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New Vector scores $8.5M to plug more users into its open, decentralized messaging Matrix

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New Vector, a European startup founded in 2017 by the creators of an open, decentralized communications standard called Matrix to drive adoption and grow an ecosystem around an alternative messaging protocol for instant messaging and VoIP apps, has raised an $8.5 million Series A funding round.

Investors in New Vector’s Series A round include enterprise tech specialists Notion Capital and Dawn Capital, along with European seed fund Firstminute Capital.

The team has been showing what’s possible when you think outside the proprietary silo of the usual (messaging giant) suspects for several years now — launching a Slack rival called Riot.IM back in 2016, which runs on Matrix — to offer an open, customizable and secure alternative. (Secure because unlike Slack Riot does offer end-to-end encryption. Though not yet everywhere — but expanding e2e encryption is part of the plan for the Series A.)

Users of Riot can also choose to run the app on their own server so they’re in full control of data hosting. And the app includes a bridging feature to integrate with mainstream chat app rivals like Slack. So it’s a ‘cake and eat it’ approach to modern messaging tech: Control plus interoperability and transparency.

“Slack and WhatsApp have shown just how important instant messaging is for workplace productivity but combining this convenience with total sovereignty and security over data is more valuable than ever,” said firstminute capital’s Brent Hoberman, commenting on the funding in a supporting statement.

“Over the last few years it feels like we have gone backwards with communication platforms like Slack and WhatsApp that are walled gardens where users have very understandable concerns over whether their data is secure and how it is being used,” added Notion Capital’s Jos White in another statement. “At last the market has an alternative with the New Vector services that are based off the Matrix protocol offering open standards and delivering complete data ownership and security.”

New Vector’s Series A fast follows $5M it raised last year — when the team took in a strategic investment from an Ethereum-based secure chat and crypto wallet app called Status.

Earlier dev work on the Matrix protocol was funded with support from a large multinational telecoms infrastructure company for whom the founding team had previously built messaging apps. But that funding dried up as of August 2017, which was when they started casting around for alternatives — initially pitching supporters for donations.

Fast forward a couple of years and with growing momentum for their approach — the Matrix network has expanded to more than 11M users and 40,000 deployments this year, growing daily active users 400% since 2018 — they’ve landed a big chunk of VC in the bank.

This isn’t so surprising when you see some of the users they’re able to name check. Such as the US government; the French government (which forked Riot to launch its own messaging app called Tchap earlier this year, and has chosen Matrix to be its official comms platform); Wikimedia; KDE; and RedHat, to name a few. It also says it’s working with the UK’s National Heath Service and with Mozilla.

The plan for the Series A is thus to step on the gas and scale their hosting platform, burnish the product experience and beef up the protocol to be able to support more governments and enterprises seeking digital sovereignty, messaging autonomy and strong encryption to keep their secrets in increasingly volatile geopolitical times.

Just last week officials from the US, UK and Australian governments leaned on Facebook publicly, calling on the company not to expand its use of end-to-end encryption — unless or until it can ensure access to decrypted comms on warranted demand.

WhatsApp’s e2e encryption is highly respected. But it’s also only as strong as Facebook’s implementation of it. Which isn’t exactly reassuring when the company is coming under high level pressure from its own government to backdoor its apps. So there’s both a security and privacy logic to wanting to eschew data centralization — even if it’s robustly encrypted.

Certainly for a certain type of highly security conscious enterprise and public sector user, which is where Matrix is intended to plug in.

If data is centralized it risks becoming a sitting duck for powerful interests to try to get at, as well as generating a wealth of metadata that the controlling commercial entity can absolutely data-mine. So a robust, decentralized messaging standard that doesn’t demand such trade offs will have obvious appeal to those with resources to custom fit and deploy their own apps.

(For the record, Matrix says its e2e encryption is based on the Double Ratchet Algorithm popularised by Signal but which has been extended to support encryption to chat rooms containing thousands of devices. It also says it uses Olm and Megolm cryptographic ratchets, which are specified as an open standard with implementations released under the Apache license, and which have been independently audited by NCC Group.)

New Vector CEO and Matrix co-founder Matthew Hodgson tells us that growth for Matrix is coming primary from the public sector and adjacent industries (which need to be able to communicate securely with government departments); from open source projects; cryptocurrencies; and activists and NGOs.

“The factors which drive decentralisation here are wanting to be able to have full autonomy and control over your conversations with zero dependencies on a megacorp like Facebook, Google or Slack… without wanting to create an isolated island, but participating in a wider global open Matrix network like the Web itself,” he says. “Also, developers wanting (at last!) an open platform to build communication apps on like the Web, rather than being locked into proprietary communication platforms from a big corp.”

Hodgson points out that governments are “highly decentralized” by nature (i.e. between different departments, ministries, citizens etc) — adding that they “really like end-to-end encryption, especially within a wider open network”.

Or, well, at least the bits of governments that aren’t calling for Facebook to backdoor its apps…

“We are the primary choice for an encrypted yet decentralised communication platform which can span multiple government departments — enforcing different security levels on different servers as needed, with zero vendor lock-in thanks to Matrix,” he continues. “It lets you get the entire public sector — be that academic, healthcare, military, citizens and their adjacent organisations (and adjacent countries!) on the same network, without surrendering control to Facebook, Google, Telegram or anyone else.”

“France and the US Department of Public Safety are already live, and several other countries are in the pipeline,” he adds on public sector deployments. “We expect Matrix to become the backbone for secure intra- and inter-governmental communication in the future.”

In France’s case the government has rolled Matrix out across all 16 ministries — to 5.5M users.

Talking of the future, the plan for the Series A is four-fold. Firstly: Invest in improving the user experience in Riot for the app to be, as Hodgson puts it, “properly mainstream” — aka: “a genuine alternative to WhatsApp and Slack for groups who need secure communication which is entirely within their control, rather than run by Facebook or Slack”.

Second, they’ll be turning on end-to-end encryption by default for all private conversations.

“Decentralised e2e encryption is Hard,” he says with emphasis. “But we are tantalisingly close to having the missing ingredients (cross-signed key verification; E2E-capable full text search; E2E-capable bots) finished — which means we can turn it on across the whole public network by default for private rooms. This is a huge deal, especially given the increasingly obvious risks of centralised end-to-end encryption (a la WhatsApp and Signal).”

Thirdly, the funding will go on building out their flagship Matrix hosting platform (Modular.im) and building it into Riot — “so that groups of users can easily hop onto their own self-sovereign servers”.

“We already have folks like the Wikimedia Foundation, KDE and GNOME using Modular today (and hopefully Mozilla and NHSX in future), and we’ll be using the funding to get as many people on Modular as possible to help scale Matrix going forwards,” he adds.

Finally they intend to work on combating abuse. As with any comms platform, there can be a dark side to the stuff people want to share. Throw in e2e encryption and decentralization and the question of how you moderate hateful communications could easily get overlooked. But New Vector is at least thinking about this problem.

“Matrix is a fascinating microcosm of the wider open internet, and the 11M addressable users spans the full spectrum of humanity,” says Hodgson. “We have some really interesting work going on here to empower users to filter out content they don’t want to see (rather than using centralised algorithms to do so), which could be applicable to the wider internet.”

“We’re hoping that the Matrix.org Foundation (the non-profit which control the Matrix protocol) will drive this work but it’s something which is very much on New Vector’s radar too,” he adds.

Asked about Matrix’s security and stability, Hodgson says this was the focus with the big 1.0 release in June — when the protocol exited beta.

“We launched a formal Security Disclosure Policy and hall of fame (https://matrix.org/security-disclosure-policy/) and the protocol has a pretty good security record — other than the drama over the launch of Tchap in France,” he says, referring to the security flaw that was found in the app immediately it launched.

“The researcher who found the flaw made an extremely loud noise about it, but in practice it wasn’t a flaw in the Matrix protocol itself — it was specific to the French deployment’s configuration, and was found prior to launch, and we addressed it within a few hours of being reported,” he adds. “Obviously it should have been spotted before being exposed to the internet, but subsequently France set up a successful bug bounty programme (https://yeswehack.com/programs/tchap) as well as a dedicated audit to avoid problems going forwards.

“Meanwhile we got our E2EE successfully audited by NCC Group back in 2016 (it hasn’t changed substantially since), and together with the E2EE-by-default work mentioned before, we’re continuing to focus on security & stability.”

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Best ASO Tips To Boost Your App Search In 2022

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You need your application to be really effective in the overpopulated application market. Then, at that point, you will have to drive downloads to endure. So when it’s all said and done, you must account for yourself. Get your application the consideration it merits.

The uplifting news, however, is that customers love to download applications – last year, we downloaded in excess of 200 billion applications around the world, and that figure is set to increment to 258 billion every year by 2022 as cell phone reception increments.

Assuming you need to be seen and have your application downloaded by however many clients as could reasonably be expected, then, at that point, you should begin by taking a gander at the application store.

Underneath, we’ve assembled probably the best application store improvement methods to assist you with creating more downloads in 2021 and then some…

Start with Your Application Name 

The odds are you as of now have an extraordinary name for your application, yet an appropriately advanced application is about significantly more than marking.

Assuming you need to amplify transparency and guarantee you’re showing up when clients look for applications like yours, you ought to remember the primary keywords for your application name or title, comparable to how you’d make a title label while improving a site page.

You could begin with your application name so it tends to be plainly recognized, thus it appears on the home screen of gadgets.

Then, at that point, you can add a scramble or vertical bar prior to adding a few pertinent watchwords to your speciality, or even put your application name in quotes as we did with FORE Business Golf Networking.

Urge Users to Leave Reviews 

You could ask for reviews by clients through the means of your site, or through an in-application notice toward the finish of their meeting, yet make sure to restrict the number of pop-ups you execute with the goal that you don’t disturb or disappoint your clients, as this could urge them to erase your application.

We’d support all application engineers and entrepreneurs to react to criticism on their applications, as this can further develop client relations and resolve issues in an open arena.

Zero in on Your Application Depiction 

Your application depiction is your principle assemblage of text your landing page content, in a manner of speaking. Utilize a site like KeywordTool.io to discover information on your picked catchphrases to expand your openness. As portrayals are shortened, ensure you remember the main data for the initial three lines of your depiction, and afterwards add things like social confirmation, emoticon, and suggestions to take action to build commitment and downloads.

Incorporate Appealings Screen Captures 

Pictures and recordings won’t help your application rank, yet they will expand changes and assist clients with working out whether it’s an application they truly need.

There’s a little guide in empowering clients toward downloading your application if in any case, they’re not going to interface with it, or download and leave a negative survey when they understand it wasn’t what was promoted.

Assuming you need to ‘tart up’ your item page, then, at that point, you can add marking and extra text and data and designs to your recordings and screen capture, yet they ought not to diminish your item.

Pay for App Store or Play Store 

As we have SEO and pay-per-click, you need to work one next to the other (one is a gradual methodology with long haul benefits – the other is a speedy success yet requires an endless spending plan), application store promotions can be utilized to get the message out with regards to your new programming and assist you with positioning at the highest point of query items pages – in front of your opposition and enormous names in the application world.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to focus on the right crowd and art an advertisement that will assist you with changing over and that since you’re paying for situations, that doesn’t mean clients will download or cooperate with your application.

Wrapping Up!

You can employ a group of  App  Store Optimization Services suppliers to benefit a scope of application store improvement administrations, including watchword advancement, resource enhancement, and restriction to guarantee your application is seen by individuals that matter.

We have long periods of involvement in creating and showcasing applications and have assisted different customers with expanding their downloads by infiltrating rewarding and regularly undiscovered business sectors.

Author:
Prachi Gupta likes to write information about Digital Marketing Trends that can help audience to grow their business.

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WhatsApp will finally let users encrypt their chat backups in the cloud

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WhatsApp said on Friday it will give its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat backups to the cloud, taking a significant step to put a lid on one of the tricky ways private communication between individuals on the app can be compromised.

The Facebook-owned service has end-to-end encrypted chats between users for more than a decade. But users have had no option but to store their chat backup to their cloud — iCloud on iPhones and Google Drive on Android — in an unencrypted format.

Tapping these unencrypted WhatsApp chat backups on Google and Apple servers is one of the widely known ways law enforcement agencies across the globe have for years been able to access WhatsApp chats of suspect individuals.

Now WhatsApp says it is patching this weak link in the system.

“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,” said Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in a post announcing the new feature.

Store your own encryption keys

The company said it has devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with encryption keys. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups, and the feature is optional.

In the “coming weeks,” users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to lock their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp.

Image Credits: WhatsApp/supplied

“We know that some will prefer the 64-digit encryption key whereas others want something they can easily remember, so we will be including both options. Once a user sets their backup password, it is not known to us. They can reset it on their original device if they forget it,” WhatsApp said.

“For the 64-digit key, we will notify users multiple times when they sign up for end-to-end encrypted backups that if they lose their 64-digit key, we will not be able to restore their backup and that they should write it down. Before the setup is complete, we’ll ask users to affirm that they’ve saved their password or 64-digit encryption key.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that once an encrypted backup is created, previous copies of the backup will be deleted. “This will happen automatically and there is no action that a user will need to take,” the spokesperson added.

Potential regulatory pushback?

The move to introduce this added layer of privacy is significant and one that could have far-reaching implications.

End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments continue to lobby for backdoors. Apple was reportedly pressured to not add encryption to iCloud Backups after the FBI complained, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company allegedly didn’t tell governments before it rolled out the feature.

When asked by TechCrunch whether WhatsApp, or its parent firm Facebook, had consulted with government bodies — or if it had received their support — during the development process of this feature, the company declined to discuss any such conversations.

“People’s messages are deeply personal and as we live more of our lives online, we believe companies should enhance the security they provide their users. By releasing this feature, we are providing our users with the option to add this additional layer of security for their backups if they’d like to, and we’re excited to give our users a meaningful advancement in the safety of their personal messages,” the company told TechCrunch.

WhatsApp also confirmed that it will be rolling out this optional feature in every market where its app is operational. It’s not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s upcoming encrypted browsing feature, for instance, won’t be made available to users in certain authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

At any rate, Friday’s announcement comes days after ProPublica reported that private end-to-end encrypted conversations between two users can be read by human contractors when messages are reported by users.

“Making backups fully encrypted is really hard and it’s particularly hard to make it reliable and simple enough for people to use. No other messaging service at this scale has done this and provided this level of security for people’s messages,” Uzma Barlaskar, product lead for privacy at WhatsApp, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve been working on this problem for many years, and to build this, we had to develop an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage that can be used across the world’s largest operating systems and that took time.”

TechCrunch

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Dispo launches a test to gauge user interest in selling their photos as NFTs

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Dispo, the photo-sharing app that emulates disposable cameras, started rolling out a test yesterday that will record user interest in selling photos as NFTs. Some users will now see a sell button on their photos, and when they tap it, they can sign up to be notified when the ability to sell Dispo photos launches.

CEO and co-founder Daniel Liss told TechCrunch that Dispo is still deciding how it will incorporate NFT sales into the app, which is why the platform is piloting a test with its users. Dispo doesn’t know yet what blockchain it would use, if it would partner with an NFT marketplace or what cut of sales Dispo would take.

“I think it’s safe to say from the test that there will be an experience native to the Dispo app,” Liss said. “There are a number of ways it could look — there could be a native experience within Dispo that then connects through an API to another platform, and in turn, they’re our partner, but to the community, it would look native to the Dispo app.”

Image Credits: Dispo

This marks a new direction for the social media app, which seeks to redefine the photo-sharing experience by only letting users see the photos they took at 9 AM the next morning. From Dispo’s perspective, this gimmick helps users share more authentically, since you take one photo and then you’re done — the app isn’t conducive to taking dozens of selfies and posting the “best” image of yourself. But though it only launched in December 2019, Dispo has already faced both buzzy hype and devastating controversy.

Until about a year ago, the app was called David’s Disposables, named after co-founder and YouTuber David Dobrik. The app was downloaded over a million times in the first week after its release and hit No. 1 on the App Store charts. In March 2021, the app dropped its waitlist and relaunched with social network features, but just weeks later, Insider reported sexual assault allegations against a member of Vlog Squad, Dobrik’s YouTube prank ensemble. In response, Spark Capital severed ties with the company, leading to Dobrik’s departure. Other investors like Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures, which contributed to the company’s $20 million Series A round, announced that they would donate any profits from their investments in Dispo to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault.

Liss told TechCrunch in June, when the company confirmed its Series A, that Dobrik’s role with the company was as a marketing partner — Liss has been CEO since the beginning. In light of the controversy, Liss said the app focused on improving the product itself and took a step back from promotion.

According to data from the app analytics firm SensorTower, Dispo has reached an estimated 4.7 million global installs to date since launch. Though the app saw the most downloads in January 2020, when it was installed over 1 million times, the app’s next best month came in March 2021, when it removed its waitlist — that month, about 616,000 people downloaded Dispo. Between March and the end of August, the app was downloaded around 1.4 million times, which is up 118% year over year compared to the same time frame in 2020 — but it should be expected that this year’s numbers would be higher, since last year, the app’s membership was exclusive.

Image Credits: Dispo

Now, with the announcement that Dispo is pursuing NFTs, Liss hopes that his company won’t just change how people post photos, but what the relationship will be between platforms and the content that users create.

“Why NFTs? The most powerful memories of our lives have value. And they have economic value, because we created them, and the past of social media fails to recognize that,” Liss told TechCrunch. “As a result, the only way that a creator with a big following is compensated is by selling directly to a brand, as opposed to profiting from the content itself.”

Adding NFT sales to the app offers Dispo a way to profit from a cut of user sales, but it stands to question how adding NFT sales could impact the community-focused feel of Dispo.

“I think there is tremendous curiosity and interest,” Liss said. “But these problems and questions are why we need more data.”

TechCrunch

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