Social Bookmarking

What’s Happening with Foursquare?

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Foursquare originated in 2009 as a social network that allowed its users to ‘check in’ to different locations. Whoever checked in to a location the most would be deemed the ‘Mayor’ of that location and some stores, restaurants, and bars would even offer bonuses to the Foursquare Mayor of the location. Users could earn badges based on the types of venues they were checking in to and could compare their scores with fellow Foursquare users, as well as find out where their friends were currently hanging out at. Initially, Foursquare was quite a popular service, but its popularity began to dwindle after other social networks like Facebook introduced their own ‘check in’ feature.

In an effort to remain relevant, the creators of Foursquare began to alter the model of the social network. Some people indicated that the alterations made to Foursquare appeared to emulate some of the features of Yelp, in that Foursquare began to shift its focus towards recommending locations to users that they might like based on the ones they most frequently checked in at.

Foursquare has attempted to make other attempts to stay relevant by adding new features that its creators believe that the social network’s users will find interesting. For instance, since the hype surrounding mayorships and badges is no longer what it used to be, Foursquare now alerts people with encouraging messages – such as statements regarding checking in at the gym a certain number of days in a row – that can be shared to other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Another feature added was the Foursquare Time Machine, a visualization of one’s check-ins that allows Foursquare users to view a map of all the places they have checked in before and all the places they should visit next.

Though Foursquare may not be as popular as it once was, the social network still contains a lot of information that some people (and some companies) might find relevant. In particular, Yahoo appears to be expressing interest in the location data offered by Foursquare, in regards to using it for search results, content, and ads based on where a user currently is or the locations they have checked in to in the past. Though no official merger has yet occurred, Yahoo and Foursquare have been in talks for a partnership as of August.

Topsy: The Google for Twitter

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Twitter has long had a search function that allows users to search for certain words or topics that they might want to find tweets about. However, the search function has always been limited to a point, for the sake of reducing data usage and providing more up-to-date information to its users. Essentially, the search function on Twitter tends to show more recent tweets in the assumption that more recent tweets are more likely to be relevant to whatever the user might be searching for. However, Twitter has allowed a small number of data partners to have full access to the entire archive of Twitter data and one of these partners is Topsy.

Topsy’s goal is essentially to act as a Google service for Twitter’s entire archive. Recently, Topsy announced that they had indexed every single Twitter message since the very first tweet was posted in 2006, which ultimately contains about 425 billion pieces of content. Until this past week, Topsy’s archive only went back to 2010, but their recent update has included the years prior to this and the company has made the database free to the public. Before Topsy, the only ways to find this sort of information was through partners like Gnip and the Library of Congress, and it wasn’t presented in an easy-to-search manner nor was it free to access.

There are many ways that Topsy can be used beneficially, as it is very interesting to be able to look at trends regarding events, products, or people. Essentially, through the way that Topsy organizes its content based on relevance (using an algorithm that takes retweets and favorites into account), it is easy to see what Twitter users thought of a certain political figure or a news story at a certain time, as well as how those users’ attitudes have evolved over time.

Similarly, Topsy can be used for advertisers and others in the business world who want to see how Twitter users feel about a certain product or how their brand is being presented in social media. There are countless other ways that Topsy can be used as a resource to journalists, politicians, and simply those with a bit of curiosity. In the future, Topsy hopes to index public pages for other social networks such as Facebook and Google Plus.

Facebook Launches Shared Photo Albums

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Though some may not realize it, the major social networks are constantly evolving, regularly pushing out new features and making tweaks and updates in order to stay relevant. Historically, when social networks cease to make an effort to keep upgrading, they get left in the dust by newer social networks that are willing to constantly try out new things. This might be part of the reason why Facebook wound up the ‘winner’ of the social networks when websites like MySpace and Friendster were unable to keep up.

Most recently, Facebook’s newest update to its interface is the inclusion of shared photo albums that can be used by up to fifty people. These shared photo albums have been launched for the purpose of multiple people being able to add photos from an event or that share a common subject into one consolidated album. Each person that is allowed to contribute to the album is able to add up to two hundred of their own photos, meaning that a full shared photo album can reach ten thousand images.

Before the launch of the shared photo albums, users could previously only upload photos to albums that they had created and there was a limit of a thousand total images. The new shared albums also feature a few different privacy settings; they can be viewable by the public, by friends of the contributors to the album, or only by the contributors themselves, making an easy way for groups of friends to have their own shared private photo albums.

Facebook is not the first social network to delve into shared photo albums. Mobile apps like Albumatic and Flock based their platforms on group photo albums and will likely be hurt by Facebook’s move into their territory. Google Plus also has long featured a similar function through its Party Mode, where users can share photos and videos in real time for guests of a certain event.

Even More New Features Coming to Facebook

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Facebook has been pushing a number of new features lately. Recently, I talked about a few tweaks that the social network would be making to the News Feed, but the News Feed is not the only area of Facebook that is getting tweaked. One recent report mentioned that Facebook was working on testing a new group chat feature, with hopes of competing against Google Plus’ Hangout feature and applications like WhatsApp. The new feature is supposedly called Host Chat and will be launched from the status bar to create group chats.

Another feature recently enabled by Facebook that took a cue from Twitter and Instagram was the ability for users to embed Facebook posts on their own websites and blogs. Though embedded posts must be posts that are marked as public on Facebook, the feature is being first used by news sites such as CNN, Mashable, and the Huffington Post, and will work similarly to how Twitter has allowed embedded tweets for quite some time.

In another instance of Facebook adopting ideas from its competitor Twitter, on top of hashtags and embedded posts, Facebook has also begun testing the usage of trending topics. On Twitter, trending topics allow users in certain areas to see what subjects people are talking about via their Twitter posts and now Facebook appears to want to jump on the bandwagon and add trending topics to their platform as well.

Trending topics on Facebook are being pushed out slowly, with only a small select number of users currently able to access them. It is likely that Facebook will eventually look for promoted trends as a source of income, considering Twitter charges around $200,000 per day for their promoted trends. Many of these new Facebook features seem to be pushing the social network in a direction that is further away from Facebook’s origins as a purely peer-to-peer social network and closer to its new focus as a more public forum.

Facebook Making More Tweaks to the News Feed

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At the beginning of August, Facebook announced a press event that would be focused on finally clearing up some of the confusion regarding how the Facebook News Feed works. In particular, they wanted to explain why certain Facebook posts show up in users’ News Feeds while others might not. In addition to that, they stated that there would be announcements about some changes to the News Feed at this press event, which would help users see the posts that they were more interested in.

On August 6, Facebook held this press event and explained exactly how different posts are ranked in the News Feed. The posts are prioritized based on how much one interacts with a certain friend, Page, or public figure, the number of likes, shares, and comments that a post received, how much a user has interacted with that type of post in the past, and whether or not that post is being actively hidden or reported by other users. Facebook has acknowledged that there are over 1500 potential posts the average user might see a day, so they recognize the importance of trying to give priority to certain posts in each user’s News Feed.

In addition to offering more information on how the News Feed works, the press event also operated to announce that Facebook would be taking a page from Google and would start publishing blog updates on how the News Feed algorithm was going to gradually be changed. Facebook employees have said that there are a number of tweaks that are going to be coming to the News Feed in the near future and some of these alterations have already begun to surface.

The newest addition to the News Feed algorithm is that it will now take popular stories – particularly, one that’s getting a lot of comments and likes – and will put it at the top of your News Feed to make sure that you don’t miss it, even if it was posted earlier on in the day. This is the first change to the News Feed that Facebook has made and in the future, it seems they will be making a lot more to ensure that the News Feed remains a relevant part of Facebook.

Facebook and Twitter Cracking Down on Sexist Hate Speech

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Recently, Facebook and Twitter alike have come under fire from certain activists and advertisers regarding hate speech, particularly that of a misogynistic nature. In May, after a weeklong campaign by a number of women’s groups who had organized themselves under the name ‘Women, Action & the Media,’ Facebook was the first to fall in line regarding a stronger effort being made against pages that made light of rape, violence, or other degradation against women.

Facebook was truly under pressure; fifteen major companies had dropped their advertising in response to Facebook’s negligence for allowing hateful images that gratuitously encouraged violence against women. It’s no surprise that Facebook stated that they were going to be cracking down on these sorts of images and pages, considering it would not only be the best thing to do from a moral standpoint, but also from a financial standpoint.

Similarly, Twitter came under fire in early August, particularly in regards to a number of threats that had been made against female journalists and female members of parliament in the United Kingdom. Twitter intends to add a ‘Report’ button – which is currently only available on the iOS Twitter app – to Android and Twitter.com next month, so that Twitter users can more easily report abusive behavior.

The addition of this ‘Report’ button is likely due to a prominent online petition that garnered more than 128,000 signatures regarding the addition of this feature. Considering some of the threats against these women were threats of rape or bomb threats, it’s vital that Twitter update its rules and interface to ensure that people can feel safe on their social network. Facebook and Twitter moving forward with these calls to action against misogynistic hate speech are certainly necessary, though it remains to be seen how effective the social networks’ efforts will be.

Facebook Enters the World of Mobile Gaming

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Facebook has offered games for a long time, with popular games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars becoming worldwide phenomena. It’s no surprise – especially with Facebook’s recent pushes towards mobile advertising and the steady rise of mobile Facebook users – that Facebook has recently announced that they will be delving deeper into the mobile gaming industry. Mobile gaming on iOS and Android has also been increasingly popular in recent years and Facebook stands to potentially gain a great deal of revenue this way.

There were rumblings about a month ago that Facebook was looking into mobile gaming, and it seems that those rumors are true. Much of the revenue generated from Facebook comes from virtual currency transactions in their aforementioned social network games, so it’s definitely a financially viable idea for Facebook to get more involved when it comes to gaming.

Essentially, what Facebook will be doing is acting as a publisher to smaller game development companies. In return for a portion of the overall revenue of the game, Facebook will focus on the marketing and distribution of these games. Many of these smaller developers have difficulty competing with larger companies such as Zynga and Kabam, which is why partnering with Facebook will be beneficial to all: to developers looking for a better way to market their games, to Facebook looking for new sources of revenue, and hopefully to gamers who are looking for new, interesting mobile games.

Facebook made the formal announcement that they are getting into mobile game publishing at the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco on July 30. They have partnered themselves with roughly ten developers including Brainbow, Kiwi, and Space Ape, among others. Though traditional games publishers tend to have a hand in the development process, Facebook will stay out of funding and overseeing development and will put the majority of their focus into marketing and analytics tools.

Facebook Launches Video for Instagram

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There was quite a bit of speculation going on back in June, where a number of reports were stating that Facebook was working on launching something big. In particular, all signs were pointing to a massive update to Facebook’s subsidiary photo-sharing social network Instagram: this update would allow for video sharing on top of photo sharing, likely in response to Twitter’s exceedingly popular Vine mobile application.

The speculation turned out to be correct when Video on Instagram was launched on June 20. Instagram’s new video app allows for video clips from three to fifteen seconds long, a variety of video filters, and the ability to arrange clips together to create videos with more focus. Some media sources are saying that it’s very similar to Twitter’s Vine app, only with more features and a more intuitive interface. The application was launched simultaneously on iOS and Android, following shortly after Vine’s recent release on Android.

Knowing that Video on Instagram was on the horizon, it is unsurprising that Twitter teased new Vine features on the day that Facebook’s competing application was launched. The co-founders of Vine released some videos that showed off new features and enhancements to the user interface that will be coming soon to Vine. They intend to bring the ability to create and save drafts of videos before sharing them as well as standardized categories for videos instead of a primary focus on hashtags.

Regardless of Vine’s new and improved interface, it is likely that Video on Instagram will give them a run for their money. At the very least, it is likely that the two competing social networks will be pushed to innovate more and introduce new, interesting features that separate themselves from one another and force users to make a choice about which they think is best when it comes to instantly sharing miniature videos.

Be Careful What You Put on Your Social Profiles

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Internet privacy has been a huge issue in the news lately, and for good reason. With the massive amount of information we all offer on the Internet, through social networks, blogs, personal websites, and other venues, it’s no surprise our privacy has become a bit muddled. We oftentimes trust that no one other than our ‘friends’ (thanks to the language used by many of these social networks) will be able to see our information, but this is not always the case. When you look at your ‘friend’ list on Facebook, you may forget that some of the people on there are not your friends at all.

Furthermore, there are ways that information can be accessed without even being friends with someone. If it’s on the Internet, there are often ways to get to it. A few months back, this was something that came under some scrutiny when a ‘super search engine’ known as RIOT was uncovered. The purpose of RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) was to search through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social networks in order to get information on terrorism suspects, particularly in regards to their recent locations and activities.

Many people believed that the RIOT software went too far and was a violation of American constitutional rights to privacy. There have been similar complaints, albeit to a much grander scale, upon the recent information regarding the NSA surveillance program known as PRISM. The controversy behind PRISM similarly stems from the government being able to monitor people’s actions on the Internet. Supposedly, PRISM allows the United States government to dig into e-mails, social networking details, photos, videos, and much more.

While the PRISM controversy still builds, social networking privacy has long been an issue on a smaller scale. While websites like Facebook and Twitter provide a number of customizable privacy options, it is still recommended that one double-checks the things they say before one posts those things on the Internet. These days, people are regularly fired for the things that they post on Facebook and Twitter and it is becoming a well-known fact that companies tend to snoop on potential employees’ social networking pages during the hiring process. With all this being said, be careful what you post on the Internet, because once it’s out there, there’s no getting it back.

Waze: The Billion-Dollar GPS Social Network

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If you haven’t heard of it already, Waze is a recent up-and-coming social GPS application that has been the talk of the town in recent months. Essentially, Waze combines the traditional interface of a GPS navigation system with social networking features that allow users to share information with one another. For instance, Waze users can alert each other about speed traps, traffic jams, and other landmarks; it also helps users find the nearest, cheapest gas and can be used to locate fellow friends who also use Waze.

The reason that Waze has recently hit the spotlight is thanks to Facebook, who announced that they were planning to purchase Waze for up to $1 billion; many sources were confirming last month that the deal was essentially done and had been in the works for nearly six months as the two companies negotiated. The main issue was whether to keep Waze in Israel, where the company is primarily located, or to relocate them to the United States.

Eventually, however, the location issue became more than Facebook could handle. Reportedly, Facebook has pulled out of negotiations after Waze’s management repeatedly refused to move from Israel to the United States. Facebook has purchased two previous companies from Israel that were then moved to the United States – Snaptu and Face.com – but both of those were deals of only $50-70 million, nowhere near the billion-dollar value of Waze.

All is not necessary lost for Waze though, even after Facebook has decided to end their negotiations. Before Facebook’s billion-dollar offer, Apple had initially offered the company $400 million, though Waze declined it, believing their company to be worth more than that. It has also been said that upon the announcement that Facebook was going after Waze, Google began trying to outbid them. In any case, it likely won’t be long before this Israeli startup is snatched up and integrated into a larger corporation.