Reddit deletes surveillance ‘warrant canary’ in transparency report

Reddit Alien

WASHINGTON (By Dustin Volz for Reuters) — Social networking forum Reddit on Thursday removed a section from its site used to tacitly inform users it had never received a certain type of U.S. government surveillance request, suggesting the platform is now being asked to hand over customer data under a secretive law enforcement authority.

Reddit deleted a paragraph found in its transparency report known as a “warrant canary” to signal to users that it had not been subject to so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.

The scrubbing of the “canary”, which stated reddit had never received a national security letter “or any other classified request for user information,” comes as several tech companies are pushing the Obama administration to allow for fuller disclosures of the kind and amount of government requests for user information they receive.

National security letters are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data, making it difficult for firms to openly discuss how they handle the subpoenas. That has led many companies to rely on somewhat vague canary warnings.

“I’ve been advised not to say anything one way or the other,”  a reddit administrator named “spez,” who made the update, said in a thread discussing the change. “Even with the canaries, we’re treading a fine line.”

Reddit did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2014, Twitter sued the U.S. Justice Department on grounds that the restrictions placed on the social media platform’s ability to reveal information about government surveillance orders violates the First Amendment.

The suit came following an announcement from the Obama administration that it would allow Internet companies to disclose more about the numbers of national security letters they receive. But they can still only provide a range such as between zero and 999 requests, or between 1,000 and 1,999, which Twitter, joined by reddit and others, has argued is too broad.

National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Several thousand NSLs are now issued by the FBI every year. At one point that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz)

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Growthhacking your app store downloads via App Marketing Optimization (webinar)

The App Store

Breaking through the avalanche of apps requires the most current tricks of the ASO/AMO trade. Join analyst Peggy Anne Salz and App Masters founder Steve P. Young in this half-hour master class — and learn how to turbocharge your app store downloads.

Register here for free.

Nearly 2,000 mobile apps are released on Google Play and iOS on a daily basis. Amazing, but not surprising, considering how dominant the mobile market is. But app developers fighting for the spotlight have no time to gawk at the incredible statistic. There’s so much competition among app publishers and not enough time and memory space for consumers to install every new app that pops up. How are publishers — particularly first-timers — expected to get their apps discovered by the average consumer?

For the longest time, publishers have relied on App Store Optimization as the most efficient way of raising their profile among the public. While ASO remains a critical part of app marketing, there are new tactics available that offer more than just keywords to raise visibility. App Marketing Optimization does more than optimize your app store presence; it optimizes your entire app marketing funnel.

Switching to AMO, however, can be a challenge with the way ASO has evolved to include more “moving parts,” such as titles, descriptions, icons, screenshots, videos — not to mention app stores shifting the rules and algorithms to reward user-favorite apps.

In our VB Insight report, App Store Optimization: Money for nothing, and clicks for free, we detailed the changing landscape of ASO, based on feedback from 475 marketers and 522 consumers.

Organic installs represent 70-80 percent of installs for the average app. In our research, publishers who are actively engaged in marketing their apps acquired 74 percent of mobile installation through organic. The impressive percentage shows publishers can’t just sit on their hands and expect consumers to flock to their app; they have to actively market their app if they hope to find an audience. Surprisingly enough, there’s not much difference between performing your own ASO and using a purchasd service, as the former gains 84 percent of organic installs while the latter receives an average of 88 percent.

Don’t count out paid installs, however, as 85 percent of app marketers said that paid user acquisition efforts benefited their organic user acquisition programs. New paid users inviting friends or boosting their app socially, along with increased downloads affecting store rankings were cited by a third of marketers as benefits from paid installs.

Need a faster way to process all this ASO and AMO info? By checking out our webinar featuring VentureBeat analyst Peggy Anne Salz and Founder of Appmasters Steve Young, you’ll receive a briefing on everything you need to know about raising awareness for your app beyond perfecting the use of keywords.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this half hour ASO masterclass, you’ll learn:

  • The tools, tips and techniques to get your app in front of your audience and top of mind with app stores
  • How to identify the small changes in components, such as you in-app purchase descriptions, that will have big impact on downloads
  • The differences between Google Play and Apple’s App Store, and map how you should adapt your ASO/AMO strategy for both


  • Peggy Anne Salz, analyst, MobileGroove
  • Steve P. Young, ASO ‘wizard’ and founder of Appmasters


  • Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

Miitomo hits No. 1 on U.S. iOS App Store in less than 24 hours

Fun fact: 90 percent of all Miitomo posts are about how much people love tacos.

Nintendo has stormed onto mobile, and gamers are eating it up.

Miitomo, the publisher’s first smartphone app, is the No. 1 most downloaded game for iPhone and iPad in the United States, according to market-tracking firm Sensor Tower. The social app, which GamesBeat is enjoying, only came out this morning. That means it has rushed to the top of the charts in less than 24 hours. It took Miitomo about two days to do the same thing in Japan. This is more evidence that gamers are on their smart devices waiting for content from respected publishers like Nintendo, and that company — which is struggling with its traditional console business — stands to make a lot of money from a mobile industry worth $34.8 billion.

By reaching No. 1 in just a few hours, Sensor Tower estimates that the game could surpass 200,000 downloads on the iPhone alone after 24 hours, since that’s typically what the No. 1 app does on average. You can probably add around 20,000 to that for iPad. And that does not include Android, which could pile on a few hundred thousand more once we get up-to-date data for Google’s mobile platform.

Nintendo should feel good about this response. People clearly want to see what a smartphone app from the publisher is like, but it could turn that momentum into long-term success in the lucrative mobile space.

Update: Clarifying Sensor Tower estimations.

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Luminaries to debate distribution trends at Mobile Summit

cavallo point

At our Mobile Summit event next week, we’ve invited a terrific group of executives to the scenic resort of Cavallo Point in Sausalito.

They represent a who’s who of the mobile giants, including Google, Uber, Amazon, Pinterest, Machine Zone, GrubHub, Pandora, Tinder, Yahoo, Adobe, Runtastic, AOL, Zynga, Pocket Gems, LinkedIn, Yelp, and many more.

We’re trying something new this year: Lightning Rounds. Out on the lawn, several top execs will give quick power talks on what they see as the defining big trend for mobile distribution in 2016 and 2017.

Here are the brave folks to step up:

Mike Ghaffary, Yelp/Eat 24

Above: Mike Ghaffary, Yelp Eat24

Mike Ghaffary, CEO, Yelp Eat24 — Ghaffary took over as CEO of Eat24 last year after Yelp acquired that company, and our bet is that he’s going to emphasize the app as potentially even more important than ever as a core distribution driver. Eat24 has seen some great growth lately, averaging more than 75 annual growth over the last two quarters of last year. It has expanded coverage to 30,000 restaurants from 18,000. And from my back-of-the-envelope math based on its revenue, it’s doing transactions of around $1 billion run rate.

Casey Winters, Product Lead, Growth, Pinterest — Pinterest is one of the fastest growing apps. It has become a platform of its own, recently announcing its own ad network. Winters is one of the growth team members figuring out how to make sure the app gets even more traction. We’re eager to hear what he says.

Casey Winters, Pinterest

Above: Casey Winters, Pinterest

Bill Magnuson, Cofounder & CTO, AppBoy — Magnuson is the whip-smart brains behind AppBoy. The company is a mobile marketing automation vendor, but Magnuson knows his stuff. He knows this won’t be a vendor pitch, and we’re honored to have him step up to give us his latest insights.

Julie Ask, Forrester

Above: Julie Ask, Forrester

Julie Ask, Principal Analyst, Forrester — Ask is Forrester’s leading mobile analyst, offering mobile tech and strategies advice to companies engaging with consumers. She has worked with hundreds of clients across retail, travel, banking, insurance, CPG, and health care, so her take is going to be sharp.

Chris Messina, Uber

Above: Chris Messina, Uber

David Temkin, Founder and CEO, Cola — We’ve asked Tempkin to join us in part to represent the messaging phenomenon, which appears poised to explode in 2016: Facebook has close to 2 billion users of its messaging services, Messenger and Whatsapp, and is expected to announce (in just two weeks, at its F8 conference) new ways for businesses to interact with their users. That could open a whole new distribution channel. Cola offers a messaging service of its own, and so Temkin will be a great spokesman for this trend.

Andrew Grill, Global Managing Partner, IBM Social Consulting — Grill works for IBM, but has been active in the social and mobile worlds for years, and we’re confident his insights about how to create virality will be a healthy antidote to the tech-dominant, data-driven focus of many of the others on this list.

Chris Messina, ‎Developer Experience Lead, Uber — Messina is one of Silicon Valley’s top open source developers, having worked at companies like Google, Flock, and Mozilla before joining Uber. Our bet is that he’ll be revealing more about API strategies for growth. More interestingly, his perspective may offer a counter of sorts to Ghaffary’s thesis that the app is the driver. Rather, opening up to be a platform for many apps may be the way to grow.

Anyway, awesome lineup. We invite only 180 executives to attend the Summit (but you still have time to apply to attend here).

Hope to see you there!

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Microsoft denies Edge is getting a native ad blocker


On top of the slew of news coming out of Microsoft’s Build 2016 developer conference, a story broke yesterday that Microsoft was building an ad blocker into its Microsoft Edge browser. While this would be a big deal, it apparently isn’t true. “We have no plans to build a native ad blocker into Microsoft Edge,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat.

Ed Bott of ZDNet fame found the nugget of information in a slide during a session titled “Microsoft Edge: What’s Next for Microsoft’s New Browser and Web Platform.” As you can see below, item 4 clearly indicates plans to “build ad blocking features into the browser.”


Above: Line 4 caught Bott’s attention

Image Credit: Ed Bott

Microsoft is now labeling the slide as misleading, saying that it was simply referencing the fact the company is building extension support into Edge. In other words, ad blocking is still coming, but it will work exactly like in any other desktop browser. Microsoft is not taking the bold step of offering a browser with ad blocking built-in — at least for now, that will remain limited to niche browsers like Brave from Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich and Adblock Browser, which is really just Firefox for Android with Adblock Plus.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft released a new Windows 10 preview build with Edge extension support, arguably the most important feature missing from the new browser. The company only released three extensions to testers (Mouse Gestures, Microsoft Translator, and Reddit Engagement Suite), promising more were on the way, including AdBlock and Adblock Plus.

Support for extensions was supposed to arrive by the end of 2015, but the feature was delayed until this year. Microsoft still hasn’t shared how long it plans to let testers play with it before releasing the functionality to all Windows 10 users, but apparently according to yesterday’s misleading slide, the Edge team is targeting “the next version.”

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Xbox Live down as some multiplayer features fail to load

Microsoft's online gaming service is not working for everyone right now.

Gamers are encountering problems communicating and getting into matches with their friends on Microsoft’s consoles.

Xbox Live is down for some, according to complaints on social media. Most people who are running into errors are finding that they cannot start up a group chat session or send invites to friends. This is preventing Xbox One owners from fully enjoying online multiplayer games like Tom Clancy’s The Division, which thrives on teaming up with your buddies. Xbox Live is also one of the main ways that Microsoft keeps players engaged and returning to its system regularly to spend money on digital games and extra content. Each time it goes offline, it could potentially alienate some fans from that experience.

Microsoft has not yet updated its Xbox Live status page to reflect any troubles. We’ll update this post with any new information about that.

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How localized app store optimization delivered a 10X increase in downloads


You have nothing to lose — and everything to gain — by localizing your app to be more aligned with local culture and preferences. Get it right and you can massively extend the reach and appeal of your app without spending a bundle.

It’s why VB Insight’s forthcoming practitioner’s guide, which draws on 35 interviews with ASO professionals and an informal survey of over 500 ASO users, features case studies and actionable advice around the ways app developers and companies can get the most out of this opportunity. Ensuring your app ranks high and appeals to local tastes, rather than offends them, is key.

Receive the forthcoming App Store Optimization practitioner’s guide
for free (a $499 value) when you attend Mobile Summit 2016

But before you get down to the work of optimizing and localizing the most important aspects of your app to be more aligned with culture and preferences in your target countries, you need to double-check whether it’s worth the effort. Even though there is a strong consensus that localizing all aspects of your app store presence is one of the most inexpensive ways to increase revenues and market share, it pays to pace yourself.

Localization starts with translating the language of the app and extends to translating all the other elements (keywords, description, icons, images, video, keywords, and even the name of the app) to be a tight fit with your target audience. And, if you plan to take payments or engage in commerce, do your homework and adapt your app to local regulations and payment methods to avoid any legal and regulatory battles further down the line.

It’s a complex task where the right mix of talent and tools can make a massive difference. Choose tools that provide keywords optimized in several languages, and work with native speakers who naturally have a deeper understanding of language nuances. This helps you zero in more quickly on the keywords users prefer when searching for specific apps and “sanity-check” potential high volume search terms for which your particular app could rank.

However, this advice differs slightly from our survey results, which show nearly half prefer to go it alone — while one-third buy into vendor tools.


The gap closed somewhat when we asked respondents to detail the impact of ASO services and report the uplift they achieve.

ASO expert Steve P. Young over at says his clients have seen results of up to “a 10X increase in downloads” just because they localized their app. In his view, it’s organic growth that every app developer can afford to tap for their app. The key is to take the right steps in the correct order.

If you don’t know what you’re aiming for — or the right countries to target — then start with just your app name and keywords and localize them for popular countries like France, Italy, or Spain. “If you see a bump up in downloads,” he says, “then move on to localize the description, and then to other marketing collateral like screenshots.”

Read between the lines and you’ll see there is no reason to localize every aspect of your app from the get-go just because you can.

Test the waters with keywords. Then use tools to check what kind of traffic volume those keywords are getting on the local level. After that, and in countries where it’s clear your app is taking off, you can focus efforts on localizing every single aspect of your app.

As a rule, Laurie Galazzo — inbound marketing manager at AppTweak, a Belgium-based startup providing app marketers a multilingual keyword tool tailored for six languages, with more in the pipeline — recommends app developers and companies aiming to localize their ASO start with the app title, keywords, and description (and in that order) before making the effort to localize the entire app.

And by the whole app, she means everything — including app metadata, screenshots, previews, and videos. Once you’ve done all this, then the way is clear to make an entirely new release of the app (localizing the entire app experience) and check the metrics.

“Wait a couple of weeks and if you notice a massive increase in app downloads or higher LTVs, it means that you’ve most likely well chosen your target and have great ASO,” Galazzo explains. If the metrics don’t show an uplift, then it’s a sure sign that you either need to work harder at your ASO or choose another target market — or both.

This is the same blueprint Bart Verschueren and Vincent Vandegans, who founded eRowz, followed when they mapped out soft launch plans for, the app they created (and specifically named) to build on the success of their website,, which allows people to buy and sell second-hand goods.

After launching to an enthusiastic audience in France, the company founders noticed app fans springing up in nearby U.K., a sure sign that they should localize their app to take advantage of the opportunity there. Teaming up with AppTweak allowed them to define a localization and ASO strategy, starting with finding and tracking keywords in English, the target language they chose to get more mileage out of their app organic installs.

Localizing their app as part of a wider ASO strategy brought the company new users, more downloads and achieved higher retention and engagement rates. Specifically, they saw a “33 percent increase in app installs” and a 16 percent increase in the number of sessions. As Verschueren put it, “The increase in sessions, plus an amazing 14 percent increase in active devices, indicated we had succeeded in increasing our app ‘stickiness,’ as well as the frequency of active use.”

Based on this appeal, the company has expanded its ASO and localization strategy, allowing it to launch and target users in a total of 10 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Spain, U.K., and the U.S.

Whether you choose ASO tools or rely on in-house talent, it’s clear that localization, as part of a wider ASO and app marketing strategy, is a great way to get the attention of users in the major countries where you see a potential for your app. The right approach can boost your brand and visibility, and bring new life to your app.

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