Israel Confirms Regional Military Project, Showing Its Growing Role

The Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, said Israel was working with other countries in the Middle East to combat Iranian military threats.

#arabs, #defense-and-military-forces, #international-relations, #israel, #middle-east, #politics-and-government

The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: Tracing a Bullet to an Israeli Convoy

A New York Times investigation found that the bullet that killed a Palestinian-American journalist was fired from the approximate position of an Israeli military vehicle.

#abu-akleh-shireen, #al-jazeera, #defense-and-military-forces, #israel, #middle-east, #news-and-news-media, #palestinian-authority, #palestinians, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #west-bank

On Inflation and the Food Crisis, the World Can Work Together or Fall Apart

No single country can solve the problem of rising food and fuel costs.

#africa, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #black-sea, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #federal-reserve-system, #food, #food-insecurity, #global-warming, #grain, #guterres-antonio, #inflation-economics, #international-relations, #international-trade-and-world-market, #middle-east, #odessa-ukraine, #politics-and-government, #ports, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #ships-and-shipping, #shortages, #third-world-and-developing-countries, #ukraine, #united-states-economy, #united-states-international-relations, #wheat

Fears Grow Over Iran’s Nuclear Program as Tehran Digs a New Tunnel Network

The conflict over the program is about to flare again as President Biden travels next month to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s two biggest regional rivals.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #gantz-benny, #grossi-rafael, #international-atomic-energy-agency, #iran, #israel, #middle-east, #nuclear-energy, #nuclear-weapons, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations

Biden Trip to Saudi Arabia Is Set, but Energy Help Is Not

The White House formally announced that President Biden would visit the oil-rich kingdom in mid-July despite having denounced it as a “pariah” state after the assassination of a dissident.

#abbas-mahmoud, #bennett-naftali, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #israel, #middle-east, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #palestinian-authority, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #saudi-arabia, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #west-bank

John R. Allen Resigns as Brookings President After Qatar Revelations

Mr. Allen, a retired four-star general, had been on administrative leave amid a federal inquiry into whether he had secretly lobbied for the government of Qatar.

#allen-john-r, #brookings-institution, #lobbying-and-lobbyists, #middle-east, #olson-richard-g, #qatar, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #zuberi-imaad

Kushner’s and Mnuchin’s Quick Pivots to Business With the Gulf

Weeks before the Trump administration ended, Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin met with future investors on official trips to the Middle East.

#abraham-fund, #affinity-partners, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #kushner-jared, #liberty-strategic-capital, #middle-east, #mnuchin-steven-t, #presidential-election-of-2020, #private-equity, #sovereign-wealth-funds, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Mohammed Bin Zayed Becomes U.A.E. President

Sheikh Mohammed has used his small country’s oil wealth to exert great influence across the Middle East and in Washington.

#middle-east, #nahyan-khalifa-bin-zayed-al, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #politics-and-government, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations

Welcome to the Disorderly, Dangerous World of Expensive Oil and Gas

The global energy crisis will get worse before it gets better.

#china, #global-warming, #international-trade-and-world-market, #middle-east, #natural-gas, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #saudi-arabia, #ukraine

Yemen’s Houthis Went From Ragtag Militia to Force Threatening Gulf Powers

Iran’s cultivation of the Houthis over the years of war in Yemen has armed them with missiles and drones, endangering Washington’s partners and Tehran’s rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

#defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #houthis, #international-relations, #iran, #middle-east, #politics-and-government, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #yemen

In a Village Divided, Palestinians See Their Hold on Territory Eroding

Carved up over decades, the village of Walaja sits partly in the occupied West Bank and partly in Jerusalem. Palestinians say this type of fragmentation undermines prospects for a state.

#border-barriers, #defense-and-military-forces, #east-jerusalem, #israel, #israeli-settlements, #jerusalem-israel, #middle-east, #palestinian-authority, #palestinians, #politics-and-government, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #west-bank

A ‘New Era of Air Pollution’ in the Tropics Could Have a Huge Toll

Increasingly bad air in big cities is expected to kill hundreds of thousands in coming years if stronger controls are not put in place.

#africa, #air-pollution, #deaths-fatalities, #east-asia, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #middle-east, #research, #science-advances-journal, #south-asia

Yes, There Is a Clash of Civilizations

What Samuel Huntington foresaw about the current world order.

#caldwell-christopher, #china, #christians-and-christianity, #cold-war-era, #democracy-theory-and-philosophy, #europe, #fukuyama-francis, #huntington-samuel-p, #india, #middle-east, #muslims-and-islam, #politics-and-government, #putin-vladimir-v, #roy-olivier, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Blinken to Press Mideast Allies for Stronger Support for Ukraine

The countries, which have their own relationships with Russia, have provided some modest backing, but Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will ask for more.

#bahrain, #blinken-antony-j, #international-relations, #israel, #middle-east, #morocco, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #palestinians, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-arab-emirates

Mideast Feels the Pinch of Rising Food Prices as Ramadan Nears

Russia’s war on Ukraine has driven up the prices of staple foods and energy across the Middle East and North Africa ahead of the Muslim holy month of daytime fasting and nighttime feasting.

#economic-conditions-and-trends, #egypt, #food-insecurity, #international-monetary-fund, #lebanon, #middle-east, #middle-east-and-north-africa-unrest-2010, #morocco, #politics-and-government, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #ramadan, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #sisi-abdel-fattah-el, #syria, #tunisia, #wheat

Mass Graves Identified in Syria Could Hold Evidence of War Crimes

Two sites have been located, believed to hold thousands of bodies of Syrians killed in detention centers administered by President Bashar al-Assad’s government during the civil war.

#assad-bashar-al, #berlin-germany, #cemeteries, #civilian-casualties, #damascus-syria, #deaths-fatalities, #defense-and-military-forces, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #germany, #middle-east, #politics-and-government, #syria, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

Middle East Sympathizes With Ukrainian Refugees

Many in the region took to social media to express sympathy for Ukrainians forced to flee, though their warm welcome in Europe evoked a tinge of bitterness over the treatment of Arab and Muslim migrants.

#european-union, #germany, #immigration-and-emigration, #iraq, #libya, #middle-east, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #social-media, #syria, #ukraine, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #yemen

Arab Rulers and Spy Chiefs Stashed Millions in Swiss Bank

A leak of account data from Credit Suisse revealed the holdings of powerful figures across the Middle East, raising new questions about self-dealing.

#abdullah-ii-king-of-jordan, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #bin-said-qaboos, #central-intelligence-agency, #corruption-institutional, #credit-suisse-group-ag, #egypt, #jordan, #middle-east, #mubarak-alaa, #mubarak-gamal, #mubarak-hosni, #oman, #politics-and-government, #rania-queen-of-jordan, #suddeutsche-zeitung, #suleiman-omar, #switzerland

Kuwait Overturns Law Used to Prosecute Trans People

The country’s constitutional court said the law, which criminalized “imitation of the opposite sex,” violated Kuwaitis’ rights to personal freedom.

#amnesty-international, #discrimination, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #human-rights-watch, #kuwait, #middle-east, #transgender-and-transsexuals

Leader’s Death Is Another Blow for ISIS, but It’s Hardly the End

The Islamic State is a shadow of its former self. But it’s likely to keep adapting and enduring, even after the U.S. raid that killed its top commander.

#al-qaeda, #al-qaeda-in-mesopotamia, #al-qurayshi-abu-ibrahim-al-hashemi, #baghdadi-abu-bakr-al, #bin-laden-osama, #defense-and-military-forces, #idlib-syria, #iraq, #iraqi-army, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #middle-east, #muslims-and-islam, #politics-and-government, #syria, #terrorism, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

As the U.S. Pulls Back From the Mideast, China Leans In

China is expanding its ties to Middle Eastern states with vast infrastructure investments and cooperation on technology and security.

#belt-and-road-initiative-china, #china, #foreign-investments, #international-relations, #middle-east, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #persian-gulf, #saudi-arabia, #uighurs-chinese-ethnic-group, #united-states-international-relations

Did We Miss Biden’s Most Important Remark About Russia?

Putin has something bigger to worry about at home than anything that happens in Ukraine.

#arctic-regions, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #ecopeace-middle-east, #global-warming, #israel, #jordan, #middle-east, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #siberia, #united-arab-emirates

The Civilian Casualties of America’s Air Wars

Why is the death toll of U.S. strikes so staggeringly high?

#afghanistan, #audio-neutral-informative, #civilian-casualties, #deaths-fatalities, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #middle-east, #syria, #war-and-armed-conflicts

The Human Toll of America’s Air Wars

A trove of internal documents, combined with extensive reporting across the Middle East, reveals the tragic, disastrous failures of the U.S. military’s long-distance approach to warfare.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #civilian-casualties, #deaths-fatalities, #iraq, #middle-east, #terrorism, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Iran’s Nuclear Program Ignites New Tension Between U.S. and Israel

Strains emerged during talks this week after a short period of strong relations between a new Israeli government and new American one.

#arms-control-and-limitation-and-disarmament, #bennett-naftali, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #blinken-antony-j, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #iran, #israel, #middle-east, #netanyahu-benjamin, #nuclear-weapons, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations

On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes

Powerful associates of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, are making and selling captagon, an illegal amphetamine, creating a new narcostate on the Mediterranean.

#amphetamines, #assad-bashar-al, #assad-maher-al, #bekaa-valley-lebanon, #damascus-syria, #defense-and-military-forces, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #drug-cartels, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #greece, #hezbollah, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #italy, #jordan, #latakia-syria, #lebanon, #malaysia, #mediterranean-sea, #methamphetamines, #middle-east, #politics-and-government, #ports, #saudi-arabia, #ships-and-shipping, #smuggling, #syria-report-the, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Strike on U.S. Base Was Iranian Response to Israeli Attack, Officials Say

Iran has not acknowledged the attack, but U.S. and Israeli officials said it was retaliation for Israeli airstrikes, drawing the U.S. into Iran’s shadow war with Israel.

#assad-bashar-al, #defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #hezbollah, #homs-syria, #international-relations, #iran, #islamic-revolutionary-guards-corps, #israel, #lebanon, #middle-east, #military-bases-and-installations, #oman, #palmyra-syria, #saleh-midhat-1967-2021, #saudi-arabia, #ships-and-shipping, #syria, #united-states, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-navy, #war-and-armed-conflicts

The Women Bringing Sex Ed to the Arab World

Activists are using social media to do what Arab countries have failed to do: teach women about their bodies. They are aiming for nothing less than a cultural awakening.

#arabs, #celibacy, #egypt, #middle-east, #muslims-and-islam, #sex-education, #social-media, #vagina, #women-and-girls

Migrants Say Belarusians Took Them to E.U. Border and Supplied Wire Cutters

Iraqi Kurds and other migrants said they were fleeing despair at home, but Belarus encouraged them, offering visas and helping them get to the border.

#belarus, #border-barriers, #defense-and-military-forces, #dubai-united-arab-emirates, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #erbil-iraq, #europe, #european-union, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #iraq, #kurdistan, #kurds, #latvia, #lithuania, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #middle-east, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #minsk-belarus, #poland, #smuggling

Saudi Finance Official Is Missing From Conference He Hosts

The unexplained absence of Yasir al-Rumayyan, who oversees the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, has highlighted concerns about a lack of transparency.

#blackstone-group-the, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #goldman-sachs-group-inc, #middle-east, #middle-east-institute, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #newcastle-united-soccer-team, #politics-and-government, #private-equity, #riyadh-saudi-arabia, #rumayyan-yasir-al, #saudi-arabia, #soccer, #sovereign-wealth-funds, #vaccination-and-immunization

Biden and Climate Change Have Reshaped the Middle East

We are at the start of a paradigm shift from resistance to resilience.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #environment, #international-relations, #middle-east

Traveling Through a Divided Israel

Two Times journalists drive the length of Israel to discover what it means to be Israeli today. They meet a kaleidoscope of people, searching for belonging but far apart on how to find it.

#anti-semitism, #arabs, #bedouins, #ben-gurion-david, #bethlehem-west-bank, #discrimination, #east-jerusalem, #eilat-israel, #haifa-israel, #israel, #israeli-settlements, #jerusalem-israel, #jews-and-judaism, #kibbutz-movement, #middle-east, #palestinians, #politics-and-government, #race-and-ethnicity, #red-sea, #religion-state-relations, #sea-of-galilee-israel, #tel-aviv-israel, #zionism

As Western Oil Giants Cut Production, State-Owned Companies Step Up

In the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, government-owned energy companies are increasing oil and natural gas production as U.S. and European companies pare supply because of climate concerns.

#africa, #alternative-and-renewable-energy, #argentina, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #corporations, #energy-and-power, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #latin-america, #middle-east, #nasser-amin-h, #natural-gas, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #organization-of-the-petroleum-exporting-countries, #politics-and-government, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #production, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #saudi-aramco, #shale, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Syria Is Still Shattered, But Its Neighbors Are Restoring Ties

Arab countries are gradually restoring ties with Syria, but its president remains mired in crises he can’t escape.

#abdullah-ii-king-of-jordan, #assad-bashar-al, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #middle-east, #syria, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Canadian Admits Fabricating Terrorism Tale Detailed in New York Times Podcast

In exchange for the admission of the man, Shehroze Chaudhry, Canada dropped criminal charges against him.

#canada, #chaudhry-shehroze, #hoaxes-and-pranks, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #middle-east, #royal-canadian-mounted-police, #terrorism

In Reversal, Israel’s New Government Engages With Palestinian Authority

The government has held high-level meetings with Palestinian officials and aided the Palestinians economically, a sharp change from the previous government.

#abbas-mahmoud, #bennett-naftali, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #fatah-al, #gantz-benny, #gaza-strip, #hamas, #israel, #israeli-settlements, #middle-east, #netanyahu-benjamin, #palestinian-authority, #palestinians, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #state-department, #united-states-international-relations, #west-bank

With Fuel from Iran, Hezbollah Steps In Where Lebanon Has Failed

The militant group trucked more than 1 million gallons of diesel into Lebanon, flouting U.S. sanctions and billing itself as savior to a suffering population.

#embargoes-and-sanctions, #foreign-aid, #hezbollah, #humanitarian-aid, #iran, #lebanon, #middle-east, #nasrallah-hassan, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #politics-and-government, #syria, #united-states-international-relations

Have We Reshaped Middle East Politics or Started to Mimic It?

America is displaying political tribalism like what we tried to quell elsewhere. 

#afghanistan, #defense-and-military-forces, #democracy-theory-and-philosophy, #democratic-party, #middle-east, #republican-party, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

Egyptian startup Capiter raises $33M to expand B2B e-commerce platform across MENA

Funding startups that help manufacturers and sellers distribute products and merchants access them on a single platform keeps soaring across Africa.

Today, Cairo-based B2B e-commerce startup Capiter continues that trend by raising a $33 million Series A round.

The investment was co-led by Quona Capital and MSA Capital. Other participating investors include Savola, Shorooq Partners, Foundation Ventures, Accion Venture Lab, and Derayah Ventures.

Capiter was launched in July 2020 by Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Nouh. Speaking with TechCrunch, CEO Mahmoud Nouh says Capiter solves problems around reach and insights for suppliers and manufacturers.

Many of the manufacturers in Egypt today do not have the right infrastructure of the supply chain in place to reach merchants. Nouh says that manufacturers can only reach 30% of merchants in the market, but with Capiter, that number goes up between 80% to 100%.

Also, a large portion of the manufacturers’ end trade happens via traditional channels where there is basically no transparency over data or market insights.

Using machine learning, Capiter says it helps these manufacturers gain critical insights into the markets they serve, the products they sell, and how they fair with competition.

Then for merchants, Capiter attends to three problems. The first is the inconvenience merchants have to deal with engaging several suppliers to find the right product. The second is transparency which involves some back and forth between merchants and manufacturers on pricing. The third is that merchants often have little or no access to working capital to get the right product and the right time.

With Capiter, merchants can order products from FMCGs and wholesalers while the company delivers them. Capiter also provides fair pricing and matching techniques that showcases a wide range of inventory for merchants.

Then it affords working capital to them to buy more products even when they are strapped with cash. Capiter partners with local banks in Egypt and the Central Bank to perform this.

Capiter has over 12 merchant types on its platform, including mom-and-pop stores, hotels, restaurants, cafes, electronic shops, supermarkets, grocery shops, and catering companies, each with its own customized solutions.

“We’re able to get the data from the products they buy. So we offer them the best solution on what they should sell, at what time and peak seasons, including when are the offerings happening. All of these are customized solutions that we offer,” said Mahmoud Nouh.

Capiter

The Capiter app

The company’s revenues are derived from little margins on the products bought from manufacturers and sold to merchants. Then on rebates for the suppliers and commission from the working capital provided to merchants. Capiter also makes money from providing market insights and data services to manufacturers and FMCGs.

Typically B2B e-commerce platforms operate either asset-light, inventory-heavy models. Nouh tells me that Capiter chose to use a hybrid model — making deliveries without owning any trucks to ensure scalability and owning inventory, especially for high turnover products helping the company with high availability and better pricing.

“This way has enabled us to scale the business in a very fast manner and at the same time, efficiently and reliably. Regarding warehouses and trucks, we don’t own them; we rent them. We deal with third-party logistics for transportation and we manage them.”

Over 50,000 merchants and 1,000 sellers use Capiter. According to CEO Nouh, the company has provided up to 6,000 SKUs. He also adds that the company is targeting an annualized revenue of $1 billion by next year.

“We’re on a very good trajectory for achieving this,” he added. “In terms of team members, we have a team of more than 1000 people at the moment, including in warehouses, delivery, etc. So we’ve seen good traction across all board,” he answered when asked about Capiter’s traction.

Quona Capital, the co-lead investor in this round, is known to have made some B2B e-commerce bets over the past years, for instance, Kenya’s Sokowatch. The investment in Capiter adds to the firm’s portfolio in that regard and a growing presence in the MENA region being its first check made in Egypt.

In a statement, Quona co-founder and managing partner Monica Brand Engel said, “Capiter’s embedded finance model, combined with its expertise and strong user engagement, can have a dramatic impact on the financial lives of SMEs, helping them optimize their income which helps communities to thrive.”

“SME supply chain inefficiencies are massive throughout the Middle East. We believe the key blocker is the lack of working capital in the system. Capiter has built an asset-light way to aggregate retailers and suppliers and facilitate credit into the system through a comprehensive multi-product offering such as commerce, credit financing, digital payments, bookkeeping and inventory management for SMEs, leveraging on the ecosystem built by the local banks and financial institutions.” adds Ben Harburg, partner at MSA Capital, a global VC that has invested in fintechs like Nubank and Klarna.

According to Ahmed Nouh, the company’s COO, Capiter will expand into new verticals like agriculture and pharmaceutical offerings.

The co-founder brings experience from the shipping and logistics space. Both he and Mahmoud are serial entrepreneurs. The latter’s journey is quite prominent, having worked in the mobility space as the co-founder and COO of Egyptian ride-hailing company SWVL. The company recently announced a potential SPAC deal valuing it at $1.5 billion and is one of the few African startups breeding a tech mafia. Ahmed Sabbah, another co-founder of the company, now runs early-stage fintech startup Telda.

Capiter has attracted a global team that brings together the expertise from companies like Careem and Flipkart needed to achieve the company’s targets, said Mahmoud.

He adds that the team, alongside the provision of financial services via partnerships with banks and its hybrid model, is how the company stands out in a competitive market, including the likes of Fatura, Bosta, and MaxAB.

Following this investment, the company plans to expand vertically (in terms of the buyer type) and geographically within the next year.

“We want to serve every single SME in the MENA region and expanding inside Egypt and globally.” He adds that Savola Group, one of its investors and the largest investor for FMCG products in the MENA region, will prove pivotal to this growth. Capiter also plans to diversify its financial services offerings to include payments. 

#africa, #b2b-e-commerce-retail, #ecommerce, #egypt, #finance, #funding, #merchant, #middle-east, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

Technology giant Olympus hit by BlackMatter ransomware

Olympus said in a brief statement Sunday that it is “currently investigating a potential cybersecurity incident” affecting its European, Middle East and Africa computer network.

“Upon detection of suspicious activity, we immediately mobilized a specialized response team including forensics experts, and we are currently working with the highest priority to resolve this issue. As part of the investigation, we have suspended data transfers in the affected systems and have informed the relevant external partners,” the statement said.

But according to a person with knowledge of the incident, Olympus is recovering from a ransomware attack that began in the early morning of September 8. The person shared details of the incident prior to Olympus acknowledging the incident on Sunday.

A ransom note left behind on infected computers claimed to be from the BlackMatter ransomware group. “Your network is encrypted, and not currently operational,” it reads. “If you pay, we will provide you the programs for decryption.” The ransom note also included a web address to a site accessible only through the Tor Browser that’s known to be used by BlackMatter to communicate with its victims.

Read more on TechCrunch

Brett Callow, a ransomware expert and threat analyst at Emsisoft, told TechCrunch that the site in the ransom note is associated with the BlackMatter group.

BlackMatter is a ransomware-as-a-service group that was founded as a successor to several ransomware groups, including DarkSide, which recently bounced from the criminal world after the high-profile ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, and REvil, which went silent for months after the Kaseya attack flooded hundreds of companies with ransomware. Both attacks caught the attention of the U.S. government, which promised to take action if critical infrastructure was hit again.

Groups like BlackMatter rent access to their infrastructure, which affiliates use to launch attacks, while BlackMatter takes a cut of whatever ransoms are paid. Emsisoft has also found technical links and code overlaps between Darkside and BlackMatter.

Since the group emerged in June, Emsisoft has recorded more than 40 ransomware attacks attributed to BlackMatter, but that the total number of victims is likely to be significantly higher.

Ransomware groups like BlackMatter typically steal data from a company’s network before encrypting it, and later threaten to publish the files online if the ransom to decrypt the files is not paid. Another site associated with BlackMatter, which the group uses to publicize its victims and touts stolen data, did not have an entry for Olympus at the time of publication.

Japan-headquartered Olympus manufactures optical and digital reprography technology for the medical and life sciences industries. Until recently, the company built digital cameras and other electronics until it sold its struggling camera division in January.

Olympus said it was “currently working to determine the extent of the issue and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.”

Christian Pott, a spokesperson for Olympus, did not respond to emails and text messages requesting comment.

#africa, #colonial-pipeline, #crime, #crimes, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #digital-cameras, #electronics, #kaseya, #middle-east, #olympus, #ransomware, #security, #spokesperson, #u-s-government, #united-states

Communication software startup Channels takes on event management with text workflow

Three University of Michigan students are building Channels Inc., a communication software tailored for physical workers, and already racking up some big customers in the event management industry.

Siddharth Kaul, 18, Elan Rosen, 20, and Ibrahim Mohammed, 20, started the company after finding some common ground in retail and events. The company’s customer list boasts names like Marriott Hotels, and it announced a $520,000 seed round, led by Sahra Growth Capital, to give it nearly $570,000 in total funding.

Kaul grew up going to a lot of events in Kuwait and Dubai, but started noticing there was a delay in things that should happen and many processes were being done on pen and paper.

“The technology that was available was inharmonious and made it hard for physical workers to fulfill tasks,” Kaul told TechCrunch. “We saw it happening in the event management space, forcing workers to coordinate across technologies.”

Legacy communication platforms like Slack are aggregating communications, but are better for remote workers; for physical workers, they rely more on text communication, he said. However, the disadvantage with texting is that you have to keep scrolling to get to the new message, and old communication is lost amid all of the replies.

They began developing a platform for small hotels to help them transition to digital and provide communication in a non-chronological order that is easier to access, enables discussion and can be searched. Users of the SaaS platform can build live personnel maps to see where employees are and what the event floor looks like, prioritize alerts and automate tasks while monitoring progress.

Marriott became a customer after one of its employees saw the Channels platform was being tested at an event. He saw employees pulling out their phones and asked the manager why they were doing that, and was told they were testing out the product and referred him to Kaul.

“What they thought was helpful was that it was communication, and though the employees were checking their phones, it was quick and they remained attentive,” Kaul said.

Channels provides a solid platform in terms of analytics and graphical representation, which is a major selling point for customers, leading to initial traction and revenue for the company that Rosen said he expects can occur at the convention level the company is striving for.

The new funding will be used to grow in development and bring additional engineering talent to the team. In addition, it will allow Kaul and Rosen to continue with their studies, while Mohammed will be doing more full-time work. They want to increase their recurring revenue in the Middle East while building up operations in the United States.

Jamal Al-Barrak, managing partner of Sahra Growth Capital, said Channels was on his firm’s radar ever since they won the 2020 Dubai X-Series competition it sponsors. As a result of winning the competition, he was able to see the founders on multiple occasions and hear their growth.

Sahra doesn’t typically invest in companies like Channels, but the firm started a “seed sourcing effort” to make investments of between $200,000 and $800,000 into early-stage companies, Al-Barrak said. Channels is one of the first investments with that effort.

“Channels is one of our first investments in this initiative and they look very promising so far even compared to our investments before we started this initiative,” Al-Barrak said. He liked the founders’ work ethic and their focus on the event industry, which he called, “historically outdated and bereft of technological innovation.”

“Sid, Elan and Ibrahim are some of the youngest yet brightest entrepreneurs I have come across to this day and I have invested in over 25 technology startups,” he said. “Additionally, I enjoyed that they had proof of concept with a prior customer base and revenue. I was most impressed by their vision past their current industry and bounds as they want to encapsulate communication for all physical workers, whether it is events, retail or more.”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #channels-inc, #cloud, #communication, #elan-rosen, #enterprise, #event-management, #funding, #ibrahim-mohammed, #jamal-al-barrak, #logistics, #middle-east, #recent-funding, #sahra-growth-capital, #siddharth-kaul, #startups, #tc, #university-of-michigan

Medal.tv, a video clipping service for gamers, enters the livestreaming market with Rawa.tv acquisition

Medal.tv, a short-form video clipping service and social network for gamers, is entering the live streaming market with the acquisition of Rawa.tv, a Twitch rival based in Dubai, which had raised around $1 million to date. The seven-figure, all cash deal will see two of Rawa’s founders, Raya Dadah and Phil Jammal, now joining Medal and further integrations between the two platforms going forward.

The Middle East and North African region (MENA) is one of the fastest-growing markets in gaming and still one that’s mostly un-catered to, explained Medal.tv CEO Pim de Witte, as to his company’s interest in Rawa.

“Most companies that target that market don’t really understand the nuances and try to replicate existing Western or Far-Eastern models that are doomed to fail,” he said. “Absorbing a local team will increase Medal’s chances of success here. Overall, we believe that MENA is an underserved market without a clear leader in the livestreaming space, and Rawa brings to Medal the local market expertise that we need to capitalize on this opportunity,” de Witte added.

Medal.tv’s community had been asking for the ability to do livestreaming for some time, the exec also noted, but the technology would have been too expensive for the startup to build using off-the-shelf services at its scale, de Witte said.

“People increasingly connect around live and real-time experiences, and this is something our platform has lacked to date,” he noted.

But Rawa, as the first livestreaming platform dedicated to Arab gaming, had built out its own proprietary live and network streaming technology that’s now used in all its products. That technology is now coming to Medal.tv.

Image Credits: Medal.tv

The two companies were already connected before today, as Rawa users have been able to upload their gaming clips to Medal.tv, and some Rawa partners had joined Medal’s skilled player program. Going forward, Rawa will continue to operate as a separate platform, but it will become more tightly integrated with Medal, the company says. Currently, Rawa sees around 100,000 active users on its service.

The remaining Rawa team will continue to operate the livestreaming platform under co-founder Jammal’s leadership following the deal’s close, and the Rawa HQ will remain based in Dubai. However, Rawa’s employees have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, and it’s unclear if that will change in the future, given the uncertainty of Covid-19’s spread.

Medal.tv detailed its further plans for Rawa on its site, where the company explained it doesn’t aim to build a “general-purpose” livestreaming platform where the majority of viewers don’t pay — a call-out that clearly seems aimed at Twitch. Instead, it says it will focus on matching content with viewers who would be interested in subscribing to the creators. This addresses on of the challenges that has faced larger platforms like Twitch in the past, where it’s been difficult for smaller streamers to get off the ground.

The company also said it will remain narrowly focused on serving the gaming community as opposed to venturing into non-gaming content, as others have done. Again, this differentiates itself from Twitch which, over the years, expanded into vlogs and even streaming old TV shows. And it’s much different from YouTube or Facebook Watch, where gaming is only a subcategory of a broader video network.

The acquisition follows Medal.tv’s $9 million Series A led by Horizons Ventures in 2019, after the startup had grown to 5 million registered users and “hundreds of thousands” of daily active users. Today, the company says over 200,000 people create content every day on Medal, and 3 million users are actively viewing that content every month.

#apps, #clips, #digital-media, #dubai, #exit, #gamer, #gamers, #games, #horizons-ventures, #livestreaming, #ma, #mass-media, #media, #mena, #middle-east, #mobile, #new-media, #player, #social-network, #startups, #streaming, #streaming-media, #twitch, #video, #video-clipping, #video-games

America Needs to Start Telling the Truth About Israel’s Nukes

This charade doesn’t leave anyone safer. It’s gone on long enough. 

#arms-control-and-limitation-and-disarmament, #ben-gurion-david, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #central-intelligence-agency, #iran, #israel, #meir-golda, #middle-east, #nixon-richard-milhous, #nuclear-nonproliferation-treaty, #nuclear-tests, #nuclear-weapons, #obama-barack, #united-states-international-relations

This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage 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 per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $546 million in Q2, but also reported a $45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $100 to $10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($5/mo or $50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

? Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

? Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $1.4 billion.

?  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

? YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

? London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

? Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides?….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

? Mental health app Revery raised $2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

? London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

? Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

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