Apple has launched a dedicated online storefront for active military personnel and veterans — complete with a 10-percent discount offer on Apple products.
While it already offered discounts to military customers through its physical Apple Stores, it now has an online destination, making all its products more accessible to current and veteran members of the US military, National Guard, and Reserve. This is especially great news for disabled veterans, who can now easily pick up their Apple devices just in time for the holiday season.
Also: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years
Immediate family members in the same household can also take advantage of Apple’s new “Veterans and Military Purchase Program.” Check out the online storefront here.
We browsed the store and saw deals like the iPhone XS starting at $899 and the iPhone XR starting at $674. They’re regularly priced at $999 and $749, respectively.
Discounted prices are available on all of Apple’s products, including iPhones, Macs, Apple Watch models, iPads, Apple TVs, the HomePod, AirPods. Even accessories like Apple Watch bands and iPhone cases are included. Third-party items are also reduced.
Also: Best tablets and accessories for holiday gifts CNET
Apple usually doesn’t offer price cuts like this — on Black Friday, for instance, it only offered gift cards with purchases. And while it does offer similar education pricing, that program doesn’t include deals on many products, including the iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
In a statement to the media, Apple said it’s “deeply grateful to the men and women of our armed forces,” and that it’s “proud to offer active military and veterans a new dedicated online store with special pricing as an expression of our gratitude for their brave service.”
Previous and related coverage:
Would you pay 10 percent more for your iPhone?
With iPhone unit sales plateauing, and signs pointing to a possible downturn, would President Trump’s threat to slap a 10 percent tariff on iPhones could be bad for Apple? Maybe not.
I’ve spent a week with the new MacBook Air and I’m in two minds
It’s a new version of something I’ve loved for a long time. But is it a good new version?
2018: The year Apple finally remembered its extreme pro users
After a nearly four-year drought, in the last 12 months, Apple has finally produced products that allow extreme pros to get their work done. In this article, we discuss why that’s important for all users, not just those living on the bleeding edge.
Slow iPhone sales? iPhone XR is our best-selling model, says Apple
Maybe $1,000 is too much? Apple says its cheaper iPhone XR has been the best-selling iPhone since its launch.
Twitter’s decentralized future – TechCrunch
This week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey finally responded publicly to the company’s decision to ban President Trump from its platform, writing that Twitter had “faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance” and that he did not “feel pride” about the decision. In the same thread, he took time to call out a nascent Twitter-sponsored initiative called “bluesky,” which is aiming to build up an “open decentralized standard for social media” that Twitter is just one part of.
Researchers involved with bluesky reveal to TechCrunch an initiative still in its earliest stages that could fundamentally shift the power dynamics of the social web.
Bluesky is aiming to build a “durable” web standard that will ultimately ensure that platforms like Twitter have less centralized responsibility in deciding which users and communities have a voice on the internet. While this could protect speech from marginalized groups, it may also upend modern moderation techniques and efforts to prevent online radicalization.
What is bluesky?
Just as Bitcoin lacks a central bank to control it, a decentralized social network protocol operates without central governance, meaning Twitter would only control its own app built on bluesky, not other applications on the protocol. The open and independent system would allow applications to see, search and interact with content across the entire standard. Twitter hopes that the project can go far beyond what the existing Twitter API offers, enabling developers to create applications with different interfaces or methods of algorithmic curation, potentially paying entities across the protocol like Twitter for plug-and-play access to different moderation tools or identity networks.
A widely adopted, decentralized protocol is an opportunity for social networks to “pass the buck” on moderation responsibilities to a broader network, one person involved with the early stages of bluesky suggests, allowing individual applications on the protocol to decide which accounts and networks its users are blocked from accessing.
Social platforms like Parler or Gab could theoretically rebuild their networks on bluesky, benefitting from its stability and the network effects of an open protocol. Researchers involved are also clear that such a system would also provide a meaningful measure against government censorship and protect the speech of marginalized groups across the globe.
Bluesky’s current scope is firmly in the research phase, people involved tell TechCrunch, with about 40-50 active members from different factions of the decentralized tech community surveying the software landscape and putting together proposals for what the protocol should ultimately look like. Twitter has told early members that it hopes to hire a project manager in the coming weeks to build out an independent team that will start crafting the protocol itself.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the initiative.
Bluesky’s initial members were invited by Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal early last year. It was later determined that the group should open the conversation up to folks representing some of the more recognizable decentralized network projects, including Mastodon and ActivityPub, which joined the working group hosted on the secure chat platform Element.
Jay Graber, founder of decentralized social platform Happening, was paid by Twitter to write up a technical review of the decentralized social ecosystem, an effort to “help Twitter evaluate the existing options in the space,” she tells TechCrunch.
“If [Twitter] wanted to design this thing, they could have just assigned a group of guys to do it, but there’s only one thing that this little tiny group of people could do better than Twitter, and that’s not be Twitter,” said Golda Velez, another member of the group who works as a senior software engineer at Postmates and co-founded civ.works, a privacy-centric social network for civic engagement.
The group has had some back and forth with Twitter executives on the scope of the project, eventually forming a Twitter-approved list of goals for the initiative. They define the challenges that the bluesky protocol should seek to address while also laying out what responsibilities are best left to the application creators building on the standard.
Who is involved
The pain points enumerated in the document, viewed by TechCrunch, encapsulate some of Twitter’s biggest shortcomings. They include “how to keep controversy and outrage from hijacking virality mechanisms,” as well as a desire to develop “customizable mechanisms” for moderation, though the document notes that the applications, not the overall protocol, are “ultimately liable for compliance, censorship, takedowns etc.”
“I think the solution to the problem of algorithms isn’t getting rid of algorithms — because sorting posts chronologically is an algorithm — the solution is to make it an open pluggable system by which you can go in and try different algorithms and see which one suits you or use the one that your friends like,” says Evan Henshaw-Plath, another member of the working group. He was one of Twitter’s earliest employees and has been building out his own decentralized social platform called Planetary.
His platform is based on the secure scuttlebutt protocol, which allows users to browse networks offline in an encrypted fashion. Early on, Planetary had been in talks with Twitter for a corporate investment as well as a personal investment from CEO Jack Dorsey, Henshaw-Plath says, but the competitive nature of the platform prompted some concern among Twitter’s lawyers and Planetary ended up receiving an investment from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s venture fund Future Positive. Stone did not respond to interview requests.
After agreeing on goals, Twitter had initially hoped for the broader team to arrive at some shared consensus, but starkly different viewpoints within the group prompted Twitter to accept individual proposals from members. Some pushed Twitter to outright adopt or evolve an existing standard while others pushed for bluesky to pursue interoperability of standards early on and see what users naturally flock to.
One of the developers in the group hoping to bring bluesky onto their standard was Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko, who tells TechCrunch he sees the need for a major shift in how social media platforms operate globally.
“Banning Trump was the right decision though it came a little bit too late. But at the same time, the nuance of the situation is that maybe it shouldn’t be a single American company that decides these things,” Rochko tells us.
Like several of the other members in the group, Rochko has been skeptical at times about Twitter’s motivation with the bluesky protocol. Shortly after Dorsey’s initial announcement in 2019, Mastodon’s official Twitter account tweeted out a biting critique, writing, “This is not an announcement of reinventing the wheel. This is announcing the building of a protocol that Twitter gets to control, like Google controls Android.”
Today, Mastodon is arguably one of the most mature decentralized social platforms. Rochko claims that the network of decentralized nodes has more than 2.3 million users spread across thousands of servers. In early 2017, the platform had its viral moment on Twitter, prompting an influx of “hundreds of thousands” of new users alongside some inquisitive potential investors whom Rochko has rebuffed in favor of a donation-based model.
Not all of the attention Rochko has garnered has been welcome. In 2019, Gab, a social network favored by right-wing extremists, brought its entire platform onto the Mastodon network after integrating the platform’s open-source code, bringing Mastodon its single biggest web of users and its most undesirable liability all at once.
Rochko quickly disavowed the network and aimed to sever its ties to other nodes on the Mastodon platform and convince application creators to do the same. But a central fear of decentralization advocates was quickly realized, as the platform type’s first “success story” was a home for right-wing extremists.
This fear has been echoed in decentralized communities this week as app store owners and networks have taken another right-wing social network, Parler, off the web after violent content surfaced on the site in the lead-up to and aftermath of riots at the U.S. Capitol, leaving some developers fearful that the social network may set up home on their decentralized standard.
“Fascists are 100% going to use peer-to-peer technologies, they already are and they’re going to start using it more… If they get pushed off of mainstream infrastructure or people are surveilling them really closely, they’re going to have added motivation,” said Emmi Bevensee, a researcher studying extremist presences on decentralized networks. “Maybe the far-right gets stronger footholds on peer-to-peer before the people who think the far-right is bad do because they were effectively pushed off.”
A central concern is that commoditizing decentralized platforms through efforts like bluesky will provide a more accessible route for extremists kicked off current platforms to maintain an audience and provide casual internet users a less janky path towards radicalization.
“Peer-to-peer technology is generally not that seamless right now. Some of it is; you can buy Bitcoin in Cash App now, which, if anything, is proof that this technology is going to become much more mainstream and adoption is going to become much more seamless,” Bevensee told TechCrunch. “In the current era of this mass exodus from Parler, they’re obviously going to lose a huge amount of audience that isn’t dedicated enough to get on IPFS. Scuttlebutt is a really cool technology but it’s not as seamless as Twitter.”
Extremists adopting technologies that promote privacy and strong encryption is far from a new phenomenon, encrypted chat apps like Signal and Telegram have been at the center of such controversies in recent years. Bevensee notes the tendency of right-wing extremist networks to adopt decentralized network tech has been “extremely demoralizing” to those early developer communities — though she notes that the same technologies can and do benefit “marginalized people all around the world.”
Though people connected to bluesky’s early moves see a long road ahead for the protocol’s development and adoption, they also see an evolving landscape with Parler and President Trump’s recent deplatforming that they hope will drive other stakeholders to eventually commit to integrating with the standard.
“Right at this moment I think that there’s going to be a lot of incentive to adopt, and I don’t just mean by end users, I mean by platforms, because Twitter is not the only one having these really thorny moderation problems,” Velez says. “I think people understand that this is a critical moment.”
Facebook blocks new events around DC and state capitols – TechCrunch
As a precaution against coordinated violence as the US approaches President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Facebook announced a few new measures it’s putting in place.
In a blog post and tweets from Facebook Policy Communications Director Andy Stone, the company explained that it would block any events slated to happen near the White House, the U.S. Capitol or any state capitol building through Wednesday.
The company says it will also do “secondary” sweeps through any inauguration-related events to look for violations of its policies. At this point, that includes any content connected to the “Stop the Steal” movement perpetuating the rampant lie that Biden’s victory is illegitimate. Those groups continued to thrive on Facebook until measures the company took at the beginning of this week.
Facebook will apparently also be putting new restrictions in place for U.S. users who repeatedly break the company’s rules, including barring those accounts from livestreaming videos, events and group pages.
Those precautions fall short of what some of Facebook’s critics have called for, but they’re still notable measures for a company that only began taking dangerous conspiracies and armed groups seriously in the last year.
WhatsApp responds to privacy backlash – TechCrunch
WhatsApp delays enforcement of a controversial privacy change, Apple may get rid of the Touch Bar in future MacBooks and Bumble files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for January 15, 2021.
The big story: WhatsApp responds to privacy backlash
Earlier this month, WhatsApp sent users a notification asking them to consent to sharing some of their personal data — such as phone number and location — with Facebook (which owns WhatsApp). The alert also said users would have to agree to the terms by February 8 if they wanted to continue using the app.
This change prompted legal threats and an investigation from the Turkish government. Now the company is pushing the enforcement date back three months.
“No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the company said in a post. “We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.”
The tech giants
Uber planning to spin out Postmates’ delivery robot arm — Postmates X is seeking investors in its bid to become a separate company.
Apple said to be planning new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with MagSafe and Apple processors — This could be the end for the Touch Bar.
Amazon’s newest product lets companies build their own Alexa assistant for cars, apps and video games — Yes, that means your next car could have two Alexas.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Bumble files to go public — The company plans to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange, using the ticker symbol “BMBL.”
Tracy Chou launches Block Party to combat online harassment and abuse — Currently available for Twitter, Block Party helps people filter out the content they don’t want to see.
Everlywell raises $75M from HealthQuest Capital following its recent $175M Series D round — Everlywell develops at-home testing kits for a range of health concerns, and it added a COVID-19 home collection test kit last year.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Fifteen steps to fundraising a new VC or private equity fund — Launching is easy; fundraising is harder.
Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree — The acquisition of Fountainhead Press marks Top Hat’s third purchase of a publishing company in the past 12 months.
Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson says wisdom lies with your developers — Takeaways from Lawson’s new book “Ask Your Developer.”
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
Video game spending increased 27% in 2020 — According to the latest figures from NPD, spending on gaming hardware, software and accessories was up 25% in December and 27% for the full year.
DOT evaluated 11 GPS replacements and found only one that worked across use cases — The government wants to create additional redundancy and resiliency in the sector.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
After a decade, NASA’s big rocket fails its first real test
At 4:27pm central time, the SLS rocket core stage ignited its four RS-25 engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. The...
Facebook bans events near DC and state capitols over inauguration concerns
In light of safety concerns surrounding the upcoming US presidential inauguration, Facebook has decided to ban events on its platform...
What motivates the motivated reasoning of pro-Trump conspiracists?
Enlarge / January 7, 2021 – St. Paul, Minn. — Trump supporters gather at the Minnesota Governor’s Residence after a...
Toyota GR010 Hybrid racer rumored to spawn a street version
Toyota has a new racing car for the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship. The vehicle is called the GR010 Hybrid...
Some Ford Mustang Mach-E deliveries have been delayed
Ford has officially confirmed that it is delaying the delivery of hundreds of Mach-E electric vehicles to perform additional quality...
Social11 months ago
CrashPlan for Small Business Review
Gadgets2 years ago
A fictional Facebook Portal videochat with Mark Zuckerberg – TechCrunch
Mobile2 years ago
Memory raises $5M to bring AI to time tracking – TechCrunch
Social2 years ago
iPhone XS priciest yet in South Korea
Cars2 years ago
What’s the best cloud storage for you?
Security2 years ago
Google latest cloud to be Australian government certified
Social2 years ago
Apple’s new iPad Pro aims to keep enterprise momentum
Cars2 years ago
Some internet outages predicted for the coming month as ‘768k Day’ approaches