Talk about the big news from GDC with TechCrunch writers

The Game Developers Conference concludes today in San Francisco but that doesn’t mean our coverage is over.

TechCrunch writer Lucas Matney and Extra Crunch contributor Eric Peckham were at the Moscone Center and got a first-hand glimpse into what is coming up for gamers and developers alike. And at noon PT today they’ll be sharing what they saw with Extra Crunch members on a conference call.

First, there can be no discussion about gaming news this week without mentioning Google’s new game-streaming service Stadia. As Lucas wrote this week, the service will let gamers leave their hefty GPUs and expensive systems behind … and the service can be used on devices with a Chrome browser and an internet connection.

They’ll also be discussing the latest about game engines, VR and voice-based gaming.

To listen to the call and the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

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Crunchyroll raises its monthly subscription price to $7.99

Crunchyroll is announcing its first major price increase since the anime streaming service launched in 2006.

Prices for its premium subscription will go up in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and the Nordics — in the U.S. and Australia, the monthly price will increase from $6.95 to $7.99 (or $79.99 per year), while British subscribers will see their bill go up from £4.99 to £6.50 (or £64.99 per year).

You don’t need to pay to watch Crunchyroll content, but a subscription gives you access to an ad-free experience, simulcasts shortly after a program airs in Japan and full access to the Crunchyroll library.

The company says it has 12 million active monthly users and 2 million paying subscribers.

As for why it’s raising prices after so many years, a spokesperson suggested this is a natural part of Crunchyroll’s evolution, as it has transformed from a site that depended on fans for (often-pirated) content to one that works with all the major Japanese licensors, and claims to hold more than 90 percent of the world’s anime content in its library.

“Crunchyroll has the world’s largest collection of anime and we are grateful to have focused on building out such a robust library for over the last decade, without a significant price change in our company history,” the spokesperson said. “However, due to rising costs of content and infrastructure, now is the time to introduce new subscription pricing. This price increase will help us bring our community more of their favorite shows, allowing us to create even more experiences for them to connect with each other and through shared passion for anime.”

Current monthly subscribers will be able to continue paying their current price for another three months, while annual subscribers will be “grandfathered” at their current price for another year.

This comes amidst broader corporate changes. Following AT&T’s acquisition of the company now called WarnerMedia, it also took full ownership of Otter Media. And WarnerMedia has clearly been rethinking the strategy behind its individual streaming sites as it plans to launch a more comprehensive service later this year.

Updated with a revised quote from Crunchyroll

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Firefox is now a better iPad browser

Mozilla today announced a new iOS version of Firefox that has been specifically optimized for Apple’s iPad. Given the launch of the new iPad mini this week, that’s impeccable timing. It’s also an admission that building a browser for tablets is different from building a browser for phones, which is what Mozilla mostly focused on in recent years.

“We know that iPads aren’t just bigger versions of iPhones,” Mozilla writes in today’s announcement. “You use them differently, you need them for different things. So rather than just make a bigger version of our browser for iOS, we made Firefox for iPad look and feel like it was custom made for a tablet.”

So with this new version, Firefox for iPad gets support for iOS features like split screen and the ability to set Firefox as the default browser in Outlook for iOS. The team also optimized tab management for these larger screens, including the option to see tabs as large tiles, “making it easy to see what they are, see if they spark joy and close with a tap if not.” And if you have a few tabs you want to share, then you can do so with the Send Tabs feature Mozilla introduced earlier this year.

Starting a private browsing session on iOS always took a few extra tabs. The iPad version makes this a one-tap affair as it prominently highlights this feature in the tab bar.

Because quite a few iPad users also use a keyboard, it’s no surprise that this version of Firefox also supports keyboard shortcuts.

If you are an iPad user in search of an alternative browser, Firefox may now be a viable option for you. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments (just don’t remind us how you work from home for only a few hours a day and make good money… believe me, we’re aware).

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Daily Crunch: Facebook admits password security lapse

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook admits it stored ‘hundreds of millions’ of account passwords in plaintext

Prompted by a report by cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs, Facebook confirmed that it stored “hundreds of millions” of account passwords in plaintext for years.

The discovery was made in January, said Facebook’s Pedro Canahuati, as part of a routine security review. None of the passwords were visible to anyone outside Facebook, he said. Facebook admitted the security lapse months later, after Krebs said logs were accessible to some 2,000 engineers and developers.

2. To fund Y Combinator’s top startups, VCs scoop them before Demo Day

What many don’t realize about the Demo Day tradition is that pitching isn’t a requirement; in fact, some YC graduates skip out on their stage opportunity altogether. Why? Because they’ve already raised capital or are in the final stages of closing a deal.

3. MoviePass parent’s CEO says its rebooted subscription service is already (sort of) profitable

We interviewed the CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics to discuss the service’s tumultuous year and future plans.

4. Robotics process automation startup UiPath raising $400M at more than $7B valuation

UiPath develops automated software workflows meant to facilitate the tedious, everyday tasks within business operations.

5. Microsoft Defender comes to the Mac

Previously, this was a Windows solution for protecting the machines of Microsoft 365 subscribers, and the assets of the IT admins that try to keep them safe. It was previously called Windows Defender ATP, but launching on the Mac has prompted a name change.

6. Homeland Security warns of critical flaws in Medtronic defibrillators

The government-issued alert warned that Medtronic’s proprietary radio communications protocol, known as Conexus, wasn’t encrypted and did not require authentication, allowing a nearby attacker with radio-intercepting hardware to modify data on an affected defibrillator.

7. Nintendo’s Labo: VR Kit is not Virtual Boy 2.0

Like the first Labo kits, the VR Kit a friendly reminder that Nintendo’s chief job is to surprise and delight, and it delivers on both fronts. But just as the Labo piano shouldn’t be mistaken for a real musical instrument, Labo VR should not be viewed as “real” virtual reality.

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Respondology helps brands and influencers hide toxic comments

“Don’t read the comments” is one of those cliches that sticks around because it’s still good advice — maybe the best advice. But the team at Respondology is trying to change that.

The company started out by helping brands find and respond to messages on social media. Senior Vice President of Sales Aaron Benor explained that in the course of that work, it also built a tool to mitigate “the vitriol, the awful toxicity of online social media.”

“We realized that the tool had a lot more legs than we thought, and we decided to pursue it full force and sunset the advertising business,” Benor said. “What really I love about this new product is that the big picture, long-term, is: We can put an end to cyberbullying.”

That’s a big goal, and to be clear, Respondology isn’t trying to reach it immediately. Instead, it’s launching a product called The Mod that allows individual brands and influencers to weed out toxic, trollish or spammy comments on Instagram and YouTube, rendering them invisible to most followers.

Benor explained that the product has two lines of defense. First, there’s automated keyword detection, where certain words will cause a comment to be flagged. The customer can decide which categories they want to filter out (“mild” or “severe” swearing, sexual references, racist remarks and so on), and they can also view and reinstate flagged comments from their Respondology dashboard.

Respondology settings

Respondology settings

Second, the company has built up a network of around 1,500 moderators who look at all the comments that aren’t flagged, and they can decide whether they’re appropriate to post. So even if a comment doesn’t use one of the red-flag keywords, a human can still catch it. (Customers that want to be extra careful can also turn on an option where multiple moderators vote on whether a comment should be hidden or posted.)

Benor demonstrated the system for me using a test Instagram account. I got to play the troll, posting several comments at his prompting. Each time, the comment was visible for just a few seconds before the Respondology system sprang into action and the comment disappeared.

When I posted profanity, it was automatically flagged and stayed hidden, while my other comments popped up in the moderation app — and if they were approved, they’d reappear on Instagram. All of this activity remained hidden from my account, where it just looked like my comments had been published normally.

Of course, the big social platforms have built their own moderation tools, but it seems clear that the problem remains unsolved. And even if platform moderation improves, Benor said, “This is an agnostic tool. [Our customers] have complete choice and control. This is not the platform saying, ‘This is what we’re going to offer you’; this is what’s going to work for you as a creator.”

We also discussed a recent story in The Verge highlighting the impact that moderating toxic content can have on people’s mental and emotional health. But Benor argued that while Facebook moderators have to spend most of their time dealing with “the worst of the worst,” Respondology’s team is mostly just approving innocuous commentary. Plus, they’re freelancers who only work when they want, and can stop at any time.

“We haven’t heard any negative feedback,” Benor added. “We all act as moderators ourselves — because what better way is there to know the product and understand it — and I’ve never been shocked by what I’ve seen.”

Respondology charges customers of The Mod based on the volume of comments. Benor said the pricing can range from “a few dollars a month to a few thousand dollars a month.”

Ultimately, he’s hoping to release a version for non-professional users too — so parents, for example, can automatically hide the worst comments from their kids’ online accounts.

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