Instagram may divide hashtags from captions to end overhashing


Geofenced sharing, Quiz stickers, Stories Highlight stickers, and a separate interface for adding hashtags to posts are amongst a slew of new features Instagram has prototyped or is now testing. The last one could finally #cure #the #hashtag #madness that’s infected many of Instagram’s 1 billion users, causing them desperately fill up their captions with tagged words that make the feed tough to read in hopes of scoring a few extra views or followers.

The pace of iteration at Instagram is staggering, and helping it to leave Snapchat in the dust. With Facebook’s deep pockets funding its product, design, and engineering teams, Instagram is able to keep its app full of fresh toys to play with. Here’s a look at three prototypes, one test, and one confirmed roll out from Instagram

Hashtag Selector

The feature isn’t released or even necessarily testing yet, and Instagram refused to comment on it. But frequent TechCrunch tipster and mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong was able to dig the designated hashtag selector prototype out of the Instagram Android app’s code. It shows a dedicated “Add Hashtags” option underneath the caption composer and people tagger. Similar past discoveries by Wong have led to TechCrunch scoops about the eventual launch of Instagram video calling, name tags, music stickers, and more.

Disambiguating hashtags from captions could make adding them to posts less invasive and distracting, and thereby get more users doing it. That could in turn help Instagram tune its feed algorithm to show you more posts with hashtags you seem to care about, get more users following hashtags, allow it to better sort the Explore page with its new topic channels like Sports, Beauty, and Shopping. But perhaps most importantly, it could just make Instagram less annoying. Everyone has that friend that slaps on so many hashtags that their captions become an incoherent mess.

Geofenced Posts

Wong also dug out a powerful new feature that could help social media managers, businesses, and pro creators reach the right audience. Instagram has prototyped a “Choose Locations” option for posts that lets you select from a list of countries where you want your post to be visible. Instagram declined to comment.

The geofencing feature might enable Instagrammers to design different content and captions for different countries and languages. Facebook has offered geofencing for posts for many years, and Instagram already offers ad targeting down to the zip code or mile radius. But if this location chooser launches for everyone’s posts, it could let people and professional accounts express their prismatic identity differently across the globe.

Stories Highlight Stickers

Instagram gave me a confirmation that this final find by Wong is officially in testing. It allows users to turn someone else’s Stories Highlight from their profile into a sticker to overlay on their own Story. It’s an extension of the Quote-tweet style feature Instagram started testing in March that lets you turn people’s public feed posts into Stories stickers so you can add your commentary — or dunk on someone dumb. Stories Highlight Stickers could create a new path to virality for start creators who could convince their followers to re-share their Highlights and turn their friends into fellow fans.

Quiz Stickers

This prototype discovered by WABetaInfo‘s Twitter account allows users to ask a question in their Story and designate a correct answer. The Quiz sticker functions similarly to Instagram’s recently added Poll and Question stickers, but instead of tallying the results or letting you re-post someone’s answer, they’ll immediately see whether they guessed the right answer to your test. This ties into Instagram’s strategy to crush Snapchat by making its own Stories more interactive and turning the connection between fans and followers into a two-way street.

Video Tagging

Instagram did confirm the launch of one new feature, tagging people in videos. TechCrunch spotted thIS last week and Instagram said it was testing, but upon our inquiry told us that it’s now fully rolled out. Video tagging could generate extra visits for Instagram as few people have the willpower to ignore a notification that they were named in a new piece of content. The feature could also help Instagram figure out who to show the videos too by allowing it to place them high in the feed of the best friends of people tagged.

Combined, this flurry of new and potential features proves Instagram isn’t allowing its dominance to diminish its shipping schedule. It also demonstrates that Instagram VP of product Kevin Weil’s move to Facebook’s blockchain team his replacement by former News Feed VP Adam Mosseri hasn’t disrupted the app’s brisk pace of innovation.

The jury is still out about whether Instagram’s biggest new initiatives will take off. IGTV is off to a slow start, but will need time to build a long-form video archive to rival YouTube. And we’ll have to wait and see if users grow addicted to Instagram Explore’s new Shopping channel. But constantly updating the app takes pressure off of any one feature to carry the weight of a billion people’s eyes. Who wants to build a direct competitor to something evolving this fast?





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WalkMe raises $40M at a $1B+ valuation for its on-screen guidance technology


Designing for digital interfaces has come a long way since the first days of the web, but there remains a place for tech that can help navigate us through what are sometimes still bloated or complicated services (notwithstanding those that are deliberately so). Today, one of the more successful startups working in this area has raised a sizeable round that speaks to the opportunity.

WalkMe — the Israel-based provider of tools that companies and organizations plug into their own apps to help guide people in using them more efficiently — has closed $40 million in funding in a Series F round led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation also from previous investor Mangrove.

WalkMe is not disclosing its valuation, but a source very close to the company confirmed to me that it is now over $1 billion as business continues to “grow rapidly.” WalkMe now has 2,000 customers globally, which includes more than 30 percent of the Fortune 500, including Delta, HP (CEO and co-founder Dan Adika is an alum), T-Mobile and Microsoft (no Clippy jokes, please).

The money — which brings the total raised to $207.5 million — will be used to expand its business further into local markets in Europe and Asia Pacific, and also continue to build out its platform. Today, that platform includes elements of machine learning and big data analytics along with technologies to read, understand, and guide through user interfaces — a tech stack that has grown through a combination of internal development and acquisitions.

When it was founded in 2011, WalkMe’s focus was primarily on providing help to website visitors, to keep them from bouncing away in frustration. Over time, it expanded to other areas. Its remit now also includes B2B, since in many cases an organization’s internal teams can be just as confused or frustrated with its tech services as external customers might be, and that impacts overall productivity. (Consider employee on-boarding, or change management, or the fact that we have multiple services, sometimes as much as 20 different systems, that we need to use daily.)

WalkMe is also doing more in automation, helping fill in information and proceed through other steps to speed up usage, or as Rephael Sweary, the president and other co-founder of the company, describes it, “reducing the steps it takes to do something on a site from 10 to three.” Sweary said that WalkMe’s business is roughly split equally between B2B and B2B2C today, with 40 percent of sales to repeat customers.

Perhaps the best measure of a service that helps you use other services better is if the helping service disappears into the background and becomes a bit invisible. That seems to be something of the modus operandi of WalkMe, which even as a startup lacks much of a profile, especially considering its valuation now.

That carries through to the services that WalkMe provides as a business. Much of its business is “white label”, in that there is no WalkMe branding anywhere, and the aim is to make the assistants it creates, to help people through user interfaces, as unnoticeable as possible. In fact, the most you might get about WalkMe’s presence on a site, is in Europe, where it will be listed along with other services, in a GDPR-related information splash among other services that a site might use to help optimise performance. Sweary says that WalkMe is completely GDPR compliant itself.

Another part of its work is dedicated to observing how interfaces are being used, employing machine learning and big data analytics technology to figure out not just what people are doing, but how to improve it.

It’s this shift to developing services that will help shape how services are built that is an interesting direction for WalkMe, which has up to now nearly profited off the fact that sites and other digital interfaces have not been designed well.

WalkMe’s most recent acquisition, in June, was of a stealth startup called DeepUI, which uses deep learning analytics around a site’s graphical user interface to understand how sites are used without integrating with a site’s APIs. “DeepUI’s algorithms can anticipate individual user’s needs, automatically create customized step-by-step guidance and complete tasks in the quickest and most efficient way possible,” WalkMe said at the time it announced the deal.

“This will save organizations countless hours of time in building, maintaining and managing instructions, workflows, or other engagement processes for users on any platform.”

That longer-term vision of how WalkMe plans to evolve is what has excited investors in this round, alongside the growth of its existing business.

“WalkMe pioneered and developed the digital adoption platform, with a bold vision of transforming the way users interact with technology, just like navigation systems (GPS) changed the way we drive. With WalkMe, users no longer need to learn or recall how to use any software, application or websites,” said Roy Saar, partner at Mangrove Capital Partners, in a statement. “Although we are traditionally an early stage investor, we decided to take part in WalkMe’s growth round because we are witnessing how more and more of WalkMe’s customers see WalkMe as a strategic enabler of their digital transformation. We look forward to continuing our partnership with WalkMe as they continue to revolutionize the future of work.”



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Lunewave is pitching a new sensor offering better vision for autonomous vehicles


The investment arms of BMW and the Chinese search technology giant, Baidu, along with a large original equipment manufacturer for the auto industry and a slew of technology investors have all come together to back Lunewave, a startup developing new sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles.

The $5 million seed round which the company just closed will serve as a launching pad to get its novel radar technology, based on the concept of a Luneburg antenna, to market.

First developed in the 1940s, Lunewave’s spin the antenna technology involves leveraging 3D printing to create new architectures that enable more powerful antennas with greater range and accuracy than the sensing technologies currently on the market, according to the company’s chief executive John Xin.

Lunewave was co-founded by brothers John and Hao Xin and is based off of research that Hao had been conducting as a professor at the University of Arizona. Hao previously spent years working in the defense community for companies like Raytheon and Rockwell Scientific after graduating with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000.

Younger brother John took a more entrepreneurial approach, working in consulting and financial services for companies like PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Liberty Mutual.

Lunewave represents the culmination of nine years of research the elder Xin spent at the University of Arizona applying 3D printing to boost the power of the Luneburg antenna. With so much intellectual firepower behind it, Hao was able to convince his younger brother to join him on the entrepreneurial journey.

He has a strong desire to commercialize his inventions,” John Xin said of his older brother. “He wants to see it in everyday life.”

Autonomous Vehicle

 Image courtesy of Driving-Tests.org

Now the company has $5 million in new funding to take the technology that Hao Xin has dedicated so much time and effort to develop and bring it to market. 

“With a single 3D printer in the laboratory version we can produce 100 per day,” John Xin told me. “With an industrial printer you can print 1000 per day.”

The first market for the company’s new technology will be autonomous vehicles — and more specifically autonomous cars.

Lunewave is focused on the eyes of the vehicle, says John Xin. Currently, autonomous technologies rely on a few different sensing systems. There are LIDAR technologies which use lasers to illuminate a target and measure the reflected pulses with a sensor; camera technologies which rely on — well — camera technologies; and radar which uses electromagnetic waves to detect objects.

Startups developing and refining these technologies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle the autonomous vehicle market. In June, the camera sensing technology developer Light raised over $120 million from SoftBank. Meanwhile, LIDAR technology developers like Quanergy and Leddartech have raised $134 million and $117 million respectively and some studies have claimed that the market for LIDAR technologies was already a $5.2 billion last year alone.

Most companies working with autonomous cars these days use some combination of these technologies, but the existing products on the market have significant limitations, according to Lunewave’s chief executive.

John Xin argues that the Lunewave technology can detect more objects in a wider field of view and at greater distances than existing products thanks to the unique properties of the Luneburg antenna.

Think of the antenna as a giant golf ball with a 360 field of “view” that can detect objects at greater distances than existing Lidar technologies because of the distance constraints on laser technologies.

Xin with a Lunewave prototype

“LIDAR right now is at the end of the day because of its short wavelength. It does not function as well in poor weather conditions. Penetration of shorter wave lengths would be very difficult in poor weather conditions,” Xin said. “Our radar technology has the ability to function across all weather conditions. Our hardware architecture of our Lunenberg antenna has the best distance and the spherical nature of the device has the 360 detection capacity.”

The company came out with its minimum viable product in 2017 — the same year that it launched. It was one of the early companies in the UrbanX accelerator — a collaboration between Mini and Urban.us — and is part of BMW’s startup garage program.

The company raised $5 million in two structures. Its seed financing was a $3.75 million equity round led by the automotive investment specialist McCombs Fraser with participation from Ekistic Ventures, Urban.us, Plug and Play, Shanda Capital, Lighthouse Ventures, Baidu Ventures and BMW iVentures. But a portion of its capital came in the form of a $1.25 million non-dilutive government grant through the National Science Foundation . “In late 2016 that’s what helped us to jumpstart the company,” said Xin.

Now, the company just needs to fulfill Hao Xin’s dream of taking the product to market.

“We have the product,” John Xin said. “It’s not just taking in money. Now it’s about [proof of concepts] and pilots.”



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GoPro shakes up its entire camera line


GoPro delivered a big refresh of its cameras today with a lot of new product names but not quite as many hardware updates as we’ve seen in past updates.

The new lineup from GoPro is definitely less confusing from a branding perspective. The Hero7 White, Silver and Black will cost $199, $299 and $399 respectively. Unlike past years, the company will be discontinuing the previous generations rather than just dropping the price. The company did not offer any updates on its Fusion 360-degree camera.

The new cameras ship September 27.

In terms of the new product line, here’s what you’re looking at when it comes to specs.

Hero7 White Specs

  • $199
  • Max video: 1440p @ 60 frames
  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • 10MP photos

Hero7 Silver Specs

  • $299
  • Max video: 4K @ 30 frames
  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • 10MP photos
  • GPS

Hero7 Black Specs

  • $399
  • Max video: 4K @ 60 frames
  • Slow-mo: 2.7K @ 120 frames, 1080p @ 240 frames
  • Waterproof up to 10m
  • 12MP HDR photos
  • Live-streaming
  • GPS

While the White and Silver models both have a new color palette, they both have lost the small front LCD status screen that could help you determine what mode you were in. It’s an interesting move that probably offered a drop in bill of materials cost for the cameras and offered a broader range of differences between low and high-end models but they do ultimately kind of feel like downgrades to the Hero5 Black and Hero they are replacing in the lineup.

The flagship Hero7 Black is again the star of the group, but the differences between the newcomer and its preceding model are far less pronounced than in past releases.

You can check out our Hero7 Black review for some more details on how the hardware and software stack up.



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AI could help push Neo4j graph database growth


Graph databases have always been useful to help find connections across a vast data set, and it turns out that capability is quite handy in artificial intelligence and machine learning too. Today, Neo4j, the makers of the open source and commercial graph database platform, announced the release of Neo4j 3.5, which has a number of new features aimed specifically at AI and machine learning.

Neo4j founder and CEO Emil Eifrem says he had recognized the connection between AI and machine learning and graph databases for awhile, but he says that it has taken some time for the market to catch up to the idea.

“There has been a lot momentum around AI and graphs…Graphs are very fundamental to AI. At the same time we were seeing some early use cases, but not really broad adoption, and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” he explained.

AI graph uses cases. Graphic: Neo4j

To help advance AI uses cases, today’s release includes a new full text search capability, which Eifrem says has been one of the most requested features. This is important because when you are making connections between entities, you have to be able to find all of the examples regardless of how it’s worded — for example, human versus humans versus people.

Part of that was building their own indexing engine to increase indexing speed, which becomes essential with ever more data to process. “Another really important piece of functionality is that we have improved our data ingestion very significantly. We have 5x end-to-end performance improvements when it comes to importing data. And this is really important for connected feature extraction, where obviously, you need a lot of data to be able to train the machine learning,” he said. That also means faster sorting of data too.

Other features in the new release include improvements to the company’s own Cypher database query language and better visualization of the graphs to give more visibility, which is useful for visualizing how machine learning algorithms work, which is known as AI explainability. They also announced support for the Go language and increased security.

Graph databases are growing increasingly important as we look to find connections between data. The most common use case is the knowledge graph, which is what lets us see connections in a huge data sets. Common examples include who we are connected to on a social network like Facebook, or if we bought one item, we might like similar items on an ecommerce site.

Other use cases include connected feature extraction, a common machine learning training techniques that can look at a lot of data and extract the connections, the context and the relationships for a particular piece of data, such as suspects in a criminal case and the people connected to them.

Neo4j has over 300 large enterprise customers including Adobe, Microsoft, Walmart, UBS and NASA. The company launched in 2007 and has raised $80 million. The last round was $36 million in November 2016.



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Spotify will now let indie artists upload their own music


Spotify today is taking another step that may make record labels uncomfortable. Fresh off reports that the streaming service is cutting its own licensing deals with independent artists, the company this morning announced it will now allow indie artists to directly upload their music to its service, too.

The upload feature is today launching into beta on Spotify for Artists, the online dashboard that arrived publicly last year. This dashboard and its accompanying mobile app allow artists to track metrics surrounding their streams and their fan base demographics.

Through the new upload tool, artists will now be able to add their own tracks to the streaming service in just a few clicks.

Explains Spotify, artists will upload the music, preview how things will appear, then edit the music’s metadata, if need be. They’ll also be able to choose when those new tracks “go live” on Spotify. (No more new music Fridays, perhaps.)

Most importantly, Spotify says that artists are paid as usual for their uploaded music – the royalty payments will simply be direct deposited to artists’ bank accounts every month.

Another new report in the dashboard will detail how much the uploaded streams are earning and when they can expect to be paid.

The upload option is free, and Spotify says it won’t deduct any fees or commissions of its own.

The move is likely to concern labels, who have traditionally acted as gatekeepers between artists and fans. But through digital media platforms, artists have been exploring new ways to build their audience.

For example, on SoundCloud – a service Spotify once considered acquiring –  indie musicians, DJs, bands and other performers have been able to attract followings. Similarly, YouTube has often served as a discovery vehicle for unknowns.

Both services will be impacted by this move, as it’s one of the reasons they’re used by artists. Now, they’ll be able to point fan bases directly to their Spotify tracks.

Those who are able to gain fans on their own may be able to route around the need for a label, and subsequently keep more of their earnings in the process.

“Artists receive 50% of net revenues from the songs they upload, and Spotify also accounts to publishers and collection societies for additional royalties related to the music composition,” said Kene Anoliefo, the Senior Product Lead for Spotify’s Creator Marketplace, confirming the payout structure.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report by The NYT, artists working with labels may see much smaller percentages. The report said that Spotify typically pays a record label around 52 percent of the revenue generated by each stream. The label, in turn, then pays the artist a royalty of anywhere from 15% to as high as 50%.

If artists are dealing directly with Spotify, they could be making more money.

Labels suggested that they could retaliate against Spotify for overstepping. The NYT had also said. They may do things like withhold licenses Spotify needs for key international expansions, like India, or not agree to new terms after existing contracts expire.

They could also offer more exclusives and promos to Spotify’s rivals, like Apple Music, which has surged ahead in the U.S. and is now neck-and-neck here with Spotify for paid subscribers. (Some reports, as well as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, have claimed Apple Music is ahead in North America.)

Spotify has historically downplayed these concerns to investors, saying that it’s building a two-sided marketplace, and that it’s always licensed music from creators both “large and small” and will continue to license music from whomever owns the rights.

A music upload feature also means artists who own their own rights could break out big on Spotify if they catch the attention of playlist editors – something that Spotify now makes it easier for them to do, as well.

In addition, having indies upload music directly means Spotify could better compete against Apple Music by attracting more artists and their fans to its platform.

The upload feature is debuting in beta on an invite-only basis in the U.S., Spotify says.

A small handful of independent artists are already on board, including Noname, Michael Brun, VIAA, and Hot Shade. They provided Spotify with some initial feedback in earlier testing ahead of the beta launch, the company says.

“We started off by working with artists who are both deeply engaged in our platform – so they use Spotify for
Artists often –  and they also release music often,” said Anoliefo, adding that music upload has been one of artists’ most requested features.

“We used the test with them to shape the tool and make an upload process that we think is really easy, transparent and flexible. It’ll enable artists to use the tool to upload music through Spotify for Artists whenever they like. There are no barriers or constraints. And they can upload as often as they’d like. And as many times as they like,” she said.

Over the next few months, Spotify will email other artists to ask them to try out the feature, as well.

Initially, it will open up access to a few hundred more, before rolling it out publicly to the over 200,000 monthly active users of the Spotify for Artists platform.

At launch, music upload will be a web-only feature. The company wouldn’t comment on its plans to bring the feature to mobile.

 

 



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GoPro kills the Session camera cube


Three years after its introduction, GoPro is killing its Session camera line.

The cute little cube was dropped today after GoPro revealed its latest lineup of Hero7 cameras.

When the Hero4 Session was first revealed in 2015, it was the action camera company’s first major redesign and signaled some dramatic ethos shifts, some that ultimately found their way to other GoPro cameras and others that it seems to be taking to the grave. It was the first GoPro to have a waterproof/shockproof casing built-in, it dropped the user replaceable battery and it significantly reduced the camera’s footprint.

It was not designed to be the “cheap camera” and was initially positioned at a $399 price point near the high-end of its lineup at the time. The company ultimately failed to really differentiate the Session form factor and despite an ambitious introduction it just kind of ended up becoming the company’s low-end product that didn’t work with any of the existing GoPro accessories that were being sold.

The writing was on the wall when the company neglected to refresh the hardware at its Hero6 event last year, but the Hero5 Session kept chugging along as the entry-level GoPro until the company showed off a new $199 Hero camera in March.

The Hero5 Session is not alone singing its swan song, the Hero6 Black and Hero5 Black have also been officially discontinued replaced by the Hero7 White, Silver and Black editions.



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Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske


Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer.

Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem.

Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director.

As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape.

Lexi Novitske

Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio.

Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes.

Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.



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Inside Facebook Dating, launching today first in Colombia


Does deeper data produce perfect matches? Facebook is finally ready to find out, starting today with a country-wide test in Colombia of its Dating feature. It’s centered around an algorithm-powered homescreen of Suggested romantic matches based on everything Facebook knows about you that other apps don’t.

Originally announced at F8 in May, Facebook has hammered out details like limiting users to expressing interest in a maximum of 100 people per day, spotlighting personal questions as well as photos, and defaulting to show you friends-of-friends as well as strangers unless you only want to see people with no mutual connections. If the test goes well, expect Facebook to roll Dating out to more countries shortly as the social network pushes its mission to create meaningful connections and the perception that it can be a force of good.

“The goal of the team is to make Facebook simply the best place to start a relationship online” Facebook Dating’s product manager Nathan Sharp told me during an expansive interview about the company’s strategy and how it chose to diverge from the top dating apps. For starters, it’s not trying to compete with Tinder for where you find hookups by swiping through infinite options, but instead beat eHarmony, Hinge, or OKCupid at finding you a life partner. And it’s all about privacy, from its opt-in nature to how it’s almost entirely siloed from Facebook though lives within the same app.

“We wanted to make a product that encouraged people to remember that there are people behind the profiles and the cards that they’re seeing. We wanted a system that emphasizes consideration over impulse, We want you to consider more than that person’s profile photo.”

There are no plans to monetize Facebook Dating with ads or premium subscriptions to bonus features. But as Facebook strives to stay relevant beyond the aging News Feed and combat its branding crisis, there are plenty of incentives for it to find us a significant other.

How Facebook Dating Works…

“Dating is something we’ve seen on the platform since the earliest days. We know there are 200 million people who list themselves as single” says Sharp. He’s married himself but says with a laugh that Facebook Dating “is definitely a young and single team.” Back in 2004, online dating still had a sleazy reputation. But now that over a third of U.S. marriages start online, and Facebook has had time to identify the pitfalls stumbled into by other dating apps, it’s ready to pucker up.

The basic flow is that users 18 and up (or the local ‘Adult’ equivalent) will see a notice atop their News Feed inviting them to try Facebook Dating when it comes to their country, and they’ll see a shortcut in their bookmarks menu.

They’ll opt in, verify their city using their phone’s location services, and decide whether to add details like a free-form bio, workplace, education, religion, height, and if they have children. Facebook offers non-binary genders and sexual orientations. To fill out their profile, they’ll choose photos they upload, are tagged in, or previously posted to Facebook, as well as answer up to 20 questions about their personality such as “What does your perfect day look like?”

Users can select to filter their matches by distance, if they have children, religion, height and age. They may then browse through the homescreen’s Suggested matches list, or they can choose to ‘Unlock’ Events and Groups they’re part of to see people from those who’ve done the same. To see the next person, they either have to say they’re not interested, or choose a photo or question from the person’s profile and send them a message related to it (or at least they’re supposed to), and the sender can’t see the recipient any more.

The text and emoji-only messages go through a special Facebook Dating chat section, not Messenger, and land in the recipient’s Interested tab with no read receipts. If they reply, the chat moves to both people’s Conversations tab. From there they can decide to connect elsewhere online or meet up in person.

Sharp admits that “The moment you try to control the system you may have some unexpected behaviors occur there”. That’s why you can’t message photos (dick pics), and you can’t follow up with people who don’t respond to you (stalking). But Facebook plans to stay vigilant in case unexpected forms of abuse or privacy issues emerge.

…And Why

Starting today users in Colombia will be able to create a Facebook Dating profile, but the company won’t start serving matches until there are enough signups. Sharp tells me “we don’t expect it to take months.” But why Colombia? He says it’s because much of South America has culturally accepted online dating, it has a sizeable population of 30 million monthly active Facebook users, and the social network can track data out of a few discrete metropolitant areas.

But there are a lot of other ‘whys’ to how Facebook Dating was built. Sharp ran me through the decision making process his team undertook to turn Facebook Dating from a concept into a concrete product. Here I’ll run through its rules and features while explaining the philosophy behind them.

  1. Meaningful relationships not one-night-stands, because “meaningful” is Facebook’s new watchword as it enters the ‘Time Well Spent’ era, and Facebook has the deep biographical and interest data to find you matches you’ll want to wake up next to each day, not just go to bed with.
  2. Opt-in not automatic enrollment, because “not everyone who’s single wants to date, not everyone who wants to date wants to date online, not everyone who dates online wants to date on Facebook” says Sharp.
  3. Within Facebook not a new app, because it lowers the barrier to behavior that’s already hard enough for some people, and it can only achieve its mission if people actually use it.
  4. Friends-of-friends and strangers not friends, because many people’s biggest fear is “are my friends and family going to see this” says Sharp, and people who are already friends don’t need help meeting and may already know if they want to date each other.
  5. A new profile not your same one, because some people might want to share a different side of themselves or might not publicly disclose their sexual orientation. The only info ported into Facebook Dating is your first name and age.
  6. Message and response not both people swiped right, because since Facebook wants you to be deliberate about who you show interest in, you have to send one message and hope to hear back. There’s no infinite right-swiping and then waiting get matched or messaged. “It puts the power in the responder” Sharp says.
  7. Profiles and chat are separate not part of Facebook, because it doesn’t want to scare users about privacy slip-ups, and doesn’t want people to pollute the main Facebook experience soliciting dates
  8. Real age and location not self-described, because Facebook wants to prevent catfishing as well as users contacting matches in distant cities who they’ll never meet.
  9. Matches through Events and Groups not randos, because a photo isn’t enough for choosing a life partner, interest overlaps are key to compatability, and they give people ready-mate happenings to use as dates.

The end result is an online dating product that maximizes convenience, both in where it’s available and how much hunting you have to do by yourself. Facebook’s in a precarious time for its brand, and may have trouble getting people to trust it with an even more sensitive part of their lives. But word could travel fast if it’s how people find their soul-mate.



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Lime hits 11.5 million bike and scooter rides


Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides, a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides. This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes.

Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities.

The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers.

Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber.



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