News

Apple promises $100 million for fight against racial injustice

Tech companies are taking a firm stand

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Apple says it will increase spending with black-owned suppliers as part of a US$ 100 million racial equity and justice initiative.

Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the commitment in a tweet and accompanying video. “The unfinished work of racial justice and equality call us all to account. Things must change, and Apple’s committed to being a force for that change,” Cook said.

Instead of handing out direct benefits, Apple is going after long-term solutions that can culturally help integrate a positive attitude and reduce discrimination. The company wants to boost spending with black-owned partner companies, begin working with the Equal Justice Initiative, and improve representation within its supply chain.

Internally as well, Apple will hire and promote more black and underrepresented employees. “We’re taking significant new steps on diversity and inclusion within Apple because there is more we can and must do to hire, develop, and support those from underrepresented groups, especially our Black and brown colleagues,” Cook said.

The initiative will begin in the United States and expand globally over time. Apple has also entered a partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted.

A plethora of big companies, including banks and retailers, are showing their support for the black community. The announcement comes amid a raging protest against racial inequality after the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died in police custody, sparked demands for change from activists across the country.

Apps

After years of settling, Twitter is finally waking up to new features

There’s so many of them in 2021

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Twitter has been around for a long time, and it has changed a lot since its debut. The micro-blogging platform was infamous for its 140 character limit, an intentional limitation that ensured everything on the site is short, crisp, and to the point. It’s no surprise that Twitter became the go-to website for news, independent alerts, and much more within no time.

Although, if you’ve been a Twitter user for a decade, you’ll know that the platform hasn’t changed much in all these years. Twitter did increase the length limit to 280 characters in 2017, but it had little change in the overall behavior of users. Twitter was always an easy-to-use “blog,” and it was happy being in its little inconquerable bubble.

Things are changing fast this year as Twitter aggressively adds new features and intends to open a subscription model soon. Obviously, there won’t be any change in the way we tweet or interact, but the number of features we have will surely increase. The platform is still silent about the most asked feature — the edit button on tweets. But rest assured, the classic Twitter experience isn’t going away anytime soon.


In fact, it’s going to get a lot more interesting as the platform now supports Spaces, a feature that allows users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time audio conversations with others. Instead of typing, why not just talk candidly to all your followers?

Twitter began working on the audio-chat feature in November 2020, and it was available for beta and alpha users a few months ago. It’s now ready for public use, and any user with more than 600 followers can create a room and start talking. Audio-only features are the trend, and every company, including Facebook and Spotify, is doubling down on it.

Twitter has also confirmed that it is working on an upcoming feature called “Ticket Spaces.” This feature will allow users to create Spaces that require others to purchase a ticket to join. The platform has never been so keen on monetization, but the shift in strategy is clearly visible. Hosts will earn the majority of revenue from ticket sales, while Twitter will pocket a small fee.


In January 2021, Twitter discreetly acquired Revue, a Dutch startup that allows users to publish and monetize email newsletters. Just like SubStack, Revue lets you create your own newsletter and monetize it. However, what’s special here is, the newsletter is now integrated within Twitter. So, it makes it easier to persuade your existing followers to subscribe, helping you directly monetize your reach on Twitter.

The feature is already available on Twitter’s web app. Many say that a newsletter doesn’t work in Twitter’s favor, but the company tends to disagree.

“Many established writers and publishers have built their brand on Twitter, amassing an audience that’s hungry for the next article or perspective they Tweet. Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers while also helping readers better discover writers and their content. We’re imagining many ways to do this, from allowing people to sign up for newsletters from their favorite follows on Twitter to new settings for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. It will all work seamlessly,” said Kayvon, Product Lead at Twitter.


New functionality isn’t the only thing that’s keeping the engineers busy. The platform has always attracted controversy due to moderation, troll attacks, and indecent behavior. Thousands of accounts are removed every week to ensure community guidelines are followed to maintain a safe space for everyone.

In 2020, the company began testing a new safety mechanism that prompts users to reconsider before they reply to a tweet using “harmful” language.

If a user types out a reply with any of the language that the company has deemed harmful, they’ll see a warning message asking, “Want to review this before tweeting? We’re asking people to review replies with potentially harmful or offensive language.”

While this may not seem like much, previous reports have shown that these minor design-based hurdles help curb negativity. Based on trials, Twitter said that 34 percent of people revised their initial reply after seeing the prompt or chose not to send the reply at all.


Lastly, Twitter has changed the way its algorithm crops a picture to show it on the timeline. Now, when users tweet a photo uploaded with their iOS or Android device, it will appear in the timeline in its entirety. There’ll be no cropping, so you won’t be forced to open the picture and see all the details.

Earlier, the algorithm would determine the most sensible part of the picture, crop it, and show a preview on the feed. This prompted many to share memes that could be completely seen only when the picture is opened. Else, it could look context-free and random. While most users are cheering the minor change, many feel that the surprise element behind seeing a photo is now gone. Fair to say, it’s going to be impossible to please everyone!

Though, we’d really appreciate it if Twitter could give us an edit button as well.

Read Also: Twitter acquires ad-removing news app Scroll

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Twitter acquires ad-removing news app Scroll

Gearing up its subscription model

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Twitter has now acquired the ad-removing service Scroll, which automatically removes ads from partner websites in return for a monthly subscription. The service will not be available temporarily but will soon be incorporated into Twitter.

“Scroll will become a meaningful addition to our subscriptions work as we build and shape a future subscription service on Twitter,” Twitter product manager Mike Park said in a blog post. The micro-blogging platform has been working on a subscription model for quite some time, and we’re slowly getting hints of what to expect from it.

While details remain scarce, Twitter’s forthcoming subscription services seem poised to be Twitter’s answer to paid news aggregation apps like Apple News. Most users frequently use Twitter for news updates. Its inherent design has made it an ideal social networking platform to catch up on the news.

Currently, Scroll’s service extends to hundreds of sites, including The Verge, Buzzfeed, Gizmodo, USA Today, and many others. Although the app is down at the moment, Twitter says it will continue to support Scroll’s existing customers and publishers, as well as allow new publishers to join.

It also recently acquired Revue, a newsletter startup that intends to make money via subscription. The feature has already been synced with Twitter’s web app and ready for deployment. Struggling with disappointing growth numbers, the social network is now trying to find new sources of revenue.

While not specifically mentioned in Twitter’s blog post, Twitter’s purchase of Scroll will also impact Nuzzle, an app acquired by Scroll in 2019 that became popular for helping people create a news feed curated from stories shared by people they follow on Twitter.

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India

India finally approves 5G trials, sidelines Chinese vendors

Jio will also test its indigenous technology

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The Indian government has allowed India’s top three telecom operators Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea to carry out 5G trials in India for six months. The telcos are barred from utilizing equipment from Chinese vendors.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) said that the telcos can rely on technology providers like South Korea’s Samsung, Swedish Ericsson, and Finnish Nokia. It also said that Jio was allowed to use its indigenous technology to carry out the trials. Huawei and ZTE are the two major Chinese companies that are affected by the clause.

For now, the mid-band (3.2Ghz to 3.67Ghz) and millimeter-wave band (24.25Ghz to 28.50Ghz) are available. Additionally, telcos are allowed to use their existing spectrum. The companies have been warned that commercial utilization is prohibited. The tests are divided between urban and rural India, and the security of the network is of utmost importance.

“The objectives of conducting 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics especially in the Indian context; model tuning and evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors; testing of indigenous technology; testing of applications (such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/ virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc.); and to test 5G phones and devices,” the ministry said.

No to China

The exclusion of Chinese vendors isn’t surprising as the government has maintained an anti-China stance since the mid of 2020. Due to escalating border crisis, more than a hundred Chinese apps including TikTok and PUBG: Mobile were banned. Since then, state-owned telecom operator BSNL is barred from sourcing Chinese equipment in its network. Private operators have followed a similar strategy to avoid heat from the government.

5G roll-out has been delayed in the country due to the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic and lack of demand for a premium market. The average revenue per user in India lowest in the world, making it difficult for companies to sustain amid decade-long tax disputes, discount wars, and expensive spectrum. However, the industry has picked up pace in the last year as the demand for wireless connectivity boomed, providing a much-needed buffer to beleaguered telcos like Vodafone-Idea.

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