TechSummit Rewind 177

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

Tech leaders decry Trump’s decision to withdraw US from Paris accord

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/Willis Glassgow)

Tech leaders have swiftly announced their disapproval for President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.

Trump announced his decision in an address from the White House Rose Garden Thursday, saying that withdrawing will “protect America and its citizens” and he intends to renegotiate its agreement to terms more favorable to the US.

“We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great.”

-Donald Trump, US President

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Intel, and Salesforce are among the 25 companies to sign a letter printed in full-page ads taken out across the country.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he is leaving the presidential councils he was involved with, after saying that he would have “no choice” but to leave if the decision was made to withdraw:

Disappointment was also expressed from Salesforce CEO Benioff, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg:

OneLogin password manager hacked, exposing customer data

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Password manager and single sign-on provider OneLogin was hacked.

In a blog post, the company’s chief security officer Alvaro Hoyos said that it was aware of “unauthorized access to OneLogin data in our US data region,” and that customers were notified.

According to Hoyos, OneLogin blocked the unauthorized access after the breath and is working with law enforcement.

The email sent to customers confirms that sensitive customer data was stolen:

“OneLogin believes that all customers served by our US data center are affected and customer data was potentially compromised.”

-OneLogin, in an email

Later in the day, the company said in an update that their review showed that “a threat actor obtained access to a set of [Amazon Web Services] keys and used them to access the AWS API from an intermediate host with another smaller service provider in the US.”

The company confirmed that the attack appeared to begin around 2 am PT (5 am ET, 11 am GMT), but the staff wasn’t alerted for seven hours. However, “within minutes” of learning of it, the affected instance was “shut down” along with the AWS keys used to create it.

“The threat actor was able to access database tables that contain information about users, apps, and various types of keys.”

-OneLogin

The company added that it can’t rule out the possibly of the hacker gaining the ability to “decrypt data” that is usually encrypted at rest.

OneLogin has advised customers to change their passwords, generate new API keys for their services, and create new OAuth tokens – for logging into accounts – along with creating new security certificates. The company said that information stored in its Secure Notes feature can be decrypted.

According to OneLogin, companies like ARM, Dun & Bradstreet, The Carlyle Group, Conde Nast, and Dropbox (though a spokesperson disputed it) are customers.

Google Chrome will soon automatically block annoying ads

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Google Chrome will soon come with a preinstalled plugin that will block the most annoying ads.

Publishers will have access to the “Ad Experience Report,” which will give them an idea of how the move will affect them. Basically, it gives a score of a publisher’s site and informs them of which ads of theirs that are “annoying experiences.”

Meanwhile, Chrome will give publishers the option to force a choice for people running their own ad blocking software: whitelist the site so its non-annoying ads can display or pay a small fee to access the content ad-free.

“We’ve all known for a while that the ad experience is a real problem and that it’s confused and angered users. We realized solutions like ad blockers punish everybody, including publishers who develop great content and are thoughtful about the ad experience they put on their site.”

-Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google senior VP of ads & commerce

The “filter” removes the ads consumers hate most, like popups or ads that flash quickly, change colors, or force people to wait 10 seconds before accessing content on a publisher’s page.

This effort is a result of work done by the Coalition for Better Ads, with members including Google, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Facebook, Thomson Reuters, The Washington Post, along with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Association of National Advertisers.

Google expects to roll out the features in early 2018.

Blue Apron files to go public, reports $80M in 2016 revenue

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Blue Apron, the subscription box that delivers ingredients to cook meals in your home, has now filed to go public.

The company brought in $3M in profit in the first quarter last year, though it swung to a larger loss in the first quarter this year.

Blue Apron generated nearly $800 million in revenue in 2016, up from $341 million in 2015. For the first quarter this year, the company generated $245 million in revenue, up from $172 million in the first quarter last year. Despite all of this, Blue Apron lost $55 million in 2016 and $52 million in the first quarter this year.

Getting into the nitty gritty, Blue Apron had 4.3 million orders in the first quarter this year, up from 3.7 million orders in the fourth quarter of 2016. The company logged 2.9 million orders in the first quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, its average revenue per customer was down to $236 in the first quarter this year from $265 in the first quarter last year.

The company’s average order value in the first quarter this year was $57.23, which was down from an average order value of $59.28 in the first quarter last year.

Meanwhile, Blue Apron’s marketing costs are going to skyrocket as its competition heats up. The company said that it spent $61 million on marketing this quarter, up from $25.4 million in the first quarter last year. Last year, it spent $144.1 million in marketing, up from $51.4 million in 2015.

Skype refreshed with Snapchat-inspired stories

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Microsoft is launching a revamped version of Skype, with a new set of features that draws obvious inspiration from messaging rivals like Messenger and Snapchat. Yep, you guessed it: there’s a Stories-like feature here (called Highlights) as well as a new camera location that places it only a swipe away from your chats, among other things.

According to the company, the makeover was in the works for well over a year and represents the biggest change to the platform since video sharing launched in 2006.

“If social networks have given you the stage on which to perform your life, the new Skype gives you the additional equivalent of the local coffeehouse or corner pub, where you meet people on a daily basis to deepen your relationships. We call that set of interactions your personal network.”

-Amritansh Raghav, Skype corporate vice president

The idea here is to make Skype a better tool for the communication and sharing that takes place among members of Skype’s closely connected network, which often includes family and friends.

It’s also rolling out its own set of bots and chat add-ins to rival Facebook Messenger.

In the new version, you can just swipe right to pull up the camera – a move that you’re pretty used for from most of today’s social apps.

You can then snap a photo or video – which you can then decorate with typed or handwritten text, along with Skype’s own set of stickers.

In the new version of Skype, your snapped photos and videos can be shared with individuals, in group chats, or can be posted to a new feature called Highlights.

The Stories-like feature is accessible with a swipe left, and Microsoft readily admitted the influence from Facebook.

“It’s something Facebook has said. [Stories] is definitely a format, the same way the feed is a format.

“There’s a new medium that has risen. When you think about this new way of interacting, [we want that to be] available also in this application.”

-Amritansh Raghav

With that being said, there are some tweaks here from Facebook’s Stories formula.

For starters, Highlights are available for a week, not the day that content is available on Facebook’s apps or Snapchat. (You can view your own content for up to two years if you want). Only those that follow your Highlights can see these posts.

However, Highlights can also be shared with individual contacts or groups you manually select – a move which nudges the recipients to follow your Highlights if they don’t already, but doesn’t let you spam them with updates.

Followers can also react to Highlights posts, like Skype posts, with emoji. Here, Skype copied a bit from Facebook’s reactions – with a thumbs up (like), heart (favorite), or emoji faces for reactions like sad, surprised, laughing, and angry. You can also type a response that’s shared in a private chat.

The other major feature here is an expanded selection of Skype’s bots and add-ins. Microsoft envisions that you’ll be able to chat directly with its Cortana virtual assistant or its newer Scoop assistant to bring in news from MSN.

When a bot gets integrated into a chat, it’s called an add-in. That means that you can call on a bot directly from your chat, like “Scoop, what’s up with the UK election?”

In chats, Cortana can make suggestions, including quick responses like “LOL” or “can’t wait,” or others related to your conversations. Meanwhile, Scoop offers a one-on-one chat with personalized news story suggestions and summaries, but can also live in a group chat to share stories relevant to a group’s conversations.

Microsoft’s demos also showed bots from Gfycat, Giphy, MSN Weather, Bing, Polls, Expedia, StubHub, BigOven (cooking), YouTube, and Upworthy. However, Cortana won’t launch until June in the US.

The app’s theme can also be personalized based on your favorite color, react to anything in a chat with an emoticon, or react using emoticons in video calls – which will temporarily overlay a big emoticon and colored background in your window for other callers to see.

You can also now type a message when on video calls that are shown in a similar way.

Video chats will be updated in the near future to support other types of interactions, like the ability to play games with friends or watch videos from streaming services together.

YouTube will be among the first services added for co-watching, but Skype is having discussions with other services on integrations. Meanwhile, gaming will initially use Microsoft assets like Minecraft, Solitaire, Mah Jongg, and others.

The new Skype is available now on Android and will hit iOS in a month (due to iOS’ inability to support staged rollouts).

Meanwhile, desktop platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, and the web) along with Xbox will get the features this summer.

 

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