Swatch launches Swatch X You, a custom design system for true watchanistas


Swatch, the fashion watch for the masses, has created Swatch X You, a clever online watch “factory” that lets you pick a face, band, and extra doodads to truly customize your $65 to $85 watch. The service, available now, offers watches in two sizes 34mm and 41mm.

I’ve asked the Swatch group for comment – I basically want to know who is buying Swatches these days besides bored people in airports – but until I hear back we can take a closer look a the project.

Basically you can choose from among five very basic watch bodies in various colors. You can mix and match the straps and various accessories including little jewels that attach to the band and even modify the strap holders to reflect special occasions or personal preferences. The prices start at about $65 and can go up past $100 with the right accessories.

Swatch partnered with Emersya to create the experience which then lets you rotate the watch in three dimensions to see the majesty of your creation. Swatch then builds and ships the watch.

This sort of service is unique for Swatch. Long dedicated to “designer” pieces that can (and do) rise in value this choice to go completely custom is long overdue and very important. Sites like Blancier have long offered custom watches at fairly acceptable prices and that Swatch is just getting into this market exhibits a need to expand outside of the traditional Swatch customer and into the occasion buyer – parents buying custom watches for new grads or birthday kids – and those who think of watches as solely fashion accessories. Either way it’s a clever and important move by a company with a lot to lose.

Phhhoto shutters app and pivots to photobooths, blaming Instagram


Animated GIF capture tool and social network Phhhoto is shutting down its app due to server costs becoming unsustainable after getting slammed with competition by Instagram’s copycat Boomerang. Phhhoto will pivot to focus on its parent company HYPNO’s original business — physical photobooths for events.

Phhhoto launched in July 2014, making it easy to hold down its shutter button and capture a sequence of photos that get turned into a back-and-forth looping GIF that could be shared to the app’s feed. But in April 2015, Instagram cut off Phhhoto from its social graph, then launched a clone called Boomerang in October that went on to be integrated into the popular Instagram Stories feature.

“We watched Systrom and his product team quietly using PHHHOTO almost a year before Boomerang was released. So it wasn’t a surprise at all,” co-founder Champ Bennett tells TechCrunch about being copied by Instagram. “They even secretly tried to hire RON – our spiritual leader. You have to give massive respect to anyone at their scale, but I’m not sure Instagram has a creative bone in their entire body. That’s a weakness we tried to exploit.”

Phhhoto peaked at 10 million registered users, 4 million monthly actives and 1.6 million daily actives who created 400 million images in its GIF camera. It had raised $1.73 million in total, including a $1.5 million seed round in 2015 led by Eniac Ventures. With the app shut down, Phhhoto’s team will concentrate on expanding its physical photobooth business, which installs booths at 70 events per month.

Some of the Phhhoto app’s features, including the ability to post, will turn off over the next few days, though users can keep the app for shooting GIFs and saving them to post elsewhere. Inside the News section of the app, users will find a Save button so they can download their past posts.

The end of Phhhoto shows just how valuable owning the social graph is for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Even if another startup comes up with an innovative feature, Facebook’s apps have your friends and their attention. It’s easier for Facebook to copy a startup’s feature than it is for Facebook’s users to switch to that app. It’s all a grim tale that should put a shiver down Snapchat’s spine.

Here’s the entirety of Phhhoto’s statement to TechCrunch about getting copied and beaten by Instagram, and a screenshot of the message the team left for its users:

tfw when u get copied by Instagram…

“We stepped on their turf – they reacted. That’s the game!

We watched Systrom and his product team quietly using PHHHOTO almost a year before Boomerang was released. So it wasn’t a surprise at all. They even secretly tried to hire RON – our spiritual leader. You have to give massive respect to anyone at their scale, but I’m not sure Instagram has a creative bone in their entire body. That’s a weakness we tried to exploit.
Over time we added stuff like moving filters, sound, partiesscreenshhhots, and crazy shit like video profiles that play your favorite music while you’re browsing around the app. It’ll be sad to see that stuff go.

In the end, we brought our best game and tried to build things no one had seen before. A lot of people liked it, and we made a few million friends a long the way. 100% would do it all over again for the same result.

As one of our investors said…we’ll get the next one.”

You can now look for jobs right inside Google search

Your job search just got a whole lot easier.

Searching for a job normally involves hours of research, visiting dozens of job search engines and making countless accounts for each one. Google wants to change that. Google for Jobs is now live in the U.S., the company announced on Tuesday.

Searching for queries like “jobs near me” or “retail jobs” will show you interactive job posts results curated from all around the web. The results will also include location and driving information powered by Google Maps.

Image: google

Many of the jobs will also show reviews and ratings from “trusted sites.” You can also set up job search alerts, similar to Google alerts, to track your job hunt. Google is working with places like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook, and others to make the job listings as comprehensive as possible.  

The Google for Jobs initiative also includes the Cloud Jobs API, which helps identify the right candidates and surface the relevant job postings. While the service is new, Google’s job search has a huge advantage — personalization. 

In addition to dedicated professional websites like LinkedIn, other companies are entering the professional space as well. Google is not the first big company to enter the space — earlier this year, Facebook launched its own jobs platform to help users find and even interview for jobs all in a single portal.  

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Even Google has a virtual fidget spinner now

Even Google has a virtual fidget spinner now – The Verge

TL;DR

Search ‘spinner’ for a whole new way to waste time

Tumblr rolls out new content filtering tools with launch of ‘Safe Mode’


Tumblr this morning is rolling out a significant update to its content filtering system with the launch of a new “Safe Mode” for browsing content on its site. While the company already offered the ability to filter explicit content from its search results, Safe Mode goes a step further to also hide sensitive content in your Tumblr Dashboard.

The Dashboard is Tumblr’s feed of the blogs you follow on its service, and one of the primary ways that users interact with the site.

With Safe Mode enabled, Tumblr will now add a screen over any content it deems as sensitive in nature, in addition to filtering out that same content from search results. Effectively, it’s the combination of a Dashboard filter and Tumblr’s existing Safe Search, which the company introduced back in March 2013.

To be clear, by “sensitive,” Tumblr doesn’t just mean NSFW content – something which the site has a lot of, according to web analytics service SimilarWeb. The measurement firm estimates that adult content drives 20.53 percent of clicks to Tumblr’s desktop site, compared with the next largest referring category, books and literature, which drives just 7.61 percent of clicks.

In the case of Safe Mode, sensitive content has a broader definition. It’s anything that may not be suitable for some members of the Tumblr community, the company broadly explains. For example, nudity – even artistic nudity, or nudity in an educational or photojournalistic context, may be considered sensitive.

If content is incorrectly flagged as sensitive – a process which involves both moderators and automation – the content’s poster can click a button to request a direct review.

As far as the user experience goes, when you encounter a sensitive post with Safe Mode enabled, a new overlay will appear that reads: “This post may contain sensitive media. Safe mode is on.” Users over 18 can click through to see the content if they choose. (Tumblr says it determines user age at the time of registration, which means – like any social network – users can lie to skirt around this sort of restriction).

It’s worth clarifying that Tumblr is not censoring sensitive content. Safe Mode is an opt-in setting, and the content isn’t even being removed from your Dashboard – just screened so you can control if or when it’s revealed. This will make Tumblr easier to browse when you’re in public place, or, more simply, just give you control over the content you’re shown.

Alongside the launch, Tumblr says it’s also introducing new Community Guidelines that define how the Explicit and Sensitive designations differ. Explicit is used at the blog level, to flag sites that post sexually explicit material, for the most part. Site owners can mark their own Tumblrs as explicit, but Tumblr’s moderation team will also do the same for those that haven’t been labeled. Meanwhile, Sensitive Content is meant to apply to individual posts.

In addition, Tumblr says it will begin to hide explicit blogs from search results on the web, for any logged-out users or those under 18 – a move that could impact its web traffic and visitor count.

Tumblr, which like TechCrunch is now owned by Verizon following its Yahoo acquisition, is not the only social service that hides sensitive content. However, not all others offer the setting as an opt-in option. Twitter, for example, automatically labels content as sensitive if it’s something users may not want to see, like violence or nudity. Instagram recently began blurring sensitive content as well. However, its parent company Facebook is more permissive – perhaps to a fault – favoring the side of free speech first and foremost, over user protections.

Tumblr’s new Safe Mode is available on both web and mobile, starting today.

From the web, you’ll head to the settings, then scroll to Filtering to click Safe Mode on. On Android, Filtering is under the General Settings. And on iOS, you’ll scroll to Tumblr from the main Settings app on your device. This is the same place where a new Safe Search switch was previously spotted, and an area that iOS itself needs to now include in parental controls, it seems.

Tumblr also notes that the filtered search option can still be used separately, if desired.

Watchmaker Robert Forsey talks about the smartwatch problem


Watchmaker Robert Forsey, co-founder of Gruebel Forsey, isn’t worried. This plain-spoken creator of some of the most complex and beautiful watches in the world sees the Swiss Watch industry to be in turmoil but not in peril. “They made too many watches,” he said simply. And now they can’t sell them.

When asked about the rise of the smartwatch, Forsey laughs. His company creates wildly unique timepieces which he calls “smart mechanicals.” His watches include tiny representations of the spinning earth and other unique complications that you won’t find on an Apple Watch. In short, there is a place for cheap plastic and a place for mastery. Forsey prefers to remain in the latter camp.

I talked to Forsey about the perceived doldrums in the industry and he was unconcerned. After all, people will always pay lots of money for beautiful things. Take a listen below.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

This homemade thrill ride’s speed depends on how scared you are

When Daniel de Bruin was still a student, he designed the ‘Neurotransmitter 3000,’ a custom thrill ride controlled by fear. His friends, Bas Bakx and Pim Keunen, helped him develop sensors that gather the biometric data that instructs the swing on fast it should go.

With the financial backing from STRP Festival in the Netherlands, de Bruin completed the Neurotransmitter 3000. He hopes to implement his creation in actual theme parks.

Here’s how to watch OnePlus 5 unveiling live

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There’s been an awakening. Can you feel it? I’m not talking about a new Star Wars trailer, but the OnePlus 5.

The OnePlus 5 is one of the most anticipated phones of the year. The startup’s expected to blow the roof off this year and go all the way with its latest flagship. 

But will the phone live up to all the hype and compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Google’s Pixel and the iPhone 7? You’ll have to watch the livestream to find out.

Fans, haters, or just curious cats can watch the livestream on OnePlus’s website or YouTube (embedded below) starting at 12:00 p.m. ET.

[embedded content]

Alternatively, you the event will also be streamed on Facebook:

Since OnePlus launched the OnePlus One in 2014, the company’s been on a rocket ship into the stratosphere. 

It followed the One with the OnePlus 2, OnePlus X, OnePlus 3, and then the OnePlus 3T. And now, the OnePlus 5 is expected to go above and beyond. 

While the company’s teased a design that looks kinda like the iPhone 7 Plus, the processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 835), and dual cameras, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Will it have a headphone jack? Will the screen finally get an upgrade? What about about battery life?

All will be revealed during the stream, so sit back, get comfy, grab some popcorn, and get ready. Because things are about to get lit (hopefully).

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Skype outage causing connectivity issues, company says it’s a “global incident”


Microsoft’s recently updated communications app Skype has been suffering connectivity issues which began on Monday, June 19th, and are continuing today. After hours of downtime on Monday, the company confirmed the issue via a blog post and tweet, which stated that an incident was causing users to either lose connectivity to the application or lose their ability to send and receive messages.

Some users were also unable to see a black bar indicating an ongoing group call, while others may have had delays in adding users to their buddy list, Microsoft’s post said.

The Skype Support Twitter account has this morning referred to the outage as a “global incident.”

These problems could be related to some sort of system glitch or bug, but they could also be caused by an attack on Skype’s network. It’s unclear for now which is to blame. Microsoft has not yet detailed the causes, nor any information about how those problems are being addressed.

We’re trying to get more information now from Microsoft, and will update as it arrives.

Filling the informational void, some sites, including Panda Security and CNET, are reporting a DDoS attack may be the cause. They are citing a tweet from a group of cybercriminals who go by the name “CyberTeam,” whose Twitter claims to have caused the crash. The team also promised to take down video game site Steam next.

But as Microsoft has not yet pointed the finger at any group, nor has it even referred to the incident as an “attack,” this sort of claim needs to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt for the time being.

In addition, Ryan Olson, threat intelligence director of the Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 threat research team, notes there’s no firm evidence at present that this is the result of any particular attack.

“Since Mirai, people have understandably been concerned once more about DDoS attacks that could be carried out by IoT devices. Currently there’s no evidence of that at work here,” he adds.

https://twitter.com/CyberTeam/status/876926485428305920

The incident, details of which have been circulating on Twitter under the #skypedown hashtag, appears to have largely affected users in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, according to outage maps on DownDetector’s website.

We also understand from people close to the situation at Microsoft that Europe is the primary region affected. But Microsoft has not 100 percent confirmed this, which is why it has not yet been announced.

However, users on the DownDetector site posting from the affected regions on Tuesday morning were still reporting a mix of “it’s back” and “still down” comments. Plus, given Skype’s own tweet referencing the global nature of the incident, it appears that users outside the highlighted regions may also have been affected. But again, details are still sparse on that for now.

It also appears that Microsoft had believed the issue to be fixed earlier on June 19th, according to one tweet, which claimed the issue was resolved. Following that update, the company’s support account then continued to say that the issue is ongoing to incoming complaints from users on Tuesday.

Microsoft tells TechCrunch it’s looking into what it can share with us about the incident, and we’ll update accordingly.

Update, 6/20/17, 11 AM ET: Microsoft has updated its post to say that it’s seeing improvements, but some users may still be experiencing issues.

Update, 6/20/2017, 4 PM ET: Microsoft has now updated the post to say it has made some configuration corrections and mitigated the impact. “We are continuing to monitor and we will post an update when the issue is fully resolved,” the company noted.

But users are continuing to report after 5 PM ET on Tuesday that they’re still having issues. In some cases, Microsoft advised them to uninstall and reinstall Skype.