Welcome, friends, to TechCrunch’s Week in Review (WiR), the newsletter where we recap the week that was in tech. For those new to WiR, think of it as a digest of stories and pieces that topped the charts over the past five days or so.
In this week’s edition of WiR, we cover researchers figuring out a way to “jailbreak” Teslas, the AI.com domain name switching hands and the FCC fining robocallers. Also featured are stories about WeWork’s perennial struggles, Google’s Messages app fully embracing RCS, and spyware maker LetMeSpy shutting down after a massive data breach.
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Jailbreak your Tesla: A group of researchers say that they’ve found a way to hack the hardware underpinning Tesla’s infotainment system, allowing them to get what normally would be paid upgrades — such as heated rear seats — for free. Lorenzo has the story.
AI.com switches hands: A few months back, OpenAI seemingly purchased the domain AI.com in order to redirect it to the web app for its AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT. But now AI.com redirects to X.ai, Elon Musk’s machine learning research outfit — suggesting that the CEO of X (formerly known as Twitter) has come into possession of the domain.
FCC fines robocallers: The FCC has fined a robocaller a record $300 million after blocking billions of their scam calls. But as Devin writes, whether and when the money will be paid is, as always, something of an open question.
WeWork in trouble . . . again: WeWork this week announced a net loss of $397 million for the second quarter on revenue of $877 million. The 13-year-old flexible space provider — which faces both increased competition and declining post-pandemic demand — didn’t mince words, admitting that “substantial doubt exists about [its] ability to continue.”
Google Messages embraces RCS: Google said this week that it’s making its Messages by Google app more secure with improvements to RCS, or Rich Communication Services — a protocol aimed at replacing SMS. The company says it’ll now make RCS the default for both new and existing Messages app users, and end-to-end encryption for group chats is now fully rolled out to all RCS users.
Google launches Project IDX: In more Google news, the tech giant this week launched Project IDX, an AI-enabled, browser-based development environment for building full-stack web and multiplatform apps.
ChatGPT custom instructions expand: OpenAI this week announced that it’s expanding custom instructions — a way to give users more control over how ChatGPT responds — to all users, including those on the free tier of the service. The feature, which was first unveiled in July as a beta for ChatGPT Plus subscribers, allows users to add various preferences and requirements that they want the AI chatbot to consider when responding.
Spyware maker shuts down: Poland-based spyware LetMeSpy is no longer operational and said it will shut down after a June data breach wiped out its servers, including its huge trove of data stolen from thousands of victims’ phones.
This reporter would venture to say that TechCrunch’s roster of podcasts has something for every interest. This week, as every week, there’s intriguing new material for your listening enjoyment.
On Equity, the crew talked about a lawsuit targeting a grant program providing small checks to Black women small-business owners and how some countries are taking a different track, including the U.K.
Meanwhile, this week’s episode of Found focused on Anurupa Ganguly, the founder and CEO at Prisms, a startup designing VR math curriculum for middle and high school students. Ganguly talked about how her time as a teacher in the Boston and New York City public school systems provided early inspiration for the company, and what it’s been like selling to schools, as well as her take on company culture in relation to remote and hybrid work.
And Chain Reaction hosted Robbie Ferguson, the co-founder and president of Immutable. Immutable is a web3 company consisting of two entities: Immutable Platform, a developer platform for building and scaling Ethereum-based web3 games, and Immutable Games, a web3 game developer and publisher.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:
Room-temp superconductor? Not so fast: The internet — and more than a few scientists — got their hopes up a couple weeks ago when a team of physicists from South Korea announced that they had created a room-temperature superconductor from a slew of common yet unlikely materials. But, as Tim writes, it’s probably, disappointingly bunk.
Taking another look at venture debt: Silicon Valley Bank’s nosedive has soured many on venture debt, and for early-stage companies, it bears being cautious. As an option for growth-stage companies with more predictable cash flow, however, things may be a little different. Haje investigates.
Taking a page from mobile gaming: Retaining mobile app subscribers is harder than it was last year, but paywall optimization and gamified UX can help. Anna explores the ins and outs of the turbulent market, and how apps are following examples from mobile gaming.
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