DirecTV Now is giving early subscribers a free year of HBO

Did you sign up for DirecTV Now back when the streaming TV service first launched? Check your email. AT&T is rewarding early customers by adding a free year of HBO to their existing channel package — “no strings attached.”

The offer doesn’t just cover DirecTV Now’s earliest adopters; anyone who signed up prior to March 6th is eligible, according to this FAQ. HBO is usually a $5 add-on on top of whatever subscription package you choose with DirecTV Now. The free “loyalty gift” runs through March 7th, 2018.

“We want to thank you for being one of our most valuable customers and coming on this unprecedented journey with us,” the email says. For some subscribers, that journey has been a bit rocky, but the company says it’s fully “dedicated to making DirecTV Now the best streaming entertainment product in the industry.”

Watch the new Volvo XC60 survive some nasty crash tests

The 2018 Volvo XC60 is the company’s newest and safest offering. For a company with such a fanatical devotion to safety as Volvo, that’s saying something.

Steering assist has been added to Volvo’s City Safety system, allowing the XC60 to use its steering assist feature to help mitigate head-on and lane-changing collisions. It has available Pilot Assist — a feature somewhat similar to Tesla’s Autopilot — which takes care of steering, acceleration, and braking on well-marked highways up to 80 mph, as long as the driver keeps their hand lightly on the wheel. And, when not decked out in crash test orange, it’s also extremely handsome.

But, unlike most carmakers who just focus on luxury and performance in their press releases, Volvo included video of the XC60 undergoing crash testing at the Volvo Safety Center in Gothenburg, Sweden in its announcement today.

As a former volunteer firefighter, I have a secret love of crash test videos — I’ve seen numerous real-world crashes up close, and I know what violence is done to cars smashing into each other at high-speeds. So, I appreciate safe cars and all the engineering and design work that goes into them.

The key thing to watch for in crash test videos is intrusion into the passenger compartment. Ideally, the cell where the humans are should remain intact, which means that the humans are more likely to remain intact. In the video at the top, you can see the roof of the XC60 doesn’t give at all as the car tumbles over and over, and the passengers remain protected.

Volvo XC60 35MPH Frontal Crash Test

In the frontal crash above, you can see the crash structure give way, absorbing much of the force of the crash and sending some of the engine and wheel structure downward instead of rearward into the passenger compartment. Again, there is very little in the way of intrusion into the cabin.

Finally, below we have a frontal offset crash test. These are particularly difficult for many carmakers to deal with as the full force of the crash is spread over a very small area of the car. Volvo deals with this by designing the vehicle to slide to the side as the crash occurs, moving the passengers away from the barrier as much as possible.

Volvo XC60 25MPH Frontal Offset Crash Test

The new XC60 will go into production next month at Volvo’s Torslanda Plant in Sweden. It should hit dealers later this year. Pricing was not disclosed.

Republicans introduce resolution to kill FCC’s internet privacy rules

Republicans took the first step toward reversing the Federal Communication Commission’s internet privacy rules today, with 25 senators introducing legislation that would reverse the rules and forbid the commission from passing anything similar to them in the future.

The privacy rules were introduced last year as an addendum of sorts to the 2015 net neutrality order. That order required the FCC to take over enforcement of privacy protection from the Federal Trade Commission, but the FCC needed to pass clear rules in order to effectively do that.

The FCC’s rules mostlyalign with the FTC’s privacy framework, but they differ in two key ways: the FCC makes internet providers protect your web browsing history, and the FCC has much more leeway to actually enforce its rules.

Of course, neither of those distinctions are things that internet providers like. So they’ve been fighting to overturn them.

For the most part, Republicans just want to see the FCC scale back its rules to more closely match the FTC’s. At a minimum, that’ll mean letting internet providers share your web browsing history so that they can make more ad money.

It’s not clear how quickly Republicans intend to move on this, but, one way or another, these privacy rules are probably going down. Republicans can move forward with this legislation, which would require a majority vote in both houses and a signature from the president. Or they could wait around for the FCC to kill the rules on its own — commission chairman Ajit Pai has already indicated his plans to do that.

In Congress, Republicans are relying on the Congressional Review Act to reverse the rules. The act allows recently enacted rules to be reviewed and reversed by a new Congress, and it’s getting thrown around regularly as a way for Republicans to quickly undo many Obama administration actions from last year.

The big question, if the privacy rules are overturned by Congress, is what the FCC will do next. The law would prevent the FCC from passing any rules that are “substantially the same” as the ones overturned, but it’s not clear what’ll qualify as different enough to clear that bar, especially since the changes Republicans are pushing for aren’t very dramatic.

At the very least, Republicans have made it clear what they want the FCC to pass. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published earlier this month, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who authored the resolution introduced today, said he wanted to scrap the current privacy rules “in the hope that [the FCC] would follow the FTC’s successful sensitivity-based framework.”

There’s a secret version of Tinder for hot people and you can’t use it

Tinder seems to be operating a secretive, invite-only tier of its hugely popular dating app. TechCrunch reports that for over six months, the company has been quietly (and very slowly) growing what it calls Tinder Select, a version of Tinder that a source described as exclusive to “celebrities and people who do really well on [regular] Tinder.” It’s not a completely separate app, but rather a separate layer of the core Tinder app that the chosen ones can toggle on and off at will.

It’s currently unknown how Tinder decides who should graduate from Tinder for the masses and gain access to Tinder Select. TechCrunch says that the existing pool of users consists of “CEOs, super models, and other hyper-attractive/upwardly affluent types,” which sounds like a miserable, artificial hellscape if you ask me. Very reminiscent of The League. Something tells me absolutely none of these people are among the million-plus users paying Tinder to improve their odds of a match, companionship, and reprieve from life’s emptiness. (Just kidding: dating apps are probably just fine for finding lasting relationships.)

Either way, sorry regular humans… you’ve got no easy in right now. Invitees are allowed to “nominate” another person to join the Tinder Select ranks (yes, that’s really what the process is called), but that nominee can’t extend the same courtesy to anyone else — it’s just one hop. Visually, Tinder Select has its own style with navy blue color accents replacing the pinkish orange interface that us common folk see. When reached for comment on Tinder Select by TechCrunch, the IAC-owned company unsurprisingly kept mum.

At least you can add Tinder Select to your list of hated things in this other swiping app and find a match based on that mutual distaste.

Mark Zuckerberg will get his Harvard degree after dropping out 12 years ago

Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard dropout and CEO of a company worth nearly $400 billion, will be getting a college degree more than a decade after leaving his classes behind. The Facebook co-founder and chief executive left Harvard’s undergraduate computer science program in the fall of 2005 to devote himself full-time to building the young social network, which even then was seeing meteoric growth. Now, 12 years later, Zuckerberg will be giving the commencement address to Harvard’s class of 2017 and nabbing an honorary degree in the process.

The news was announced today in a post on Harvard’s website. “Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership has profoundly altered the nature of social engagement worldwide. Few inventions in modern times can rival Facebook in its far-reaching impact on how people around the globe interact with one another,” Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement. “And few individuals can rival Mark Zuckerberg in his drive to change our world through the innovative use of technology, as well as his commitment to advance science, enhance education, and expand opportunity through the pursuit of philanthropy.”

Zuckerberg is of course not the first big name in Silicon Valley to have dropped out and gone on to find success. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Oregon before starting his company with Steve Wozniak in 1976. Bill Gates, a fellow Harvard dropout, also left school after just two years to co-found Microsoft with Paul Allen. Because of their shared history, Zuckerberg even made a slightly cringe-worthy video with Gates in which the younger entrepreneur asks the older, wiser Microsoft alum for tips on writing his commencement speech. (Gates gave one to Harvard 10 years ago, which Zuckerberg watched from the crowd incidentally because his future wife, Priscilla Chan, was graduating that year.)

In the typical cheeky fashion of a man whose net worth exceeds the GDP value of Myanmar, Gates left a comment on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, telling him, “Always happy to help, Mark. Good luck on your speech. Hope the honorary degree helps you land your dream job…”

Show Notes: The Sonos Playbase is so confusing

Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every day this week I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.

Tomorrow is A Day Without A Woman — a protest in which many women are not showing up to work in order to stand for equality and fair labor practices. (A good explainer is here at Vox.com.) Many female members of The Verge’s staff are participating, but The Verge is a news organization and won’t be involved directly. We will be covering the strike, however, and running several pieces from our female staff members about their experiences in technology, science, and culture. It’s going to be an interesting day.

OUT WITH THE OLD SONOS, PLEASE SHOW US THE NEW SONOS

  • Sonos announced the Playbase last night, a $699 speaker that’s built into a TV stand. Chris Welch went to the event, here’s the video:
  • I have a medium-sized Sonos system — two Play 1s, a Play 5, and a Connect Amp, and I love it. But I have no idea why Sonos made such a big deal about the Playbase — the company’s future is clearly in integrating microphones into their hardware products and working more closely with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa. The company is also opening up control of the system to music services like Spotify directly, which is a good thing, although it’s a bit messy right now.
  • To be fair, the Playbase has been under development for a long time, and Sonos now has a new CEO who says he wants the company to move faster. So you can’t really look at the Playbase to see too far ahead into the future of Sonos. Even though my dear friend and notable Verge traitor David Pierce certainly tried.
  • But I can’t get over how ancient the Playbase is as a technology product — it’s a $700 connected speaker that only supports 2.4GHz b/g WiFi because the SonosNet mesh protocol hasn’t been updated for modern networks. It also lacks HDMI in favor of optical input and doesn’t support surround codecs like DTS. It’s basically a Playbar in a bigger box with more speakers. Which is great and I’m sure some people will buy it, but the Playbar came out in 2013 — it’s fair to wonder why Sonos is still shipping the same basic capability set four years later.
  • What’s more, the Playbase really only makes sense if you have other Sonos products in your house — if you just want a better speaker in a giant box under your TV, it’s actually hard to spend more than $500 on a highly-rated competing model from Yamaha or Sony or ZVOX. (My mother-in-law has a ZVOX, it’s dead-simple and sounds great.)
  • And if you want to use the Playbase as the heart of a 5.1 system, you’ll end up spending a wild $1,800: $700 for the Playbase, $700 for the Sonos Sub, and $200 each for Play 1s as surround speakers. And you still won’t get HDMI switching or modern surround codecs like DTS or Dolby Atmos for that money.
  • You could just buy a highly-rated soundbar system with rear speakers and a subwoofer in the box and a $349 Sonos Connect to integrate your streaming music and come out anywhere from $500 to $1000 ahead.
  • So who is this for? Someone who already has a Sonos system and doesn’t mind paying a huge premium to add another Sonos-integrated speaker under their TV? That seems like a tiny market — especially when Amazon is rumored to be working on a new Echo with better speakers, an idea that is blindingly obvious to everyone.
  • Here’s Dieter’s interview with new Sonos CEO Patrick Spence. Let’s hope the Playbase is the last of the old Sonos, and we see what’s up with the new Sonos in very short order.

IPHONES OR DOCTORS

  • Rep Jason Chaffetz stuck his foot in his mouth today when he suggested poor people spend their money on health insurance instead of brand-new iPhones.
  • There are lots of reasons this is a bad line of argument — and Chaffetz walked it back pretty quickly — but I think Adi Robertson did an excellent job laying out the main issue: smartphones aren’t luxury items, especially for the poor. They are often primary computing devices, and it is hard, if not impossible, to participate in the modern economy without a computer. What’s more, investing in a computer like the iPhone, which has a stellar security record, excellent service and support, and a rich ecosystem of spare parts and skilled gray market repair techs, is actually a very smart use of money if you don’t have a lot of it. Adi couldn’t get her HTC phone repaired in New York City! Just go read her piece.

HARRY POTTER FCC JOKE

LIGHTNING ROUND

If Twitter were ever going to be disrupted, this is exactly what I’d imagine it would look like at the beginning. Take a small but rabid group of core users, bootstrapped off an existing social network, and give them a core subject to discuss. (Recall that Twitter’s initial growth came largely from the San Francisco tech community discussing itself.)

  • Counterpoint:

Q: Chris, how would you describe your personal hell?

A: https://t.co/hxMG9usEOmpic.twitter.com/KKEJn7WMTW

— Chris Plante at GDC (@plante) March 7, 2017

  • The CIA has the ability to hack Samsung smart TVs and spy on people using the built-in microphones and cameras, according to new docs released by Wikileaks. This isn’t surprising in the slightest, but as we add more and more mics and cameras to our homes through smart assistants, it’s just going to get more and more prevalent.
  • Relatedly, Amazon dropped its motion to rule that Alexa data is protected by the First Amendment after the suspect in the murder case at issue granted the cops permission to see his Echo logs. This is a ruling that Amazon needs sooner or later; we’ll see how and when other police agencies decide to push the issue.
  • Nest finally added two-factor auth, but… you still can’t login with your Google account? Hmmm.
  • The Galaxy S8 just can’t stop leaking out: today there are side-by-side photos of the S8 and larger S8+. It looks very nice, I’ll give it that.
  • Finally, Vlad is at the Geneva Motor Show, looking at extremely pretty new supercars. I want this Mercedes-AMG GT Concept very badly.

ACLU and 170 other organizations urge FCC to preserve net neutrality

The future of net neutrality is in jeopardy again, so advocates are getting back to the fight. In a letter sent today to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, as well as Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson, over 170 groups ask Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to continue to support and protect the net neutrality rules put into place in 2015.

“[We] urge you and your colleagues to oppose legislation and regulatory actions that would threaten net neutrality and roll back the important protections put in place by the FCC in 2015 and to continue to enforce the Open Internet Order as it stands,” the groups write.

The letter comes just a day before the Senate Commerce Committee’s first oversight hearing of the FCC while Pai is in charge. Thune is chairman of the committee, and Nelson is ranking member, which is why they’re included on the letter. Tomorrow will be the committee’s first chance to grill Pai on the direction he’s taking the commission — the future of the FCC’s privacy rules is likely to come up.

Coincidentally enough, the letter was also sent just hours before Pai was nominated by President Trump for another five-year term at the commission.

Signatories of the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greenpeace USA, and the Writers Guild of America, West, among many others. (Also included: The Harry Potter Alliance, an activist group of Harry Potter fans.)

Pai has said he believes using Title II to enact net neutrality was “a mistake,” and Thune believes the issue should be resolved in Congress. It’s far from clear how this is going to play out, but either way, opponents of Title II are now in control of net neutrality’s future, and these groups know it’s going to be a long fight to keep those protections intact.

Anchor is like Snapchat stories for audio, and it’s delightful

A year ago, a pair of New York entrepreneurs released Anchor, an app for recording short-form audio snippets that they hoped would “democratize radio.” “As popular as this medium is we feel it’s really hard for regular people to contribute to it,” co-founder Nir Zicherman told TechCrunch. The initial version of Anchor let you record “waves” of up to two minutes, and anyone could add on with a minute of their own. I appreciated the democratic impulse, but the results sounded less like radio and more like extremely long voicemails. I recorded a couple of posts on Anchor but never found a reason to return; the app struggled to gain traction.

But today Anchor is back with a new version, and it’s much more compelling than what came before. Anchor 2.0 is a kind of Snapchat Stories for audio, with users encouraged to create digital radio stations where content disappears after 24 hours. But the tools for audio creation are much improved, with features for easily adding full songs, professionally recorded transitions, and “call in” responses from listeners. The result is a service that ditches the voicemail vibe of the original in favor of something much more entertaining.

“While Anchor 1.0 proved to us that non-professionals would be willing (and excited) to record their voice, it also showed us that the quality bar for user-generated audio needed to be much higher than content on visual mediums,” co-founder Michael Mignano told me in an email. “One of the ways we tried to ensure that audio in 2.0 would be interesting and fun to listen to was by providing lots of creative tools for our users. We’ve also found that the stories format helps create a consistent tone for each station, and encourages people to choose a topic instead of just saying whatever’s on their mind.” More creative tools are coming, he added.

Anchor opens to the home tab, where you’ll find updates from all the people and stations you subscribe to. (Anchor has signed up a number of professional publishers to create radio for it, including IGN, Gizmodo, and TheOutline.) Tap on a station and it will begin playing with the most recent segment you haven’t heard. Tap the skip button to move on to the next one if your bored, or the applause icon to express your approval. (As on Periscope, Facebook Live, and Medium Stories, you can send an unlimited number of likes on Anchor.)

Once the station runs out of segments, the next one will autoplay. Anchor also has categories for you to browse and discover new stations: news, tech, life, music, “funny,” and so on. “The Rundown” is a personalized station that offers you the day’s news, plus weather from Dark Sky.

But the app’s best touches are in the creation tool, which you’ll find by tapping the big red plus button at the bottom of the screen. You can record by tapping the button and dragging up, or by holding the phone to your ear, as if you were making a call. Swipe left and you’ll find several tools to spice up your recording. “Clips” lets you insert audio from newsmakers, broadcasters, and other Anchor users into your own station, giving you new voices and events to react to. Music lets you insert full songs into your station, though your listeners will need to be subscribers to Spotify or Apple Music to hear them. (Non-subscribers will hear a short clip.)

Interludes let you punctuate your broadcasts with the kind of professionally produced bumpers you hear on the radio, and “call ins” let your audience record audio responses and submit them to you directly. If a caller makes a worthwhile point, you can tap a button to add it to your station.

On one hand, we’re living in a glut of audio. Thanks to services like Spotify and an ever-increasing number of podcasts, few of us feel like we’re short of things to listen to. And yet Anchor appeals to me for some of the same reasons Twitter and Periscope did: it offers the promise of timely, compelling broadcasts from smart, funny people who have an authenticity that more professionally produced content sometimes lacks.

The odds against any social app gaining traction are long, and audio clips don’t go viral the way text, photos, and videos so often do. But Anchor has some bold ideas and a handful of genuinely delightful touches. (You can knock on the back of your iPhone to send applause.) And South by Southwest, which helped bring us Twitter, Foursquare, and Meerkat, starts in three days. If a social app were going to break out this year, this could be the time.

Anchor is available on Android and iOS.

Ferrari 812 Superfast lives up to its name

The Ferrari 812 Superfast is making it clear that speed is still a theme that’s paramount to the luxury Italian automaker’s DNA. Seeing Ferrari’s fastest production car up close at the Geneva Motor Show in alarm-red Rosso Settanta hue is believing. All those luscious curves created at the Ferrari Styling Centre are not for looks — the design is part of the aerodynamic sauce that propels this supercar to its superfast name that harkens back to the namesake 1964 500 Superfast and the lore of the 1969 365 GTB4 Daytona. But there’s no denying that those muscular haunches are menacing, even at a standstill under the staid convention center lights.

Its big numbers don’t lie. The 812 Superfast is powered by a monster 6.5 liter V12 engine that cranks out 789 horsepower and 530 pound-feet of torque. Engineers tweaked the intake and combustion system to maximize the amount of air flow into the engine, which also improved overall efficiency and set a record of 588 kw at 8,500 rpm. That oomph propels the 812 Superfast from 0 to 62 miles per hour in a 2.9-second flash. It’s also the first Ferrari made with electric power steering.

On the ground in Geneva, The Verge‘s Vlad Savov said the metallic shade was easier on the eyes than the new red color option. He found the interior ample in comparison to the Ferrari 488 GTB and was surprised that he had plenty of legroom for driver, passenger. The slope of the glass pane rear window made the car feel more spacious, from a driver’s point of view.

The 812 Superfast might not be equipped with the 949 horsepower of poison found on the coachbuilt $1.4 million La Ferrari, but it is still more car than any Ferrari enthusiast needs for a wicked lap at the track or a delirious ride along the Amalfi Coast. Ferrari calls the 812 Superfast the extreme version of the $320,000 F12 Berlinetta. In its 70th anniversary year, Ferrari is doing more than keeping up with the times — it’s setting the pace for a supercar-rich future.

  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
  • Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

Instagram Stories now have geostickers, just like Snapchat

Taking yet another cue from the Snapchat playbook, Instagram now offers geostickers in its ephemeral Stories feature. It’s currently only live in two cities — Jakarta and New York City — and offers visual accessories that represent your present location, down to the neighborhood.

The stickers will also act as a location tag, so viewers can tap on them to be taken to location page for more photos in that area. Instagram says this is just an early version, so a wider rollout to other cities will likely come soon. Personally, I’m still waiting on that MSQRD integration. Come on, Instagram. We all know it’s inevitable.

The update is available today on both iOS and Android.