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Justice Department says WeChat users won’t be penalized under Trump’s executive order

In a Wednesday filing in federal court, the United States government said that users who use or download WeChat “to convey personal or business information” will not be subject to penalties under President Donald Trump’s executive order banning transactions with the Tencent-owned messaging app.

Trump issued the executive order against WeChat on August 6, the same day he issued a similar one banning transactions with ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, claiming national security concerns. Both orders caused confusion because they are set to go into effect 45 days after being issued, but said that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will not identify what transactions are covered until then.

With that deadline now looming at the end of this week, WeChat users in America are still uncertain about the app’s future. Though WeChat is the top messaging app by far in China, where it also serves as an essential conduit for payments and other services, the U.S. version of the app has relatively limited features. It is used by Chinese-Americans, and other members of the Chinese disapora in the U.S., to keep in touch with their family and other people in China. With other popular messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, banned in China, WeChat is often the most direct communication channel available to them.

The U.S. government’s filing (embedded below) was made as part of a request for a preliminary injunction against the executive order brought by the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, a non-profit organization initiated by attorneys who want to preserve access to WeChat for users in the U.S. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

In it, attorneys from the Justice Department said the U.S. Commerce Department is continuing to review transactions and will clarify which ones are affected by Sept. 20, but “we can provide assurances that [Secretary Ross] does not intend to take actions that would target persons or groups whose only connection to WeChat is their use or downloading of the app to convey personal or business information between users, or otherwise define the relevant transaction in such a way that would impose criminal or civil liability on such users.”

But in a response (also embedded below), the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance said that the Department of Justice’s filing instead demonstrates why a preliminary injunction is necessary. “Having first failed to articulate any actual national security concerns, the administration’s latest ‘assurances’ that users can keep using WeChat, and exchange their personal and business information, only further illustrates the hollowness and pre-textual nature of the Defendants’ ‘national security rationales.’”

The U.S. WeChat Users Alliance filed for the injunction on August 21. In an open letter published on its site, it said a complete ban of WeChat “will severely affect the lives and the work of millions of people in the U.S. They will have a difficult time talking to family relatives and friends back in China. Countless people or businesses who use WeChat to develop and contact customers will also suffer significant economic losses.”

The group also believes that the executive order “violates many provisions of the U.S. Constitution,” and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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Sinch acquires SAP’s Digital Interconnect messaging business for $250M

M&A activity has generally slowed down in the weeks since the novel coronavirus took a grip on the world, but there have been some pockets of activity in the tech industry when the price is right or when the divestment/acquisition just makes sense.

The world of messaging brings us the latest development in that theme: SAP, the CRM and enterprise software giant, is selling its Digital Interconnect messaging business to Sinch, a Swedish cloud voice, video and messaging company that originally spun out from low-cost IP calling company Rebtel and is now public.

Sinch is paying €225 million (around $250 million) on a cash and debt-free basis for the business, which has 1,500 enterprise customers that use it for various messaging services, such as “omnichannel” conversations with customers over SMS, push, email, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber; and messaging technology for carriers.

The deal will give Sinch, based in Sweden, a foothold in the US market — the Digital Interconnect business is headquartered in Silicon Valley — and access to a trove of customers using the kind of messaging technology that Sinch develops and sells.

Messaging continues to be a very high-volume, low-margin (or even no-margin in some cases) business, and so a bigger strategy for more economy of scale that will continue to play out. As a case in point: Sinch has been on an acquisition spree in the last month. Other deals have included Latin American messaging provider Wavy ($119 million, announced March 26), and ChatLayer ($6 million, announced April 20).

“With SAP Digital Interconnect now becoming a part of Sinch, we build on our scale, focus and capabilities to truly redefine how businesses engage with their customers, throughout the world,” comments Oscar Werner, Sinch CEO, in a statement. “The transaction strengthens our direct connectivity globally. Plus, it enables us to expand and accelerate a range of business-critical services to mobile operators, including products for person-to-person messaging, reporting and analytics.”

The news caps off nearly a month of speculation that SAP was gearing up for a sale of the legacy unit as part of a bigger strategy to focus more squarely on its CRM and newer enterprise IT services — SAP acquired Qualtrics in November 2018 for $8 billion, spearheading a stronger move into employee and customer experience, surveys and research — in a particularly challenging economic environment (and that’s before considering all the challenges companies were facing even before that).

And between then and now SAP has seen a very notable personnel change: its co-CEO Jennifer Morgan stepped away from the company by mutual agreement with the board, leaving Christian Klein as sole CEO (the two had been in the co-CEO roles for only six months). At the time, the company said that the abrupt change — a mere 10 days between announcement and departure — was in response to “the current environment [which] requires companies to take swift, determined action which is best supported by a very clear leadership structure.”

It would appear that this sale is an example of the kind of swift and determined action that the board was hoping to see.

SAP’s messaging unit has been around in one form or another for years. It became a part of SAP in 2010 as part of its acquisition of Sybase, but even before that Sybase acquired Mobile 365, which had developed the messaging technology, back in 2006.

At the time, the messaging business was the primary part of Mobile 365, and Sybase paid $417 million for the company. In that regard, it might look like SAP is selling it for a loss, although you could also argue that 15+ year-old technology in the fast-moving world of messaging would have depreciated at this point.

The business itself is very typical of messaging: huge volumes but not huge revenues.

In 2019, SAP said that the enterprise messaging business processed 18 billion messages, while its carrier services processed 292 billion carrier messages. The Bloomberg report that broke the news about the intent to sell the division said that it made $50 million in EBITDA and $250 million in revenue last year, but actually this is small relatively speaking: SAP altogether had revenues of nearly $30 billion in the same period. In other words, it’s an okay business but not really core to SAP and where it’s going. 

On the other hand, it’s a better fit for Sinch, which is a much smaller company — market cap of about $3.1 billion (30.82 billion Swedish krona), versus SAP’s market cap of $139 billion — but is squarely focused on messaging services similar to those that the former SAP division offers.

“SAP Digital Interconnect is a leader in its area showing profitable growth and reaching 99 percent of the world’s mobile subscribers. Looking at Sinch’s innovation and investment strategy in the area of cloud communication platforms, we welcome them as the new owner of SDI. Sinch is perfectly positioned to unleash further growth potential we see in SDI,” said Thomas Saueressig, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, responsible for SAP Product Engineering, in a statement.

M&A continues on in the wider European region even while so much else has slowed down or stopped in the current market. This deal follows on the heels of Intel acquiring Israel’s Moovit for $900 million, and Avira in Germany getting acquired by Investcorp at a $180 million valuation.

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Quibi is the anti-TikTok (that’s a bad thing)

It takes either audacious self-confidence or reckless hubris to build a completely asocial video app in 2020. You can decide which best describes Quibi, Hollywood’s $1.75 billion-funded attempt at a mobile-only Netflix of six to 10-minute micro-TV show episodes. Quibi manages to miss every trend and tactic that could help make …

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Amplify.ai Partners with Messenger to Offer Pro Bono Resources for Government Health Organizations and UN Health Agencies

As the world battles COVID-19, Amplify.ai, a developer of one of the first enterprise-class AI-driven omni-channel messaging platforms, announces its partnership with Messenger to offer government health organizations and UN health agencies a critical and timely solution to disseminate factual information and engage with citizens at a superhuman scale. …

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Facebook Messenger provides governments, agencies with free developer tools to combat COVID-19

Big tech has been making a huge effort to mobilize its power to help people work better together to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — whether it’s creating search and information portals, making sure the most authoritative voices are surfacing above the noise or gathering compute power to supercharge research …

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Twitter DMs now have emoji reactions

Twitter is pouring a little more fuel on the messaging fire. It’s added a heart+ button to its direct messaging interface which lets users shortcut to a pop-up menu of seven emoji reactions so they can quickly express how they’re feeling about a missive.

Emoji reactions can be added to text or media messages — either via the heart+ button or by double tapping on the missive to bring up the reaction menu.

The social network teased the incoming tweak a few hours earlier in a knowing tweet about sliding into DMs that actually revealed the full line-up of reaction emojis — which, in text form, can be described as: Crying lol; shocked/surprised; actually sad; heart; flame; thumb-up and thumb-down.

So instead of a smilie face Twitter users are being nudged towards an on-brand-message Twitter heart, in keeping with its long-standing pick for a pleasure symbol.

The flame is perhaps slightly surprising for a company that’s publicly professed to wanting to improve the conversational health of its platform.

If it’s there to stand in for appreciation a clap emoji could surely have done the trick. Whereas flame wars aren’t typically associated with constructive speech. But — hey — the flame icon does catch the eye…

Twitter is late to this extroverted party. Rival messaging platforms such as Apple iMessage and Facebook Messenger have had emoji reactions for years, whereas Twitter kept things relatively minimal and chat-focused in its DM funnel — to its credit (at least if you value the service as, first and foremost, an information network).

So some might say Twitter jumping on the emoji reaction bandwagon now is further evidence it’s trying to move closer to rivals like Facebook as a product. (See also: Last year’s major desktop product redesign — which has been compared in look and feel to the Facebook News Feed.)

But if so this change is at least a relatively incremental one.

Twitter users have also, of course, always been able to react to an incoming DM by sending whatever emoji or combination of emoji they prefer as a standard reply. Though now lazy thumbs have a shortcut to emote — so long as they’re down with Twitter’s choice of icons.

In an FAQ about the new DM emoji reactions, Twitter notes that emoting will by default send a notification to all conversation participants “any time a new reaction is added to a message”.

So, yes, there’s attention-spamming potential aplenty here…

Adjust your notification and DM settings accordingly.

You can only choose one reaction per missive. Each symbol is displayed under the message/media with a count next to it — to allow for group tallies to be totted up. 

NB: Clicking on another symbol will swap out the earlier one — generating, er, more notification spam. And really annoying people could keep flipping their reaction to generate a real-time emoji streaming game of notification hell (hi growth hackers!) with folks they’ve been DMing with. So that’s another good reason to lock down your Twitter settings.

Users still running older version of Twitter’s apps which don’t support message reactions will see a standard text emoji message per reaction sent (see examples below). This kinda confusingly makes it look like the reaction sender has actually been liking/flaming their own stuff. So all the more reason to not be spammy about emoji.

Source: TechCrunch

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Why Your Business Needs Custom Internal Communication

One of the key drivers behind businesses’ success is communication. It is a given that companies must communicate with their customers to make sales and pique the interest of their target market. However, how they communicate internally also has a significant impact on a company’s success. Here is why your business needs custom internal communication.

Improving productivity in the workplace.

Many leading companies have decided to have custom team communication apps, and it’s given them a competitive advantage. There are many different packaged, online communication tools that function as platforms for team communication. Through direct chat, file sharing, and other project collaboration features, these tools improve productivity in the workplace.

With all the packaged tools available on the market, businesses can easily find solutions for their communication needs. While most messenger applications cover the necessities of quick communication between employees, a challenge that companies face is that these tools may not offer more in-depth features like saved conversation histories or cross-platform usability, to name a few.

The essentials of business communication tools

Starting conversations with colleagues using email and anxiously waiting for a response is a thing of the past. These days, the majority of businesses have effective internal communication channels in place which employees can use to communicate in real-time using text, audio, or video chat.

While conversing in real-time from different corners of the office building (or the world) is still very impressive, just chatting over a messenger isn’t enough. Whether your business runs on-site or virtually, companies of all sizes rely on streamlined communication to keep moving forward.

A remote-work culture, making it more critical than ever to ensure that all employee conversations are consistent, timely, productive, and easy to manage.

With an abundance of information being passed around in the workplace, manually managing and keeping this information updated is virtually impossible. There are countless options for packaged communication tools floating around in the digital realm of software and applications, and finding one to install is as simple as typing it into Google’s search engine. However, choosing the one that best suits your company is where it gets tough.

Widely used digital communication platforms, such as Slack and Asana, are well known for helping companies improve their workflow processes with project management and private or group real-time messaging tools. But are these really the best employee communication solutions out there, and do they fully meet your company’s needs?

The challenges of using packaged communication tools.

Packaged communication tools offer straightforward solutions to a company’s basic messaging and project management needs. Most solutions available are mobile-device friendly and include features for collaboration, such as chat or video. These tools help teams stay updated with tasks and discussions even when on-the-go.

  • Often, packaged tools have pricing plans and features.

While many communication solutions have their platforms available for download at no cost, it may be that a free trial only lasts for a fixed period.

Some features that are most useful to employees can become disabled until businesses make the inevitable upgrade to a paid plan. As with every existing tiered subscription pricing model, the concept remains the same: the more you pay, the more features you get to use, and the better off your employees will be

  • Here’s the thing with paid software solutions.

When looking at paid plans for software solutions, the lower-priced options may offer full collaboration tools, push notifications, and security. What businesses would fundamentally be missing out on with this seemingly inexpensive subscription are integrations with other applications and personalization.

When you’re trying to set up a real-time messaging, simple file-sharing environment for your employees, these things may not seem as important at first. As you go along, the ability to integrate your communication tool with other software or platforms will help you save time and streamline your workflow.

  • Packaged communication tools usually have the necessary integrations.

Namely with cloud-based file storage and synchronization, customer data, analytics, or project management software. However, the integrations they offer may not go as far as some of the products your team already uses. Not having the required options leaves teams with two decisions:

  1. Sign up for new software that can easily be integrated with the tool.
  2. Upgrade your subscription and speak to customer support about manually adding your existing software to their integrations.

Both options can be time-consuming as you would have to either ditch your existing software and migrate all your data to a new platform or have to wait for your feature request to be completed.

Integrations and personalization only scratch the surface.

What about making sure that your company’s communication is secure and protected? When subscribing to readily available communication app solutions, your company has zero control over the safekeeping of information or data being passed between team members, as this is hosted on the app’s server.

Not only do companies miss out on exclusive, encrypted security, but the lack of flexibility means that you wouldn’t be able to add new features or customize the look of your app when needed.

The key takeaway.

The key takeaway from this is that the available “off-the-rack” communication tools for businesses may provide swift solutions for the time being. Still, they can be extremely costly, and submitting tickets and fixing bugs are very likely to be an inconvenience rather than a comfort.

These software solutions are also businesses looking to grow and stay afloat, and that means they’ll have a growing number of other customers using their tools. That being said, when you have an issue that needs solving, working on fixing individual cases from their side may dig into the time that your own business relies on to get things moving.

Why custom employee communication solutions are better.

A fully customized communication app gives businesses more than your average messaging service that promotes user-friendly, secure, real-time collaboration among employees. When companies choose custom solutions, they are tailor-made to their specific needs and do not just provide a round-up of what businesses generally need.

Apart from having maximum clarity in your voice, video, and group chats, a personalized messaging application can boost employee morale, as well as keep all conversations organized.

By having effective internal communication channels in place, teams can share rich or multimedia content to conveniently express ideas, discuss how best to prioritize their tasks, and throw in some humor to build rapport and celebrate milestones together. It’s like improving efficiency and togetherness, but better.

Businesses can work smarter and improve the way they engage with their teams – all while keeping the important stuff centralized.

Another winning point is that custom communication solutions have over the off-the-rack basics is that businesses that choose this option get to own their source code.

This implies that the company dictates which type of features their communication app will have, and all internal collaboration and conversations are safely encrypted on their servers.

Take Scopic for example.

As a communication-centric company, Scopic saw that there was a need and opportunity in building a customized messaging app to fully meet the company’s communication needs. With that vision in mind, we combined the best features from leading communication tools and built our very own internal chat application called Kreo.

Kreo was built from the ground up. Fast-forward to today, and not only is the company in full control of the features the chat platform offers, but we also have control over the source code. When a company has control over the source code, it helps ensure the security of all internal communications.

Thinking long-term, building our own internal communication tool also helps us save costs by not having to pay for additional features or integrations we may not use that readily available solutions offer.

Working with a software company to build a personalized communication application for your business is also more cost-effective in the long run. You won’t have to worry about renewing monthly or annual subscriptions, and there won’t be a need to pay for extra features. You can also say goodbye to those pesky email newsletters urging you to upgrade your plan.

What to look for in a custom communication tool.

You are more likely to have an idea of what you are specifically looking for when you choose a custom solution that is a building block. Using a building block means that all the core functions of a communication tool are built-in before you start adding more specific features.

  • Minimalistic, scalable architecture that can handle virtually unlimited traffic
  • The ability to filter through and search for messages
  • The ability to store cached data
  • Audio, video and group real-time messages between users and user-servers
  • Push-notification service
  • Brand or business personalization features
  • Ownership of source code and exclusive security
  • White-labeling

The essentials of business communication tools and how packaged options offer efficient project management and team collaboration are essential. Custom-made solutions are tailor-made to fit business needs across different industries.

A personalized chat and collaboration experience can make all the difference when it comes to improving the way teams work together. These chats are scalable, and customizable giving businesses the security and flexibility they need to add more features and integrations as they grow.

Every company is unique, and when it comes to choosing a communication solution. When you use an internal chat and project management option that is fully customizable — it will meet the needs of your team and your business.

Diana Gonzalez

Marketing Specialist at Scopic Software

Marketing specialist at Scopic Software where we craft and execute marketing strategies for companies in over 10 different industries.

Source: ReadWrite