Meet the latest cohort of Acceleprise startups, and the apps they built to make work easier

Acceleprise, a San Francisco-based accelerator for enterprise tech and software-as-a-service startups, held a Demo Day for its third cohort of companies today.

The accelerator invests $50,000 into each startup admitted to its program via convertible note financing, taking approximately a 5 percent stake under a $1 million cap.

It admits 8-12 companies per cohort, and invests out of a $3.5 million pre-seed fund anchored by Employ Insight CEO Sean Glass.

During its program, Acceleprise helps startups hone their apps and business models, strike relationships with early pilot or paying customers and officially launch a product.

After they leave the nest, partners at Acceleprise work in an advisory capacity with startups in their portfolio to help them become seed- or even Series A-ready.

Acceleprise Managing Director Michael Cardamone said that the fundraising environment has become more challenging for SaaS businesses of late.

Venture investors with institutional firms that do early-stage deals now want to see software-as-a-service startups making $1.5 million in annual recurring revenue with significant traction in their respective markets before they will sign a term sheet, Cardamone said.

That’s a higher bar than business-to-business software startups faced just three years ago.

Cardamone said selling into enterprises has become more competitive, as well.

“The people who set tech policies and make purchasing decisions within large or fast-growing companies, and that’s usually a Chief Information Officer, are using tens of different apps, and many I’ve met will be using over 100 different apps to keep their businesses running,” Cardamone said.

That means SaaS companies can’t offer something that’s only a slightly better tool than what’s out there and expect to win customers over, even for a limited trial run.

Back in the day when juggernauts of enterprise tech were ramping up, like Salesforce or Amazon Web Services, the market wasn’t nearly as cluttered.

Companies in Acceleprise’s latest batch were equally split between those focused on a particular industry, from agriculture (Skycision) to mobile telecoms (MobilePhire), and those offering “horizontal” solutions that could help businesses in any industry manage travel and expenses (TripCloud) or deliver customer service via popular messaging platforms from SMS to Facebook Messenger or Slack (Lifecycle.io).

A new trend among applicants, Cardamone noticed, was the implementation of advanced machine learning, analytics and chat bots to solve the needs of workers or their employers.

A full list of the 8 companies in the most recent cohort at Acceleprise follows below, with links and descriptions supplied by the accelerator.

Baloonr: Anonymously surface and prioritize information for any group.

CareerLark: Next generation performance management and employee feedback platform.

ContextSmith: Turns distributed emails with customers into actionable data.

Glowfish.io: Industrial IoT enhanced asset monitoring and early warning as a service.

Lifecycle.io: The simplest way for businesses to create intelligent conversations over mobile messaging channels.

MobilePhire: Analytics and control for corporate mobile data usage.

Skycision: Image-based crop management software for the global agriculture industry.

TripCloud: Free travel management solution for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Featured Image: Acceleprise (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

U.K. carrier Three says it will start trialling ad blocking next month with a 24-hour opt-in test

Back in February, U.K. mobile carrier Three said it would start to offer on its network opt-in ad blocking technology from Shine, potentially reaching 30 million customers. Now the company is getting down to details: It will start to trial ad blocking in June in the U.K., with a 24-hour test for opted-in customers, the company said today.

“We believe the current mobile advertising model is broken and our customers are becoming increasingly frustrated by irrelevant and intrusive adverts which use up their data allowance and can invade their privacy by tracking their behaviour without their knowledge or consent,” the company said in a statement.

In research from April 2016, KPMG found that 44 percent of U.K. adults are planning to use an ad-blocker in the next six months.

Ad blocking has been a big issue for Internet users, who are fed up with slow-loading, overbearing or irrelevant ads disrupting their web browsing. Many are also unhappy about the browsing data that is often collected as part of bigger online advertising services.

There is also a more immediate, financial interest in blocking ads: Large, media-heavy ads are a drain on your bandwidth and can count toward your bandwidth allowance, eating up  your data plans, which is an acute problem for most mobile phone users especially.

PageFair — a company that actually works with publishers and ad companies to display “quality” ads that bypass ad blocking technology — estimated that by June 2015, there were some 198 million people using some form of ad blocking software. It also said that the U.K.’s use of ad blocking was up by 82 percent in the year, now used by 12 million users up to June 2015. (In the U.S., ad blocking was used by 45 million users in the same period.)

The ad black-out will be carried out sometime in the week of June 13, and Three says the trial will “test the ability of the technology to filter out advertising that damages our customers’ mobile browsing experience without impacting their network experience.”

Three initially said it would also trial the service in Italy before expanding ad blocking as an option across its whole network. The carrier is owned by Hutchison Holdings, which also has mobile services in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macau, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Vietnam.

Ad blocking at the carrier level is believed to be more effective than solutions on a specific device or browser, or by a specific web publisher — all options that are available today. However, it will also put Three (and other carriers that might follow its lead) squarely against not just large brands, but the ad tech companies that help brands put their message in front of you.

“This is the next step in our journey to make mobile ads better for our customers,” said Tom Malleschitz, Three U.K.’s CMO, in a statement. “The current ad model is broken. It frustrates customers, eats up their data allowance and can jeopardise their privacy. Something needs to change. We can only achieve change by working with all stakeholders in the advertising industry — customers, advertising networks and publishers — to create a new form of advertising that is better for all parties.”

Heavy Internet use leads to school burnout in teens

As if you didn’t need more proof that your darn kids need to get off the computer and into the back yard, researchers at the University of Helsinki and Department of Psychology have found that excessive Internet use — essentially bordering on addiction — leads to school burnout in teens.

There isn’t much detail on the definition of excessive use (you’ll know it when you see it), but the researchers write:

The research suggests that the most critical stage for tackling the problem of digital addiction and school burnout is age 13-15. The most effective way of supporting adolescents’ mental health and preventing excessive internet use is to promote school engagement, to build up students’ motivation to learn, and to prevent school burnout.

Depressive symptoms and school burnout in late adolescence are more common among girls than boys. Boys suffer more from excessive Internet use than girls.

School burnout is defined as a lack of desire to attend or work hard in school.

The research is related to the Mind the Gap project that studies thousands of students for Internet use and psychological issues. The bottom line isn’t pretty. “These results show that, among adolescents, excessive internet use can be a cause of school burnout that can later spill over to depressive symptoms,” said Katariina Salmela-Aro, a researcher for the project.

In the end it’s up to the parents how much Internet is too much. Sadly there are few guidelines for us and this study doesn’t seem to provide any. However, showing a direct connection between usage and depression is a terrible smoking gun and, perhaps, it might encourage us all to pull the plug every few days for a little family time without screens.

New MoPub report aims to help publishers navigate the ad network landscape

Mobile publishers need to work with at least a few different ad networks — that’s kind of the whole point of ad exchanges like Twitter-owned MoPub. Today the company is releasing a report that should give publishers a little more context when deciding which networks to work with.

For starters, the report says that 53 percent of MoPub publishers work with between two and five ad networks, with 47 percent of ad impressions coming from three big ad networks — Google-owned AdMob, AOL-owned Millennial Media (AOL also owns TechCrunch) and the Facebook Audience Network.

Elain Szu, a senior manager of exchange marketing at Twitter, suggested that the two-to-five range might represent the sweet spot for many publishers.

“If you work with too many ad networks, it’s a pain to manage the business relationship and the SDKs can get super heavy,” Szu said. “On the other hand, if you work with too few networks, you’re limiting the number of ad sources you have and not maximizing your ad revenue.”

She added that MoPub’s publishers often ask, “Which ad networks should I be working with and which ones are most effective?” In her view, MoPub offers a unique perspective on this, because many ad exchanges also own ad networks, but MoPub doesn’t “have any vested interested in picking any specific network.”

(Twitter advertisers can buy advertising with MoPub publishers, but Szu said those advertisers are treated as just another bidder on the MoPub exchange.)

To be clear, the report isn’t making specific recommendations for publishers choosing networks. Instead, it points to some of the dominant players in different categories. For example, when you look at different ad types, you see that AdMob, Facebook and Millennial are a big deal across-the-board, but TapSense is in the top four on native, while Chartboost is dominant for full screen interstitials.

mopub network insights ctrs

Then the report goes even deeper than that, showing who’s got the most impressions, by format, in different regions. So for native advertising in the United States, Facebook is a big player, but so are Appsfire, mobileCore and Yahoo.

Lastly, the report breaks down the standard click-through rates for different ad formats, allowing publishers to see how they stack up against the industry as a whole. If they’ve got a full screen or native ad that’s getting less than 0.5 percent click-through rate, that means it’s doing relatively poorly and they may need to adjust the placement. On the other hand, an 0.5 percent CTR is pretty much in the normal range for a banner ad.

You can read the full report here.

Spotify seeks more personalized playlists after Discover Weekly finds 40M users

Apple Music, Tidal and, until recently, Spotify, failed at music discovery because they stuck to a blog-style format. But Spotify has cracked the code with a Facebook News Feed-style personalized, frequently updated playlist called Discover Weekly. Spotify now says the playlists have seen 40 million unique users since launching last July, and 5 billion tracks streamed.

That’s remarkable for a new feature, considering Spotify has 75 million active users total. Discover Weekly analyzes your listening history, combines it with what’s hot and new on Spotify, and updates each Monday with 30 new songs you’ll likely love.

And it’s working. More than half of Discover Weekly’s users save at least one song, listen to at least 10 tracks each week and come back the next week. The 25-to-34 age group is using it the most, which Spotify’s lead engineer Ed Newett says is because these are “the years after college” when your social network has changed and you’re craving exposure to new tunes like you used to get because “it’s not as easy to discover music.”

screen-shot-2015-07-20-at-6-28-04-am

While streaming services tout catalogs of over 30 million songs, most of them are trapped behind a search box. People have a tough time spontaneously thinking of what to listen to.

But the Browse pages on the streaming services aren’t built for the modern way we listen. They look more like the old MP3 blogs before streaming emerged, full of text and requiring constant attention and clicking. Or they’re like a jukebox, visually displaying tons of different albums or themed playlists you could dive into. See:

Apple Music's For You section looks like a blog

Apple Music’s For You section looks like a blog

Tidal's Browse page looks like a blog too

Tidal’s Browse page looks like a blog too

Spotify realized that when people listen, they want it to be simple. Give them a selection of great songs, and just let them hit play and go back to working or working out. No reading. No constantly seeking the next song. Just a fire-and-forget way to soak up new music.

discoverweekly-1One annoying thing is that if you don’t copy the whole Discover Weekly playlist into a new one, it will disappear next Monday when it updates. But Newett tells me Spotify is looking at a possible Discover Weekly Flashback feature, or some other option to recover your old song sets.

The feature has gone so well that Newett tells me Spotify is considering adding more personalized playlists. Specifically, one for brand new releases, and another for old hits and favorites you might have forgotten. Luckily, since it’s built on Spotify’s honed playlist architecture, the feature was easy to launch and change. In fact, it was originally built out of a Hack Week project.

Discover Weekly is giving artists a leg-up too. Over 8,000 musicians had over half of their Spotify listeners in the last month come from Discover Weekly.

Unlocking the value of its massive catalog could be how Spotify stays ahead of Apple Music, with all its cash to throw at marketing, and Tidal, with its marquee exclusives like Beyonce’s Lemonade.

Spotify doesn’t have those advantages. It’s still losing money — $194 million in 2015 alone. But it’s growing fast. Revenue was up 80 percent to $2.18 billion, and ad revenue grew 98 percent despite user count only increasing 48 percent. That bodes well for Spotify’s eventual profitability. But it has to emerge victorious from its competition with Apple and Tidal to reach massive scale.

Sidestepping the ineffective music blog discovery format for the novel personalized playlist approach could differentiate Spotify and convince users it’s worth $10 a month or sitting through ads. But by shining a spotlight on Discovery Weekly’s success today, how long can Spotify expect others not to copy it?

Featured Image: LightvsRight

Microsoft is laying off 1,850 to “streamline” its smartphone business, takes $950M charge

Following last week’s news of Microsoft selling off its feature phone business for $350 million, today Microsoft turned its attention to smartphones: the company announced it would lay off 1,850 staff and take a charge of $950 million, including $200 million in severance payments, as it “streamlines” the business to focus on enterprises and niche areas where it feels it can better differentiate.

“We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, in a statement. “We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.”

On one hand, the move is not that surprising, considering that Microsoft has failed to spark much interest in its Lumia-branded smartphones since taking over the business from Nokia, with Android-based devices and Apple’s iPhone continuing to dominate sales and usage globally.

On the other hand, it is a little bit of a shock to see Microsoft doing this.

The feature phone business that it sold to a Foxconn-led consortium last week was never the primary interest for Microsoft, so it seemed like a very obvious move to finally pass it on to a group that was more interested in developing it and getting out what it could from the lower end of the market that is still buying these devices (which, interestingly, is still a pretty sizeable volume, if much lower value overall).

But the smartphone business, in contrast, was always the part that Microsoft wanted to see if it could replicate some of the same vertically integrated magic that Apple has so adeptly performed with the iPhone: control the platform, the apps, and the devices and you have a better chance of creating something unique that works, seemed to be the thinking that led it to buy Nokia’s mobile phone division back in 2013 for an initial consideration of $7.2 billion.

However, it just didn’t seem to be Microsoft’s time. It was partly because it was too late to enter the market with something that was effectively not a big enough iteration on what was already on offer.

And it was partly because the smartphones, at first, just weren’t as good. Remember all those missing apps that Microsoft had to work so hard to bring to its Windows mobile operating system? When you speak to many app developers today, they still view Windows as a maybe rather than a must-have.

Some 1,350 jobs at Microsoft Mobile Oy in Finland will go, as well as up to 500 additional jobs globally, the company said. Microsoft Oy employees, a separate Microsoft sales subsidiary based in Espoo, are not impacted, the company added.

But in general, it’s a pretty grim period for mobile technology workers in Finland: late last week Nokia also quietly announced that it would lay off just over 1,000 people in the country. It comes also some two years after a two much larger waves of cuts: first, the bulk of a round 18,000 layoffs announced in 2014; and then 7,800 more when it wrote down the value of its Nokia acquisition by an eye-watering $7.6 billion.

The layoffs announced today will be fully completed by July 2017, the company said, to coincide with the end of its fiscal year, the company said.

There was also an internal memo from devices EVP Terry Myerson that it looks like Microsoft has been sharing with symphathetic journalists, reiterating the news and trying to shore up staff morale around it. Microsoft also noted that it will be making a filing with the SEC with more details, so I’ll keep a look out for that to see if there’s any more to add to this story.

Ex-Facebook designers climb charts with adorable game Pinchworm

Funky physics and controls make mobile games fun. You tap against gravity in Flappy Bird, fling on a trajectory in Angry Birds and press to maintain momentum in Tiny Wings. So when two of Facebook’s top designers left to build their own apps, they wanted to bring a new gesture to gaming… and let worms, not birds, be the stars.

Pinchworm sounds simple, but its the mapping of the controls to your mind that makes it addictively challenging. You’re a worm. You fall in love with another worm who’s stolen away by the early bird. You pursue, learning more of the story as you pinch your fingers together to hop over rocks, and pull them apart to burrow under flowers. But since the gestures are horizontal and the obstacles are vertical, it’s harder thank you’d think.

Joey Flynn and Drew Hamlin have turned the mental gymnastics into a hit. Their app studio Unity&Variety launched Pinchworm this week and it already has more than 100,000 daily active users. It’s the No. 2 free game in the iOS app store, the No. 1 free arcade game and the No. 8 overall free app.

2. Gameplay

Flynn and Hamlin studied together at University of Washington and were product designers for Facebook for the past years. They pushed pixels for some of Facebook’s most used features, like 2014’s big Messenger redesign, and Flynn built the beautiful but unloved Facebook standalone app Slingshot.

They left the social juggernaut because “We wanted to work on something that would be completely new for us, challenging, and something we could accomplish with just a small team,” Flynn tells me. So with their Facebook earnings, they bootstrapped and hired some friends like Sean Popejoy, who made Messenger’s sounds, and Brian Brasher, who illustrated icons for Facebook and Foursquare.

Pinchworm's developers Drew Hamlin and Joey Flynn (from left)

Pinchworm’s developers Drew Hamlin and Joey Flynn (from left)

Flynn tells me the idea for Pinchworm actually sprang from Twisted System, “a game I played with friends growing up that was (bear with me) a mini-game within a demo of a game on the Halo 1 for Xbox disc.” What stuck with Flynn was how the game was “insanely hard and for some reason insanely fun.” 

Pinchworm taps into that same frustration, and how we’re compelled to exceed our past failures. There ares only two types of obstacles, so it seems absurd when your mind can’t process whether to jump or dive fast enough. Every time you screw up in Pinchworm, you’re sure you could do better next time, and you keep playing.

Pinchworm For iOS

And since Pinchworm is the only game where you pinch and pull to play, it creates both word of mouth buzz as people ask “what the hell are you playing?” and a sense of camaraderie. Once you try it, you can tell someone else is playing Pinchworm even if you can’t see their screen. “I was sitting at an airport and I could clearly tell the dude across from me was playing Tiny Wings just by the way he was tapping his device. We were fascinated by that branding element.”

Unlike most mobile arcade games where there’s little to no story, Flynn and Hamlin worked hard to create emotional resonance with your character. But you only get to see what happens next if you score high enough to unlock the next chapter.

Sassy

“We’re like, ‘ah man people are all empathetic about these birds [in other games] when in reality worm is one notch down on the food chain, that is the real sob story.’ Some underdog stuff you know?”

Uhhh, sure. But the sassy taunts of the bird carrying away your significant worm lover do motivate you to hit the elusive 100 point mark and rescue them.

While you polish your skills to get there, you’ll also be delighted by a variety of little design flourishes.

Worms

You can earn or buy different themed worms that come with their own backgrounds and obstacles, from a glow-in-the-dark worm that inches in night-vision, to a hipster worm named “Indie” that has to dodge mustaches and vinyl records. Drag your finger around the title screen to make your character’s eyes move. And Pinchworm even pulls your location to show the right time of day and moon phase in the background.

Flynn and Hamlin plan to keep supporting Pinchworm as they ponder other apps to make. “The goal for our company is to build original, high-quality products that aren’t silo’d to any one industry and we’re still figuring out exactly how that plays itself out over time,” Flynn says. For now, their first game will keep worming its way into our hearts.

Pinchworm is available for free on iOS.

Gulülu turns drinking water into a game for kids

Through the power of smart sensors and the magic of the cloud, children being parched is on its way to becoming a thing of the past — at least, if the Gulülu team has anything to say in the matter. The company’s bottle, launching on Kickstarter today, is the newest, most high-tech weapon in the battle to get kids to imbibe enough liquids throughout the day.

The Gululu pets that live in the water bottles. Cute, no?

The Gulülu pets that live in the water bottles. Cute, no?

The idea is to turn the act of drinking water into an integrated game. The water bottle has a small screen built in, and additional sensors mean that shaking two bottles in close proximity to each other make the pets “friends,” enabling them to interact.

The bottles have rechargeable batteries and a wireless charging dock to keep the battery topped up. The company claims the Gulülu will stay juiced for four days before another recharge is required.

Shaking two bottles next to each other makes the pets 'friends', enabling them to interact with each other.

Shaking two bottles next to each other makes the pets “friends,” enabling them to interact with each other.

The bottles use multiple embedded sensors to measure not just how much water is disappearing from the bottle throughout the day, but also to attempt to determine whether the kid is actually rehydrating, or trying to be cheeky, pouring the water out in the flower bed outside the school. The idea is that only actually drinking is rewarded, and that the digital pets thrive best if the bottle’s owners use them as intended.

Part of the theory behind Gululu is to integrate water drinking into everyday activities

Part of the theory behind Gulülu is to integrate water drinking into everyday activities.

My gut tells me that Gulülu is an expensive solution to a non-existent problem.

For parents, in addition to having a chance to try to influence their children to drinking more water, there’s an additional incentive: The Gulülu syncs with the cloud and lets parents monitor how their kids are getting on via the iOS and Android apps. Parents can also schedule “sleep” or “school” modes, during which the pets go to sleep and become unresponsive, so the pets don’t become a distraction during sleeping or learning hours.

Gulülu has prototypes ready to go, and today launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the product through the final production phase, with early-bird pricing starting at $89, followed by regular-priced Gulülu bottles at $99 each. The company estimates a shipping date of September, and the recommended retail price will be $129 once the products start making an appearance on shelves.

It’s an interesting product, and it’s easy to imagine a world where every child in your vicinity is running around shaking their Gulülu bottles at each other and the product turns into a huge hit. For that to happen, however, two things need to click into alignment. Parents need to both feel that hydration is a big enough problem to solve and decide that a $129 water bottle is the right way of going about tackling the issue. My gut tells me that Gulülu is an expensive solution to a non-existent problem. Time will tell, and it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on the Kickstarter campaign either way.

Twilio ramps up mobile play with programmable SIMs for IoT and handsets with T-Mobile

Twilio stormed into the telecoms market several years ago with a set of services that turned core communications features once controlled by carriers, like text messages and phones numbers, into API-based services that any developer could easily customize and use in whatever app or site she or he chose.

Today, the company is unveiling its next step in its bid to take on more telecoms infrastructure: Twilio is launching a new product called Programmable Wireless — a SIM-based service that it has built in partnership with T-Mobile so that developers can build full-featured, all-in-one cellular services, to be used wherever they want, whether that’s in an object as part of an IoT network, or even a consumer product, like a new mobile phone service.

Twilio says the service will be available broadly in Q4, 2016. Pricing, as with other Twilio services, is based on volume. For IoT, pricing starts at $2 per SIM per month and data usage starts at $0.10 per MB metered across a pool of devices. For high-bandwidth use-cases (such as phones and mobile data), data usage is $25 for the first GB and $15 for each subsequent GB. Programmable SMS messages and Programmable Voice minutes are priced by usage.

The service is getting formally announced today at the company’s developer conference, Signal. But if you follow Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson on Twitter, you might have seen his hint of what was coming a couple of weeks ago:

Pretty excited for SIGNAL… https://t.co/PxKDtZM4krpic.twitter.com/djehLV29rl

— Jeff Lawson (@jeffiel) May 5, 2016

In an interview, Lawson told me that the service will initially be done in partnership only with T-Mobile, and only in the U.S., but if you consider that Twilio itself has a massive international footprint (as does T-Mobile), there is a lot of scope for expansion.

T-Mobile is coming into the new service by way of its Un-carrier effort — its new strategy to court developers and newer users with lower prices and more open infrastructure.

“We’re bringing our wildly successful Un-carrier strategy to developers,” said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer. “While the old-guard carriers stifle innovation and try to lock up all the value for themselves, T-Mobile has a different philosophy; we openly partner with world-class companies, like Twilio, to empower entrepreneurs and ignite wireless innovation. By partnering with Twilio to deliver these capabilities to Twilio’s vast developer network, we support developers in building the cellular-connected solutions of tomorrow.”

Twilio’s business growth has been based on a double attraction.

First, it provides access to using certain kinds of services more easily to developers, who suddenly no longer needed to have extensive telecoms engineering experience to program features like phone and texting services for their employees, or to use in websites or apps. (How easy? A former Twilio employee who worked in the marketing and PR department once developed a pretty awesome music service, Callin’ Oats, using the phone API. It sadly now seems to be defunct. You can reach it here.)

Second, using these services is typically a lot less expensive than working to get the same service by way of the telco directly. Twilio did this by buying services wholesale to then route through its API, relying on economies of scale to make up for the thin margins.

This is more or less the same basis of the new SIM service, but Lawson believes there will be another reason for why it will be attractive to developers to use, and that is around user experience. For now, a lot of IoT services are based around getting a device hooked up to Wi-Fi, but generally, cellular networks are infinitely more reliable and easy to hook up. This is something that companies like SigFox are also banking on, building out cellular networks specifically dedicated only to IoT.

While IoT will definitely be one component of where Twilio sees this developing, what’s interesting is how it’s also considering the B2B2C proposition here. Up to now, there have been precious few successes in the MVNO space, and given that the only ones that have flown have ended up getting acquired by carriers, some might even argue that no MVNOs have really been a hit. It will be worth watching whether Twilio can help the economics of that shift with its new SIM service.

For now, Lawson tells me that the most immediate users of its SIMs for phone-based services are likely to be enterprises, which might develop phones for their workers that are customized with a very limited set of calling options, or are simply more easy to track in a bigger bring-your-own-device program, where workers provide their own handset or choose whichever handset they want to use, but get the SIM put into it.

There are still details to be filled in with Twilio’s new service. Pricing — specifically how people will respond to it — is one of the biggest, but so is security and how its SIM will work with third-party programs to help track and lock down phones in an enterprise network.

But, as the company reportedly gears up for an IPO, adding one more service that both builds on the suite of API-based communications services that it already offers to users — and expands them with what effectively becomes a new platform for the company — is a step the company needed and is right to take. (No comment from Lawson in our interview about IPOs or other liquidity events.)

24 more characters, for better and worse

Today Twitter redefined its laws of physics. But while it’s posed as a simplification of the 140-character rule, the change will reshape information density, conversation style and self-promotion in the app.

If you want to know what’s happening and why, read TechCrunch’s detailed breakdown of the changes scooped by Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier. Here, we’re going to examine the how, as in how this will impact the Twitter that 300 million people have ingrained into their life, and billions more never figured out.

This isn’t about declaring the changes good or bad as a whole. That’s a narrow and unproductive way to assess the evolution of anything. Instead, it’s about deducing the way they’ll nudge our behavior in new directions.

Essentially, media attachments and @reply usernames will no longer count toward the 140-character limit, you’ll be able to retweet yourself, and tweets that start with @ will go to all your followers once Twitter rolls out the new system in the coming months.

So what does that mean?

Wordier tweets — media attachments don’t count: You won’t have to say less to show more. So we’ll say more. Indeed, 140 characters is already a compression of the way most people think. We’ll frequently exploit the extra 24 characters, filling them up.

Images, videos, GIFs, tweet quotes or polls will come with longer descriptions. You’ll know more about a video before you watch it, so maybe you won’t need to watch it, or maybe you’ll be sure you do. You’ll better understand what a photo is instead of just staring at it. You can extol the intelligence or idiocy of another’s tweets and your own when you quote them, with more room for analysis.

Twitter will be less jaunty and interrupted. You’ll spend more time smoothly scrolling the feed or watching clips that truly interest you than rapidly popping in and out of the media viewer, confused or unsatisfied.

Links will continue to count against 140 characters. You’ll still be opening news articles without a better sense of where you’re going, facilitating blind bounce backs when you realize you didn’t care about that blog post.

On a whole, the information density of Twitter will be diluted. It will be harder to skim through the text of your feed because there’ll be more of it. Up to 17 percent more. You might read longer tweets and fewer total tweets per session. Twitter’s magic is the expedited consumption of condensed knowledge. Now you might learn more about less instead of less about more.

Twitter_May24Deeper conversations — @replies don’t count: Twitter is replacing the cramped canoe for a spacious yacht. Talking to someone instead of everyone won’t reduce your room to speak. You’ll no longer have to trade clarity for more conversation partners.

The Twitter canoe, where more and more usernames overtook more and more space for words in a reply until the exchange ran aground, also kept conversations from becoming endless. It created a life cycle. Twitter is mobile, and you might not want discussions to spill over your coffee break into the rest of your day.

As a discussion encompasses more people, ideas won’t have to be folded smaller and smaller. That will encourage debates and chit-chats that are more exhaustive, both in the sense that they will be more comprehensive but also more tiring.

Smarmier self-promotion — retweet yourself: Why write something new when you can bombard your followers with what you already said? Clamoring for page views on your blog posts or conspirators for your call to action will get easier, and less exciting.

Twitter is already a broadcast platform, where people care more about their motives than their audience because, hey, they followed you by choice, right? They’re not your “friends” and they’re not obligated. You’ll have another way to assault their eyes.

But also to combat the temporality of the rushing stream, Twitter is getting more algorithmic, though it’s still mostly a chronological queue where few read everything from everyone they follow Retweet yourself 12 hours later and you might find a whole new crowd consuming your content.

Fewer ways to look stupid — .@ isn’t necessary: Nothing made diehard Twitterers laugh at newbies quicker than receiving an @reply that only appeared to your mutual followers when the author meant to tweet to all their followers. I still get these frequently, and struggle with whether to kindly point out how Twitter works, or chortle to myself. Now rookies and veterans will have one less counterintuitive trick dividing them.

twitter-lightning

While I won’t declare whether these changes are good or bad overall, Twitter can at least be commended for not royally screwing anything up. It didn’t reverse gravity or turn the sky purple. It modified how length is measured.

Yet to truly revitalize the millions it churned with crummy onboarding, and magnetize the masses that feel they already have a friendly audience on other social networks, Twitter may need more drastic change. Or at least, the discovery of some new form of energy able to enrapture the minds of Twitterers yet to be.

Featured Image: Piotr Zajda