One of the bigger security announcements from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this week is Apple’s new requirement that app developers must implement the company’s new single sign-on solution, Sign In with Apple, wherever they already offer another third-party sign-on system.
Apple’s decision to require its button in those scenarios is considered risky — especially at a time when the company is in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Justice over antitrust concerns. Apple’s position on the matter is that it wants to give its customers a more private choice.
From a security perspective, Apple offers a better option for both users and developers alike compared with other social login systems which, in the past, have been afflicted by massive security and privacy breaches.
Apple’s system also ships with features that benefit iOS app developers — like built-in two-factor authentication support, anti-fraud detection and the ability to offer a one-touch, frictionless means of entry into their app, among other things.
For consumers, they get the same fast sign-up and login as with other services, but with the knowledge that the apps aren’t sharing their information with an entity they don’t trust.
Consumers can also choose whether or not to share their email with the app developer.
If customers decide not to share their real email, Apple will generate a random — but real and verified — email address for the app in question to use, then will route the emails the app wants to send to that address. The user can choose to disable this app email address at any time like — like if they begin to get spam, for example.
The ability to create disposable emails is not new — you can add pluses (+) or dots (.) in your Gmail address, for example, to set up filters to delete emails from addresses that become compromised. Other email providers offer similar features.
However, this is the first time a major technology company has allowed customers to not only create these private email addresses for sign-ins to apps, but to also disable those addresses at any time if they want to stop receiving emails at them.
Despite the advantages to the system, the news left many wondering how the new Sign In with Apple button would work, in practice, at a more detailed level. We’ve tried to answer some of the more burning and common questions. There are likely many more questions that won’t be answered until the system goes live for developers and Apple updates its App Review Guidelines, which are its hard-and-fast rules for apps that decide entry into the App Store.
1) What information does the app developer receive when a user chooses Sign In with Apple?
The developer only receives the user’s name associated with their Apple ID, the user’s verified email address — or the random email address that routes email to their inbox, while protecting their privacy — and a unique stable identifier that allows them to set up the user’s account in their system.
Unlike Facebook, which has a treasure trove of personal information to share with apps, there are no other permissions settings or dialog boxes with Apple’s sign in that will confront the user with having to choose what information the app can access. (Apple would have nothing more to share, anyway, as it doesn’t collect user data like birthday, hometown, Facebook Likes or a friend list, among other things.)
2) Do I have to sign up again with the app when I get a new iPhone or switch over to use the app on my iPad?
No. For the end user, the Sign In with Apple option is as fast as using the Facebook or Google alternative. It’s just a tap to get into the app, even when moving between Apple devices.
3) Does Sign In with Apple work on my Apple Watch? Apple TV? Mac?
Sign In with Apple works across all Apple devices — iOS/iPadOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch), Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch.
4) But what about Android? What about web apps? I use my apps everywhere!
There’s a solution, but it’s not quite as seamless.
If a user signs up for an app on their Apple device — like, say, their iPad — then wants to use the app on a non-Apple device, like their Android phone, they’re sent over to a web view.
Here, they’ll see a Sign In with Apple login screen where they’ll enter their Apple ID and password to complete the sign in. This would also be the case for web apps that need to offer the Sign In with Apple login option.
(Apple does not offer a native SDK for Android developers, and honestly, it’s not likely to do so any time soon.)
5) What happens if you tap Sign In with Apple, but you forgot you already signed up for that app with your email address?
Sign In with Apple integrates with iCloud Keychain so if you already have an account with the app, the app will alert you to this and ask if you want to log in with your existing email instead. The app will check for this by domain (e.g. Uber), not by trying to match the email address associated with your Apple ID — which could be different from the email used to sign up for the account.
6) If I let Apple make up a random email address for me, does Apple now have the ability to read my email?
No. For those who want a randomized email address, Apple offers a private email relay service. That means it’s only routing emails to your personal inbox. It’s not hosting them.
Developers must register with Apple which email domains they’ll use to contact their customers and can only register up to 10 domains and communication emails.
7) How does Sign In with Apple offer two-factor authentication?
On Apple devices, users authenticate with either Touch ID or Face ID for a second layer of protection beyond the username/password combination.
On non-Apple devices, Apple sends a six-digit code to a trusted device or phone number.
8) How does Sign In with Apple prove I’m not a bot?
App developers get access to Apple’s robust anti-fraud technology to identify which users are real and which may not be real. This is tech it has built up over the years for its own services, like iTunes.
The system uses on-device machine learning and other information to generate a signal for developers when a user is verified as being “real.” This is a simple bit that’s either set to yes or no, so to speak.
But a “no” doesn’t mean the user is a definitely a bot — they could just be a new user on a new device. However, the developer can take this signal into consideration when providing access to features in their apps or when running their own additional anti-fraud detection measures, for example.
9) When does an app have to offer Sign In with Apple?
Apple is requiring that its button is offered whenever another third-party sign-in option is offered, like Facebook’s login or Google. Note that Apple is not saying “social” login though. It’s saying “third-party,” which is more encompassing.
This requirement is what’s shocking people as it seems heavy-handed.
But Apple believes customers deserve a private choice, which is why it’s making its sign-in required when other third-party options are provided.
But developers don’t have to use Sign In with Apple. They can opt to just use their own direct login instead. (Or they can offer a direct login and Sign In with Apple, if they want.)
10) Do the apps only have to offer Sign In with Apple if they offer Google and/or Facebook login options, or does a Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat sign-in button count, too?
Apple hasn’t specified this is only for apps with Facebook or Google logins, or even “social” logins. Just any third-party sign-in system. Although Facebook and Google are obviously the biggest providers of third-party sign-in services to apps, other companies, including Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, have been developing their own sign-in options, as well.
As third-party providers, they too would fall under this new developer requirement.
11) Does the app have to put the Sign In with Apple button on top of the other options or else get rejected from the App Store?
Apple is suggesting its button be prominent.
The company so far has only provided design guidelines to app developers. The App Store guidelines, which dictate the rules around App Store rejections, won’t be updated until this fall.
And it’s the design guidelines that say the Apple button should be on the top of a stack of other third-party sign-in buttons, as recently reported.
The design guidelines also say that the button must be the same size or larger than competitors’ buttons, and users shouldn’t have to scroll to see the Apple button.
But to be clear, these are Apple’s suggested design patterns, not requirements. The company doesn’t make its design suggestions law because it knows that developers do need a degree of flexibility when it comes to their own apps and how to provide their own users with the best experience.
12) If the app only has users signing up with their phone number or just their email, does it also have to offer the Apple button?
Not at this time, but developers can add the option if they want.
13) After you sign in using Apple, will the app still make you confirm your email address by clicking a link they send you?
Nope. Apple is verifying you, so you don’t have to do that anymore.
14) What if the app developer needs you to sign in with Google, because they’re providing some sort of app that works with Google’s services, like Google Drive or Docs, for example?
This user experience would not be great. If you signed in with Apple’s login, you’d then have to do a second authentication with Google once in the app.
It’s unclear at this time how Apple will handle these situations, as the company hasn’t offered any sort of exception list to its requirement, nor any way for app developers to request exceptions. The company didn’t give us an answer when we asked directly.
It may be one of those cases where this is handled privately with specific developers, without announcing anything publicly. Or it may not make any exceptions at all, ever. And if regulators took issue with Apple’s requirement, things could change as well. Time will tell.
15) What if I currently sign in with Facebook, but want to switch to Sign In with Apple?
Apple isn’t providing a direct way for customers to switch for themselves from Facebook or another sign-in option to Apple ID. It instead leaves migration up to developers. The company’s stance is that developers can and should always offer a way for users to stop using their social login, if they choose.
In the past, developers could offer users a way to sign in only with their email instead of the third-party login. This is helpful particularly in those cases where users are deleting their Facebook accounts, for example, or removing apps’ ability to access their Facebook information.
Once Apple ID launches, developers will be able to offer customers a way to switch from a third-party login to Sign In with Apple ID in a similar way.
Do you have more questions you wish Apple would answer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feels is a new dating app with profiles that look more personal – TechCrunch
Meet Feels, a new French startup that wants to change how dating apps work. According to the company, scrolling through photos and reading descriptions tend to be a boring experience. Feels want to improve profiles so that navigating the app feels more like watching TikTok videos or browsing stories.
“For the past 10 years, there’s been little innovation in the industry,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Cheaib told me. “The reason why many people uninstall dating apps is that it’s boring. Profiles all look the same and we feel like we’re browsing a catalog.”
In that case, Cheaib is thinking about Tinder, but also other dating apps that feel like Tinder but aren’t exactly Tinder, such as Bumble, Happn, etc.
Feels’ founding team has spent two years iterating on the app to find out what works and what doesn’t. Now that retention metrics are where they’re supposed to be, the company is now ready to launch more widely.
If you want to show interesting content to your users in a dating app, you have to rethink profiles. Arguably, this has been the most difficult part of the development phase. When you install the app, it takes around 15 minutes to create your profile.
At first, only 30% of new users finished the onboarding process. Now, around 75% of new users reach the end of the signup flow.
So what makes a profile on Feels different? In many ways, a profile looks more like a story, or TikTok posts. Users can record videos, add text and stickers, share photos, answer questions and more.
“When you’re done with the onboarding process, you have consistent profiles with people sharing content about them,” Cheaib said.
Like other dating apps, there are many options when it comes to gender identity — you’re not limited to woman or man. You can then say that you want to see all profiles or just some profiles based on various criteria.
After that, you can look at other profiles. Once again, Feels tries to change the basic interaction of dating apps. Most dating apps require you to swipe left or right, or give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When you think about it, it’s a binary choice that requires a ton of micro decisions.
Sometimes, you don’t have any strong feelings about someone. Or maybe you just want to go to the next profile. And the fact that you have to triage profiles like this leads to a lot negativity, whether it’s conscious or subconscious — you keep rejecting people, after all.
When you’re looking at a profile on Feels, it fills up your entire screen. Videos start playing, you can see what the person likes and who they are in front of a camera. You can react on some content or you can simply move on by swiping up. There’s no heart or like button.
When the startup thought they finally were going somewhere, they raised a $1.3 million funding round (€1.1 million) from a long list of business angels, such as somebody in Atomico’s business angel program, Blaise Matuidi, Eric Besson, René Ricol, Ricardo Pereira , Yohan Benalouane, Nampalys Mendy, Jean Romain Lhomme, Julien Radic and Jean Michel Chami.
Now, Feels plans to attract new users with organic TikTok posts, some TV ads and more. The company wants to reach one million users by the end of the year with a big focus on France for now. There are 100,000 users right now.
When it comes to monetization, Feels started offering a premium subscription to unlock more features. The company is still iterating on that part.
Feels is just getting started in a crowded and competitive industry. Unlike other companies, Feels has invested heavily in its own product before working on user acquisition and paid installs. It’s an ambitious strategy but it has a lot of potential as it could lead to a truly different dating app.
Social audio startup Stationhead looks beyond music as it hits 100K monthly active users – TechCrunch
When I’ve written about Stationhead in the past, I’ve focused on how the startup aims to recapture bring personality and interactivity of a live radio broadcast to streaming music. But CEO Ryan Star said his ambitions are broader now: “We’re going to be the largest social audio platform in the world.”
The startup says it’s growing quickly, with 100,000 monthly active users — a number that’s growing by 65% each month — and 500,000 total users. There are 6,300 hosts on the platform, and they created nearly 2 million live and recorded streams in the first three months of the year.
COO Murray Levison told me that the pandemic has brought more artists to the platform as they look for new ways to reach their fans. For example, Cardi B joined the fan show Bardigangradio last month, prompting 132,000 paid streams of her new single on Apple Music and Spotify during the broadcast. (Stationhead integrates with both music streaming services — when a DJ cues up a song, it’s actually playing through your account.)
At the same time, both Star (who co-founded the company due to his own frustrations as an independent musician) and Levison suggested that playing music is not quite as central to their vision as it used to be. Instead, they said Stationhead is all about live audio broadcasting, with or without music.
From a product perspective, Levison said they’re trying to build “the best broadcasting tools for creators and everybody people to use.” At the same time, he added, “Music is still at the core of what we’ve built. Just like games are to Twitch, music is our social glue.”
While the company emphasizes the live experience (which Levison described as “the core value prop”), Stationhead also supports recording shows for listening later, and apparently 50% of users are listening to both live and recorded shows. It has also been beta testing a tipping feature that will allow broadcasters to monetize their shows.
Of course, you can’t talk about social audio without talking about Clubhouse, which was attracting 2 million active users each week in January, according to CEO Paul Davison. Levison suggested that the buzz around Clubhouse has also benefited Stationhead as potential acquirers and investors get more excited about social audio. And Star argued that the companies are taking very different approaches.
“It’s in the name Clubhouse, it’s exclusive,” Star said. “It’s about social climbing and getting closer to the stage. [Stationhead is] living in the world where Cardi B was excited to meet her fans. We are for the 99 percent.”
TikTok funds first episodic public health series ‘VIRAL’ from NowThis – TechCrunch
TikTok is taking another step towards directly funding publishers’ content with today’s announcement that it’s financially backing the production of media publisher NowThis’ new series, “VIRAL,” which will feature interviews with public health experts and a live Q&A session focused on answering questions about the pandemic. The partnership represents TikTok’s first-ever funding of an episodic series from a publisher, though TikTok has previously funded creator content.
Through TikTok’s Instructive Accelerator Program, which was formerly known as the Creative Learning Fund, other TikTok publishers have received grants and hands-on support from TikTok so they could produce quality instructive content for TikTok’s #LearnOnTikTok initiative. The program today is structured as four, eight-week cycles during which time publishers post videos four times per week.
NowThis had also participated in the Creative Learning Fund last year and was selected for the latest cycle of the Instructive Accelerator Program. But its “VIRAL” series is separate from these efforts.
NowThis says it brought the concept for the show to TikTok earlier this year outside of the accelerator program, and TikTok greenlit it. TikTok then co-produced the series and provided some funding. Neither NowThis nor TikTok would comment on the extent of the financial backing involved, however.
The “VIRAL” series itself is hosted by infectious disease clinical researcher Laurel Bristow, who spent the last year working on COVID treatments and research. Every Thursday, Bristow will break down COVID facts in easy-to-understand language, NowThis says, including things like vaccine efficacy, transmission timelines, and treatment. The show will also bust COVID myths, provide information about ongoing public health risks, and feature interviews with a cross-section of experts.
Each episode of the will be 45 minutes in length and will also include an interactive segment where the TikTok viewing audience will be able to engage in a real-time Q&A session about the show’s content. In total, five episodes are being produced, and will air starting on Thursday April 15 at 6 PM ET and will run through Thursday May 13 on the @NowThis main TikTok page.
@nowthisTune in to our new TikTok live show VIRAL on Thursdays at 6pm ET with host @kinggutterbaby
♬ original sound – nowthis
NowThis has become one of the most-followed news media accounts on TikTok, with 4.6 million followers across its news and politics channels, since launching a little over a year ago. Because of its focus on video, it’s been a good fit for the TikTok’s platform.
The approach TikTok is taking with “VIRAL’s” production, it’s worth noting, stands in contrast to how other social media platforms are handling the pandemic and COVID-19 information. While most, including TikTok, have pledged to fact check COVID-19 information, remove misinformation and conspiracies, point users to official sources for health information, and provide other resources, TikTok is directly funding public health content featuring scientists and researchers, and then promoting it on its network.
The company explained to TechCrunch its thinking on the matter.
“As the pandemic continues to evolve, we think it’s important to provide our community an outlet to dispel misinformation and communicate with public health experts in real-time,” said Robbie Levin, Manager of Media Partnerships at TikTok. “NowThis has consistently been a great partner that produces engaging and informative content, so we felt this series would be an impactful and important avenue for our users to receive credible information on our platform,” Levin noted.
While the pandemic has driven the topic of choice here, paying creators for content is not new. And TikTok isn’t the only one to do so. Instagram and Snapchat are both funding creator content for their TikTok clones, Reels and Spotlight, respectively. And new social platforms like Clubhouse are funding creators’ shows, as well.
TikTok says it’s not currently talking to other publishers to produce more series like “VIRAL,” but it isn’t ruling out the idea of expanding its creator funding and producing efforts. In addition to its accelerator program, which is continuing, TikTok says if “VIRAL” proves successful and the community responds positively, it will pursue similar opportunities in the future.
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