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WhatsApp adds Snapchat-like features

WhatsaApp

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service that dominates the messaging app market globally, is adding a photo and video sharing capability within their status feature that mimics that of Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Users will have the ability to annotate photos and videos with emojis, text, etc. and photos and videos will expire from users' statuses after 24 hours.

Why it matters: This is just the latest of steps Facebook has taken to mimic Snapchat-like features on its apps. They've already introduced similar features for Facebook Messenger and Instagram. While Facebook has spent the past year adding Snapchat-like product features, Snapchat has spent the past year adding Facebook-like measurement and audience targeting-features.

What we're watching: Mark Zuckerberg's $19 billion bet on WhatsApp in 2014 was based largely on WhatsApp's incredible reach in emerging markets. But in addition to the growth opportunity, the acquisition also gives Facebook the opportunity to experiment with unique new features with lots of users, before potentially integrating them into other Facebook-owned apps. In January WhatsApp announced it was testing the ability to temporarily track friends' locations and the ability to recall sent messages that haven't been viewed yet.

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Snapchat sells Spectacles online

Snap Inc.

Snapchat spectacles now available for purchase online.

Spectacles are smartphone-connected glasses that take Snapchats — up-to 10-second videos or stills — with the click of a button. Previously, the glasses were only available for purchase at pop-up vending machines in New York and California, where lines were long and the allure was strong. Now, Snap Inc. is making their glasses available to all consumers for $130 USD.

Why it matters: In its S-1 filing with the New York Stock Exchange, Snapchat calls itself a "camera company" instead of a social media app or a messaging service. This is critical in understanding how Snapchat plans to monetize its reach and technology, which investors are monitoring closely ahead of its IPO. In its S-1 filing, Snapchat noted that Spectacles have not initially generated any revenue. While Snapchat makes the majority of its money from advertising now, opening up sales for its new camera now signals that Snap Inc. sees camera technology and sales as a lucrative business model in the future.

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The growing fight to save local newsrooms

Non-profits and media distribution companies are stepping in to support local newsrooms as they navigate the chaotic news cycle of the new administration and the rapidly-changing digital news environment.

The non-profits

Poynter is dedicating a reporter to cover the transformation of local and regional journalism full-time, in addition to launching a weekly newsletter. The Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative made a $5 million investment to continue a program that helps local papers transform their newsrooms to support digital storytelling. Local News Lab relaunched its site to include updated guidebooks to help local newsrooms survive the transition into the digital age. MuckRock started a Slack channel in January to help journalists all over the country, including 50% local news reporters, better cover the Trump Administration.

The platforms

Facebook finally took its initiative to reach out to local journalists to the road, hosting around 70 print and broadcast reporters — mostly from Texas — for a Dallas forum about best practices and the future of news. The move is part of the Facebook Journalism Project. Google introduced a local news source tag in May that algorithmically favors local sources in users' feeds. The tag labels stories that are reported first-hand by local sources.
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Yes, your commute is really that awful

Julie Jacobson / AP

Reuters flags the latest Global Traffic Scorecard from INRIX Inc, a traffic data company based in Washington state. It found that 5 of the 10 most congested cities globally are in the U.S., and that drivers waste an average of $1,200 a year in lost fuel and time sitting in traffic jams.

The five worst U.S. offenders: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami.

The worst road: The Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.

But at least you're not in Bogota or Moscow: Drivers in those two cities deal with the worst traffic in the world, when you break it down by the percentage of time spent in traffic jams compared to total drive time.

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Adios, Milo

After Breitbart provocateur Milo was announced Saturday (the day after his bro-out with Bill Maher) as a speaker at CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference, which opens Wednesday — the self-described "virtuous troll" got hit with fatal oppo on the Twitter feed of the Reagan Battalion:

Milo replies on Facebook: "A note for idiots (UPDATED): I do not support pedophilia. Period. ... If it somehow comes across (through my own sloppy phrasing or through deceptive editing) that I meant any of the ugly things alleged, let me set the record straight ... I am completely disgusted by the abuse of children. "

The board of the American Conservative Union, which stages CPAC, includes Kellyanne Conway, John Bolton, Grover Norquist, Becky Norton Dunlap, Ron Christie, José Cárdenas, etc.

Chances Milo speaks at CPAC, with hundreds of young attendees: next to zero.

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Hot in Silicon Valley: Postmates backs off mandatory arbitration

Candice Choi / AP

Postmates finally lets drivers opt out of arbitration: The delivery company has updated its driver agreement to allow contractors to opt out of the previously mandatory arbitration, as TechCrunch reported. While the company denies the connection, it's currently still battling a case against the National Labor Relations Board over its classification of drivers as contractors instead employees and its arbitration mandate.

Why it matters: Postmates and other so-called "on-demand" companies have been under fire for their employment practices, namely forcing contractors to go through arbitration, which many argue is illegal.

'Silicon Valley' is back for a fourth season: HBO has released the teaser trailer for its hit show about a startup in the heart of Silicon Valley will soon be back for a new season. What we know so far: Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks wants to strike out on his own and build "a new Internet." Never short of real-world references, the show's next season is sure to continue exploring common Silicon Valley experiences.

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It's up to Uber's investors to demand a change in culture

Adam Tinworth / Flickr CC

Responding to a former Uber engineer's allegations of widespread sexism at the company, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has called for an "urgent investigation" and threatened to fire anyone found behaving or thinking along the lines of those described.

But even a cursory read of Susan Fowler Rigetti's harrowing post shows a series of alleged events that could not have been caused by one abhorrent manager or a rogue HR person. It implicates an entire culture and raises questions of whether Uber's board and management have the will to change it.

Who's already speaking out: In addition to Kalanick's comments, some early Uber investors are chiming in:

What to watch for: Any comments from the board and the results of Uber's investigation. Also, the public response. Will there be yet another #DeleteUber movement?

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Uber CEO responds to claims of workplace sexism

Jeff Chiu / AP

Another tale of sexism and unacceptable workplace behavior in Silicon Valley company has emerged. This time it's at Uber, according to an explosive blog post published on Sunday by a former company engineer named Susan Fowler Riggetti.

Riggetti was a site reliability engineer with Uber between November 2015 and December 2016, and now accuses the ride-share company's HR department of ignoring multiple complaints of sexual harassment, and of being denied opportunities to transfer or move up in her job. Worse: Her attempts to use emails (i.e., evidence) to document bad behavior were turned against her, she says.

Reached for comment, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said:

"I have just read Susan Fowler's blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber -- and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."

Why this matters: Despite having several women among its top ranks, this isn't the first time Uber has been accused of sexism or ignoring ethics in favor of business growth. Moreover, this is far from the first time a woman at a high-profile tech company has shared such experiences — it's a rampant problem in the tech industry — which likely explains why Fowler's blog post is spreading like wildfire via Silicon Valley social media this evening.

Update: Uber board member Arianna Huffington has tweeted the following: "Just talked w/ Travis & as a representative of Uber's Board I will work w/Liane to conduct a full independent investigation starting now."

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SpaceX returns to space

NASA TV via AP

SpaceX successfully launched a space station supply mission this morning. It's the first private launch from the historic NASA pad in Florida.

The rocket's first stage also successfully landed back at Cape Canaveral.

Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect that it was the first private launch, not the first SpaceX launch since the explosion.

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Inside Bitmojii

The Wall Street Journal's front-page A-Hed today's goes inside bitmojis in, "The Pajama-Clad Bitmoji and the 'Creepy Boss': Cartoon-message fad tests office etiquette; 'I embarrassed myself'," by Sarah Needleman, who covers the video game industry.

"Bitmojis are personalized cartoon images that can be pasted into text messages and emails. Using an app from Bitstrips Inc., people craft avatars of themselves—hairstyles, body types, clothing—that the app plops into quirky scenes."
"After winning over teens and young adults on mobile devices, bitmojis are seeping into corporate emails, messaging apps and texts. Now, eager and befuddled workers are figuring out how to use the social tool without breaching professional courtesy."

See more Bitmojis in the Journal's article, "Sending Bitmojis to Co-Workers—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"