Netflix’s internal hackathons have consistently produced fun and often silly hacks, from that “Netflixtendo” hack a few years ago that let you run Netflix on the original NES to the more recent “audiobook mode” that turned Netflix series into old-school radio shows by way of Audio Descriptions. This year’s hackathon doesn’t disappoint either, with new hacks that are both as goofy and interesting as in years past, including an AR and Face ID-powered hack that lets you navigate Netflix with just your eyes, another designed for “Sharknado” fans and more.
“Jump to Shark” lets viewers skip right to the good parts of the so-bad-it’s-good “Sharknado,” so they can watch the bloody action sequences with sharks, instead of having to sit through the movie’s actual plot. It’s pretty great, as the video shows.
The AR hack, Eye Nav, is fairly impressive, too.
The hack uses Apple’s ARKit and the technology that enables Face ID for tracking eye position and facial expressions. It tracks your eye position to move a pointer around the screen, then measures the time spent on the same area to trigger a “tap.”
If you want to dismiss a screen, you can just stick your tongue out.
While the resulting hack is definitely fun, there are also implications for accessibility use cases in the future.
The hack was produced in 24 hours, so it may not be stable enough for real-world use, but it’s definitely an interesting idea.
A third hack doesn’t involve Netflix, but rather the productivity software Slack, used by Netflix employees.
“LunchBot” connects co-workers who are too busy to go to lunch, by inviting them to eat lunch together — virtually, while in a Slack chat. The app also checks everyone’s calendars to make sure they’re free.
Other hacks this year included those for product improvements, enhancements to its internal tools and some that were just for fun. A few of these were showcased in its Hackday 2018 video, such as a map for locating studio production resources, an “easy login” system and a version of Animoji using Netflix characters.
But the larger goal of Netflix’s hackathon, as you can probably tell, isn’t necessarily about creating features that will later be productized (although, c’mon…Jump to Shark!), but they sometimes serve as inspiration for features further down the road, the company says.
TechCrunch’s parent company links up with Taboola • TechCrunch
Folks often ask if Crunchbase and TechCrunch are still the same company (nope). Many express surprise that AOL was once this publication’s sole parent (yep). The saga of Who Owns TechCrunch is actually somewhat interesting. Various corporate developments over the last decade saw TechCrunch trade hands several times, including our most recent ejection from Verizon (long story) into the arms of private equity (shorter story).
Today we’re part of a reconstituted Yahoo, an entity that combines its historical assets — sans Alibaba — with AOL and other properties including this publication. I bring all that up because our parent company is in the news today. So much so that we’re pushing the value of a public company sharply higher by dint of our partnering with it, and taking a sizable stake in its equity at the same time.
The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.
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Because my employer is about to own just under a fourth of Taboola, I want to rewind the clock a bit today and recall how we wound up in a world where both Taboola and Outbrain — online advertising companies that you are familiar with, and have at times collected criticism — are public companies.
This should be lightweight and fun. Frankly, before today, I had never read a Taboola or Outbrain earnings report. We will explore together! Into the numbers!
A merger that didn’t
Yahoo gets 25% stake in Taboola as part of long-term advertising deal • TechCrunch
Yahoo is taking a nearly 25% stake in advertising network Taboola. In exchange for this move, Taboola is becoming Yahoo’s native advertising partner through a 30-year commercial agreement.
If you’re not familiar with Taboola, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as USA Today, Insider and The Weather Channel. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites. Those links appear in recommendation widgets at the end of news articles or in the middle of a content newsfeed.
Yahoo is a name that you may already know quite well. It is now a private company owned by investment firm Apollo Global Management. It owns many popular media properties, such as Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo News, AOL and Engadget. Yahoo’s homepage and Yahoo Mail are also important products for the company as they attract large audiences. Yahoo is TechCrunch’s parent company as well.
This isn’t the first time Taboola is signing a strategic partnership that covers some of these properties. In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL. The next year, Taboola and AOL signed a strategic partnership that led to integrations of Taboola’s ads on AOL properties. Shortly after, Verizon also acquired Yahoo and merged AOL with Yahoo.
And now, the second incarnation of Yahoo, which includes AOL’s activities and operates separately from Verizon, is doubling down on digital advertising. With this new deal, Taboola becomes the exclusive partner for native advertising across all of Yahoo’s digital properties.
It means that you’ll soon scroll through news articles on Yahoo Finance and see an item that looks just like a normal article. But it will be a Taboola-powered advertising unit instead. Or at least, that’s the idea. Advertisers will be able to buy Taboola through the Yahoo DSP.
“Partnering with Taboola enables Yahoo to further enhance the contextual and native offerings within our unified advertising stack. The partnership also allows Yahoo and Taboola to continue to differentiate in market, improving user, advertiser and publisher experiences across properties, while benefiting from the long-term tailwinds in digital native advertising,” Yahoo CEO Jim Lanzone said in a statement.
As Yahoo currently reaches nearly 900 million monthly active users, it represents a significant deal for Taboola. Right now, Taboola partners with 9,000 publishers and reaches 500 million users every day.
This deal isn’t just a way to display Taboola ads in front of more eyeballs. As technology companies and regulators are cracking down on privacy-invasive targeting methods, adtech companies like Taboola need to find new ways to target audiences in an effective way.
“Our collaboration with Yahoo will give advertisers access to what I believe is the most sophisticated contextual dataset online. Together, we’re going to build a ‘Contextual Powerhouse’, enabling advertisers to target relevant audiences without relying on third-party cookies and while maintaining complete user privacy,” Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda writes in a blog post.
Taboola went public last year by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, also known as a SPAC. Taboola shares (NASDAQ:TBLA) are currently up 70% in pre-market trading compared to yesterday’s closing price — but Taboola shares have been steadily going down over the past twelve months. Shares should open at around $3.14.
As part of the deal, Yahoo is becoming Taboola’s largest shareholder with a 24.99% stake in the advertising network company. Yahoo will also get a seat on Taboola’s board of directors. Both companies expect to generate $1 billion in annual revenue from this newly formed partnership if integrations go well.
Musk says Twitter will offer “amnesty” to suspended accounts • TechCrunch
Elon Musk said Thursday Twitter will grant “a general amnesty” to accounts that had been suspended from the platform beginning next week. The CEO posted a poll the day earlier over whether the platform should restore affected accounts.
The news comes within a week of Musk also ending former president Donald Trump’s ban from the platform after running a similar poll. Trump was banned after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but said he doesn’t intend to return to the platform.
Musk’s poll to users included a caveat that suspended account holders could rejoin the platform “provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” Around 3.2 million users responded to the poll, which voted 72.4% in favor of amnesty.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said, using a Latin phrase that means “The voice of the people is the voice of god.”
Historically, Twitter has banned accounts that glorify hate and harassment, have the potential to incite violence or rampantly spread misinformation that can lead to harm. Some high profile individuals who were banned include MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell after he made a series of claims that Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election; former Trump advisor and former executive chairman of Breitbart Steve Bannon after he said Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded; and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes for violating the site’s policy of prohibiting violent extremist groups.
It’s unclear from Musk’s brief tweet how Twitter will deal with content moderation in the future, now that more potentially problematic voices will be returning to the platform. These concerns have only been exacerbated by Musk’s mass layoffs and the general exodus of employees who’d rather quit than be “hardcore.”
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