and campaigns by providing information on reach, impressions, and engagement. For example, an advertiser will now have access to a real-time campaign summary and data showing how their target audience is responding to each of their sponsored photos. Also, brand marketers will be able to better understand the best time of day to post a photo or video.

We’ve worked closely with several of our advertising partners to make sure these tools meet their needs. We’re now making them available to all Instagram advertisers, whose feedback will help us improve the product before releasing it to additional brands later this year.

Account insights shows brands how their Instagram account is doing, including impression, reach, engagement, and so on, and it appears to be for the brand’s photo activity, not paid campaigns. In fact, it looks a lot like the “Insights” page of a Facebook brand page, which is not surprising, given Facebook’s ownership of Instagram.

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Ad insights provide analytics for a brand’s paid campaigns, including impressions, reach, and frequency. The feature conveniently includes an “Export data” button to enable social media managers to easily use the data in their workflow.

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Ad staging is where social media managers can create, edit, preview, and even collaborate on paid ad campaigns on Instagram. It’s sort of the sandbox before the ads go live.

Instagram first introduced ads on its network back in November 2013 and has since signed deals with ad agencies (not coincidentally once it introduced videos) and opened up its ad program more widely to brands. Now, it’s adding real analytics and insights tools that are turning Instagram from a fun photo app the teens were using, into a real advertising platform.

Facebook, which acquired Instagram in April 2012, has been beefing up its mobile efforts, and reported a strong second quarter for 2014, largely thanks to its mobile business. Unfortunately, Facebook does not report separate figures for Instagram, so it’s impossible really know how much revenue Instagram’s ads have been generating so far.

Fellow visually-driven social network Pinterest has also been leveraging visual ads amongst its user-generated content in the form of promoted pins.

-Courtesy: VentureBeat

Spring, David Tisch’s Latest Venture, Is Instagram For Shopping

For the past year, investor and serial entrepreneur David Tisch has been working with his brother Alan to build an enjoyable way to shop on mobile. Today, that fruits of that labor springs onto the scene.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold Spring, the most advanced effort at fashion-focused mobile shopping yet.

For all intents and purposes, you could absolutely call spring an Instagram for shopping.

But it goes beyond just that to incorporate pieces of a few other favorite apps, including Uber and Tinder.

When first signing on to the app, it looks like Instagram dressed up in white. You’re given the opportunity to “follow” brands that you like, and simply scroll through the feed to love items or to buy.

When you find an item you want, you can scroll through multiple images Tinder-style, with a description and a price all displayed on the main feed. If you’re still interested, you simply click the buy button and choose your size.

Upon your first purchase, Spring will ask for your address and credit card info, and from that moment your payment details are saved within the app.

For that purchase and every purchase after that, it takes one simple motion to complete the purchase, a swipe. Interestingly enough, Amazon has a patent on single-click buying, so the swipe gets around that in a way that lets form follow the function of the app.

I myself have slid that little buy bar back and forth a few times before fully committing to a purchase, which seems like relatively standard behavior while shopping.

Folks have been talking about building a universal shopping cart for a long time, but big fashion and retail brands want to control every part of their own experience.

Spring actually delivers on that promise of a universal shopping cart by offering a platform for brands, without forcing multiple competing vendors to dress up in the same uniform and ultimately lose a piece of their brand.

 

 

Fashion brands can upload their own looks the same way that other brands control their social media presences on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Those items are displayed chronologically and in real-time on the feed, and only the brands that each user follow gets a spot on the home stream.

However, there are a couple other tabs that hep users find items and brands outside their usual tastes. Discover offers up categorized content that is compiled by various brands or influencers. Browse, on the other hand, gives you the option the shop by clothes type or popularity.

There is no social component or public profiles, but rather a one-to-many dialogue between brands and their followers on mobile.

Spring is launching with almost 100 brands on the platform, ranging from high end designers like Carolina Herrera to less expensive brands like Warby Parker and Greats Brand.

More than 50 other brands are set to join the platform soon, with more being added every week once the platform is up and running.

Vendors handle all pieces of order fulfillment, shipping, and customer service. And in return for complete control over the experience, brands will pay an transaction fee for every purchase made.

Spring recently raised a $7.5 million Series A round to make this possible. 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Candy Crush Maker King Drops 20% After Reporting Disappointing Earnings

Candy crushed.

King, maker and purveyor of Candy Crush, reported earnings today and was whacked by investors after detailing revenue that disappointed, and lowering its top line guidance. The company also announced a $150 million dividend.

The company earned $0.59 per share on a non-GAAP basis on revenue of $594 million. Investors had expected the company to report $0.59 per share in non-GAAP profit on revenue of $608 million, however.

In addition to that revenue miss, King guided that its gross bookings for the current quarter will total between $500 million and $525 million — its gross bookings for the full year will tally up to between $2.25 billion and $2.35 billion. Investors are not pleased.

A venture capitalist familiar with the public technology markets indicated to TechCrunch that King had been valued as a growth stock. Its lowered guidance belies that concept. The correction in its share price therefore isn’t surprising.

The company’s $150 million dividend works out to $0.469 per share. That’s a decent chunk for a company whose shares sell for $14.24, but only goes so far to plug the gap in the value of the company’s stock that went public at $22.50.

Finally, King’s “executive officers, directors, founders, and affiliated funds, including Bellaria Holding S.a.r.l of whom Apax WW Nominees Ltd is the sole shareholder, together representing 80% of outstanding shares, have agreed to a new lock up with the Company through the date following the Company’s announcement of fourth quarter and full year 2014 earnings.” That measure could ease pressure on the company’s shares. However, the announced lockup has done little so far to mitigate the beating its share price is taking.

King had a big hit. Market skepticism that the company couldn’t grow abounded. It appears that the bears were more right than the bulls.

The company is worth around $4.5 billion at current after-hours prices.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

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