Microsoft Is Rolling Out Dolby Vision for Xbox Series X and S Insiders

Illustration for article titled Microsoft Is Rolling Out Dolby Vision for Xbox Series X and S Insiders

Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

If you’re a part of the Xbox Insider Alpha ring, good news: Microsoft is rolling out Dolby Vision on the Xbox Series X and S consoles this week.

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Dolby Vision is an HDR format that adds dynamic metadata to an image, which translates to brighter highlights, sharper contrasts, and more vibrant colors. It was initially announced for the next-gen Xbox consoles back in September, making them the first ever to support the format. The news was tweeted out earlier today by Microsoft’s Larry Hryb, the director of programming for Xbox Live. If you are an Insider, you’ll want to make sure your TV’s firmware is updated and has the specs to play Dolby Vision content.

Both the Xbox Series X and S already support HDR, but it’s the slightly less beefy HDR10. HDR10 also receives metadata for HDR images, but it’s static. The difference with Dolby Vision is that you’re getting a continually optimized image for your TV.

This also isn’t the first we’ve heard of Xbox Insider members dabbling with Dolby Vision. Forbes reported in March that some Alpha Ring testers had noticed HDR games were outputting in Dolby Vision on compatible TVs. At the time, those lucky few noted that the picture seemed to be brighter, with black and color saturation levels appearing more refined. However, it was limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, not 120Hz. That’s because many TVs still don’t support Dolby Vision gaming at 4K/120Hz, though a separate Forbes report noted that Dolby was working with TV makers to fix this.

Right now, it’s not certain which games will support Dolby Vision or when the format will roll out to everyone. However, back in September, Microsoft said Dolby Vision would be available for everyone in 2021. It’s not uncommon for companies to roll out newer features to a select few before releasing it to everyone. Given that Xbox Insiders are getting to play in Dolby Vision this week, it’s not ridiculous to assume the format should be available to everyone else soon. Well, so long as you were able to snag one of these hard-to-find consoles in the first place.

Google Cloud Teams up With SpaceX in Satellite Internet Connectivity Deal

Illustration for article titled Google Cloud Teams up With SpaceX in Satellite Internet Connectivity Deal

Photo: Jim Watson (Getty Images)

Google announced Thursday that it’s partnering with SpaceX to link Elon Musk’s ambitious satellite internet service Starlink with Google’s cloud infrastructure. The alliance marks a major win for Google in its competition with other tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft to dominate the fast-growing cloud computing market.

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SpaceX will install ground stations at Google’s cloud data centers around the world to connect to its Starlink satellites to start providing the network’s speedy internet service to Google’s enterprise cloud customers by the second half of this year, Google said in a press release. The first terminal will be installed at Google’s New Albany, Ohio, data center, a SpaceX spokesperson told the Verge, adding that further details about the partnership will be shared in the coming months.

“We are delighted to partner with SpaceX to ensure that organizations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams up and running,” said Urs Hölzle, senior VP of infrastructure at Google Cloud, in Thursday’s press release.

While the partnership isn’t exclusive—Microsoft announced plans in October to connect SpaceX’s network to its Azure cloud service—it should help Google keep up with Amazon and its burgeoning Project Kuiper, which plans to launch more than 3,000 interconnected broadband satellites into orbit to supply internet connections to an estimated 95% of the planet.

The SpaceX-Google deal involves providing internet access “to businesses, public sectors organizations, and many other groups operating around the world,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in the press release. “Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organizations with the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect.”

This isn’t Google and SpaceX’s first time collaborating. The search giant invested $900 million into SpaceX in 2015 to fund the development of its satellites and other technology.

To date, SpaceX has launched more than 1,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, making it the world’s largest satellite constellation. Last week, the company said more than 500,000 people have placed an order or put a deposit down on the internet service so far. SpaceX also scored another big win in December 2020 when it secured an $885 million U.S. government contract to provide high-speed internet to underserved, rural areas of the nation.

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Update Windows (and Lots of Other Stuff) ASAP: ‘FragAttack’ Bugs Found Lurking in Millions of Wifi Devices

Illustration for article titled Update Windows (and Lots of Other Stuff) ASAP: 'FragAttack' Bugs Found Lurking in Millions of Wifi Devices

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri (Getty Images)

A slew of new wifi vulnerabilities impact everything from cellphones and routers to, well, anything wifi-connected, according to a new report by a Belgian cybersecurity expert.

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Mathy Vanhoef—who you might know for co-discovering the widespread wifi KRACK attack back in 2017—dubbed this new collection of vulnerabilities “fragmentation and aggregation attacks,” or FragAttacks for short. In a nutshell, these are a collection of 12 different vulnerabilities that could potentially leak user information or attack a given device, if probed by a bad actor within wifi range.

Per Vanhoef’s explanation on the dedicated FragAttacks site he set up, nine of these flaws stem from programming hiccups in specific wifi products, and the other three are due to-baked in bugs in the wifi standard itself—even the security protocol some wifi networks use, called WEP, is impacted.

The good news here is that these particular flaws are pretty hard to probe, since it either requires actual “user interaction,” or is only possible when using an obscure network setting, Vanhoef wrote.

The good news here is that manufacturers are already patching their products against future FragAttacks, just in case. Yesterday, for example, Microsoft issued three separate updates to address three of the more common vulnerabilities and applied these patches to Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7. If any of those are your OS of choice, you should update those devices ASAP. Netgear, meanwhile, already put up an advisory page about these attacks, saying that the company has already pushed out a few patches for some of their products, with more on the way.

Even if your devices aren’t patched yet, Vanhoef recommended some basic cybersecurity tips to keep yourself safe from any fraggers hiding in the shadows: use a strong, unique Wi-Fi password, and make sure you’re connecting to websites using the HTTPS encryption protocol whenever possible.

Read more details about wifi FragAttacks on Vanhoef’s website here.

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The PS5 Shortage Will Likely Stretch Into 2022

Illustration for article titled The PS5 Shortage Will Likely Stretch Into 2022

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

If you were hoping it’d get easier to snag a PlayStation 5, Sony’s got some bad news for you. In a call with analysts, Sony warned that they likely won’t be able to meet PS5 demand and restock stores through 2022.

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According to Bloomberg, Sony reported it had sold 7.8 million PS5s through March 31 and is targeting 14.8 million units for this fiscal year. However, in the six months since the console launched, Sony admitted it was struggling to keep up with demand. That tracks, as the NPD Group recently dubbed the console as the fastest-selling in U.S. history. While the PS5 is selling well, it looks like the disparity between supply and demand will continue into next year, with no official timeline for when Sony expects the shortage to end.

This flies in the face of recent comments made by Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment. A few months ago, Ryan intimated that PS5 stock would pick up in the second half of 2021, possibly ending the frustrating shortage by the holiday season.

Scalpers and bots certainly haven’t helped, but Sony says the main culprit is that pesky global chip shortage, which has impacted gadget makers both big and small. Bloomberg quotes Sony Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki as saying that even if Sony were to secure more devices and ramp up production next year, Sony’s “supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand.” Totoki also asserted that demand for the console would remain high, even as the surge in at-home gaming due to the pandemic seems to be leveling off. Sony said Playstation Network’s monthly active users dropped to 109 million this past quarter, down from 114 million the previous quarter. Sales of full games also declined compared to last year.

As far as gaming consoles go, the PlayStation 5 isn’t the only one facing supply issues. Microsoft has also been scrambling to meet demand for its Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, to the point where it recently asked GPU and CPU maker AMD for help. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch was famously hard to find at the beginning of the pandemic, which prompted Nintendo to pledge it would significantly ramp up production. However, the immensely popular Switch also isn’t immune to supply chain woes. Last week, Nintendo told investors that Switch sales would likely lose steam due to the global chip shortage, as well as increased competition from the PS5 and both new Xboxes.

Melinda Gates Reportedly Warned Bill Not to Pal Around With Infamous Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Illustration for article titled Melinda Gates Reportedly Warned Bill Not to Pal Around With Infamous Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP (Getty Images)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has strenuously denied that all those times he hung out with notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein—you know, the guy with the private jet and island compound who died in prison in 2019 before he could testify about who else was involved in his child sex abuse ring—was about anything other than milking the billionaire’s coffers for charity.

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Despite Gates’ insistence that he was not friends with Epstein, it emerged via the New York Times that Gates had hung out with Epstein on “numerous occasions” despite Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor in Florida being one of the most well-known facts about him. The Times wrote the hangouts included “at least three times at Mr. Epstein’s palatial Manhattan townhouse, and at least once staying late into the night.” Gates even penned a suspicious email to a staffer at his private foundation stating Epstein’s “lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me.” The meetings, which started in 2011 and included one time Gates flew with Epstein on his jet, apparently disturbed others with better judgment, including his soon-to-be ex-spouse Melinda Gates.

According to a report in the Daily Beast, associates of the Gates family say Melinda accurately read Epstein for filth and was furious with her husband for chumming around with him. The issue came to a head after a previously unreported meeting between Gates and the pedophilic billionaire “at Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion in September 2013, on the same day the couple accepted the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award at The Pierre hotel and were photographed alongside then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg.” Friends of the family told the site Bill’s cavorting with Epstein “still haunts Melinda”.

Bill and Melinda announced their impending divorce earlier this week after 27 years of marriage. There’s no indication in the Beast report that the Epstein connection was a specific factor in the split, though one could guess it probably didn’t help. In divorce filings, Melinda wrote their marriage was “irretrievably broken” and that they had already separated.

One person who attended many of the same events as Epstein, including a TED conference in California, told the site they absolutely suspected something was very off about the billionaire and it was easy to see why Melinda would be put off by him:

“I can’t make the claim that so many are claiming,” the person told The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, referring to people in Epstein’s orbit who’ve said they had no suspicions of Epstein’s abuse. “If you ask Bill Gates, he’ll say, ‘Oh I had absolutely no idea he wasn’t up to anything of the highest moral character.’ But I seriously doubted Epstein’s moral character.”

“The people around him,” the person added, referring to Epstein, “had a varying spectrum of what they knew and what they didn’t know and how they rationalized it.”

This person wasn’t surprised that Melinda Gates was put off by Epstein, saying “a lot of people were uncomfortable with Epstein, completely independent of his” sexual misconduct. “He just was an obnoxious guy. He almost made a point of having bad manners, not paying attention at dinner… I could see how anybody, even without suspicions, would not want to be around him.”

The relationship between Bill and Epstein seems to have faded in 2014 when Gates gave a now-infamous $2 million donation to the MIT Media Lab that its then-director Joichi Ito claimed was facilitated by Epstein. (Spokespeople for Gates have denied Epstein “directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates”; Ito resigned in disgrace in September 2019 after the full extent of his financial relationship with Epstein became public knowledge.) Around that time he began complaining to friends that the then-Microsoft chairman wasn’t returning his phone calls, according to the Beast.

However, Epstein was a prolific social climber who enjoyed surrounding himself with prominent figures in tech and science—perhaps in part because a circle of rich friends and associates might come in handy at deflecting any attention from his ongoing crimes. The Beast report noted a number of Gates and Microsoft associates also had ties with Epstein, including former Gates Foundation staffer and Epstein science adviser Melanie Walker, biotech investor and former Gates adviser Boris Nikolic, former Microsoft vice president Linda Stone, and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold.

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Spokespeople for Gates have insisted that the email in which he referred to Epstein’s intriguing lifestyle was “referring only to the unique decor” of Epstein’s residence, which is fair but sort of like a deflection, and “Epstein’s habit of spontaneously bringing acquaintances in to meet Mr. Gates,” which is perhaps not as reassuring as those spokespeople think.

Gates has been up to a lot more than denying he was ever friends with Epstein lately, such as impeding global access to coronavirus vaccines by using his Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator (a foundation intended to organize the research, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines) to relentlessly push to preserve pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights. He took the L there too. Amid intense global criticism that IP concerns were slowing down the production and distribution of vaccines across the world, Joe Biden’s administration announced this week it will negotiate with the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive patent rights to coronavirus vaccines.

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Windows 10X Reportedly Won’t Ship in 2021 as Microsoft Shifts Priorities

Illustration for article titled Windows 10X Reportedly Won't Ship in 2021 as Microsoft Shifts Priorities

Image: Microsoft

Despite being announced back in the fall of 2019 and having already suffered from multiple delays, a new report is claiming that Windows 10X won’t ship in 2021 and possibly may never see an official retail launch.

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The latest on Windows 10X’s development comes from longtime Windows insider Brad Sams at Petri, who according to “people familiar with the company’s plans” claims Microsoft will not release Windows 10X this year, and that “the OS as you know it today, will likely never arrive.”

In the report, Sams says following a number of setbacks, Microsoft has shifted resources away from the development of Windows 10X and back to core Windows 10, citing renewed questions from within Microsoft about the need for a more lightweight offshoot of its existing OS.

It seems one of the biggest issues for Windows 10X is that based on early customer feedback, Windows 10X didn’t really address challenges people face today, with Windows 10X also potentially causing increased fragmentation within the Windows 10 ecosystem.

Originally, Windows 10X was intended for use on dual-screen devices like Microsoft’s Surface Neo, before it shifted gears to become a more stripped-down version of Windows 10 meant to compete with Google’s ChromeOS.

However, with the release of the Surface Neo still nowhere in sight and Microsoft facing increasing competition from a new generation of ARM-based devices—most notably Apple’s M1-based gadgets—it seems Microsoft has decided to refocus its attention on support for ARM in Windows, while also choosing to roll features planned for Windows 10X back into core Windows 10.

With Windows 10 coming up on its sixth birthday in July, Sams says Microsoft is focusing even more on Sun Valley, which is Windows 10’s next big update that looks to include some major visual refreshes to the Windows 10 interface, a revamped Start menu, increased gesture support for Windows 10’s tablet mode, and more.

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While Windows 10x may have now been put on the backburner, Sams says Microsoft is still planning to migrate a number of Windows 10X features into core Windows 10, with the most likely candidates right now being app containers and some of Windows 10X’s UI elements.

One of the biggest questions that remain is how the deprioritization of Windows 10 will affect more futuristic devices like the Surface Neo and Asus’ Project Precog, which were dual-screen laptops designed to leverage some of the new multi-display features built into Window 10X. However, without an OS to properly support their innovative designs, it’s likely that those devices will also get delayed until Microsoft can build similar functionality into standard Windows 10.

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But stepping back, with Microsoft originally saying “Windows 10 is the last version of Windows” prior to the OS’s initial launch in 2015, perhaps it’s quite fitting that Windows 10X never ends up seeing the light of day.

RIP Windows 95 Icons

Illustration for article titled RIP Windows 95 Icons

Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

Bits and pieces of Microsoft’s sweeping aesthetic changes to Windows 10, codenamed Sun Valley, have dropped over the last few months. The OS is getting support for the Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) codec over Bluetooth, new folder icons, and reportedly a much-needed overhaul to its Microsoft Store user interface. (There may even be a new default font for Word, because apparently Calibri isn’t good enough anymore.) But Microsoft is also finally getting rid of remnants of Windows 95 that have somehow stuck around for 25 years: custom folder icons.

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According to Windows Latest, the Sun Valley update expected later this year modernizes the extra folder icons in the Shell32.DLL module, the module that’s existed in all Windows operating systems since Windows 95. If you’re unsure what those are, create a new folder on your Windows 10 desktop. Right click on it, go to Properties, click on the Customize tab, and then click on the Change Icon button at the bottom. That tiny window that pops up with all those icons? Those have been around since the mid-’90s, and are soon getting a facelift.

Microsoft has quietly made subtle changes to a few of those icons over the years, but nothing as robust has what’s coming to Windows 10. Classic icons like the hibernation monitor and floppy disks look totally different, although modernized to match the style of the new Drive and Recycle Bin desktop icons in the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21343.

Like those icons, nearly all the new icons in the Shell32.DLL module are all front-facing, and I have to say they look nice, It’s about time Microsoft changed up the old CRT monitor for its hibernation icon and changed it into a sleek ISP display. (That’s what I’m imagining it is, anyway.) But the history tech nerd in me does appreciate that Microsoft isn’t completely getting rid of all the icons with a floppy disk on them, even though regular consumers don’t have a need for those anymore.

There are many more icons available than what Windows Central shows, like a CD-RW, MSN Explorer, and iPod-esque icon, but those are particularly outdated. It’s not clear what Microsoft intends to do with those once Sun Valley rolls out to every Windows 10 user, but we could hear more at Microsoft’s Build conference later this month.

Update to iOS 14.5.1 Right Now or Your iPhone Is a Sitting Duck for Hackers

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on sale in London in October 2020.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on sale in London in October 2020.
Photo: Ming Yeung (Getty Images)

Apple has rushed out fixes to two major vulnerabilities in iOS and iPadOS 14.5, last month’s update that implemented its App Tracking Transparency feature. Both bugs could have allowed malicious parties to remotely execute code, possibly leading to the takeover of an affected device. That means you need to update your devices as soon as possible.

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According to Ars Technica, the 14.5.1 update on Monday mends two zero-day vulnerabilities (possibly already exploited in the wild) in Webkit, a rendering software that controls how web content is rendered in apps like Safari, the App Store, and others. Apple tagged the bugs as CVE-2021-30663 and CVE-2021-30665 in update notes; as Ars Technica explains, both issues were also noticed and patched in MacOS 11.3.1, released on Monday.

Both have an identical impact listed and note that Apple is aware that they had possibly been used in cyberattacks:

Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to arbitrary code execution. Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.

Apple addressed one of the two vulnerabilities, a “memory corruption issue,” “with improved state management,” after being flagged by researchers with Chinese firm Qihoo 360. In the other vulnerability, reported to Apple by an anonymous engineer, “An integer overflow was addressed with improved input validation.”

According to ThreatPost, Apple also fixed another issue (CVE-2021-30666) in the iOS 12.5.3 update for older devices that could have similarly led to “arbitrary code execution.” Google’s Project Zero, which keeps a running tally of major zero-day vulnerabilities, is up to 21 so far this year, seven of which affected Apple products—all but one of them having to do with Webkit. Microsoft also stands at eight zero-day vulnerabilities, while Google is up to five, and Adobe had one.

A separate element in 14.5.1 fixed a bug with the previously released App Tracking Transparency feature, which gives users greater control over which apps have access to which data and is the subject of an ongoing spat with Facebook. According to Ars Technica, a separate bug where the toggle button for the feature remains improperly greyed out in the Settings menu doesn’t appear to have been fixed yet.

“This update fixes an issue with App Tracking Transparency where some users who previously disabled Allow Apps to Request to Track in Settings may not receive prompts from apps after re-enabling it,” Apple wrote. “This update also provides important security updates and is recommended for all users.”

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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.

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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.

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Flash is dead; long live Flash.

PlayStation and Discord Are Teaming Up

Discord’s new partnership with PlayStation could help it become the chat app for every platform.

Discord’s new partnership with PlayStation could help it become the chat app for every platform.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

Discord, the gamer-focused chat app that’s been in the news a bit more than usual recently, has partnered with Sony’s PlayStation. Details are scarce, but the statement put out by Sony promises to bring “the Discord and PlayStation experiences closer together on console and mobile” beginning next year.

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In a blog post, Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan revealed the two companies are “hard at work” connecting Discord with the PlayStation Network. The writing on the wall appears to be a full-fledged Discord experience baked into PlayStation consoles, or perhaps a Discord experience tailored to the console, so it’s easier to chat with folks in the app. PlayStation gamers usually have to deal with a whole dance of cables between a computer and the console to use Discord.

Ryan also said that Sony made a “minority investment” in Discord as part of its Series H funding, citing inspiration from both teams’ “shared passion to help bring friends and communities together in new ways.” The news comes hot on the heels of Discord reportedly turning down acquisition offers, including one from Microsoft.

The latest cash influx from Sony might help explain some of the motives behind Discord’s since-rescinded move to ban access to NSFW channels from the iOS app. The overarching consensus was that the company was reeling in some of its “wild west” tendencies to curry favor from outside investors. It’s not clear how much Sony invested in Discord, but the company has raised nearly $480 million in funding.

For its part, Discord continues as one of the reigning all-encompassing chat apps for gamers, along with a few other competitors like Mumble, Element, and TeamSpeak. New Discord features like Stage Channels, which allows Discord users to manage a voice broadcast with up to 1,000 attendants, suggest the company is setting its sights outside the gaming realm, or at least in a capacity where it’s considered alongside other massive community-based platforms like Twitch.

Though it said no to Microsoft’s offer to fold it into its gaming ecosystem, Discord has the upper hand once it launches a full-fledged PlayStation app. Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S players have access to a Discord app for their platform, but it’s limited to status changes and inviting friends to play along. A full-featured PlayStation app might spur Microsoft to offer Discord in full on the platform, especially since it’s already on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and even Linux.