TikTok parent Bytedance is reportedly working on its own smartphone

This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch

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It’s been a busy couple of months for Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups and the operator of globally popular video app TikTok. The Beijing-based company has continued to grow its list of apps to include the likes of work collaboration tool Lark, an instant messenger called Feiliao as well as a music streaming app, and now it appears to be taking a bold step into the hardware realm.

Bytedance is planning to develop its own smartphone, the Financial Times reported (paywalled) citing two sources. A spokesperson from Bytedance declined to comment on the matter, but the rumor is hardly a surprise as smartphone pre-installs have long been a popular way for Chinese internet companies to ramp up user sizes.

There’s also urgency from Bytedance to carve out more user acquisition channels. After a few years of frantic growth, Bytedance failed to hit its revenue target for

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TikTok owner ByteDance’s long-awaited chat app is here

This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch

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In WeChat -dominated China, there’s no shortage of challengers out there claiming to create an alternative social experience. The latest creation comes from ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup and the operator behind TikTok, the video app that has consistently topped the iOS App Store over the last few quarters.

The new offer is called Feiliao (飞聊), or Flipchat in English, a hybrid of an instant messenger plus interest-based forums, and it’s currently available for both iOS and Android. It arrived only four months after Bytedance unveiled its video-focused chatting app Duoshan at a buzzy press event.

Screenshots of Feiliao / Image source: Feiliao

Some are already calling Feiliao a WeChat challenger, but a closer look shows it’s targeting a more niche need. WeChat, in its own right, is the go-to place for daily communication in addition to facilitating payments, car-hailing, food delivery and other forms of convenience.



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A government propaganda app is going viral in China

This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch

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Besides binge-watching TikTok videos and battling enemies in the magical land of mobile games, many Chinese people may also pass time during the upcoming Lunar New Year on Xuexi Qiangguo, a news and chat app developed by the country’s top ideology officials.

The app managed to top the Chinese App Store between January 22 and 25 before two ByteDance apps pushed it down to the third place this week, download statistics from App Annie shows. At a glance, the news section is almost exclusively about the Communist Party and president Xi Jinping.

xuexi qiangguo

The app is almost exclusively about the Communist Party and president Xi Jinping.

It doubles as an instant messenger, with development support provided by Alibaba’s Dingtalk enterprise communications tool. That means users can log in via their Dingtalk account and chat with their Dingtalk contacts directly over Xuexi Qiangguo. Alibaba explains this is a “regular business collaboration” between Dingtalk’s

xuexi qiangguo
xuexi qiangguo

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Russia’s Zuckerberg launches Telegram, a new instant messenger service

This post is by Editor, EWDN from VentureBeat

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Russia’s Zuckerberg launches Telegram, a new instant messenger service

Digital Fortress, a US-based software developer with Russian roots, has rolled out its inaugural mobile app, an English-language instant messenger named Telegram. The app is now available on iTunes.

Digital Fortress owner Pavel Durov (pictured above; he is also the founder of Russia’s largest social network, Vkontakte) claimed that his company’s first product was  launched as an entry-level written message and file exchanger and that it would soon include voice and video communications capabilities.

Telegram is currently only available for Apple mobile products, but Durov wants to also carve out a substantial share of the Android market, the largest in the global OS segment.

The free messenger will use MTProto, a data transfer protocol developed by Pavel’s brother Nikolai, who is also the CTO of VKontakte. In its current form, Telegram is basically a test bench for this new protocol. If the test is a success, a new set of social and/or user location specific functions may be added to the messaging service, as Durov believes that  “other messengers lack” these unique features.

Market players are divided on the novelty. Some praise its data security and fast delivery of large files. Others note that its functionality is old news in the market and very similar to competitors like WhatsApp.

Durov claims that his new product is “faster and safer” and that “messages sent through Telegram cannot be bugged by third parties.” Telegram is a product for the global market, a long-term target for Durov’s U.S. company, and does not even have a Russian-language version.

The Digital Fortress founder has emphasized that the creation of the messenger is in no way connected with his flagship product, VKontakte, which is popular in the former Soviet Union countries.

Earlier this year, Durov denied rumors that he and his US team are preparing the launch of a new social network named Telegra.ph that is purportedly intended to lure “millions and millions of… users” away from VKontakte. Sources: Vedomosti, The Moscow Times   

Filed under: Deals, Social


Salesforce goes real-time with IM and screensharing for the enterprise

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Today, Salesforce is further beefing up its line of enterprise products with a new IM client and screensharing software.

The instant messaging comes via Chatter, Salesforce’s Facebook-like, Yammer-esque collaboration and task-management app. The IM client is cloud-based (so no need to download or install anything) and lets employees get down to business via one-on-one and group chats.

“People spend so much time setting up meetings,” said Salesforce SVP Kendall Collins in a phone call with VentureBeat. “You have all the people you work with in Chatter, and you’re kind of a single click away.”

The IM app lives inside Chatter, hanging out on the lower right corner of the screen, just like every other embedded IM program you’ve ever seen. It will be particularly familiar to users of Google Talk or Facebook Messenger, a fact that Collins makes no bones about.

“Facebook has shown the way,” he said. “Business apps are different, but not so different … In business, I just want to be able to ping people and ask them in-context things in the workplace every day.”

Users can also make lists for various teams or groups. For example, if Meghan, Heather, and I are working on a project called “Hazing the Intern,” I can set up a chat list and instantly draw my colleagues into a quick, no-fuss meeting.

Chat options appear in various places around Chatter, especially in the feed. Collins said relevance is key, so you’ll likely find chat options anywhere you’d see a task that might need real-time communication. For example, if Meghan posted a Hazing the Intern expense approval request in the feed, I could choose to chat with her directly about that request from that part of the interface.

“The most important thing was the context,” he said. “This is really tied into the core business.”

Chat features can also be built into other third-party apps that use Salesforce.

We asked whether end users, or “employees” as they’re known in the enterprise, would be willing to give up their current IM clients, but Collins said they don’t actually have to give anything up because they don’t have to actively adopt anything new.

“Everyone’s going to instantly have it,” he said. “They don’t have to download anything. It’s a ubiquitous, easy-to-use product. … People may have IM clients that they’re still using; for many customers, they’ll co-exist.”

And for leadership and management, Chatter IM solves the who’s-on-which-client problem. “Some of our customers are really anxious to move to this because they have some empoyees on one client and other employees on a second client,” said Collins. “They don’t have 100 percent coverage.”

Collins said the Chatter team is also spending a lot of time around archiving, discovery, and compliance. Prepare for Chatter IM compliance to launch right around Dreamforce.

As for screensharing, we’re sad to say that feature is coming as a limited pilot only starting in Q3 2012, and Collins couldn’t give us a general roll-out date. “We don’t have a target date; it’s really going to depend on the pilot,” he said. “We want to test it, get feedback, and continue to make it an amazing product.”

So far, much like the Chatter IM app, it’s comparable to other professional and consumer apps in its class, with an added focus on context. Screensharing is as simple as a drag-and-drop action inside Chatter IM.

Salesforce was founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. Currently, we’re told Chatter alone has 150,000 companies as clients.

Image courtesy of Andresr, Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, enterprise

Wait, really? Windows Live Messenger blocks all links to The Pirate Bay (Update)

This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat

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Update: Microsoft confirmed that The Pirate Bay links were being blocked. We’ve added the company’s official statement at the bottom of the post.

Microsoft has apparently started blocking all links from torrent search site The Pirate Bay from being sent through its instant messaging service Windows Live Messenger, according to TorrentFreak.

As many people know, The Pirate Bay is the most popular destination for people who’d like to share media files — many of them illegally. And while many ISPs around the world have started explicitly preventing people from accessing the site, its unclear if Microsoft is doing the same.

When someone sends a link from The Pirate Bay through the native MSN Live Messenger app, a message appears that reads: “The link you tried to send was blocked because it was reported as unsafe.” The same is also true of third-party messenger services like Pigdin, according to the TorrentFreak report. While some torrent flies can indeed infect a person’s computer with malicious viruses, it’s highly unlikely that users would have reported The Pirate Bay as “unsafe”. That said, I don’t think Microsoft would blatantly censor particular websites on one service without doing the same on others (Bing, Hotmail, etc.).

It’s been well over five years since I’ve tried to communicate with anyone through Live Messenger.  However, if I was an active Live Messenger user, seeing messages like this pop up would make me stop dead in my tracks.

We’re reaching out to Microsoft for comment about the behavior and will update the post with any new information.

Update 3/26/2012 (12:30pm PST): Microsoft responded to VentureBeat with the statement pasted below. Essentially, the company confirmed that the links were being blocked, and attributed it to people actually reporting URLs from The Pirate Bay as malicious.

Via Microsoft spokesperson:

Windows Live Messenger is set up to help ensure customers receive IMs only from people whose IMs are welcome and has long had the capability to block certain content from being transmitted in an effort to protect our customers. Before anyone can send customers an IM, those customers must first agree to add the sender to their Contact list; this helps protect customers from unwanted IMs from strangers and from annoyances such as spam and spim (spam via IM).

In addition, we use SmartScreen technology to protect our customers from malicious and unwanted content including phishing, malware and spam. We block instant messages if they contain malicious or spam URLs based on intelligence algorithms, third-party sources, and/or user complaints. Pirate Bay URLs were flagged by one or more of these and were consequently blocked.

Pirate photo via Noam Armonn/ShutterStock

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

CenterIM is a Linux Command Line Chat Program [Linux Downloads]

This post is by David Galloway from Lifehacker

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Linux: Many Linux users love to accomplish as much as they can utilizing only the command line structure in Terminal. CenterIM lets you chat with your friends on GTalk, Jabber, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Chat, or AIM. Aside from the novelty, it is extremely resource-light and makes it easy to chat via SSH. More »

AOL’s internal AIM video chat service gets leaked by TechCrunch

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This morning, AOL executive Jason Shellen sent a company-wide e-mail urging employees to test AV by AIM, a new web-based video chat service for the company’s instant messaging client.

TechCrunch, a subsidiary of the company, was not included as an original recipient. But that didn’t stop the publication from obtaining and publishing a copy of the e-mail, announcing what was previously meant to be tested only internally by its parent company.

The service, which originates from its AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) division, offers a unique twist on web-based video chat: Instead of chatting to strangers as with Chatroullete, or setting up accounts as with Skype or Google Talk, users simply start a video-chat and share the link with potential participants. As they visit the link, participants are automatically added to the video chat.

Having tested the service, it seems to offer a neat and simple solution to what can be a frustrating experience — setting up a group video chat. While Apple’s FaceTime also looks to avoid similar complexities of maintaining an account and adding recipients, its limitations to Apple-based products and tie-ups to the iPhone’s contact list can be daunting. AV’s approach is simpler in execution and more accessible to general computer users who might not be carrying Apple products or phones and tablets in general.

In the e-mail, Shellen, who is AOL’s head of AIM products, stated that AV is “the first of several substantial new AIM launches and the first to represent our shift in focus to better web software.”

From the company whose instant messenger is still one of the most widely used but hasn’t changed in many years, it’s a worthy step forward. And to its subsidiary, and our competitor TechCrunch, we extend a hat-tip and a fist-bump.

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Official AIM App Also Brings Facebook Chat to Android [Downloads]

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Android: Got an Android phone? Got contacts on AOL Instant Messenger, or chatty friends on Facebook? AIM now has an official chat client in the Android Market, one that can run in the background and connect to Facebook and Twitter too.

There’s not all that much more to say about AIM for Android—it asks for your login credentials, and if you head into the settings, you can feed it your Facebook login as well, and it will send and accept chats across both fronts. If you want, AIM can hit you with your friends’ status updates, update your own at the same time as your AIM status message, and even post to Twitter, too—though there are certainly better dedicated clients for that purpose.

It’s likely the most guaranteed means of keeping a connection across AIM’s servers, and since AIM can run silently and ping you on new messages, it makes good sense as an Android app.

AIM for Android is a free download for Android phones only. AIM’s product page hasn’t updated to announce it yet, but should soon.