TechSummit Rewind 111

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Facebook Marketplace lets you buy, sell items with nearby users

facebook-marketplace

Facebook continues to make strides in e-commerce, and Marketplace continues that trend. The user-to-user exchange for buying and selling items with other nearby users is launching this week in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.

This gives the roughly 450 million Facebook users that buy/sell goods through the platform monthly (mainly through the network’s Groups feature) a formal place to conduct commerce, according to Marketplace product manager Bowen Pan.

Marketplace should effectively take the spot of Messenger over the next few days in the center of the bottom row of Facebook’s mobile apps. Tapping it will take you to an algorithmically generated homepage of items that Facebook thinks you’re interested in, based on pages you’ve liked and over time any of your viewing, buying, and selling activity within Marketplace. You can message the seller of an item and place an offer. To sell an item, you’ll need to upload a photo, set a name, description, and price, and confirm your location.

You can browse categories of items and get a list of nearby listings, or search for a specific item and expand the radius of the query to pull results from a wider distance. You can also change your location manually to find items in other cities or regions.

Facebook wants this to be a mobile-first experience. According to Pan, there’s no desktop feature for now (though it’s in the works).

“We saw a lot of people were really just looking at coming to Marketplace without necessarily anything in particular they were looking for. They were just on Marketplace to casually browse through. This really mirrors an offline experience where you can go to a Sunday market or maybe the mall. You don’t know exactly what you want but you want to browse.”

-Bowen Pan, Marketplace product manager

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company doesn’t plan on charging a fee to conduct transactions, instead hoping for users’ eyeballs and more of their time on a daily basis.

Facebook bans the sales of drugs, explosives, firearms, animals, and alcohol, among other items. Other than that, all sales are handled offline by users themselves.

“We have built the tools to allow our community to report on any items that violate our policies. It has … a whole host of flags that people … can put out for people that may not be acting in the best faith. Once we see a flag, we have a team that will promptly review these and take action.”

-Bowen Pan

However, Facebook won’t get involved if you get ripped off, assaulted, or have your item stolen at your designated meeting place. To ease those fears, the company leans back on its anti-anonymity policy.

“People on Facebook represent their true selves. We think knowing who you’re transacting with is very important.”

-Bowen Pan

Marketplace will glean additional information from your profile if you’ve decided to list an item, allowing potential buyers to see things like your general location and how long you’ve been on Facebook.

Facebook launches Messenger Lite for Android

facebook-messenger-lite

Facebook has launched Messenger Lite, a slimmed-down motion of the company’s popular Messenger chat app to appear to developing nations. It lets users send text, photos, and links, to any Facebook Messenger user in spite of “slower than average Internet speeds and a prevalence of basic Android smartphones.”

Lite has begun rolling out to users in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela. It’ll launch in additional countries in the coming months.

With a file size of under 10MB, Facebook believes that the app will be fast to install and start up. Users will be able to message one another, send/receive photos and links, and receive stickers.

Microsoft expands Azure data centers to France, launches trust offensive against AWS, Google

azure-server

The cloud service wars are only now beginning to sizzle between Google, Microsoft, and Amazon as they fiercely compete to grab the attention of potential users. In its latest bid to take the top spot, Microsoft made some more moves to place itself as the cloud provider you can trust.

Microsoft will build its first Azure data center in France, as part of a $3 billion investment made to build its cloud services in Europe. The company has also launched Cloud for Global Good, a new publication with at least 78 public policy recommendations in 15 categories like data protection and accessibility issues.

The new initaitives were revealed by company CEO Satya Nadella, at an event in Dublin, Ireland. According to Nadella, the expansion means that Microsoft now covers “more regions [30] than any other cloud provider… In the past year, the capacity has more than doubled.”

“People have rights and those rights need to be protected. We need to build a cloud that is responsible as well.”

-Brad Smith, Microsoft chief legal counsel & president

Microsoft pulls Band listings from its store, confirms no Band 3 this year

microsoft-band-2

Microsoft has removed all references to its Band line of fitness devices from the online Microsoft Store, along with its software development kit (SDK).

According to a company spokesperson, Microsoft has “sold through our existing Band 2 inventory, and have no plans to release another Band device this year.”

Rover raises $40M as company aims for IPO, profitability

rover-card-630x1184

Seattle-based dog-sitting platform Rover has announced a $40M Series E funding round from existing investors Foundry Group and Menlo Ventures, along with Madrona Venture Group.

“While this may be our last round before a public offering, there is nothing about where we are at that makes me think we ware maturing as a business in terms of seeing growth slow down, or that we’ve somehow reached our potential.”

-Aaron Easterly, Rover CEO

According to Easterly, the company needs a “much smaller amount” than the $40 million raised to become profitable.

“After you exclude marketing and variable costs, our contribution margin is growing a lot faster than our fixed costs.”

-Aaron Easterly

Telegram levels up bot platform with competitive games inside chats

telegram-games

Messaging app Telegram is powering up on chatbots, by launching a “bot-powered gaming platform” in a bid to drive up engagement.

The new API allows for more visually appealing games than what’s been seen thus far to live inside chats.

Examples include MathBattle, a math-based challenge game that Telegram’s developers built in three hours, and Football Star, a third-party football game.

There’s also time-challenge games like Corsair, where you see how long you can avoid being shot, or Lumberjack, where you avoid getting crushed by falling tree branches.

“The best part of the Telegram Gaming Platform is the competition across all your existing chats. We save high scores for every game played in every chat, and you can instantly check out how you and your friends are going against each other. Every time there’s a new leader in the game, other playing members of the chat are notified that they need to step it up.”

-Telegram, in a blog post

Roughly 30 games are available at launch, with the vast majority being made by third-party gaming developer Gamee, however Telegram suggested that “hundreds” are in the pipeline.

“While these demos look basic, Telegram games can be anything from simple arcades and puzzles to multiplayer 3D-shooters and real-time strategy games.”

-Telegram

The update is available now on Android and iOS.

New USB Audio 3.0 standard pushes headphone jack closer to extinction

win-phone-port-100629109-orig-1000x600

The USB Implementers Forum is seeking to implement the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification to “establish USB Audio over USB Type-C as the primary solution for all digital audio applications,” according to the forum.

Basically, having the single USB Type-C port will allow for extra convenience of waterproof designs and slimmer product frames. Eventually, the USB-IF’s goal is to help “remove the 3.5mm analog audio jack.”

New Jersey town decides to pay Uber instead of building a parking lot

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

Uber has struck a deal with the town of Summit, New Jersey (located roughly 30 miles east of Manhattan), to launch the state’s first subsidized commuter program.

Under the deal, Uber will offer free or extremely cheap rides to commuters who struggle with parking at Summit’s New Jersey Transit station. In exchange, the city will directly pay Uber to cover the rest of the trips’ cost. According to the city, nearly 100 parking spots will be freed up at the transit station and millions of dollars will be saved from the parking lot that wouldn’t need to be constructed.

“Our innovation has the potential to shape how municipalities think about and implement parking options in the future.”

-Nora Radest; Summit, NJ mayor

To start, 100 commuters who have purchased parking passes will be eligible for free Uber rides to/from the station, while others can opt in for $2 trips each way.

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