Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
Asana, a well-known workplace productivity company, announced yesterday it has filed privately to go public. The San Francisco-based company is well-funded, having raised more than $ 200 million; well-known, due in part to its tech-famous founding duo; and valuable, having last raised at a $ 1.5 billion valuation.
Each of those factors — plus the fact that Asana is going public — makes the company worth exploring, but its plans to offer a direct listing instead of a traditional initial public offering make it irresistible.
Today, we’ll rewind through Asana’s fundraising and valuation history. Then, we’ll mix in what we know about its financial performance, growth rates and capital efficiency to see how much we can tell about the company as we count down to its public S-1 filing. The Asana flotation is going to be big news, so let’s get all our facts and figures straightened out.
Valuations and revenue
Instagram will finally let you chat from your web browser, but the launch contradicts Facebook’s plan for end-to-end encryption in all its messaging apps. Today Instagram began testing Direct Messages on the web for a small percentage of users around the globe, a year after TechCrunch reported it was testing web DMs.
When fully rolled out, Instagram tells us its website users will be able to see when they’ve received new DMs, view their whole inbox, start new message threads or group chats, send photos (but not capture them), double click to Like and share posts from their feed via Direct so they can gossip or blast friends with memes. You won’t be able to send videos, but can view non-disappearing ones. Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri tweeted that he hopes to “bring this to everyone soon” once the kinks are worked out.
Web DMs could help office workers, students and others stuck on a full-size computer all day or who don’t have room on their phone for another app to spend more time and stay better connected on Instagram. Direct is crucial to Instagram’s efforts to stay ahead of Snapchat, which has seen its Stories product mercilessly copied by Facebook but is still growing thanks to its rapid fire visual messaging feature that’s popular with teens.
But as Facebook’s former Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos tweeted, “This is fascinating, as it cuts directly against the announced goal of E2E encrypted compatibility between FB/IG/WA. Nobody has ever built a trustworthy web-based E2EE messenger, and I was expecting them to drop web support in FB Messenger. Right hand versus left?”
A year ago Facebook announced it planned to eventually unify Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct so users could chat with each other across apps. It also said it would extend end-to-end encryption from WhatsApp to include Instagram Direct and all of Facebook Messenger, though it could take years to complete. That security protocol means that only the sender and recipient would be able to view the contents of a message, while Facebook, governments and hackers wouldn’t know what was being shared.
“Fixing this problem is extremely hard and would require fundamental changes to how the WWW [world wide web] works” says Stamos. At least we know Instagram has been preparing for today’s launch since at least February when mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong alerted us. We’ve asked Instagram for more details on how it plans to cover web DMs with end-to-end encryption or whether they’ll be exempt from the plan. [Update: An Instagram spokesperson tells me that as with Instagram Direct on mobile, messages currently are not encrypted. The company is working on making its messaging products end-to-end encrypted, and it continues to consider ways to accomplish this.]
Critics have called the messaging unification a blatant attempt to stifle regulators and prevent Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp from being broken up. Yet Facebook has stayed the course on the plan while weathering a $ 5 billion fine plus a slew of privacy and transparency changes mandated by an FTC settlement for its past offenses.
Personally, I’m excited, because it will make DMing sources via Instagram easier, and mean I spend less time opening my phone and potentially being distracted by other apps while working. Almost 10 years after Instagram’s launch and six years since adding Direct, the app seems to finally be embracing its position as a utility, not just entertainment.
Twitter is rolling out its spam and abuse filter for Direct Messages, a month and a half after the company announced it had started testing the feature. The filter will be available on Twitter’s iOS, Android and Web apps.
The filter adds a new view to the Additional Messages inbox, where DMs from people you don’t follow go. If you click on it, messages that potentially contain offensive content also have their previews hidden, with an option to delete the message without opening it first.
We tested, and turns out filters help you cut through the noise to find gems. Who knew. So we’re rolling out this filter to everyone on iOS, Android, and web!
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 30, 2019
The new DM filter is useful for people who want to keep their Twitter messages open, but (like most people) don’t want to see abusive content. The feature, however, feels long overdue considering that offensive messages are so common for users with open inboxes that third-party developers have launched their own filtering tools, including a recently-released plugin that detects and deletes dick pics.
Earlier this month, Twitter also released its Hide Replies feature in the U.S. and Canada after testing it in Canada. It gives users the option of picking replies to a tweet to hide, but does not delete them. Instead, they are still visible in a separate view that is linked to a button in the original tweet.
Twitter is testing a new way to filter unwanted messages from your Direct Message inbox. Today, Twitter allows users to set their Direct Message inbox as being open to receiving messages from anyone, but this can invite a lot of unwanted messages, including abuse. While one solution is to adjust your settings so only those you follow can send you private messages, that doesn’t work for everyone. Some people — like reporters, for example — want to have an open inbox in order to have private conversations and receive tips.
This new experiment will test a filter that will move unwanted messages, including those with offensive content or spam, to a separate tab.
Unwanted messages aren’t fun. So we’re testing a filter in your DM requests to keep those out of sight, out of mind. pic.twitter.com/Sg5idjdeVv
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) August 15, 2019
Instead of lumping all your messages into a single view, the Message Requests section will include the messages from people you don’t follow, and below that, you’ll find a way to access these newly filtered messages.
Users would have to click on the “Show” button to even read these, which protects them from having to face the stream of unwanted content that can pour in at times when the inbox is left open.
And even upon viewing this list of filtered messages, all the content itself isn’t immediately visible.
In the case that Twitter identifies content that’s potentially offensive, the message preview will say the message is hidden because it may contain offensive content. That way, users can decide if they want to open the message itself or just click the delete button to trash it.
The change could allow Direct Messages to become a more useful tool for those who prefer an open inbox, as well as an additional means of clamping down on online abuse.
It’s also similar to how Facebook Messenger handles requests — those from people you aren’t friends with are relocated to a separate Message Requests area. And those that are spammy or more questionable are in a hard-to-find Filtered section below that.
It’s not clear why a feature like this really requires a “test,” however — arguably, most people would want junk and abuse filtered out. And those who for some reason did not, could just toggle a setting to turn off the filter.
Instead, this feels like another example of Twitter’s slow pace when it comes to making changes to clamp down on abuse. Facebook Messenger has been filtering messages in this way since late 2017. Twitter should just launch a change like this, instead of “testing” it.
The idea of hiding — instead of entirely deleting — unwanted content is something Twitter has been testing in other areas, too. Last month, for example, it began piloting a new “Hide Replies” feature in Canada, which allows users to hide unwanted replies to their tweets so they’re not visible to everyone. The tweets aren’t deleted, but rather placed behind an extra click — similar to this Direct Message change.
Twitter is updating is Direct Message system in other ways, too.
At a press conference this week, Twitter announced several changes coming to its platform, including a way to follow topics, plus a search tool for the Direct Message inbox, as well as support for iOS Live Photos as GIFs, the ability to reorder photos and more.
Slack, the ubiquitous workplace messaging tool, will make its pitch to prospective shareholders on Monday at an invite-only event in New York City, the company confirmed in a blog post on Wednesday. Slack stock is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange as soon as next month.
Slack, which is pursuing a direct listing, will live stream Monday’s Investor Day on its website.
An alternative to an initial public offering, direct listings allow businesses to forgo issuing new shares and instead sell directly to the market existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors. Slack, like Spotify, has been able to bypass the traditional roadshow process expected of an IPO-ready business, as well as some of the exorbitant Wall Street fees.
Spotify, if you remember, similarly live streamed an event that is typically for investors eyes only. If Slack’s event is anything like the music streaming giant’s, Slack co-founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield will speak to the company’s greater mission alongside several other executives.
Slack unveiled documents for a public listing two weeks ago. In its SEC filing, the company disclosed a net loss of $ 138.9 million and revenue of $ 400.6 million in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019. That’s compared to a loss of $ 140.1 million on revenue of $ 220.5 million for the year before.
Additionally, the company said it reached 10 million daily active users earlier this year across more than 600,000 organizations.
When does “delete” really mean delete? Not always, or even at all, if you’re Twitter .
Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini.
Saini found years-old messages in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also reported a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient — though, the bug wasn’t able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.
Saini told TechCrunch that he had “concerns” that the data was retained by Twitter for so long.
But, in our tests, we could recover direct messages from years ago — including old messages that had since been lost to suspended or deleted accounts. By downloading your account’s data, it’s possible to download all of the data Twitter stores on you.
Saini says this is a “functional bug” rather than a security flaw, but argued that the bug allows anyone a “clear bypass” of Twitter mechanisms to prevent accessed to suspended or deactivated accounts.
But it’s also a privacy matter, and a reminder that “delete” doesn’t mean delete — especially with your direct messages. That can open up users, particularly high-risk accounts like journalist and activists, to government data demands that call for data from years earlier.
That’s despite Twitter’s claim that once an account has been deactivated, there is “a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including tweets,” to law enforcement.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company was “looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue.”
Retaining direct messages for years may put the company in a legal grey area ground amid Europe’s new data protection laws, which allows users to demand that a company deletes their data.
Neil Brown, a telecoms, tech and internet lawyer at U.K. law firm Decoded Legal, said there’s “no formality at all” to how a user can ask for their data to be deleted. Any request from a user to delete their data that’s directly communicated to the company “is a valid exercise” of a user’s rights, he said.
Companies can be fined up to four percent of their annual turnover for violating GDPR rules.
“A delete button is perhaps a different matter, as it is not obvious that ‘delete’ means the same as ‘exercise my right of erasure’,” said Brown. Given that there’s no case law yet under the new General Data Protection Regulation regime, it will be up to the courts to decide, he said.
When asked if Twitter thinks that consent to retain direct messages is withdrawn when a message or account is deleted, Twitter’s spokesperson had “nothing further” to add.
The Twitterverse is still reeling from Twitter’s revamp of @ replies, and scratching its head over how changing a default avatar has anything to do with addressing abuse, but the network is plodding on, today releasing a new feature aimed at its business users. The latest in a series of updates focused on helping businesses running customer service via Twitter, the new addition offers… Read More
Social – TechCrunch
Twitter added two new features today; both designed to keep you on the platform for just a little bit longer.
First, they’ve expanded the definition of a “Direct Message” so that it includes a conversation with up to 20 people.
New! Use Direct Messages to speak privately with a group of up to 20 people. Share Tweets, show emoji & be yourself. https://t.co/8giGhC6OO0
— Twitter (@twitter) January 27, 2015
I say, if you’re having a conversation with 20 people on Twitter, you might as well have it in public because . . . . 20 people!
Remember, you can only send a direct message to someone who is following you but this update muddies the water a little. When you send a group direct message, each person has to be following you but they don’t have to be following each other. Does that mean the odd man out can or can’t see the replies from the other people? For this to work, everyone has to see every reply, right? So now, two people who don’t follow each other (maybe for a good reason) are now a part of the same, private conversation.
This could get ugly.
It could also be a handy way to share information with co-workers or connected customers; like all of the decision makers from one company.
You can also use this new feature to share a public tweet with a private group of people. In the example, a man shares a photo of a rabbit that he found on Twitter with a group of friends with the suggestion that they buy one as a gift for a ‘not-included in the DM list’ friend. I suggest they don’t.
The second new feature is the ability to capture, edit and share videos right from the Twitter app. The camera functionality is like Vine. You switch to camera mode then hold down the button to film. If you film in short bursts, you can then eliminate any clip with a swipe. What you leave behind will automatically splice itself together to create a video.
Now there’s no excuse for not using video on your business Twitter.
Twitter is slowly rolling out both of these options to all users. So keep watching your app for updates.
YouTube is great. You want to watch funny videos or movie trailers? YouTube has you covered. Need instructions to create an AdWords campaign or fix your broken lawnmower? Yet again, more videos.
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