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Qualcomm’s new fingerprint sensor should be better than Touch ID (Dante D’Orazio/The Verge)

Ever since the iPhone 5S came out in 2013, Apple has had one feature no one could match: Touch ID. Samsung has just caught up with  its new Galaxy S6 , but in a few months a new technology from Qualcomm will likely best both of them. Qualcomm has announced a new fingerprint reader that uses ultrasonic waves to verify your fingerprint in 3D, according to today's announcement. Unlike Touch ID, Qualcomm's "Snapdragon Sense ID" technology can read your fingerprint even if it's a little dirty or wet. It can even scan through "glass, aluminum, stainless steel, sapphire, and plastics," which means manufacturers should be able to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the phone's design, instead of having to make a discrete section made of different material just to support the sensor. For instance, the sensor could theoretically be built discretely into the bezel of a tablet. Works even if your finger is wet The new technology promises to be more accurate, too, which hopefully means fewer rejected swipes. Qualcomm says that the ultrasonic technology — which has already been used in professional biometric security applications — can "penetrate the outer layers of skin, detecting three-dimensional details and unique fingerprint characteristics, including fingerprint ridges and sweat pores." That detail should also make it harder for someone to  copy your fingerprint and break their way into your phone. Touch ID uses an area-type capacitive fingerprint sensor, which scans a 2D-image of the fingerprint with a press rather than a traditional swipe across the sensor. Apple obtained the technology when it acquired AuthenTec in 2012 — leaving the rest of the mobile industry stuck with competitor Synaptics' inferior product, which was a couple years behind. It appears Synaptics's new area-type sensor is being used for the first time in the Galaxy S6, but come later this year, it might seem old hat compared to Qualcomm's scanning tech.

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The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era (Kyle Orland/Ars Technica)

Aurich Lawson For decades after Linux's early '90s debut, even the hardest of hardcore boosters for the open source operating system had to admit that it couldn't really compete in one important area of software: gaming. "Back in around 2010 you only had two choices for gaming on Linux," Che Dean, editor of Linux gaming news site Rootgamer recalls. "Play the few open source titles, Super Tux Kart and so on, or use WINE to play your Windows titles." Ask anyone who was involved in the relatively tiny Linux gaming scene before this decade, and you'll get a similar response. "For a long time, it was just me porting games, and I did my best, but an industry that has an employee pool of one isn't a big industry," said veteran Linux programmer Ryan C. Gordon, who has worked on over 75 Linux gaming ports over the last 15 years. "It was slow for years on end with only a few decent commercial releases becoming available," Gaming on Linux site editor Liam Dawe agreed. Further Reading That began to slowly change around 2010, when The Humble Indie Bundle launched with an insistence that every included game come with a Linux option (thanks in no small part to the fact that Linux players were some of the most generous in the bundle's pay-what-you-want scheme). It also didn't hurt when services like Desura and Ubuntu Software Center appeared around the same time, giving Linux gamers a few user-friendly centralized repositories to purchase and organize their games. But there's one primary reason that Linux gamers can enjoy nearly 1,000 professional, commercially distributed games today , and it goes by the name of Valve. "At the end of 2013, when Valve released the beta of SteamOS everything changed," Dean said. "After years of promoting the various Linux distributions, we had a major gaming company not just porting their games to Linux, but actually creating their own Linux-based operating system. It was an incredibly exciting moment and a turning point for Linux users." Now, more than a year into the SteamOS era (measuring from that beta launch), the nascent Linux gaming community is cautiously optimistic about the promise of a viable PC gaming market that doesn't rely on a Microsoft OS

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Microsoft’s Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL are budget phones with free Office 365 (Tom Warren/The Verge)

Microsoft is looking to Office to tempt consumers to buy a Windows phone. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, the software maker is unveiling two new low-cost Lumia smartphones complete with a free version of Office 365 Personal (worth $69.99) for a year. The Lumia 640 is the successor to the popular Lumia 630, and the Lumia 640 XL replaces the larger Lumia 1320. The XL naming marks a move by Microsoft to move away from the, often confusing, numbering scheme across its range of Windows-powered Lumia smartphones. The Lumia 640 is the smaller of the pair, and includes a 5-inch 1280 x 720 screen with what Nokia used to call its Clear Black Display. I had an opportunity to get an early look at the Lumia 640 and I was impressed that Microsoft hasn’t put a poor display in this low-end device. It’s using Gorilla Glass 3 and Microsoft is even bringing its clever Glance user interface to this model. Elsewhere, there’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. That’s a small amount of storage for a modern smartphone, but at this end of the scale it’s on par with similarly priced devices. As this is a low-end device, Microsoft is using a 1.2GHz Qualcomm 400 quad-core processor. Perhaps surprisingly, Microsoft is using an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the rear. Such a camera would have been found on most high-end smartphones only a couple of years ago, so it’s encouraging to see this tech pushing down to more affordable price points. Microsoft isn’t skimping on the front-facing camera either, with a 1-megapixel shooter with wide angle lens. Perfect for all those selfies you know you secretly take. Even more interestingly, Microsoft is bringing its Lumia camera software to the Lumia 640, so you get all the great flash adjustments that  we were particularly impressed with during our testing recently .

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India’s Ola Buys Smaller Rival TaxiForSure For $200M To Put Pressure On Uber (Jon Russell/TechCrunch)

Ola, the SoftBank-backed competitor to Uber , has dished out $200 million to buy smaller rival TaxiForSure in what looks like being the first of a number of consolidation moves in India’s taxi-hailing space. The deal — which has been speculated for months , and is based on cash and equity — should significantly increase Ola’s position as the widest-reacher taxi app service in India, although both services will operate under their own brands. Ola currently claims to offer 100,000 vehicles across 67 cities in the country, and to that number it will add TaxiForSure’s 15,000 vehicles across 47 cities. In contrast, Uber serves 11 cities in India, offering mainly higher-priced, premium-marketed rides. There had been rumors  about the future of TaxiForSure’s founders, and the companies confirmed today that co-founders Aprameya Radhakrishna and Raghunandan G “will contribute in an advisory role for a certain period”. Their tenure may well be brief, but TaxiForSure’s 1,700 staff will stay with the company, which will be helmed by Arvind Singh who is stepping up from COO to CEO. “There’s a lot of complementary value in the strategy TaxiForSure has followed. I’m very excited to welcome the TaxiForSure team onboard and look forward to working with them towards realising our common vision,” said Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal in a statement. This isn’t the first deal of this kind in India. Last month, China’s top two taxi-hailing companies — Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache — announced a merger. They too will operate as separate entities.

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Bitcoin, not the Blockchain, is the killer app, because Blockchain tech needs Bitcoin to work (Joe Coin)

Discuss this on Hacker News "It's the Blockchain, not Bitcoin that's the real killer app." I've been hearing that more and more from prominent tech visionaries. And it's so incredibly wrong. But before I begin, I want to make sure I'm interpreting it the way people actually mean it. To wit, when I hear the above, I interpret it more precisely as: A decentralized consensus system using Merkle trees and based on proof of work (or maybe even stake) is the killer app. Furthermore, the specific implementation of a blockchain that we call Bitcoin will die and be replaced by a superior implementation. But after reviewing a draft of this post, a colleague of mine pointed out to me that another interpretation might be more along the lines of: Any Bitcoin-like proof of work-based Merkle tree that is meant to be used as a decentralized consensus system is doomed to failure...but (!) there is some sort of undiscovered idea out there that we can't describe and we don't know how it will actually work, but we'll be able to use it as a decentralized consensus system, and it will be awesome, and even though it will only have as much in common with a blockchain as does a platypus with a chicken, we're going to call it a blockchain anyway. Maybe that is what people mean, and if it is, I can't really argue with that. It's like saying that "low cost energy" is the killer app. No shit. But that tells us absolutely zero about if and how we'll ever get there. Setting the latter interpretation aside, I will now do my best to debunk the former and give it a proper burial. After all, I didn't earn the nickname "the undertaker" for nothing. The misconception underlying the idea of "Blockchain good, Bitcoin bad" was most saliently captured for me in an exchange during an  Econtalk podcast  with none other than Silicon Valley gatekeeper Sam Altman, who is the president of the Y-Combinator startup accelerator. When the podcast arrived at the topic of Bitcoin, Altman stated, "I think the most interesting piece of Bitcoin is this idea of the Blockchain." And just to make clear that in this instance he did indeed intend to poopoo on Bitcoin while holding up the beautiful idea of the Blockchain, note that he also stated "I own, like, not that many Bitcoins, and I have them as a hedge in case it does  win.

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Sony announces Xperia Z4 tablet with a 10-inch 2K display launching globally in June (Vlad Savov/The Verge)

Coming in June with a Snapdragon 810 processor, Microsoft Office apps, and an impossibly thin profile Announced at Mobile World Congress a year ago, the 10-inch Xperia Z2 Tablet remains one of the thinnest and lightest tablets around, but now it has a successor that steps things up a notch. The new Xperia Z4 Tablet matches the iPad Air 2's 6.1mm thickness while being notably lighter at just 393g for its LTE model. It's still waterproof, it still lasts an awfully long time, and of course it runs the latest version of Android, Lollipop. The big change with Sony's new flagship tablet this year is a renewed attempt to woo business customers. Now that Sony no longer has its VAIO laptop line, it's decided to add a Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft's Office productivity suite to its best Android tablet. The BKB50 keyboard is pitched as bringing a "premium laptop experience," however my time with it was underwhelming. The keys feel hollow, offering little resistance while typing, and they make an unpleasantly loud noise. A few of the most commonly used buttons are also unhelpfully shrunken, with the Tab, Backspace and right Shift key all being too small to reach with my natural typing style. I've been a big fan of Sony's chiclet laptop keyboards over the years and it's disappointing not to see a true translation of that quality in this latest accessory. Sony used to make amazing chiclet keyboards, but this isn't one of them To augment the keyboard, Sony has included a PC-syle launcher in the bottom left of the Android interface, which is designed to be a familiar landing spot for people used to the Windows Start menu. Another affordance to those habituated to Microsoft software is the preloading of Microsoft's Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Like Samsung did with the Galaxy S6 yesterday , Sony's seeing value in distributing Microsoft's applications on the Android platform, which bodes well for the future of Office and the rest of Microsoft's software stable. Beyond the effort to fill the void left by its former laptop range, Sony's goal with the Z4 Tablet has been to maximize its strengths and extend its leadership. The company's proud of its reputation for making devices that are both beautiful and waterproof, and the Z4 Tablet improves things that little bit further with a USB port that no longer requires a cap

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Meerkat for iOS lets you live stream video to your Twitter followers (Amanda Connolly/The Next Web)

No, this is not an app livestreaming meerkats going about their day. It could be though. Meerkat for iOS lets you live stream video on Twitter in one click. Once you’ve downloaded the app and found your good side, all you have to do is hit ‘stream’ and your video goes live instantly, showing up on your followers’ Twitter feeds. If any of your friends have Meerkat, they’ll get a notification alerting them to your live stream and they can comment and interact with you using the app. We trialled the app and found the stream to be pretty clear and steady. However, at present the app seems to zoom in quite a bit while capturing video, so an elongated selfie stick may be required if you plan on videoing on the go. While there are similar apps on the market like TwitCam and the Livestream app , Meerkat’s simple interface and ease of use could make this one a definite competitor appealing to brands and bloggers alike, provided that the zoom function is sorted. Meerkat is only available on iOS at the moment with no confirmation of an Android version just yet. ➤   Meerkat   iOS

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How Small Bitcoin Miners Lose on the Crypto-Currency Boom-Bust Cycle (Nathan Schneider/The New Republic)

T he search for riches in the ground has motivated some of history’s most extravagant endeavors. It has inspired explorers, enslaved populations, and put opera houses in dusty mountain towns . But when the boom ends, the miners themselves have often been left in the lurch. They handle the raw material, turn it from hard earth to something potentially of value. Fabulous wealth comes to only a few, who rarely hold onto it long enough to be considered lucky. The search for bitcoins is little different. --advertisement-- The Bitcoin Center NYC , the self-described “center of the Bitcoin revolution,” inhabits a retail storefront on Manhattan’s Broad Street, a block from the New York Stock Exchange. The staff of an Asian-infused kosher steakhouse next door occasionally shoos loitering Bitcoiners from the sidewalk, indifferent to the revolution allegedly underway. Inside the Bitcoin Center, two small tables off to one side house a menagerie of Internet-age extraction equipment: Bitcoin mining machines. They resemble boxy desktop computers, only larger and without screens or keyboards attached. Only one of them, the CoinTerra TerraMiner IV, was in use during a visit I paid to the Center last November, emitting a purr of white noise.

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Netherlands’ NXP Semiconductors to acquire Austin-based chip maker Freescale in an $11.8B deal (Michael J. de la Merced/New York Times)

NXP Semiconductors said on Sunday that it would buy a smaller peer, Freescale Semiconductor , in an $11.8 billion deal that would create a big maker of chips for industries as varied as automobiles and mobile payments. The merger will also offer some relief to the private equity firms that bought Freescale at the height of the leveraged buyout boom, only to see the financial crisis bring the company low. A combination would help the two chip manufacturers in their dealings with customers like car companies and phone makers that are looking to consolidate their lists of suppliers.  In fall 2013, Applied Materials, an American manufacturer of chip-making equipment, acquired Japanese rival Tokyo Electron for more than $9 billion. Other semiconductor companies, like Qualcomm and Infineon Technologies, have also struck deals, in part to gain greater negotiating leverage. Both NXP and Freescale have also benefited from a recent boom, as companies of all stripes look to add networking capabilities to their products. NXP in particular has had a surge in demand for so-called near-field communications technology that lets phones — notably the iPhone 6 — interact wirelessly with equipment like payment terminals. Together, NXP, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands, and Freescale, which is based in Austin, Tex., reported $10.6 billion in sales last year. “The combination of NXP and Freescale creates an industry powerhouse focused on the high-growth opportunities in the smarter world,” Richard L. Clemmer, NXP’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We fully expect to continue to significantly outgrow the overall market, drive world-class profitability and generate even more cash, which taken together will maximize value for both Freescale and NXP shareholders.” Under the deal’s terms, NXP will pay $6.25 a share in cash and 0.3521 of one of its shares for each Freescale share held. That values Freescale at roughly its existing market capitalization, although shares of Freescale rose last month after The New York Post reported that the company was exploring a sale

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Lenovo launches sub-$200 tablets, Android-based Tab 2 A8 and A10, and Windows-based MIIX 300 (Nicole Lee/Engadget)

Lenovo might still be a little sore from the Superfish scandal that recently rocked its PC division, but thankfully the company's mobile arm has remained unharmed. And that's a good thing, because it's kicking off Mobile World Congress with the announcement of not one, not two, but three new tablets, in both Android and Windows flavors. The Lenovo Tab 2 A10 and the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 are from the budget-friendly Android A series , while the affordable Lenovo MIIX 300 is for those who prefer the operating system from Redmond. The overarching theme of all three of these is simple: Value. Gallery | 7 Photos Lenovo Tab 2 A10 hands-on Gallery | 8 Photos Lenovo Tab 2 A10 press shots But just because they're affordable doesn't mean these tablets are shy on features. The highest end of the lot is the Lenovo Tab 2 A10, which is also the one that's most focused on entertainment. Not only does it has a nice 10.1-inch full HD IPS display for watching movies, but it's also equipped with Dolby Atmos technology and a multi-speaker soundbar to really give you that theatre experience. In a brief demo of the tablet, I thought the surround sound was remarkably good considering its compact size -- it's not too hefty at 509 grams and it's about 8.9mm thin. The speaker soundbar sounded far richer than most tablet speakers, though using headphones would still result in better audio quality. It ships with Android 4.4 KitKat (it'll be upgradeable to Lollipop later this year), runs on a quad-core MediaTek processor, has dual-band WiFi and a 8-megapixel camera. Markets outside the US will get a LTE version of the tablet as well.

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Why Silicon Valley is the new revolving door for Obama staffers (Washington Post)

President Obama meets with leading tech executives, including Google’s chairman and the CEOs of Yahoo and Twitter, at the White House in December 2013. (Michael Reynolds/EPA) By Cecilia Kang and Juliet Eilperin February 28 In 2004, when Barack Obama was running for the U.S. Senate, he made his first visit to Google’s campus and saw firsthand how a search on the Internet worked. It left such a strong impression that he returned during his first presidential run vowing to protect the industry. Now, near the end of his administration, the extent of Obama’s commitment to Silicon Valley has become clear. And nowhere is that more evident than net neutrality, an issue where the president pressured the government to pass regulations with major implications for how consumers experience the Internet. The rules, passed Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission , limit Internet providers from auctioning off the fastest download speeds to the highest bidders, all but ensuring that Web firms — not cable companies — will retain control of what consumers see on their browsers. It marked a major win for Silicon Valley, an industry that has built a close relationship with the president and his staff over the last six years. The affinity between the White House and the tech industry has enriched Obama’s campaigns through donations, and it has presented lucrative opportunities for staffers who leave for the private sector. On Thursday, former White House press secretary Jay Carney joined Amazon as its senior vice president for worldwide corporate affairs. Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe runs policy and strategy for Uber, the car service start-up. And several other former administration officials are peppered throughout Silicon Valley in various positions, lobbying on important policy issues related to taxes, consumer privacy and more. History may view Obama as the first tech president , a leader who began his term clutching a BlackBerry and in every step along the way has embraced an industry that has evolved into a powerful force in politics and policy. In addition to net neutrality, Obama has supported immigration reforms favored by tech firms such as Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft and decried by labor unions

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Sources: social news reader Prismatic on the block, with Microsoft the front runner in buying it; Apple and Yahoo have also expressed serious interest…

Microsoft has been busy  snatching up  startups to fill out its mobile apps portfolio, and it looks like it could be buying one more. According to multiple sources,  Prismatic  — an app that recommends news articles to users based on what their connections are reading and liking — is on the block, and Microsoft is the front runner to get it. It’s not clear what stage talks are at presently. Microsoft is one among several large companies that are talking to the startup, with the “most serious interest” otherwise coming from Apple and Yahoo. Google and Facebook have also showed early interest. Another source resolutely names Microsoft as the final buyer, and a price: $30 million. According to Crunchbase, Prismatic has raised $15 million to date , with investors including Accel Partners, Jim Breyer, Yuri Milner and Javelin’s Alex Gurevich. We have contacted both Microsoft and Prismatic about these rumors. Microsoft declined to comment for this article, and we have not had any replies from multiple attempts to contact Prismatic. Microsoft has made just over 143 acquisitions to date. Prismatic’s potential sale, and the interest from big-name buyers, speaks both to some of the challenges news aggregation startups face these days, but also the bigger opportunity for Prismatic’s technology. Prismatic was co-founded by Bradford Cross (who is CEO) and Aria Haghighi (who left and currently works for Apple ), both machine learning and natural language processing specialists. The idea behind Prismatic was to create a platform that could provide accurate recommendations of content, using social signals and your own usage of the app to feed its algorithms. The main product out of this tech has been its consumer-focused news reader, made for iOS, Android and the web, which recommends stories you might like based on interests that you specify (eg, food, iPhone news, China), the interests of your friends, and how you interact with the links it delivers to you — do you click; do you share, save or discard; do you comment?

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HP’s Spectre x360 is a 13-inch Broadwell-powered convertible laptop with up to 12.5 hours of battery life, available today from $899 (Jacob…

HP is introducing what it's calling its "most premium" computer yet: the Spectre x360, a high-end laptop that's able to flip its display around to work as a tablet, too. The Spectre x360 has an aluminum body that's 15.9mm thick and weighs 3.3 pounds. It has a simple, silver-gray style that probably won't draw too many glances, but it's the power inside that counts. An optically bonded Quad HD touchscreen at the top configuration The Spectre x360 comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 Broadwell processor and a 13.3-inch touchscreen with 1080p or Quad HD resolution. It also includes either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and an SSD ranging in size from 128GB to 512GB. Perhaps most notably, HP says that it'll be able to power all of that for anywhere from 10 to 12.5 hours, even with the high-res displays. Part of the reason for that, it says, is that the Spectre x360 only refreshes parts of the display that are actively changing, thus using less power. During a briefing, HP emphasized the laptop's battery life, particularly in comparison to the MacBook Air. It's  no secret that the Spectre line is HP's attempt to take on Apple, and this time HP claims to have about matched Apple on battery life. HP says that the Spectre x360 can play back 1080p video for 11 hours straight. In its tests, the MacBook Air — which still doesn't have a 1080p display — was able to display 720p video for 12 hours straight. If accurate, those are favorable results for HP. That said, a video test like that isn't entirely reflective of average use: not many people are going to watch Lord of the Rings straight through. Still, battery life is one of the areas that the Air has been dominating, and being able to match it is a big deal. No one ever loved having to pull out their charger at a coffee shop, and with how great laptop batteries have become, it's even worse having to do that nowadays

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David Besbris no longer running Google+, replaced by longtime VP of Product Bradley Horowitz (Ingrid Lunden/TechCrunch)

More changes afoot at Google+. TechCrunch has learned, and now confirmed with Google, that David Besbris has left his role as the head of the company’s social and identity product. He has been replaced by Bradley Horowitz, a longtime VP of product for Google+ . Besbris only took over Google+ less than a year ago, in April 2014 , after Vic Gundotra — who had started and led Google+ since its inception — left the company. And it was only in October 2014 that Besbris, reclining in a pool of plastic bubbles (pretty ironic in retrospect), told Re/code that Google was in social and Google+ “for the long haul.” Well, Google+ may not be completely disappearing, but it does seem to be getting dismantled (as we reported it would). Ahead of an appearance on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sundar Pichai — Google’s SVP of products — last week gave an interview to Forbes in which he hinted that Photos and Hangouts would be moving out of the Google+ product group. “I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area,” he told Forbes. Tellingly, at the time, the Google executive publicly commenting on that statement was not Besbris, but Horowitz . “Some great comments from + Sundar Pichai  about future product direction for Google+, Photos, Hangouts,” Horowitz wrote on his G+ page. “We’ve been working hard on these changes and I’m really excited about what these will mean for our users.  As + Radiohead  says, ‘Everything in its right place…'” It’s not clear whether Horowitz is a long-term or short-term replacement while Pichai considers what to do next. Meanwhile, there seem to be some wider personnel changes as well.

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How The Huffington Post, Fusion, Mashable, NPR, Philly.com, and The Verge are using Snapchat (Joseph Lichterman/Nieman Lab)

Feb. 23, 2015, 1:05 p.m. From live events to behind-the-scenes tours, The Huffington Post, Fusion, Mashable, NPR, Philly.com, and The Verge tell us how they’re approaching Snapchat. When Sam Sheffer , The Verge’s social media editor, launched the site’s Snapchat account at the end of July last year, he meant it to be a small-scale experiment. “I only promoted it on my personal Twitter account,” Sheffer told me. “I didn’t make it an official thing that it was our account, I just told my followers, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to be doing this thing. Follow if you want to.’” But soon the audience started growing; today, The Verge’s snaps each get about 10,000 views. The Verge, like many news organizations that are active on Snapchat, still views it as an experiment, trying out new ways to use the format — from covering live events like the NBA All-Star Game or the Oscars to a regular series where Sheffer has Verge staffers explain what’s on their desks. Snapchat’s popularity is booming. Last year, it said that its users sent more than 700 million snaps daily; the company is reportedly in a new funding round that would value the company at $19 billion. Snapchat’s new Discover feature could be a significant moment in the evolution of mobile news Snapchat’s potential for news outlets became more clear last month with the launch of Snapchat Discover , which lets a small number of publishers reach new younger audiences with well-produced stories that are made specifically for the platform and utilize slick graphics and video. No one is releasing hard numbers yet, but the buzz is they’re amazing

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