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Robotic Automations

US government says security flaw in Chirp Systems' app lets anyone remotely control smart home locks | TechCrunch

A vulnerability in a smart access control system used in thousands of U.S. rental homes allows anyone to remotely control any lock in an affected home. But Chirp Systems, the company that makes the system, has ignored requests to fix the flaw.

U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA went public with a security advisory last week saying that the phone apps developed by Chirp, which residents use in place of a key to access their homes, “improperly stores” hardcoded credentials that can be used to remotely control any Chirp-compatible smart lock.

Apps that rely on passwords stored in its source code, known as hardcoding credentials, are a security risk because anyone can extract and use those credentials to perform actions that impersonate the app. In this case, the credentials allowed anyone to remotely lock or unlock a Chirp-connected door lock over the internet.

In its advisory, CISA said that successful exploitation of the flaw “could allow an attacker to take control and gain unrestricted physical access” to smart locks connected to a Chirp smart home system. The cybersecurity agency gave the vulnerability severity score of 9.1 out of a maximum of 10 for its “low attack complexity” and for its ability to be remotely exploited.

The cybersecurity agency said Chirp Systems has not responded to either CISA or the researcher who found the vulnerability.

Security researcher Matt Brown told veteran security journalist Brian Krebs that he notified Chirp of the security issue in March 2021 but that the vulnerability remains unfixed.

Chirp Systems is one of a growing number of companies in the property tech space that provide keyless access controls that integrate with smart home technologies to rental giants. Rental companies are increasingly forcing renters to allow the installation of smart home equipment as dictated by their leases, but it’s murky at best who takes responsibility or ownership when security problems arise.

Real estate and rental giant Camden Property Trust signed a deal in 2020 to roll out Chirp-connected smart locks to more than 50,000 units across over a hundred properties. It’s unclear if affected properties like Camden are aware of the vulnerability or have taken action. Kim Callahan, a spokesperson for Camden, did not respond to a request for comment.

Chirp was bought by property management software giant RealPage in 2020, and RealPage was acquired by private equity giant Thoma Bravo later that year in a $10.2 billion deal. RealPage is facing several legal challenges over allegations its rent-setting software uses secret and proprietary algorithms to help landlords raise the highest possible rents on tenants.

Neither RealPage nor Thoma Bravo have yet to acknowledge the vulnerabilities in the software it acquired, nor say if they plan on notifying affected residents of the security risk.

Jennifer Bowcock, a spokesperson for RealPage, did not respond to requests for comment from TechCrunch. Megan Frank, a spokesperson for Thoma Bravo, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations is an iOS app that feels like using a retro analog camera | TechCrunch

Phone cameras have evolved a lot, with image processing becoming increasingly important and granular controls to help users tweak their images. Despite that, many people are still fond of old-school photography styles and techniques. Developer Alex Fox wanted to focus on that nostalgia while building the app.

The iPhone app lets you switch between different retro filters to capture photos. You can also adjust quality and tone through a dial. You can easily switch between different lenses and adjust exposure from the main screen. All of this sounds familiar, but what you don’t get is the live preview of what the photo would look like once it “Develops” — and that makes for some fascinating results.

Image Credits: Alex Fox

Fox said that with this app, he wanted users to focus on the image in the viewfinder rather than the effects, which is why he did not include a live preview feature — you see the same thing as you see in the default camera app. In the same vein, the app has no editing feature, and you can’t import photos from the gallery to apply filters on old photos.

“Since the first Polaroid camera, photography has been focussed on more convenience and more control, but I think we’ve lost some of the magic along the way,” Fox told TechCrunch over email.

“Some of the design decisions I made were intended to reduce the conveniences we’re used to, urging users to be in the moment instead of worrying about which filter to use or staring at their phone editing.”

Image Credits: Alex Fox/

The developer started working on a prototype of the app in October 2023 and released a beta version on Reddit earlier this year.

Fox said that over the last two months, a group of photographers helped him hone the app better by taking more than 100,000 photos. The app is free to try for seven days, and then you can pay either $1.99 per month or a one-time fee of $14.99.

In the last few years, apps like Lapse, Dispo, and Later Cam have tried to recreate parts of retro cameras by placing limitations on the app’s function. While Lapse and Dispo also attracted investors, their growth eventually slowed down. However, while an indie developer won’t encounter a venture-backed outcome, it could potentially turn their app into a sustainable income and a long-term success.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Megan Thee Stallion's favorite app is Pinterest, obviously | TechCrunch

It’s official — the hot girls are using Pinterest.

Megan Thee Stallion sat down for a panel during Social Media Week and revealed that the image curation site is actually one of her favorite apps. She said she decided to delete Twitter (now called X) and Instagram from her phone, leaving Pinterest and TikTok as two of her favorite social apps.

This news isn’t surprising when you consider that Pinterest is having a moment. The social app had almost 500 million monthly active users as of Q4 2023, an 11% year-over-year increase, with total revenue hitting $3 billion, according to its latest quarterly earnings report. Pinterest is also making strides to stay relevant with Generation Z — it has the Creator Inclusion Fund and has implemented new technology to help with inclusive search on the site. As of last summer, around 40% of Pinterest’s global monthly active users are part of Generation Z, the company told us.

On the panel, Megan Thee Stallion said she loved the app because it allows her to curate exactly what she wants to see and listed topics ranging from puppies to makeup and workout videos. Almost 11,000 people liked the video, with users flooding the comments saying that Pinterest is also their favorite app.

Megan thee Stallion did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

It’s interesting to see because Pinterest can feel underrated or underspoken about.

That’s mainly because the conversation around social media apps often focuses on doom and gloom, while Pinterest has managed to mostly escape those mainstream discussions. When tech CEOs were hauled in to testify before Congress, Pinterest was absent. Despite a high-profile controversy around the app’s lack of teen safety features, the company addressed it with new controls and the news cycle moved on to other topics.

To some extent, Pinterest’s draw may be from how users can curate their own experiences. They don’t have to interact with random strangers, as on Twitter/X, and can avoid contact with communities they do not want to interact with. There is also a feeling of having more control in teaching the algorithm to show exactly what is wanted by activities like pinning and creating boards.

“We think it’s possible to have a social platform that enhances your life — instead of distracting you from it. That brings out your best instincts — instead of preying on your worst,” Pinterest’s chief content officer, Malik Ducard, told us. “Pinterest is designed to be a positive place where people can figure out who they actually are — away from the everyday stress of news and online comparison and commentary.”

Pinterest told us it had seen a 40% year-over-year increase in Gen Zers using the site to search for celebs, which lends itself to the theory that young people are using alternatives to Google platforms for the content they are looking for. Gen Zers are also more likely to use TikTok for search inquiries rather than a traditional search engine.

Megan Thee Stallion has a vested interest in Pinterest, having previously worked with the company. She participated in the Pinterest Creators Festival in 2021 and had a Pinterest board with singer Reneé Rapp to promote their latest song together, which, unsurprisingly, name-dropped Pinterest. Pinterest has been using board drops to work more with creatives and give users a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires many of their favorite artists. Big names also use it in a personal capacity, too.

Rapper 50 Cent revealed that he’s on Pinterest to find inspiration, while actress Rachel Zegler recently spoke about her love of the social platform, and Sofia Richie Grainge spoke to Vogue about launching private boards to help plan her wedding. For the most part, though, even celebrities, many of whom are loud on X and Instagram, are usually quiet about their lives on Pinterest. It’s true many of them have brand profiles, but it’s likely they also have their own private accounts, like Megan Thee Stallion insinuated during her panel.

As it stands, the site remains one of the last remaining quiet places on the internet — somewhere to have aspirational mood boards without pressure to prove anything to anyone. It makes sense that in an era of online hate and oversaturation, people would escape to a more peaceful corner of the internet to dream once more.

While Megan’s comments didn’t quite move the markets like other celebs’ comments about social apps have in the past, Pinterest’s stock was indeed up this morning. It seems all the hot girls are trading Pinterest, too.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Apple pulls WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store following state order | TechCrunch

Apple has removed the Meta-owned end-to-end encrypted messaging app WhatsApp from its App Store in China following a government order citing national security concerns, the news agency Reuters reported Friday.

Meta’s newer, Twitter-esque text-based social networking app, Threads, has also been pulled from the App Store for the same reason, it said.

“The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” Apple said in a statement sent to the news agency.

Meta confirmed to TechCrunch that its two apps are no longer available on Apple’s App Store in China but declined to provide any more details about the takedowns. “We refer you to Apple for comment,” a Meta spokesperson told us.

We also contacted Apple with questions about the removals but at press time the iPhone maker had not responded.

According to Reuters, two other messaging apps have also been removed from Apple’s App Store in China — namely Signal and Telegram. It cites data from app tracking firms Qimai and AppMagic for this element of its report.

Apple has not confirmed these two additional removals. But the AppleCensorship site, which tracks App Store removals, records both Signal and Telegram as “disappeared” from Apple’s mainland China App Store.

We reached out to Telegram regarding the status of its iOS App but at press time it had not responded.

Asked about Reuters’ report, Signal’s president Meredith Whittaker told TechCrunch that Signal was already blocked in China by the country’s Great Firewall.

“While Signal may have been available to download in the past, Signal registrations and messages are apparently blocked,” she said, suggesting it makes little difference if its app no longer appears on the App Store since users accessing the app from China would be unable to register or send messages.

Signal does not always seem to have been blocked in this way, though. Back in 2021, TechCrunch’s Rita Liao reported that Signal worked perfectly in China, including without using a VPN. But, presumably, state censors have clamped down further on the end-to-end encrypted messaging app since then.

Earlier removals

It’s not the first time Apple has removed apps at the direction of China’s internet regulator. Last summer multiple generative AI apps were taken off Apple’s China App Store shortly before Chinese regulations targeted at generative AI were due to take effect.

Last year another Twitter alternative, Jack Dorsey-backed Damus, was also pulled from Apple’s China App Store shortly after it had been approved.

A few years ago the audio social networking app Clubhouse was also pulled from Apple’s store in China shortly after its global release. In recent years Apple has also removed popular censorship circumvention tools (and previously VPN apps); RSS apps; podcast apps; and even a Quran app, to name a few other examples.

Why WhatsApp and Threads have been targeted for removal from Apple’s Chinese App Store now isn’t clear.

One is an end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) messaging app, the other is a microblogging-style social media app. (Telegram has both private messaging and one-to-many broadcast style features, with (non-default) proprietary E2EE only available for so-called “secret chats”; Signal offers industry gold-standard E2EE across all aspects of its app.)

Threads launched in early July last year. The app itself has been blocked by China’s Great Firewall, meaning users in China wanting to download it have to use a VPN to circumvent the censorship. Quite a number evidently managed to do so, as Threads quickly landed in the top 5 on Apple’s China App Store last summer.

A popular app would be more likely to catch more attention from China’s state censors, potentially encouraging them to take additional action to clamp down on usage — such as ordering Apple to remove the software from its store.

At the same time, other popular, Meta-owned apps, Facebook and Instagram, are still available on Apple’s China App Store, per AppleCensorship. But as TC’s Liao pointed out, in a 2021 post about rising usage of Signal and Telegram, “China’s censorship decisions can be arbitrary and inconsistent.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Dailyhunt-parent acquires newsstand app Magzter | TechCrunch

VerSe Innovation, the parent firm of news aggregator app Dailyhunt, has acquired the popular digital newsstand firm Magzter, the two said Thursday.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup has fully acquired Magzter, a New York-headquartered firm that counted Singapore Press Holdings among its backers. VerSe didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal.

The acquisition of Magzter, which offers more than 8,500 magazines on its eponymous app, underscores VerSe’s focus on targetting and serving the affluent audience, VerSe co-founder Umang Bedi told TechCrunch in an interview.

Magzter has more than 1 million paying subscribers in India, and 87 million active users globally. The firm, which charges about $20 to $30 yearly to consumers for its all-you-can-consume model, will find a distribution and technology partner in VerSe, helping the U.S. firm reduce its user acquisition cost, Bedi said.

Dailyhunt began evaluating the deal with Magzter last year. The Indian firm plans to launch Dailyhunt Premium this year that will include an ad-free experience as well as Magzter’s catalog. Magzter will continue to operate as a standalone service as well, Bedi said.

This is a developing story. More to follow.

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Robotic Automations

eBay adds an AI-powered 'shop the look' feature to its iOS app | TechCrunch

eBay on Tuesday launched a new generative AI-powered feature to appeal to fashion enthusiasts: a “shop the look” section within its iOS mobile app that will suggest a carousel of images and ideas, based on the customer’s shopping history. The company says its recommendations will be personalized to the end user and will evolve as the customer shops more. The idea is to introduce how other fashion items may complement their current wardrobe.

To do so, “shop the look” will include interactive hotspots that, when tapped, will reveal similar items and outfit inspirations, with the resulting looks including both preowned and luxury items that match the user’s personal style. The feature is powered by, and was developed in collaboration with the company’s Responsible AI team and RAI Principles, eBay notes.

Image Credits: eBay

“Shop the look” will appear to any eBay shopper who has viewed at least 10 fashion items over the past 180 days, the company notes. It will display both on the eBay homepage and the fashion landing page.

For eBay, the addition offers a way to showcase its wide expanse of inventory available for sale differently than before — and one that could potentially encourage more sales, if successful. eBay says it plans to explore expansions to other categories over time and will continue adding more personalization elements to the feature over the new year.

eBay isn’t the only one exploring how AI can improve the fashion shopping experience. Google last summer introduced a way for consumers to virtually try on clothes using a new AI shopping feature, for example. Amazon has also turned to AI to help customers find clothes that fit when shopping online. In those cases, the AI features were meant to help customers find the right fit or size, whereas eBay’s new feature is more focused on fashion inspiration — meaning finding the right style. That can be harder to do, given that personal style is subjective.

“Shop the look” will initially be available on iOS in the U.S. and U.K., with support for Android coming later this year.

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Robotic Automations

AirChat, the buzzy new social app, could be great – or, it could succumb to the same fate as Clubhouse | TechCrunch

Over the weekend, another social media platform exploded into the fray: AirChat. The app is like a combination of Twitter and Clubhouse. Instead of typing a post, you speak it. The app quickly transcribes what you say, and as your followers scroll through their feed, they’ll hear your voice alongside the transcription.

Built by AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and former Tinder exec Brian Norgard, Airchat takes a refreshingly intimate approach to social media. There are people I’ve known online for years, and only after following each other on AirChat did I realize I’d never heard their actual voices. The platform makes it feel like we’re actually having conversations with one another, but since AirChat is asynchronous, it doesn’t feel as daunting as joining a room on Clubhouse and having live conversations with strangers.

Posting with your voice may sound scary, but it’s not as intimidating as it seems — you can re-record your post if you misspeak. But if you’re someone who loves sending your friends three-minute voice memos instead of typing (or if you have a podcast), AirChat feels intuitive.

AirChat wouldn’t be worth using if the transcriptions were sub-par, but it’s the best speech-to-text product I’ve ever used. It almost always hits the mark in English… it even transcribes Pokémon names correctly (yes, I tested this extensively). It also seems to be doing well in other languages – I found it functional in Spanish, and TechCrunch reporter Ivan Mehta said that the app did a decent job transcribing Hindi. Sometimes, the app will translate speech directly to English, and while the translations were generally correct in our testing, it’s not clear why or when the app translates instead of transcribing.

So, is AirChat here to stay? That depends on what kind of people can find community on the platform. For now, the feed feels like a San Francisco coffee shop – most of the people on the app have some connection to the tech industry, which could be because tech enthusiasts are often the first to jump on new apps. This wasn’t the case for Threads when it launched (it’s just an extension of Instagram), or even Bluesky, which developed an early culture of absurd memes and irreverence. Right now, the app has paused invites, so this won’t improve in the near future.

The app’s current culture could also be a reflection of its founders, who are influential in Silicon Valley and venture capitalist circles. But it’s telling that when AirChat introduced a channels feature, two of the first to spring up were “Crypto” and “e/acc,” which stands for effective acceleration, an aggressively pro-tech movement.

This doesn’t have to be an automatic red flag – I (somewhat reluctantly) use Twitter/X every day, and the tech industry also feels especially loud there. But at least on X, my feed also contains posts about my favorite baseball team, the music I like, or the ongoing debate over adding more bike lanes in my neighborhood. So far on AirChat, I haven’t seen many conversations that aren’t about tech in some way.

What I do consider a red flag is AirChat’s naive approach to content moderation.

“We’re going to try and put as many of the moderation tools in the hands of the users as possible. We want to be as hands-off as possible. That said, sometimes you just have no choice,” said Ravikant on AirChat.

The phrasing of “hands-off” is reminiscent of Substack, a platform that lost popular publications like Platformer and Garbage Day after it refused to remove pro-Nazi content proactively.

AirChat did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

Ravikant argues that AirChat should function like a dinner party – you won’t kick someone out of your house for partaking in a civil debate. But if they start violently screaming at you, it would be wise to intervene.

“We don’t want to moderate for content, but we will moderate for tone,” Ravikant said.

In real life social situations, it’s very normal behavior to disagree with someone and explain why you think differently. That’s a pretty manageable situation to handle at your own dinner table. But AirChat isn’t a normal social situation, since you’re in conversation with thousands of other people; without more robust content moderation, this approach is like hosting a big music festival, but with only one person working security. One might hope that everyone will enjoy the music and behave themselves without supervision, but it’s not realistic. Just look at Woodstock ‘99.

This is another way in which AirChat parallels Clubhouse. Clubhouse’s approach to content moderation was even more permissive, since there was no way to block people for months after launch – AirChat already has block and mute features, thankfully. Clubhouse repeatedly played host to antisemitic and misogynistic conversations without consequence.

With this minimalist approach to content moderation, it’s not hard to see how AirChat could get into hot water. What happens if someone shares copyrighted audio on the platform? What about when someone doxxes another user, or if someone uploads CSAM? Without an actual plan to navigate these situations, what will happen to AirChat?

I hope that people can behave themselves, since I think the concept behind AirChat is brilliant, but we can’t be so naïve. I would like to know that if neo-Nazis tried to politely explain to me why Hitler was right, the platform would be able to protect me.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations owner Automattic acquires multiservice messaging app Beeper for $125M | TechCrunch owner Automattic is acquiring Beeper, the company behind the iMessage-on-Android solution that was referenced by the Department of Justice in its antitrust lawsuit against Apple. The deal, which was for $125 million according to sources close to the matter, is Automattic’s second acquisition of a cross-platform messaging solution after buying last October.

That acquisition made founder Kishan Bagaria Automattic’s new head of Messaging, a role that will now be held by Beeper founder Eric Migicovsky, previously the founder of the Pebble smartwatch and a Y Combinator partner.

Reached for comment, Automattic said it has started the process of onboarding the Beeper team and is “excited about the progress made” so far but couldn’t yet share more about its organizational updates, or what Bagaria’s new title would be. However, we’re told he is staying to work on Beeper as well.

Image Credits: Beeper

Beeper and’s teams of 25 and 15, respectively, will join together to take the best of each company’s product and merge it into one platform, according to Migicovsky.

“[] built an amazing app that’s more desktop-centric and iOS-centric,” he said. “So we’ll be folding the best parts of those into our app. But going forward, the Beeper brand will apply to all of the messaging efforts at Automattic,” he said, adding, “Kishan … I’ve known him for years now — there’s not too many other people in the world that are doing what we do — and it was great to be able to combine forces with them.”

The deal, which closed on April 1, represents a big bet from Automattic: that the future of messaging will be open source and will work across services, instead of being tied up in proprietary platforms, like Meta’s WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage. In fact, Migicovsky says, the eventual plan after shifting people to the Beeper cross-platform app for managing their messages is to move them to Beeper’s own chat protocol — something based on the open source protocol called Matrix.

Image Credits: Beeper

Automattic had previously made a strategic investment of $4.6 million in Element (previously New Vector), another company building on Matrix, and it contributes annually to, as does Beeper.

Matrix, a sort of “spiritual successor” to XMPP, as Migicovsky describes it, offers an open source, end-to-end encrypted client and server communications system, where servers can federate with one another, similar to open source Twitter/X alternative Mastodon. However, instead of focusing on social networking, like Mastodon, it focuses on messaging.

Migicovsky said the acquisition came about because running Beeper costs quite a bit of money and it was either time to raise more funding or find a buyer. To date, Beeper had raised $16 million in outside funding, including an $8 million Series A from Initialized. Other investors include YC, Samsung Next, and Liquid2 Ventures, and angels Garry Tan, Kevin Mahaffey, and Niv Dror, and the group SV Angel.

“I’ve known Matt [Mullenweg, Automattic founder and CEO] for years now,” Migicovsky said, adding that the founder had shown commitment to open source technology, like Beeper, where about half its product is already open source. “We were looking to find a partner that could financially support this. One of the reasons why there are no other people building this type of app is it costs a surprisingly large amount of money to build a damn good chat app,” Migicovsky noted.

As for Beeper’s products, the company has now briefed the DOJ on what happened when Apple blocked its newer app, Beeper Mini, which aimed to bring iMessage to Android. That solution is no longer being updated as a result of Apple’s moves.

Image Credits: Beeper

Beeper on Android launches to all

The company is instead releasing an updated version of its core app, Beeper, on Android. Unlike Beeper Mini, which focuses only on iMessage, the main app connects with 14 services, including Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Instagram DM, LinkedIn, Twitter/X, Discord, Google Messages and others. Android is its biggest platform by users, as 70% are on Google’s smartphone OS.

In this rewritten version of Beeper, the company is starting to roll out fully end-to-end encrypted messages across Signal. That will be soon followed by WhatsApp, Messenger and Google Messages.

Because of Apple’s restrictions, iMessage only works if you have an iPhone in the mix, Migicovsky says, and will not be a focus for Beeper, given the complications it saw with Apple’s shutdown of Beeper Mini. However, Beeper is hopeful regulations could change things, pointing to the DOJ lawsuit and FCC investigation. In the meantime, Beeper supports RCS, which solves iMessage to Android problems like low-res images and videos, lack of typing indicators and encryption.

With the launch out of beta, the new app includes a new icon, updated design, instant chat opens and sends, the ability to add and modify chat networks directly on Android (no desktop app needed), local caching of all chats on the device and full message search.

The 10,000 Android beta testers already on Beeper will need to download the new app manually from Google Play — it won’t automatically update.

Image Credits: Beeper

In addition, the 466,000 or so people on Beeper’s waitlist will now be able to try the product. They’ll join over 115,000 users who have already downloaded the app, which is now used by tens of thousands daily. The app runs on Android, iPhone, iPad, ChromeOS, macOS, Windows and Linux.

The team expects to have feature parity across platforms in a matter of months as they overhaul the iOS and desktop apps.

In time, they plan to add other services to Beeper as well, including Google Voice, Snapchat and Microsoft Teams. Beeper also offers a widget API so developers can build on top of Beeper. Plus, since Matrix is an open standard, developers will be able to build alternative clients for Beeper, as well.

The app will generate revenue via a premium subscription, where the final price may be a couple of dollars per month, but pricing decisions haven’t yet been fully nailed down. Beeper is currently free to use.

Like Automattic, Beeper’s team is remotely distributed, with employees in Brazil, the U.K., Germany and the U.S. At present, will continue to operate as the teams begin to integrate the two messaging apps.

Updated 4/9/24, 5:05 PM ET to clarify that Beeper’s chat protocol is based on Matrix. 

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Now at the top of the App Store, the Eclipse App is a great companion for Monday's solar eclipse | TechCrunch

A well-designed app made to optimize your viewing of the total solar eclipse on Tuesday has surged to the top of the App Store. With 140,000+ lifetime downloads across iOS and Android, a simply named The Eclipse App offers a complementary experience for viewing the astronomical event, including cloud cover forecasts, guides that pinpoint when totality will occur at your exact location, and information about local events, parks and viewing sites in your area.

The app itself was born out of a partnership between independent space interest organization The Planetary Society and The Eclipse Company, a tech company formed around the time of the 2017 Great American Eclipse to help more people witness total solar eclipses.

Image Credits: The Eclipse App

The companies first put out a user-friendly eclipse map to help people find a viewing spot for the annual eclipse on October 14, 2023.

The Eclipse App, released in the U.S. and Canada in February, currently generates revenue through in-app purchases that allow users to pay $3 for a livestream. There are now roughly 9,800 paying users as of Monday, according to data from app intelligence firm Appfigures. The app began its App Store climb late on Sunday, gaining 35,000 downloads on the App Store and starting to move up the charts. Google estimates are delayed by a couple of days, the firm tell us, so the total downloads are likely well past 140,000 by now.

The app is currently ranked first in its category (Travel) and ninth Overall in the U.S. App Store and eighth in its category via Google Play.

What’s more, the app doesn’t appear to be gaining traction from any Apple Search Ads campaigns, but rather via organic searches.

Reviews are mostly positive on the App Store: There are 40 five-star reviews versus 22 one-star reviews, Appfigures says. There seems to be more consumer dissatisfaction with the Android version.

The company promises that the app will offer the ability to explore U.S. states and Canadian provinces across the path of totality as well as community events in search states. Plus, you can use the timer to know when the moment of totality is for your exact location, so you can put on your eclipse glasses and watch. You can also check your local forecast and subscribe to local events and check out other local points of interest. Parking information for many events is also included.

Another app from the same company, Solar Snap, also made it to No. 3 on the Top Charts for its handy photography assistant for shooting photos of the eclipse.

How to watch the eclipse, just in case

If you’re not able to watch the eclipse in person, or don’t have the special glasses, check out the official NASA livestream of the event below.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Apple changes App Store rules to allow retro game emulators globally | TechCrunch

Apple updated its App Store rules Friday to allow emulators for retro console games globally with an option for downloading titles. However, the company warned that the developers are responsible for making sure that they follow copyright rules.

Android users can already access a ton of emulators to play old classics on their devices. Apple’s update will probably encourage some of those developers to bring their emulators to the App Store.

The company stated that these emulator apps must use an in-app purchase mechanism to offer digital items. With Apple having to tweak App Store rules because of regulations, these kinds of games would provide another revenue stream for the company.

In January, when Apple released the first set of rules in compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules, the company also announced that it would allow streaming game stores globally. Plus, it updated App Store rules at that time to support in-app purchases for mini-games and AI chatbots.

Apple also updated the clause on Friday for offering plug-ins to cover HTLM5-based mini-apps — possibly to include services offered by super apps like WeChat.

Apps may offer certain software that is not embedded in the binary, specifically HTML5 mini apps and mini-games, streaming games, chatbots, and plug-ins. Additionally, retro game console emulator apps can offer to download games,” the clause said. 

Last month, when the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple, suppression of super apps was one of the five points in the lawsuit about the company’s monopolistic practices.

Another major upgrade to the rules will allow music streaming services — like Spotify — to display information about subscriptions and other digital buys along with including links to drive users to their website to complete the purchase.

Last month, Spotify submitted an update in the App Store to show pricing information to EU-based users.

The music streaming platform said that Apple still hasn’t approved its submission. Spotify said that it is still reviewing Apple’s updated rules.

“Following the law is not optional, but Apple continues to defy that decision. Effective April 6th, the Commission can start noncompliance proceedings and impose daily fines. It’s time for decisive action to once and for all give consumers real choice,” Spotify spokesperson Jeanne Moran told TechCrunch in a statement.

The story has been updated with Spotify’s statement. 

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