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Google’s Apigee teams up with Informatica to extend its API ecosystem

Google acquired API management service Apigee back in 2016 but it’s been pretty quiet around the service in recent years. Today, however, Apigee announced a number of smaller updates that introduce a few new integrations with the Google Cloud platform, as well as a major new partnership with cloud data management and integration firm Informatica that essentially makes Informatica the preferred integration partner for Google Cloud. Like most partnerships in this space, the deal with Informatica involves some co-selling and marketing agreements, but that really wouldn’t be all that interesting. What makes this deal stand out is that Google is actually baking some of Informatica’s tools right into the Google Cloud dashboard. This will allow Apigee users to use Informatica’s wide range of integrations with third-party enterprise applications while Informatica users will be able to publish their APIs through Apigee and have that service manage them for them. Some of Google’s competitors, including Microsoft, have built their own integration services. As Google Cloud director of product management Ed Anuff told me, that wasn’t really on Google’s roadmap. “It takes a lot of know-how to build a rich catalog of connectors,” he said. “You could go and build an integration platform but if you don’t have that, you can’t address your customers needs.” Instead, Google went to look for a partner who already has this large catalog and plenty of credibility in the enterprise space. Similarly, Informatica’s senior VP and GM for big data, cloud and data integration Ronen Schwartz noted that many of his company’s customers are now looking to move into the cloud and this move will make it easier for Informatica’s customers to bring their services into Apigee and open them up for external applications. “With this partnership, we are bringing the best of breed of both worlds to our customers,” he said.

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Boost VC backs Storyline’s Alexa skill builder

Have you felt a disconnect with your Alexa and wished she could share more of your sense of humor or tell you an  actually  scary ghost story? Startup Storyline makes designing your own Alexa skills as easy and dragging and dropping speech blocks, and has just raised $770,000 in a funding round led by Boost VC to help grow its skill builder API. The company launched in 2017 to help bridge the gap between creators and the tricky voice recognition software powering smart speakers like Alexa. With its new funding, CEO and co-founder   Vasili Shynkarenka  says that Storyline is hoping to expand its team and its interface to other smart speakers, like Google Home, as well work on integrating monetization and third-party services into the interface. Storyline’s user friendly interface lets users drag-and-drop speech commands and responses to customize user’s interactions with their smart speaker devices. Users can choose between templates for a skill or a flash briefing, and test the voice recognition and logic of the design live in their browser window. Since its launch, over 12,000 Storyline users have published 2,500 skills in the Alexa Skills Store — more than 6% of all skills in the store. The interface has also been used by the grand-prize winners of Amazon’s developer  Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids and the publication Slate . For Shynkarenka, the creation of these skills is vastly different from the creation of a typical smartphone app. “Most people think of Alexa as another software platform, like a smartphone or the web, and that’s not actually true,” he said.

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Tech-support scammers revive bug that sends Chrome users into a panic

Enlarge (credit: Malwarebytes ) Con artists pushing tech-support scams are once again exploiting a Chrome bug that can give users the false impression they’re experiencing a serious operating-system error that requires the urgent help of a paid professional, according to a Google developer forum. A Mozilla developer forum indicates a similar bug may also be present in Firefox. The scam technique, which came to light in February , works by abusing the programming interface known as the window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob . By combining the API with other functions, the scammers force the browser to save a file to disk, over and over, at intervals so fast it's impossible for normal users to see what's happening. Within five to 10 seconds, the browser becomes completely unresponsive. Users are left viewing pages that look like the one above or on the left side of the image, below, both of which were provided in February by antivirus provider Malwarebytes: The technique effectively freezes a browser immediately after it displays a fake error message reporting some sort of security breach or serious technical mishap. Given the appearance of a serious crash that can't be fixed simply by exiting the site, end users are more likely to be worked into a panic and call a phone number included in the warning. Once called, the scammers—posing as representatives from Microsoft or another legitimate company—then coax the caller into providing a credit card number in return for tech support to fix the non-existent security problem. The scams are often transmitted through malicious advertisements or legitimate sites that have been hacked. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Verizon Moto Z Play Gets Android 8.0 Oreo – Ubergizmo

Ubergizmo Verizon Moto Z Play Gets Android 8.0 Oreo Ubergizmo Google released the near-final beta build of Android P yesterday and yet there are still devices which haven't been updated to Android 8.0. The Moto Z Play on Verizon is one of those devices and the country's largest mobile carrier has finally started ... and more »

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Facebook is shutting down Hello, Moves and the anonymous teen app tbh due to ‘low usage’

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.2 billion users, is all about capitalizing on scale, and so today it announced that it would be sunsetting three apps in its stable that simply weren’t keeping up. After failing to gain traction, Hello, Moves and tbh will all be depreciated in the coming weeks, the company announced today. The three apps are being shut down at varying times we’re noting below. Facebook says that all user data from all three of these apps will be deleted within 90 days. “We regularly review our apps to assess which ones people value most. Sometimes this means closing an app and its accompanying APIs,” said Facebook. “We know some people are still using these apps and will be disappointed — and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support. But we need to prioritize our work so we don’t spread ourselves too thin. And it’s only by trial and error that we’ll create great social experiences for people.” But “low usage” is a pretty wide range, it turns out. Sensor Tower notes that Hello had only 570,000 installs — that is, total downloads — but tbh had 6.4 million and Moves 13 million. Still, these numbers are all just blips in comparison to billions of downloads and users of Facebook and the other popular apps that it owns: Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger

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Facebook rolls out more API restrictions and shutdowns

Following the  Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal and the more recent discovery of a Facebook app that had been leaking data on 120 million users, Facebook is today announcing a number of API changes aimed at better protecting user information. The changes will impact multiple developer-facing APIs, including those used to create social experiences on the site, as well as those for media partners, and more. Some of the APIs are being shuttered for low adoption, while others will require app reviews going forward, Facebook said. The company said the following API restrictions were now being put into place: Graph API Explorer App: Facebook will deprecate its test app today. Developers will need to use their own apps’ access tokens to test their queries on the Graph API Explorer going forward. Profile Expression Kit: This let developers build apps that allowed people to jazz up their profile photos or create profile videos . This one seems to be lumped in the group of shutdowns not because of misuse potential, but because it had low adoption. It will shut down October 1. Media Solutions APIs: On August 1, Facebook is shutting down Topic Search, Topic Insights and Topic Feed and Public Figure APIs due to low usage. It already deprecated the Trending API and Signal tool for journalists, the Trending Topics product and the Hashtag Voting for interactive TV experiences. Going forward, Facebook says public content discovery APIs will be limited to page content and public posts on certain verified profiles. Pages API: Developers can search using the Pages API again, but will need feature permissions to  Page Public Content Access,  which can only be obtained through the app review process. Marketing API: Developers will have to go through an app review before they can use this API. Leads Ads Retrieval: Facebook is introducing new app review permissions for this, too. Live Video APIs: Will also have new app review permissions. The changes were detailed in a post published in the Facebook Newsroom, which hinted they would not be the last

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LinkedIn adds Microsoft-powered translations and QR codes to connect more of its users faster

LinkedIn — the social network with more than 560 million members who connect around work-related topics and job-seeking — continues to add more features, integrating technology from its new owner Microsoft, both to improve engagement on LinkedIn as well as to create deeper data ties between the two businesses. Today, the company announced two more: users can now instantly view translations of content on the site when it appears in a language that is not the one set as a default; and they can now use QR codes to quickly swap contact details with other LinkedIn members. In both cases, the features are likely overdue. The lingua franca of LinkedIn seems to be English, but the platform has a large global reach, and as it continues to try to expand to a wider range of later adopters and different categories of users, having a translation feature seems to be a no-brainer. It would also put it in closer line with the likes of Twitter and Facebook, which have had translation options for years. The QR code generator, meanwhile, has become a key way for people to swap their details when they are not already connected on a network. And with LinkedIn this makes a lot of sense: there are so many people with the same name and it can be a challenge figuring out which “Mark Smith” you might want to connect with after coming across him at an event. And given that LinkedIn has been looking for more ways of making its app useful in in-person situations, this is an obvious way to enable that. Translations are coming by way of the  Microsoft Text Analytics API , the same Azure Cognitive Service  that powers translations on Bing, Skype and Office (as well as third-party services like Twitter ). It will be available in more than 60 languages, with more coming soon, LinkedIn says, to a “majority” of members using either the desktop or mobile web versions of LinkedIn. The company says that it will be coming to LinkedIn’s iOS and Android apps in due course, as well

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Labstep wants to fix the way science experiments are recorded and reproduced

Labstep , an app and online platform to help scientists record and reproduce experiments, has raised £1 million in new funding, including from existing investors. The company, whose team has a background in commercial R&D and academic research, including at Oxford University, is backed by Seedcamp and says it plans to use the new capital to double its team to 12, and for further product development. This will include the launch of a marketplace for lab supplies, and is one of the ways Labstep plans to generate revenue. The startup will also add features to its app that streamline how scientists outsource elements of their research. First conceived of in late 2013 and soft launched in 2015, Labstep has set out to digitise the lab experiment tracking and sharing process, and in turn give scientific research a major leg up. As explained by CEO and co-founder Jake Schofield, science experiments are often recorded in an archaic way, relying on a mixture of pen and paper or entering resulting data into legacy software. Not only is this cumbersome but it also means that experiments are prone to mistakes and can be especially hard to replicate and therefore validate, either by a team working together internally or when sharing and cross-checking with the wider scientific and research community. Enter: Labstep. The platform and app enables scientists to build libraries of experimental procedures — a bit like recipes — and then easily record progress when following a procedure in the lab, including building a timeline of the experiment. Procedures can also be shared with teams or more broadly, as well as deviated from in a transparent way. In fact, Schofield says one way to think about Labstep is as a ‘Github for lab experiments’. Procedures can be made public or private and can be optionally forked.

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Twitter ‘smytes’ customers

Twitter today announced it was acquiring the “trust and safety as a service” startup  Smyte  to help it better address issues related to online abuse, harassment, spam, and security on its platform. But it also decided to immediately shut down access to Smyte’s API without warning, leaving Smyte’s existing customers no time to transition to a new service provider. The change left Smyte’s current customer base stranded, with production issues related to the safety of their own platforms. Needless to say, many were not happy about this situation and took to Twitter to register their complaints. According to Smyte’s website, its clients included Indiegogo, GoFundMe, npm, Musical.ly, TaskRabbit, Meetup, OLX, ThredUp, YouNow, 99 Designs, Carousell, and Zendesk – big name brands that used Smyte’s feature set in a variety of ways to combat fraud, abuse, harassment, scams, spam, and other security issues. While Twitter had earlier told TechCrunch that it would be “winding down” Smyte’s business with existing clients, what that apparently meant was that it was going to announce the acquisition, then effectively shut off the lights over at Smyte and leave everyone in the lurch. According to reports from those affected, Smyte disabled access to its API with very little warning to clients, and without giving them time to prepare. Customers got a phone call, and then – boom – the service was gone. Clients had multi-year contracts in some cases. And again, to reiterate, Smyte is a provider of anti-abuse and anti-fraud protections – not something any business would shut off overnight. In npm’s case, it even led to a production outage. Twitter declined to comment, but we understand it was making phone calls to affected Smyte customers today to match them with new service providers.

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Win cash and prizes from Visa and HERE Mobility at the Disrupt SF 2018 Virtual Hackathon

Calling all hackers, programmers and tech heads from around the world: The Hackathon at  TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018  is a virtual reality. We wanted something truly special to celebrate the biggest, most ambitious Disrupt event in history,  so we launched the Virtual Hackathon . Thousands of the most highly skilled developers and coders will go head-to-head. But you only have about five weeks left to sign up and complete your hack, so you’d better hurry and sign up now . Here’s how this super-sized Virtual Hackathon works. Show us how you’d produce and apply technology to solve different challenges. Our judges will review all eligible submitted hacks and rate them on a scale of 1-5 based on the quality of the idea, technical implementation of the idea and the idea’s potential impact. Here’s what you receive for your effort: The 100 top-scoring teams get up to 5 Innovator Passes to attend TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 The 30 highest-scoring teams also get to go to the semifinals at Disrupt SF, where they will demo their crafty hack Out of those 30 teams, we’ll pick 10 to pitch their product on The Next Stage in front of thousands of Disrupt SF attendees One team will win the $10,000 grand prize to become the inaugural TechCrunch Disrupt Virtual Hackathon champ Of course, every TechCrunch Hackathon is jam-packed with sponsored contests and prizes galore, and this one is no exception. We already told you about the contests sponsored by BYTON, TomTom and Viond , and now we’re thrilled to announce two new hack contests from the folks at Visa and HERE Mobility . Visa The Visa Developer Platform empowers developers to transform great ideas into new digital commerce experiences using Visa’s proprietary APIs. Over the last several years, Visa has fundamentally evolved both its platforms and how it works with partners and clients, to encourage a broadening of the commerce ecosystem. From geo-location to real-time alerts and tokenization, the Visa Developer Platform offers direct access to a growing number of APIs, tools and support materials so developers can start building easier, faster and more secure ways to power digital commerce

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Twitter acquires anti-abuse technology provider Smyte

Twitter this morning announced it has agreed to buy San Francisco-based technology company Smyte,  which describes itself as “trust and safety as a service.” Founded in 2014 by former Google and Instagram engineers, Smyte offers tools to stop online abuse, harassment, and spam, and protect user accounts. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this is Twitter’s first acquisition since buying consumer mobile startup Yes, Inc. back in December 2016 Online harassment has been of particular concern to Twitter in recent months, as the level of online discourse across the web has become increasingly hate-filled and abusive. The company has attempted to combat this problem with new policies focused on the reduction of hate speech, violent threats, and harassment on its platform, but it’s fair to say that problem is nowhere near solved. As anyone who uses Twitter will tell you, the site continues to be filled with trolls, abusers, bots, and scams – and especially crypto scams, as of late. This is where Smyte’s technology – and its team – could help. The company was founded by engineers with backgrounds in spam, fraud and security. Smyte CEO Pete Hunt previously led Instagram’s web team, built Instagram’s business analytics products, and helped to open source Facebook’s React.js; co-founder Julian Tempelsman worked on Gmail’s spam and abuse team, and before that Google Wallet’s anti-fraud team and the Google Drive anti-abuse team; and co-founder Josh Yudaken was a member of Instagram’s core infrastructure team. The startup launched out of Y Combinator in 2015 , with a focus on preventing online fraud. Today, its solutions are capable of stopping all sorts of unwanted online behavior, including phishing, spam, fake accounts, cyberbullying, hate speech and trolling, the company’s website claims. Smyte offer customers access to its technology via a REST API, or it can pull data directly from its customer’s app or data warehouse to analyze. Smyte would then import the existing rules, and use machine learning to create new rules and other machine learning models suited to the business’s specific needs. The customers data scientists could also use Smyte to deploy (but not train) their own custom machine learning models, too. Smyte’s system includes a dashboard where analysts can surface emerging trends in real-time, as well as conduct manual reviews of individual entities or clusters of related entities and take bulk actions.

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VirusTotal now protects developers from becoming false positives

It’s been six years since Google acquired VirusTotal , a service that allows users to upload any file to check it for malware and viruses against the databases and algorithms of 70 antivirus and domain blacklisting services. Over the years, VirusTotal, which is now part of Alphabet’s Chronicle, has established itself as a neutral public service that has the trust of both users and developers, who can also access its service through an API. Today, the company is expanding on its core services by launching a new tool that allows developers to scan new code against the systems of its antivirus partners to help ensure that those partners don’t mistakenly identify their code as malware. These kind of false positives are surprisingly common and can obviously create massive headaches for developers who aren’t in the malware business. With VirusTotal Monitor, which is now available to all developers, developers can upload their code, have VirusTotal check it and if it’s mistakenly flagged as malware by one of the company’s partners, VirusTotal notifies both its partners and the developers– and connects them to make sure they can figure out a solution. As VirusTotal tech lead Emiliano Martinez told me, it’s worth noting that false positives are not just a headache for developers but also a potential PR disaster for the antivirus industry. Those companies don’t want to be responsible when users suddenly can’t use the latest version of an application they depend on only because their antivirus tool mistakenly thought it was malware. “So what we came up with is something like a Google Drive to which software developers can upload what they create — and do so before launching a given piece of software — or after,” Martinez explained. It’s worth noting that this tool is mostly geared toward commercial developers, but it’ll also be useful for developers who write line-of-business apps for larger companies, given that they often need those application to run their businesses. VirusTotal Monitor is free for the antivirus companies.

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Sherpa, the Spanish personal assistant, launches an API for its predictive AI with Porsche as 1st customer

Sherpa , a personal assistant startup that has carved out a niche for itself by focusing on the Spanish-language market (alongside English) and predictive suggestions, is expanding. The company is launching a set of APIs called the Sherpa Platform, which will let other businesses tap into its predictive recommendations and use them in their own consumer-facing services. Sherpa — based out of Bilbao, Spain and Palo Alto — is also announcing its a customer for the service: Porsche , which plans to use the service in its connected car services in its luxury vehicles. In addition to the automotive sector, Sherpa plans to target the home and mobile segments with its Platform APIs, and it has some deals specifically with other automotive companies and telecoms carriers in the works. The expansion comes at the same time that Sherpa has passed three million downloads of its app, which currently has 800,000 active users, with 80-90 percent of those Spanish. Founder and CEO Xabi Uribe-Etxebarria said that growth has been largely word-of-mouth, and that the primary aim up to now has been not scaling out — the app has been free and not trying to monetise — but gathering enough users to help train its systems as it continued to build out its product. “There were two reasons for launching Sherpa Platform: one to start monetising since we hadn’t before,” said Uribe-Etxebarria, “and two because we saw that we had a lot of interest from telcos and car manufacturers for a B2B2C product.” It’s also in the process of raising money. Sherpa has so far grown up on a very modest $6.5 million of funding , from Alma Mundi Innvierte Fund, FCRE, and unnamed private investors (“celebrities” says Uribe-Extebarria). The company is close to completing a bridge round for later this year of around $8 million, ahead of a larger Series B. Uribe-Extebarria says he has spoken to “all the usual names” in the US — he splits his time between Spain and California — and also a number of investors in Europe. There have been a number of companies doubling down on using machine learning and natural language processing to develop personal AI systems that respond to voice commands to either provide information or carry out simple digital tasks, either on their own devices or on those of third party hardware makers: Amazon has its Echo speakers and Alexa; Apple has Siri and a range of hardware that runs it; Google’s Assistant goes everwhere that Android does; Microsoft has Cortana; and even Samsung (once a close partner of Sherpa’s) has rolled out its own Bixby assistant.

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