Social Media

Facebook Launches Paper, a News-Reading Application

Picture 2-6-2014Facebook’s most recent endeavor was launched for iOS on Monday; it’s a news reader application called Paper and it’s the first release from Facebook Creative Labs, a section of the company that is dedicated specifically to launching mobile apps that integrate Facebook in new and interesting ways. Thus far, the application is receiving positive reviews, integrating functions from Facebook and similar news reader apps like Flipboard and Feedly, while being packaged with an attractive and functional design.

One thing that’s particularly interesting about Paper’s design is that it lacks buttons. Instead, the app relies on swiping motions and phone tilts. The news reader will integrate both the News Feed of a user’s Facebook page as well as a variety of content sources such as popular blogs and news websites, which will allow Paper users to easily read or view all of the content and news that they are interested in.

Early reviews of Paper have been overwhelmingly positive, with some news sources even claiming that Paper could become a replacement for Facebook itself, due to the sleek way it integrates the News Feed and other useful information into one high quality application. Though Paper lacks some of the full features of Facebook, such as Events, it still includes most of the things that Facebook can do.

Not everyone is excited about Paper, however. In particular, a startup known as FiftyThree is upset about the name. Their own drawing application is also called Paper. However, their only trademark is for ‘Paper By FiftyThree’ rather than ‘Paper’ itself and it appears that the two companies are in a bit of a spat over the name. FiftyThree has attempted to trademark the name ‘Paper’ but this may be a legal loophole that allows Facebook to stick with the name.

Editing Posts and Tweaking Your Social Network Presence

Picture 1-30-2013In a smart move, Facebook began to allow the editing of posts last September in the web browser and in the Android version of the social network’s application. This was followed by a similar feature in the iOS application in October. It’s surprising how long it took Facebook to allow users to edit their posts, considering what a hassle it once was to correct a typo or edit a post for whatever other reason you might need to edit it for.

Though Facebook allowed users to edit comments on posts for over a year before implementing this feature, it was a breath of fresh air to finally be able to correct typos in the text of a Facebook post itself. Previously, a user would have to delete the post, lose all the Likes and comments, and repost the status entirely in order to fix a typo.

The reason that it took so long for Facebook to allow for users to edit their posts was because they wanted to prevent Facebook users from abusing this feature. For instance, they didn’t want someone to post something, wait until it got plenty of Likes, and then edit the post so that it looked like their Facebook friends had Liked something else entirely. The way that Facebook is getting around this is by offering an ‘Edit history’ to any post that is edited, so that users can see how the post has been changed.

Facebook is not the only social network that has allowed for recent editing functions. Vine also released an editing function in October, albeit one that operates a bit differently than the edit function on Facebook. Editing videos on Vine is referred to as ‘Time Travel’ and it allows users to reorganize different shots before posting videos on their Vine account, which will allow for many more interesting applications for the Vine social network.

The Death of Facebook?

Picture 1-23-2014I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that Facebook’s popularity amongst kids and teens has been on a decline. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even noted that this is the first time that there has been a decrease in daily teenage users since the social network was launched a decade ago. Even though Facebook has over a billion active users, this recent decline has made some people believe that the death of Facebook, at least as the supreme reigning social network, might not be too far away.

A recent study done by researchers at Princeton University compared the growth and potential decline of Facebook to that of an epidemic disease. When comparing the spread of the social network’s popularity to the way diseases like the bubonic plague were once spread, the researchers were able to predict that the site’s user count will drop by 80 percent before the year 2017. The reason behind the study was that ideas have often been shown to spread infectiously before dying out, not unlike diseases. Losing interest in an idea can be compared to developing an immunity to a disease.

The researchers viewed the number of Google searches for Facebook and noticed that there had been a peak in December 2012. They were able to compare this to a similar peak in searches for MySpace in 2008, right before it began to head towards its eventual decline. Though the researchers did not insinuate what the successor to Facebook might be, it’s not impossible that their findings could be accurate, considering how MySpace was once at the height of popularity and now is not even close in popularity to many of its competitors.

One interesting report has stated that even President Obama is aware that Facebook is losing its ‘cool factor.’ Obama was quoted as saying, during a meeting regarding the 18-34 year old demographic, that “It seems like they don’t use Facebook anymore,” which shows that Facebook’s decline is something quite noticeable. With many teenagers and twenty-somethings turning to Instagram and Snapchat, it’s entirely plausible that Facebook’s user base may not be such a powerhouse in a few years.

The New Web Presence of Twitter and Vine

Picture 1-16-2014Though most people are using social networks through mobile phone applications these days, there is still room to grow and evolve when it comes to the actual web presence of social networks. This is something that Twitter has recently embraced with its new web design, as well as with the first web profiles for Vine, its popular video-sharing service, which until now has been exclusively available for usage on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone platforms, rather than being accessible via a computer.

Twitter’s new web design launched on Tuesday and according to Twitter, the site has been designed to reflect the look and feel of the iOS and Android apps. One of the larger non-aesthetic changes to the website is the built-in ‘compose’ box that is on the left side of the page. The intention of this box is to encourage users to tweet more rather than just browsing the Twitter pages of other people. Though the official launch occurred on Tuesday, the new design has not yet appeared for all users.

Additionally, full web profiles were launched on Vine in early January. The Vine website allows for easier browsing of videos posted on Vine and also includes a feature called TV Mode that lets users watch videos in full screen on their computers, which plays through videos one after the other instead of looping the same video over and over. Though the Vine website is still very new, there are plenty of potential ways that the social network’s web presence can be utilized, such as filming Vines through a webcam. As Vine develops, it is likely to add new features to both the mobile app and the website.

Inventor of Twitter Launches Jelly, a Q&A Social Media App

Picture 1-9-2014The social media world has recently been buzzing about the launch of Jelly, a new social media app that integrates existing social networks to help answer the questions of its users. The app has been launched by Biz Stone, who is best known as the co-founder and co-inventor of Twitter, who also worked on popular websites such as Xanga and Blogger over the course of his career. Stone has been working on Jelly since 2012, where the nature of the application was kept mostly under wraps.

Jelly was launched for iOS and Android on Tuesday and aims to compete with existing Q&A services such as ChaCha and Quora. There are a few features that separate Jelly from these other question and answer services. For one, users are able to post images alongside their questions (“What is this?” is frequently mentioned as a way images and questions can be used together). The social media app will allow friends on existing social networks — as well as friends of friends — to help answer questions that are posed on the Jelly platform.

Some people are very excited about the potential of Jelly. One blogger referred to the types of questions one would pose for Google compared to the questions that were meant for Jelly — “How much is this new video game?” versus “Is this game appropriate for my ten year old?” The ability to gain this sort of knowledge from someone a Jelly user knows directly or indirectly is exactly the appeal of the social media app.

However, while some have embraced Jelly since its recent launch, others are a bit more skeptical. One journalist mentioned a number of problems that Jelly users may run into. He described that many questions posed on Jelly are snarky or obviously ridiculous or pointless (“Should I drink coffee or tea?”) whereas others are clearly stealth marketing questions that may irk new users of the app. Even when genuinely interesting questions are posed, the answers are usually immediately available via existing search engines. Considering the application is merely days old, there is still a lot of room for growth, but the direction that growth ends up taking remains to be seen.

Recent Security Breaches for Social Networks

Picture 1-2-2014In early December, it was revealed that there had been yet another massive breach in social network security, as 2 million passwords were stolen in a hack that affected accounts for Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and more. The hackers, who are believed to have originated from the Netherlands, were using a virus that allowed them to access information for more than 93,000 websites, including many major social networks.

More recently, it appears that the security of Snapchat has also been compromised. A recent hack resulted in information regarding 4.6 million accounts getting posted on a website known as SnapchatDB.info. Though the site has since been suspended, the hackers were able to get information regarding phone numbers and passwords for all of these individual accounts.

According to the people behind Snapchat, the hole that allowed for this security breach has been sealed. However, some people believe that Snapchat’s response to the hack is evident of their existence as a very young startup company. One particular issue is that a group of ‘white hat hackers’ – people who find holes in security so that companies can prevent these kinds of breaches – had explicitly told Snapchat that there were holes that could be exploited. Yet Snapchat ignored this and didn’t even admit to their mistake in not listening when they released a brief statement regarding the breach.

Though these breaches in security have been unfortunate for a lot of people, one website is trying their hardest to help people find out whether or not their account has been compromised. The website ‘haveibeenpwned‘ allows people to enter their e-mail addresses that are used for these accounts to find out if theirs are among the accounts that have been compromised by any of these recent breaches. The website checks Adobe, Snapchat, Stratfor, Gawker, Yahoo!, Vodafone, Pixel Federation, and Sony accounts.

Instagram Direct: Private Picture Messaging

Picture 12-26-2013Instagram’s most recent update has included the launch of a private picture messaging system that is being referred to as Instagram Direct. The service allows Instagram users to send each other private messages that can include photos or videos; this contrasts Instagram’s previous features, which only allowed the public posting of photos and videos to a user’s profile. Instagram Direct allows for special messages and private photos to be sent to up to 15 people at once.

It was truly no surprise that Instagram launched Instagram Direct this month, as there had been rumors regarding a direct messaging service for quite some time. It seemed like the obvious step that Instagram needed to take to become a more effective social network. Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, tried out a postcard service last year that would allow users to send paper prints of photos to their friends; the service never generated much interest and was quickly shut down. Physical printing and sharing was not what users wanted; they were simply looking for private messaging.

Though it was generally agreed upon that Instagram needed Instagram Direct in order to further evolve, responses to the new service have been lukewarm. One of the primary issues with Instagram Direct is that it does not do very much to separate itself from competing social networks and messaging apps such as the features available through Snapchat and Twitter.

Considering Facebook tried and failed to purchase Snapchat earlier this year, their foray into private picture messaging is going to inevitably be compared to Snapchat and Instagram Direct needs to do a little bit more to separate itself from the herd. It has been stressed, however, that the feature is currently in its earliest stages, so it remains to be seen if there will be new features revealed that may allow Instagram Direct to make a name for itself.

Facebook’s New Video Advertisements

Picture 12-19-2013Advertising is truly what generates the money for social networks and they are always trying to find new and innovative ways to advertise to their users. Since so many people use social networks in this day and age, brands are always striving to advertise to them and cater to potential customers based on their interests. Facebook’s most recent addition to their advertising repertoire comes in the form of auto-playing video advertisements.

The video advertisements are intended to not be entirely distracting from the social network itself. The videos will play automatically without sound within the News Feed, but if they are clicked on, they will extend to full screen and sound will begin to play. When the video is finished, the same advertiser will also offer two additional videos that can be potentially viewed by the Facebook user if they are interested in whatever is being advertised.

Interestingly, this method of advertisement may challenge marketers to take a new approach when it comes to finding new ways to make potential customers interested in their products. Because the video ads are not particularly intrusive, are soundless to begin with, and can be easily scrolled past, advertisers will need to find catchy ways to intrigue the interest of Facebook users without using sound in the short period of time that it will take for someone on Facebook to scroll past the ad.

Though the Facebook video advertisements have already been launched this week, they are still in the testing phases. They will initially only appear for some Facebook users, before they are gradually rolled out to the entirety of the social network’s user base. Facebook’s stock has already seen a 2% increase, based on the belief that these video advertisements will continue to boost the company’s revenue.

YouTube and Social Networks

Picture 12-12-2013YouTube is one of the biggest websites on the planet. In fact, in terms of page views in the United States, the website is second only to Google, narrowly beating out major websites like Facebook, Yahoo!, and Amazon. However, the Internet is a volatile realm where updates are constantly required in order to keep websites current, as evidenced by YouTube’s recent attempts to delve into features that are typically associated with popular social networks.

Back in August, YouTube decided to launch MixBit, their attempt at a direct competition with instant video sharing apps like Facebook’s Instagram service and Twitter’s Vine mobile app, though MixBit is a little bit different than these services. The way MixBit stands out on its own is by allowing all MixBit videos to be used for editing, splicing, and mixing with other videos. Though MixBit videos can only be 16 seconds in length, they can be edited together into a larger video that’s up to an hour long.

Another way that YouTube has moved into social networking territory is their recent decision to require a Google Plus account to post comments on the site. With interest in Google Plus recently dwindling, it’s likely that this partnership with Google was done in an attempt to increase usage of their floundering social network. However, it appears that the fickle users of YouTube are not particularly happy with the requirement of a Google Plus account to comment on videos.

People on the Internet can often be resistant to change and it appears that petitions have already been created and tens of thousands of people have commented on a YouTube blog post announcing the change with angry complaints, obscenities, and demands to change the commenting system back to what it once was. Some don’t wish to have a Google Plus account at all, while others are reluctant towards having their real name posted on their YouTube comments. Either way, these changes appear to be here to stay, as YouTube is quite used to angry comments and they have made no movement towards pulling back from Google Plus support.

What Lies Ahead for Snapchat

Picture 12-5-2013Snapchat is reaching all-time highs in popularity at this time. According to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, there are 400 million snaps shared a day, which exceed s the number of photos that are shared through both Facebook and Instagram, proving once and for all that Snapchat is here to stay and it’s huge. To compare, Snapchat was seeing 350 million snaps a day in September and 200 million a day in June, meaning that the social network is growing at a shocking rate.

Needless to say, it’s no surprise that investment analysts are saying that Snapchat has a very long-lasting and lucrative future. The social network has more funding and a higher valuation than Instagram and even YouTube did when they were at Snapchat’s stage in their lifespan. It’s not too much of a shock that there have been rumblings of a $3 billion offer from Facebook hoping to purchase Snapchat. Many attribute Snapchat’s popularity to its lack of permanence, referring to the way snaps disappear after an allocated amount of time.

Facebook is not the only massive company that is interested in Snapchat, however. There are other rumors abound that Tencent, an enormous Chinese corporation involved in the biggest Chinese social networks, has already made a major investment in Snapchat. A partnership between the two companies is likely to be mutually beneficial, as it allows Snapchat to extend into Asia and Tencent to have their first American subsidiary.

Another recent news update for Snapchat is the recent hire of Emily White, who was formerly the director of business operations for Instagram. She will now be working as the COO of Snapchat and it’s very possible that this may be a way that Snapchat will be moving forward with advertisements and monetization. Instagram itself revealed its new ads in October, leading some to believe that White’s hire may lead to a shift in the marketing of Snapchat as well.