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X is launching a TV app for videos 'soon' | TechCrunch

X, the company formerly known as Twitter, is launching a dedicated TV app for videos uploaded to the social network soon. X CEO Linda Yaccarino announced on Tuesday that the new app will bring “real-time, engaging content to your smart TVs.” The app’s interface looks quite similar to YouTube’s, as seen in a teaser video shared by Yaccarino.

The app will feature a trending video algorithm that is designed to help users stay updated with tailored popular content, along with AI-powered topics that will organize videos by subject. The app will also support cross-device viewing, which means you can start watching a video on your phone and then continue watching it on your TV.

Yaccarino says the app will feature enhanced video search and be available on “most smart TVs.” Although there isn’t an official launch date for the app, the executive says it will be available “soon.”

The upcoming app launch is part of Yaccarino’s efforts to turn the social media site into a free-speech “video first” platform. The social network currently features an original show hosted by former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and another by former Fox Sports host Jim Rome. Last month, Musk canceled a talk show deal with former CNN anchor Don Lemon after he was interviewed for the first episode of the show.

The announcement comes a week after Truth Social, the social media platform owned by Donald Trump’s media company, also unveiled its plans to launch a live TV streaming platform. The platform will focus on “news networks” and “religious channels,” along with “ content that has been canceled” or “is being suppressed on other platforms and services,” the company had said.

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Lyrak to take on X by combining the best of Twitter with fediverse integration | TechCrunch

Threads. Mastodon. Bluesky. Substack Notes. Post. Nostr. Spoutible. There’s no shortage of X competitors in the months following the acquisition of the text-based social network formerly known as Twitter by Elon Musk. Now you can add one more startup to that lineup: Lyrak, a new X rival that aims to differentiate itself by focusing on real-time news and monetization options for creators, as on X, but with fediverse integrations, similar to Instagram’s Threads.

The fediverse refers to the open source social network of interconnected servers powered by the social networking protocol ActivityPub. Mastodon is the most well-known among the federated social apps, but even Meta has sensed a shift in the direction of the web and built its latest social network, Threads, with an eye toward ActivityPub integrations.

With Lyrak, the plan is to take the best of what Twitter has to offer and combine it with ActiviyPub integration, allowing users to interact with a wider audience on other federated social networks, like Mastodon and others.

That integration isn’t yet live, but the team says it’ll begin the work in a few months. Once live, Lyrak users will be able to see posts from Mastodon users and vice versa.

Image Credits: Lyrak

Founded by London-based web designer and marketer Rishi Siva, Lyrak is named for a lead character in the TV show “His Dark Materials,” Lyra. Siva says Lyra discovers new worlds, and because Lyrak is also striving to build something better, it seemed like a good source of inspiration.

The founder came up with the idea after spending time helping small businesses set up websites so they could make money on the web and attract customers. At one point, Siva also created a Thumbtack-like app, but the COVID-19 pandemic impacted its ability to grow as many local tradespeople were unable to work at the time.

Still, he expresses a desire to help users to better monetize their content and skills online.

“Our lower fees and sharing 50% ad revenue with creators further support this goal,” Siva notes.

By comparison, X doesn’t publicly share its percentage, which can vary based on the type of post, demographics, geography and other factors. Plus, revenue is only earned for ads shown to Verified users (paid subscribers).

Siva is also unhappy with the direction X is going and how it affects creators.

“After Musk took over Twitter, I saw a significant change in the way the platform behaved and the types of accounts it promoted. It’s disappointing to see that all the tech leaders I admire ignored this and still use Twitter [X],” he noted, pointing to the issues around far-right groups and antisemitic content on X’s platform.

However, he admits that Twitter/X still remains the best place for real-time news, which is why it remains sticky with users, despite the changes. Threads, meanwhile, isn’t prioritizing real-time news outside of sports; Siva dubs it “basically a text version of Instagram.”

He thinks Mastodon and Bluesky will ultimately be too complicated for regular users, but Lyrak could benefit from their networks through fediverse integrations. (Technically, Bluesky is not federated with Mastodon because it uses a different protocol, but work is being done to build bridges between the two.)

Image Credits: Lyrak

Lyrak says it will focus initially on getting journalists to join the network, to help it with becoming a real-time social app. To attract them, Lyrak will allow Verified journalists to share content to users’ home feeds based on their interests and offer tools to send them notifications to people who regularly click their links. (The latter is similar to Artifact — RIP — which would alert users to new articles from reporters and writers they followed.)

The startup will also try to attract people who sell digital products, with specific tools launching for this crowd later in May. Creators will be able to offer subscriptions to their followers as well as collect tips.

Another coming feature will involve AI tools, like an answer engine and user-generated AI characters, also planned for May.

The company plans to generate revenue through ads, like X, but also by taking a 10% cut from paid posts, subscriptions, tips, digital products and other AI features, in time.

To route around app store fees, Lyrak’s website will allow users to deposit funds to the app, which they can use to pay creators. (Funds added through in-app purchases will require paying Apple its 30% fee, however.)

Another idea, borrowed from sites like Reddit, is a reputation score that will reflect the value a user brings to the community through their comments, reposts, likes and inviting others to the platform. This will be combined with AI moderation efforts and human moderators to keep the app safe, the team promises.

Image Credits: Lyrak

“After our initial launch and a couple of weeks of bug fixes, we plan to regularly release new features,” Siva said. “The advantage of being a startup building a social app is that we have a fresh perspective on things. We’re not stuck in the old ways of thinking, which allows us to innovate and create features that truly benefit our users.”

Lyrak is being built by a team of five, most of whom are based in London. (The fifth person is soon moving to London, too.) The startup is currently bootstrapped and available for download on iOS.

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X adds support for passkeys globally on iOS | TechCrunch

X, formerly Twitter, is rolling out support for passkeys, a new and more secure login method compared with traditional passwords, to all iOS users globally. The option debuted in January, but only for iOS users in the U.S.

In an update to the X @Safety account on Monday, the company shared that passkeys are now available as a login option for global iOS users. Similar technology has already been added to other popular apps and services, including PayPalTikTokWhatsApp, GitHub and others. Google last fall made passkeys the default sign-in option for all users. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and other companies also support the option.

Passkey technology was initiated by Google, Apple, Microsoft and the FIDO Alliance, alongside the World Wide Web Consortium. The idea is to make passwordless logins available across different devices, operating systems and web browsers. Unlike traditional logins, which require a username and password combination, passkeys use biometric authentication like Face ID or Touch ID, a PIN or a physical security authentication key to validate logins. The process combines the benefits of two-factor authentication (2FA) into a single step, making logins more seamless while maintaining increased security.

For X, the addition could help users protect their accounts against hacks from bad actors. The social network has seen a number of high-profile hacks over the years, including one in January where the U.S. Securities and Exchange’s X account shared an unauthorized post regarding Bitcoin ETF approval. Donald Trump Jr.’s X account was also hacked to post a fake message saying that Donald Trump had passed away. There was also a 2020 crypto scam that saw many larger accounts compromised, including Apple’s, President Biden’s and X owner Elon Musk’s account, among others.

The addition could also help X users who previously relied on SMS 2FA to re-secure their accounts, as X announced last year that option would be removed for non-paying users. X had argued that the cost-cutting measure could be abused by bad actors, such as in the case of SIM swaps. But the reality is that it made X less secure.

X offers users instructions on how to get started with passkeys on iOS. There’s no word yet on when Android users will have the option.

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Substack’s Notes feature is getting more Twitter-like capabilities | TechCrunch

Substack is adding new capabilities to its Twitter-like Notes feature that bring it more in-line with the social network now known as X. The company announced on Tuesday that users can now post videos directly to Notes in the Substack app and on the web. Users can now also embed Notes on external webpages.

The launch of the new features come a year after Substack introduced Notes in April 2023, during a time when companies were aiming to attract users who were fleeing Twitter after Elon Musk took the reigns of the social network in late 2022. Notes let users share posts, quotes, comments, images, links and ideas in a Tweet-like format, The short-form content is displayed in a dedicated Twitter-like feed.

Starting today, users can post videos directly to Notes by recording a video or selecting one from their phone’s camera roll or their desktop. The company says more writers and creators are using its video tools and starting new shows on the platform, so it wants to make it possible for them to share their work on Notes, too. Given that apps like X and Meta’s Threads allow users to post videos, it makes sense for Notes to offer the capability as well.

As for embedding Notes on external pages, Substack says the new capability will allow writers’ content to travel widely across the web beyond Substack. In an example given by Substack, a writer’s Note could be embedded into a news article, which happens with X posts quite often. Users can find a Note’s embed code by clicking on the three-dot menu in the top right corner and selecting the “embed note” option.

Substack announced on Tuesday that Notes has generated more than 3,000 paid subscriptions and 230,000 free subscriptions for writers and creators on Substack in the past 30 days. In its blog post, Substack explains that Notes is especially valuable for users who don’t have large pre-existing audiences.

The company saw an opportunity to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter as soon as it began. In October 2022, Substack took a direct shot at Twitter and warned in a post  that: “Twitter is changing, and it’s tough to predict what might be next.” The post had encouraged creators of all sorts to port their Twitter follower base to Substack. Substack then took its ambitions further with the launch of a Chat feature, and then later, Notes.

As Substack continues to build out its Twitter-like product, X is spiraling further into disarray, as the company announced on Monday that it plans to charge new users a small fee before they are allowed to post on the social network, in an effort to curb the platform’s bot problem.

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X makes Grok chatbot available to premium subscribers | TechCrunch

Social network X is rolling out access to xAI’s Grok chatbot to Premium tier subscribers after Elon Musk announced the expansion to more paid users last month. The company said on its support page that only Premium and Premium+ users can interact with the chatbot in select regions.

Last year, after Musk’s xAI announced Grok, it made the chatbot available to Premium+ users — people who are paying $16 per month or a $168 per year subscription fee. With the latest update, users paying $8 per month can access the chatbot.

Users can chat with Grok in a “Regular mode” or a “Fun mode.” Just like any other large language model (LLM) product, Grok shows labels indicating that the chatbot would return inaccurate answers.

We have already seen some examples of that. Earlier this week, X rolled out a new explore view inside Grok where the chatbot summarizes trending news stories. Notably, Jeff Bezos and Nvidia-backed Perplexity AI also summarizes news stories.

However, Grok seems to go one step further than just summarizing stories by writing headlines. As Mashable wrote, the chatbot wrote a fake headline saying “Iran Strikes Tel Aviv with Heavy Missiles.”

Musk likely wants more people to use the Grok chatbot to rival other products such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini or Anthropic’s Claude. Over the last few months, he has been openly critical of OpenAI’s operations. Musk even sued the company in March over the “betrayal” of its nonprofit goal. In response, OpenAI filed papers seeking the dismissal of all of Musk’s claims and released email exchanges between the Tesla CEO and the company.

Last month, xAI open sourced Grok but without any training data details. As my colleague Devin Coldewey argued, there are still questions about whether this is the latest version of the model and if the company will be more transparent about its approach to the development of the model and information about the training data.

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Meta explains why the NYC/NJ earthquake didn't trend earlier in the day | TechCrunch

Despite its similarities, Instagram Threads is no X. At least, not yet. The text-focused social network — and Meta’s answer to Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter — missed a moment to shine on Friday when users once again turned to X to discuss the New York/New Jersey area earthquake. The traffic surge drove #earthquake to the top of X’s Trends section, followed by other areas of impact, like “East Coast,” “Long Island,” “Philly,” “Manhattan” and “Brooklyn.” Meanwhile, earthquake-related terms didn’t register on Threads’ trends section until closer to 2 p.m. ET, even though the earthquake had hit a little before 10:30 on Friday morning.

That’s not to say people weren’t discussing the earthquake on Threads — many were. In addition to conversations taking place around the earthquake, people were even tagging their discussions as EarthquakeThreads or NYC Threads, among other things, to help surface their posts to the wider Threads Community.


Post by @timothyjchambers
View on Threads


Another reason the term likely wasn’t trending: Unlike Twitter/X, Threads doesn’t use hashtags.

While this design choice makes the user interface cleaner, it also may make it less obvious how to tag trending terms. It seems obvious that discussions of the earthquake should be tagged #earthquake (or “earthquake” without the hashtag, as on Threads), but people on the Meta-owned platform have started using the tagging convention of [term] Threads — like “Tech Threads” for people in tech talking about tech, for example.

This could complicate things when a big trend comes along because some will tag it “earthquake” and others will tag it “Earthquake Threads” while others still may target their local community, like “NYC Threads,” which leads to none of the terms gaining the velocity and momentum needed to break into the top trends on Threads, despite all of them referencing the same event.

Around 1 p.m. on Friday, TechCrunch reached out to Instagram to ask why the earthquake didn’t make it into Threads’ top trends.

We were told that Threads’ five top trends are based on various signals, including how many people are talking about a given topic, and how many people have engaged with posts on that same topic. Because the earthquake was a regional event, and trends are based on national conversations, it may have simply taken more time for enough people to join the conversation, Instagram said.


Post by @backlon
View on Threads


Shortly after checking in with Threads, the now many-hours-old earthquake became the No. 1 trend on the platform.

Unfortunately for Threads, being unable to keep up with trends in real time could hamper its ability to fully compete with X. Combined with Meta’s plan to distance itself from discussions of a political nature — even going so far as not to “recommend” political content across Instagram and Threads’ platforms — Threads may never fully be able to supersede X, even if it builds many of the other same bells and whistles, like reposts, search, bookmarks and linkable tags.

This stands in sharp contradiction to how Twitter’s founders perceived the power of their new platform to deliver real-time information — and a reason why Twitter became the home to breaking news, active topical discussions and a hub for journalists.

Not long after TechCrunch covered Twitter (then called Twttr) for the first time, the San Francisco earthquake rocked the service, allowing both the founders and users alike to grasp Twttr’s potential. Later that fall, the app had grown to thousands of users.

Said former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey in a 2016 Harvard Business School newsroom interview, “I was in the office on a Saturday, and my phone buzzed, and it was a tweet, and it said simply, ‘Earthquake.’ Immediately after that I actually felt the tremors in San Francisco. The phone kept buzzing, and there was, ‘earthquake, earthquake, earthquake.’”

“What was amazing about that is I was experiencing something in the world, and immediately I felt comforted because it was obvious that other people were experiencing the same thing,” Dorsey said. “I thought, ‘Wow, the world is so small. You can actually — just by having that shared sensation that shared experience, you all feel like you’re all in this together.’”

Threads may have 130 million monthly active users, making it the largest player in the “fediverse,” the social network of interconnected servers and services, including Mastodon, Misskey, Pixelfed, PeerTube and others. But despite usage declines, X has remained “stickier” than some would have believed, especially given the wide crop of competitors that have emerged to challenge Musk’s X. In fact, according to one report by Sensor Tower, X’s usage by power users remained largely unchanged as of last fall.

Already there are signs that Threads is failing to deliver a true X-like experience. As Max Read described it in a March newsletter, “Threads is the gas-leak social network,” referring to the randomness of the posts that filled users’ For You feeds.

“Everyone on the platform, including you, seems to be suffering some kind of minor brain damage,” Read wrote. “Who are these people? What are they talking about? Are they responding to something that I missed? Why am I reading this? How did it get into my feed? How am I supposed to react?”

If Threads can’t capitalize on real-time information, like an earthquake or a current political discussion; if its feed bubbles up very old posts; and if its trends remain delayed by hours, Threads’ ability to be a viable Twitter alternative could suffer. While people may use it — because they don’t like X’s new direction or Elon Musk specifically — they’ll never have a true X-like experience.

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Elon Musk plans to charge new X users to enable posting | TechCrunch

Elon Musk is planning to charge new X users a small fee to enable posting on the social network and to curb the bot problem.

In reply to an X account that posted about changes on X’s website, Musk said charging a small fee to new accounts was the “only way” to stop the “onslaught of bots”

“Current AI (and troll farms) can pass “are you a bot” with ease,” Musk said, referring to tools like CAPTCHA.

While replying to another user, Musk later added that new accounts would be able to post after three months of creation without paying a fee.

As is the case with a lot of announcements related to the social platform, there are no details at the moment about when this policy will be applicable and what fees new users might have to pay.

Last October, X started charging new unverified users $1 per year in New Zealand and the Philippines. New free users signing up for the platform from these regions could read the posts but couldn’t interact with them. To post content, like, repost, reply, bookmark, and quote posts, they had to pay a fee. Musk might apply a fee similar to other regions.

Earlier this month, X said that the platform was starting a major purge of spam accounts, warning users that their follower count might be affected. However, with a plan to charge new users, the social media company seemingly aims to tackle the bot problem better.

While Musk has talked about battling AI bots, last year, X updated its policy to include a clause that public posts could be used to train machine learning algorithms or artificial intelligence models. Separately, in July 2023, Musk said that his AI company xAI would use public posts to train models.

Earlier this month, xAI made its Grok chatbot available to Premium users of X, who pay $8 per month. The chatbot was previously available to users paying $16 per month for the Premium+ tier. Last week, Fortune reported that X plans to make Grok available to users to compose posts.

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Is it just me, or was that an earthquake? | TechCrunch

For just a brief moment, this was the internet at its best. I stared at a vase of dried out Trader Joe’s flowers, rumbling on my table for maybe 30 seconds, but I was too shocked to even process what was happening. Then I saw the tweets (which, in this moment of shock, I refuse to call X posts).


“was that an earthquake??????”

“did everyone just feel that?”


“So excited that us east coasters can finally get earthquake Twitter”

People on microblogging sites (it wasn’t just X — I see you, Bluesky) had already determined the scope of the earthquake, confirmed it was, in fact, an earthquake, and began posting jokes about the situation before the less chronically online people even realized what happened.

It’s rare that something happens so suddenly that it unifies an entire geographic region — people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City and Massachusetts chimed in on my timeline, each unabashedly sharing our experiences. It’s like the old school Twitter, where you could post “eating a ham and cheese sandwich” and it wasn’t ironic. You were invited to say exactly how you felt, and everyone else was doing it too. It’s like old LiveJournal or Facebook statuses, where you could post “is feeling sleepy” and never consider that no one really cares.

It’s like a middle school cafeteria, hours after an unplanned fire alarm goes off. We’re all still buzzing with a certain naive excitement and awe, bouncing off of each other’s surprise and exaggerating our memory of what happened, like it was some legendary event. Everyone has lost focus at work. On Slack, Ron says he thought it was a train, and his chair shook a little. Matt says that in California, it usually feels like a car crash. Dom says she used to live in LA, and this was definitely an earthquake. Brian said, as a Californian on the East Coast, he didn’t even feel it. Then I share my own riveting account of this brief moment we all just experienced: I thought it was my neighbor’s washing machine.

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, and critics embarked on a mass exodus to platforms like Bluesky, Mastodon, Tumblr, and even ones that no longer exist, like Pebble, we mourned the end of an era. There used to be just one option for microblogging, and it was Twitter, unless you were really into open source federated software before 2022. Moments like these show that there really is value in the “public town square” — it’s a way for us to know that we aren’t crazy, or our boiler isn’t exploding, before anyone even knows what’s going on.

But when the most populous town square is becoming actively more hostile to people who aren’t crypto bros or Tesla stockholders, we get a sense of what we’re missing. On Threads, people are talking about cherry blossoms. On Facebook, I am delighted to learn there is a new grocery store coming to my neighborhood, but no one is talking about the earthquake.

As a lifelong East Coaster, I experienced something I’ve never felt before as the ground shook beneath me. And immediately, scrolling through my Twitter feed, I felt nostalgic for what the internet gives us at its best: a sense of calm, comfort, camaraderie and reassurance that I wasn’t alone.

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ShareChat's valuation drops below $2 billion in new funding | TechCrunch

Social media startup ShareChat’s valuation has cratered below $2 billion from nearly $5 billion in a new funding round, a source familiar with the situation told TechCrunch, marking a steep decline for the nine-year-old Indian startup that boasts over 400 million users in the South Asian market.

The Bengaluru-based startup, which operates a popular social network supporting a dozen Indian languages as well as a short-form video app, announced on Monday that it had raised $49 million in a convertible round. It did not disclose the valuation at which the funds were raised but strongly denied that its new valuation was below $2 billion, asserting there was “no valuation” attached to the round.

Existing investors including Lightspeed, Temasek, Alkeon Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures and HarbourVest have invested in the new round, the startup said. Their debt will convert to equity at a valuation below $2 billion in the next round, according to a source with direct knowledge of the terms. The source requested anonymity to speak candidly. TechCrunch reported in December that ShareChat was facing a steep valuation cut.

ShareChat also counts Google, X, Snap, Tiger Global and Tencent among its backers. It has raised about $1.75 billion to date. ShareChat was valued at $4.9 billion in a funding round it raised in mid-2022.

The markdown comes despite ShareChat experiencing a remarkably positive year, aggressively cutting expenses while managing to double its revenue. “When the market turned, we had to temper [acquisitions and creator payments] and move towards more profitable growth,” Ankush Sachdeva, ShareChat’s co-founder and chief executive, told TechCrunch in an interview.

ShareChat has not spent money acquiring users in the past year, with Sachdeva crediting improvements to the startup’s content recommendation engine for driving user retention and engagement. The company has also invested heavily in AI talent, particularly for senior roles in its London-based team. ShareChat also unveiled that it has doubled the ESOP grant for each employee in the firm as part of a special bonus grant.

It has also been able to pare down its single-largest expense, the cost to serve content, he said. “When you fetch content on one of our apps, we do a lot of computation to find the 10 best content. To serve and consume that, there is another delivery cost. Optimizing this has helped us lower our burn,” he said.

ShareChat has reduced its monthly cash burn by 90% over the past two years while doubling revenue, attracting large FMCG firms and gaming companies as advertisers.

The startup also remains committed to the short-video market in India, despite strong competition from YouTube and Instagram following the country’s ban on TikTok in 2020.

“In terms of traffic, ours is lower than those of Instagram and YouTube, but we are the largest in terms of a standalone app,” said Sachdeva. He believes ShareChat’s unique focus on live-streaming as a destination for entertainment and creator-user connections will differentiate it from American rivals. The startup acquired local rival MX TakaTak in a deal valued over $700 million in 2022.

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X warns that you might lose followers as it does another bot sweep | TechCrunch

X is warning users they may see a reduction in their follower counts as the company attempts to clear the network of some spammers and bots in a large sweep. Via an announcement published by X’s Safety account, the company on Thursday will begin a “significant, proactive initiative” to eliminate accounts that violate X’s rules about platform manipulation and spam.

The move comes shortly after X announced the appointment of two new leaders to its safety team: Kylie McRoberts, an existing X employee who’s now head of Safety, and Yale Cohen, previously of Publicis Media, who is joining as the head of Brand Safety and Advertiser solutions.

Spam has been an area that Elon Musk has longed to tackle at X, telling employees in November 2022 that he aimed to make fighting spam a priority going forward.

However, spam has proved more difficult to combat than he likely hoped, especially after extensive job cuts left Twitter’s Trust & Safety team short-staffed, while the role of head of Safety sat vacant for 10 months after the earlier departures of Ella Irwin and Yoel Roth under Musk’s tenure.

Advancements in AI have also made it more difficult to reign in the spam.

Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that Musk’s plan to require users to pay for Verification did not seem to have stopped spammers from participating on the platform. A number of bots with Verified blue checks were found to be replying to posts on X with a variation of the phrase, “I’m sorry, I cannot provide a response as it goes against OpenAI’s use case policy” — an indication that they were not people, but bots.

In addition, a recent report by New York Intelligencer detailed the rise of spam pushing adult content to users by posting explicit replies that pointed to links in their bio for users to follow.

The scale of spam on the network was one of the sticking points for Musk when he originally tried to back out of the $44 billion Twitter deal, saying that the company had not been honest about the number of bots. But these days, Musk is touting how X is seeing record traffic, without clarifying if his own numbers include bots and spam.

According to the X Safety team’s announcement, the company will be “casting a wide net” in its attempt to remove spam and bots from the platform, which may result in follower count reductions. This is par for the course for bot sweeps on its platform. 

X also shared a link to a form where users inadvertently affected by the bot sweep could appeal.

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