Twitter said to have held acquisition talks with Clubhouse on potential $4B deal

Twitter held talks with Clubhouse around a potential acquisition of the live drop-in audio networking platform, with a deal value somewhere around $4 billion, according to a report from Bloomberg. TechCrunch has also confirmed the discussions took place from a source familiar with the conversations.

While the talks occurred over the past several months, they’re no longer taking place, though the reason they ended isn’t known according to the report. It’s also worth noting that just a few days ago, Bloomberg reported that Clubhouse was seeking to raise a new round of funding at a valuation of around $4 billion, but the report detailing the potential acquisition talks indicate that the discussions with Twitter collapsed first, leading to a change in strategy to pursue securing additional capital in exchange for equity investment.

Twitter has its own product very similar to Clubhouse — Spaces, a drop-in audio chatroom feature that it has been rolling out gradually to its user base over the past few months. Clubhouse, meanwhile, just launched the first of its monetization efforts, Clubhouse Payments, which lets users send direct payments to other creators on the platform, provided that person has enabled receipt of said payments.

Interestingly, the monetization effort from Clubhouse actually doesn’t provide them with any money; instead, it’s monetization for recipient users who get 100% of the funds directed their way, minus a small cut for processing that goes directly to Stripe, the payment provider Clubhouse is using to enable the virtual tips.

While we aren’t privy to the specifics of these talks between Twitter and Clubhouse, it does seem like an awfully high price tag for the social network to pay for the audio app, especially given its own progress with Spaces. Clubhouse’s early traction has been undeniable, but there are a lot of questions still remaining about its longevity, and it’s also being cloned left and right by other platforms, begging the age-old startup question of whether it’s a feature or a product on its own.

Whatever went down, the timing of this revelation seems likely to prime the pump for Clubhouse’s conversation with potential investors at its target valuation for the round it’s looking to raise. Regardless, it’s exciting to have this kind of activity, buzz and attention paid to a consumer software play after many years of what one could argue has been a relatively lacklustre period for the category.

#apps, #clubhouse, #computing, #freeware, #internet-culture, #ma, #mobile-applications, #monetization, #operating-systems, #social-media, #social-network, #software, #startups, #tc, #twitter, #valuation

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Google speeds up its release cycle for Chrome

Google today announced that its Chrome browser is moving to a faster release cycle by shipping a new milestone every four weeks instead of the current six-week cycle (with a bi-weekly security patch). That’s one way to hasten the singularity, I guess, but it’s worth noting that Mozilla also moved to a four-week cycle for Firefox last year.

“As we have improved our testing and release processes for Chrome, and deployed bi-weekly security updates to improve our patch gap, it became clear that we could shorten our release cycle and deliver new features more quickly,” the Chrome team explains in today’s announcement.

Google, however, also acknowledges that not everybody wants to move this quickly — especially in the enterprise. For those users, Google is adding a new Extended Stable option with updates that come every eight weeks. This feature will be available to enterprise admins and Chromium embedders. They will still get security updates on a bi-weekly schedule, but Google notes that “those updates won’t contain new features or all security fixes that the 4 week option will receive.”

The new four-week cycle will start with Chrome 94 in Q3 2021, and at this faster rate, we’ll see Chrome 100 launch into the stable channel by March 29, 2022. I expect there will be cake.

#chrome, #chrome-os, #chromium, #enterprise, #firefox, #freeware, #google, #google-chrome, #microsoft-edge, #operating-systems, #software, #web-browsers

0

Microsoft Edge now starts up faster and gets vertical tabs

A year ago, Microsoft announced that its Edge browser would get vertical tabs and here we are: Microsoft today announced that vertical tabs in Edge are now generally available.

In addition, the Edge team also announced a few under-the-hood changes that will allow the browser to startup significantly faster (up to 41% faster according to Microsoft’s preliminary tests, to be precise). Since Microsoft can’t speed up your hard drive or significantly shrink Edge, though, the way the team achieves this is by loading the browser in the background when you sign in and then it’ll continue running when you close all browser windows. If that’s not to your liking, you can always turn this feature off, too.

While vertical tabs are available for you to play with now, though, the startup improvements will roll out over the course of this month.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Vertical tabs, of course, are nothing new. Other browsers have long supported them, either as a built-in feature or through extensions. But it’s nice to see them finally becoming a reality in Edge, too.

“Most websites follow a conventional grid that leaves plenty of whitespace on either end of the page,” Microsoft’s Michele McDanel writes in today’s announcement. “As we began working with our users, we realized that this vertical real estate could be a better location for tabs, rather than the traditional horizontal list of tabs at the top. While vertical tabs may not be an entirely new concept, we saw an opportunity to improve the browser experience and tested several prototypes with our users.”

Image Credits: Microsoft

In its research, Microsoft discovered that users who like vertical tabs also like to switch between them and standard horizontal tabs, so it added an always-visible toggle to do so. And since users sometimes want to reclaim all of their screen estate, the team added the ability to collapse the sidebar, too.

For those of you who use Bing, Microsoft is also adding a few nifty new features to its search engine. There’s a new recipe view for when you’re once again out of ideas for what to make for dinner, improved visual search results, and the company has spruced up some of its rich sidebar snippets with a more infographic-like feel. But let’s face it: you’re not using Bing. If perchance you do, you can find more details about the udpates here.

#bing, #computing, #freeware, #microsoft, #microsoft-bing, #microsoft-edge, #real-estate, #search-engine, #software, #tab, #tc, #web-browsers

0

App stores saw record 218 billion downloads in 2020, consumer spend of $143 billion

Mobile adoption continued to grow in 2020, in part due to the market forces of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to App Annie’s annual “State of Mobile” industry report, mobile app downloads grew by 7% year-over-year to a record 218 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, consumer spending grew by 20% to also hit a new milestone of $143 billion, led by markets that included China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Consumers also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone, the report found.

In another shift, app usage in the U.S. surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours on their mobile device.

The increase in time spent is a trend that’s not unique to the U.S., but can be seen across several other countries, including both developing mobile markets like Indonesia, Brazil and India, as well as places like China, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Germany, France and others.

The trend isn’t isolated to any one demographic, either, but is seen across age groups. In the U.S., for example, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X/Baby Boomers spent 16%, 18% and 30% more time in their most-used apps year-over-year, respectively. However, what those favorite apps looked like was very different.

For Gen Z in the U.S., top apps on Android phones included Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok, Roblox and Spotify.

Millennials favored Discord, LinkedIn, PayPal, Pandora and Amazon Music.

And Gen X/Baby Boomers used Ring, Nextdoor, The Weather Channel, Kindle and ColorNote Notepad Notes.

The pandemic didn’t necessarily change how consumers were using apps in 2020, but rather accelerated mobile adoption by two to three years’ time, the report found.

Investors were also eager to fuel mobile businesses as a result, pouring $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year. According to Crunchbase data, 26% of total global funding dollars in 2020 went to businesses that included a mobile solution.

From 2016 to 2020, global funding to mobile technology companies more than doubled compared with the previous five years, and was led by financial services, transportation, commerce and shopping.

Mobile gaming adoption also continued to grow in 2020. Casual games dominated the market in terms of downloads (78%), but Core games accounted for 66% of games’ consumer spend and 55% of the time spent.

With many stuck inside due to COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines, mobile games that offered social interaction boomed. Among Us, for example, became a breakout game in several markets in 2020, including the U.S.

Other app categories saw sizable increases over the past year, as well.

Time spent in Finance apps in 2020 was up 45% worldwide, outside of China, and participation in the stock market grew 55% on mobile, thanks to apps like Robinhood in the U.S. and others worldwide, that democratized investing and trading.

TikTok had a big year, too.

The app saw incredible 325% year-over-year growth, despite a ban in India, and ranked in the top five apps by time spent. The average monthly time spent per user also grew faster than nearly every other app analyzed, including 65% in the U.S. and 80% in the U.K., surpassing Facebook. TikTok is now on track to hit 1.2 billion active users in 2021, App Annie forecasts.

Other video services boomed in 2020, thanks to a combination of new market entrants and a lot of time spent at home. Consumers spent 40% more hours streaming on mobile devices, with time spent in streaming apps peaking in the second quarter in the west as the pandemic forced people inside.

YouTube benefitted from this trend, as it became the No. 1 streaming app by time spent among all markets analyzed except China. The time spent in YouTube is up to 6x that of the next closet app at 38 hours per month.

Of course, another big story for 2020 was the rise of e-commerce amid the pandemic. This made the past year the biggest ever for mobile shopping, with an over 30% increase in time spent in Shopping apps, as measured on Android phones outside of China.

Mobile commerce, however, looked less traditional in 2020.

Social shopping was a big trend, with global downloads of Pinterest and Instagram growing 50% and 20% year-over-year, respectively.

Livestreaming shopping grew, too, led by China. Downloads of live shopping TaoBao Live in China, Grip in South Korea and NTWRK in the U.S. grew 100%, 245% and 85%, respectively. NTWRK doubled in size last year, and now others are entering the space as well — including TikTok, to some extent.

The pandemic also prompted increased usage of mobile ordering apps. In the U.S., Argentina, the U.K., Indonesia and Russia, the app grew by 60%, 65%, 70%, 80% and 105%, respectively, in Q4.

Business apps, like Zoom and Google Meet among others, grew 275% in Q4, for example, as remote work and sometimes school, continued.

The analysis additionally included lists of the top apps by downloads, spending and monthly active users (MAUs).

Although TikTok had been topping year-end charts, Facebook continued to beat it in terms of MAUs. Facebook-owned apps controlled the top charts by MAUs, with Facebook at No. 1 followed by WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.

TikTok, however, had more downloads than Facebook and ranked No. 2 by consumer spending, behind Tinder.

The full report is available only as an online interactive experience this year, not a download. The report largely uses data from both the iOS App Store and Google Play, except where otherwise noted.

#amazon, #android, #app-annie, #apps, #argentina, #brazil, #china, #computing, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #france, #freeware, #germany, #google, #india, #indonesia, #instagram, #japan, #kindle, #linkedin, #messenger, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-commerce, #mobile-device, #mobile-devices, #mobile-technology, #operating-systems, #pandora, #paypal, #pinterest, #roblox, #russia, #snapchat, #social-media, #software, #south-korea, #spotify, #the-weather-channel, #tiktok, #twitch, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #video-services

0

Google calls DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit “deeply flawed” in GIF-laden blog response

Google was clearly anticipating today’s U.S. Department of Justice antitrust complaint filing – the company posted an extensive rebuttal of the lawsuit to its Keyword company blog. The post, penned by SVP of Global Affairs and Google Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker, suggests that the DOJ’s case is “deeply flawed” and “would do nothing to help consumers,” before going into a platform-by-platform description of why it thinks its position in the market isn’t representative of unfair market dominance that would amount to antitrust.

Google’s blog post is even sprinkled with GIFs – something that’s pretty common for the search giant when it comes to its consumer product launches. These GIFs include step-by-step screen recordings of setting search engines other than Google as your default in Chrome on both mobile and desktop. These processes are both described as “trivially easy” by Walker in the post, but they do look like a bit of an own-goal when you notice just how many steps it takes to get the job done on desktop in particular, including what looks like a momentary hesitation in where to click to drill down further for the “Make Default” command.

Image Credits: Google

Google also reportedly makes reference to companies choosing their search engine as default because of the quality of their service, including both Apple and Mozilla (with a link drop for our own Frederic Lardinois). Ultimately, Google is making the argument that its search engine isn’t dominant because of a lack of viable options fostered by anti-competitive practices, but that instead it’s a result of building a quality product that consumers then opt in to using from among a field of choices.

The DOJ’s full suit dropped this morning, and an initial analysis suggests that this scrutiny is perhaps inopportunely timed in terms of its proximity to the election to actually have any significant teeth. There is some indication that a more broad, bipartisan investigation with support from state level attorney generals on both sides of the aisle could follow later, however, so it’s not necessarily all just going to go away regardless of election outcome.

#apple, #chrome-os, #doj, #freeware, #gif, #google, #google-search, #google-chrome, #kent-walker, #mozilla, #operating-systems, #search-engine, #search-engines, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

0

Microsoft is building a price comparison engine into its Edge browser

With its Edge browser now stable, Microsoft’s current focus for its Chromium-based browser is to build features that differentiate it from the competition.

With the holiday season coming up fast (though who knows what that will actually look like this year), it’s maybe no surprise that one of the first new features the company is announcing is a price comparison tool as part of its ‘Collections’ bookmarking service. That was always an obvious next step, but it’s nice to see Microsoft add some more functionality here.

Also coming to Edge is the general availability of its integration between Collections and Pinterest, as well as a new screenshot tool for capturing web content, improved PDF support and an update to its Teleparty extension for streaming TV shows in sync with your friends and chat about it in your browser’s sidebar.

In addition, you can now also start free video meetings with your friends and family (or co-workers), right from the browsers through an integration with Microsoft’s Meet Now service. You can have up to 50 people in these video chats, share screens and record these sessions. While this is rolling out in Edge first, it’s also coming to Outlook on the web and the Windows 10 taskbar in the next few weeks.

Image Credits: Microsoft

You can’t say Microsoft held back on new features with this release, but the highlight is surely the new price comparison engine, though.

“We’ve been talking about how collections is a great feature for anyone who wants to do research — whether that’s research in education or work, but a lot of people do research for shopping,” said Divya Kumar, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for its browser and search tools. “We’ve really started to talk about this rhythm of, ‘okay, if use drop things into Collections, we should be really smart enough to give you the data that you’re looking for.’ This felt like a really natural next step for us to do.”

As long as Edge — through its connection with Microsoft Bing‘s existing price comparison engine — recognizes that you’re saving a product site, maybe from Amazon or Best Buy, it’ll show you the option to compare prices right in the browser tools bar. The next logical step now is for the team to add alerts when prices change and Kumar tells me that this is on the roadmap, together with several other features the team wasn’t ready to discuss yet.

Microsoft says it does not get affiliate fees when you buy through one of the links in Collections.

Talking about shopping, the team is also launching its Bing Rebates cashback program out of beta now (after shutting down a somewhat similar program a while back). The company signed up the likes for Walmart, Expedia, Walgreens and Nvidia for this program (though Nvidia only gives you a whopping 0.5% cashback). Still, it may just get some people to use Bing, though you have to sign up as a Microsoft Rewards member to participate.

“Rebates is a great part of the shopping story that we’re trying to land in terms of enabling smarter shopping experiences in the browser,” said Kumar.

In addition, through its Give with Bing program, you can now use your Microsoft Rewards points to donate to charitable organizations and until the end of the year, Microsoft will match your gift. This is live in the including: U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

As somebody who works on the web and takes screenshots all day, the updated screenshotting tool is also worth a look. Edge could already help you take screenshots, but until now, all you could do was copy what was on your screen. Now, you can also grab content from further down the page and then save it or share it directly from Edge.

Image Credits: Microsoft

If you’re an iOS user and have switched to Edge there — or thought about it — the news here is that you can now select Edge as your default browser there, a feature Apple finally enabled with the launch of iOS 14.

#artificial-intelligence, #bookmark, #chrome-os, #chromium, #computing, #freeware, #google-chrome, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-kin, #pdf, #pinterest, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

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Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux in October

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux, starting with the Dev channel. The first of these previews will go live in October.

When Microsoft announced that it would switch its Edge browser to the Chromium engine, it vowed to bring it to every popular platform. At the time, Linux wasn’t part of that list, but by late last year, it became clear that Microsoft was indeed working on a Linux version. Later, at this year’s Build, a Microsoft presenter even used it during a presentation.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Starting in October, Linux users will be able to either download the browser from the Edge Insider website or through their native package managers. Linux users will get the same Edge experience as users on Windows and macOS, as well as access to its built-in privacy and security features. For the most part, I would expect the Linux experience to be on par with that on the other platforms.

Microsoft also today announced that its developers have made over 3,700 commits to the Chromium project so far. Some of this work has been on support for touchscreens, but the team also contributed to areas like accessibility features and developer tools, on top of core browser fundamentals.

Currently, Microsoft Edge is available on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as
macOS, iOS and Android.

#chromium, #computing, #edge, #freeware, #google-chrome, #linux, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-ignite-2020, #software, #tc, #web-browsers

0

Discord says user abuse reports have doubled since last year

Discord has published its latest transparency report for the first six months of this year.

The big takeaway is that the number of overall reports has almost doubled, largely because of the massive spike in user growth during the pandemic to over 100 million monthly active users. The messaging and chat platform, popular with gamers and streamers, is now said to be worth around $3.5 billion.

According to the report, Discord said it received 235,000 reports between January and June 2020, compared to 128,000 reports during the last reporting period between June and December 2019.

Discord said it took action in 65% of cases related to spam — resulting in the removal of four million accounts — and just 13% in cases of harassment. Discord said it’s often clearer when someone is spamming, but the subjective nature of harassment makes it the “least actionable” category of reports.

The percent of user reports actioned between January and June 2020. Image Credits: Discord

That said, Discord said it warns more users about harassment than any other reporting category. Discord issues warnings to educate users about some potentially harmful behavior, rather than outright banning users. For the most part, the warnings appear to work. Discord said it bans just 3% of users who were first given a warning about harassment.

Discord also said it banned 162,621 accounts for posting exploitative content, like posting nonconsensual photos of others. That was the largest category of bans apart from spam. Most of this content was removed proactively by Discord, the company said.

Civil rights groups criticized the company’s earlier reports for not disclosing more about proactive removals.

Discord said it also removed over 5,000 servers each for posting exploitative content, hacks and cheats. The company said it removed 700 servers as part of a network sharing nonconsensual images. “Nonconsensual pornography has no place on our platform, and we’ll continue to take swift action against these communities and their members,” the company said.

Unlike other tech companies, Discord does not reveal the number of law enforcement requests it receives.

#discord, #freeware, #marketing, #privacy, #security, #software, #spamming

0

Azure’s Immersive Reader is now generally available

Microsoft today announced that Immersive Reader, its service for developers who want to add text-to-speech and reading comprehension tools to their applications, is now generally available.

Immersive Reader, which is part of the Azure Cognitive Services suite of AI products, developers get access to a text-to-speech engine, but just as importantly, the service offers tools that help readers improve their reading comprehension, be that through displaying pictures over commonly used words or separating out syllables and parts of speech of a given sentence.

It also offers a distraction-free reading view, similar to what you will find in modern browsers. Indeed, if you use Microsoft’s Edge browser, Immersive Reader is already included there as part of the distraction-free article view, together with its other accessibility features. Microsoft also bundled its translation service with Immersive Reader.

Image Credits: Microsoft

With today’s launch, Microsoft is adding support for fifteen of its neural text-to-speech voices to the service, as well as five new languages (Odia, Kurdish (Northern), Kurdish (Central), Pashto and Dari) from its translation service. In total, Immersive Reader now supports 70 languages.

As Microsoft also announced today, the company has partnered with Code.org and SAFARI Montage to bring Immersive Reader to their learning solutions.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Microsoft to bring Immersive Reader to the Code.org community,” said Hadi Partovi, Founder and CEO of Code.org. “The inclusive capabilities of Immersive Reader to improve reading fluency and comprehension in learners of varied backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles directly aligns with our mission to ensure every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science.”

Microsoft says it saw a 560% increase in use of Immersive Reader from February to May, likely because a lot of people were starting to look for new online education tools as the COVID-19 pandemic started. Today, more than 23 million people use it every month and Microsoft expects that number to go up once again in the fall, as the new school year starts.

#artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #code, #code-org, #computing, #freeware, #hadi-partovi, #microsoft, #microsoft-edge, #microsoft-windows, #partner, #reading, #reading-comprehension, #software, #text-to-speech, #windows-10

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Investors are browsing for Chromium startups

A few months ago, we declared that “browsers are interesting again,” thanks to increased competition among the major players. Now, as more startups are getting onboard, things are getting downright exciting.

A small but growing number of projects are building web browsers with a more specific type of user in mind. Whether that perceived user is prioritizing improved speed, organization or toolsets aligned with their workflow, entrepreneurs are building these projects with the assumption that Google’s one-size-fits-all approach with Chrome leaves plenty of users with a suboptimal experience.

Building a modern web browser from scratch isn’t the most feasible challenge for a small startup. Luckily open-source projects have enabled developers to build their evolved web browsers on the bones of the apps they aim to compete with. For browsers that are not Safari, Firefox, Chrome or a handful of others, Google’s Chromium open-source project has proven to be an invaluable asset.

Since Google first released Chrome in late 2008, the company has also been updating Chromium. The source code powers the Microsoft Edge and Opera web browsers, but also allows smaller developer teams to harness the power of Chrome when building their own apps.

These upstart browsers have generally sought to compete with the dominant powers on the privacy front, but as Chrome and Safari have begun shipping more features to help users manage how they are tracked online, entrepreneurs are widening their product ambitions to tackle usability upgrades.

Aiding these heightened ambitions is increased attention on custom browsers from investors. Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich’s Brave has continued to scale, announcing last month they had 5 million daily active users of their privacy-centric browser.

Today, Thrive Capital’s Josh Miller spoke with TechCrunch about his project The Browser Company which has raised $5 million from some notable Silicon Valley operators. Other hot upstart efforts include Mighty, a subscription-based, remote-streamed Chrome startup from Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi, and Blue Link Labs, a recent entrant that’s building a decentralized peer-to-peer browser called Beaker browser.

Mighty

As front-end developers have gotten more ambitious and web applications have gotten more complex, Chrome has earned the reputation of being quite the RAM hog.

#brave, #browsers, #chromium, #ev-williams, #founders-fund, #freeware, #github, #google, #google-chrome, #mighty, #mixpanel, #mozilla, #opera, #slack-fund, #tc, #thrive-capital, #web-browsers, #y-combinator

0

Apple will let users pick their own default email and browser apps

Apple quietly made a major announcement that will change life for users of mobile Chrome, Gmail or Outlook. The company is shifting its view on app defaults and will be allowing users to set different app defaults for their mail and browser apps.

The company specifically denoted that this feature is coming to iPadOS and iOS 14. This likely means users can designate which browser they’re directed to when they tap a link somewhere. We’ll see whether Apple reserves any functionality for its own services. Rather than highlighting this new feature in the keynote, they snuck it into roundup screens that hovered onscreen for a few seconds. It’s hidden in the bottom center of the screen.

This is a big change for Apple but it’s no surprise they wouldn’t opt to specifically highlight this onstage. Apple has been reluctant to give users the option to use third-party apps as defaults. The big exception to date has been allowing users early on to set Google Maps as the default over Apple Maps.

Email and browsing are huge mobile use cases and it’s surprising that users haven’t had this capability to shift defaults to apps like Chrome or Gmail until this upcoming update. As Apple finds itself at the center of more anti-trust conversations, app defaults has been one area that’s always popped up as a method by which Apple promotes its own services over those from other companies.

Details are scant in terms of what this feature will look like exactly and what services will boast support, but I imagine we’ll hear more as the betas begin rolling out.

#apple-inc, #freeware, #gmail, #google, #google-chrome, #ios, #ipad, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #web-browsers, #webmail, #wwdc-2020

0

Microsoft moves its Windows 10 Insider Program from rings to release channels

For the last few years, Microsoft has given Windows enthusiasts the ability to opt in to early release ‘rings,’ with the choice to pick between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ rings, as well as a relatively stable ‘release preview’ option. Today, the company announced a major change to this program as it is moving to release channels, similar to what you’re probably familiar with from most browser manufacturers.

“We are transitioning and converting our current ring model, based on the frequency of builds, to a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts,” writes Microsoft principal program manager lead Amanda Langowski in a blog post today.

She notes that the result of the ring-based system was that in the middle of 2019, for example, Windows Insiders were running builds from 3 different releases, depending on which ring they chose.

“As we continue to evolve the way we release Windows 10 and the diversity of Insiders we serve is greater than ever, it is critical that Insiders have a flighting option that is tailored to their needs,” she adds. “We believe the best way to do this is to shift focus from frequency to quality.”

Image Credits: Microsoft /

So starting later this month, the ‘fast’ ring will become the Dev Channel, the ‘slow’ ring the Beta Channel and the ‘release preview’ will now be known as the Release Preview Channel.

The Dev Channel is meant for users who want to get very early access to new features, which isn’t all that different from fast rings, but what’s important here is that this channel isn’t tied to any specific release. New features in this channel will make their way into releases once they are ready, whether that’s as part of a major update or a servicing release. Because of its unstable nature, Microsoft says this release is mostly meant for highly technical users.

As for the Beta Channel, the main different here is that it is really the beta version of a specific release and means for early adopters. And the Release Preview is exactly what you would think and meant to test relatively stable builds before they get shipped to the wider Windows 10 user base (and with that, IT admins can also test those releases ahead of their release to a company’s employees, too).

If you’re part of the Windows Insider program, those changes will be automatic and start with builds that are set to launch later this month.

#developer, #freeware, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #windows-10, #windows-phone

0

Microsoft updates Teams with new automation and scheduling tools, NDI support for broadcasting and more

At its (virtual) Build developer conference, Microsoft today announced a slew of updates for its Teams collaboration and communications platform. Given that Microsoft now sees Teams as its hub for teamwork and collaboration through calls, chats, and audio and video meetings, it’s no surprise that it would highlight Teams across today’s announcements.

For the most part, the new features the company is adding to Teams are pretty straightforward.

For users, most of the important updates are around meetings in teams, where you’ll soon be able to schedule, manage and conduct virtual appointments through the Bookings app, for example. On the scheduling side, Teams is also getting new capabilities in the Shifts app, including new triggers and templates to enable auto-approvals for shift requests, for example, when a managers approval isn’t needed.

In the near future, Microsoft will also add a number of customizable templates to Teams to help new users get started. These include many standard business scenarios like event management and crisis response, as well as industry-specific templates for hospitals and bands, for example. The templates include pre-set channels, apps and guidance, the company says.

Soon, Microsoft will also make Power Virtual Agents chatbots available in the Teams app store, which will make creating and managing these bots easier.

Microsoft will also soon enable a new feature that makes it easier to integrated Power Apps and Power Automate business process templates into Teams, and Power BI users will soon be able to quickly share reports to Teams with the click of a single button.

Another new feature that will have a bit more of a niche audience is Network Device Interface (NDI) support – but that niche will be very happy to hear it’s coming. Currently, you can enable a similar feature in Skype, where it allows you to stream Skype interviews with multiple participants through your favorite streaming software and platform (think OBS, Wirecast, etc.). It allows you to receive separate video streams for every participant (though for reasons only known to the Skype team, you only get one audio feed, which makes dealing with any audio delays a nightmare).

Now, this is also coming to teams so that it’ll be easier for companies to create public or private broadcasts based on Teams chats. Teams will also get integrations with Skype TX, the hardware-based Skype solution that’s used by many broadcast networks to conduct remote interviews. NDI support should go live in Teams next month.

#app-store, #freeware, #messaging-apps, #microsoft, #microsoft-build-2020, #operating-systems, #skype, #skype-for-business, #software, #tc, #texas

0

Vivaldi browser gets built-in tracking blocker, goes GA on Android

Vivaldi, the browser launched by former Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner, has long positioned itself as a highly customizable alternative to Chrome and Firefox for power users. Today, the team is launching version 3.0 of its desktop browser, with built-in tracker and ad blockers, and it’s bringing its Android browser out of beta.

I’ve long been a fan of Vivaldi, but the company was relatively late to the tracking protection game. Now, it’s doubling down on this, by integrating a blocklist powered by DuckDuckGo’s Tracker Radar.

Like competing browsers, Vivaldi offers three blocking levels that users can easily toggle on and off for individual websites. Those blocking levels are relatively blunt, though, with the options to either block trackers, block trackers and ads or disable blocking. Competitors like Edge offer slightly more nuanced options for blocking trackers, though I would expect Vivaldi to adopt a similar scheme over time.

For the most part, the Vivaldi team always said that it would delegate ad blocking to extensions, though it added the option to block highly intrusive ads in the middle of last year. And while the company still notes that blocking trackers provides enough privacy protection, with today’s update, it now also gives users the option to block virtually all ads without the need to download any extensions (as a Chromium-based browser, Vivaldi supports all Chrome extensions).

Also new in the desktop version is a clock. Yes. A clock. That may sound like a weird feature, given that your desktop of choice surely features a clock, but like all things Vivaldi, you can a) remove it and b) there is actually some usefulness here as you can, for example, set up timers if you’re into Pomodoro or similar productivity techniques. And because it is Vivaldi, you can set all kinds of custom alarms and countdown timers, too.

As for the mobile version, which is now generally available for Android 5 and higher, the most important fact is probably that it exists, given how most users expect to be able to easily sync their bookmarks, passwords and browsing history between mobile and desktop. As with other browsers, you can choose what you want to sync.

Like the desktop version, Vivaldi for Android now also features a tracking and ad blocker. There’s also a built-in screenshot tool and support for Vivaldi notes, which also sync between devices.

The mobile browser isn’t quite as flexible as the desktop version, with its plethora of options, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for in a mobile browser anyway. But having a stable mobile browser that can accompany the desktop version is a big deal for Vivaldi and may give users who were on the sidelines a reason to take another look at it.

Out of the box, there’s no other browser that will give you the kind of flexibility Vivaldi does.

#ad-blocking, #android, #duckduckgo, #firefox, #freeware, #google-chrome, #jon-von-tetzchner, #online-advertising, #software, #tc, #vivaldi, #web-browsers

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