All posts in “Social”

Fortnite maker Epic acquires social video app Houseparty

What does a gaming company do after raising $1.25 billion? Acquisitions seem like a pretty good place to start. Epic Games — of Unreal Engine and the ridiculously successful Fortnite phenomenon — has has just picked up Houseparty. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The social video app announced the news via blog post this morning. The deal seems like a natural fit for Epic. Social has been a an integral piece of Fortnite’s success as a multiplayer battle Royale title.

Founded in 2015, Houseparty is a social network that delivers video chat across a number of different platforms, including iOS, Android and macOS. Like Fortnite, the offering tends to skew younger. Specifically, the app caters toward teen users, providing a more private and safer space than other, broader platforms.

“Houseparty brings people together, creating positive social interactions in real time,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said in a Media post announcing the news. “By teaming up, we can build even more fun, shared experiences than what could be achieved alone.”

For Houseparty, the acquisition appears to mean the app will continue to operate relatively unchanged for the time being. In an FAQ, the company noted that the app largely staying the same as of today. Things like friendships and streaks will remain untouched by the company and Epic and Houseparty accounts will stay separate. How such integration looks going forward remains to be seen, of course.

“Joining Epic is a great step forward in achieving our mission of bringing empathy to online communication,” Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani said of the news. “We have a common vision to make human interaction easier and more enjoyable, and always with respect for user privacy.”

With some massive investments on its side, it seems more acquisitions are likely in the cards for the gaming company. In January it purchased Serbia-based computer design startup 3Latera.

WhatsApp is finally going after outside firms that are abusing its platform

WhatsApp has so far relied on past dealings with bad players within its platform to ramp up its efforts to curtail spam and other automated behavior. The Facebook -owned giant has now announced an additional step it plans to take beginning later this year to improve the health of its messaging service: going after those whose mischievous activities can’t be traced within its platform.

The messaging platform, used by more than 1.2 billion users, confirmed on Tuesday that starting December 7 it will start considering signals off its platform to pursue legal actions against those who are abusing its system. The company will also go after individuals who — or firms that — falsely claim to have found ways to cause havoc on the service.

The move comes as WhatsApp grapples with challenges such as spam behavior to push agendas or spread of false information on its messaging service in some markets. “This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date,” it said in an FAQ post on its site.

A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed the change to TechCrunch, adding, “WhatsApp was designed for private messaging, so we’ve taken action globally to prevent bulk messaging and enforce limits on how WhatsApp accounts that misuse WhatsApp can be used. We’ve also stepped up our ability to identify accp, which helps us ban 2 million accounts globally per month.”

Earlier this year, WhatsApp said (PDF) it had built a machine learning system to detect and weed out users who engage in inappropriate behavior such as sending bulk messages or creating multiple accounts with intention to harm the service. The platform said it was able to assess the past dealings with problematics behaviors to ban 20% of bad accounts at the time of registration itself.

But the platform is still grappling to contain abusive behavior, a Reuters report claimed last month. The news agency reported about tools that were readily being sold in India for under $15 that claimed to bypass some of the restrictions that WhatsApp introduced in recent months.

TechCrunch understands that with today’s changes, WhatsApp is going after those same set of bad players. It has already started to send cease and desist letters to marketing companies that claim to abuse WhatsApp in recent months, a person familiar with the matter said.

Dropbox relaunches as an enterprise collaboration workspace & portal

Dropbox is evolving from a file storage system to an enterprise software portal and collaboration workspace. Today it launches this new version of Dropbox that lets you launch apps with shortcuts for Slack and G Suite, search across all your files inside your other enterprise tools, and communicate and comment on your team’s work. The new Dropbox launches today for all of its 13 million business users across  400,000 teams.

The launch includes deep integrations with Slack so you can comment on files from within Dropbox, and Zoom so you can video chat without leaving the workspace. Web and enterprise app shortcuts relieve you from keeping all your other tools constantly open in other tabs. And Dropbox is launching a new desktop app for all users.

CEO Drew Houston described how people spend 60% of our office time on work about work like organization and communication instead of actually working — a marketing angle frequently used by task management startup Asana. He pointed out that it’s easier to find info from the public than our own company’s knowledge that’s scattered across our computers and the cloud. The “Finder” on our computers hasn’t evolved to embrace a post-download era. Now Dropbox wants to be both your file tree, your finder, and your desktop in the cloud.

Animal Crossing for Switch gets delayed

Fans had few expectations rolling into Nintendo’s E3 Direct that were more pronounced than hopes for more details on Animal Crossing for Switch.

We got some insight into the title’s storyline, but the bigs news is that the originally announced 2019 release timeframe is getting pushed back. Now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as it’s being called, will be released March 20, 2020.

“To ensure that this game is the best it can be, we must ask you to wait a little bit longer than we thought,” Nintendo executive Yoshiaki Koizumi said during the company’s presentation.

In terms of game details, it looks like you begin the game being flown to a deserted island courtesy of character Tom Nook’s “Nook Inc. Deserted Island Getaway Package.” From there, it seems that a lot of the gameplay should be pretty familiar, chatting with animals, getting them out of jams, customizing things, feeding Tom Nook’s perverted brand of capitalism etc. etc.

The gameplay seems to incorporate many of the evolutions the series has seen in the past few games, including Nintendo’s mobile title. You can craft furniture and really change the outdoor environments. It looks like there’s some significant updates to multiplayer as some of the footage multiple human characters onscreen, there still seems to be a good deal we don’t know.

The delay is disappointing news, especially after Nintendo’s announcement that Metroid Prime 4 had to restart development. It’s of course positive to keep the quality of titles high, but it seems Nintendo is having some issues keeping their core IP on track for the original estimated release dates.

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Here’s Mary Meeker’s 2019 internet trends report

The Internet Trends Report — everyone’s favorite slide deck — is back. Bond Capital founder and former Kleiner Perkins general partner Mary Meeker made her presentation on stage at Vox/Recode’s Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on Tuesday.

Meeker first crafted a report of this kind, which highlights the most important statistics and technology trends on the internet, in 1995.

This morning, Meeker highlighted slowed growth in ecommerce sales, increased internet ad spending, data growth, as well as the rise of freemium subscription business models, telemedicine, photo-sharing, interactive gaming, the on-demand economy and more.

“If it feels like we’re all drinking from a data firehose, it’s because we are,” Meeker told the audience.

The “Queen of the internet” made references to Slack, Stripe, Spotify, Dropbox, Discord, Twitch, Zoom, Stitch Fix, Instagram, and Bond portfolio company Canva as she reviewed her slides.

It’s been a busy past year for the former Morgan Stanley analyst, who since releasing the 2018 internet trends report last May, exited Kleiner Perkins and raised more than $1 billion for her debut growth fund, Bond.

We’ll be back later with a full analysis of this year’s report. For now, here’s a look at all 333 slides. You can view the full internet trends report archive here.

Mary Meeker raises $1.25B for Bond, her debut growth fund