Friday Five: Amazon opens till-less store in London

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Amazon opens till-less store in London

Amazon has opened its first till-less store outside of the US in Ealing, west London. The Amazon Fresh store uses the company’s Just Walk Out technology, which means you can literally pick items off shelves and walk out of the store. Billing is handled automatically, although you have to scan your Amazon app on entry.

The launch marks a major expansion of Amazon’s till-less initiative, which uses cameras to track shoppers and their purchases. The Ealing shop will stock a range of groceries, fresh meals and hot food, and Amazon says further stores are planned for Greater London as it continues on its relentless path to world dominance.

2. Google set to stop tracking across the web

Google has said it will stop selling adverts based on a person’s individual browsing across websites, in a move to address concerns about online privacy. Google is already in the process of phasing out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser and has made it clear it won’t use alternative tracking tech at an individual level.

The declaration is sure to ruffle a few feathers in the ad tech industry, but comes as Google’s search and targeted advertising business is under increasing attack from lawmakers and privacy advocates. However, Google will still collect ‘first party’ data from its own products and the changes only apply to websites, not mobile apps.

3. Twitter tests out new e-commerce feature

Twitter is testing out a new way to display tweets that link out to e-commerce product pages. A new Twitter Shopping Card format integrates product details directly into the tweet itself, together with a big ‘Shop’ button. Rather than actual ads, Twitter says it’s an example of a new treatment for organic tweets focused on e-commerce.

This format could be part of Twitter’s larger push to become a creator platform, following its recently announced plans for a ‘Super Follow’ subscription. This will allow Twitter users to follow accounts for subscriber-only perks like exclusive content and supporter badges (this seems a terrible idea to me, but what do I know?)

4. WhatsApp desktop app adds video calling

WhatsApp’s desktop app isn’t always conducive to being able to concentrate on work but it has been very useful during lockdown, especially for people like me whose kids are constantly stealing their phone to play games. And, following a short trial, the WhatsApp desktop app for Mac and PC is now rolling out voice and video calling.

Voice and video calls were already available on the mobile app, and now all desktop users will be able to make calls with end-to-end encryption, meaning Facebook won’t be able to listen in. However, the desktop app will only support one-to-one calls, not group calls, although WhatsApp says it plans to introduce that at some point.

5. Fancy a free trip to the moon? Step this way…

The Friday Five has had a few articles about going into space recently but this one’s more of a PSA — how do you fancy a free trip to the moon? Well, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has invited eight members of the public to join him on a trip around the moon on Elon Musk’s SpaceX flight — and he’s picking up the tab.

Applicants need to prove they want to “help other people and greater society in some way” and are “willing to support other crew members”. Word of warning though: Maezawa previously launched a documentary search for a new girlfriend to join him on the trip (which was later cancelled) — so he might be a bit of an oddball…

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