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Drink-a-day startup Hooch adds a perk-filled premium membership plan

Hooch, the subscription startup that allows members to claim one free drink per day from hundreds of different bars and restaurants, is adding a new membership level called Hooch Black. Signing up for Hooch Black will cost you significantly more than the regular subscription — instead of $9.99 per month, it’s $295 per year. And you don’t just get in automatically; you actually need to fill out an application. But in exchange for that money and work, Hooch Black members get access to a variety of perks (on top of the standard drink-a-day option), including deals at more than 100,000 hotels worldwide — co-founder and CEO Lin Dai said that because they’re are only visible to members, Hooch gets access to lower “unpublished” prices that you won’t find elsewhere online, with discounts as high a...

Facebook has a new job posting calling for chip designers

Facebook has posted a job opening looking for an expert in ASIC and FPGA, two custom silicon designs that companies can gear toward specific use cases — particularly in machine learning and artificial intelligence. There’s been a lot of speculation in the valley as to what Facebook’s interpretation of custom silicon might be, especially as it looks to optimize its machine learning tools — something that CEO Mark Zuckerberg referred to as a potential solution for identifying misinformation on Facebook using AI. The whispers of Facebook’s customized hardware range depending on who you talk to, but generally center around operating on the massive graph Facebook possesses around personal data. Most in the industry speculate that it’s being optimized for Caffe2, an AI infrastructure deployed at...

iHeartRadio opens up its playlists to all users with launch of Playlist Radio

iHeartRadio is best known for its free service offering thousands of live, streaming AM and FM radio stations and its ability to create your own custom station, similar to Pandora. Today, the company is adding a new feature for all users – both free and paid – that blurs the lines between streaming radio and the typically premium-only option of using playlists: Playlist Radio. Like most playlists, Playlist Radio isn’t a random assortment of songs. Instead, the songs it plays are curated and programmed by radio DJs and other iHeartRadio staff. That means there isn’t an algorithm deciding what to play next – you’re listening to a selection of songs an actual person has put together. However, because it’s still “radio” you can’t do some of the things you could with the premium product’s playl...

The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription

Would being asked to pay Facebook to remove ads make you appreciate their value or resent them even more? As Facebook considers offering an ad-free subscription option, there are deeper questions than how much money it could earn. Facebook has the opportunity to let us decide how we compensate it for social networking. But choice doesn’t always make people happy. In February I explored the idea of how Facebook could disarm data privacy backlash and boost well-being by letting us pay a monthly subscription fee instead of selling our attention to advertisers. The big takeaways were: Mark Zuckerberg insists that Facebook will remain free to everyone, including those who can’t afford a monthly fee, so subscriptions would be an opt-in alternative to ads rather than a replacement that forces eve...

Elon Musk says Tesla will be profitable in Q3 and Q4

Tesla is one of the more interesting companies for Wall Street that had an interesting couple of months this year — and it seems even tweets from Elon Musk, who said that the company will be profitable in the back half of the year, may be enough to swing its stock. The Tesla and SpaceX founder sent a tweet very early this morning that the company would be profitable and cash-flow positive in the third and fourth quarter this year. Tesla is known for setting ambitious targets and forecasts, especially as it looks to ramp up Model 3 production to around 2,500 vehicles per week. Musk said he took direct control of Model 3 production earlier this month in a note to employees, also sent out at around 3 a.m. pacific time. Tesla’s shares were up slightly, gaining around 2% in trading today. The E...

Facebook shouldn’t block you from finding friends on competitors

Twitter, Vine, Voxer, MessageMe. Facebook has repeatedly cut off competitors from its feature for finding your Facebook friends on their apps… after jumpstarting its own social graph by convincing people to upload their Gmail contacts. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Download Your Information tool merely exports a text list of friends’ names you can’t use elsewhere. As Congress considers potential regulation following Mark Zuckerberg’s testimonies, it should prioritize leveling the playing field for aspiring alternatives to Facebook and letting consumers choose where to social network. And as a show of good faith and argument against it abusing its monopoly, Facebook should make our friend list truly portable. It’s time to free the social graph — to treat it as a fundamental digital possession, the ...

Facebook Stories adds funky AR drawing and Instagram’s Boomerang

You’ll soon be able to draw on the world around you and shoot back-and-forth Instagram Boomerang GIFs with the Facebook Camera. Bringing additional creative tools to the Facebook Camera could make it a more popular place to shoot content and help the company compete with Snapchat. “We wanted to give people an easy way to create with augmented reality and draw in the world around them” says John Barnett, a Facebook Camera Product Manager about the feature it calls “3D drawing”. It’s rolling out to users over the coming weeks. Matt Navarra first spotted the features. [embedded content] With AR drawing, you can scribble on the world around you, then move your camera and see the markings stay in place. It’s a fun way to add graffiti that only exists inside your screen. You can add the drawings...

Are hardware makers doing enough to keep Android phones secure?

For all the good of Android’s open-source approach, one of the clear and consistent downsides is that the onus to issue software updates falls on the manufacturer. That can mean frustration for those waiting for the latest and greatest feature updates — and in some cases, it can put your phone at risk with delayed or missed security updates. A pair of researchers at Security Research Labs recently shared a study with Wired highlighting some of these risks. The team’s findings are the result of testing 1,200 Android handsets from all the major manufacturers over the course of two years, examining whether manufacturers had offered the security patches as advertised. According to SRL, missed security patches were discovered on a wide range of different handsets across manufacturers. Sony and ...

LG promises to speed up bringing Android updates to its smartphones

LG is making efforts to improve the user experience on its devices after it opened a “Software Upgrade Center” in its native Korea. The new lab will be focused on “providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier, smartphone operating system and software updates,” the company explained in a brief statement. The idea is to help get the latest versions of Android out to more users at a faster pace than it does right now. That’s a genuine problem for Android OEM who are tasked with bringing the latest flavor of Android to devices that already in the market. Issues they have to deal with include different chipsets, Android customization and carriers. The issue has been pretty problematic for LG. Android Oreo, for example, announced by Google last September only began rolling out to the firs...

First look at Instagram Nametags, its clone of Snapchat QR codes

Instagram is preparing to launch a feature called Nametags that lets you create a special image that people can scan with the Instagram Stories camera to follow you. TechCrunch broke the news of Nametags code in Instagram’s Android APK last month. But now thanks to reader Genady Okrain we have screenshots and more details of the Instagram Nametags feature. Nametags could make it easier for people to visually promote their Instagram account. It could make it simple to follow a friend you just met by having them open their Nametag and then you scanning it. Meanwhile, businesses and social media stars could post their Nametag across other social media handles, print it onto posters or handbills or even make merchandise out of it. An Instagram spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that it is te...

Dictionary app Reverso learns new tricks

Dictionary app Reverso is getting new features with its 8.0 update. There are new exercices and games to help you learn new words. Reverso also now has an integrated thesaurus. Reverso is one of the biggest dictionary players out there. It now has over 40 million unique visitors on its website and app every month. It’s a weird industry because a significant part of the traffic on those reference websites comes from search engines. And Google Translate is quite dominant as well. So how do you go beyond search engine optimization? Reverso has been building many different services to become your go-to destination when it comes to your language needs. For instance, you can translate a word or a sentence and find contextual examples. You can access verb conjugation, translate big chunks of text...

Facebook demands ID verification for big Pages, ‘issue’ ad buyers

Facebook is looking to self-police by implementing parts of the proposed Honest Ads Act before the government tries to regulate it. To fight fake news and election interference, Facebook will require the admins of popular Facebook Pages and advertisers buying political or “issue” ads on “debated topics of national legislative importance” like education or abortion to verify their identity and location. Those that refuse, are found to be fraudulent or are trying to influence foreign elections will have their Pages prevented from posting to the News Feed or their ads blocked. Meanwhile, Facebook plans to use this information to append a “Political Ad” label and “Paid for by” information to all election, politics and issue ads. Users can report any ads they think are missing the label, and Fa...