Blog Archives

Hello Ello, Goodbye Facebook: Social media network without ads woos US users

Screenshot of Ello

Can social networks products function without advertising? So far, the most successful example of a social media product that didn’t rely on any advertising is WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for $19 billion.

While WhatsApp hasn’t been flooded with ads for now and it looks unlikely in the future, a new social media website called Ello, which has been created by California-based artist and designer Paul Budnitz, is premised on the no advertisers policy. Ello is invite-only for now and according to this post on TheDailyDot is also attracting several members of the LGBT community.

The website’s homepage says the idea is to not treat the user as a product and to keep user data and privacy safe. The page reads,  Read More

Malicious ‘Master Key’ Android Apps Appear Online

Cyber crooks are actively taking advantage of a serious flaw affecting most Android users, which allows attackers to add malicious code to a legitimate app without altering the app’s cryptographic signature, a security company warned today.

Whilst purported exploit code had been released online, no truly malicious apps had been found taking advantage of the “master key” vulnerability until now.

Android master key

Google, Android © Lyao Shutterstock 2012

Details on the flaw are due to be expanded on by startup BlueBox at BlackHat later this month, but one clear way to exploit the flaw is to somehow tamper with an app by adding an extra file into an Android application package (APK).

To exploit the flaw, attackers add two files of the same name to an APK subdirectory called META-INF, which contains signed checksums for all the other files in the package.

But Android only validates the most recently-added file where two files have the same name. Yet it installs the second one, as Sophos explained in a blog post. That’s how hackers can sneak in infected files (a similar exploit was uncovered in China recently).

And it appears that is what hackers have now done in their attempts to steal user data.

The so-called “Skullkey” apps, two of which were uncovered by Symantec, look like legitimate applications distributed on Android marketplaces in China to help users make doctor appointments.

“An attacker has taken both of these applications and added code to allow them to remotely control devices, steal sensitive data such as IMEI and phone numbers, send premium SMS messages, and disable a few Chinese mobile security software applications by using root commands, if available,” Symantec said in a blog post.

“We expected the vulnerability to be leveraged quickly due to ease of exploitation, and it has.

“We expect attackers to continue to leverage this vulnerability to infect unsuspecting user devices.”

A program from Duo Security and the System Security Lab at Northeastern University claims to patch the master key flaw.

Read More

Will Instagram video weed out Vine?

Facebook has unveiled its new video feature for Instagram, five months after Twitter launched a very similar video app called Vine. Can the rival services co-exist?

“They can,” according to analyst Greg Sterling, because Instagram video and Vine serve different audiences, he argued.

The new Instagram feature lets users record videos three to 15 seconds long and apply one of 13 new filters. They can also edit their videos by deleting clips as they record them. And on iOS, the app has a “Cinema” mode to reduce shakiness and produce more professional-looking video.

Vine is a more stripped-down service that records three- to six-second videos, with no filters, editing or image stabilization. Once a video is recorded, users can either save it, upload it or start from scratch.

Vine lets users easily share their videos on its dedicated social network, as well as on Twitter and Facebook; Instagram offers built-in sharing support for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and also Tumblr and Foursquare.

“Vine is like fast food, while Instagram video is more like eating in a nicer restaurant,” said Ovum analyst Jan Dawson.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he said. “Sometimes you just need to grab a burger and get out the door,” he said. “For Vine, it’s like, ‘share and forget.’”

Others said Instagram and Vine don’t serve different audiences as much as they represent two different social networks and their efforts to retain and engage users.

“Vine isn’t necessarily Twitter, and Instagram isn’t necessarily Facebook, but that doesn’t mean these apps aren’t part of the bigger collective [sites],” said Brian Blau, an industry analyst with Gartner.

Social media networks realize that features around photography and video are things they need to have, Blau said.

“Part of what’s going on here is who these companies are and the reach they have, and I think that could really make a difference in terms of the popularity of these features,” he added.

“There’s a lot of room for both Vine and Instagram video, at least in the short term,” said Zachary Reiss-Davis, an analyst with Forrester Research.

“This might be a case where the site that creates the best content wins, and the major social platform providers are all of a sudden becoming content providers,” he said.

So will Instagram video, with all its bling, better enable the creation of that content than Vine?  Read More


Video app Vine launches for Android

vine android

Twitter’s video sharing service Vine has made the leap to Android.

The app, available for Apple iOS devices since January, allows users to shoot and share short, looping clips that last as long as six seconds. So far, 13 million people have registered to use Vine.

Most of the features for the Android version are similar to what’s available on iOS, adding the new option to zoom on videos. Extra features such as front-facing camera support, search and Facebook sharing are coming soon.

The app works on devices running Android 4.0 operating software.  See Video

Dennis Crowley On Reinventing Foursquare: De-Emphasizing Check-ins, Digging Into Data, Moving Toward Revenue

It has been a big day for Foursquare: The New York-based company finally unveiled the newest version of its popular location-based mobile app, Foursquare 5.0 — the iOS version of the applaunched at midnight Eastern Time, and the Android version was pushed out several hours later. It’s a big overhaul for the now three-year-old Foursquare: The app was totally rebuilt from the top to bottom in a way that makes it both more simple and more fully-featured. Foursquare 5.0 is the company’s biggest and boldest step yet toward becoming a complete recommendation engine andstandalone social network, a bid to move well beyond its reputation as a fun “check-in” app.

So TechCrunch TV was very happy to have the opportunity to snag the first post-launch interview with Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley to get the full scoop on how Foursquare 5.0 has been received by users so far and what’s up next for the company. You can watch my conversation with Crowley in its entirety in the video embedded above, and below you can read some of his key insights:

Taking The Spotlight Off The Check-In

It’s not your imagination: The new version of the Foursquare app has indeed been designed to place less focus on the “check-in” function that in many ways Foursquare has pioneered. Crowley said that in doing so, Foursquare is really just following the behavior of its users. He said:

“If anything we might have de-emphasized the check-in a little bit. Just because we’re starting to see that a lot of the people that are using the app are not even checking in. They use it for recommendations, to explore, they use it to look up tips for the restaurant they’re currently at, to see where their friends are. We’ve been seeing this in our data for the past couple months or so.

And hey, if people want to use the app and continue to interact with it without checking in, that’s fine. That’s why we’ve made some of the other parts of the app the centerpiece this time around.”

Read More

Selling You on Facebook

Many popular Facebook apps are obtaining sensitive information about users—and users’ friends—so don’t be surprised if details about your religious, political and even sexual preferences start popping up in unexpected places.

Not so long ago, there was a familiar product called software. It was sold in stores, in shrink-wrapped boxes. When you bought it, all that you gave away was your credit card number or a stack of bills.

Apps on Facebook may be grabbing and sharing more personal information than many users realize. And even if people understand that they’re sharing personal data, they often can’t envision the ways it may be used in the future. WSJ’s Julia Angwin explains.

Now there are “apps”—stylish, discrete chunks of software that live online or in your smartphone. To “buy” an app, all you have to do is click a button. Sometimes they cost a few dollars, but many apps are free, at least in monetary terms. You often pay in another way. Apps are gateways, and when you buy an app, there is a strong chance that you are supplying its developers with one of the most coveted commodities in today’s economy: personal data.

Some of the most widely used apps on Facebook—the games, quizzes and sharing services that define the social-networking site and give it such appeal—are gathering volumes of personal information.

A Wall Street Journal examination of 100 of the most popular Facebook apps found that some seek the email addresses, current location and sexual preference, among other details, not only of app users but also of their Facebook friends. One Yahoo service powered by Facebook requests access to a person’s religious and political leanings as a condition for using it. The popular Skype service for making online phone calls seeks the Facebook photos and birthdays of its users and their friends.  Read More

Nokia Phi Pops Up On WMBench with Windows Phone 8 at the Helm

Nokia Phi Pops Up On WMBench with Windows Phone 8(Photo: WMPoweruser)

Nokia is the leading manufacture for Windows Phone, and the Finnish giant has only been selling devices only since November of 2011, that’s a full six months ago. The Lumia 800 was the first of many Windows Phone 7.5 devices. However, the company is not slowing down, and it now appears a Windows Phone 8-based Nokia is already in the works.

The device that is simply called the Nokia Phi according to WP Bench, a tool that allows users to benchmark their Windows Phone. The device showed up on the tool with Windows Phone 8 as the OS of choice, which leaves us wondering if we will see this device at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Summit next month. It would make sense for Microsoft to use a Nokia branded Windows Phone 8 handset as its test device at the summit since both companies are tied in bed together.  Read More

Google+ for Android adds beautiful layout, easier-to-start hangouts

Google+ for Android adds beautiful layout, easier-to-start hangouts

Google has updated its Google+ app for Android with beautiful new flourishes and the ability to start a video chat Hangout on the go, the company announced today.

The app update makes a lot of sense in light of Google+’s new photo-centric iPhone app and the service’s focus on wanting to be the next Flickr. Google clearly knows it can’t win directly competing against Facebook on status updates so it will try to get people to use Google+ for other things, namely video chat Hangouts and photo-sharing.

My favorite feature of the bunch is Hangouts and that feature has been nicely updated today by letting you start hangouts directly from your phone. Before, you could attend Hangouts in progress but could not create new ones from your phone. To try it out, tap “Hangout” in the navigation ribbon, add a few folks, and tap “Start.”

As for the layout, there is now full-screen media in your river, conversations that fade in, and the ability to +1 content instantly.  Read More

New camera app for iPhone gives only a snapshot of Facebook

Facebook, on the heels of buying Instagram, launched a new camera app for iPhone on Thursday to “share photos in a snap.”

When you open the app, it recognizes you if you’re already logged in to the Facebook app and asks you if you want to continue under that login. And it asks for your permission to stalk you and geolocate your photos.

Facebook Camera

Facebook launched its fourth iOS app Thursday, called Facebook Camera. (Facebook / May 24, 2012)

By Michelle Maltais

It’s very clear from the start that this app is about photos and photos only. Across the top of the home screen you get a camera at top left of a small preview of your phone’s album. Just below you see a feed of your friends’ photos, with the likes and comment tally overlaid.

The edges of horizontal photos extend past the white background of the feed, but you can tap and turn the image to get the full effect. For collections of photos, you see the edge of the next one extending past the white background and you just swipe your finger from right to left to scroll through the album.

The app doesn’t refresh the same way you drag the screen to refresh the main Facebook app. If you try to do it that way, you’ll just reveal your own camera album. The refresh button is under the camera icon. That actually drove me a little nuts. As a Facebook addict, my thumb automatically moves to swipe to refresh the screen.

The app allows you to shoot directly from it and do some minor editing including making slight adjustments to the photo’s orientation. As with every single photo app coming out these days, yes, you’ve got filters — over a dozen of them.

To publish, you tap to create a post and write your text description. You can add more photos, set or remove the location and select what pre-determined group you’ll allow to see your upload.

When it comes to adding more photos to a post, it’s not enough to just select the photo if you shoot it while in mid-post. After you’ve finished tweaking, you actually have to tap the grayed-out checkmark at the top right of the screen when the photo is full screen. Once it turns green, you’re good to go.    Read More

How to Stay at No. 1

Niklas Hed is co-founder of Rovio Mobile, the Finnish company behind the hit smartphone app Angry Birds. The game, released in December 2009, has been downloaded more than 200 million times.

In May of last year, Angry Birds finally became the best-selling app in the United States. Slash from Guns N’ Roses later tweeted, “Angry Birds is like a drug, only cheaper.” I listened to their music a lot as a kid, so I thought, If he says that, now I actually believe it.

I was very positive that the game was able to do what it did, but I was nervous and felt we needed to keep this going and not lose the pace. I’ve become paranoid in a way. How do we keep it fresh? What is the next move? How do we stay No. 1? Read More

%d bloggers like this: