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Security

Lil Nas X, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift were among the Vevo YouTube channels hacked Tuesday

On Tuesday morning, YouTube channels for some of the world’s biggest stars showered fans with strange music videos. Vevo channels for artists like Lil Nas X, Eminem, Drake, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, The Weeknd, Michael Jackson, Kanye West, and many others were affected. The channels in question have subscriber counts that add up to hundreds of millions. Before the videos disappeared, viewers saw bizarre clips of Paco Sanz, a Spanish conman sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted of fraud for lying about having terminal cancer, and rapper Lil Tjay.

YouTube did not respond to requests for comment from The Verge; however, Vevo — which bills itself as “the world’s leading music video network” — did acknowledge the incident. A spokesperson responded to contact via Vevo’s public press information and requested not to be named, citing the “nature” of the incident. They said in a statement that “Some videos were directly uploaded to a small number of Vevo artist channels earlier today by an unauthorized source.”

Besides noting that the videos are gone, they also claimed, “No pre-existing content was accessible to the source. While the artist channels have been secured and the incident has been resolved, as a best practice Vevo will be conducting a review of our security systems.”

Another Vevo-related breach in 2018 saw popular music videos defaced, while the then-most-viewed YouTube video of all time, “Despacito” (it is now second, behind “Baby Shark”), was vandalized and briefly removed.

Google and YouTube have recently focused on trying to secure popular channels. Last year a report highlighted a phishing campaign targeting creators, YouTube required millions of popular channels to enable two-step verification, and Google says it gave away hardware authentication keys to over 10,000 high-risk users.

Despite those precautions, an apparent compromise somewhere along Vevo’s pipeline allowed the attacker, who pointed to their Twitter handle @lospelaosbro in the posts, to continue uploading across high-profile channels for several hours.

The artists or the people who operate their pages were likely unable to do anything about the issue. Vevo’s artist information page explains that it works by creating a separate verified Artist Channel to upload videos, and YouTube merges that content with videos on the artist’s own YouTube page. A support page states that “Vevo does not provide access directly to artists.” Instead, independent content providers or the artist’s music label will upload the content to Vevo, which sends it to YouTube and other channels.



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Categories
Game

Discord finally brings text chat to voice channels

Discord’s audio chat has sometimes been a confusing experience — as you can’t type in a voice channel, you often have to switch between channels just to share a link or funny GIF. Clarity is coming at last, though. The service has enabled text chat in voice channels across all platforms. Each channel now includes a dedicated section where you can type to your heart’s content. You don’t have to join the call to participate, either, so you can pop in to offer help without too much disruption.

Voice channels now have the same permissions as regular text chats, so moderators can limit the ability to send messages, stickers and other content. Perks from ‘boosted’ servers, like larger file uploads, will carry over to voice channels.

The feature is free for all servers. It’s available now for servers that haven’t been set to “Community” status (that is, only private-use servers), but managers can opt in if they’re comfortable. All servers will have text enabled by June 29th.

Discord’s move could help reduce confusion, not to mention the proliferation of channels created solely to handle text chat for voice users. To some degree, it’s surprising the hybrid of voice and text wasn’t available before. However, it’s likely to be a welcome change of pace. Critics have accused Discord of focusing too much on Clubhouse-like broadcasts, Premium channel memberships and other features that go beyond the company’s original gaming focus. With text chat in voice channels, Discord is going back to basics with a feature users have wanted for a long time.

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Categories
Game

Discord gives server owners the tools to put channels behind a paywall

Discord has started testing a feature called Premium Memberships with a small group of users. The tool allows community owners to gate access to part or all of their server behind a monthly subscription fee. It’s something the company’s growing number of users, particularly admins and mods, have been asking it to implement for a while. Before today, those individuals had to turn to third-party services like Patreon to monetize access to their servers.

By contrast, the Premium Memberships tool creates a streamlined interface for that same purpose. A new tab under the “Community” heading in the app’s setting’s menu allows server owners to do things like set price tiers and view related analytics. The feature similarly streamlines the process of signing up for paid channels for users. If you want to support a community, you don’t need to leave Discord to do so. When you tap on a premium channel, indicated by the new “sparkle” icon in the sidebar, the client will tell how much you need to pay for access, as well as what perks you’ll gain for doing so.

Discord Premium Memberships

Discord

As for pricing, Discord says it will encourage server owners to experiment. As a baseline, the company will recommend a monthly fee of $2.99 as a minimum and $99.99 as a maximum. When it comes to most of the channels you visit, you probably won’t pay more than $5 or $10 a month for access. The top end of the price range is a reflection of how much Discord has changed since the start of the pandemic to accommodate a more diverse group of communities. Discord isn’t exclusively a place for gaming anymore.

“Access to a channel can seem simplistic, but it’s a foundational piece that someone can build a lot of flexibility on top of,” said Jesse Wofford, group product marketing manager at Discord, in an interview with Engadget. One of the server owners the company is working with on this week’s soft launch is someone who runs gaming bootcamps. According to Wofford, they’ve built an entire business around private lessons. The company wants to give those people the opportunity to create a sustainable business on its platform. 

Whatever someone decides to charge for access to their channels, the company plans to take a 10 percent cut of the subscription. “It’s an important stake in the ground for us that this product, like a lot of other ones, is built around creator success,” Wofford said. Additionally, for people who want to continue to use services like Patreon to monetize their channels, Discord won’t stop them from doing so. “One of the important things here is that we’re still investing in those relationships,” said Wofford. “We want to create an ecosystem that gives creators as many options to succeed as possible.”

Discord Premium Memberships

Discord

Premium Memberships is something Discord has been working on for a while. “There’s probably a world where we could have released this a while ago,” Wofford told me. “We wanted to make sure we took in the right feedback from a diverse set of creators and built it in a way that we felt confident would deliver value.” To that end, the company plans to take its time testing the feature before it rolls it out more widely.

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Categories
AI

Dixa nabs $105M to unify customer service channels

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Dixa, a startup developing conversational customer engagement software, today announced that it raised $105 million in a series C funding round led by General Atlantic, with participation from Notion Capital and Project A. CEO Mads Fosselius says that the proceeds will be put toward product development, new acquisitions following Dixa’s purchase of Melbourne-based Elevio in January, and quadrupling Dixa’s engineering team by the end of 2022.

The customer service industry remains fragmented and built around specific channels of engagement. Call center providers use the phone as a dominant channel, for example, while ticketing system providers focus on transactional experiences. The stakes are high — 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company, according to Microsoft.

Founded in Denmark in 2015 and launched to market in 2018, Dixa aims to help brands increase revenue through improved customer experiences. The platform allows brands to unify channels in a single system, equipping agents with tools like cross-channel prioritization, routing capabilities, and integrations. Dixa offers a phone system that runs in any web browser. And it provides email workflows as well as support for chat apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Dixa

“Dixa was founded with the mission to transform customer service and evolving an industry focused on efficiency and problem-solving to be a value driver for every business,” Fosselius told VentureBeat via email. “One of the foundations of Dixa’s vision and platform is the agent experience and the understanding that it’s tightly connected to customer experience. Today, customer service agents are disempowered by tools and standards that don’t allow them to provide a great customer experience. Agent experience is built into the core of Dixa — empowered with these capabilities, agents can become drivers of business outcomes.”

Automating customer service

While Dixa emphasizes the human element of customer service, it applies AI to some self-service experiences in addition to back-office tasks. According to Fosselius, Dixa’s AI bolsters the contextual relevance of knowledge-based documents, recommending articles to agents depending on the scenario. The AI improves with customer feedback and interactions data, recasting interactions into ostensibly better customer experiences.

For example, Dixa’s AI can match customers with agents based on variables including knowledge, customer relationship management data, and interaction history.

“Today, consumers are spoiled with choice and expect a personalized and positive experience with every engagement, which today’s standard can’t provide,” Fosselius said. “This requires a paradigm shift and retiring outdated concepts like omnichannel that keeps businesses lagging behind. Dixa is focused on the customer journey that transcends beyond a specific channel or modality.”

Dixa

Dixa, which has 200 employees spread across offices in Copenhagen, London, New York, Berlin, Kyiv, Tel Aviv, and Melbourne, competes with Kustomer, Zendesk, and Gladly in the over $7.54 billion customer experience management market. But the company has established a sizeable foothold over the past three years, with more than 700 customers including Epic Games, Wistia, and Rapha.

“The need for brands to differentiate through a great customer experience as well as the introduction and uptake of digital channels only grew during the pandemic. We’ve seen great brands growing together with us during these challenging times,” Fosselius said.

The latest round of financing brings Dixa’s total raised to $155 million to date. The company previously closed a $36 million series B in February 2020, which was also led by Notion.

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Categories
AI

Gupshup nabs $240M to power messaging channels

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.


Conversational messaging platform Gupshup today announced that it raised $240 million led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Fidelity Management, Think Investments, Malabar Investments, Harbor Spring Capital, and others. The tranche, which values the company at $1.64 billion, will be used to build new tools, infrastructure, and services while expanding Gupshup’s global reach, CEO Beerud Sheth said.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for enterprises, in some cases driving the need for messaging services. Offline businesses are moving online while online businesses are offering more products, and both are looking for tools to better engage customers. Thirty-six percent of consumers report using online live chat, according to a GetApp survey. And a majority say they’d much prefer to use messaging versus phone channels if given the choice.

Gupshup

Gupshup, which was founded in 2014, provides a chatbot authoring service that allows developers to create, deploy, and publish chatbots across over 30 channels. Prior to starting the company, Sheth launched the freelancing platform Upwork, which went public on Nasdaq in October 2018.

“Gupshup was early to see the power of text messaging to deliver content ubiquitously to every mobile user worldwide. [It] builds platforms and tools to help enterprises do better customer engagement through conversational experiences delivered via messaging channels,” Sheth told VentureBeat via email. “Just as every business had to build websites in the mid-’90s, they will now have to build conversational experiences. This is the new digital storefront — this is where the users are and business have to engage them on their terms in their favorite messaging apps.”

Powering enterprise messaging

Apart from supporting messaging channels like SMS and WhatsApp, Gupshup offers Gupshup GIP, an IP-based service for smartphones that features end-to-end encrypted messages with buttons, ecommerce flows, and mini games. It comes in two flavors: GIP Native, which embeds in native messaging apps, and GIP Widget, a device-agnostic chat widget.

Gupshup also offers AI models for message categorization and natural language processing. On-device models read incoming messages and classify them into categories and subcategories like “transactional,” “banking,” and “credit alert,” creating visualizations for elements in the message including receipt amounts, account numbers, and codes. Meanwhile, server-side models interpret customer queries sent to chatbots, enabling the chatbots to detect the intent behind messages and respond appropriately.

“Thousands of developers and enterprises use the Gupshup bot platform to build [AI-powered] chatbots for their respective use cases,” Sheth said. “The models were trained using sample text messages across many variations. This technology is deployed in over 100 million smartphones.”

Gupshup

Gupshup claims to support over 100,000 developers and enterprises, delivering messages to over 300 million users. India and other “mobile-first” ecosystems remain some of the company’s largest markets, but Gupshup’s customer base has expanded during the pandemic, with annual recurring revenue hitting $150 million at the end of 2020.

“We saw over 80% growth from pre-pandemic levels,” Sheth said. “Through these chat conversations, businesses [are realizing that they can drive] drive marketing, sales, support and more … With conversational experiences, a customer could simply interact through text chat with a bank rather than calling a call center … Through the same chat conversation, the business can upsell or cross-sell — a new credit card, for instance — and sign the customer for personalized marketing alerts in the future. For the business, it delivers greater customer satisfaction, greater sales, and lower costs through automation.”

The latest funding round brings Gupshup’s total raised to over $390 million.

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Categories
Tech News

Hulu Live TV adds 14 ViacomCBS channels, but some cost extra

If you remember back in early January, Hulu announced a big deal with ViacomCBS that would bring 14 of its networks to the streaming service’s live television plan. Now, months later, those channels are finally available to subscribers, offering the opportunity to watch Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and other popular networks.

As originally announced, a total of 14 ViacomCBS channels are now available to people who have signed up for Hulu’s Live TV offering — though you’ll need to pay extra for the platforms’ Entertainment package to get access to all of the networks.

Assuming you have both Hulu Live TV plus its Entertainment package at another $7.99/month, you’ll get access to Paramount Network, TV Land, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr, Comedy Central, BET, MTV, VH1, CMT, BETher, NickToons, TeenNick, MTV Classic, and MTV 2.

The last four networks on that list are all locked behind the Entertainment package paywall, however, so you’ll find yourself with only the first nine on the list if you’re not willing to sign up for the extras package.

The Hulu Live TV subscription remains at the same $64.99/month price. It’s unclear whether this new addition will result in a future price increase or if moving some of the channels behind the paid Entertainment package was a way to avoid raising the base streaming plan rate.

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Categories
Tech News

Amazon Fire TV News app adds dozens of local news channels

Amazon has expanded the local news options in its relatively new Fire TV News app, providing more Fire TV owners with access to their local news stations. The feature is particularly relevant given the nature of the past year and how many people have tuned in to their local news stations for information about regional COVID-19 cases and vaccination programs.

Amazon launched its Fire TV News app in late 2019; it’s a portal for accessing free news broadcasts, though you may not have had access to your local news channels at the time. The app can be found on the Fire TV home screen in the menu bar — it is simply listed as “News” and doesn’t need to be manually installed.

In an announcement today, Amazon revealed that it has expanded the number of local news stations available through its news app, growing from the 12 cities added last year to now cover 88 major cities across the US.

The latest additions include cities like Salt Lake City, Detroit, New Orleans, and Phoenix; they join the cities added in 2020, including Seattle, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Tampa, Miami, and others.

As before, the News app remains free to stream, providing broadcasts from news providers like CBS News, Bloomberg, and ABC News Live. Users who launch the app will automatically be assigned their nearest metro region, according to Amazon, which notes that users can select which local news sources they’re interested in. National news sources remain available, as well.

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