Which Music Streaming Service Should You Use?

Photo: Leon Neal ( (Getty)

There are tons of music streaming services you can pick from right now (including a brand-new HD service from Amazon). They work on whatever smartphone you own, usually support streaming to speakers through Airplay or Google Cast, and typically come with premium-tier plans that let you stream music on-demand, ad-free, and/or save it for offline listening.

That’s where the similarities tend to end, however. Each service has its own quirks, and figuring out which is the best for you can be a chore. To help, we’ve put together this quick explainer for each of the major music streaming services out there—Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Google Play/YouTube Music, Pandora, and Tidal—to help you find the one that best fits your taste and budget.

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Spotify (iOS, Android, Desktop)

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse ( (Spotify)

Oh, Spotify. It’s the golden child of music streaming—and for good reason. It works basically everywhere (Android, iOS, Mac, PC, Linux, and pretty much every web browser), and it has nearly all the music you could ask for. In addition to a radio and rotating selection of playlists, the service also features a lot of not-so-musical content, including from speeches, poetry, and popular podcasts. The $9.99 premium subscription and $14.99 family plan are standard procedure, with the latter providing premium features for up to six family members. Students with a valid school email address are eligible for a discounted rate of just $4.99 per month.

Spotify is a solid music streamer, and probably the best for users who want a service untethered from the first-party ecosystems of Apple, Amazon, or Google, while still enjoying voice controls and wide-ranging device support. It doesn’t have Jay-Z though, so…yeah.

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Apple Music (iOS, Android, Desktop)

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If you’re an Apple fan—or an Android user who wants to break convention—try Apple Music. The on-demand streaming service works with every Apple device, as well as on Android. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can still listen to Beats 1 Radio for free. Playlists and radio stations are updated consistently, and all the exclusive content Apple gets from various artists is a great way to find new jams (to brag about to your friends). Apple Music starts at $9.99 per month, and features a $14.99 family plan for up to six members.

Unfortunately, Apple Music isn’t supported on non-Siri voice assistant devices, and more speakers support services like Spotify or Pandora, anyway. That said, it’s the only music streaming service that will work with Apple’s HomePod speaker (surprise!), which makes Apple Music an even more enticing (and obvious) pick for Apple households.

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Amazon Music Unlimited (iOS, Android, Desktop)

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Amazon’s Music service comes in several varieties, and which option makes the most sense for you largely depends on how much music you want access to, at what audio quality, and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

All Amazon Prime subscribers get access to a basic tier of music streaming that includes access to a select number of tracks from Amazon Music’s library. This is best for Prime members who don’t want to subscribe to another streaming service and are comfortable with a comparatively smaller library (it’s still thousands of songs).

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If you decide the basic tier isn’t enough (or you’re not a Prime member) you can opt for the Unlimited plan that ups the number of songs to “tens of millions” and includes ad-free, on-demand streaming. Amazon Music Unlimited is available for $9.99 a month, or $7.99 if you’re already Prime member. A family plan is also available for $14.99 per month.

There is also a new Amazon Music Unlimited HD plan that includes the library and perks of the Unlimited plan, but with the addition of lossless HD audio streaming and downloads (24-bit rates between 44.1 and 192 kHz) for $14.99 a month, or $12.99 from Prime members. The only other streaming service to offer lossless HD audio is Tidal, but its HD-tier costs $19.99 per month, making Amazon the most affordable HD music streaming service right now. (Assuming you can even hear a difference when playing an HD and non-HD track.)

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Regardless of which plan you go with, Amazon Music is available on a variety of devices, from iOS and Android devices that can store music offline to Amazon’s own Fire TV and Fire tablets. Connected speakers from companies like Sonos and Polk are also supported. You can authorize up to 10 devices on a single subscription.

Google Play Music/YouTube Music (iOS, Android, Desktop)

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Google Play is a weird one; Google has been open about its plans to transition Google Play Music into its other music subscription service, YouTube Music. At this point, both services exist separately, but a subscription to Google Play includes YouTube Music and YouTube Premium as part of the deal (for now).

Google hasn’t laid out any specific timetable for the transition yet, so until it’s swallowed up by its Youtube counterparts, Google’s Play Music is still a viable option. The service lets you can add up to 50,000 of your own tunes to your account and stream them anywhere, in addition to buying and streaming the nearly 40 million songs on the service itself. You can stream from a selection of Google’s music library for free (with included advertising), or get ad-free and on-demand access to everything on the service for $9.99 a month—or $14.99 for a family plan that supports up to six people.

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Play Music also handles your podcasts. Putting all your audio content in a single location is a definite boon if you—like me—oscillate like Newton’s cradle between songs and podcasts. Google will likely be splintering this function off to its Google Podcasts app in the future once YouTube Music takes over, but for now, you can have both podcasts and music in a single app.

Pandora Radio (iOS, Android, Desktop)

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse ( (Pandora)

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Pandora is great for casual listening, like when you want something in the background while doing dishes or writing blog posts. Its free, ad-supported option lets you create personalized stations while its $4.99 option unlocks unlimited skips and replays, higher quality music, and offline station listening. Spending $9.99 monthly gets you on-demand streaming, putting Pandora on par with other streaming services.

You can listen to Pandora nearly anywhere, from your smartphone to your smart TV. It’s compatible with voice assistants like the Amazon Echo, Google Chrome, and a variety of connected speakers.

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Pandora’s legacy as a streaming radio platform bites it in the ass when it comes to on-demand streaming. Some songs in its catalog are licensed for on-demand streaming while others will only play when they come up in Pandora’s radio, a distinction that leaves us dissatisfied.

Tidal (iOS, Android, Desktop)

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse ( (Tidal)

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Come for the Jay Z and 40 million songs, stay for the fan-friendly perks like exclusive access to pre-sale concert tickets and exclusive music videos. You can use Tidal on any smartphone or desktop, and it plays nicely with Sonos music streaming speakers. Tidal’s upcoming artist section, Tidal Rising, highlights newer musicians looking to break into the mainstream, which is arguably the best and most intriguing aspect of any music streaming service. The service also boasts some high-quality music depending on your subscription. Premium streams max out at AAC 320 kbps, while HiFi music uses “lossless” uncompressed tracks.

Tidal still lacks some polish, as well as actual support from a variety of electronics manufacturers—for example, you can’t control the service from Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. And while $9.99 is a great price for Tidal’s premium service, $19.99 for its HiFi plan seems excessive—especially when Amazon’s comparable HD service undercuts this by $5 even if you’re not a Prime member. Tidal’s $14.99 family plan (and $29.99 HiFi version) supports five instead of six users (which seems to be the standard for competitors), though Tidal does offer discounted student ($4.99 for premium, $9.99 for HiFi) and military plans ($5.99 premium, $11.99 HiFi).

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This post was updated on 9/17/2019 with new information on all of the latest streaming services’ offerings.

Tutoring business-in-a-box service Clark has been acquired by edtech startup Noodle

Clark, the tutor management business-in-a-box service, has been acquired by the New York-based education startup Noodle for an undisclosed amount, TechCrunch has learned.

Founded by John Katzman, the serial entrepreneur behind education technology giants including The Princeton Review and 2U, Noodle offers education search services to help people apply to the right programs that meet their needs.

Megan O’Connor, the co-founder and chief executive of Clark, actually met Katzman two weeks after she launched the company, which is backed by investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Winklevoss Capital, Rethink Education, Flat World Partners and Human Ventures (where O’Connor worked as the chief growth officer).

It’s not a stretch to call Katzman the godfather of tutoring, and, from the beginning, the seasoned executive took an interest in what Clark was doing, according to O’Connor.

With the acquisition, Clark’s shareholders will receive an equity stake in Noodle and O’Connor and her co-founder, Sam Gimbel, will take roles within Noodle to build out a tutoring service within the company, O’Connor says.

Going forward, Gimbel and O’Connor will build up the tutoring component of Noodle’s business as a complement to the company’s higher education and elementary and secondary school divisions.

One of the core components of the new tutoring platform within Noodle will be a focus on the individualization and personalization of tutoring sessions, buoyed by a community of tutors who share information on the most effective teaching strategies for different kinds of students.

What the tutoring practice won’t do, O’Connor says, is teach to a standardized curriculum. “If we can give them the software of shared services, then they can be more hands-on with the student,” O’Connor says.

Lyft faces lawsuit that alleges kidnapping at gunpoint and rape

Lyft is facing another lawsuit pertaining to its handling of alleged sexual assaults at the hands of drivers on its platform. In a suit filed today in the San Francisco Superior Court, Alison Turkos accuses Lyft of 11 counts, including general negligence, vicarious liability for assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault, sexual battery and breach of contract.

The lawsuit describes how the plaintiff’s Lyft driver allegedly kidnapped her at gunpoint and took her across state lines, where the driver and other men took turns raping her, the lawsuits states.

“Alison remembers the men cheering and high fiving each other as they continued to rape her,” the lawsuit alleges. “Their attack was so brutal that the next day Alison experienced severe vaginal pain and bleeding. Her body was so exhausted from the attack and resulting trauma that Alison could not even leave her bed or raise her arms.”

When the plaintiff reported it to Lyft, the lawsuit alleges Lyft simply apologized for “inconvenience” and gave her a partial refund for the ride. The plaintiff says she reported the crime to the police, who performed a rape kit that found evidence of semen from at least two men on the clothing she wore that night.

The New York Police Department then transferred the case to the FBI, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit states the FBI is now investigating the incident as a human trafficking case. However, Lyft “has been wholly uncooperative” throughout the NYPD and FBI’s investigation, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks special damages, including economic restitution to cover past and future hospital expenses, as well as expenses relating to her profession and loss of earning capacity.

“By failing to take reasonable steps to confront the problem of multiple rapes and sexual assaults of LYFT passengers by LYFT drivers, LYFT has acted in conscious disregard of the safety of its passengers,” the lawsuit alleges.

This suit comes just weeks after 14 women filed suit against Lyft alleging the company has not addressed complaints pertaining to sexual assault. Both suits recommended Lyft adopt new policies, such as the addition to the app of a surveillance camera that can record audio and video of all rides.

Meanwhile, Lyft recently announced new safety features, including trip check-ins if a ride seems to be taking longer than it should and in-app 911 calling.

“We’re committed to playing a significant role in connecting our communities with transportation, and we understand the responsibilities that come along with that,” Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer wrote in a blog post. “We’ve known since the beginning that as part of our mission, we must heavily invest in safety. We continue to welcome accountability and partnership to best protect our rider and driver community.”

It’s no coincidence that Lyft announced these safety features in light of the lawsuit on behalf of those 14 women. The company had previously taken some steps to address safety, but at a much slower pace than competitor Uber, which has also faced a number of sexual assault and abuse lawsuits. Between 2014-2018, CNN found 103 Uber drivers who had been accused of sexual assault or abuse of passengers.

Over the years, both companies have taken steps to ramp up their respective safety procedures. In April, Uber launched a campus safety initiative while Lyft implemented continuous background checks and enhanced its identity verification process for drivers. Uber, however, implemented continuous background checks about a full year before Lyft, and added an in-app 911 calling feature more than a year before Lyft.

“We don’t take lightly any instances where someone’s safety is compromised, especially in the rideshare industry, including the allegations of assault in the news last week,” Zimmer said earlier this month in that same blog post. “The reality is that certain populations carry a disproportionate burden simply trying to get to work or back home after a night out — in the U.S., one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives. The onus is on all of us to learn from any incident, whether it occurs on our platform or not, and then work to help prevent them.”

TechCrunch is awaiting comment from Lyft regarding this lawsuit. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

What Actually Happens When You Block Someone on Your iPhone

Photo: Shutterstock

The iPhone has a built-in blocking feature, but have you ever wondered what exactly happens when you block someone?

The short answer: you get fewer unwanted texts and calls, and the people you block are none the wiser.

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You can block contacts through any of the iPhone’s communication apps (Messages, FaceTime, and Phone). Blocking a contact in one app will block them across the board. Of course, blocked callers can still attempt to reach you—the only thing they’ll know for sure is that you aren’t answering their messages.

Blocking contacts via Messages

When a blocked number tries to send you a text message, it won’t go through, and they will likely never see the “delivered” note. On your end, you’ll see nothing at all.

To block a number in Messages, open the conversation, tap the contact’s name, number, or image at the top of the screen, and hit the “i” info icon. Tap the name or number again and scroll down to the bottom of the contact screen to “Block this Caller.”

Messages also has an option to filter texts from senders who aren’t in your Contacts list. You’ll still get the messages, but they’ll be delivered to a separate “Unknown Senders” inbox. You also won’t see notifications for these texts. The Unknown Senders tab will appear alongside a “Contacts & SMS” tab in Messages if you enable this feature (Settings > Messages > Filter Unknown Senders).

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Blocking contacts from calls and FaceTime

Calls from blocked contacts go directly to voicemail. On your end, you’ll see a special “Blocked Messages” folder in your voicemail inbox (scroll to the bottom of your voicemail message list) if they leave a message, but you won’t get a notification they called.

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To block a number in the Phone or FaceTime, tap the “i” info icon next to the number or contact and hit “Block this Caller” on the contact screen.

You can manage your blocked contacts in your iPhone’s Settings > Phone/Messages/FaceTime. And you can unblock numbers at any time to resume receiving messages, calls, and notifications.

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This story was originally published on 2/25/16 and was updated on 9/17/19 to provide more thorough and current information.

What’s Coming and Going From Netflix the Week of September 16, 2019

Screenshot: Netflix

You loved it as a web series. Will you love it as a feature film? Between Two Ferns: The Movie arrives on Friday and while I remain skeptical, the trailer makes it look rather funny. Celebrities like David Letterman, Jon Hamm, Brie Larson and Chrissy Teigen join Zach Galifianakis for some deadpan faux talkshowing; Will Ferrell is there, doing his reliably amusing Will Ferrell thing, and evidently Matthew McConaughey dies or almost dies, which is an interesting plot twist?

If Funny or Die indie humor is not your bag, might I suggest the documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates? Could it possibly not be fascinating? I haven’t used a PC since the Clinton administration, and still I am desperate to to fangirl out over Gates’ grey matter!

Arriving This Week

Tuesday, September 17

Wednesday, September 18

  • Come and Find Me

Thursday, September 19

Friday, September 20

Saturday, September 21

  • Sarah’s Key

Leaving This Week

Leaving September 16

  • Super Genius: Season 1
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D

Leaving September 20

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GoDaddy upgrades its website builder with customized marketing action plans

GoDaddy’s website-building product GoCentral is getting an upgrade today — and along with new features, there’s a new name: Websites+Marketing.

As you can probably guess, Websites+Marketing isn’t just a website builder. After all, as Senior Director of Product Management Heidi Gibson put it, a small business website is now part of a “a whole ecosystem that comprises your online presence.”

These are issues that Gibson said she’s experienced directly, as the chef/owner/”Commander in Cheese” at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.

“Our typical customer, our target customer is not just a small business — they’ve got one to five employees … they don’t know what they’re supposed to do, they don’t know what’s effective,” she added. Complicating matters is the fact that “where you need to be will not be the same answer for every kind of business.”

So GoDaddy Websites+Marketing — which Gibson described as “an evolution of GoCentral” — includes tools to manage email marketing and search engine optimization, and it syncs up with Facebook, Yelp, Instagram and Google My Business, so that it’s easy to read the latest reviews and comments, respond and post other updates directly from your Websites+Marketing dashboard.

GoDaddyInSight Dashboard

It also includes a new feature called GoDaddy Insight, which relies on anonymized data — aggregated from all the businesses using GoDaddy and GoCentral — to provide entrepreneurs with a score on how their online presence and marketing compares to similar businesses, as well as an action plan recommending the next steps for improvement.

The website-builder looks pretty slick, too. Gibson acknowledged that some of the features will look pretty similar to anyone who’s used a competing product, but she said even here, GoDaddy has taken steps to make things easier.

For example, the Site Makeover feature allows businesses to get a quick view of how their content might look laid out on each of the 20-plus website templates, rather than making them click through each one. And thanks to GoDaddy’s recent acquisition of Sellbrite, businesses also can manage their product listings across online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart and eBay.

GoDaddy Websites+Marketing is available in four pricing tiers, ranging from $10 to $25 per month.

Facebook’s new policy Supreme Court could override Zuckerberg

A real check to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s control is finally coming in the form of an 11 to 40-member Oversight Board that will review appeals to its policy decisions, like content takedowns, and make recommendations for changes. Today Facebook released the charter establishing the theoretically independent Oversight Board, with Zuckerberg explaining that when it takes a stance, “The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it.”

Slated to be staffed with members this year, who will be paid by a Facebook-established trust (the biggest update to its January draft charter), the Oversight Board will begin judging cases in the first half of 2020. Given Zuckerberg’s overwhelming voting control of the company, and the fact that its board of directors contains many loyalists, like COO Sheryl Sandberg and investor Peter Thiel whom he’s made very rich, the Oversight Board could ensure the CEO doesn’t always have the final say in how Facebook works.

But in some ways, the committee could serve to shield Zuckerberg and Facebook from scrutiny and regulation, much to their advantage. The Oversight Board could remove total culpability for policy blunders around censorship or political bias from Facebook’s executives. It also might serve as a talking point toward the FTC and other regulators investigating it for potential antitrust violations and other malpractice, as the company could claim the Oversight Board means it’s not completely free to pursue profit over what’s fair for society.

Finally, there remain serious concerns about how the Oversight Board is selected and the wiggle room the charter provides Facebook. Most glaringly, Facebook itself will choose the initial members and then work with them to select the rest of the board, and thereby could avoid adding overly incendiary figures. And it maintains that “Facebook will support the board to the extent that requests are technically and operationally feasible and consistent with a reasonable allocation of Facebook’s resources,” giving it the right to decide if it should apply the precedent of Oversight Board verdicts to similar cases or broadly implement its policy guidance.

How the Oversight Board works

When a user disagrees with how Facebook enforces its policies, and with the result of an appeal to Facebook’s internal moderation team, they can request an appeal to the Oversight Board. Examples of potential cases include someone disagreeing with Facebook’s refusal to deem a piece of content as unacceptable hate speech or bullying, its choice to designate a Page as promoting terrorism and remove it or the company’s decision to leave up problematic content, such as nudity, because it’s newsworthy. Facebook also can directly ask the Oversight Board to review policy decisions or specific cases, especially urgent ones with real-world consequences.

Facebook Oversight Board

After Zuckerberg initially laid out a blueprint for the Oversight Board a year ago, Facebook assigned a 100-person team to build out the plan for the board. It held six workshops and 22 round-tables, plus case-review simulations with 650 people from 88 countries.

The board will include a minimum of 11 members, but Facebook is aiming for 40. They’ll serve three-year terms and a maximum of three terms each as a part-time job, with appointments staggered so there isn’t a full change-over at any time. Facebook is looking for members with a broad range of knowledge, competencies and expertise who lack conflicts of interest. They’re meant to be “experienced at deliberating thoughtfully and collegially,” “skilled at making and explaining decisions based on a set of policies,” “well-versed on matters relating to digital content and governance” and “independent and impartial.” 

Facebook will appoint a set of trustees that will work with it to select initial co-chairs for the board, who will then assist with sourcing, vetting, interviewing and orienting new members. The goal is “broad diversity of geographic, gender, political, social and religious representation.” The trust, funded by Facebook with an as yet undecided amount of capital, will set members’ compensation rate in the near future and oversee term renewals.

Facebook Oversight Board candidate review guide

Inevitable calls of biased board members

My biggest worry here is how Facebook will handle the fact that it’s trying to represent an extraordinarily vast set of global policy perspectives…broader than any one country’s laws. What’s taboo or even illegal in one nation may be common or lauded in another. Facebook may see endless challenges from different segments of the public regarding the previous public statements by board members.

What Facebook’s own staff in California might see as an uncontroversial viewpoint could trigger calls for removal from the board elsewhere. We’ve seen how common “cancelled” culture has become when the public digs up problematic content from celebrities or politicians, and that’s just based on what flies in the United States.

For example, Republican senators just bullied Facebook into removing a fact-check that found the statement “abortion is never medically necessary” to be false, allowing that viewpoint to spread uninhibited on the social network. I personally wouldn’t want someone with that viewpoint on the Oversight Board, but others might feel the opposite. And what happens when politicians start demanding more conservative representation on the Oversight Board the same way they’ve badgered Facebook for supposedly censoring them despite evidence to the contrary?

trump zuckerberg 1

BARCELONA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 21: Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg gives his speech during the presentation of the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge on February 21, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Which cases get reviewed?

The board will choose which cases to review based on their significance and difficulty. They’re looking for issues that are severe, large-scale and important for public discourse, while raising difficult questions about Facebook’s policy or enforcement that is disputed, uncertain or represents tension or trade-offs between Facebook’s recently codified values of authenticity, safety, privacy and dignity. The board will then create a sub-panel of five members to review a specific case.

The board will be able to question the request that Facebook provide information necessary to rule on the case with a mind to not violating user privacy. They’ll interpret Facebook’s Community Standards and policies and then decide whether Facebook should remove or restore a piece of content and whether it should change how that content was designated. Verdicts are meant to have consensus, but will be approved by majority when necessary.

How decisions get made

Once a panel makes a draft decision, it’s circulated to the full board, which can recommend a new panel review if a majority take issue with the verdict. Once they’ve gone through a privacy review to protect the identities of those involved with the case, the decisions will be made public within two weeks and affected users will be notified. Those decisions will be archived in a database, and are meant to act as precedent for future decisions. The idea is that the decisions of the board will be binding and implemented by Facebook as long as they don’t require it to violate the law.

Facebook Oversight Board Decisions

But will Facebook really implement them?

The biggest concern with the charter is that it still provides Facebook some leeway about how to implement the board’s decisions. Critically, it only has to apply the decision to the specific case reviewed, and it’s at the company’s discretion to turn that into blanket policy:

In instances where Facebook identifies that identical content with parallel context — which the board has already decided upon — remains on Facebook, it will take action by analyzing whether it is technically and operationally feasible to apply the board’s decision to that content as well. When a decision includes policy guidance or a policy advisory opinion, Facebook will take further action by analyzing the operational procedures required to implement the guidance, considering it in the formal policy development process of Facebook . . . Facebook will support the board to the extent that requests are technically and operationally feasible and consistent with a reasonable allocation of Facebook’s resources.

Because of these sections I’ve bolded, Facebook has the ability to decide it would be operationally infeasible to do what the board decided in every situation, merely take the guidance into account for future policy-making and choose whether implementation is a reasonable allocation of capital and staff. This provides a sizable gray area.

If Facebook chooses that the board’s decision could materially reduce sharing even if it protected users, it might consider that operationally infeasible. If it would cost too much to moderate content in the way the board recommends, it could deem that unreasonable resource allocation. And if the policy guidance doesn’t mesh with its other objectives, it only has to “consider” the board’s wishes.

Facebook Policy

This section is where advocates and critics should focus. These exemptions to implementation need to be made less vague if the structure is truly going to hold Facebook accountable. If Facebook just declines to broadly change its policy to fit the board’s recommendation, all the board can do is make binding decisions on specific cases.

Facebook director of governance Brent Harris explained on a call with reporters that “If the board doesn’t feel like we’ve handled it right, they’ll keep taking cases and overturn us.” But again the board’s power is focused on a case-by-case basis. Facebook still controls the wide-reaching changes to policy.

If you want to learn more about solutions to Facebook’s concentration of power, check out my talk at SXSW 2020 with Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes, who has called for the company to be broken up.

SXSW 2020 hughes constine

Twitch acquires gaming database site IGDB to improve its search and discovery features

Amazon-owned Twitch has made a small but strategic acquisition designed to improve its search capabilities and better direct viewers to exactly the right content. The company is acquiring IGDB, the Internet Games Database (no relation to Amazon’s IMDb), a website dedicated to combining all the relevant information about games into a comprehensive resource for gamers everywhere. As a result of the acquisition, IGDB’s database will now feed into Twitch’s search and discovery feature set. However, the IGDB website itself will not be shut down.

Founded in 2015 by Christian Frithiof and a small team based in Gothenburg, Sweden, IGDB sources its gaming content both through community contributions and automation.

The site includes useful information for every game, like the genre, platforms supported, description, member and critic ratings and reviews, storyline, game modes, publisher, release dates, characters, and more. You could also find less common details like how long it would take to play the game in question, or the player perspectives the game offered, among other things.

And similar to IMDb’s mission of organizing everything associated with the entertainment industry, IGDB allowed voice talent to claim their profile on its site, in addition to listing the full credits associated with a given title.

To generate revenue, IGDB provided a developer API that’s been free to use for smaller shops or $99 per month for up to 50K requests. Interested partners, (e.g. ASUS), could reach out to request special pricing. To date, IGDB was working with several thousand API users, we understand. 

Screen Shot 2019 09 17 at 2.50.00 PM

Twitch confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch in a statement.

Millions of people come to Twitch every day to find and connect with their favorite streamers and communities, and we want to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for,” a spokesperson said. “IGDB has developed a comprehensive gaming database, and we’re excited to bring them on to help us more quickly improve and scale search and discovery on Twitch.”

Deal terms were not disclosed, but it was likely a small deal, from a financial standpoint. IGDB is only a 10-person team and had raised just $1.5 million to date, according to data from Crunchbase.

From a strategic standpoint, however, the acquisition is much more impactful.

Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has spoken publicly about the issues surrounding Twitch’s search functionality and how it needs to improve on that front.

“We want every place on Twitch to help you get discovered. Today, nearly one in three people who come to Twitch use Search to find what they’re looking for. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that our search function hasn’t always been the best experience,” Shear had said earlier this year, speaking at TwitchCon Berlin.”One wrong letter and your search results may come back empty, or direct you to a very different streamer than the one you were looking for. So we’re going to fix search so it actually works,” he promised.

In recent weeks, there were hints that something was going on at IGDB.

In a blog post dated August 19, 2019, IGDB announced it was starting a “large scale migration of our backend, database, and hosting” and said that the service was “about to undergo some changes, some temporary and others more permanent.” As a part of its changes, it shut off the ability for users to sign-up or update their profiles, and it shut down its pulse news, feed, and recommendations features.

Now a part of Twitch, IGDB will merge its free and premium APIs into one free tier, will clean up other features, and migrate infrastructure. Its IGDB website will continue to remain online.

“Our mission has always been to build the most comprehensive gaming database in the world. Such a monumental undertaking can be quite challenging when you are a small startup team,” reads an IGDB blog post. “By joining Twitch, we will be able to tap into their experience, resources, and skills, which will enable us to accelerate our progress and deliver the version of IGDB we all always dreamed about. Not only that, our companies share the same culture, core values, and passion for gaming– making this the perfect fit,” the post said.

It was common industry knowledge Twitch previously used competing data provider Giantbomb. As is often the case, the company may have been in discussions with IGDB about making switch which led to the acquisition. (The company declined to say how it can about.) What had made IGDB different from other API providers, like Mobygames, is that it allowed its API to be used commercially, including by competing projects, and it allowed caching and storing data on local databases.

The entire 10-person team from IGDB will remain based in Sweden, but will report into Twitch through its Viewer Experience organization.

How to Cope With a Cheapskate Friend

Photo: Getty Images

Jerk WeekHow do you detoxify your timeline? Deal with the boor hogging the squat rack at the gym? Tell a stranger on a plane that no, you won’t swap seats with them? It’s Jerk Week, and we’ve got everything you need to handle the rudest people in life—and advice for what to do when you’re the one in the wrong.  

It’s one thing to be frugal. You know what you want to spend money on, and you prioritize it. You know where you don’t want to spend money, and you minimize that spending. But you’re far from militant, and you can be known to cut loose with your money from time to time, while traveling or perhaps on special occasions. Frugal is fine.

You’re certainly not a cheapskate. No one wants to be that person, the killjoy at the birthday party or the grocery store or the coffee shop. But we all know a cheapskate. We all resent a cheapskate. (And to be crystal clear, we’re not talking about friends who are broke or simply earn less money than you. A cheapskate is someone who has the money to kick in along with everyone else, but seeks every opportunity to cut corners and cut costs, even if it means forcing their friends to shoulder extra expenses.) That said, here are a few strategies for dealing with the cheapskates in your life. Because those people are the worst.

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Don’t try to argue with them

Look, if someone wants to scrub and reuse the same sheet of aluminum foil 17 times before finally tossing it, it’s their choice. You can’t control anyone’s choices or behavior but your own. Take a deep breath and recognize that whatever logic this person has about aluminum foil, they’re not likely to change if you snap at them for doing it. There are some habits you just have to let go, no matter how much you hate them.

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When it comes to cheapskates, it’s best to save your energy for the conversations that truly matter—like ones about stingy habits that affect you directly. If you’ve had repeated run-ins with someone who refuses to pay their fair share of a restaurant bill or ghosts you when it’s time to chip in, it’s probably time to say something. Prepare to have an honest, open discussion with this person, but don’t be surprised if they get defensive. It may take time before they see the error of their ways.

Set expectations early and often

To avoid awkward situations and potential resentment, make expectations around money clear long before anyone has to reach for their wallet. Take the always-challenging birthday dinner, where no one is sure if you’ll have individual tabs, one tab, individual tabs with the guest of honor’s meal split evenly among you, or some other configuration. Don’t leave things to chance or back someone into a corner.

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Instead, set out expectations early. For instance, your invitation email could specify, “We’re planning to split the tab evenly and each kick in for Jessica’s meal and drinks, so please plan to bring cash or card for your share.” Or, say you’re planning a bachelor party. For every potential activity you throw out for the consideration by the attendees, provide a cost estimate up front so you don’t end up with a dissenter after the plans are already starting to gel.

If you set these expectations and someone bows out, don’t guilt trip them about it. Remember, the reason you’re being up front about costs is so you don’t have to argue with them.

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Being direct about costs is one of the best things you can do for all your relationships, if we’re being honest. Getting crystal clear about costs well before it’s time to pay can help everyone involved—whether they’re comfortable, broke, or somewhere in between—determine whether they want to spend their money on this particular expense. Being thoughtful: It’s not just for anticipating your cheapskate friend’s responses. It’s for everyone’s peace of mind.

Avoid the activity that bugs you most

This tactic is for those of you who can’t escape the cheapskates in your life because you’re related to them. You can’t control what they do, but you can take control of how you interact with it. Think of the thing this person does that grinds your gears the most.

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Maybe you know they’re a terrible tipper. Maybe they embarrass you at the mall by ambushing the register with a fistful of coupons and an unflagging willingness to argue with the cashier. Can you avoid doing that one rage-inducing activity with them, or reduce the frequency that it takes place?

Make alternate plans

Even if your budget is feeling flush, you could probably take better advantage of free or low-cost events in your area. Suggest you and your tight-fisted friend meet up at such an event. Or, schedule activities that involve little shared planning, like a walk in the park or a bag-lunch picnic. Cheap people love doing free stuff, as does pretty much everyone else. Look at that common ground.

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Yes, this is the same route you’d take with a friend who doesn’t make as much money as you do, or who’s going through a rough financial patch. Maybe it’s what you suggest when there are just too many days between you and your next paycheck. But if you’ve tried to broach a money discussion before and your cheapskate friend isn’t having it, suggesting a free activity can cut out a money conversation altogether—even if just for a few hours.

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Reconsider your friendship

Do a quick gut-check of the past dozen or so times you’ve interacted with the person in question. Do you feel like they take advantage of you to avoid spending money? Are they forcing you to spend more in their refusal to shell out? Maybe this person waits for you to book a hotel for a destination wedding, asks if they can bunk with you, and then “forgets” to chip in…for a year. Or maybe they arrive to every single party empty-handed (while heavily partaking in everything offered), when everyone else heeded your warning that your barbecue, while overflowing with provided meats, would be BYOB.

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If you can deal with planning around someone’s cheapskate tendencies, your friendship may be fine and dandy. But if it’s wearing on you and your wallet, it may be time to reconsider how much you value that particular relationship. If you’ve already tried talking to someone about how their behavior impacts you, and they’re impervious to your pleas, it may be hopeless. If you need to save your sanity, remember you’re allowed to leave people out of your life if their behavior is downright ridiculous.

Boston-based DataRobot raises $206M Series E to bring AI to enterprise

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly large role in enterprise software, and Boston’s DataRobot has been helping companies build, manage and deploy machine learning models for some time now. Today, the company announced a $206 million Series E investment led by Sapphire Ventures.

Other participants in this round included new investors Tiger Global Management, World Innovation Lab, Alliance Bernstein PCI, and EDBI along with existing investors DFJ Growth, Geodesic Capital, Intel Capital, Sands Capital, NEA and Meritech.

Today’s investment brings the total raised to $431 million, according to the company. It has a pre-money valuation of $1 billion, according to PitchBook. DataRobot would not confirm this number.

The company has been catching the attention of these investors by offering a machine learning platform aimed at analysts, developers and data scientists to help build predictive models much more quickly than it typically takes using traditional methodologies. Once built, the company provides a way to deliver the model in the form of an API, simplifying deployment.

The late-stage startup plans to use the money to continue building out its product line, while looking for acquisition opportunities where it makes sense. The company also announced the availability of a new product today, DataRobot MLOps, a tool to manage, monitor and deploy machine learning models across a large organization.

The company, which was founded in 2012, claims it has had triple-digit recurring revenue growth dating back to 2015, as well as one billion models built on the platform to-date. Customers contributing to that number include a broad range of companies such as Humana, United Airlines, Harvard Business School and Deloitte.