Posts tagged wants
A year ago, Bill Ready was gunning for PayPal, bragging about how his company, Braintree Payments, was winning customers like TaskRabbit away from the eBay-owned payments giant.
Though Braintree was small, it was popular with mobile-app developers like Uber and HotelTonight—and he was using his edge with them to cook up a plan for a mobile wallet that could squeeze PayPal out of the world of mobile commerce.
Now Ready is working for PayPal, which bought his company last year for $800 million—and he’s putting his PayPal-killer plan to work making PayPal a killer product.
One Touch Payments: The Cure For “Mobile Flu”?
On Wednesday, Braintree announced the arrival of One Touch Payments, a service that lets any Braintree-powered app tap into credit cards a user has already stored with another app in the Braintree family.
Crucially, the family of One Touch-enabled apps include PayPal’s own mobile app, used by millions of users, most of whom have a credit or debit card stored with the service.
It will allow for swift mobile purchases without requiring users to create an account on an e-commerce site and enter credit-card details every time they want to buy something.
That cumbersome process is holding mobile commerce back, Ready believes. As usage shifts from desktop to mobile, e-commerce companies are experiencing what he calls “mobile flu.”
“More than half of the shopping is going on mobile, but it’s shopping not buying,” Ready says. “We think there’s a better authentication model than username and password.”
Here are some screenshots that show how One Touch works:
The program is starting out in beta testing now, but will be widely available in a month, Ready says.
Why Braintree Needed PayPal, Too
The inclusion of PayPal’s app will provide the critical mass for One Touch to have a chance for success—a problem which stymied Ready when Braintree was independent.
One Touch Payments began life as Venmo Touch, named after the person-to-person payment service Braintree bought in 2012. At the time, Ready’s strategy was to combine Venmo’s reach with consumers, who used its cash-sending features to split restaurant bills and chip in for gifts, with Braintree’s reach among developers.
Venmo would serve as the wallet that stored payment accounts and shared them from app to app, while Braintree’s software would let merchants tap into that wallet. Or one Braintree-powered app could just share a stored card with another app, with the user’s permission.
Ready faced a chicken-and-egg problem, though: Until enough consumers had Venmo or another Braintree app, developers wouldn’t be interested in playing along with the wallet scheme. And until enough apps worked with Venmo Touch, consumers wouldn’t see the point in allowing Braintree to store and share their cards from app to app. Ready’s one-touch payment dreams was stalled.
Along came PayPal, which was interested in Braintree for a host of reasons, particularly its reach among mobile developers.
After PayPal bought Braintree, Ready had the Venmo Touch retool the software to use either the PayPal or Venmo app as a wallet—and add PayPal itself, with its stored balance and PayPal Credit loans, as payment options.
Braintree also came up with new software for developers, the V.zero SDK, which supports One Touch Payments with minimal work by app builders. (If One Touch Payments is meant to simplify entering payment information for consumers, think of V.zero as doing something similar for developers adding payment features to their apps.)
One feature Ready’s particularly excited about is Braintree’s fraud detection, which he thinks will eliminate a lot of frustration with blocked payments. The current fraud model involves card networks declining a transaction, leaving both customer and merchant frustrated. Braintree’s software, when it detects strange activity, will quiz a user on his or her mobile device before the transaction is finished.
“Stealing Fire From The Mountain”
Even though Ready is part of a big company now, his heart is still with small software developers who wouldn’t be able to build features like fraud detection on their own.
“It wasn’t long ago that we were having conversations with Uber’s first engineer,” says Ready. (The on-demand transportation company is a longtime Braintree customer.) The ease of storing a credit card with Uber, and then being able to walk out of a car and have the ride paid for automatically, is a key part of the service’s success—and that’s part of the “magic” Ready wants to replicate with other mobile apps that sign up with Braintree.
Selling to PayPal was a key part of making his plan happen, he said, because he saw a narrow window of opportunity to seize the mobile market.
“I did look at this as stealing fire from on top the mountain to give it to the masses,” Ready says. “This moment in time is fleeting. Either we’re going to give power to the masses, or people are going to concentrate purchases with a few large retailers.”
There’s an irony there, of course: At eBay, Ready is now working for one of those large retailers.
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ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series in which ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.
My Nike+ Running app is free, like most of the running apps I’ve tried. So how does Nike make money off of it?
It’s all in the shoes. Nike’s app asked me which shoes I run with, and when I’ve logged enough miles to run my soles into the ground, it gently suggests I get myself down to Niketown to replace them.
MapMyFitness, another big running-app maker, has now copied Nike’s moves with a new feature called Gear Tracker that it unveiled Thursday. You can now track the mileage you’ve logged on a particular set of kicks, and get reminders to replace them. MapMyFitness has partnered with Zappos.com, the Amazon.com-owned apparel store, to sell shoes.
If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit
This isn’t a shoe-selling gimmick, by the way: Runner’s World recommends replacing running shoes after 300 to 500 miles, something I didn’t realize as a novice runner. I found Nike’s nudge helpful rather than annoying.
And MapMyFitness isn’t doing this for the money—at least not the easy kind. While Zappos has a program to share a percentage of revenues with sites and apps that direct customers to it, MapMyFitness spokesperson Allison Glass tells me her company isn’t participating and that Zappos is keeping all the revenue.
A few years ago, most of the big running apps introduced premium subscription options, offering more advanced run-tracking features like live run broadcasts or more detailed analysis for a monthly or annual fee. Strava has done particularly well with its subscription offering, and MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, and Runtastic all have them as well.
But selling gear may be the real secret to making money in fitness. MapMyFitness and Runtastic have the most advanced strategies here.
MapMyFitness’s success at pushing fitness apparel and hardware is a big reason why Under Armour paid $150 million to buy the Austin, Texas-based company last year. Shortly before Under Armour announced the deal, MapMyFitness had struck a partnership with Brooks Running.
Under Armour is making a big move to sell more than just athletic clothing, including wearables like its Armour39 activity tracker and shoes, a market where it hopes to go toe to toe with Nike.
Unlike Nike+, MapMyFitness’s Gear Tracker will track any kind of shoe—which is a sensible strategy for an upstart like Under Armour. Gear Tracker’s openness mirrors MapMyFitness’s digital strategy: Its application programming interface connects to a wide array of other fitness apps and devices—including Nike’s.
In contrast, there’s Runtastic, a fitness app maker which has put its brand on a number of devices it sells, from heart-rate monitors to apparel to bike cadence sensors to wireless scales. Some are just generic devices with the Runtastic name attached, while others, like the Libra scale and the Orbit activity tracker, are deftly integrated into Runtastic’s mobile apps and website. (The only thing Runtastic isn’t selling, it seems, is shoes.)
Collecting The Data, Sale Or No
The underlying thread here is that the savviest fitness-app developers are finding ways to link free software with paid hardware. Rather than slap tiny mobile banners on their apps, they’re getting directly involved in the sale, by tying shopping to specific moments in an active person’s life. Your shoes are worn out? Buy some new ones. Not making progress on your bike rides? Try a heart-rate monitor or cadence sensor to analyze your performance.
And ultimately it may not matter if MapMyFitness sells a lot of shoes, or gets a cut of the proceeds. Just knowing what its users are wearing could be invaluable market research for Under Armour as it tries to gain share of feet in the shoe market.
Nike’s running-app strategy, which assumes people live in a Nike universe, works well for retaining current customers and prompting them to buy new shoes. But it closes it off to what’s happening in the world outside. Once people stop buying Nike shoes, Nike stops gathering data. And in a digital world, without data, you might as well close up shop.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
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Well, that’s one way to bend the Internet to your will. Google on Thursday applied its not-inconsiderable leverage as Search King of the Universe to “encourage” websites to encrypt their traffic, thus protecting themselves and their users from hackers and other spies (hello, NSA!)
What Google is doing here is an unquestionably good thing. The decentralized Web has been remarkably lax in adopting simple security measures that safeguard your email, conversations, reading habits, and all other manner of personal details you’d rather not share with strangers.
Still, given the flexing involved, you could be forgiven for having a qualm or two about Google’s power.
An Offer You Can Refuse, If You’re Not Fond Of Breathing
What Google announced, specifically, is that it will begin favoring sites that encrypt their traffic in its search results. As offers go, this seems eminently reasonable and optional. Adopting Web encryption—technically, the HTTPS standard, also known as HTTP over TLS—is pretty straightforward; lots of sites (banks, many email services, Facebook, etc.) use it already. (ReadWrite, alas, does not.)
And no site really needs to be ranked highly in Google search results, right?
OK, scratch that. Google’s offer here is perhaps more akin to telling the folks running websites that they can continue breathing oxygen so long as they adopt the encryption standards that Google favors. Because, of course, sites that don’t adopt HTTPS will, over time, lose traffic to those that do.
And Yet, It’s An Offer You Really Shouldn’t Refuse
I’ll stress again that this is a fine and proper thing for Google to do in this case. Web traffic is really only protected when all intended parties to a communication are encrypting it, so there’s a collective benefit to expanding the use of encryption. Yet there’s a collective-action problem in getting everyone to act together—which is why Google is applying the arm here.
See also: Understanding Encryption—Here’s The Key
Email is a classic example. You may think it’s great that Gmail uses HTTPS to protect your connection when you log in to read your email. But if you send a message to your friend whose account is on the unencrypted service BrandXmail, your message won’t be encrypted in transit. And thus it’s fair game for anyone who happens to be spying—or even who’s just scooping up large amounts of passing data for later analysis.
(A technical aside: HTTPS only protects the security of messages as they transit the Internet. It has nothing to do with whether data stored on cloud servers is locked up against snoops. That’s an entirely different use of encryption, and how that’s enabled is solely up to whoever is storing your data—unless, of course, you’ve encrypted it yourself before storing it.)
Here’s how Google explains what it’s up to:
For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
You can read this as Google starting off with a few light taps on the kneecap before breaking out the lead pipes. Just remember: It’s for our own good.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Facebook has made it very clear it’s no longer just a social network. It’s been working hard trying to compete with Google on several fronts: search, nascent technology markets, and post-desktop computing.
Now that the $2 billion Oculus deal is closed, Facebook can beef up its focus on that third part of the Google competition—creating a Glass killer.
Glass is Google’s first foray into ambient computing that’s supposed to prevent users from getting lost in mobile devices or computer screens. The face computer appeals to the tech-obsessed, but Google’s hoping Glass will be as ubiquitous as smartphones in the future.
Facebook’s first step comes in the form of virtual reality built for video games—but video games are not what Facebook wants Oculus for. Now that the $2 billion deal is closed, Facebook is working on another hardware partnership to make virtual reality and face computing a standard beyond the console.
Facebook And Samsung, A Match Made In Mobile
Facebook is partnering with Samsung to create a headset that uses mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets, to create a virtual reality, according to a report from CNET. Currently, Oculus hardware works with computers and game consoles—the idea being you put the goggles on and are transported to another reality, and you feel like part of whatever game you’re playing.
With Oculus software on Samsung mobile devices, the idea of virtual reality can expand even further, and beyond the constraints of the $350 Oculus Rifts.
A Facebook partnership makes sense for Samsung. The South Korean tech company has been moving away from Google’s Android operating system—including ditching Android in its new Gear 2 smartwatches, the other wearable the company is trying to pioneer.
Early screenshots leaked by Samsung industry blog SamMobile, show Samsung’s new Gear VR mobile software that manages what appears to be a Samsung VR headset. Though there’s not much users can do without the actual hardware itself, if the screenshots are correct, this could be a first look at a potential Oculus-powered partnership with Facebook.
The idea of a smartphone-based hardware headset match isn’t entirely new. In fact, at Google I/O earlier this year, the company playfully mocked the VR headset, distributing Cardboard, a puzzle-like product that lets users create their own thrifty head-mounted hardware.
Playing The Long Game
Facebook and Google aren’t focused on the present. They’re both betting big on future technologies that have yet to bear fruit. Everything they do right now is what they expect in the next five to 10 years, virtual reality and computing without mobile or computer screens clearly playing a large part of the way digital consumption is changing.
Drones, VR and robots are more than vanity projects—they’re the technologies we’ll be using to power and consume the Internet.
Competition between the two firms is clearly heating up. What was initially seen as a way for Facebook to buy cool may actually be the company’s way of laying the foundation for a future in which we talk with our friends through face computers.
Lead image by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite.
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Google’s Chromecast is one of its most successful consumer products ever. So it’s only natural that Google would like to hitch another wagon to that star—and right now, that wagon is its streaming-music service, formally known by the awful name Google Play Music All Access.
The occasion is the first anniversary of the TV streaming stick, which prompted Google to offer U.S.-based Chromecast users three free months of Google Play Music’s All Access service. According to a Google spokesperson, the promotion covers “free 90-day All Access music subscription to anyone with a Chromecast (who isn’t already an All Access subscriber).”
The offer starts Friday, July 24 and runs through September 30. Anyone interested can visit this Help Center link to learn more. The All Access service normally costs $9.99 a month.
When Chromecast launched a year ago, Google’s music service—along with Netflix, YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV—were the only streaming options available. Now Chromecast has hundreds of compatible apps, with many more on the way, according to Google.
A few data points from the press release:
• More than 400M casts
• Sold in 20 countries including the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Australia and Brazil. Ireland was the most recent country to be added.
• 30,000 stores globally including Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dixons, Saturn and more.
• Millions of devices sold
• Hundreds of apps on Chromecast like HBO Go, ESPN, Songza and more. Find what’s new on chromecast.com/apps
• 6,000+ developers actively developing more than 10,000 Google Cast apps across Android, iOS and Chrome
The “millions of device sold” offers one of the only hints as to how successful Chromecast has been in the mass market. The Google spokesperson wouldn’t comment on hard sales numbers.
The Play Music subscription promotion, meanwhile, is one more sign of Google’s increasing interest in streaming music. Earlier this month, the company announced its acquisition of playlist-streaming startup Songza, and rumors persist that Spotify might be next on Google’s shopping list.
So the tech giant seems hell-bent on making waves in music streaming, one way or the other. The only question is if Google Play Music will be the way—or be left by the wayside.
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Duolingo, a popular online language education service, is making it easier for students and job-seekers to receive English language certification with the introduction of its new app, Test Center.
Language certification is necessary for some visas, universities and job applications. But the costs can be prohibitive, especially in countries where monthly incomes average at just few hundred dollars.
For a flat rate of $20, Test Center allows users to test for and receive accredited English language certification online or through a mobile application. This is a lot less than the average cost of in-person certification processes, which are priced between $160-$250 and can take up to eight weeks to receive.
Making Tests Accessible
Test Center is a response to students were having problems receiving English certification, Duolingo cofounder and CEO Luis von Ahn, Duolingo told ReadWrite. The company receives a lot of emails from potential users about difficulties such as a lack of resources, especially for people who live in remote areas, he said. What’s more, many in-person testing facilities are located only in major cities.
“When we got enough emails, we started looking at the space,” von Ahn said. “There are 30 million people every year who need certification, a majority in English.”
Duolingo’s English certification program won’t be accepted by many institutions right away—so while the tech education firm works to partner with university and companies, it is offering free certification.
The company is in talks with the top 25 universities in the U.S.—at least one university is involved so far. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is the company’s first educational partner, and von Ahn said Duolingo is working with the university to research the effectiveness of the proficiency exam. Carnegie Mellon hopes to accept Duolingo’s accreditation soon; research will compare applicants’ tests to the TOEFL exam, the current standard for language proficiency.
“Universities seem interested because they want to increase the number of international applicants,” he said.
oDesk is the first corporation to accept Duolingo certification—the freelance work marketplace will provide a way for job-seekers to add their Duolingo English proficiency score as a way to showcase their knowledge of English while searching for potential jobs.
Taking Language Mobile
Test Center will be available on the Web and as an app on Android devices, and because it’s entirely Web-based, students will receive certification in less than 24 hours.
The only hardware requirement? You’ll need a front-facing camera.
For traditional language proficiency exams, students need to take the test in-person to prevent cheating—such tests can be susceptible to fraud, like the student visa exams suspended in the UK’s visa program earlier this year.
To provide that same level of honesty when taking the test online, Duolingo will record the test-taker through the front-facing camera. Once the test is complete, a Duolingo representative will will review the video. The entire process takes less than 24 hours.
The choice to build and launch the Android app first was one based on demographics.
“Most of the people taking these tests are in non-English speaking countries where Android is more popular,” von Ahn said.
The total cost of an Android device, the test, and data to take it could be less than the $250 traditional exams cost, giving people in developing markets a better opportunity to elevate themselves out of poverty.
Test Center won’t be Android-only for long; von Ahn said an iOS version is coming soon.
Google is one of the biggest supporters of Duolingo’s Test Center program. While the company doesn’t require English proficiency among all its employees, it will promote the new service as a way to learn and master language—and opportunity.
Images courtesy of Duolingo
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Android is the world’s most popular mobile platform—and now you can learn how to build Android apps for free.
On Wednesday Google announced a free Android-app training course, one intended to give you up-close-and-personal experience with the mobile platform used in more than 190 countries and millions of mobile devices.
The course, “Developing Android Apps: Android Fundamentals,” walks you through six lessons for building your first cloud-connected Android app. In a blog post, Google stresses that the course is designed for people with some programming experience, but not necessarily any Android or even mobile experience.
Of course there’s a catch. It costs $150 a month to sign up for Udacity, where Google is offering the course. There’s a two week free trial, but Google recommends you take eight weeks, working six hours a week, to practice the course’s six lessons. Though if you’re looking to save money, perhaps you could blast through that before the free trial ends.
Check out Google’s video to learn about the steps you’ll go through in the course:
Screenshot via Udacity
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Google is now soliciting feedback on their implementation of EU’s Right To Be Forgotten ruling through a new Advisory Council. In an effort to obtain feedback from the general public, Google has opened up a new form where they are encouraging you to leave your thoughts. The new page Google has set up opens with the question: “How should one person’s right to be forgotten be balanced with the public’s right to know?” The page then goes on to explain Right To Be Forgotten in more detail. A recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union found […]
The post Google Wants Your Feedback On Right To Be Forgotten by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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Amazon appears to be serious about its proposed drone-delivery program—so much so that it’s petitioning the federal government for permission to test what it’s calling its Prime Air service near its headquarters in Seattle.
Prime Air burst into the national consciousness last December thanks to an uncritical 60 Minutes report on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his stated plan to launch a service that would use drones to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds to your door in less than 30 minutes. The report was long on promise but short on detail, and critics assailed the news program and reporter Charlie Rose for “fawning” over Bezos and playing into Amazon’s pre-holiday-season marketing offensive.
Among other things, there were plenty of reasons to think Prime Air was little more than vaporware. FAA regulations prohibit commercial use of drones, while the prospect of remotely controlled octocopters buzzing through busy urban centers raised serious safety concerns. Such a system would also have to be safeguarded against hacking and vandalism. Bezos himself told 60 Minutes that drone delivery was probably still “four to five” years away.
Amazon, however, shows every sign of working seriously on Prime Air. In a letter published to the Federal Aviation Administration’s site Thursday, Amazon formally requested an exemption from FAA rules so it can test its drones outdoors in the U.S. near its Washington State research facilities.
So far, the FAA has only approved six organizations to test drones in the U.S.: the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, Griffiss International Airport in New York, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University’s Corpus Christi campus, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Amazon’s drones can now travel up to 50 miles while carrying a five pound package, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, wrote in the letter. (Bezos told 60 Minutes that 86% of the packages sold on Amazon weigh less than five pounds.)
“Granting this request will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day,” wrote Misener, “and we will abide by much stronger safety measures than currently required for these groups.”
Added Misener: “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”
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