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Zoom to start first phase of E2E encryption rollout next week



Zoom will begin rolling out end-to-end encryption to users of its videoconferencing platform from next week, it said today.

The platform, whose fortunes have been supercharged by the pandemic-driven boom in remote working and socializing this year, has been working on rebooting its battered reputation in the areas of security and privacy since April — after it was called out on misleading marketing claims of having E2E encryption (when it did not). E2E is now finally on its way though.

“We’re excited to announce that starting next week, Zoom’s end-to-end encryption (E2EE) offering will be available as a technical preview, which means we’re proactively soliciting feedback from users for the first 30 days,” it writes in a blog post. “Zoom users — free and paid — around the world can host up to 200 participants in an E2EE meeting on Zoom, providing increased privacy and security for your Zoom sessions.”

Zoom acquired Keybase in May, saying then that it was aiming to develop “the most broadly used enterprise end-to-end encryption offering”.

However, initially, CEO Eric Yuan said this level of encryption would be reserved for fee-paying users only. But after facing a storm of criticism the company enacted a swift U-turn — saying in June that all users would be provided with the highest level of security, regardless of whether they are paying to use its service or not.

Zoom confirmed today that Free/Basics users who want to get access to E2EE will need to participate in a one-time verification process — in which it will ask them to provide additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via text message — saying it’s implementing this to try to reduce “mass creation of abusive accounts”.

“We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools — including our work with human rights and children’s safety organizations and our users’ ability to lock down a meeting, report abuse, and a myriad of other features made available as part of our security icon — we can continue to enhance the safety of our users,” it writes.

Next week’s roll out of a technical preview is phase 1 of a four-stage process to bring E2E encryption to the platform.

This means there are some limitations — including on the features that are available in E2EE Zoom meetings (you won’t have access to join before host, cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions); and on the clients that can be used to join meetings (for phase 1 all E2EE meeting participants must join from the Zoom desktop client, mobile app, or Zoom Rooms). 

The next phase of the E2EE rollout — which will include “better identity management and E2EE SSO integration”, per Zoom’s blog — is “tentatively” slated for 2021.

From next week, customers wanting to check out the technical preview must enable E2EE meetings at the account level and opt-in to E2EE on a per-meeting basis.

All meeting participants must have the E2EE setting enabled in order to join an E2EE meeting. Hosts can enable the setting for E2EE at the account, group, and user level and can be locked at the account or group level, Zoom notes in an FAQ.

The AES 256-bit GCM encryption that’s being used is the same as Zoom currently uses but here combined with public key cryptography — which means the keys are generated locally, by the meeting host, before being distributed to participants, rather than Zoom’s cloud performing the key generating role.

“Zoom’s servers become oblivious relays and never see the encryption keys required to decrypt the meeting contents,” it explains of the E2EE implementation.

If you’re wondering how you can be sure you’ve joined an E2EE Zoom meeting a dark padlock will be displayed atop the green shield icon in the upper left corner of the meeting screen. (Zoom’s standard GCM encryption shows a checkmark here.)

Meeting participants will also see the meeting leader’s security code — which they can use to verify the connection is secure. “The host can read this code out loud, and all participants can check that their clients display the same code,” Zoom notes.


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A comprehensive list of reasons why pair programming sucks



This article was originally published on .cult by Mynah Marie. .cult is a Berlin-based community platform for developers. We write about all things career-related, make original documentaries and share heaps of other untold developer stories from around the world.

I fell in love with programming because of the feeling of losing myself in ideas and concepts while being completely alone for hours on end. There’s just something about it, you know?

When I decided to enroll in a coding Bootcamp, I thought it would give me the opportunity to meet other people just like me. Little did I know, I was about to meet my nemesis: pair programming.

There are a lot of things I like about Agile development. I even do, now, believe in the power of pair programming. But it’s not because I can see the benefits of this technique that I necessarily like it. In fact, I deeply hate it. Not because I think it’s not effective, just because, in my case, it took all the fun out of programming.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

Here are some benefits of pair programming that I personally experienced:

  • It improved my communication skills and the way I work in teams.
  • I did see, first hand, some programmers drastically improve their skills by working consistently in pairs (but at what price for their partners…).
  • *Five minutes staring at my screen trying to find another benefit…* Sorry I think that’s it.

After a few days of Bootcamp, I had my first traumatizing pair programming experience.

We were solving basic JS challenges. I was the navigator and he was the driver. Even though I hated the fact of not being able to type the code myself, I tried to make the most out of the exercise by asking a lot of questions:

  • “Why did you name your variable like that?”
  • “Why did you write this in a separate function?”
  • “Can we try my way just to see if it works?”

At some point, without any warning, my partner got up and left the room leaving me to my puzzlement. Turns out, someone asking loads of questions every two minutes is pretty annoying to most people.

And there started my long descent to hell.

Goodbye, the good old days when I’d program for 18 hours straight from the comfort of my bed.

Goodbye, the peaceful moments with myself when I’d spend days, sometimes weeks before thinking of talking to another human being.

Goodbye, the joys of working on ideas of my own.

One day, while I was at an emotional all-time low, I confessed to one of the instructors and told him that, literally, I hate pair programming.

His answer couldn’t have surprised me more: “Oh! yeah… pair programming is horrible.”

Finally, my aversion was acknowledged!

I’m not against pair programming. In fact, I really do believe it’s great for some people. I even think it could’ve been great for me if I would’ve been paired with more experienced pair programmers. But since we were all learning, most students made horrible partners (me included).

I know there are other people like me out there, who suffered at the hand of this technique and never dared to speak up because, in some cases, it can close doors to potential jobs.

But I’m not looking for a job anymore, so I don’t care.

So for your entertainment, here’s a comprehensive list of the reasons why I hate pair programming:

  1. I hate typing on someone else’s computer. On my machine, I have my flow. Besides, some keyboards are really disgusting. If we’re going to pair program, cleaning up our keyboards every morning should be mandatory.
  2. I hate it when someone else types on my computer. Especially someone who I just saw eating a massive juicy burger 10 minutes before and who didn’t even bother washing his hands.
  3. What is it about these constant breaks after 20–30 minutes of work? Take a break. Come back. My turn to type. 10 minutes to figure out where we left off. 10 more minutes to figure out how to move forward. 5 minutes later, I start to get in the groove and 5 minutes after that: “Hey, can we take a break?” Arghhhh…..
  4. Egotistical partners. You know, the kind who thinks they know everything better than you, or the guy that mansplains everything, or the legitimate genius who’s definitely way smarter than you but does his best to come down to your level (I mean, it’s sweet, but still extremely annoying).
  5. Passive partners. The ones completely shutting down just because you know something they didn’t. Or the lazy ones more than happy to let you do all the work (honestly, that’s a best-case scenario). Or the person who really wants to learn but doesn’t get it at all, no matter how patiently you explain (remember what I said in the benefits above? Yeah, the price is high).
  6. The micro-managers. They tell you what you need to type before you even have a chance to type it (“Yes, I know I need to write a semi-colon, it was just a typo… LET ME TYPE THE DAMN THING BEFORE SAYING SOMETHING!!!!” That last screaming part was just in my head, though there were a thousand situations where I wished I could’ve bashed that person’s head against a wall, if I’m honest).
  7. Noise. Oh-my-god. A room full of people, working in teams, oscillating between having too much of a good time and arguing. The noise would get so out of control, someone literally (I’m not making this up) had to get up and yell “SHUT UP!” for everyone to quiet down for about 5 minutes. I’ve never had more intense headaches after a workday.

Agile, I love you. You taught me the value of working in teams and learning from one another. The experience was horrendous but meaningful nonetheless.

I’m now a freelancer. Back to peace, working for hours on end from the comfort of my home, with minimum human contact. The reality which became a dream is now my reality once more, with the added benefit of financial rewards.

I think I found my path.


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How unicorns helped venture capital get later, and bigger



The venture capital industry’s comeback from fear in Q1 and parts of Q2 to Q3 greed is worth understanding. To get our hands around what happened to private capital in 2020, we’ve taken looks into both the United States’ VC scene and the global picture this week.

Catching you up, there was lots of private money available for startups in the third quarter, with the money tilting toward later-stage rounds.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Late-stage rounds are bigger than early-stage rounds, so they take up more dollars individually. But Q3 2020 was a standout period for how high late-stage money stacked up compared to cash available to younger startups.

For example, according to CB Insights data, 54% of all venture capital money invested in the United States in the third quarter was part of rounds that were $100 million or more. That worked out to 88 rounds — a historical record — worth $19.8 billion.

The other 1,373 venture capital deals in the United States during Q3 had to split the remaining 46% of the money.

While the broader domestic and global venture capital scenes showed signs of life — dollars invested in Europe and Asia rose, American seed deal volume perked back up, that sort of thing — it’s the late-stage data that I can’t shake.

To my non-American friends, the data we have available is focused on the United States, so we’ll have to examine the late-stage dollar boom through a domestic lens. The general points should apply broadly, and we’ll always do our best to keep our perspective broad.

A late-stage takeover


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11 reasons why Quibi crashed and burned in less than a year



Quibi, the shortform video streaming service designed for people to enjoy on their phones, has shuttered after less than a year of existence.

Led by veteran Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, the streaming service was designed to be a revolutionary way to watch videos on the go, with shows and films specifically formatted to work in both landscape and portrait modes. With nearly $2 billion raised before Quibi even launched in April and a long line of Hollywood talent on board to provide movies and shows, Katzenberg and Whitman felt pretty good about their prospects — even if analysts and media critics questioned the duo’s strategy.

Then the United States joined the rest of the world in shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic just a few weeks before Quibi launched. Quibi, a streaming service built around the premise that people would watch its shows on the go, now faced an entire population of potential subscribers stuck at home. In its brief six months of life, Quibi also faced a lawsuit backed by a wealthy foe, subscriber woes, and product feature hump. It never managed to escape being the app to ridicule.

So why did Quibi fail? Those factors all played in, but it was executives’ fatal misunderstanding of what Quibi should be that led to its inevitable and rapid downfall.

Quibi’s Survive, a show about someone doing a thing that the company could not
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

1. Nearly all of Quibi’s shows were terrible

It’s the most obvious reason but also arguably the biggest. An entertainment streaming service needs titles that are going to convince subscribers to sign up and stay, but Quibi was packed with mediocre content that seemed to come from studios and networks happy to finally sell off the projects sitting on their basement floors for years. Katzenberg and Whitman invested more than $1 billion in top Hollywood talent, and projects from top studios, that nevertheless failed to produce anything of quality.

Most titles felt like jokes straight out of 30 Rock. Then there were “Daily Essentials,” a lineup of programming that appeared daily and focused on a certain subject, like recapping late night shows or giving sports updates. They were the equivalent to videos found on YouTube — except on YouTube, the same type of content was better and free.

(Disclosure: Vox Media is partnered with Quibi on two shows and there were discussions for a Verge show in the future.)

There’s a reason I bet 99 percent of people reading this can’t recall more than a few Quibi originals. Wireless? Die Hart? Survive? Do any of these ring a bell? The only show I can remember is Murder Unboxed, and it never even premiered. Nothing about Quibi’s shows were at all memorable.

2. People’s daily lives changed; Quibi didn’t

Quibi was designed to be watched on phones, and for the longest time, Quibi executives seemed reluctant to budge on that design. Quibi seemed positively opposed to adapting to its new world at first. The company relented and slowly started adding support for Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Chromecast so people could cast from their phones, but doing so disabled Quibi’s Turnstyle technology, the only thing really setting its shows apart at this point. It wasn’t an ideal fix. Quibi didn’t actually release an app for Fire TV and Roku set-top boxes until this week… just one day before Katzenberg and Whitman announced they were closing up shop.

3. Quibi failed to invest in the power of memes

The only viral Quibi clip was recorded from another phone. Quibi didn’t launch with the ability to take screenshots or share clips from its shows and films, and without those sharing features, there was no way for people to easily discover and engage with Quibi’s series. This all speaks to the company being led by people with no real understanding of what the future of entertainment is, especially on mobile devices: it’s not just about what people are watching, but the interactivity of turning what you’re watching into content across your own social media networks.

4. Quibi’s price was too damn high

The fact that Quibi charged $5 a month for garbage bin entertainment (or $8 a month without ads) was nonsensical. The entertainment people were getting for free on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch, combined with the highly talked-about shows and movies they were paying for already on Netflix, Amazon, and Disney Plus, left Quibi’s additional price not exactly something to be desired. Quibi tested a completely ad-supported free tier in Australia and New Zealand a couple of months before the company shuttered, but by that point, it was too little, too late.

5. Did anyone outside of Media Twitter know about Quibi?

Think back to the last time you saw an ad for Quibi on TV, Instagram, or TikTok. What about a specific show? Quibi was notably bad at marketing. There was an expensive Super Bowl ad that failed to actually demonstrate what Quibi was (that ran months before Quibi was available), leaving people more confused than anything else. None of the ads for shows ever traveled on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Arguably, part of the reason Quibi and its various series, including many of its multimillion-dollar bets, never took off is because no one outside of Media Twitter knew they even existed.

Quibi founder and board chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg Photo illustration by William Joel / The Verge | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

6. Problems at the very top

Before Quibi launched, Whitman and Katzenberg were already running into problems with each other. Whitman threatened to quit as the company’s CEO, finding that Katzenberg was dictatorial, undermined her authority, and belittled her, according to The Wall Street Journal. On top of that, neither Katzenberg nor Whitman truly seemed to understand how people use their phones, what people want from streaming services, or why something like TikTok and Netflix worked. It’s hard enough to get a company off the ground in an increasingly competitive market; it’s near impossible if the two heads of that company can barely work together.

7. Why should Quibi exist? Quibi never figured it out

The problem that Quibi could never address was, “Why do I need this?” Katzenberg and Whitman repeatedly said “we’re not competing with Netflix,” but Quibi was competing with Netflix and every other app. Without a library of great content that other streamers have or social capabilities that other apps use, Quibi needed one show to get people to open the app. That never happened. There was no reason to ever open Quibi. A streaming service needs to feel essential to people’s daily lives to survive; Quibi never even made the case to get people to download.

8. If I’m on my phone, I’d rather watch TikTok

Streaming services and social media apps aren’t just vying for your credit card; they also want your attention — constantly. If people are spending their days watching Netflix, playing Fortnite, scrolling through TikTok, and posting on Instagram, it’s going to require something exceptional to take their attention away. Quibi was full of spaghetti content — noodles thrown at the wall to see what sticks. While Quibi tried to get people’s attention, time spent on the aforementioned apps (and sites like Twitch and YouTube) grew rapidly. It wasn’t that people didn’t have more time at home to watch things; they just didn’t want to watch Quibi.

9. An ongoing fight over Quibi’s main technology

It didn’t help that throughout all of Quibi’s short lifespan the company was facing a lawsuit from a competitive and well-financed tech company, Eko, over the app’s Turnstyle technology. That’s the very tech Quibi prided its seamless portrait / landscape mode transitions on. While the lawsuit by itself likely didn’t finish Quibi off, having to fend off a legal challenge to its key technology was just more kindling for the already growing fire.

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

10. Its entire thesis is wrong

I can not stress this enough: Quibi didn’t work because no one at Quibi knew what it should be, what people wanted, or how people use their phones. Its entire existence is predicated on the idea that people want high-quality shortform content every single day, but executives arrogantly failed to acknowledge the simple point that people have routinely been getting that, for free, for years. Quibi didn’t fail because TikTok existed; it failed because executives refused to see TikTok as its biggest competition. Instead of learning from the very apps people spend hours on every day, Quibi stuck its nose up and said, “we’re doing something different” — even if no one is particularly interested.

11. And yes, the pandemic

Fine, Katzenberg: yes, the pandemic probably hurt Quibi. It didn’t single-handedly kill Quibi, though. All of the above points — not being able to adapt, bad content, lack of social sharing, no effective marketing — weren’t because of the pandemic. It was because of poor leadership and a lack of insight into consumer behavior, wants, and needs. Did the pandemic hurt Quibi by removing the coffee lines and subway rides during which people potentially could have watched its shows? I doubt it. Even if the pandemic didn’t happen, Quibi would have failed. It just would have taken another few months. Quibi’s problems were built into Quibi’s design. The fatal blows were delivered before it even launched. The pandemic just accelerated its demise the same way the pandemic has accelerated unprecedented success for many of Quibi’s competitors that got it right.


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