At the WWDC 2019 conference today, Apple announced a new mechanism to let third-party apps authenticate users using their Apple IDs.
Named ‘Sign in with Apple,’ this new authentication mechanism works in the same way as other similar login systems provided by Facebook and Google, but with an added benefit of user privacy.
“http://www.zdnet.com/”Sign in with Apple’ is a fast, easy way to sign in, without all the tracking,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s software engineering chief.
In an exclusive interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that his company wasn’t trying to take on Google and Facebook for first-party data, but moving privacy protections forward. Cook said:
You know, we’re not really taking a shot at anybody. We’re – we focus on the user. And the user wants the ability to go across numerous properties on the web without being under surveillance. We’re moving privacy protections forward. And I actually think it’s a very reasonable request for people to make.
However, Cook wants to frame it Apple aims to make it easier for developers to use its sign-in service and offer more privacy controls.
“A simple API allows a developer to add a ‘Sign in with Apple’ button right in their app. You just tap it, and you’re authenticated with FaceID on your device, logged in with a new account, without revealing any new personal information,” Federighi said. “Some apps may want a name, and maybe even an email to send you information when you’re outside the app.
“We do allow them to request this information […], but you can choose to share your actual email address, or you can choose to hide it,” Federighi said.
This new feature, according to the Apple exec, will generate a random email address, hosted by Apple, which will receive all communications and notifications from that app, and forward the emails to the user’s legitimate email address.
“That’s good news because we give each app a unique email address,” Federighi said, highlighting that apps will not be able to track users based on their email addresses anymore.
“You can disable any one of them at any time when you’re tired of hearing from that app,” the Apple exec said.
“It’s really great!,” he said.
Protection against spam and credential stuffing
And it is. By generating unique email addresses for each app, Apple will not only prevent user tracking, but it will also put a stop to email spam.
Shady app developers will often sell user data, to analytics providers or spam operators. Furthermore, even if the app developer has no intention of sharing a user’s email, a data breach can expose users’ emails to hackers.
If any of these unique emails leak or find their way into the hands of spammers, the user can deactivate the email and put a stop to any incoming stream of unwanted emails.
In addition, because the emails are unique per app, in the case of a data breach, hackers won’t be able to use the email address to associate it with a user’s real-life identity.
This, in turn, protects the user against credential stuffing attacks against their Apple account or accounts at other services.
And another good news is that ‘Sign in with Apple’ will also be available for the web and other platforms, and not just for iOS apps, according to an Apple design document.
Related cybersecurity coverage:
Twitter finally shuts down its abandoned prototype app twttr – TechCrunch
Twitter is shutting down its experimental app twttr, which the company had used publicly prototype new features back in 2019. The app was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019, then launched to testers that March. Its primary focus had been on trying out new designs for threaded conversations, including things like how to branch replies, apply labels and color-code responses, among other things. Some of those tests eventually turned into Twitter features and the twttr app was no longer being used.
The idea to design in public was an interesting experiment by Twitter.
Most companies roll out internal beta tests, followed by smaller-scale A/B tests to a percentage of their public user base to get feedback about new ideas. But with twttr, the company actually invited its users to be a part of the much earlier stage development process.
The concept for twttr had been spearheaded by Twitter’s then Director of Product Management, Sara Beykpour (then Sara Haider — she and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour have since married). But Sara announced last year she would be stepping into a new role at the company and Twitter’s new product director in charge of conversations would be Suzanne Xie, who had joined by way of Twitter’s acquisition of Lightwell.
Work on twttr appeared to stop around the time Xie stepped in, as no other significant updates were released to twttr’s TestFlight user base. And Xie left Twitter this fall for Stripe.
Now, it seems that maintaining the largely unused app no longer makes sense for the company.
Twitter announced its plans to formally shut down twttr today, saying it was turning off the app in order to work on new tests related to the conversation taking place on Twitter itself. The shutdown appears to be immediate. Though the app may still function for those who have it installed, when the TestFlight build expires in 26 days, that may no longer be the case.
It’s not likely that twttr had many dedicated users at this point, especially as the app lacked Twitter’s newer features like Topics and Fleets, for example, and was no longer offering new experiments to test.
Salesforce buys Slack in a $27.7B megadeal – TechCrunch
Salesforce, the CRM powerhouse that recently surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, announced today it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal. Rumors of a pending deal surfaced last week, causing Slack’s stock price to spike.
Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” Butterfield said in a statement.
Every worker at every company needs to communicate, something that Slack can ably empower. What’s more, it also facilitates external communication with customers and partners, something that should be quite useful for a company like Salesforce and its family of offerings.
Ultimately, Slack was ripe for the taking. Entering 2020 it had lost around 40% of its value since it went public. Consider that after its most recent earnings report, the company lost 16% of its value, and before the Salesforce deal leaked, the company was worth only a few dollars per share more than its direct listing reference price. Toss in net losses of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending July 31, 2020, Slack’s uninspiring public valuation and its winding path to profitability and it was a sitting target for a takeover like this one. The only surprise here is the price.
The new deal also puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with its arch rival and sometime friend Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market. Microsoft, which passed on buying Slack in the past for a fraction of what Salesforce is paying today, has made Teams a key priority in recent quarters, loathe to cede any portion of the enterprise software market to another company.
What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they need to do can be done in Slack.
The company’s historic growth helped Slack raise over $1 billion while private, earning an impressive $7 billion valuation before going public last year. But while the Glitch-to-unicorn story appears simple, Slack has always faced entrenched competition from the likes of not only Microsoft, but also Cisco, Facebook, Google and even Asana and Monday.com.
Today’s deal comes after Salesforce’s purchase of Quip in 2016 for $750 million. Quip brought a way of socially sharing documents to the SaaS giant, and when paired with the Slack acquisition gives Salesforce a much more robust social story to tell than its internal option Chatter, an early attempt at enterprise social that never really caught on.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce was interested in Twitter in 2016, the same year that Microsoft was reportedly interested in Slack, but eventually walked away from that deal when shareholders objected, not wanting to deal with the controversial side of the social platform.
Slack was founded in 2013, but its origins go back to an online multiplayer game company called Glitch that was founded in 2009. While the game was ultimately a failure, the startup developed an internal messaging system in the process of building that company that later evolved into Slack.
For Slack, the path to the public markets was fraught with hype and outsized expectation. The company was famous, or as famous as an enterprise software company can be. At the time it felt like the its debut was the start of a long tenure as an indie company. Instead, that public life has been cut short by a huge check. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of tech.
Loop Team wants to give remote workers an in-office feel – TechCrunch
As we’ve moved to work from home during the pandemic, it’s been challenging for remote workers to feel connected. Loop Team, a new entrant into the enterprise communications space, thinks the way we are communicating needs improvement. That’s why the startup is releasing Loop Team today, a tool that is trying to use software to reproduce the in-office experience.
Company founder and CEO Raj Singh says that he learned about the problems of feeling disconnected first-hand at a previous remote-first company, but in spite of his best attempts to use technology to produce that in-office feel, he said he continued to feel out of the loop (so to speak). That’s when he decided to build the solution he wanted.
“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter, the serendipitous bumping, things like that. And we built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form,” Singh explained to me.
While he created this company prior to COVID, the pandemic has highlighted the need for a tool like this. Before he created the software, he interviewed hundreds of people who worked from home to understand their issues working outside of the office and he heard a lot of common complaints.
“There was an office and they didn’t necessarily know what was going on. They didn’t know who was available. They didn’t know who was around. It was difficult to connect. Everything was scheduled through calendar. They were missing some of that presence — and they were feeling lonely or out of touch or out of the loop,” he said.
His company’s solution tries to reproduce the office experience using AI, good, old-fashioned presence awareness and other tech to let team members know what you’re doing and if you’re available to chat. So just as you would wander down the hall and see your colleague on the phone or deeply involved with work on the laptop, and know to leave them be, you could get that same feel with Loop.
It gives the current status of the person, and you can know from looking at the list of people on your team, who’s available to talk and who’s busy. As you go into virtual discussions, the team can see who’s having meetings and individuals can pop in too, just as you might do in the office.
What’s more, you can set up rooms (like in Slack), but these are designed to give you a more personal connection using video and audio for actual discussion. You can work on projects via screen share and people who miss these meetings because of other obligations or time zone differences, can always review what they missed.
While you can do all of these things in Slack and Zoom, or in some combination of similar tools, Loop’s layout and presentation is designed to help you see the conversations in a clear way and expose what you want to see, while hiding parts of the day that don’t interest you.
The product is available for free starting today, but Singh wants to introduce a pricing model sometime next year based on team size. He expects there will always be a freemium version for teams under 10 people.
The company was founded in 2018 and nurtured at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It has raised $4.75 million so far. Today it starts on its journey as a startup with its first product, and it’s one that comes with good timing as more teams find themselves working remotely than every before.
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