Microsoft acquires video creation and editing software maker Clipchamp

Video editing software may become the next big addition to Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it’s acquiring Clipchamp, a company offering web-based video creation and editing software that allows anyone to put together video presentations, promos or videos meant for social media destinations like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. According to Microsoft, Clipchamp is a “natural fit” to extend its exiting productivity experiences in Microsoft 365 for families, schools, and businesses.

The acquisition appealed to Microsoft for a few reasons. Today, more people are creating and using video, thanks to a growing set of new tools that allow anyone — even non-professionals — to quickly and easily perform advanced edits and produce quality video content. This, explains Microsoft, has allowed video to establish itself as a new type of “document” for businesses to do things like pitch an idea, explain a process, or communicate with team members.

The company also saw Clipchamp as an interesting acquisition target due to how it combined “the simplicity of a web app with the full computing power of a PC with graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration,” it said. That makes the software a good fit for the Microsoft Windows customer base, as well.

Clipchamp itself had built a number of online tools in the video creation and editing space, including its video maker Clipchamp Create, which offers features for trimming, cutting, cropping, rotating, speed control, and adding text, audio, images, colors, and filters. It also provides other tools that make video creation easier, like templates, free stock video and audio libraries, screen recorders, text-to-speech tools, and others for simplifying a brand’s fonts, colors and logos for use in video. A discontinued set of utilities called Clipchamp Utilities had once included a video compressor and converters, as well as an in-browser webcam recorder. Some of this functionality was migrated over to the new Clipchamp app, however.

After producing the videos with Clipchamp, creators can choose between different output styles and aspect ratios for popular social media networks, making it a popular tool for online marketers.

Image Credits: Clipchamp

Since its founding in 2013, Clipchamp grew to attract over 17 million registered users and has served over 390,000 companies, growing at a rate of 54% year-over-year. As the pandemic forced more organizations towards remote work, the use of video has grown as companies adopted the medium for training, communication, reports, and more. During the first half of 2021, Clipchamp saw a 186% increase in video exports. Videos using the 16:9 aspect ratio grew by 189% while the 9:16 aspect ratio for sharing to places like Instagram Stories and TikTok grew by 140% and the 1:1 aspect ratio for Instagram grew 72%. Screen recording also grew 57% and webcam recording grew 65%.

In July, Clipchamp CEO Alexander Dreiling commented on this growth, noting the company had nearly tripled its team over the past year.

“We are acquiring two times more users on average than we did at the same time a year ago while also doubling the usage rate, meaning more users are creating video content than ever before. While social media videos have always been at the forefront of business needs, during the past year we’ve also witnessed the rapid adoption of internal communication use cases where there is a lot of screen and webcam recording taking place in our platform,” he said.

Microsoft didn’t disclose the acquisition price, but Clipchamp had raised over $15 million in funding according to Crunchbase.

This is not Microsoft’s first attempt at entering the video market.

The company was recently one of the suitors pursuing TikTok when the Trump administration was working to force a sale of the China-owned video social network which Trump had dubbed a national security threat. (In order to keep TikTok running in the U.S., ByteDance would have needed to have divested TikTok’s U.S. operations. But that sale never came to be as the Biden administration paused the effort.) Several years ago, Microsoft also launched a business video service called Stream, that aimed to allow enterprises to use video as easily as consumers use YouTube. In 2018, it acquired social learning platform Flipgrid, which used short video clips for collaboration. And as remote work became the norm, Microsoft has been adding more video capabilities to its team collaboration software, Microsoft Teams, too.

Microsoft’s deal follows Adobe’s recent $1.28 acquisition of the video review and collaboration platform Frame.io, which has been used by over a million people since its founding in 2014. However, unlike Clipchamp, whose tools are meant for anyone to use at work, school, or home, Frame.io is aimed more directly at creative professionals.

Dreiling said Clipchamp will continue to grow at Microsoft, with a focus on making video editing accessible to more people.

“Few companies in tech have the legacy and reach that Microsoft has. We all grew up with iconic Microsoft products and have been using them ever since,” he explained. “Becoming part of Microsoft allows us to become part of a future legacy. Under no other scenario could our future look more exciting than what’s ahead of us now. At Clipchamp we have always said that we’re not suffering from a lack of opportunity, there absolutely is an abundance of opportunity in video. We just need to figure out how to seize it. Inside Microsoft we can approach seizing our opportunity in entirely new ways,” Dreiling added.

Microsoft did not say when it expected to integrate Clipchamp into its existing software suite, saying it would share more at a later date.

 

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Indian state government website exposed COVID-19 lab test results

A security flaw in a website run by the government of West Bengal in India exposed the lab results of at least hundreds of thousands of residents, though likely millions, who took a COVID-19 test.

The website is part of the West Bengal government’s mass coronavirus testing program. Once a COVID-19 test result is ready, the government sends a text message to the patient with a link to its website containing their test results.

But security researcher Sourajeet Majumder found that the link containing the patient’s unique test identification number was scrambled with base64 encoding, which can be easily converted using online tools. Because the identification numbers were incrementally sequenced, the website bug meant that anyone could change that number in their browser’s address bar and view other patients’ test results.

The test results contain the patient’s name, sex, age, postal address, and if the patient’s lab test result came back positive, negative, or inconclusive for COVID-19.

Majumder told TechCrunch that he was concerned a malicious attacker could scrape the site and sell the data. “This is a privacy violation if somebody else gets access to my private information,” he said.

Two COVID-19 lab test results, but with details redacted, to show what kind of data has been exposed.

Two redacted COVID-19 lab test results exposed as a result of a security vulnerability on the West Bengal government’s website. (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

Majumder reported the vulnerability to India’s CERT, the country’s dedicated cybersecurity response unit, which acknowledged the issue in an email. He also contacted the West Bengal government’s website manager, who did not respond. TechCrunch independently confirmed the vulnerability and also reached out to the West Bengal government, which pulled the website offline, but did not return our requests for comment.

TechCrunch held our report until the vulnerability was fixed or no longer presented a risk. At the time of publication, the affected website remains offline.

It’s not known exactly how many COVID-19 lab results were exposed because of this security lapse, or if anyone other than Majumder discovered the vulnerability. At the time the website was pulled offline at the end of February, the state government had tested more than 8.5 million residents for COVID-19.

West Bengal is one of the most populated states of India, with about 90 million residents. Since the start of the pandemic, the state government has recorded more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths.

It’s the latest of several security incidents in the past few months to hit India and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last May, India’s largest cell network Jio admitted a security lapse after a security researcher found a database containing the company’s coronavirus symptom checker, which Jio had launched months earlier.

In October, a security researcher found Dr Lal PathLabs left hundreds of spreadsheets containing millions of patient booking records — including for COVID-19 tests — on a public storage server that was not protected with a password, allowing anyone to access sensitive patient data.


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3 best practices that will maximize the value of your online events

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting calendars — along with travel budgets and marketing plans — by canceling events ranging to major league sports to tech conferences. This has impacted the startup and tech industries on all levels; by early March, economic losses from tech event cancellations alone amounted to more than $1.1 billion.

In response, many businesses have taken events online. Teleconferencing tools are being used more than ever, and Zoom registered 200 million daily users in March, up from a record of 10 million. Business figures and organizations can harness these online tools to minimize the blow of the worldwide shutdown, reach their target audiences and position themselves as thought leaders, but moving events online has its own problems.

The more meetups are generated, the more likely it is that yours will get lost in a sea of options. It’s also significantly easier for people to “attend” an event — and ignore it or exit early. There are plenty of studies demonstrating that internet users have shorter attention spans.

So you have to stand out and keep people engaged while speaking to people through a screen thousands of miles away. Over the past decade I have run more than 100 webinars with over 100,000 live attendees, and am one of the largest Meetup organizers in the world. Through trial and error I have developed a set of best practices that will keep people engaged in online events.

Transmitting real value by computer is certainly more challenging than face-to-face, but following these three pointers will help you get there.

1. Prepare for all eventualities

We all know what a badly prepared organized meeting looks like: frozen screens, buffering videos and broken audio.

The smart thing to do is to create a customized checklist of all the steps you’ll need to take before any virtual event. The most important non-human elements you should be checking are: internet connection, software (the program hosting the call and other tools), hardware (microphones and camera) and visual aids.

You know what that means: double-check your internet connection, microphones, and cameras (if possible, include the speakers in your test calls). Avoid shared internet and never allow the organizers to use the same network. There are applications for testing internet speed, which pretty much needs to be above 10 mbps upload and 20mbps download. In the long term, always consider spending more on a better internet package. Declutter your desktop before the meeting starts.

If you’re relocating an in-person event to a virtual setting, you’ll have to completely rebuild the program: while a physical event should last around two hours, a virtual one can’t be more than 1.25 hours long (drop-offs tend to peak after 45-60 minutes). Normally you’d also want plenty of speakers to improve networking afterwards, but online you’ll want a maximum of four to reduce the risk of technical issues and limit the duration.

In terms of organizers, designate an event host — just one — to coordinate the meeting and an event producer who’ll keep things running in the background. Decide on the best way for them to communicate during the talk; we usually rely on a live Google doc that is continually updated by the producer with selected audience questions. It means the host isn’t distracted by private chat notifications. A reliable host will involve the audience, protect the time designated to Q&As and keep the conversation moving.

Communicate constantly with your speakers beforehand, as they’re much more likely to cancel at the last minute for a virtual event. Run through the content they’ll be using days in advance — if they’re putting effort in ahead of time, they probably won’t be a no-show. Ask them to join the meeting 30 minutes before it begins to iron out any problems (get them to use headphones and ask them to reduce the number of people using their Wi-Fi if the connection is shaky).

To give a Power Point presentation, you or the speaker must make sure to set up your Slideshow to be “Browsed by an Individual (Window).” If not, the deck will take up the presenter’s entire screen and be very disorienting.

2. Create the right types of content for “at home” audiences

Ensuring you have solid content is not the same over Zoom as it is in-person.

First, make sure the discussion dives straight into the topic at hand and hook the audience immediately. Think of their attention span as that of someone trying out a new Netflix series: if attendees feel like the event is slow or overly promotional, they will exit faster. So keep the welcomes and thank-yous short and sweet and open with your most stimulating questions.

Tailor your content to the times and address realities that will strike a chord with participants’ daily lives. Research similar events so your angle stands out from any other conferences that are happening around the same time.

This is especially important now that everything is gravitating around COVID-19. What’s different in what your organization has to say, or in the speakers you have lined up? What are they more likely to agree on or, more importantly, disagree on? A good host will help keep debates alive and bring in those opposing views while avoiding unproductive conflicts.

Another note relating to COVID-19: don’t be insensitive to the moment. We’re trying to adapt through a period of true hardship, not exploit it to gain advantage.

Always keep your content moving. Conference attendees are more likely to pay attention to 5-10 minute discussions than 50 minutes devoted to a single drawn-out topic. And they won’t want to hear monologues when several speakers are on hand to provide stimulating counterarguments. Again, this is the host’s job during the event.

When possible, break up your presentation with visual aids like graphs and images (but please avoid any streaming content and videos). Our brains can process images 60,000 times faster than they process text. Participants will also appreciate being able to take away screen grabs that summarize what they heard for later use.

3. Include attendees in the event

Engaging people is more valuable than promoting your company during an online conference, especially in the current climate. Attendees will probably be coming in with questions they want answered or problem they need a solution to, rather than the desire to buy a product. If you can give them what they need, they’ll remember you.

Start involving participants before the event begins by asking them to submit questions for the speakers or describe a challenge they are facing. During the event, encourage guests to ask questions or contribute to the chat (but try not to limit interactions to the group chat, which everyone knows is often ignored). Ask for participants’ opinions when a speaker presents a new idea and thank people who do participate. You can also ask rhetorical questions that, even if they don’t lead to a two-way discussion, will keep people focused.

If you can, and it’s appropriate, integrate tools that require your guests’ input, like instant surveys. You might need to put a timer on them to keep people sharp and curious.

Video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype allow you to record calls, including video, and you should always do so in public events so that you can share the recording on social media afterwards. Even if your event has few attendees at the time, its reach can become far greater with time.

If you can, always get feedback from attendees after an event. Send follow-up emails with links to the presentations and the speakers’ webpages, as well as a calendar of your upcoming events.

In the age of digitization, we are lucky enough to be able to reach our audiences and co-workers despite worldwide lockdowns. But people will still be selective about how they spend their time. Your organization has to add something valuable to the discussion, and whatever you do, make sure you have good Wi-Fi.

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