The Extremely Korean Reason Why Samsung Might Ditch Tizen for Wear OS

Illustration for article titled The Extremely Korean Reason Why Samsung Might Ditch Tizen for Wear OS

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

When I first heard the rumors that Samsung might ditch its proprietary Tizen OS for wearables in favor of Google’s Wear OS, I was flummoxed. Tizen is snappy and free of the many problems plaguing Google’s wearables softeware. In fact, I’d say Tizen has played a large role in making Samsung’s smartwatches the best option for Android users—even if it isn’t perfect. The most logical explanation was that Wear OS offered a better third-party app ecosystem. However, even that didn’t make complete sense given how neglected the platform is and that Tizen OS has been in Samsung watches for seven years now. But now, a report from the Korean news outlet Money Today makes things crystal clear: KakaoTalk refuses to make a dedicated Tizen app.

Advertisement

If you’ve spent a significant time in Korea or are familiar with the Korean or Korean-American community, you know how big KakaoTalk is. Here in the west, the most accurate comparison would probably be WhatsApp, but if WhatsApp was also a pseudo-social network that absolutely everyone in your life used. I mean your grandma, your parents, your significant other, your friends, your coworkers, the CEO of your company, your third-grade teacher—absolutely everyone. According to Statista, the app has more than 50 million monthly active users, of which 46 million are located in South Korea. For context, the population of South Korea in 2020 was about 51 million. And like WeChat in China, KakaoTalk has expanded beyond just being a free chat and voice calling app. It hosts mobile games, an online bank, online shopping, a taxi service, and gift exchanges. And while it’s not officially designed to be, KakaoTalk has also morphed into a pseudo dating app. It’s so ubiquitous, “Ka-talk”, an abbreviated name for the app, has become part of the language. Listen, even my 72-year-old, technology-hating mother who has no idea how to use her smartphone will say things like, “I’ll Ka-talk you later.”

According to the MT report, KakaoTalk refuses to develop a Tizen app for Samsung’s Galaxy Watch because “there is no reason to,” as the market is small and “development is rather difficult.” The best KakaoTalk integration you can get on a Samsung watch is a notification when you receive a KakaoTalk message and the ability to reply with a smart response from the notification screen. The Apple Watch already has a KakaoTalk app where you can view all your chats, send special KakaoTalk-specific emojis, send voice messages, and also reply using smart responses. There’s also already an Android version of the app, so extending that to Wear OS would be less of a headache.

But is this really a compelling reason for Samsung to throw Tizen under the bus? Yes. I don’t know how to accurately convey the power of the extreme national pride Koreans have for home-grown tech, brands, and talent. The best I can say is from the moment you land in Seoul’s Incheon Airport, everything is Samsung. My relatives in Korea are Samsung phone evangelists, and many of them are perplexed why some of us in the American branch of our family use iPhones at all. Do we have no pride? I’m not joking when I say it’s a legitimate point of contention that’s made for awkward moments at family reunions. When Gangnam Style and K-pop landed in America, it was worn as a badge of honor that even the Americans finally recognized Korea’s cultural capital. Most of my conversations with my mom start with a factoid about some Korean accomplishment, such as, “Do you know that Incheon Airport is rated the best airport in the world?” Do not even get me started on when Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Samsung looms large within the Korean consciousness and so does KakaoTalk. Even though the majority of smartwatch users in Korea use a Samsung, lacking a dedicated KakaoTalk app is a colossal omission for Korea’s most powerful company in its home market.

Broadly speaking, Samsung likely wants more apps to work with its smartwatches and hasn’t made much headway. It’s the one thing that’s stopping it from being the best smartwatch for all Android users outright. Right now its main victory on the third-party app front is that Spotify’s Tizen app is way better than its Wear OS app. Switching back to Wear OS is most definitely a long-term strategic move that may have always been inevitable. But if KakaoTalk was willing to make a dedicated Tizen app, I’m not sure Samsung would throw in the towel just yet.

7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Google is pretty regularly adds new features to Gmail, but there’s always room for improvement, and third-party developers have been quick to plug the gaps. Here are seven browser add-ons that are polished and powerful enough to be native features (and hopefully will be one day…).

Advertisement


1. Checker Plus for Gmail (Chrome, Edge)

Checker Plus for Gmail is a totally different way of checking for new email. Rather than having a Gmail tab always open, you can click the Checker Plus for Gmail icon on the Chrome toolbar to see new messages and quickly process them. You can mark messages as read, delete them, and generally manage your inbox without even launching Gmail.

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Checker Plus for Gmail

There’s support for multiple Gmail accounts, so it’s really good for managing multiple Google email addresses, and we really like what this browser extension does in terms of customizations as well—you can configure which inbox labels get shown, set up a Do Not Disturb window, alter the look and appearance of the add-on window, and more.


Imagine if emails weren’t flooding into your inbox every minute and every hour of the day; instead, they arrived only when you allowed them to. It might go a long way to reducing email anxiety and inbox distraction, and this is exactly what Inbox When Ready provides. The core feature of the add-on, brilliant in its simplicity, is to completely hide your Gmail inbox from view.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Inbox When Ready

You can still search through and compose emails, but you’re not constantly seeing unread counts and alerts about new messages. Inbox When Ready keeps track of the times when you decide to show your inbox as normal, and you can configure the extension to lock you out of your email at certain times, or limit the total time you can look at your emails for.

Advertisement


Todoist is a full-fledged app in its own right, but its associated browser extension is a perfect example of the sort of extra functionality that could be added to Gmail. While Google has made some effort to integrate Google Tasks with its email client, the Todoist browser add-on is a much more polished and much more capable option.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Todoist

The Todoist for Gmail extension adds a new button on the toolbar for opened messages, so you can quickly add a new to-do based on the message you’re reading. You can still edit the title, frequency and other settings for the task as you go. You also get access to your lists from the pop-up box in the lower right-hand corner of the Gmail interface.

Advertisement


Boomerang initially made its name as a great option for scheduling messages in Gmail, and even though that’s now a native feature Google added to Gmail, Boomerang is still worth a look for all the other tweaks and tricks that it brings: reminders for unanswered emails, help with composing messages, an inbox pause option, and more.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Boomerang

The first change you’ll notice when you install Boomerang is a big Pause Inbox button on the left that you can use to stop the flood of incoming emails. You also get new buttons added to various other screens, so you can use the browser extension to hide emails until you’re ready for them, or schedule emails to be sent at a specific time in the future.

Advertisement


5. Simplify Gmail (Chrome, Edge) 

Google usually maintains a minimal aesthetic, but there’s no doubt that the Gmail interface can get cluttered at times, and that’s where Simplify Gmail comes in. As the name suggests, it tweaks the look of Gmail on the web to focus on what’s most important, meaning fewer distractions for you as you work through your busy inbox.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Simplify Gmail

The extension was put together by one of the co-founders of the now defunct Inbox by Gmail, and it borrows some of the visual ideas of that app. There’s more white space, the option to hide a lot of the on-screen elements, a better layout for conversations, and clever use of background images, too—and all of this can be easily customized if needed.

Advertisement


Simple Gmail Notes simply lets you append notes to the email messages in your Gmail inbox, which is actually a more useful feature than you might think, and one that we hope is on the radar of at least one Google engineer. Being able to add notes to individual emails and conversation threads means you need never lose track of an idea or a contact again.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Simple Gmail Notes

How you decide to use Simple Gmail Notes is entirely up to you. You might want to add notes on contacts, clients, or projects, or set yourself reminders for follow-up emails, for example. Your notes get synced across devices courtesy of Google Drive, and you can take control of where the notes appear on screen as well as the default colors used for them.

Advertisement


One useful feature we’d like to see Google add to Gmail is the option to flag and block common email-tracking technologies. These are typically little tracking pixels hidden in emails that enable the sender to see when and where you open up the email, and even the app you used to browse your inbox. That’s where Trocker comes in.

Advertisement

Illustration for article titled 7 Gmail Browser Extensions That Are So Good They Should Be Native Features

Screenshot: Trocker

The extension will keep a careful eye on your inbox, stopping these pixel trackers from loading and giving you a heads up about which messages include them (the tracking pixel itself gets replaced by a little Trocker image, too). As an added bonus, it works with just about every web email app, so the online Outlook and Yahoo portals are also covered.

Advertisement

WhatsApp Will Turn Your Account Into a Useless Zombie If You Don’t Accept Its New Privacy Policy

Illustration for article titled WhatsApp Will Turn Your Account Into a Useless Zombie If You Don't Accept Its New Privacy Policy

Image: WhatsApp, Graphic: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

After facing international backlash over impending updates to its privacy policy, WhatsApp has ever-so-slightly backtracked on the harsh consequences it initially planned for users who don’t accept them—but not entirely.

Advertisement

In an update to the company’s FAQ page, WhatsApp clarifies that no users will have their accounts deleted or instantly lose app functionality if they don’t accept the new policies. It’s a step back from what WhatsApp had been telling users up until this point. When this page was first posted back in February, it specifically told users that those who don’t accept the platform’s new policies “won’t have full functionality” until they do. The threat of losing functionality is still there, but it won’t be automatic.

“For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app,” WhatsApp wrote at the time. While the deadline to accept was initially early February, the blowback the company got from, well, just about everyone, caused the deadline to be postponed until May 15—this coming Saturday.

After that, folks that gave the okay to the new policy won’t notice any difference to their daily WhatsApp experience, and neither will the people that didn’t—at least at first. “After a period of several weeks, the reminder [to accept] people receive will eventually become persistent,” WhatsApp wrote, adding that users getting these “persistent” reminders will see their app stymied pretty significantly: For a “few weeks,” users won’t be able to access their chat lists, but will be able to answer incoming phone and video calls made over WhatsApp. After that grace period, WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone entirely (until you accept).

So while WhatsApp isn’t technically disabling your app, the company is making it pretty much unusable.

What these “persistent reminders” will look like.

What these “persistent reminders” will look like.
Graphic: WhatsApp

It’s worth mentioning here that if you keep the app installed but still refuse to accept the policy for whatever reason, WhatsApp won’t outright delete your account because of that. That said, WhatsApp will probably delete your account due to “inactivity” if you don’t connect for 120 days, as is WhatsApp policy.

Advertisement

In a statement to the Verge, a WhatsApp spokesperson reiterated what was already written in the new FAQ: that people’s accounts won’t be deleted, that they’ll continue to receive reminders, and that they won’t lose functionality on the day the deadline hits:

We’ve spent the last several months providing more information about our update to users around the world.

In that time, the majority of people who have received it have accepted the update and WhatsApp continues to grow. However, for those that have not yet had a chance to do so, their accounts will not be deleted or lose functionality on May 15. We’ll continue to provide reminders to those users within WhatsApp in the weeks to come.

Advertisement

While the company has done the bare minimum in explaining what this privacy policy update actually means, the company hasn’t done much to assuage the concerns of lawyers, lawmakers, or really anyone else. And it doesn’t look like these new “reminders” will put them at ease, either.

Microsoft Is Cutting the Adobe Flash Cord in July

Illustration for article titled Microsoft Is Cutting the Adobe Flash Cord in July

Image: Sam Rutherford

Adobe Flash officially reached end of life at the end of 2020, and now Microsoft is removing Flash from Windows 10 this summer.

Advertisement

While Microsoft had already started to remove support for Flash from a number of its apps, including its Edge browser, there is still some native support for Adobe’s Flash Player built into Windows 10 itself, which Microsoft is now planning to remove via Windows Update KB4577586: “Update for Removal of Adobe Flash Player.”

In a recent update to a previous blog post on the matter, Microsoft said it will begin sending out the patch to remove Adobe Flash from Windows 10 starting in June, first to users who are part of Microsoft’s Preview program before the patch becomes a mandatory update in July. Microsoft says that going forward, all systems running Windows 10 version 21H1 or later will have Flash removed by default.

In addition to removing native Flash support from Windows 10, Microsoft is also planning on removing Flash from older versions of Windows as well, including Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Embedded 8 Standard. And in case you don’t want to wait for June, you can also remove Flash from Windows 10 manually by downloading and installing the KB4577586 update from the Microsoft Update Catalog here.

Adobe Flash has been on its way out for the past several years, so it makes sense for Microsoft to do a final pass and remove native support for Flash from Windows 10, thereby eliminating all the security issues often associated with Adobe’s outdated multimedia format.

However, for those feeling nostalgic about Flash games from days gone by, you can still play a number of titles using the Internet Archive. And if you don’t find the specific game you’re looking for, you can also try apps like BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint, which is essentially a multi-platform Flash emulator for Windows, macOS, and Linux PCs.

Depending on which install you choose and what OS you’re on, Flashpoint even comes with a library of more than 38,000 old Flash games (the total file size for Flashpoint Ultimate 9.0 is a whopping 532GB), providing you with a wealth of content from a previous generation of the internet.

Advertisement

Flash is dead; long live Flash.

Ethereum Surges to $3,200, Making Its Creator the Youngest Crypto Billionaire

Illustration for article titled Ethereum Surges to $3,200, Making Its Creator the Youngest Crypto Billionaire

Photo: Jack Taylor (Getty Images)

Amidst an ongoing crypto surge, Ether soared to new market heights Monday, becoming one of the priciest cryptocurrencies in circulation. The Ethereum blockchain-based token is now worth around $3,200, making its total market capitalization higher than Bank of America, Paypal, and Nestle.

Advertisement

The new valuation has also made Ether’s creator, the 27-year-old Russian-Canadian computer programmer Vitalik Buterin, the world’s youngest crypto billionaire. At the age of 19, Buterin helped create the Ethereum blockchain and has served as a manager of the blockchain since 2013.

Ether, which is the second-largest cryptocurrency next to Bitcoin, has seen a meteoric rise in value over the past year. Some twelve months ago, the coin was trading at $210. As of last week, it sat at $2,500. As of today, it has quadrupled in value for the year so far and at least one analyst is now suggesting the coin could go as high as $5,000 by the end of the week.

The coin’s run is due in part to Ethereum’s role in launching the NFT craze currently sweeping the Internet. Investors, some skilled but many unskilled, have flocked to the Ethereum platform over the last several months to take part in the buying and selling of digital art tokens, the likes of which have generated billions of dollars.

At the same time, the U.S. is also currently undergoing a surge in crypto investment, even as authorities worldwide attempt to crack down on its proliferation. The combined value of the crypto industry now ranks at $2.3 trillion, more than “$100 billion more than the market cap of Apple,” the Independent reports. Bitcoin still represents the largest share of the market by a significant margin, though some financial analysts interpret Ether’s recent gains as an example of how decentralized finance may become more ubiquitous in the near future.

This New App Lets You Turn Anything and Everything Into an NFT

A digital display device featuring Beeple’s artwork that was sold via Christie’s auction house.

A digital display device featuring Beeple’s artwork that was sold via Christie’s auction house.
Photo: mundissima (Shutterstock)

Despite the fact that a majority of Americans still don’t know what an NFT is, the non-fungibles have really taken over the country—burrowing their way into our wallets and also, apparently, our hearts.

Advertisement

America’s confusion likely stems from the fact that NFTs can be pretty much anything. Since the designation refers to a technical process by which a digital file is minted on the blockchain and transformed into a crypto asset, lots of stuff can qualify—so long as it goes through that process. So while the list of non-fungibles has included highfalutin content like postmodern murals and digital art videos, it has also included images of toilet paper, Gucci Mane’s sneakers, and something called a Pringles CryptoCrisp.

Well, if you have an iPhone, now you can turn practically anything into a unique, one-of-a-kind digital token. A new app is out that, by its own admission, lets you turn “every idea” into an NFT. It’s called S!NG, and it is the first and only free iOS app designed to let you create as many NFTs as you want. Where previously you would have had to pay a crypto exchange to get your asset minted, S!NG does all the minting for you, free of charge.

Founded by ex-Apple executive Geoff Osler, the company has sought to make its product really easy to use, too: it has a point-and-click function—so it’s basically as simple as taking a picture or making a recording on your phone to create them. You can also upload files. A spokesperson for the company laid it down like this:

S!NG allows anyone to create a gas-free NFT. Picture, sound bite, file, etc. Upload or point and shoot; once loaded up, the file is time-stamped on the Ethereum blockchain and therefore minted as an NFT.

That “gas-free” part is important, as it refers to the fees that are associated with minting NFTs. On most NFT exchange platforms, users are responsible for paying a “gas” fee, which covers the cost of actually creating the crypto asset. These can be pretty pricy, so it’s a good thing that S!NG lets you off the hook.

As the name of the app might suggest, it’s being marketed to artists and musicians. A video on the company’s website claims that S!NG wants to use NFTs to protect creators from intellectual property theft—which is an interesting idea. The thinking here seems to be that because the non-fungibles designate specific ownership over a unique digital asset, they can preclude you from getting your song lyrics or digital recording copied and legally foisted away from you. Thus, the website claims S!NG is the “easiest way to put a stamp on an idea, label it as your own, convert to an NFT and stored in a centralized portfolio,” also adding that the app is a space where ideas can be shared “confidently and hesitation free, without having to lawyer up.” In other words, it’s like that old trick of sending yourself a certified letter to copyright text or song lyrics: it works, but only barely.

Advertisement

While this all sounds pretty good, the flip side is that it makes S!NG sound almost like a notepad app, where every note becomes an NFT. When you consider the ecological toll that NFTs purportedly are wreaking on the world, maybe it’s not a great idea to make every thought you jot down a non-fungible? Then again, people are apparently working on this problem, so maybe we can assume it’ll be a short-lived issue.

Putting all that aside, the fact that the app has made NFT-creation so accessible is pretty wild, any way you slice it. The startup just completed its’ second round of private financing in March, and seems to be well on its way to becoming a very widely used product. The app’s designers have made it clear that accessibility is what they’re really offering here—which is a good thing to offer when you’re dealing with a poorly understood phenomenon.

Advertisement

“There is no learning curve or background in crypto needed to use our platform,” said the company’s spokesperson. “If you can take a picture, you can create an NFT.”

Twitter Is Finally Fixing Its Trash Photo Quality

Illustration for article titled Twitter Is Finally Fixing Its Trash Photo Quality

Photo: Bethany Clarke / Stringer (Getty Images)

Twitter has a bunch of big problems, and most of them are easy to identify: free speech issues; rampant harassment on the platform; difficult-to-mitigate abuses by electeds and other officials in positions of power. Thankfully, on Wednesday Twitter announced that it had decided to fix the absolute least of those issues and would immediately begin allowing users to post higher-resolution images on mobile. As someone who also tackles my problems from smallest to largest only to get tired after the small stuff and call it a day without making any meaningful or substantial changes in my life, I have no choice but to stand in solidarity with Twitter’s strategy here.

Advertisement

Effective Wednesday, all Twitter users will now have the option to post and view photos in 4K on iOS and Android. Although users could always view images at resolutions up to 4096 x 4096 on Twitter’s web app, the mobile version had previously limited resolution to a meager 2048 x 2048, making for a grainy, yucky viewing experience.

The news about increased image resolution comes just over a month after Twitter announced that it was retooling the way users could share media on the platform, which included testing on how images appear in the Tweet composer and how they appear in their final form on the timeline. Crucially, this fix was targeting the problematic crop feature that Twitter employs, wherein idiots like me try to post a photo and Twitter algorithmically crops it to within an inch of its life, erasing vital context and forcing me to shamefully delete my own tweet seconds after it’s posted.

There’s still no word on when the auto-crop travesty will be rectified, but the resolution issue can be taken care of immediately, as long as users update their high-quality image preferences in their “data usage” settings of the Twitter app. And while higher-quality images do sound nice in theory, there’s no guarantee that they’ll make my personal tweets suck any less. Seems unfair to me, when you think about it.

Signal’s CEO Just Hacked the Cops’ Favorite Phone Cracking Tool and Became a Legend

Illustration for article titled Signal's CEO Just Hacked the Cops' Favorite Phone Cracking Tool and Became a Legend

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/Signal

Israeli digital intelligence firm Cellebrite sells software designed to unlock phones and extract their data. As a result, its products are a favorite of law enforcement agencies across the U.S., and police frequently use them to gather evidence from seized devices. In the past, the company has received criticism for its willingness to sell to pretty much any government—including repressive regimes around the world. However, despite its mission to compromise phone security everywhere, Cellebrite would appear to have little interest in securing its own software—if you believe the CEO of encrypted chat app Signal.

Advertisement

In a blog post published Wednesday, Moxie Marlinspike claimed that Cellebrite’s software has atrocious security that can be easily manipulated in a number of pretty astounding ways.

“We were surprised to find that very little care seems to have been given to Cellebrite’s own software security. Industry-standard exploit mitigation defenses are missing, and many opportunities for exploitation are present,” Marlinspike writes. “Until Cellebrite is able to accurately repair all vulnerabilities in its software with extremely high confidence, the only remedy a Cellebrite user has is to not scan devices.”

Among many wild claims made in the blog, Marlinspike says that because of security flaws, someone could basically re-write all of the data being collected by Cellebrite’s tools. Hypothetically, a uniquely configured file could be slipped into any app on a targeted device—allowing for the alteration of all of the data that has been or will be collected by Cellebrite’s software.

Such a file could alter data “in any arbitrary way (inserting or removing text, email, photos, contacts, files, or any other data), with no detectable timestamp changes or checksum failures,” the blog states. It continues:

“Given the number of opportunities present, we found that it’s possible to execute arbitrary code on a Cellebrite machine simply by including a specially formatted but otherwise innocuous file in any app on a device that is subsequently plugged into Cellebrite and scanned. There are virtually no limits on the code that can be executed.”

The blog even includes a video, spliced with scenes from the movie Hackers, that shows just how easily Cellebrite’s software can be hijacked:

Advertisement

On top of everything, the blog makes another pretty bold claim: code that apparently is the intellectual property of Apple appears within Cellebrite’s software—something Marlinspike says “might present a legal risk for Cellebrite and its users.” In other words, Cellebrite might be selling code that belongs to its biggest adversary.

If all of these disclosures are true, it could have pretty massive ramifications for Cellebrite. If we can assume it’s really this easy for someone to break into the company’s software and drastically alter the data that police are collecting, how certain can law enforcement be that the evidence they are collecting is actually correct? What would the legal ramifications be for the cases that have hinged on Cellebrite’s software, if its security is really so paltry? Anyone who’s been involved in a case that used this software should probably be calling their lawyer right now.

Advertisement

The fact that Marlinspike has very publicly outed these security concerns—and done so without prior disclosure to Cellebrite, as is standard industry practice—could definitely be viewed as a swipe, if not an outright backhanded slap to the face. It’s hard not to read all of this as some sort of retort to Cellebrite’s recent claims that it can crack Signal’s encryption—surely a claim that stuck in Marlinspike’s craw. To top everything off, the Signal CEO actually ends the blog by really making it sound like Signal plans to spam Cellebrite with some sort of malware-adjacent files in the future:

In completely unrelated news, upcoming versions of Signal will be periodically fetching files to place in app storage. These files are never used for anything inside Signal and never interact with Signal software or data, but they look nice, and aesthetics are important in software…We have a few different versions of files that we think are aesthetically pleasing, and will iterate through those slowly over time. There is no other significance to these files.

Advertisement

Shots fired, indeed. We have reached out to Cellebrite for comment and will update this story if we hear back from them.

UPDATE, 6:50 p.m., Wednesday, April 21: In response to request for comment, a spokesperson for Cellebrite sent us the following statement:

Cellebrite enables customers to protect and save lives, accelerate justice and preserve privacy in legally sanctioned investigations. We have strict licensing policies that govern how customers are permitted to use our technology and do not sell to countries under sanction by the US, Israel or the broader international community. Cellebrite is committed to protecting the integrity of our customers’ data, and we continually audit and update our software in order to equip our customers with the best digital intelligence solutions available.

Advertisement

Reddit’s Reportedly Cooking Up Its Own Clubhouse-Like Voice Chat Feature

Illustration for article titled Reddit's Reportedly Cooking Up Its Own Clubhouse-Like Voice Chat Feature

Photo: Olivier Douliery (Getty Images)

Rumor has it the front page of the internet may be the latest online platform cooking up a social audio feature a la the voice-only chat app Clubhouse.

Advertisement

Reddit is quietly working on incorporating moderator-run voice chats onto the platform, a person familiar with the matter said in a Friday Mashable report. In an interview with the outlet, the source described the feature’s development as confidential and still in its early stages.

If this voice chat feature ever does see the light of day, odds are it’ll roll out under Reddit’s “power-ups” banner, an initiative the company launched last year to experiment with new subscription-based features specific to individual subreddits.

In its initial announcement, Reddit listed several examples of these features, called power-ups, such as the “ability to upload and stream up to HD quality video,” “video file limits doubled,” and “inline GIFs in comments,” among others. Subreddits can unlock these perks after enough of their members purchase monthly power-up subscriptions, with the minimum threshold for each community determined by its size.

At the time, Reddit made it crystal clear it wanted to hear from users for future suggestions.

“The new experiment helps create a framework that allows us to add ‘nice to have’ features for subreddits,” Reddit said in its announcement in August. “We are starting with a few handpicked features and expect to add more as we get input from you and the communities that have opted into our early testing.”

Given all the buzz about social audio services these days, I suspect “voice chat” scored pretty high on the list of suggestions. Though I can understand why Reddit may want to keep things under wraps for now given how royally it screwed up trying to introduce chat rooms last year. TLDR: Reddit pushed out the feature with little forewarning and seemingly zero thought about moderation, as subreddit mods couldn’t opt-out of chats or control them. It was a disaster. 

Advertisement

Reddit did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when they do.

Time will tell if this audio chat craze is a flash in the pan, but what is clear is that the landscape is quickly becoming crowded. Clubhouse has inspired several copycats since its launch in March 2020, with Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack, and TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, all reportedly rushing to get in on the action with their own audio chat features. Facebook also began beta testing for its Clubhouse clone, a web-based Q&A platform that it’s calling Hotline, this week.

Advertisement

An Android App That Promised Free Netflix Shockingly Just Highly Annoying Malware

Illustration for article titled An Android App That Promised Free Netflix Shockingly Just Highly Annoying Malware

Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP (Getty Images)

So-called pirating apps have been around for years—and they have only gained popularity since covid-19 put us all indefinitely on the couch, phone in hand, awaiting a reason (that never comes) to stop streaming.

Advertisement

Well, not all pirating apps have your content-viewing interests in mind. Enter “FlixOnline.” Until recently, this app sat in Google’s Play Store, promising users the opportunity to gain free mobile access to Netflix from anywhere in the world, even if they didn’t have an account. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Yes, well, exactly.

FlixOnline, discovered by security firm Check Point Research, never actually let users binge Breaking Bad or whatever. Instead, the researchers say, it delivered a self-replicating worm onto their devices—the likes of which could potentially be used by hackers in phishing and data-theft operations.

According to researchers, the Flix wormable malware burrows into a phone by abusing its permissions, then uses a victim’s WhatsApp conversations to spread itself. As soon as you download it, Flix asks for access to a variety of your device’s controls. It then hijacks your WhatsApp and uses it to send spammy messages to people who message you. For instance, if your friend sends you, “Hey dude, whaddup,” Flix will secretly auto-reply for you, sending them a, uh, really subtle advertisement for its fake services:

“2 Months of Netflix Premium Free at no cost For REASON OF QUARANTINE (CORONA VIRUS)* VIRUS)* Get 2 Months of Netflix Premium Free anywhere in the world for 60 days. Get it now HERE” [insert malicious link].

If your friend, lost in a confused fog—baffled by the fact that their pal of many years has transformed, overnight, into a robotic Netflix shill—happens to click on the link provided, they get directed to a website where they can download the app, and the malware replicates itself anew. Researchers say the site could easily serve as a way for hackers to steal a victim’s personal information. In truth, it’s hard to imagine most people being, let’s say, gullible enough to follow that last step, but then again, “123456″ remains a popular password.

So, voila! It’s like a moral lesson about the ills of piracy, packed into a very, very stupid app—an app that does literally nothing except hijack your conversations with friends and loved ones to re-spawn its own daft, useless existence.

Advertisement

Of course, the access supplied by an app like this means a bad actor could definitely abuse it to do more than send annoying messages (they could steal your private information and thereby entrap you in an extortion scheme, for instance). Additionally, if the messages being sent to a victim’s contacts were modified to something other than a hacky Netflix ad, or additional malicious links were added to the hijacked WhatsApp messages, a person could have quite a mess on their hands. So, it’s not just an annoying app, but potentially dangerous, too.

Perhaps the worst thing here is that Flix sat in the Play Store for approximately two months, compromising about 500 devices, according to Check Point (the app has since been taken down). It’s another great example of how Google hasn’t always done an amazing job when it comes to weeding out bad apps being distributed on its platform.

Advertisement

“The fact that the malware was able to be disguised so easily and ultimately bypass Play Store’s protections raises some serious red flags,” said Aviran Hazum, manager of mobile intelligence at Check Point. He added that, while this specific malware campaign was halted, the same malware could be deployed again via a different fake app. So… be careful out there, my pirate friends. Remember: There’s no such thing as free content.