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Airbnb is just the beginning – TechCrunch

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Hey everyone. Thank you for welcoming me into you inbox yet again.

I got some awesome responses to the #DeleteLinkedIn newsletter last week, a few dozen emails (some of them angry) and plenty of tweets. Looking forward to chatting with some of you soon. On that note, I’m currently in China for a TechCrunch event that we’re having in Shenzhen and will be taking some time offline to travel a bit so I won’t be arriving in your inboxes for the next two weeks. Week in Review will be back in your inboxes the weekend after Thanksgiving so you’ll have to savor this newsletter until then.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox here, and follow my tweets here.


The big story

If there’s been a collective theme to some of the tech backlash of the past couple years, it’s been an evolving vision towards platform responsibility.

Social media platforms have earned the lion’s share of this discussion to date. This has largely been due to the political landscape and gripes with both liberals and conservatives for how the site handles content policing. The prevailing libertarian view that tech platforms weren’t responsible for what was enabled by their platforms has fallen out of vogue.

What continues to surprise me is how little accountability or expectations there still seems to be for marketplace platforms. Speech is a crucial part of the internet, but so is buying and selling and it shocks me how big some startups have been able to get without delivering some basic buyer protections.

http://www.twitter.com/lucasmtny/1190027153099952128?s=20

Through some great investigations from the Wall Street Journal, we’ve seen how fast and loose Amazon has been playing with third-party sellers getting free reign on the site. There have been countless stories of scammers infiltrating sites like Airbnb and eBay and operating in grey areas that allow them to rip off buyers. Last week, a reporter at Vice delivered a scathing deep dive into a scam she fell victim to on Airbnb’s platform.

This week, Airbnb announced that by next year they are pledging to verify all of their listings, something that seems more than a little overdue. Standing behind the properties being booked on their platform was seemingly the last box to check before driving to the IPO hoop.

More from our story:

Airbnb  properties will soon be verified for accuracy of photos, addresses, listing details, cleanliness, safety and basic home amenities, according to a company-wide email sent by Airbnb co-founder and chief executive officer Brian Chesky on Wednesday.

Airbnb is just another highly valued startup that has been trying to take the past of least resistance to outsized future value. Verifying properties is a difficult issue to brace. Sellers are certainly not the only scammers on Airbnb, and buyers abusing this new system is a guarantee. But keeping both sides in some sort of satisfaction equilibrium is Airbnb’s messy, god-given task.

Airbnb has garnered more grumblings than most due to bad customer experiences, but it’s just a harbinger of what comes next. 2020 being a presidential election year in the U.S. means that the public might still be too busy with lambasting Zuckerberg to give marketplaces their due watchful eye in the near term, but the bell is tolling for these marketplaces and it’d be wise for them to pay attention to the writing on the wall.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Twitter’s Saudi Arabian infiltration
    One of the wilder stories this week was how Saudi Arabia reportedly lifted sensitive contact info from Twitter via employees at the company that they paid off. There’s a lot in this saga and while Twitter seems to have done most things right, it is a pretty nightmarish scenario.
  • T-Mobile and Sprint get hitched
    The telecom marriage of two of the United States top four carriers cleared its last major hurdle as the FCC gave the deal its blessing. There’s still some residual legal hurdles for the two to wrap up in good faith, but this deal is done.
  • Adobe makes good on a promise
    The promises of tablet computing have always been a little ambitious in terms of timing, but Photoshop is finally arriving on the iPad and with that, one decade-long wish list item has been realized.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. California isn’t happy with Zuckerberg:
    [California accuses Facebook of ignoring subpoenas in state’s Cambridge Analytica investigation]
  2. Google’s board is investigating some executive impropriety:
    [Alphabet’s board is investigating execs over claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct]

Disrupt Berlin

DISRUPT SF 530X350 V2 berlin

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of the year again, but we just announced the agenda for Disrupt Berlin and we’ve got some all-stars making their way to the stage. I’ll be there this year, get some tickets and come say hey!

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Twitter Undo button test lets users stop typo Tweets in their tracks

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In recent weeks and months, Twitter has been either testing or rolling out a number of new features, and today the company was spotted testing a feature that’s bound to make a lot of users happy. Twitter is apparently testing an undo timer for sent tweets, allowing users to quickly change their minds and scrap tweets shortly after hitting the “Send” button.

While that does essentially have the same effect of deleting a tweet you’ve already published, with an undo feature you’re preventing anyone from ever seeing the tweet in question. Not only could such a feature be good for those times where you spot a typo as you’re hitting the “Send” button, but it will also obviously come in handy for those times where you’re tweeting impulsively and probably shouldn’t be.

The new feature was spotted by social media sleuth Jane Manchun Wong today, who published a gif of the “Undo” button that appears after sending a tweet. The button hangs around for a few seconds, giving users a brief window to tap it before it disappears. It also appears that hitting that Undo button will open up the editor with your original tweet again, giving you the chance to fix any typos you may have spotted at the last minute.

Wong’s tweet doesn’t give us any other information about this test. We don’t know how broad it is, who gets to test it, or how long it’s been in testing. Of course, since Wong isn’t a Twitter employee, we wouldn’t necessarily expect her to uncover this stuff just through datamining, so we’re left waiting to see if Twitter announces anything about this test on its own.

That said, an “Undo” button would clearly be a step in the right direction for users who have been asking for the ability to edit tweets, and it would probably prove to be popular with the Twitter user base as a whole. We’ll see what happens from here, and we’ll let you know if Twitter announces anything regarding the “Undo” button in the future.

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Eve Systems announces three HomeKit over Thread products

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Eve Systems has announced that it is continuing to support HomeKit over Thread by rolling out three new products in the United States. One of the products is the Thread version of its popular Eve Energy smart switch. The company is also launching a smart weather station called Eve Weather and is announcing a Thread-enabled firmware for the second-generation Eve Aqua.

With the announcement of the three products, the number of Eve devices certified by the Thread Group totals seven.

Eve Energy is always on and can act as a router within a Thread network relaying data packets. The more of the router devices on the network, the more stable and the greater the network’s reach becomes. Eve Energy is power directly from outlet, While the other two devices are battery-operated. Eve Energy will launch on April 6 for $39.95.

Eve Weather shows users weather trends allowing easy tracking of the local outdoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure directly from an iPhone display. Eve Weather works with an app and aggregates current and past climate data. The device is IPX3 water-resistant and completely wireless, supporting both Bluetooth and Thread. Eve Weather costs $69.95 and launches March 26.

Eve Aqua is a device that aims to allow users to keep their garden green even when they’re away. Bluetooth-enabled Aqua sensors have to be in range of the home hub. However, Thread support makes connectivity easier because it can transmit data with higher power giving an extended range by placing a router-enabled Thread device such as the Eve Energy between the Eve Aqua and HomePod mini.

Thread technology was developed for smart home applications to improve connectivity between accessories. HomeKit products communicate using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth as well as HomeKit over Thread. Thread creates a mesh network that allows supported smart devices to talk to each other without going through a central hub.

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iOS 14.5 beta sees the return of an AirTags feature to prevent stalking

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A lot of people are prone to misplacing items within their home or office. Apple has been working on a product expected to launch sometime in the future for a while known as AirTags to track important items. AirTags were expected to launch in 2020, but that launch never happened, and privacy features meant to go with them were later pulled from iOS. This feature has returned in the iOS 14.5 beta.

An iOS beta launched in November 2020 had “Item Safety Features” meant to prevent stalking using the AirTags that failed to launch. This feature wasn’t aimed at preventing the tracking of personally owned AirTags. Instead, it was designed to prevent a stalker from slipping an AirTag tracker onto a person or their belongings to track without their knowledge. If an unknown tracking device were on the person, the beta version of iOS warned them that an unknown accessory was detected via a prompt.

The return of the anti-stocking feature seemingly indicates Apple is gearing up to launch AirTags again. In iOS 14.5 beta, Apple has added a setting for Safety Features meant to detect unauthorized AirTags and possibly other devices. Interestingly, notifications within the operating system also warned the user if they were carrying an AirTag that didn’t belong to them and had been moving with them for a while.

AirTags were designed by Apple and use Bluetooth LE and Ultra-Wideband radio to track their location. Previously, rumors suggested that Apple would offer small and large versions for tracking items of different sizes. Rumors also suggest AirTags might work with the MagSafe system on the current iPhone models to keep the tracking device charged.

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