TIME apps

Picture This: Instagram Could Be Worth $35 Billion

The Instagram logo is displayed on a smartphone on Dec. 20, 2012 in Paris, France.
The Instagram logo is displayed on a smartphone on Dec. 20, 2012 in Paris, France. Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images

Photo-sharing service owned by Facebook could be worth that whopping amount, according to a new estimate by a Wall Street analyst

Instagram, the photo-sharing service owned by Facebook, could be worth a whopping $35 billion, according to a new estimate by a Wall Street analyst.

Citi’s Mark May issued a new valuation estimate for the popular app, far above the bank’s prior $19 billion valuation, a loftier view on the asset that May attributed to Instagram’s announcement last week that it had reached more than 300 million total users.

“While Instagram is still early in monetizing its audience and data assets and its financial contribution to Facebook is minimal today, we believe that it is quickly gaining monetization traction and would contribute more than $2 billion in high-margin revenue at current user and engagement levels if fully monetized,” May wrote in a research report.

The sky-high valuation makes Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram look like a slam-dunk. The social-media giant only paid $1 billion for Instagram in a cash-and-stock deal.

And Facebook’s move to make money off Instagram is just getting started. Instagram began to roll out ads in its photo stream in late 2013, with video ads debuting on the platform roughly a year later. Citi’s May expects that 2015 will be the first year that Facebook begins to develop “more meaningful off-Facebook revenue streams,” and that includes efforts to make more money off Instagram.

Even with Instagram’s likely higher valuation, it is still a relatively small piece of Facebook, which is overall worth more than $220 billion. But the photo-sharing service’s new valuation estimate by Citi would suggest it is worth more than Twitter, which has fewer monthly active users and a market capitalization of almost $24 billion.

That valuation gap could potentially widen. May said that he expects Instagram could continue to rapidly add users and expects the gap in total viewers between Instagram and Twitter will continue to widen. By the end of 2015, May forecasted that Instagram could have 420 million users verses Twitter’s 319 million.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Media

You Can Visit The Colbert Report’s Set on Google Maps

Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert hosts Comedy Central's "Indecision 2008: America's Choice" at Comedy Central Studios on November 4, 2008 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

Check out the set on Street View

Even though The Colbert Report is ending its run Thursday, the show’s set will live on through Google Maps.

The entire iconic stage is rendered in 3D through Google’s service (though sadly, Colbert himself isn’t present). You can get a close-up look at some of the show’s famous gags, like the portrait of Stephen Colbert standing in front of a portrait of Stephen Colbert standing in front of a portrait of Stephen Colbert.

There are also plenty of goodies on Colbert’s bookshelf that you may have never noticed before, like a Captain America shield, a Rock’em Sock’em Robots game and a solemn photograph of Hugh Laurie.

Check out the set in all its glory here.

TIME apps

5 Can’t-Miss iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week

Woman using iPhone
Image Source/Getty Images

Check out Workflow, an app that lets you make cool new shortcuts

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

Robinhood

When you’re new to trading stocks, among the most daunting thoughts is not that you might lose money, but that you might have to pay commission on a trade that ends with you losing a ton of money. Robinhood is your way around this anxiety. Not only does it offer commission-free trading, but it quickly displays historical share prices and allows users to create a stock hit-list by swiping left or right on a given stock. Though you might not earn millions, Robinhood might just help you line your pockets with a little extra cash, if you know what you’re doing.

Robinhood is available free in the App Store.

Workflow

When the Heartbleed fiasco earlier this year temporarily shut down productivity service IFTTT (which allowed users to make simple if-this-then-that macros on their mobile devices), it paved the way for different, though perhaps just as useful apps like Workflow. Workflow allows users to do simple things like creating an icon that makes calls to select people, to getting directions to the nearest coffee shop. The app essentially allows you to create your own apps based on dozens of interchangeable actions.

Workflow is available for $2.99 in the App Store.

Do

I like to think that the meetings of the five families in The Godfather would have been much smoother with an app like Do. It creates a meeting itinerary, with ideas to bring up, alerts, points of interest, and the ability to send automatic summaries to participants. Did Bruno Tattaglia bring up the division of labor union contracts? Do would have put that in the shared notes. Did you suddenly remember not to trust Don Barzini on the import-export deal? Put that in the private notes. It makes the business of meeting with colleagues (or enemy mob bosses looking to have you killed) seamless, easy, and ruthlessly efficient.

Do is available free in the App Store.

Gyf

The last thing anyone wants to do is open up a video in a text message. It might be a hilarious clip from one college friend of another falling down a small flight of stairs, but it’s a dangerous thing to open up a clip at the office and not know where it’s going. Gyf allows you to turn these treasured memories into easy-to-share GIF files. That video of your younger sibling accidentally blowing up a pressure cooker? Mom might not have time to watch a video, so send her the GIF version instead.

Gyf is available free in the App Store.

Zen Shopping

With the holidays right around the corner, the decision between saving a few bucks and doing what is easy might end up taking a turn for the more expensive. Zen Shopping is a brilliant little app that not only compares the best prices for the same item, but also finds coupons, as well as deals geared toward your interests. It also offers partial refunds for certain stores should an item drop below the price you paid, which can mean even greater, more unexpected savings. It really is a full service shopping app that ties everything up nicely with package tracking.

Zen Shopping is available free in the App Store.

TIME apps

Google Drive Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Google Drive
Google Drive Google

You can now send Drive files as Gmail attachments

Google is rolling out a series of updates for its cloud-based storage service Google Drive.

Gmail users will now be able to share Drive documents as attachments that are sent as part of email files. That’s useful in case the person receiving the document doesn’t have permission to view the file in Google Drive or if you delete the file from Drive at a later time.

On Android, Drive users will also be able to search for files using voice commands within the Google search app. A user could say, “OK, Google — search for holiday letter on Drive,” for instance, to automatically pull up the relevant documents without opening Drive. On iOS, users will also be able to start uploading files to drive from non-Google apps.

Both iOS and Android versions of Drive are getting an update to allow users to access and share custom maps developed with Google My Maps.

The Google Drive Android updates will launch during the next week, while the iOS tweaks are already available.

TIME apps

Microsoft’s ‘Sway’ Changes Everything You Know About PowerPoint

Microsoft

And that's either a great thing or a terrible thing

Microsoft gave PowerPoint a mobile-friendly twist Tuesday with a wider public release of Sway, a new presentation app designed for the confines of mobile phones and tablets. The preview version of the app is now available without signing up for a waiting list, though Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date for the finished product yet.

Microsoft is hoping Sway will appeal to a new set of users: Movers and shakers who want to whip together presentations across a slew of devices, from their 20-inch desktop to their 4-inch smartphone. Squeezed for time and screen space, these users could easily dispense with PowerPoint’s more esoteric features — Its seemingly endless selection of fonts, for instance, includes three species of Wingdings.

The question for Microsoft’s design team was where to make the cuts — and it’s clear from the first glance at Sway that they haven’t just debuted a new PowerPoint with a few nips and tucks. They’ve done reconstructive surgery.

Gone are the dropdown menus nestled within more dropdown menus. Gone are the finicky buttons regulating every square inch of your slides. Gone, even, are the slides. In their place is an interface so spare that experienced PowerPoint users may feel a momentary loss of control.

But that’s actually the point, says David Alexander, senior product manager at Sway.

“Candidly, what we did with Sway was we took the design instincts of real designers and encoded them into algorithms,” says Alexander. The result is a digital design assistant that does the heavy lifting for you. Instead of scrolling through font menus, an icon labeled “Remix!” instantly switches out the font and matches it against a new background. Instead of nudging around headlines, bullet points and images, each item can be created individually, and the program stitches them together into a neat little slide. And that word “slide” is no longer an apt description of the finished product. If anything, Sway’s results resemble a very long webpage, fit for scrolling rather than flipping.

“Docs and Powerpoint were originally designed with an eye toward emulating an analog form of content: A piece of paper for a document. A flip chart for a presentation,” Alexander says. “We wanted to create a new, digital-oriented output that doesn’t try to emulate a paper-based environment.”

Sway also makes embedding media from Twitter, Facebook, or photos from personal devices a seamless experience. A search field built into the app can fetch content from any of these dispersed sources and load it directly into the presentation. No more copying, saving and pasting.

The question remains whether people used to PowerPoint’s total customization features will sacrifice a measure of control to a slightly pushier program. Sway’s Alexander concedes it isn’t for everyone, and focus groups are sometimes split over the new features. “Two women sitting next to each other had the exact opposite reaction to Sway,” Alexander said. One loved the ease of use. The other hated the stripped down controls and vowed never to use it.

In either case, Microsoft hopes to appeal to both users. The company has excelled at creating power tools for the office, but an explosion of mobile devices and apps from rival tech giants has chipped away at its market share beyond the workplace. It’s one reason Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has made “mobile-first, cloud-first” a company mantra. One result is a standalone app that marks a departure not only from PowerPoint, but from Microsoft’s old ball and chain, the office PC.

TIME apps

These Are Instagram’s 5 New Filters

It's the first time the app has premiered a new filter in 2 years

In case your brunch wasn’t getting cold enough as you toiled over the perfect filter to properly capture your pancakes, Instagram premiered five new filters Tuesday.

The fancily named Perpetua, Ludwig, Slumber, Aden and Crema will be added to Instagram’s existing 20 options — which include the “normal” setting.

This is the first filter addition in two years.

Here’s how they look:

Slumber

Instagram

Perpetua

Instagram


Ludwig

Instagram

Crema

Instagram
Instagram
Instagram

Arden

5

Instagram also added slo-mo video, real-time commenting (to prevent the constant need to refresh your screen), new preview modes, and the ability to manage how you view your editing options.

“We know that everyone has their favorite filters,” Instagram said in a statement sent to TIME. “We want to keep things simple as we add more, so we’ve added a new ‘Manage’ button at the end of your filter tray. Tap it to re-arrange the order of your filters and hide the ones you rarely use.”

So, maybe your scrambled eggs will stay piping hot after all.

TIME apps

This Is How Uber’s ‘Surge Pricing’ Works

Uber App
UberX driver, Michael Belet, checks the Uber customer app to see where other Uber drivers are working so he can determine where the best place for him to get fares might be, April 7, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post/Getty Images

And why it was in effect during Australia's hostage crisis

The backlash against Uber’s surge pricing in the midst of an Australian hostage crisis on Monday was swift and decisive.

Uber riders in Sydney started tweeting about price hikes shortly after an armed assailant burst into a city cafe and took hostages, prompting a massive evacuation of offices and shops in the surrounding area. Fees hiked upwards of four times their normal rate, Mashable reported.

“I understand the way the business works — higher the demand, higher the charge — but four-times at $100 minimum is ridiculous,” one Uber user told Mashable. Almost price gouging at its worst.”

That “price gouging” argument echoed across social media Sunday evening, as it looked to many like Uber was trying to capitalize on a potentially deadly emergency. That conversation added another public relations headache to what’s already been a tough few months for Uber, which is facing lawsuits in several cities and an allegation that a male driver in India raped a female passenger.

Uber’s communication team, realizing what was up, tried to calm the outrage by arguing it was charging riders in Sydney more money to incentivize drivers to show up — which is how Uber has always explained its surge pricing.

“Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area,” read a tweet from Uber’s Sydney account. But many followers found the explanation callous, to put it mildly:

Uber reversed course within an hour, offering full refunds to affected users and free rides to those who were still trying to evacuate the area (Drivers were still getting paid). Even then, Uber added one last defensive note about its pricing policy: “Please note that surge pricing is used to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers from the area,” Uber wrote on its official blog.

That supply-and-demand surge pricing argument has become a common refrain for the company, which has occasionally bumped up against public resistance to its shifting fares. “Seven decades of fixed pricing in car transportation is a lot to unwind in a night,” wrote Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in 2012.

Two years later, questions about surge pricing still linger — such as:

What is Uber’s surge pricing?

Uber’s pricing algorithm automatically detects situations of high demand and low supply and hikes the price in increments, depending on the scale of the shortage. Those higher prices are supposed to make drivers more likely to bite, putting more Uber cars on the road when they’re most needed.

Demand surges have also been monitored by Uber’s human staffers, who have on rare occasions used their discretion to lower prices. After the great Uber Fare Hike of New Year’s Eve in 2012, for instance, Kalanick described the scene at Uber Mission Control. “To our dismay,” he wrote, “the pricing multiplier kept going up.”

“At some point the east coast cities started breaking 6x multipliers—we accepted defeat at that point—the unbending demand breaking our will. We would bring cities down to 3x, only to see conversion go up, supply go down, cars get saturated, and “zeroes” popping everywhere.” Zeroes are Uber’s term for riders who open the app and see no available cars in their area.

Does “surge pricing” get more drivers on the road?

The basic principles of economics would dictate it does — as would Uber’s experience. According to a blog post by Uber board member Bill Gurley, the program has been a success since its inception in early 2012. Uber’s Boston team first tinkered with a price hike on weekend nights around 1 a.m., when drivers tended to clock out just as the city’s public transit system approached closing time, a situation that created lots of demand for Uber cars.

“In just two weeks they had a resounding answer,” Gurley writes. “By offering more money to drivers, they were able to increase on-the-road supply of drivers by 70-80%, and more importantly eliminate two-thirds of the unfulfilled requests.” Economists call this responsiveness to price “elasticity.” Uber’s service does appear to be unusually elastic, given that its fleet of drivers expands and contracts in real time.

Is there a limit to Uber’s surge pricing?

Uber recently announced an algorithm change that sets maximum surge pricing levels during states of emergency in the U.S. When disaster strikes, Uber caps fares at a price that matches the area’s fourth highest price over the preceding two months. Uber has also vowed to donate its 20% commission on rides during emergencies to the American Red Cross.

In non-emergency situations, surge pricing of six to eight times the regular fare have cropped up in moments of extreme shortages. The highest multiple ever recorded was 50 times the regular fare, or $57 per minute, due to an apparent glitch in Uber’s fares in Stockholm, Sweden, Business Insider reports.

$57 per minute? Is that even legal?

Yes, though it can skirt the boundaries of legality under extreme circumstances. At least 34 states and the District of Columbia have passed price gouging laws that forbid businesses from hiking prices in times of extreme emergencies. New York, for instance, can levy penalties of $10,000 for a business that marks up an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market,” such as Hurricane Sandy.

However, businesses can defend themselves by pointing to higher costs of supplying their service.

Does Uber worry about negative publicity from surge pricing?

As the hostage crisis in Syndey revealed, in extreme times of need, price hikes, rational as they may be, can also unleash a publicity nightmare.

 

Still, it seems no matter how hard Uber tries to explain its price system, riders’ final fare can still raise hackles. It’s practically become a meme on social media to post an image of a receipt for a three-figure ride, plus an expletive-laced tirade against surge pricing — despite the fact that the Uber app is very clear about surge pricing before users agree to a ride.

Uber board member Bill Gurley pointed out that the company would hazard a far worse form of publicity if it cancelled surge pricing: Chronic shortages of drivers. Better to weather the odd storm, he reasons, than risk a stream of complaints from “tons and tons of unsatisfied customers.”

Uber’s hostage crisis pricing flap may prompt a review of Uber’s pricing policy under extreme circumstances. But for the rest of the time, expect Uber’s surge pricing to stick around.

TIME apps

France to Ban Uber’s Cheapest Service Next Year

Latest regulatory headache for the ride-sharing app

The French government announced plans Monday to ban Uber’s low-cost service next year, as Paris taxis clogged the capital in a “go slow” or “escargot” protest against the ride-sharing service.

The decision to ban UberPop came after a French court on Friday declined to ban Uber from operating in the country. But Uber’s victory was short-lived.

“Not only is it illegal to offer this service but additionally for the consumer there is a real danger,” French interior ministry spokesperson Pierre-Henry Brandlet told iTELE, questioning drivers’ inadequate insurance. Brandlet said that the ban will begin Jan. 1.

MORE: 5 places where Uber is fighting for its life right now

The decision comes as Uber is facing scrutiny and regulatory pushback around the world. It was banned in Spain, Thailand and parts of India—where an Uber driver was recently accused of raping a passenger — late last week.

Uber did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment, although it tweeted Monday morning that demand in France remains strong.

The company, which was fined 100,000 euros in France this October for fraudulent business practices, called some of the country’s attempts to ban the app “discriminatory” last month.

TIME apps

You Asked: What Is Venmo?

Venmo
The Ebay Inc. Venmo application (app) is arranged for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

This online payment service isn’t funny money—it’s the real deal.

For non-social media savvy web users, distinguishing your Twitters from your Facebooks can be difficult.

Twitter’s vice president of data strategy, Chris Moody, has called his network “the most important archives of human thought to have ever existed.” It’s arguable, but if it’s correct, Facebook might be the same, only for actions instead of thought. Facebook is where you pester people to play Candy Crush (please don’t), post pictures of your sandy toes on the beach (yuck), and give everyone updates on how you crushed your latest run (stop showing off).

And recently you’ve starting to see posts like these: “Alex paid Sarah for dinner,” by an app called Venmo. So what’s that all about?

Venmo is a way to send money from person to person through the web. Like PayPal (which owns Venmo), the Internet and mobile device-linked service connects to your major U.S.-based bank account or debit card, so it can pull funds from and make deposits into your checking or savings accounts. Typically used for paying friends back for a bar tab, splitting up the rent check, or settling with the babysitter at the end of the night, it’s designed to take the place of any instance where you would normally use cash or a check to give someone money.

“Venmo’s goal is to make sending money or giving money to people much easier, much simpler,” says Mike Vaughan, Venmo’s general manager. “It doesn’t have to be so hard or complicated when you get money from somebody or have to give money to somebody.”

Of course, ever since society moved away from trading chickens and pelts, cash and coinage has worked great for most purposes. But the explosion of mobile Internet devices and social networks has made cashless payments like Venmo even easier than hitting the ATM. In the last quarter alone, for example, Venmo processed $700 million in payments, a massive number that was up 50% over the previous three months.

I know what you’re thinking: how much of that $700 million does Venmo keep for itself? Nothing, at least when it comes to you paying a friend.

“Venmo was built to be entirely free for that person-to-person experience, and we intend to keep it that way,” says Vaughan. “We’re in effect replacing you handing a $5 bill over to your friend — you don’t pay to do that, and your friend instantly has $5 in his hand.”

But don’t think for a minute that Venmo is a non-profit. As previously referenced, Venmo is owned by PayPal, which also has interests in online-payment processor Braintree. And over the next year of operating under this umbrella, Venmo will start to become a payment method available to users for more than just person-to-person deals.

For instance, says Vaughan, instead of using Venmo to pay a friend when splitting a ride on Uber (which is a Braintree client), users can just pay Uber directly with Venmo.

“The business model then is just the same business model Braintree and PayPal already have created, which is merchants pay to collect for merchant processing,” says Vaughan. “Venmo’s piece of that is really connecting a consumer experience to a merchant that didn’t exist before.”

And coming full circle to the Facebook posts, users can post the bare-bones details of their transactions on Facebook if they want, including who they paid and what for — but Venmo never posts how much money has changed hands. Or, users can elect to keep the transactions private, because not everyone needs to flash their (virtual) cash to friends and followers.

Still, there’s something to be said for the social element of Venmo’s payments. “I can go on in the morning and see what my friends did, where they went last night, because somebody paid somebody back for dinner at a restaurant,” says Vaughan.

Still, posting is just an ancillary feature of this seamless payment platform. “First and foremost, we’re handling people’s money for them, and we have to earn their trust,” says Vaughan. To that end, one of the service’s goals is to keep it simple enough so that users understand exactly what’s going on, not only with their money, but their posts. And there is an option that ensures none of your payments can be seen by anyone else. And as a special request to my Facebook friends reading this: Please check that box.

TIME celebrities

Lindsay Lohan Just Released an App Called ‘The Price of Fame’

Look out, Kim Kardashian!

Lindsay Lohan has teamed up with Space Inch game developers to get her own piece of Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood by releasing her own app, Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame.

According to a press release, the game is “designed as a parody on celebrity culture and paparazzi,” which reveals that La Lohan is now self-aware enough to poke fun at her own place in pop culture. Much like Kardashian’s wildly successful celebrity culture app, Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame lets players act like world famous professional celebrities by creating an avatar that can purchase outfits, accessories, toys and even pets.

“I love this game and am happy to be part of it. It’s so much fun!” said Lohan, who recently filed a lawsuit against the makers of Grand Theft Auto for allegedly incorporating her likeness into the game. She will undoubtedly love Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame even more if the game earns even a fraction of what Kardashian’s app has brought in. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is estimated to bring in $200 million annually, with $85 million of that reportedly going to Ms. Kardashian herself.

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