All posts in “Mobile”

HQ Trivia hits Apple TV as downloads slow

HQ Trivia’s app store ranking has continued to sink the past three months, but it’s hoping a new version on your television could revitalize growth. HQ today launched an Apple TV app that lets users play the twice-daily live quiz game alongside iOS Android players. But that might not be enough to get HQ’s player count rapidly growing again.

According to App Annie’s app store ranking history, on iOS HQ has fallen from the #1 US Trivia game to #10, from the #44 game to #196, and from the #151 overall app to #585. It’s exhibited a similar decline on Android. The question is whether this is just a summer lull as people spend time outside and students aren’t locked in the schedule of school, or if HQ is in a downward spiral beyond seasonal fluctuations.

Meanwhile, new clones keep popping up. After the initial wave of Chinese live trivia apps, now US television studios are getting into the mix. This week Fox unveiled ‘FN Genius’ which looks and works almost exactly that same as HQ. There are also new 1-on-1 trivia games like ProveIt that let players bet real money on whether they can outsmart their opponent.

Fox’s FN Genius. Image via Deadline

With themed games, celebrity hosts, big jackpots, and new features like the ability to see friends’ answers, HQ has tried to keep its app novel. But it’s also encountered cheaters and people playing with multiple phones that make normal players feel like they’ll never win. While the live aspect adds urgency, it can also feel interruptive with time as users aren’t always available for its noon and 6pm pacific games. HQ may need to come up with some new viral hooks or ways to revive lapsed players if it’s going to make good on the $15 million its parent company raised in March.

MoviePass says those cancellation bugs have been fixed

MoviePass is about to roll out its new subscription plan, which will keep prices at $9.95 while imposing a new limit of three movies per month. But it seems that the transition hasn’t been going entirely smoothly.

The Verge reports that several users have complained about previously canceling their plans, only to receive emails from the service suggesting that they were still subscribed.

We reached out to a MoviePass spokesperson, who confirmed that there were “bugs” in the cancellation process, but said they’ve since been fixed:

On Monday, August 13th, we learned that some members encountered difficulty with the cancellation process. We have fixed the bugs that were causing the issue and we have confirmed that none of our members have been opted-in or converted to the new plan without their express permission. In addition, all cancellation requests are being correctly processed and no members were being blocked from canceling their accounts. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask that any impacted members contact customer support via the MoviePass app.

The company also said that all members are being given the option to either opt in to the new plan or cancel their memberships. If someone doesn’t respond by the end of their billing cycle, their subscription will be automatically canceled.

The new plan is part of a broader effort at MoviePass to try to get the company to profitability. In addition to capping monthly tickets, the company is also keeping big releases off the service for the first couple weeks — and apparently, forcing subscribers to choose between only two movies at a given time.

Tinder founders sue parent companies Match and IAC for at least $2B

A group of Tinder founders and executives has filed a lawsuit against parent company Match Group and its controlling shareholder IAC.

The plaintiffs in the suit include Tinder co-founders Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen — Badeen still works at Tinder, as do plaintiffs James Kim (the company’s vice president of finance) and Rosette Pambakian (its vice president of marketing and communications).

We’ve reached out to IAC for comment, as well as Pambakian, who’s served as our main contact at Tinder. We’ll update the post if we hear back.

The suit alleges that IAC and Match Group manipulated financial data in order to create “a fake lowball valuation” (to quote the plaintiffs’ press release), then stripped Rad, Mateen, Badeen and others of their stock options. It points to the removal of Rad as CEO, as well as other management changes, as moves designed “to allow Defendants to control the valuation of Tinder and deprive Tinder optionholders of their right to participate in the company’s future success.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Greg Blatt, the Match CEO who became CEO of Tinder as well, groped and sexually harassed Pambakian at the company’s 2016 holiday party, supposedly leading the company to “whitewash” his actions long enough for him to complete the valuation of Tinder and its merger with Match Group, then announce his departure.

In response, the plaintiffs are asking for “compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than $2,000,000,000.”

“We were always concerned about IAC’s reputation for ignoring their contractual commitments and acting like the rules don’t apply to them,” Rad said in the release. “But we never imagined the lengths they would go to cheat all the people who built Tinder. The Tinder team — especially the plaintiffs who are currently senior leaders at the company — have shown tremendous strength in exposing IAC/Match’s systematic violation of employees’ rights.”

As-filed complaint.pdf by TechCrunch on Scribd

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive comsumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterwards.

That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acquihired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The 6-year old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics, and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014 plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.

For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC, and others will continue to be able to continue to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London, and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a seller of enterprise video services. Whether it turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen.

[embedded content]

We’ve had a lot of false starts along the way . . . We finally landed on helping create high quality broadcasts back on social media, but we still haven’t realized the full vision yet. That’s why we’re joining Facebook” the Vidpresso team writes. “This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate our vision and offer a simple way for creators, publishers, and broadcasters to use social media in live video at a high quality level . . . By joining Facebook, we’ll be able to offer our tools to a much broader audience than just our A-list publishing partners. Eventually, it’ll allow us to put these tools in the hands of creators, so they can focus on their content, and have it look great, without spending lots of time or money to do so.”

Facebook already has some interactive video experiments out in the wild. It recently rolled out its Watch Party tool for letting Groups view and chat about videos together. It’s also trying new games like Lip Sync Live and a Talent Show feature where users submit videos of them singing. Facebook Live has also built tools to help publishers pull in social media content, let streamers earn tips, and for fans to subscribe to donating money to their favorite video makers like on Patreon.

But the last line of Vidpresso’s announcement above explains Facebook’s intentions here, and also why it didn’t just try to build the tools itself. It doesn’t just want established news publishers and TV studios making video for its platform. It wants semi-pro creators to be able to broadcast snazzy videos with graphics, comments, and polls that can aesthetically compete with ‘big content’ but that feel more natural.

Airbnb shows off new collaboration features that let co-travelers plan trips together

In recent years, Airbnb has been working to expand its business beyond accommodations, by becoming a more robust travel companion with features like guidebooks, suggested experiences, and full-service hospitality for high-end travelers with its still invite-only Airbnb Beyond, for example. Now the company is preparing even more trip-planning features, including support for adding co-travelers to trips and other collaboration features for group travel.

Airbnb offered a sneak peek at these otherwise unannounced features at a recent tech talk given at company headquarters.

“Trip planning is not necessarily complete unless you can share your trip with someone. So now we’re building features that let you add co-travelers – so you can add and share ideas, so you can add comments, so you can collaborate,” said Laura Xu, an Android engineer on Airbnb’s Trip platform, during the presentation. “You can really build out your trip.”

From the screenshots displayed, the co-travelers feature will allow Airbnb users to send invites to people who are joining the trip. This allows everyone to save ideas to a master list, including homes that match their criteria, experiences, food and drink, sights and more. Each item will indicate who added it to the trip. There’s also a way for others to comment on the items, which allows for group conversations about the place or activity.

The company didn’t say how soon the features were arriving.

The focus of this portion of the presentation was to give a look at how a company of Airbnb’s size and scale can change its platform and codebase to support more than just home listings. Over the past couple of years, the company has added support for things like restaurants, concerts, coworking spaces, luxury rentals, and even high-end vacations like castle rentals and even private islands, Xu said.

Now the company is creating a mobile platform that can support its change in focus, as well.

Also offered was a deeper look at of the newer features on mobile, where travelers can add anything to their trip itinerary – like places they want to visit. The feature is integrated with Google Places to pull in photos, directions, open hours, and other details.

Meanwhile, the ‘Organize’ experience under Trips in the Airbnb app is being updated to become a way to plan the entire trip. The company showed off a new trip planner – which hasn’t yet launched – which will include a day-by-day view to see when everything is booked, an embeddable map that shows where everything is booked, and a suggestions feature, so you’re never short on ideas of what to do while in town.

In addition, Airbnb presented a new concept called Trip Platform, which was described as something that powers the end-to-end trip experience on Airbnb, and enables the launch of new tools. It includes easy-to-reuse UI (user interface) components that will make it easier to create and add new features, while maintaining a consistent look and feel across the app.

The tech talk, overall, was focused on what goes into building Airbnb’s iOS and Android apps – something that’s important to the company because over 50% of its incoming traffic is now mobile, and because travelers aren’t generally using a desktop or laptop computer.

Airbnb also hinted towards its longer-term, mobile-first vision – one that has expanded beyond “where I am going to stay” to now include “what am I going to do?” but hasn’t yet addressed the question, “where am I going to go?” It could help with that latter query by introducing more discovery features, but these plans weren’t discussed during the talk.

We’ve reached out to Airbnb to get more information on these additions, but the company has not offered an official response.

Airbnb Tech Talk: Native Product Development

Are you curious about what goes into building Airbnb’s iOS and Android apps? Join us to hear Airbnb native engineers cover in-house technologies that facilitate product development, along with learnings from large-scale product launches. RSVP to attend in person: https://airbnbmobile.splashthat.com/

Posted by Airbnb Engineering on Tuesday, August 7, 2018