The Messenger Kids app was first introduced in late 2017 as a way to give kids a way to message friends and family with parental oversight. It arrived at a time when kids were already embracing messaging — but were often doing so on less controlled platforms, like Kik, which attracted predators. Messenger Kids instead allows the child’s parents to determine who the child can chat with and when, through built-in parental controls.
In our household, for example, it became a convenient tool for chatting with relatives, like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as a few trusted friends, whose parents I knew well.
But when it came time to review the chats, a lot of scrolling back was involved.
The new Messenger Kids features will help with the oversight aspects for those parents who allow their kids to online chat. That decision, of course, is a personal one. Some parents don’t want their kids to have smartphones and outright ban apps, particularly ones that allow interactions. Others, myself included, believe that teaching kids to navigate the online world is part of your parental responsibility. And despite Facebook’s reputation, there aren’t other chat apps offering these sort of parental controls — or the convenience of being able to add everyone in your family to a child’s chat list with ease. (After all, grandma and grandpa are already on Facebook and Messenger, but getting them to download new apps remains difficult.)
In the updated app, parents will be able to see who a child has been chatting with, and whether that’s text or video chat, over the past 30 days. This can save parents’ time, as they may not feel the need to review chat with trusted family members, for instance, so can redirect their focus and energy on reviewing the chats with friends. A log of images will help parents to see if all images and videos being sent and received are appropriate, and remove them or block them if not.
Parents also can now see if a child has blocked or reported a user in the app, or if they’ve unblocked them. This could be useful for identifying those problematic friends — the kind who sometimes cause trouble, but are later forgiven, then unblocked. (Anyone who’s dealt with tween-age drama can attest to the fact that there’s one in every group!) By gaining access to this information, parents can sit down with the child to talk about when to take that step and block someone, and when a disagreement with a friend can instead be worked out. These are decisions that a child will have to make on their own one day, so being able to use this as a teaching moment is useful.
With the update, unblocking is supported and parents are still able to review chats with blocked contacts. However, blocked contacts will remain visible to one another and will stay in shared group chats. They just aren’t able to message one-on-one. Kids are warned if they return to or are added to chats with blocked contacts. (If parents want a full block, they can just remove the blocked contact from the child’s contact list, as before.)
Remote device logout lets you make sure the child is logged out of Messenger Kids on devices you can’t physically access and control — like a misplaced phone. And the option to download the child’s information, similar to Facebook’s feature, lets you download a copy of everything — messages, images and videos. This could be a way to preserve their chat history when the child outgrows the app.
The app collects a lot of information — including names, profile photos, demographic details (gender and birthday), a child’s connection to parents, contacts’ information (like most frequent contacts), app usage information, device attributes and unique identifiers, data from device settings (like time zones or access to camera and photos), network information and information provided from things like bug reports or feedback/contact forms.
To some extent, this information is needed to help the app properly operate or to alert parents about a child’s activities. But the policy includes less transparent language about the collected information being used to “evaluate, troubleshoot, improve, create, and develop our products” or being shared with other Facebook Companies. There’s a lot of wiggle room there for extensive data collection on Facebook’s part. Service providers offering technical infrastructure and support, like a content delivery network or customer service, may also gain access to collected information, but must adhere to “strict data confidentiality and security obligations,” the policy claims, without offering further details on what those are.
Despite its lengthiness, the policy leaves plenty of room for Facebook to collect private information and share it. If you have a Facebook account, you’ve already agreed to this sort of “deal with the devil” for yourself, in order to benefit from Facebook’s free service. But parents need to strongly consider if they’re comfortable making the same decision for their children.
The policy also describes things Facebook plans to roll out later, when Messenger Kids is updated to support older kids. As kids enter tween to teen years, parents may want to loosen the reigns a bit. The new policy will cover those changes, as well.
It’s unfortunate that the easiest tool, and the one with the best parental controls, is coming from Facebook. The market is ripe for a disruptor in the kids’ space, but there’s not enough money in that, apparently. Facebook, of course, sees the potential of getting kids hooked early and can invest in a product that isn’t directly monetized. Few companies can afford to do this, but Apple would be the best to take Facebook on in this area.
Apple’s iMessage is a large, secure and private platform — but it lacks these advanced parental controls, as well as the other bells and whistles (like built-in AR filters) that make the Messenger Kids app fun. Critically, it doesn’t work across non-Apple devices, which will always be a limiter when it comes to finding an app that the extended family can use together.
To be clear, there is no way to stop Facebook from vacuuming up the child’s information except to delete the child’s Messenger Kids Account through the Facebook Help Center. So consider your choices wisely.
Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions – TechCrunch
Twitter reveals its move into paid subscriptions, Australia passes its media bargaining law and Coinbase files its S-1. This is your Daily Crunch for February 25, 2021.
The big story: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions
Twitter announced its first paid product at an investor event today, showing off screenshots of a feature that will allow users to subscribe to their favorite creators in exchange for things like exclusive content, subscriber-only newsletters and a supporter badge.
The company also announced a feature called Communities, which could compete with Facebook Groups and enable Super Follow networks to interact, plus a Safety Mode for auto-blocking and muting abusive accounts. On top of all that, Twitter said it plans to double revenue by 2023.
Not announced: launch dates for any of these features.
The tech giants
After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers — This requires platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content.
New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads — The sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell — The Google co-founder’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.
Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category — Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020 while also crossing the threshold into unadjusted profitability.
Boosted by the pandemic, meeting transcription service Otter.ai raises $50M — With convenient timing, Otter.ai added Zoom integration back in April 2020.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market — The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”
Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck — For founders aiming to entice investors, the pitch deck remains the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.
Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1 — We dig into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads — The new streaming service launches on March 4.
Register for TC Sessions: Justice for a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup world — This is just one week away!
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.
Twitter plans to double revenue by 2023, reach 315M daily users – TechCrunch
Just ahead of its 2021 virtual investor day on Thursday, Twitter this morning announced its three long-term goals focused on user base and revenue growth, and a faster pace of shipping new features across its platform. The company said it aims to “at least” double its total annual revenue from $3.7 billion in 2020 to $7.5 billion or more in 2023. It also expects to reach at least 315 million mDAUs — that’s Twitter’s self-invented metric for “monetizable” daily active users — by the fourth quarter of 2023.
That would represent a roughly 20% compound annual growth rate from Twitter’s base of 152 million mDAUs reported in the fourth quarter of 2019, the company noted in a new SEC filing.
Active user growth has been difficult for Twitter — the growth tends to be slow or even flat, at times. Per Twitter’s most recent earnings, mDAUs in the fourth quarter 2020 had reached 192 million instead of the 193.5 million expected, for instance. Investors are used to Twitter under-delivering on this metric — or even inventing its own user base metric to hide that its monthly user growth sometimes declines.
In any event, Twitter’s longer-term plans indicate it believes it will finally be able to deliver on user growth — perhaps aided by its investment in new features.
In its filing, Twitter said it would “double development velocity by the end of 2023,” which means doubling the number of features shipped per employee that “directly drive either mDAU or revenue,” it said.
On this front, Twitter has been fairly active in recent months. Late last year, it launched its “stories” feature called Fleets to its global audience. It’s also now testing new features including a Clubhouse rival, Twitter Spaces, and a community-led misinformation debunking effort known as Birdwatch. And it acquired newsletter platform Revue, which is already now integrated on the Twitter website. The company has made smaller acquisitions, as well, to build out product teams, including with social app Squad, stories template maker Chroma Labs, and podcasting app Breaker.
New features may help to attract increased Twitter usage, but revenue growth will also come from diversification beyond advertising. Twitter has spoken several times about its plans to build out a subscription product, which the company said would begin in 2021 but wouldn’t impact Twitter revenue in the near-term. The company has also said it may investigate other areas of monetization, like tipping and various paid consumer-facing features.
Today, Twitter said publicly it plans to reach the $7.5 billion or more target by “growing our audience and gaining advertising market share in both brand and direct response.” But the company did not speak to its plans for subscriptions.
Investors are already responding favorably to Twitter’s announcements this morning. Twitter stock is up by nearly 7% as of the time of writing.
New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads – TechCrunch
Online advertising can be a “pretty dry topic,” as Facebook’s head of brand marketing Andrew Stirk acknowledged, but with a new campaign of its own, the social networking giant is looking to “bring to life how personalized ads level the playing field” for small businesses.
The Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found campaign will include TV, radio and digital advertising. Individual businesses will also be able to promote it using a new Instagram sticker and the #DeserveToBeFound hashtag on Facebook.
The campaign will highlight specific small businesses on Facebook, including bag and luggage company House of Takura, whose founder Annette Njau spoke about the benefits of digital advertising at a press event yesterday.
“What those platforms allow us to do is, they allow us to tell stories,” Njau said. “I can’t tell this story on TV, I can’t tell this story in a huge magazine because it costs money and I don’t know who will see it.”
These sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, where apps will have to ask for permission before sharing user data for third-party ad targeting. In response, Facebook claimed that it was “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” though the social network also pointed to these changes as one of the “more significant advertising headwinds” that it expects to face this year. (Apple’s Tim Cook, in contrast, has said that these changes provide consumers with the control that they’ve been asking for.)
When asked how this fits into the broader dispute with Apple, Stirk said that while Facebook has been publicly opposed to Apple’s changes, this campaign is part the company’s longer-term support for small business.
“There is a degree of urgency in the fact that … small businesses are hurting right now,” he said.
Head of Facebook Business Products Helen Ma added that this is “very much an extension of the work that we did on the product side at the very start of the COVID period,” which included the launch of the Businesses Nearby section and a #SupportSmallBusiness hashtag.
In addition to launching the campaign today, Facebook is announcing several product changes, including a simplified Ads Manager dashboard, new options for restaurants to provide more information about their dining experiences and more information about personalized ads in Facebook’s Business Resource hub and Instagram’s Professional Dashboard.
The company also said it will continue to waive fees on transactions through Checkouts on Shops through June 2021, and will do the same for fees collected on paid online events until August 2021 at the earliest.
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