Secrecy, Privacy, and Ephemerality in Social Media

September 11, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 9-11-2014In a world where millions of people post every thought, photograph, or video to our social media profiles, we have effectively given up our privacy. And yet we still cling to the idea of privacy, even if that just means setting some sort of limit to the people who see all the things we’re posting for everyone else to see. Social media security has been a hot-button issue for this reason and over the course of the past couple of years, there have been a large number of breaches and hacks where social media users’ information has been compromised. I’ve talked before about hacks that affected Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, but these are not the only social media networks and apps that have had breaches in their security.

Back in June, the simplistic social media app Yo was hacked by three college students, who were able to get the phone numbers and contacts of every Yo user as well as being able to send them false messages that appeared to be from other users. Considering Yo was developed in merely eight hours, it wasn’t a huge surprise that there were security issues, but what’s disturbing is how quickly users latched on to the new hot social media app without considering that their personal information might be at stake. The social network Secret was marketed as the ‘anonymous social network’ but hackers last month were able to find an easy way to make it a lot less anonymous.

Though Yo and Secret have issued fixes to these security breaches, as have the larger, more popular social networks, it would not be crazy to say that our faith in social network security is waning. Facebook is making efforts to change things; they acquired a cybersecurity start-up company called PrivateCore last month in an effort to help protect the data of Facebook users. However, with the state of social media privacy and security still unsure, there are other things people and social networks are turning to (including Facebook).

Ephemerality is the nature of apps like Snapchat, Bolt, Slingshot, and plenty of similar social media applications. The idea here is to ensure some manner of privacy by making messages, photos, and videos only appear temporarily before being deleted forever. Recently, Facebook began testing their own new ephemeral feature, which will allow users to use a ‘Choose Expiration’ function. This feature will give posts a life expectancy from anywhere between an hour and a week. Thus far, this feature has only been available to a small set of users operating Facebook for iOS and it is unclear what the future of the feature may be.

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Tags: Opinion,Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Hyperlapse: The New Time Lapse App from Instagram

September 4, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 9-4-2014It was only about a month ago that Instagram launched their recent project, Bolt, a competitor to Snapchat, available exclusively to New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. Their newest project, however, has been far more widespread: the app is called Hyperlapse and it allows users to create time lapse videos. Historically, the creation of proper time lapse videos has often required expensive photography equipment, which is something that Hyperlapse aims to move past (not unlike the filters available on Instagram).

An Instagram account is not required to use the separate Hyperlapse app, which launched for iOS devices on August 26. Users simply need to tap once to start recording and once again to stop and then are able to alter the playback speed as well as a number of other options. Once the videos are created, they can be easily shared via other social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Though ultimately the functionality of the application may seem simple, Hyperlapse is using a lot of powerful technology that allow users to shoot steady, professional-looking videos from their mobile devices. Some social media blogs believe that Hyperlapse was launched as its own separate application so that it would not merely be buried as an Instagram feature, and people could fully get a chance to harness the powerful technology behind it. On top of this, Hyperlapse’s focus is more as a video creation app rather than a social network, although it is quite easy to share the videos via social networks once they are completed. Due to technological limitations, there are not yet plans to bring the app to Android devices.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Twitter Analytics Now Available to Everyone

August 28, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 8-28-2014Ever wanted to be able to accurately measure your social media presence via hard numbers and data? Twitter understands that many people use Twitter to make a name for themselves, whether that means promoting a product or a website or trying to get attention as a comedian or blogger. There are an enormous number of uses for Twitter and the release of Twitter’s Twitter Analytics program allows Twitter users to better understand how frequently their tweets are being viewed and reacted to (referred to as ‘impressions’ and ‘engagements’ respectively).

Twitter Analytics was quietly being tested roughly a month ago and finally received a widespread release yesterday. Twitter Analytics is available to anyone who has had a Twitter account for at least two weeks, due to the fact that the Analytics provided are only available for the past two weeks. Prior tweets are not counted. Though this aspect may be a bit disappointing, it still allows for an eye-opening change in Twitter’s future, allowing everyone from business executives to cruise ship comedians to see their precise Twitter presence.

Though the ‘average’ Twitter user may just consider this to be a useless function, this addition can mean the world to people who advertise using Twitter (which is an ever-growing number of people and businesses). Twitter users will be able to monitor trends of what makes their tweets popular and what helps to encourage others to interact with their tweets. Currently, Twitter Analytics is only available via the computer; there is no word yet on whether its features will be extended to mobile usage.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Viral Marketing,Web 2.0

Social Networking for Kids

August 21, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 8-21-2014When Facebook was initially launched in 2004, it was geared only as a social network for Harvard University students. During this period of time, teens and technology-savvy adults were dipping their feet into other social networks like Friendster and MySpace and business-oriented networks liked LinkedIn were also being launched. Eventually, Facebook expanded to allow other college students to join, which in turn led to high school students, until eventually anyone over the age of thirteen was able to join Facebook.

I remember a time not very long ago where the mention of Facebook would usually bring a confused look to a person’s face. These days, Facebook and other social networks like Instagram and Snapchat are ubiquitous. Everyone’s hearing about them and more than a billion people on the planet are using them. Even though children don’t meet the terms of use for networks like Facebook and Instagram, there is no proof of age required to create an account. Thus, kids are on Facebook and other social networks, and there’s not much that can be done about that.

However, there may be ways for parents to better introduce their children to the world of social networking, considering they will inevitably find out about it themselves. After all, these days, posting a picture of a newborn baby on a social network is extremely commonplace; these kids are already on social networks whether they like it or not literally as soon as they’re born.

One social network that has recently been created specifically for kids is called Kuddle, which is essentially a facsimile of Instagram that has been designed for kids to be safely introduced to social media and share pictures with their friends. Thanks to security and safety features, photos must be approved by parents who are notified every time their child uploads a picture. There are no comments allowed on photos, which is intended to prevent cyber-bullying, although kids are allowed to draw on their own photos and add captions.

We currently live in a world where children are going to be exposed to social media at younger and younger ages. Many people I knew growing up got their first cell phones in high school, but it’s become more and more common for parents to purchase cell phones for children as young as eight years old or even younger, often for safety reasons so that children can more easily stay in contact with their parents. Cell phones and social media are nearly interchangeable these days, so it’s probably a good thing to find safe and positive ways to introduce children to social media like Kuddle.

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Tags: Opinion,Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Foursquare Rebrands and Potentially Loses Its Charm

August 14, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 8-14-2014It was announced in the springtime that Foursquare would be undergoing changes to make it relevant to the modern world of social networking. This change started out with the launch of Swarm, which eventually took over the ‘check-in’ feature that was originally associated with Foursquare. Just this past week, Foursquare finalized its own changes and the app that was once known as Foursquare is no more. Featuring a new logo and a completely new interface, Foursquare is a completely different beast than it once was.

In fact, Foursquare is hardly a social networking app in the way that it used to be anymore. It has nothing to do with sharing your location with friends (this function has been taken over by Swarm). Instead, its focus is to recommend restaurants, bars, and other venues to its users based on the user’s tastes, which are entered when the new Foursquare is booted up for the first time. Rather than its original purpose, Foursquare now operates the way that Yelp does.

In fact, it’d be a pretty great Yelp competitor if it had launched at the same time as Yelp. The new interface is smooth and the way it recommends places is more efficient. However, the problem is that Yelp has been around for the better part of a decade and has had the time to establish itself as the go-to business review and recommendation website. It’s going to be very tough for a new competitor to edge their way in, even with a familiar name like Foursquare. On the other hand, there’s still a larger market for a potential Yelp competitor than there is for what Foursquare originally did.

There have been very mixed opinions in the media regarding the changes to Foursquare. The small but loyal user base of the original Foursquare is angry that the gamification that originally made Foursquare popular has been entirely removed. The Mayorships and point systems have been eliminated and many argued that these features were what made Foursquare fun to use in the first place.

Even Swarm, which has taken over the check-in aspect of Foursquare and was just released on Windows Phone, does not feel like a game that could be played among friends like the original Foursquare did. However, some sources believe that Foursquare as a recommendations device is objectively better than Yelp, which means that the former social networking app may still have some room to grow.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Slingshot Finally Becomes Usable, Perhaps Too Late

August 8, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 8-8-2014You may recall that I discussed the launch of Slingshot back in June, which was another of the many, many Snapchat competitors that have been launched since Snapchat’s enormous surge in popularity over the course of the past year, this one being run by Facebook. Upon its release, social media blogs were largely skeptical about whether or not people would embrace Slingshot, and for good reason. Slingshot effectively worked this way: a user sends a photo a friend, but that friend could not unlock the photo until sending their own photo, creating an infinite, confusing loop that would make it impossible to have a photo-based conversation.

To many, including myself, Slingshot’s primary difference from Snapchat simply didn’t make any sense, and this is a feeling that was generally ubiquitous across its user base (which, of course, pales in comparison to the user base that Snapchat has been able to boast). Thus, it was really no surprise when Facebook updated Slingshot to remove this odd feature completely, so that any photo, video, or text message can be immediately replied to.

In addition to removing the oddness that made Slingshot ineffective and unusable, they have also added a ‘My People’ feature, allowing one to see everyone that they are ‘slinging’ with. This is a feature that seems to bring the application even closer to Snapchat. In fact, right now, since they removed the initial feature that separated Slingshot from Snapchat, I’m not sure what makes Slingshot any different, apart from some aspects of the interface and design. Considering Instagram (who are also owned by Facebook) launched their own Snapchat-clone called Bolt just recently, I find it unlikely that Slingshot stands much of a chance at remaining in the competition.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Bolt: Yet Another Snapchat Competitor

July 31, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 7-31-2014It wasn’t very long ago that I mentioned that Facebook had launched Slingshot, their own answer to Snapchat (after previous failures such as Facebook Poke). The app hasn’t been especially well-received and its confusing requirement that one cannot view a photo until they sling a photo back is the main reason people appear to be turned away from it, compared to Snapchat’s simplicity. One of Facebook’s famous subsidiaries, Instagram, has also launched their own individual attempt at creating a Snapchat competitor; this new application is known as Bolt.

Word first began to arrive about Bolt about a week ago, when some Instagram users began to report that there were dead links showing up in Instagram mentioning a free ‘one tap photo messaging app’ called Bolt. No comments were made until Bolt was officially unveiled a couple of days ago. What’s odd about the launch of Bolt is that it’s not available in the United States (at least not yet); it has only been launched thus far in New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. These countries were reportedly chosen due to their geographic diversity and tight-knit communities.

The primary difference between Bolt and the other massive amounts of applications that do the exact same thing appears to be that less taps on the touch-screen need to be made to perform the same thing. Perhaps the people behind Bolt are aiming for the simplicity route, like Yo, but social network commentators seem to be skeptical about whether or not that’s different enough to be worth using when other existing applications that people are already familiar with have all of the same basic features.

The interface for Bolt is a little bit different, in that you can click on the picture of a contact rather than a username, like you would using Snapchat. However, other than this and the fact that it requires slightly fewer taps, it doesn’t appear that there’s much difference at all between Bolt and Snapchat (or the endless stream of other message, photo, and video sharing apps). According to Instagram, Bolt will soon be spreading to other countries; hopefully when it does, it will find a way to make itself better stand out from the existing herd.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Web 2.0

The ‘Buy’ Button: Facebook’s Newest Feature

July 24, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 7-24-2014Facebook has long been trying to find ways to cater to advertisers, because at the end of the day, profitability is what’s most important to the majority of social networks. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are always looking for ways that their brands can be monetized, generally through working in creative ways with advertisers. All three of these social networks made announcements this week that have implied that they are making more pushes towards swift mobile payments.

Facebook has tried with varying degrees of success to find ways to benefit their advertisers by coming up with interesting ways for users to be able to purchase items directly from Facebook. They launched Facebook Gifts a long while back and followed that up with gift cards. Their newest endeavor appears to have arrived in the form of a ‘Buy’ button that appears on the News Feed of Facebook users and allows them to purchase products directly through Facebook, rather than being redirected to another page via the advertisement.

Currently, the ‘Buy’ button remains in the testing phases and is only available for a “few small and medium-sized businesses in the US” while Facebook continues to evaluate customer feedback. They have made statements saying that these features have been developed with privacy in mind and that privacy should not be something anyone has to worry about with these transactions. Credit and debit card information used for these Facebook-based transactions will not be shared with other advertisers and users can choose whether or not that information is saved for future purchases. The ‘Buy’ button began appearing in the web and mobile versions of Facebook last Thursday.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Web 2.0

Facebook Launches New App for Celebrities Only

July 17, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 7-17-2014Twitter has long been a venue for celebrities to interact with their fans for a number of reasons. Celebrity Twitter accounts can be followed without having to follow back and Twitter has a useful ‘verified account’ feature that’s able to ensure that a Twitter account is the real deal rather than an impersonator or anything else of the sort. Last year, Twitter made its interface even more accessible for celebrities by offering verified accounts special filters that would allow them to interact with other verified profiles.

Not wanting to be left in the dark, there were also rumblings around this time last year that Facebook was working on their own private tool for celebrities, which would make it easier for them to communicate with fans through the popular social network. After this was leaked, there wasn’t much additional information regarding this potential service until just recently.

Today, Facebook announced that they are finally releasing their application for celebrities, known as Mentions. Mentions is a Facebook app specifically geared towards celebrities to help them post messages, photos, and videos to their fans, as well as make it easier to see what people are saying about them on the social network. These features seem to emulate existing features that Twitter has, which have helped to make it so popular for celebrities to use. Mentions can be used by anyone with a verified Facebook page, though its overall usability may be extended in the future.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Media News Brief,Social Networking,Web 2.0

How Facebook Messenger Has Changed

July 10, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 7-10-2014Back in April, I talked about how Facebook was pushing their Facebook Messenger application further by requiring Facebook users to use the separate app when communicating with other users on their mobile phones. Since then, there have been a number of updates rolled out for Facebook Messenger with the hopes that it will overall improve the experience for the app (especially considering everyone is now required to use it on their phones).

At the end of April, after Facebook Messenger had become a necessary part of the Facebook experience on iOS and Android, Facebook improved the photo and video sharing capabilities of Facebook Messenger. These updates were focused on simplicity, essentially making it much easier to add photos, videos, audio, and stickers to one’s Facebook messages with the simple touch of a button. Photos can even be taken through the app itself and they actually can be posted faster than they could be through an app such as Snapchat, though they of course lack the temporary nature of Snapchat and related social networking applications.

In more recent news, months after the Facebook Messenger app was initially released for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, a version of Facebook Messenger has been released that is specifically designed for usage on the iPad. Previously, usage of Facebook Messenger on the iPad simply enlarged the iPhone version of the app. The new, updated version for exclusive iPad usage features multiple windows and conversations that can appear at the same time, making better use of the iPad’s interface abilities.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Web 2.0