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Google starts rolling out better AMP URLs – TechCrunch

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Publishers don’t always love Google’s AMP pages, but readers surely appreciate their speed, and while publishers are loath to give Google more power, virtually every major site now supports this format. One AMP quirk that publisher’s definitely never liked is about to go away, though. Starting today, when you use Google Search and click on an AMP link, the browser will display the publisher’s real URLs instead of an “http//google.com/amp” link.

This move has been in the making for well over a year. Last January, the company announced that it was embarking on a multi-month effort to load AMP pages from the Google AMP cache without displaying the Google URL.

At the core of this effort was the new Web Packaging standard, which uses signed exchanges with digital signatures to let the browser trust a document as if it belongs to a publisher’s origin. By default, a browser should reject scripts in a web page that try to access data that doesn’t come from the same origin. Publishers will have to do a bit of extra work, and publish both signed and un-signed versions of their stories.

 

Quite a few publishers already do this, given that Google started alerting publishers of this change in November 2018. For now, though, only Chrome supports the core features behind this service, but other browsers will likely add support soon, too.

For publishers, this is a pretty big deal, given that their domain name is a core part of their brand identity. Using their own URL also makes it easier to get analytics, and the standard grey bar that sits on top of AMP pages and shows the site you are on now isn’t necessary anymore because the name will be in the URL bar.

To launch this new feature, Google also partnered with Cloudflare, which launched its AMP Real URL feature today. It’ll take a bit before it will roll out to all users, who can then enable it with a single click. With this, the company will automatically sign every AMP page it sends to the Google AMP cache. For the time being, that makes Cloudflare the only CDN that supports this feature, though others will surely follow.

“AMP has been a great solution to improve the performance of the internet and we were eager to work with the AMP Project to help eliminate one of AMP’s biggest issues — that it wasn’t served from a publisher’s perspective,” said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare. “As the only provider currently enabling this new solution, our global scale will allow publishers everywhere to benefit from a faster and more brand-aware mobile experience for their content.”

 

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Former MoviePass execs are being sued by the SEC for lying to customers • TechCrunch

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Ahead of the official relaunch of subscription-based movie ticketing service MoviePass, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against three of its former executives, claiming they lied to investors and the public.

The SEC filing targeted former MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, the former CEO of parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY), claiming they lied about how it planned to be profitable and used “fraudulent tactics to prevent MoviePass’s heavy users from using the [unlimited subscription service],” the SEC wrote.

When under the rule of Lowe and Farnsworth, MoviePass promised users a $9.95 per month subscription that would give them an unlimited number of 2D movie tickets. However, MoviePass quickly kissed “unlimited” goodbye, ending the service that was likely losing a lot of money. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2020.

Last year, Farnsworth and Lowe settled with the Federal Trade Commission after MoviePass was accused of preventing users from using the subscription service they were paying for.

The original founder and owner of MoviePass, Stacy Spikes, hopefully won’t repeat the mistakes of its previous owners. Spikes is launching an updated version of MoviePass, which is currently beta testing in three markets: Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas. However, there will be no such thing as unlimited viewing, and instead MoviePass will have three subscription price tiers with set limits ranging from $10, $20, and $30 per month.

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Netflix shares trailer for Spotify series ‘The Playlist’ • TechCrunch

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Netflix released the official trailer for “The Playlist” today, an upcoming limited series that loosely tells the story of how Spotify was created. The six-episode show will premiere on October 13.

“The Playlist” will center around Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek, played by “Vikings” star Edvin Endre and how the company became one of the top music streaming services.

The show will also feature other Spotify employees, such as Petra Hansson (played by Gizem Erdogan), Andreas Ehn (played by Joel Lützow), and Christian Hillborg will play the co-founder of Spotify, Martin Lorentzon.

However, it’s important to note that the show is “fictionalized,” Netflix writes in the caption, and is based on 6 “untold stories.”

There are many fictionalized movies and shows about big tech companies. For instance, Apple TV+ has a drama series “WeCrashed” based on WeWork; Showtime released “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hulu’s “The Dropout” is based on the health tech company Theranos, and no one can forget the 2010 Facebook movie “The Social Network.”

Spotify launched in 2006 as a small Swedish start-up and was a response to the growing piracy problem in the music industry. Now, the music streaming service has 433 million monthly active users.

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• TechCrunch AmazeVR wants to scale its virtual concert platform with $17M funding

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AmazeVR, a Los Angeles-based virtual concert platform, said Tuesday it has raised a $17 million funding round to create immersive music experiences through virtual reality (VR) concerts.

Like other industries, the entertainment sector was affected by the coronavirus lockdown. Many music artists had to cancel or push back their live events during the pandemic. Some artists and music agencies have shifted to virtual or online concerts to compensate for those canceled events. AmazeVR is betting that virtual shows, which have become popular among artists and fans since the pandemic, are going to take over the entertainment industry.

Mirae Asset Capital led the Series B round along with returning backers, including another Mirae Asset Financial Group subsidiary (Mirae Asset Venture Investment), CJ Investment, Smilegate Investment, GS Futures and LG Technology Ventures. New strategic investors — Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM and mobile game maker Krafton — participated in the latest round.

“The virtual reality entertainment industry is growing rapidly, and we believe that music and gaming are two of the most promising sectors for future development,” said a spokesperson at CJ ENM.

AmazeVR co-CEO Steve Lee said that his startup plans to use the financing to expand partnerships with artists and their management agencies, labels and publishers. He added that it is currently in talks with potential partners to work with top artists in the U.S.

The startup is preparing virtual concerts and a music metaverse service that would be available across all major VR app stores and work with next-generation headsets such as the Meta Quest Pro and Apple’s own rumored VR headset, Lee continued.

The Series B funding round comes in the wake of the startup’s joint venture announcement with K-pop agency SM Entertainment in July. Both companies plan to launch Studio A in South Korea and produce immersive VR concerts.

“We’re also preparing to produce virtual concerts with SM Entertainment artists and expand to other K-pop companies in South Korea,” Lee said. “We plan to hire more artificial intelligence engineers, [Epic Game’s] Unreal Engine engineers, and visual effects (VFX) artists” to continue the advancement of its technology and the development of premier virtual concerts.

The company’s goal is also to broaden content diversity in order to bring more VR concert fans around the world.

The AmazeVR team traveled to 15 U.S. cities this summer for its first commercial virtual concert, Enter Thee Hottieverse, a tour with rap icon Megan Thee Stallion through AMC Theaters. Lee told TechCrunch that the company had about 75% attendance rates for its concerts, about 4.3 times the average theater occupancy rate estimated at 15%-20%. The ticket prices were $20-$25, ~2.5times more expensive than the average movie theater ticket price (~$9.17).

“CJ ENM plans to convert concerts and music TV shows to VR music experiences with AmazeVR’s prime technology, and additional original content such as dramas and movies in the future to maximize their content value and business opportunities,” the spokesperson of CJ ENM said.

The last time TechCrunch covered AmazeVR was earlier this year when it secured $15 million. Its Series B round brings the startup’s total amount raised to approximately $47.8 million. The Los Angeles-headquartered startup with offices in Seoul now has 62 members on its team.

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