Yik Yak cofounders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington published a farewell note to users on Friday, announcing they would shut down their once-popular anonymous social network this week. The app allowed people to connect with other users within a certain radius, and was widely marketed in and used on college campuses.
According to an SEC filing issued on April 16th, Square, has agreed to hire several of Yik Yak’s employees and to acquire a non-exclusive license to some of the company’s intellectual property for $1 million. That’s a deeply disappointing result for a startup that garnered lots of support from venture investors and users.
According to Crunchbase, Yik Yak had raised $73.4 million in venture funding since it was founded in 2013, with a valuation approaching $400 million in 2014, its halcyon days. The app faced problems that were predictable for any forum offering users anonymity and a means of chatting with one another. It was plagued by cyberbullies of every kind and even banned by some schools. But all the capital and advice in the world couldn’t help it maintain its buzz.
In 2015, Yik Yak had to admit to users that they were only masked from each other, not police officers or other authorities with a warrant. And then in 2016, security researchers with NYU, led by computer scientist and professor Keith Ross, found other ways to hack users’ personally identifiable information out of YikYak. All the while, cyberbullies and unsavory content drove down the app experience for others.
By the end of 2016, user downloads had declined 76% versus the same period in 2015, as TechCrunch reported then, and the company began laying off most of its employees. In their note, the cofounders reflected on happier accomplishments by their now-faded startup.
Yik Yak is not the first anonymous chat app to hit the deadpool. Secret also went out of business in 2015. And the company won’t be leaving a hole in the market, exactly.
Other chat apps, including anonymous, semi-anonymous and ephemeral options among them, abound. Yik Yak competitors still in business include: Whisper, the anonymous chat and sharing app; Kik which only requires usernames; Blind, the anonymous workplace chat app where Uber employees have recently aired grievances; and 7 Cups, where people can go for “active, non-judgemental listeners.”
Rollout.io, a company that had developed technology that allowed mobile app developers to update their apps without having to go through the App Store approval process, is now entering a new business after Apple cracked down on apps using its software. Today, the former TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield finalist has transitioned to a new product that allows developers to selectively roll out new features in their apps to subsets of users before deploying them the wider user base.
Rollout.io’s original product was well-received, as it solved a problem that many app developers’ face – the need to quickly patch a bug or address a critical security hole in a timely fashion. The App Store approval process can slow down getting those sorts of changes released to all users, and then it still relies on users updating the apps on their mobile device in order to see them applied.
But Apple wasn’t having it. In March, Apple began alerting developers that they would have to remove Rollout.io’s code because it was not in compliance with its guidelines for developers. For Apple, the decision was likely about being able to control its ecosystem, in addition to the possible security concerns that accompany being able to change apps without approval.
At the time, 2,000 app developers had installed the SDK, which was running on 80 million devices.
According to Rollout.io co-founder and CEO Erez Rusovsky, the company’s new product – called Rox by Rollout – was already in development before Apple made its decision. But now instead of being a secondary offering, it’s the main one.
In fact, Rusovsky says the development of Rox was influenced by feedback from its existing customer base, who had manipulated the hot patching solution to deploy new features safer and faster.
The idea of selectively rolling out features to a portion of an app’s users is something larger companies like Facebook and Twitter do all the time. Often, these are staged rollouts that give the company time to fix issues before a wider release, though other times they are more like A/B tests where the company can see how the subset of the user base responds to a new feature.
With Rox, mobile app developers have a similar option.
“Rox uses continuous feature deployment, which does not inject new code, but rather turns on/off existing code,” explains Rusovsky. “Rox not only solves the production bugs issue, but addresses the entire software deployment cycle including development, internal testing, QA, user acceptance testing, and full rollouts,” he says.
Because it doesn’t allow developers to change their apps on the fly – the code it selectively enables is already there to be scrutinized during the app review process – Apple should permit the solution to continue.
However, Rox stops short of being a full A/B testing platform. Instead, Rox lets mobile developers control over the deployment of new features from a centralized dashboard. From here, developers can target their rollouts to specific groups of users or devices, and can either manually control or automate deployment by allowing the system to determine when it’s safe to push the new feature out to everyone.
While Rox could help developers build the infrastructure needed for A/B testing, it doesn’t provide the analytics that accompanies that sort of solution. However, it does integrate with existing development tools and workflows, the company says.
The pricing for the new solution starts at $500 per month, but discounts for startups are available. Rox is currently iOS-only, but Android support is pending.
April 28, 2017
Delays in website load times are a prime reason today’s mobile shoppers aren’t purchasing via a mobile device as much as they are using the device for product search and browsing.
In fact, while half of consumers tap smartphones for product insight just one in five complete the purchase on the device, according to a new Akamai Online Retail Performance Report.
The big hurdle are website load time delays — even a 100-millisecond delay — is impacting conversation rates by 7 percent, notes a release on the study. A two-second delay leads to a 103 percent increase in bounce rate and 53 percent of mobile site shoppers will leave a page that takes three seconds to load.
“Results from our State of Online Retail Performance report have shown that user experience is critical to e-commerce success, and things aren’t getting any easier,” Ash Kulkarni, senior VP and general manager of the Web Experience Division for Akamai, said in a statement. “Customers have extremely short attention spans, and degradations in website performance — no matter how small — can cause consumers to go elsewhere in an instant.”
Apple’s using a Lexus RX450h SUV for its autonomous vehicle testing program, as revealed by documents filed with the California DMV in accordance with licensing requirements for self-driving tests in the state. Now, Bloomberg has images of the vehicle in action, captured by a chance observer who saw the vehicle pull out of an Apple facility in Silicon Valley. The SUV looks pretty much… Read More
April 28, 2017
Apple reportedly is seeking to reignite the idea of launching its own mobile person-to-person payment service that would compete with as Venmo, Square Cash and Zelle, according to a report from Recode.
Apple could launch the service later this year, but Recode cited a source that said a definitive launch date isn’t set.
The service would enable iPhone users to transfer funds to each other. This isn’t the first time Apple has flirted with such an idea. Prior Apple patents have described a mobile P2P system that relies on iMessage.
Recode also reported that Apple has had discussions with Visa about “creating its own prepaid cards that would run on the Visa debit network and which would be tied to the new peer-to-peer service,” according to the report.
Topics: Money Transfer / P2P
The concept of a cashless society is one that continues to make headlines again and again in 2017. Linked to that discussion is what kind of payment technologies we’ll be using more to make payments for goods and services.
Bill Nuti, CEO and chairman of NCR Corp., examined those technologies in a guest post for Mobile Payments Today that was the most read piece of content in April. Nuti wrote about contactless payments, biometric authentication and voice-activated transactions.
McDonald’s also was a big topic of discussion last month as the fast food chain prepares to launch mobile ordering. How will a company that size handle such an endeavor?
Rounding out the top five stories are pieces about MCX and loyalty; a Q&A with Jack Jania at Gemalto about EMV at the fuel pump; and a focus on the blockchain.
5. “MCX’s CurrentC showed potential with loyalty-based approach” — When JP Morgan Chase acquired the Merchant Customer Exchange payments technology last month, a 5-year saga came to a bitter end. The payments industry, which has proven difficult to navigate and succeed in over the past decade, claimed another victim.
When J.P. Morgan Chase acquired the Merchant Customer Exchange’s payments technology last month, a 5-year saga came to a bitter end.
The payments industry, which has proven difficult to navigate and succeed in over the past decade, claimed another victim.
For every success story such as a Square or PayPal, there are flops such as Bling Nation, Isis/Softcard and Pay By Touch. These products failed for a number of reasons, mostly because they were either ahead of their time (Pay By Touch), or of little interest to consumers (Bling Nation).
One other product, the MCX mobile payments concept, never got the chance to prove its worth, even though it had a couple of things going for it that could have made it successful. It’s unfortunate for consumers that the idea never made it past a one-city pilot.
4. “Talking With: Gemalto’s Jack Jania about EMV at the fuel pump” — The card networks decided late last year to show some mercy on fuel operators and pushed back their EMV deadline to Oct. 1, 2020.
The card networks decided late last year to show some mercy on fuel operators and pushed back their EMV deadline to Oct. 1, 2020.
One of the primary reasons for the extension is simple: The fuel ecosystem is complicated.
It’s a sector that Gemalto is monitoring closely, considering its position in the cards and payments industry. We spoke with Jack Jania, Gemalto senior vice president of strategic alliances, about the delay, emerging fuel pump technologies and mobile payments.
3. “Is the blockchain overhyped?” — Major financial institutions such as JP Morgan are finishing up blockchain technology pilot tests and other businesses are starting to jump on board, as well. But is blockchain tech worth the hype?
The blockchain is getting a lot of attention these days. Several major banks, including Santander and J.P. Morgan, recently finished up a blockchain tech pilot. The U.S. Postal Service also has outlined potential use cases for blockchain tech.
Others in industries ranging from agriculture to health care to real estate to shipping and transportation are investigating the usefulness of the blockchain to their business.
Despite the excitement, though, some might argue that blockchain hype is overblown and that the technology is just a glorified distributed ledger.
Is the blockchain worth the hype? Blockchain Tech News interviewed Michael Vogel, CEO of Netcoins, to get his perspective.
2. “McDonald’s move to mobile ordering will be closely watched” — McDonald’s and its recently unveiled plans to implement mobile ordering and curbside pickup is proof that even the mightiest brands now know mobile ordering is the order of the future.
McDonald’s recently unveiled plans to implement mobile ordering and curbside pickup are living proof that even the mightiest brands now know that when it comes to the future of customer service, the writing is on the wall — or at least the mobile screen in this case.
Mobile ordering is the new standard and as the QSR giant now follows in the techy footsteps of chains like Starbucks, Panera Bread and Dominos, it’s clear that many more restaurants will soon follow in order to provide customers the most up-to-date and easy-to-use experience, while also opening doors to better access to their favorite brands.
Not only can customers now place orders well in advance, they can connect more closely with the places they love to eat, while also better meeting their individual dietary demands and whims, regardless of where they are at any given time. But the hefty transition restaurants must make to this new way of life also presents a prime opportunity to fail spectacularly without the right preparation, foresight and planning.
So, yes, the opportunity for mobile ordering is ripe. But, it’s critical that McDonald’s and those which will follow suit both understand prepare well for the challenges that may be encountered during rollout.
1. “The new payment future: 3 technologies leading the way” — Changes in consumer behavior continue to be rapid, disruptive, and largely driven by technology influences, such as mobile devices, big data, the cloud, IoT and machine learning.
Changes in consumer behavior continue to be rapid, disruptive, and largely driven by technology influences, such as mobile devices, big data, the cloud, IoT and machine learning. Simultaneously, security breaches are growing and continue to place both consumers and businesses at risk.
While cash and credit cards may never disappear entirely, this convergence of forces is driving one of the most profound shifts to how we pay for goods and services, challenging both financial institutions and retail providers to adjust their strategy for the future of payments. Here are the three leading technologies paving the way.
Topics: ATMs, Bank Customer Experience Summit, Bill Payment, Bitcoin, Card Brands, Carriers / Operators, Contactless / NFC, Direct Carrier Billing, EMV, Handsets / Devices, HCE, In-App Payments, Loyalty Programs, Mobile Banking, Mobile/Digital Wallet, Mobile Marketing, Money Transfer / P2P, POS, Regulatory Issues, Restaurants, Retail, Security, Trends / Statistics
Will Hernandez / Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia’s Payments Group based in Chicago.
April 28, 2017
By Mary Anne Callahan, journalist and bitcoin specialist
Satoshi Nakamoto originally imagined bitcoin as a truly decentralized currency, a store of value owned equally by each of its users, without any single point of failure, and uncontrollable by any regulating body. But is that how bitcoin is turning out?
Over the last decade, China has emerged as the biggest market for bitcoin. This has given large Chinese bitcoin exchanges such as BTC China, Huobi, and OKCoin, and international exchanges such as CEX.IO, a huge influence over bitcoin’s price, volatility and perception around the world.
Let’s take a look at each of these factors and how they will guide bitcoin in the future.
Influence on bitcoin price
The price of bitcoin is determined mainly by the same two factors as every other asset — supply and demand. Right now, both supply and demand of bitcoin are highest in China. To understand why, it’s handy to know a little about how cryptocurrencies work.
Bitcoin supply — mining
Mining is fundamental to how cryptocurrencies work. It is the mechanism that keeps bitcoin secure, while also introducing new bitcoins to the world. Bitcoin miners offer their computers to solve the complex cryptographic problems that keep all bitcoin transactions working and safe. New bitcoins are given as a reward for this work.
The original intention was that everyone would do this with their spare computing power on their personal computer. But, after bitcoin’s price soared, many began buying specialist equipment to mine these new bitcoins for profit. Now, miners all over the world compete fiercely for the new bitcoins released every 10 minutes. It’s become so competitive that only those with access to cheap, specialist mining hardware and ultra-cheap electricity can compete.
So where is the best place in the world to get cheap hardware and electricity? China. It’s estimated that 70 percent of bitcoin mining power is located there.
There are many different reasons why people want to buy bitcoins. Two important reasons are:
- to own something untraceable and free from government regulation; and
- to invest or to speculate on the price going up or down.
Both of these factors are massive in China. Tight government regulation of financial markets means that many Chinese investors are looking for assets that are independent of these controls. Also, there are limited investment options in China, and bitcoin is seen as an alternative to the declining Yuan. Online gambling is massive in China, and speculating on the volatility of bitcoin is seen by many as an exciting way to bet.
Put those supply and demand factors together, and it’s no surprise that the price of bitcoin is guided by what happens in China. Hungry investors are buying up bitcoins as fast as they can be mined. Most bitcoin trading is done on bitcoin exchanges — and the biggest bitcoin exchanges are based in China. Coindesk estimates that Chinese bitcoin exchanges dominate over 85 percent of the global bitcoin market.
Impact on price volatility
Currencies on the Forex market generally have low volatility. The U.S. dollar declining 1 percent in a day is a huge deal. Bitcoin is a different story — 10–20 percent declines in just a few hours are very common. So how much of this volatility is due to China’s influence?
China has one of the most tightly regulated financial markets in the world. One decision by the government can change things instantly, and there is little anyone can do about it. Investors from around world know this, and keep a constant eye on what’s going on with bitcoin in China.
This was demonstrated recently, as the global price of bitcoin plummeted 9 percent overnight, as the Chinese exchanges stopped withdrawals. A decision by just a handful of companies had a sudden and devastating impact on the bitcoin price worldwide.
The debate about increasing the block size of the bitcoin blockchain (i.e., increasing the number of bitcoin transactions per second) is also starting to become more important. Some say that increasing the block size is the only way to scale bitcoin further, while others say this goes against the basic principles of decentralization. Whatever your opinion, decisions to change the way bitcoin works will be decided by the bitcoin miners. With the majority of mining power — the decision on the future of bitcoin will be decided mainly in China.
The Chinese government is currently making some big decisions on bitcoin regulation. For the moment, regulation is low and the People’s bank of China doesn’t even consider bitcoin a real currency. This may change soon, though, as they are taking a close look at the actions of bitcoin exchanges operating in China to determine what measures they need to take. The outcome of these decisions will determine the price of bitcoin.
This level of influence is not seen anywhere else in the world. The size of the bitcoin market in China — along with government’s control over it — means that 85 percent of bitcoin trade volume is constantly at risk. If any of the large Chinese exchanges like BTCC, OKCoin, or Huobi were to be found guilty of breaking any rules, they could be shut down. This would send the bitcoin price into a tailspin.
Even large international exchanges like CEX.IO and Coinmama that operate in China don’t have this much power.
Bitcoin was designed to be a currency free from control by any single institution. Influence and control are concentrating more in China, and many are worried this could undermine its value. It’s hard to argue that bitcoin is decentralized and borderless if a single government has so much power over it.
Future of bitcoin
Some argue that that centralization in China isn’t that bad. Paul Sztorc explains that the extreme efficiency of bitcoin mining in China helps to secure the bitcoin network as a whole. Also, some very tough decisions need to be made soon regarding the bitcoin block size. Reaching a consensus will be a lot easier with some level of centralization.
The outcome of all these factors is that right now, bitcoin’s price, volatility, and reputation all hinge largely on what happens in China. For now, the future of bitcoin is tied to the future of China.
Nintendo has a new handheld video game system it released pretty much out of the blue on Thursday. The 2DS XL is basically a 3DS XL without the 3D, with a smaller physical footprint for more portability, but with the same size large, dual displays you’ll find on the 3DS XL. The new console hits store shelves July 28, so we’ll still have to wait a while to get our hands on one, but… Read More
April 27, 2017
Ripple, a blockchain payments provider, has gained 10 customers in the financial industry: MUFG; BBVA; SEB; Akbank; Axis Bank; Yes Bank; SBI Remit; Cambridge Global Payments; Star One Credit Union; and eZforex.com.
Several of the banks have been using Ripple’s platform for cross border payments, according to a press release.
BBVA currently is using Ripple for cross-border payments between Europe and Mexico; Cambridge Global Payments and Earthport are using Ripple to reduce the cost of cross-border payments. Star One is also offering Ripple remittances for its customers, according to the release.
“The world’s largest banks have been the first to adopt Ripple’s technology, and the network effect from our customer base is accelerating,” Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said in the release. “People know Ripple is the only blockchain solution for payments that is proven in the real world, and it’s driving demand from financial institutions of all kinds and sizes because they want to stay ahead of the curve.”
April 27, 2017
IDology, a company that specializes in multilayered identity verification and fraud prevention, has announced the addition of two digital authentication products, ExpectID Mobile Authentication and ExpectID Secure SMS, to its fully integrated platform, according to a press release.
The company said in the announcement that the new products are designed to help companies increase customer success in the digital environment and securely authenticate new and existing customers, while eliminating factors that negatively impact the customer experience.
“The use of unsafe and vulnerable one-time passcodes is no longer viable,” IDology CEO John Dancu said in a statement. “It’s time for businesses to reimagine digital authentication so they can serve a growing base of mobile customers with an experience that is simple, fast and frictionless, while also deterring digital fraud.”
IDology’s new digital authentication products monitor and account for all types of digital fraud and high-frequency mobile change events such as SIM cloning, SIM swapping and recycled phone numbers, according to the announcement.
Information is captured and provided automatically in real time, enabling businesses to determine the safety of an interaction and make an educated decision whether to escalate it to another authentication method.