Spotify is falling behind on lyrics and voice

Spotify’s lack of full lyrics support and its minimal attention to voice are beginning to become problems for the streaming service. The company has been so focused on the development of its personalization technology and programming its playlists, it has overlooked key features that its competitors – including Apple, Google, and Amazon – today offer and are now capitalizing on. For example, in the updated version of Apple Music rolling out this fall with iOS 12, users won’t just have access to lyrics in the app as before, they will also be able to perform searches by lyrics instead of only by the artist, album, or song title. And Apple Music is actually playing catch up with Amazon on this front. Amazon Music, which has quietly grown to become the third largest music streaming service, allows users to view the lyrics as songs play, and ties that to
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Bumble announces a fund to invest in women-led businesses

Dating and networking app Bumble today announced the launch of Bumble Fund, a new vehicle focused on early stage investments specifically aimed at helping diverse, female entrepreneurs raise capital for their businesses. Sarah Jones Simmer, Bumble Chief Operating Officer, will lead Bumble Fund’s investment strategy along with Bumble Senior Advisor, Sarah Kunst, the company says.

“Investing in and empowering women in business is something that our founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is deeply passionate about and is at the very core of what Bumble stands for,” said Jones Simmer, in a statement about the fund’s launch. “Through Bumble Fund we’ll look not only to support those women leaders who have been largely ignored, but we’ll also demonstrate why those investments build smart, successful businesses.”

Bumble Fund’s initial commitments include one of the winners of Bumble’s first “Bizz Pitch” competition, Sofia Los Angeles, a swimwear company founded by Anasofia Gomez.
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The Alexa-Cortana integration is now available in a public preview

Microsoft today will begin to allow Alexa device owners to summon its own virtual assistant, Cortana, through their Echo devices, as well as call for Alexa via Cortana. The integration between the two voice computing platforms was previously announced and briefly demoed on stage in May at Microsoft’s Build 2018 event in Seattle. But the companies at the time hadn’t given a timeline as to when the integrations between the two assistants would be available to the public. Now, the companies are taking the first steps towards that goal with a public preview of their Alexa-Cortana collaboration. Customers who want to test out this new feature will be able to try it starting today, August 15, Microsoft says. The integration will continue to roll out in the days ahead, so you may not immediately gain access, we should note. Initially, customers will be able to call up Microsoft’s Cortana through
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Twitter is purging accounts that were trying to evade prior suspensions

Twitter announced this afternoon it will begin booting accounts off its service from those who have tried to evade their account suspension. The company says that the accounts in question are users who have been previously suspended on Twitter for their abusive behavior, or for trying to evade a prior suspension. These bad actors have been able to work around Twitter’s attempt to remove them by setting up another account, it seems. The company says the new wave of suspensions will hit this week and will continue in the weeks ahead, as it’s able to identify others who are “attempting to Tweet following an account suspension.” 

Twitter’s announcement

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DC Entertainment’s new streaming and digital comics service pops up on Google Play

DC Universe’s digital subscription and streaming service has just appeared on Google Play, ahead of its planned fall 2018 release. Announced in late June, the service includes a streaming library of original programming like a live action version of “Teen Titans” and several other shows; plus a selection of DC animated movies, classic TV series like “Wonder Woman,” the four Christopher Reeve-starring Superman films; and a host of other content like a lineup of digital comics, an online forum, and more. So far, interested users can only sign up to pre-order the service, and that, apparently, has not changed. However, the company has said that it would begin a beta test in August, and the app’s launch appears to be the first indication that’s about to kick off. One screen, for example, shows a board within the community section where beta users can offer feedback. The Google Play
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Pandora Premium comes to Google Assistant-powered devices

Pandora Premium is coming to Google Home, Mini, and Max devices, and other smart speakers and screens with Google Assistant built-in, the company announced this morning. The integration means listeners who pay for Pandora’s on-demand music service will be able to search and play any song, album, or playlist, just by asking Google, and can even search by lyrics, play their personalized “mood” playlists, and take other actions using their voice. For example, Google Assistant users will be able to thumbs up and thumbs down tracks on Pandora, skip tracks, create new stations, or play a song again, using voice commands. The service can also be set as the default on Google Home, so you don’t have to specify to play the songs via Pandora when issuing commands. Support for Pandora Premium on Google Home has been long-awaited. Pandora Plus and Pandora’s free service have been available on Google Home
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Group FaceTime isn’t arriving in September

Group FaceTime’s launch is going to be delayed. The feature, which supports up to 32 people in a single audio or video call, was pulled from the latest iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas released on Monday, and will be held until a later date, says Apple. According to the company’s Release Notes for both operating system updates, Group FaceTime will “ship in a future update later this fall.” The feature was introduced at this year’s WWDC, with the goal of capitalizing on the growing popularity of larger group video chat sessions – especially among younger people. Today, apps like Houseparty, Instagram, and Snapchat, among others, cater to this audience with group video calling support of their own. But they don’t offer support for up to 32 people – a feature that requires a lot of technical overhead, and apparently, more time to prep than
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Airbnb shows off new collaboration features that let co-travelers plan trips together

In recent years, Airbnb has been working to expand its business beyond accommodations, by becoming a more robust travel companion with features like guidebooks, suggested experiences, and full-service hospitality for high-end travelers with its still invite-only Airbnb Beyond, for example. Now the company is preparing even more trip-planning features, including support for adding co-travelers to trips and other collaboration features for group travel. Airbnb offered a sneak peek at these otherwise unannounced features at a recent tech talk given at company headquarters. “Trip planning is not necessarily complete unless you can share your trip with someone. So now we’re building features that let you add co-travelers – so you can add and share ideas, so you can add comments, so you can collaborate,” said Laura Xu, an Android engineer on Airbnb’s Trip platform, during the presentation. “You can really build out your trip.” From the screenshots
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Twitter Lite expands to 21 more countries, adds push notifications

Twitter announced today its Twitter Lite app is expanding to 21 more countries, which makes the data-saving app available to more than 45 countries in total. The app was introduced last year with the goal of bringing in more users from emerging markets to Twitter. Similar to other data-saving apps, like Facebook Lite or YouTube Go, Twitter Lite is designed to load faster on slower network connections, like 2G and 3G, and also has a smaller footprint, so it takes up less space on the phone. The app was first launched as a test in the Philippines in September, before rolling out to a couple dozen more countries in November. Twitter’s hope is that by addressing the needs of those low-bandwith users in international markets, the company could help increase its overall user base, which has remained fairly stagnant. Today, the company is making the app available to 21
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Messenger Kids rolls out passphrases so kids can initiate friend requests themselves

Facebook is making it easier for kids to add their friends on its under-13 chat app, Messenger Kids. Starting today, the company is rolling out a new feature that will allow kids to request parents’ approval of new contacts. To use the feature, parents will turn on a setting that creates a four-word passphrase that’s used generate these contact requests, the company says. Parents can opt to use this feature, which is not on by default. Once enabled, Facebook will randomly generate a four-word phrase that’s uniquely assigned to each child. When the child wants to add a friend to their app’s contacts list in the future, they will show this phrase to the friend to enter in their own app. Both parents will then receive a contact request from their child – and both have to approve the request before the kids can start chatting. In other words, this
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Netflix CFO David Wells to step down

Netflix announced this morning its Chief Financial Officer David Wells would be stepping down from his role after helping the streaming service choose his successor. The company says it will be considering both internal and external candidates to fill the position. Wells has been with Netflix for fourteen years, and has served as CFO since 2010. “It’s been 14 wonderful years at Netflix, and I’m very proud of everything we’ve accomplished,” Wells said, in a statement about his plans. “After discussing my desire to make a change with Reed, we agreed that with Netflix’s strong financial position and exciting growth plans, this is the right time for us to help identify the next financial leader for the company. Personally, I intend my next chapter to focus more on philanthropy and I like big challenges but I’m not sure yet what that looks like.” Wells has seen Netflix grow from
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Twitch is closing its Communities

Say goodbye to Twitch’s Communities. The game streaming service says it’s soon killing off this still relatively new addition to its site in favor of implementing a tagging system instead. With the changes, users will be able to filter streams by tags within a directory or across different games on the Browse page, in order to better find the sort of streams they want to watch. The closure of Communities and addition of tags is being planned for mid-September, says Twitch. Twitch launched Communities just last year, with the goal of better catering to users’ unique interests. For example, different types of gaming, like retro, or different activities, like speedrunning, could then have their own community. There are also communities centered around titles like Fortnite Battle Royale, PUBG, League of Legends, and others, as well as those focused on creative endeavours like music, drawing, cooking, cosplay, and more. But
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Facebook now requiring Pages with large US audiences to go through additional authorization

Facebook today announced it’s implementing a new measure to secure Facebook Pages with large U.S. followings in order to make it harder for people to administer a Page using a “fake or compromised account.” Beginning with those that have large U.S. followings, some Facebook Pages will now have to go through a “Page Publishing Authorization” process. This will require the Page managers to secure their accounts and verity their location. Facebook says the process only takes a few minutes to complete. If a Page requires this authorization, the Page admins will receive a notice at the top of their News Feed directing them to begin the process. If they choose not to submit to Authorization, they will no longer be able to post to their Pages, the company says. Enforcement will begin this month. When the Page owners click through, a message informs them why this is
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Google will lose $50 million or more in 2018 from Fortnite bypassing the Play Store

When Fortnite Battle Royale launched on Android, it made an unusual choice: it bypassed Google Play in favor of offering the game directly from Epic Games’ own website. Most apps and games don’t have the luxury of making this choice – the built-in distribution Google Play offers is critical to their business. But Epic Games believes its game is popular enough and has a strong enough draw to bring players to its website for the Android download instead. In the process, it’s costing Google around $50 million this year in platform fees, according to a new report. As of its Android launch date, Fortnite had grossed over $180 million on iOS devices, where it had been exclusively available since launching as an invite-only beta on March 15th, before later expanding to all App Store customers. According to data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the game has earned Apple
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Workona helps web workers finally close all those tabs

A new startup, Workona, this week launched software designed for those who primarily do their work in a browser. The company’s goal is to become the OS for web work – and to also save web workers from the hell that is a million open tabs. To accomplish this, Workona offers smart browser windows you set up as workspaces, allowing you a place to save your open tabs, as well as collaborate with team members, search across your tabs, and even sync your workspace to different devices. The Palo Alto-based company was founded in fall 2017 by Quinn Morgan (CEO), previously the founding product manager at Lucidpress, and Alma Madsen (CTO), previously the first employee and Director of Engineering at Lucid Software, the makers of Lucidpress. “Last year, Alma and I decided we wanted to build something together again, and initially began working on a different startup idea,” explains Morgan,
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Facebook is shutting down Friend List Feeds today

Facebook is shutting down Friend List Feeds sometime today, according to a message posted in the Facebook app. The feature allowed users to scroll through only those posts from one of their designated friend lists – for example, family, work colleagues, neighbors, industry peers, and so on. The end result was a much more personalized version of Facebook – one where you could catch up on the updates that were important to you, without the clutter from Facebook Pages, posts from acquaintances, or those from friends whose updates you didn’t care to follow for any other reason. To use Friend List Feeds, you would first have to create a friend list in Facebook. And to be clear – those friend lists are not going away. So if you still want to brag about your professional successes to your industry colleagues or post baby pictures for your family to see, that
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Samsung makes Bixby more conversational, concierge-like

Samsung this morning showed of a new version of its Bixby voice assistant, which is now more conversational and is able to continue your conversation when you ask a follow-up question. For example, if you first ask the assistant about concerts over Labor Day weekend, as was demoed on stage at a Samsung press conference today, you can then follow-up by asking about another date without having to repeat the entire question. Other new features were also demoed, including support for making reservations, and the ability to tap into apps like Yelp, Uber, Ticketmaster, Fandango, OpenTable, and Google Maps.  

The app integration allows Bixby to answer questions without opening the apps directly. Even if you don’t have those apps installed,

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Amazon launches an Alexa Auto SDK to bring its voice assistant to more cars

Amazon this morning announced the launch of a toolkit for developers that will allow them to integrate Alexa into cars’ infotainment systems. The “Alexa Auto SDK” is available now on GitHub, and includes all the core Alexa functions like streaming media, smart home controls, weather reports, and support for Alexa’s tens of thousands of third-party skills. It will also add new features just for auto users, like navigation and search, Amazon says. The source code and function libraries will be in C++ and Java, allowing the vehicles to process audio inputs and triggers, then connect with the Alexa service, and handle the Alexa interactions. In addition, Amazon is offering a variety of sample apps, build scripts, and documentation supporting Android and QNX operating systems on ARM and x86 processor architectures. The SDK will allow for streaming media from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Audible, for the time being,
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Google launches Cameos, a video Q&A app aimed at celebs

Google has launched a new video-based Q&A app called Cameos on the App Store, which allows people to answer questions about themselves, then share those answers directly on Google. The app appears to be aimed at celebrities and other public figures, who are often the subject of people’s Google searches. With the Cameos app, they can address fans’ questions in their own voice, instead of leaving the answers up to other websites. The feature is an extension of the company’s “Posts on Google” platform which has been slowly rolling out over the past couple of years, giving some people and organizations the ability to post directly to Google’s search result pages. Initially, “Posts on Google” was open only to a small number of celebrities, sports teams and leagues, movie studios and museums. But last year, it expanded to local businesses who could then publish their events, products and services. This
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Disney may offer a discounted bundle of Hulu, ESPN+ and its new streaming service

Disney may offer its customers the option to purchase a discounted bundle of its three streaming apps – Hulu, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and ESPN+ – according to comments made by Disney CEO Bob Iger during the company’s’ earnings call this week. He said Disney would rather keep the three properties separate, rather than trying to combine them into a more robust “aggregation play,” so as to better address cord cutters’ desire to pick-and-choose the services they want. The company will own 60 percent of Hulu, when its $71.3 billion deal to acquire 21st Century Fox closes. It already owns ESPN, which now offers a streaming service called ESPN+, and is launching its own Disney-branded streaming service in 2019 that will feature Pixar, Marvel, Disney, Lucasfilm (Star Wars), and eventually, it now says, National Geographic content. While Disney’s service is meant to be more family-friendly, Hulu will cater to a
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