Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

De politie gebruikt veel ICT-programma’s die niet voldoen aan de Wet politiegegevens. Dat zegt de digitale burgerrechtenorganisatie Bits of Freedom, die interne rapporten opvroeg over door de politie gebruikte apps, zoals apps waarmee aangiften en verhoren worden opgenomen of waarmee agenten informatie uitwisselen.

“Het gaat om de 36 belangrijkste systemen die de politie heeft, die cruciaal zijn om het werk goed te kunnen doen”, zegt Rejo Zenger van Bits of Freedom in het NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

In de Wet politiegegevens staat hoe de politie en andere opsporingsdiensten met persoonsgegevens moeten omgaan die tijdens het werk zijn verzameld. Volgens Zenger gaat het op meerdere fronten mis. Zo worden gegevens bewaard die al lang verwijderd hadden moeten worden. “Dat is heel belangrijk als je verdachte bent geweest in een zaak. Dan wil je dat je uit de politiesystemen wordt verwijderd als je bent vrijgesproken. Dat gebeurt dus niet.”

“Het klopt dat veel politiesystemen niet voldoen aan de eisen van privacy en security in de Wet politiegegevens”, erkent Stephan den Hengst, chief data officer bij de Nationale Politie in een reactie in het NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “Dat wil niet zeggen dat politie-informatie op straat ligt.”

Zenger: “We hebben met z’n allen afspraken gemaakt over hoe de politie met dit soort gegevens omgaat, dat hebben we in een wet vastgelegd. Ik vind het nogal absurd dat de politie op grote schaal en langdurig die wet overtreedt. De minister moet in actie komen.”

Ongewenste meelezers

Het gaat volgens Zenger ook fout bij de besluitvorming over wie toegang tot een bepaalde database krijgt en wanneer. “Op het moment dat iemand van functie verandert, of stopt bij de politie, wil je dat hij de toegang tot een database kwijtraakt.” Ook dat gebeurt lang niet altijd. “Dat is een probleem bij corrupte agenten die informatie met criminelen delen. Je wilt niet dat een corrupte agent meer toegang heeft dan hij zou moeten hebben, omdat je het risico dat hij informatie doorspeelt zo klein mogelijk wilt houden.”

Een mogelijk gevolg kan volgens Zenger zijn dat getuigen in bijvoorbeeld een liquidatiezaak niet met de politie willen praten, omdat ze bang zijn dat dit bij de daders terechtkomt. Of dat slachtoffers van een verkrachting hun mond houden, omdat ze bang zijn dat onbevoegden hun aangifte gaan lezen.

Den Hengst zegt dat er inmiddels een centraal systeem is ontwikkeld voor het verlenen van toegang tot politie-apps. Iedereen die in dienst komt, krijgt nu een profiel, waarmee hij autorisatie krijgt tot het gebruik van bepaalde apps. Wie van functie verandert, verliest zijn autorisaties of krijgt andere.

Volgens Den Hengst is beveiliging een optelsom van fysieke beveiliging en technische informatiebeveiliging, van veiligheidsbewustzijn, veiligheidsprocedures, screening van medewerkers en kennis en cultuur. “Op al die elementen investeren wij, actief en ook reactief nadat er iets fout was gegaan. Dit sluit niet uit dat er informatie in verkeerde handen valt, maar ze verkleinen de kans dat het gebeurt.”

Hij denkt niet dat de problemen daarmee voor altijd zijn opgelost. “Dit is een ontwikkeling die gaande blijft. Cybercriminelen worden ook steeds slimmer en daar moeten wij ons tegen weren. Daar zijn we iedere dag heel hard mee bezig.”

NOS Tech

De Indiase overheid heeft 118 apps van Chinese makelij verboden, waaronder een aantal zeer populaire. Onder meer WeChat, Alipay en de game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) mogen niet meer in India worden gebruikt.

Volgens het Ministerie voor Elektronica en IT, stelen de apps data van gebruikers. De gegevens zouden ongemerkt naar buitenlandse servers worden verzonden. De apps “zijn betrokken bij activiteiten die nadelig zijn voor de veiligheid en openbare orde van India. Dat is een grote zorg die urgente maatregelen vraagt.”

Het gaat om games, betaaldiensten, software om selfies te bewerken en dating-apps. In juni verbood India ook al zo’n zestig apps, waaronder TikTok, en een maand later werden er nog meer apps geweerd.

Het Chinese ministerie van Handel heeft de actie veroordeeld en wil dat India “deze fout rechtzet”. Het verbod schendt de belangen van Chinese investeerders en dienstverleners in India, vindt het ministerie.

Grensconflict

De afgelopen maanden zijn de spanningen tussen China en India opgelopen, door een conflict in het grensgebied in het Himalayagebergte. Deze week nog beschuldigde India China van provocaties nadat Chinese troepen zouden hebben geprobeerd de grens in het betwiste gebied over te steken.

Dit grensconflict speelt al decennialang. Beide landen claimen gebieden aan de ruim 4000 kilometer lange grens. Met het verbieden van de apps, probeert India het buurland economisch te treffen, zeggen economen.

NOS Tech

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, one story completely took over the news cycle: Hey vs. Apple. An App Store developer dispute made headlines not because Apple was necessarily in the wrong, per its existing rules, but because of a growing swell of developer resentment against those rules. We’re giving extra bandwidth to this story this week, before jumping into the other headlines.

Also this week we look at what’s expected to arrive at next week’s WWDC20, the TikTok clone Zynn getting banned from both app stores (which is totally fine, I guess!), Facebook’s failed attempts to get its Gaming app approved by Apple, as well as some notable Android updates and other app industry trends.

Main Story: Hey vs. Apple

One story dominated this week’s app news. Unless you were living under the proverbial rock, there’s no way you missed it. After Basecamp received App Store approval for its new email app called Hey, the founders, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, turned to Twitter to explain how Apple had now rejected the app’s further updates. Apple told Basecamp it had to offer in-app purchases (IAP) for its full email service within the app, in addition to offering it on the company website. They were not happy, to say the least.

This issue came to a head at a time when regulators are taking a closer look at Apple’s business. The company is facing antitrust investigations in both the U.S. and the E.U. which, in part, will attempt to determine if Apple is abusing its market power to unfairly dominate its competitors. In Hey’s case, the subscription-based app competes with Apple’s built-in free Mail app, which could put this case directly in the regulators’ crosshairs.

But it also brings up the larger concerns over how Apple’s App Store rules have evolved to become a confusing mess which developers — and apparently even Apple’s own App Store reviewers — don’t fully understand. (Apple reportedly told Basecamp that Hey should have never been approved in the first place without IAP.)

Apple has carved out a number of conditions where apps don’t have to implement IAP, by making exceptions for enterprise apps that may have per-seat licensing plans for users and for a set of apps that more directly compete with Apple’s own. These, Apple calls “reader” apps, as they were originally directed making an exception for Amazon’s Kindle. But now this rule offers exceptions to the IAP rule for apps focused on magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, VoIP, access to professional databases, cloud storage, and more.

That leaves other digital service providers wondering why their apps have to pay when others don’t.

Apple didn’t help its argument, when earlier in the week it released a report that detailed how its App Store facilitated $ 519B in commerce last year. The company had aimed to prove how much business flows through the App Store without Apple taking a 30% commission, positioning the portion of the market Apple profits from as a tiny sliver. But after the Hey debacle, this report only drives home how Apple has singled out one type of app-based business — digital services — as the one that makes the App Store its money.

Apple’s decision to squander its goodwill with the developer community the week before WWDC is an odd one. Heinemeier Hansson, a content marketing expert, easily bested the $ 1.5 trillion dollar company by using Apple’s hesitance to speak publicly against it. He set the discussion on fire, posted App Store review email screenshots to serve as Apple’s voice, and let the community vent.

Amid the Twitter outrage, large publishers’ antitrust commentary added further fuel to the fire, including those from Spotify, Match, and Epic Games.

For more reading on this topic, here are some of the key articles:

  • TechCrunch’s exclusive interview with iOS App Store head, Phil Schiller. The exec said Apple’s position on the Hey app is unchanged and no changes to App Store rules are imminent. “You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” he argued. (Except of course, at those times when such an experience is totally fine with Apple, as in the case of “reader” apps.) Schiller also said Basecamp could have avoided the problems if Hey had offered a free version with paid upgrades, or if it offered IAP at a higher price than on its own website.
  • Daring Fireball’s comments on the “flimsiness” of Business vs. Consumer as a justification for Apple’s rejection of Hey. John Gruber points out that the line between what’s a business app and a consumer app is too blurred. Apple allows some business apps to forgo IAP if they sell enterprise plans (e.g. per seat plans) that often involve upgraded feature sets that aren’t even iOS-specific. But in this day and age, who’s to say that an email service doesn’t deserve the same ability to opt out of IAP in order to serve its own business user base? After all, what if it upgrades its paid service with web-only features — why should Apple get a cut of that business, too?
  • App Store policy criticism from The Verge. Nilay Patel sat down with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson to discuss the plight of Hey for its The Vergecast podcast. Cicilline said Apple’s fees were “exorbitant” and amounted to “highway robbery, basically.” He said Apple bullied developers by charging 30% of their business for access to its market — a decision which crushes smaller developers. “If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn’t happen,” he added. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn also argued that Apple’s interpretation and enforcement of its App Store policies is terrible.
  • Basecamp CEO’s take on Apple’s App Store payment policies: Basecamp, the makers of the Hey app, put out a company statement about the App Store rules. The statement doesn’t add anything new to the conversation that wasn’t already in the tweetstorm, except the Basecamp response to Schiller’s suggestions which was something along the lines of ?. The bottom line is that Hey wants to make the choice for its own business whether it needs the benefit of being able to acquire its users through the App Store or not. One way requires IAP and the other does not.
  • Vox’s Recode examines the antitrust case against Apple. The article doesn’t reference Hey, but lays out some of the other antitrust arguments being leveraged against Apple, including its “sherlocking” behavior,

Headlines

Apple has denied Facebook’s Gaming app at least 5 times since February

The Hey debacle is only one of many examples of how Apple exerts its market power over rivals. It has also repeatedly denied Facebook’s Gaming app entry to its App Store, citing the rule (Apple Store Review Guidelines, section 4.7) about not allowing apps whose main purpose is to sell other app, The NYT revealed this week.

Facebook’s Gaming app, which launched on Android in April, isn’t just another app store, however. The app offers users a hub to watch streamers play live, social networking tools, and the ability to play casual games like Zynga’s Words with Friends or Chobolabs Thug Life, for example. The latter is the point of contention, as Apple wants all games sold directly on the App Store, where it’s able to take a cut of their revenues.

One of the iterations Facebook tried was a version that looked almost exactly like how Facebook games are presented within the main Facebook iOS app — a single, alphabetized, unsortable list. The fact that this format was rejected when Apple already allows it elsewhere is an indication that even Apple doesn’t play by its own rules.

Zynn gets kicked out of App Store

Image Credits: Zynn

Zynn, the TikTok clone that shot to the top of the app store charts in late May, was pulled from Apple’s App Store on Monday. Before its removal, Sensor Tower estimates Zynn was downloaded 5 million times on iOS and 700,000 times on Google Play.


TechCrunch

Automation is the name of the game in enterprise IT at the moment: we now have a plethora of solutions on the market to speed up your workflow, simplify a process, and perform more repetitive tasks without humans getting involved. Now, a startup that is helping non-technical people get more directly involved in how to make automation work better for their tasks is announcing some funding to seize the opportunity.

Bryter — a no-code platform based in Berlin that lets workers in departments like accounting, legal, compliance and marketing who do not have any special technical or developer skills build tools like chatbots, trigger automated database and document actions and risk assessors — is today announcing that it has raised $ 16 million. This is a Series A round and it’s being co-led by Accel and Dawn Capital, with Notion Capital and Chalfen Ventures also participating.

The funding comes less than a year after Bryter raised a seed round — $ 6 million in November 2019 — and it was oversubscribed, with term sheets coming in from many of the bigger VCs in Europe and the US. With this funding, the company has now raised around $ 25 million, and while the valuation is considerably up on the last round, Bryter is not disclosing what it is.

Michael Grupp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Micha-Manuel Bues and Michael Hübl (pictured below), said that the whole Series A process took no more than a month to initiate and close, an impressive turnaround considering the chilling effect that the COVID-19 health pandemic has had on dealmaking.

Part of the reason for the enthusiasm is because of the traction that Bryter has had since launching in 2018. Its 50 enterprise customers include the likes of McDonalds, Telefónica, banks, healthcare and industrial companies, and professional services firms PwC, KPMG and Deloitte (who in turn use it for themselves as well as for clients). (Note: because of its target users being large enterprises, the company doesn’t publish per-person pricing on its site as such.)

Bryter’s been seeing a lot of attention from customers and investors because its platform speaks to a big opportunity within the wider world of software today.

Enterprise IT has long been thought of as the less-fun end of technology: it’s all about getting work done, and a lot of the software used in a business environment is complex and often requires technical knowledge to implement, use, fix and adapt in any way.

This may still the case for a lot of it, especially for the most sophisticated tools, but at the same time we have seen a lot of “consumerization” come into IT, where user-friendly hardware and software built for consumers — specifically non-technical consumers — either inspires new enterprise services, or are simply directly imported into the workplace environment.

No-code software — like automation, another big trend in enterprise IT right now — plays a big role in how enterprise tools are becoming more user-friendly. One of the biggest roadblocks in a lot of office environments is that when workers identify things that don’t work, or could work much better than they do, they need to file tickets and get IT teams — also often overworked — to do the fixing for them. No-code platforms can help circumvent some of that work — so long as the roadblock of IT approves the use, that is.

Bryter’s conception and existence comes out of the no-code trend. It plays on the same ideas as IFTTT or Zapier but is very firmly aimed at users who might use pieces of enterprise software as part of their jobs, but have never had to delve into figuring out how they actually work.

There are already a lot of “low-code” (minimal coding) and other no-code on the market today for business (not consumer) use cases. They include Blender.io, Zapier, Tray.io (a London-founded startup that itself raised a big round last autumn), n8n (also German, backed by Sequoia), and also biggies like MuleSoft (acquired by Salesforce in 2018 at a $ 6.5 billion valuation).

Bryter’s contention is that many of these actually need more technical know-how than they initially claim. Grupp pointed out that the earliest automation tools for enterprise have been around for decades at this point, but even most of the very modern descendants of those “will require some coding.” Bryter’s toolbox essentially lets users create dialogues with users — which they can program based on the expertise that they will have in their particular fields — which then sources data they can then plug into other software via the Bryter platform in order to “perform” different tasks more quickly.

Grupp’s contention is that while these kinds of tools have long been used, they will be in even more demand going forward.

“After COVID-19 workers will be even more distributed,” he said. “Teams and individuals will need to access information in a faster way, and the only way for big organizations to distribute that knowledge is through more digital tools.” The idea is that Bryter can essentially help bridge those gaps in a more efficient way.

Bryter’s target user and its approach underscores why investors like Accel see accessible, no-code solutions as a big opportunity.

“No-code software is really reducing the barriers of adoption,” Luca Bocchio, a partner at Accel, said in an interview. “If people like you and I can use the software, then that means demand can multiply by big numbers.” That’s in contrast to a lot of enterprise software today, which very limited in how it can grow, he added. “Plus, enterprises these days want to see more future visibility in terms of the products they adopt. They want to make sure something will stick around, and so they tend not to want to work with super young startups. But it’s happening for Bryter, and the is a testament to Bryter and to the market potential.”


TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, including the latest on countries’ various contact-tracing apps, the pandemic’s impact on gaming and fintech and more. We’re also looking at that big app crash caused by Facebook, plus new app releases from Facebook and Google, Android 11’s new timeline and Apple’s plans to move WWDC online, among other things.

Headlines

WWDC goes virtual June 22

Apple announced this week its plans for a virtual version of its Worldwide Developer Conference. The company will host its WWDC 2020 event beginning on June 22 in the Apple Developer app and on the Apple Developer website for free for all developers.

It will be interesting to see how successfully Apple is able to take its developer conference online. After all, developers could already access the sessions and keynotes through videos — but the real power of the event was in the networking and being able to talk to Apple engineers, ask questions, get hands-on help and see how other developers are using Apple technologies to innovate. Unless Apple is planning a big revamp of its developer site and app that would enable those connections, it seems this year’s event will lack some of WWDC’s magic.

The company also announced the Swift Student Challenge, an opportunity for student developers to showcase their coding by creating their own Swift playground.


TechCrunch

Forget the calendar invite. Just jump into a conversation. That’s the idea powering a fresh batch of social startups poised to take advantage of our cleared schedules amidst quarantine. But they could also change the way we work and socialize long after COVID-19 by bringing the free-flowing, ad-hoc communication of parties and open office plans online. While “Live” has become synonymous with performative streaming, these new apps instead spread the limelight across several users as well as the task, game, or discussion at hand.

The most buzzy of these startups is Clubhouse, an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump into voice chat rooms together. You see the unlabeled rooms of all the people you follow, and you can join to talk or just listen along, milling around to find what interests you. High-energy rooms attract crowds while slower ones see participants slip out to join other chat circles.

Clubhouse blew up this weekend on VC Twitter as people scrambled for exclusive invites, humblebragged about their membership, or made fun of everyone’s FOMO. For now, there’s no public app or access. The name Clubhouse perfectly captures how people long to be part of the in-crowd.

Clubhouse was built by Paul Davison, who previously founded serendipitous offline people-meeting location app Highlight and reveal-your-whole-camera-roll app Shorts before his team was acquired by Pinterest in 2016. This year he debuted his Alpha Exploration Co startup studio and launched Talkshow for instantly broadcasting radio-style call-in shows. Spontaneity is the thread that ties Davison’s work together, whether its for making new friends, sharing your life, transmitting your thoughts, or having a discussion.

It’s very early days for Clubhouse. It doesn’t even have a website. There’s no telling exactly what it will be like if or when it officially launches, and Davison and his co-founder Rohan Seth declined to comment. But the positive reception shows a desire for a more immediate, multi-media approach to discussion that updates what Twitter did with text.

Sheltered From Surprise

What quarantine has revealed is that when you separate everyone, spontaneity is a big thing you miss. In your office, that could be having a random watercooler chat with a co-worker or commenting aloud about something funny you found on the internet. At a party, it could be wandering up to chat with group of people because you know one of them or overhear something interesting. That’s lacking while we’re stuck home since we’ve stigmatized randomly phoning a friend, differing to asynchronous text despite its lack of urgency.

Clubhouse founder Paul Davison. Image Credit: JD Lasica

Scheduled Zoom calls, utilitarian Slack threads, and endless email chains don’t capture the thrill of surprise or the joy of conversation that giddily revs up as people riff off each other’s ideas. But smart app developers are also realizing that spontaneity doesn’t mean constantly interrupting people’s life or workflow. They give people the power to decide when they are or aren’t available or signal that they’re not to be disturbed so they’re only thrust into social connection when they want it.

Houseparty chart ranks via AppAnnie

Houseparty embodies this spontaneity. It’s become the breakout hit of quarantine by letting people on a whim join group video chat rooms with friends the second they open the app. It saw 50 million downloads in a month, up 70X over its pre-COVID levels in some places. It’s become the #1 social app in 82 countries including the US, and #1 overall in 16 countries.

Originally built for gaming, Discord lets communities spontaneously connect through persistent video, voice, and chat rooms. It’s seen a 50% increase in US daily voice users with spikes in shelter-in-place early adopter states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington. Bunch, for video chat overlayed on mobile gaming, is also climbing the charts and going mainstream with its user base shifting to become majority female as they talk for 1.5 million minutes per day. Both apps make it easy to join up with pals and pick something to play together.

The Impromptu Office

Enterprise video chat tools are adapting to spontaneity as an alternative to heavy-handed, pre-meditated Zoom calls. There’s been a backlash as people realize they don’t get anything done by scheduling back-to-back video chats all day.

  • Loom lets you quickly record and send a video clip to co-workers that they can watch at their leisure, with back-and-forth conversation sped up because videos are uploaded as they’re shot.

  • Around overlays small circular video windows atop your screen so you can instantly communicate with colleagues while most of your desktop stays focused on your actual work.

  • Screen exists as a tiny widget that can launch a collaborative screenshare where everyone gets a cursor to control the shared window so they can improvisationally code, design, write, and annotate.

Screen

  • Pragli is an avatar-based virtual office where you can see if someone’s in a calendar meeting, away, or in flow listening to music so you know when to instantly open a voice or video chat channel together without having to purposefully find a time everyone’s free. But instead of following you home like Slack, Pragli lets you sign in and out of the virtual office to start and end your day.

Raising Our Voice

While visual communication has been the breakout feature of our mobile phones by allowing us to show where we are, shelter-in-place means we don’t have much to show. That’s expanded the opportunity for tools that take a less-is-more approach to spontaneous communication. Whether for remote partying or rapid problem solving, new apps beyond Clubhouse are incorporating voice rather than just video. Voice offers a way to rapidly exchange information and feel present together without dominating our workspace or attention, or forcing people into an uncomfortable spotlight.

High Fidelity is Second Life co-founder Philip Rosedale’s $ 72 million-funded current startup. After recently pivoting away from building a virtual reality co-working tool, High Fidelity has begun testing a voice and headphones-based online event platform and gathering place. The early beta lets users move their dot around a map and hear the voice of anyone close to them with spatial audio so voices get louder as you get closer to someone, and shift between your ears as you move past them. You can spontaneously approach and depart little clusters of dots to explore different conversations within earshot.

An unofficial mockup of High Fidelity’s early tests. Image Credits: DigitalGlobe (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

High Fidelity is currently using a satellite photo of Burning Man as its test map. It allows DJs to set up in different corners, and listeners to stroll between them or walk off with a friend to chat, similar to the real offline event. Since Burning Man was cancelled this year, High Fidelity could potentially be a candidate for holding the scheduled virtual version the organizers have promised.

Houseparty’s former CEO Ben Rubin and Skype GM of engineering Brian Meek are building a spontaneous teamwork tool called Slashtalk. Rubin sold Houseparty to Fortnite-maker Epic in mid-2019, but the gaming giant largely neglected the app until its recent quarantine-driven success. Rubin left.

His new startup’s site explains that “/talk is an anti-meeting tool for fast, decentralized conversations. We believe most meetings can be eliminated if the right people are connected at the right time to discuss the right topics, for just as long as necessary.” It lets people quickly jump into a voice or video chat to get something sorted without delaying until a calendared collab session.

Slashtalk co-founder Ben Rubin at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015

Whether for work or play, these spontaneous apps can conjure times from our more unstructured youth. Whether sifting through the cafeteria or school yard, seeing who else is at the mall, walking through halls of open doors in college dorms, or hanging at the student union or campus square, the pre-adult years offer many opportunities for impromptu social interation.

As we age and move into our separate homes, we literally erect walls that limit our ability to perceive the social cues that signal that someone’s available for unprompted communication. That’s spawned apps like Down To Lunch and Snapchat acquisition Zenly, and Facebook’s upcoming Messenger status feature designed to break through those barriers and make it feel less desperate to ask someone to hang out offline.

But while socializing or collaborating IRL requires transportation logistics and usually a plan, the new social apps discussed here bring us together instantly, thereby eliminating the need to schedule togetherness ahead of time. Gone too are the geographic limits restraining you to connect only with those within a reasonable commute. Digitally, you can pick from your whole network. And quarantines have further opened our options by emptying parts of our calendars.

Absent those frictions, what shines through is our intention. We can connect with who we want and accomplish what we want. Spontaneous apps open the channel so our impulsive human nature can shine through.


TechCrunch

Facebook today is launching a new feature called “Quiet Mode” that will allow you to minimize distractions by muting the app’s push notifications for a time frame you specify. The company announced the change as an update on its COVID Newsroom post, describing it as a way for users to set boundaries around how they spend their time on Facebook as they adjust to new routines and to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Facebook, you can either turn on or off Quiet Mode as needed or you can schedule to it run automatically at designated times. For example, if you work from home from 9 AM to 5 PM, you could set Quiet Mode to automatically run during your workday to reduce your temptation to waste time in the app.

If you try to launch Facebook during Quiet Mode, the app will remind you that you’ve set this time aside with the goal of limiting your time in the app, the company explains.

The controls for Quiet Mode will be found in a new section on Facebook where you can view other data about your time spent on Facebook’s platform. Here, you’ll be able to browse charts that show you the time you’ve spent on Facebook on a daily basis, a comparison of your daytime versus nighttime use, and another chart that lets you see how many times you opened the Facebook app each day.

Facebook introduced its first “time spent” charts back in 2018, but their appearance has changed to better match the style of this new “Your Time on Facebook” section, rolling out today. Facebook has also now added more analysis, including new week-over-week trends, the time of day charges, and the chart displaying the number of visits.

In addition, this section will include an option to enable a weekly report that will let you know how you’re managing your time. It will also link to the Activity Log of your own interactions across Facebook, including your reactions, comments and posts. And it will link out to other features that were previously buried in the Settings, including your News Feed Preferences and Notification Settings.

The former is where you designate which people you see first on your News Feed, which to Snooze, which to Unfollow and so on. The Notification Settings section, meanwhile, lets you turn on or off the push notifications and emails for specific updates from Facebook, like new comments, friend requests, tags, birthdays and more.

These aren’t new features, but they’ve been relocated here to make the new section more of a one-stop-shop for managing your time on Facebook.

Today’s changes are the latest in a series of efforts Facebook has made in recent years focused on users’ “digital well-being.”

The digital well-being movement pushes forward the idea that our smartphones and applications weren’t built with the mental health needs of their users in mind, but were rather designed to maximize the time we spend staring at screens. Users, having become aware of the addictiveness of our mobile devices, began to feel more negatively about screen time and their time-wasting apps.

Fearing backlash, tech companies — including Facebook, as well as the OS makers, Google and Apple — introduced more digital well-being features into their platforms. This includes the now built-in screen time controls that allow users to track and limit their time spent on phones and even the time spent in individual apps, like Facebook.

One iOS feature, in particular, may have posed a particular threat to Facebook: a new option introduced in iOS 12 that allowed users to more easily turn off app notifications right from the push notification itself. Apple even demoed how this could be used to silence Facebook’s notifications easily — an effort to redirect this growing negative user sentiment to specific apps on its iOS platform, rather than toward the platform that allowed apps to spam users with alerts in the first place.

Facebook’s response to this iOS feature, belatedly, is today’s launch of Quiet Mode. Instead of having its app notifications turned off entirely from the home screen of an iPhone, the option gives Facebook users more nuanced control. But it also means that Facebook retains permission to push its notifications during the hours Quiet Mode doesn’t run.

Facebook confirms Quiet Mode was in testing with a small percentage of Facebook users prior to today’s launch. It’s the same feature that reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong had spotted in March, in fact.

The feature is now rolling out to more people globally on iOS and will continue to do so over the next month or so, Facebook says. The rollout on Android will begin with testing in May and a broader release in June.


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