Chrome will now default to HTTPS

On April 15th, the v90 edition of Chrome hit the stable channel for desktops. It was announced in March that this version would default to HTTPS which improves privacy and security, as well as improves the initial loading speed of sites supporting it. It will also feature an AV1 encoder for the first time which will optimize streaming on the web browser. The change will arrive later on iOS but should be seen immediately on desktop and android. Learn more.

Google's move toward disabling third party cookies

With Google’s recent commitment to disabling third party cookies in Chrome, small business and professional marketing agencies such as W3C, PRAM, and WFA will have to look for different ways to reach certain demographics. With third party cookies out of the picture, alternative projects such as Google’s FLoC, Parakeet, and SWAN will be actively working with these agencies to find a target audience without invading the user’s privacy. Learn more.

Amazon announces fund for Indian startups

Amazon recently announced a $250 million dollar venture fund which will invest in Indian startups and small businesses who are focusing on digitization. This announcement comes during a time where the company is facing heat from government bodies and the small/medium businesses they’re claiming to support. M1xchange, a startup which connects MSMEs with banks and financiers, was granted a $10 million dollar investment round from Amazon. Healthcare and agriculture also seem to be a primary focus with investments going into startups that will reduce food waste, increase quality of produce, enable healthcare providers to telemanage medicine, and e-diagnose patients. During these announcements at an annual four day event called Smbhav, thousands of protestors were voicing their concerns on alleged unfair practices engaged by the company. The Confederation of All Indian Traders (CAIT) have claimed for years that Amazon has been circumventing Foreign Direct Investment laws of India to conduct unethical trade and have even called New Delhi to ban Amazon from the country back in Feburary. Learn more.

Instagram is experimenting with showing/hiding likes

On April 14th, Instagram announced that it will allow its users to test out new options to show, or not show like counts on their posts. The three options available will let users fully disable seeing likes on anyone’s post, disabling likes on their post, or keeping the original experience as is. The Verge reported back in 2019 this was tested and that the goal of the experiment was to see if it would enhance the user’s well being as well as their social media experience. Certain users of the test did not have any control over the hidden likes. Instagram wanted to shift the focus on photographs and video content shared on users’ feed and not the like count. Initial feedback was positive, however some companies expressed concern about the new setup and about navigating how to prove their account’s worth in brand deals and partnerships. Instagram agreed to find a solution for this problem. Research from The University of Rochester has suggested that not receiving an expected amount of validation online can result in anxiety or depression. Facebook is looking to conduct a similar test on it’s site as well. Learn more.

Tik Tok financially backs a publisher

Tik Tok has announced they will financially back the production of a NowThis series called “VIRAL” which will feature interviews with public health officials and Q&A sessions focusing on the pandemic. Even though the company has previously funded creator content, this partnership is the first time Tik Tok has funded an episodic series from a publisher. Tik Tok’s Instructive Accelerator Program have also sent grants to publishers as well as offer hands-on support so they could create quality instructive content for TikTok’s #LearnOnTikTok initiative. NowThis says they brought the concept for the show to TikTok earlier in the year outside of the accelerator program and it was greenlit. Tik Tok also co-produced the series and provided more funding. “VIRAL” is hosted by infectious disease clinical researcher Laurel Bristow who spent all of last year working on COVID treatments and research. Bristow will breakdown COVID facts and bust myths surrounding the virus every Thursday. Every episode will last for 45 minutes and include an interactive segment where the Tik Tok audience will be able to engage in a live Q&A session. The first episode was aired on Thursday April 15th and will run through Thursday May 13th for a total of five episodes. Learn more.

Clubhouse rolls our revenue-generating feature

Starting in April, Clubhouse will roll out it’s first revenue-generating feature for its creators since its launch for testing earlier in the month. A “small test group” of creators were given access to the feature at the beginning of the month. Creators received the ability to receive 100% of donations from their fans and supporters through the audio app. The test began with only 1,000 users. Over the weekend, 60,000 users will have access to the feature and Clubhouse expects to have a full roll out of the feature in the coming weeks. By making payments readily available, Clubhouse has more potential to retain its top content creators. Stripe is powering the feature and users require a debit or credit card for it to properly work. Users will receive the full amount sent to them while fees paid on the transaction will go to Stripe to cover processing fees.  The company is also expanding it’s horizons by looking at subscription features, ticketed events, and brand deals. Each of these features will create revenue for users. Through the Creator First Program, which was announced last month, Clubhouse will also help new users get their first show off the ground by offering select creators equipment, marketing support, and receive help with booking guests. Learn more.

Mozilla's DeepSpeech development winds down

DeepSpeech, an automatic speech recognition model created by Mozilla in 2017, is beginning to wind down. Mozilla plans to cease development as the company transitions into an advisory role. Part of this transition will include a grant program to fund a number of initiatives demonstrating applications for DeepSpeech. Mozilla began to work on the project in late 2017 where the team designed a system that can be taught using Google’s TensorFlow framework to infer patterns from datasets of labeled speech. DeepSpeech’s latest model carries tens of millions of parameters which are parts of the model learned from historical data. Mozilla’s research team started with a single computer running four Titan X Pascal GPUs which eventually led to two servers with 8 Titan XPs each for training. Mozilla continued to strive towards shrinking the DeepSpeech model while boosting its performance rate. Eventually in December 2019, the team was able to get it running “faster than real time” on a Raspberry Pi 4. More details about the forthcoming grant will be published in May. Learn more.