Amino raises $45M for to bring fan communities to smartphones

Amino has raised a big Series C round of funding — $45 million from GV, Venrock, Union Square Ventures, Goodwater Capital and Time Warner Investments, with Hearst Ventures joining as a new investor. Co-founder and CEO Ben Anderson has described Amino as an way to help people who have “passionate niche interests” find others who feel the same way, via smartphone apps. The company started out with apps focused a handful of topics like K-pop, anime and Doctor Who, but it later added the ability for anyone to launch a new community in the main Amino app, and there are now more than 2.5 million communities. Of course, some of these communities are more active than others, and there’s some overlap between them — but Max Sebela, who’s general manager for Amino’s English-language apps, said there’s less than you might think, because “each interest is actually a universe
Amino Voice Chats
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Instagram adds shopping tags directly into Stories

Instagram’s shoppable tags are about to pop up in Stories. The company first started testing the feature back in 2016 with a limited set of 20 partners. Since then it’s been a hit, expanding broadly to regular brand posts in the feed. Starting today, hitting a little shopping bag sticker in a Story will lead you to more details on the cute and/or dope thing that caught your eye and how to score it. It’s a simple addition, but given the success of Stories it’s a potent one for brands that drive sales on the platform. “With 300M using Instagram Stories everyday, people are increasingly finding new products from brands they love,” Instagram said in a press release. “In a recent survey, Instagrammers said they often watch stories to stay in the-know with brands they’re interested in, get an insider view of products they like, and find out about new
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Facebook says it gave ‘identical support’ to Trump and Clinton campaigns

Facebook’s hundreds of pages of follow-ups to Senators make for decidedly uninteresting reading. Give lawyers a couple months and they will always find a way to respond non-substantively to the most penetrating questions. One section may at least help put a few rumors to rest about Facebook’s role in the 2016 Presidential campaigns, though of course much is still left to the imagination. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose dogged questioning managed to put Mark Zuckerberg on his back foot during the questioning, had several pages of questions sent over afterwards. Among the many topics was that of the 2016 campaign and reports that Facebook employees were “embedded” in the Trump campaign specifically, as claimed by the person who ran the digital side of that campaign. This has raised questions as to whether Facebook was offering some kind of premium service to one candidate or another, or whether one candidate got
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Here are 454 pages of Facebook’s written follow-up answers to Congress

Facebook finished its homework. In a pair of newly uploaded letters, the two Senate committees that grilled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in April have published the social media giant’s written answers to their considerable body of questions. Zuckerberg faced criticism for not answering many of the more intricate or controversial questions from members of Congress in the moment, but by playing it safe the company bought two months’ worth of time to craft its answers in perfect legalese. If you’re interested in combing through the 454 pages worth of explanations on everything from accusations of conservative censorship to Cambridge Analytica, you can dig into the documents, embedded below. Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee: Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:

Twitter’s emoji for Trump’s North Korea nuclear summit is very weird

As U.S. President Trump preps for a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Twitter doesn’t want you to forget to tweet about it under the right hashtag. In a choice that seems to make light of a lot of really quite serious things at once, Twitter is promoting its new #TrumpKimSummit emoji for Tuesday’s summit in Singapore.

The event-specific symbol features what appears to be a high-five between a hand representing the U.S. president and one representing the North Korean dictator known for executing his political enemies and exiling large swaths of his nation to prison camps, where they face starvation and torture. Presumably they are high-fiving over the successful

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Now Snapchat lets you unsend messages like Faceboook promised

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook messages were retracted from the inboxes of some users, six sources told TechCrunch in April. Facebook quickly tried to normalize that breach of trust by claiming it would give everyone the ability to unsend messages in the coming months. We haven’t heard a word about it since, and Facebook told me it had nothing more to share here today. Well Snap is stepping up. Snapchat will let you retract your risque, embarassing, or incriminating messages thanks to a new feature called Clear Chats that’s rolling out globally over the next few weeks. Hold down on a text, image, video, memory, sticker, or audio note in a one-on-one or group chat Snapchat message thread and you’ll see a Delete button. Tap it, and Snapchat will try to retract the message, though it admits it won’t always work if the recipient lacks an internet connection or updated version of
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Facebook still wants to be a media company

Facebook may have disbanded its “Trending” news section, but the social network is not abandoning its media company ambitions, despite whatever CEO Mark Zuckerberg said to Congress. In fact, the opposite of “not being a media business” is now occurring: Facebook is directly paying news publishers to create video, even as it claims its focus is on you and your “time well spent” on its site. Sorry, Facebook, but you can no longer claim you’re just a platform, just a technology enabler, when you are directly funding journalism. And you can’t claim you care about our time when you’re funding all these new videos meant to draw us in daily and keep us watching.

Facebook funds the news

It was recently announced that Facebook will roll out a series of news video shows from select partners, including TV news organizations CNN, ABC News, Fox News Channel and Univision, along
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Instagram plans June 20th launch event for long-form video hub

Last week TechCrunch reported Instagram will launch a long-form video hub to compete with a tentative June 20th launch date. Now Instagram is asking reporters to RSVP for a June 20th “special event”, confirming our scoop’s date. The invitation simply reads “Instagram has some news to share, and we want you to be the first to hear about it.” This is Instagram’s chance to evolve from social media to just ‘media’, stealing longer mobile viewing sessions away from YouTube and Snapchat Discover. 

Here are the details of long-form video hub that we’ve heard from our sources:

Facebook launches ‘Memories,’ a new home for reminiscing

Facebook today is introducing a dedicated page called “Memories,” where you can reflect on the moments you’ve shared with family and friends over the years. The page is essentially an expanded collection of familiar Facebook features, like “On This Day,” which lets you look back on this date last year and the years prior, as well as other memory recaps and memories you’ve shared with friends. The content found on the Memories page isn’t necessarily new, it just now has its own section on Facebook so you can more easily find it at any time. Among the other options you’ll see here is the “Friends Made on this Day” feature, which includes a list of friends you made on this same day in the past. You’ll also see special videos and collages to celebrate your “friendversaries” – the term Facebook coined for celebrating the day you and someone
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Facebook cuts down annoying “now connected on Messenger” alerts

“‘You Are Now Connected On Messenger’ Is The Worst Thing On Facebook’ Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos correctly pointed out in a story yesterday. When you friend someone on Facebook or Messenger, or an old friend joins Messenger, you often get one of these annoying notifications. They fool you into thinking someone actually wants to chat with you while burying your real message threads.

Luckily, it turns out Facebook was already feeling guilty about this shameless growth hack. When I asked why, amidst its big push around Time Well Spent, it was sending these alerts, the company told me it’s already in the process of scaling them back. A Facebook spokesperson gave TechCrunch this statement:
We’ve found that many people have appreciated getting a notification when a friend joins Messenger. That said, we are working to make these notifications even more useful by employing machine learning to send fewer of them over
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How Facebook’s new 3D photos work

In May, Facebook teased a new feature called 3D photos, and it’s just what it sounds like. However, beyond a short video and the name, little was said about it. But the company’s computational photography team has just published the research behind how the feature works and, having tried it myself, I can attest that the results are really quite compelling. In case you missed the teaser, 3D photos will live in your news feed just like any other photos, except when you scroll by them, touch or click them, or tilt your phone, they respond as if the photo is actually a window into a tiny diorama, with corresponding changes in perspective. It will work for both ordinary pictures of people and dogs, but also landscapes and panoramas. It sounds a little hokey, and I’m about as skeptical as they come, but the effect won me over quite
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Facebook alerts 14M to privacy bug that changed status composer to public

Facebook has another privacy screwup on its hands. A bug in May accidentally changed the suggested privacy setting for status updates to public from whatever users had set it to last, potentially causing them to post sensitive friends-only content to the whole world. Facebook is now notifying 14 million people around the world who were potentially impacted by the bug to review their status updates and lock them down tighter if need be. Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan wrote to TechCrunch in a statement:

We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts. We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before – and they could still choose their

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M17 delays IPO debut after pricing this morning on NYSE

M17 Entertainment, a Taipei-based live streaming and dating app group, priced its IPO this morning on the NYSE and was expected to open trading today according to their final press release. But with just a little more than two hours to go before market closing, it’s still not trading, and no one seems to know why. An interview I had scheduled with the CEO earlier this afternoon was canceled at the last minute, with the company’s representative saying that M17 couldn’t comment since its shares were not yet actively trading, and thus the company remains under an SEC-mandated quiet period. M17 has had a rocky non-debut so far. Originally targeting a fundraise of $115 million of American Depository Receipts (shares of foreign companies listed domestically on the NYSE), the company concluded its roadshow raising less than half of its target, for a final investment of $60.1 million. The
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Speech recognition triggers fun AR stickers in Panda’s video app

Panda has built the next silly social feature Snapchat and Instagram will want to steal. Today the startup launches its video messaging app that fills the screen with augmented reality effects based on the words you speak. Say “Want to get pizza?” and a 3D pizza slice hovers by your mouth. Say “I wear my sunglasses at night” and suddenly you’re wearing AR shades with a moon hung above your head. Instead of being distracted by having to pick effects out of a menu, they appear in real-time as you chat. Panda is surprising and delightful. It’s also a bit janky, created by a five person team with under $1 million in funding. Building a video chat app user base from scratch amidst all the competition will be a struggle. But even if Panda isn’t the app to popularize the idea, it’s invented a smart way to enhance visual
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SeatGeek brings ticket buying into Snapchat

You can now buy game and concert tickets from teams and musicians within Snapchat, thanks to an integration with SeatGeek . While Snapchat has started testing e-commerce features in the past few months, SeatGeek says this is the first ticket-buying experience built into the Snapchat app. The Los Angeles Football Club was the first team to sell tickets through this integration, by posting a Snapchat Story (and a Snapcode on the team website) that allowed users to swipe up to buy tickets to the May 26 game. The full purchase experience takes place without leaving the app. “We’re always looking to reach our fans in innovative ways, and selling tickets directly to our followers on Snapchat gives us an incredible opportunity to connect with our most dedicated supporters,” said Los Angeles Football Club President and co-owner Tom Penn in the announcement. SeatGeek Snapchat SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza said that as “the pipe gets
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Photos on social media can predict the health of neighborhoods

The images that appear on social media – happy people eating, cultural happenings, and smiling dogs – can actually predict the likelihood that a neighborhood is “healthy” as well as its level of gentrification. From the report:
So says a groundbreaking study published in Frontiers in Physics, in which researchers used social media images of cultural events in London and New York City to create a model that can predict neighborhoods where residents enjoy a high level of wellbeing — and even anticipate gentrification by 5 years. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, the model could help policymakers ensure human wellbeing in dense urban settings.
The idea is based on the concept of “cultural capital” – the more there is, the better the neighborhood becomes. For example, if there are many pictures of fun events in a certain spot you can expect a higher
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Cambridge Analytica’s Nix said it licensed “millions of data points” from Acxiom, Experian, Infogroup to target US voters

The repeat grilling by the UK parliament’s DCMS committee today of Alexander Nix, the former CEO of the now ex company Cambridge Analytica — aka the controversial political and commercial ad agency at the center of a Facebook data misuse scandal — was not able to shed much new light on what may or may not have been going on inside the company. But one nugget of information Nix let slip were the names of specific data aggregators he said Cambridge Analytica had bought “consumer and lifestyle” information on US voters from, to link to voter registration data it also paid to acquire — apparently using that combined database to build models to target American voters in the 2016 presidential election, rather than using data improperly obtained from Facebook. This is more information than Cambridge Analytica has thus far disclosed to one US voter, professor David Carroll, who in January last
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Instagram plans to launch Snapchat Discover-style video hub

Instagram is preparing to unveil a home for longer-form video — a YouTube competitor and its take on Snapchat Discover. According to multiple sources, Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution. Instagram has been meeting with popular social media stars and content publishers to find out how their video channels elsewhere would work within its app. It’s also lining up launch partners for an announcement of the long-form video effort tentatively scheduled for June 20th. The public shouldn’t expect Netflix Originals or HBO-level quality. This is not “InstaGame of Thrones.”  Instead, the feature is more focused on the kind of videos you see from YouTube creators. These often range from five to 15 minutes in length, shot with nice cameras and lighting but not some massive Hollywood movie production crew. Average users will be able to
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Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is coming to Disrupt SF

Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has always done things her own way. Whether it’s standing up for her political beliefs, building a company with fully outsourced engineers or avoiding the usual startup fundraising runaround, Wolfe Herd follows her own instincts in building a business. Which is why we’re super excited to announce that Whitney Wolfe Herd will join us at TC Disrupt SF 2018. Wolfe Herd first came on the scene as a co-founder and VP of Marketing at Tinder, where she helped grow the dating app into one of the world’s biggest dating platforms. But after a lawsuit over sexual harassment and discrimination, which was settled out of court, Wolfe Herd left the company to build an app focused on compliments and positive affirmations. Originally, she wanted nothing to do with the dating space. But after meeting Andrey Adreev, Badoo founder and Bumble’s majority stakeholder, she
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Facebook is funding news programs from CNN, Fox News, Univision and others

Facebook has unveiled its initial lineup of news programming that will be airing in a dedicated section of Watch, the original video content initiative that the social network launched last year. While these shows are being produced by outside media organizations, it’s actually Facebook that’s funding them. In a blog post, Head of News Partnerships Campbell Brown described this as an extension of the company’s announcement in January that it would prioritize meaningful social interaction over publisher content. While that decision took a toll on digital publishers, Brown echoes CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rationale for the move, saying that while there will be less news in users’ feeds, what remains should be “trustworthy, informative, and local.” Here’s how Brown describes the news initiative:
This first lineup of funded shows includes news publishers from broadcast to digital native, national and local. The shows will be hosted by award-winning
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