Foursquare Divides by Two

May 8, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 5-8-2014Though Foursquare has not lately been at the forefront of the social media world — especially with other social networks like Facebook incorporating check-in features that have made Foursquare somewhat obsolete — they have recently made an effort to gain a resurgence in popularity by splitting their mobile application in two. What was once Foursquare will soon be two separate apps: Foursquare and the newly launched Swarm.

While Foursquare’s focus has long been on checking in to specific locations, Swarm will be more focused on providing a general idea of where your friends are. Rather than having to check in to certain locations (although this feature is still available for those who wish to use it), Swarm will instead passively take note of the general area or neighborhood that you are currently in. You’ll be able to see what other Swarm users are around you at all times.

Foursquare itself will be undergoing a large number of changes as well. Early reports are claiming that Foursquare’s well-known check-in feature will be removed entirely and the mobile app will be transformed into something that resembles Yelp more than anything else. The new Foursquare will be used to search for places and recommend places (such as restaurants, bars, and other venues) based on the places you have already been, what you have rated highly, and what your friends have rated highly.

Since this is the fast-paced world of social networks, it’s no surprise that Foursquare has already managed to step on a few toes. A preexisting start-up known as Swarmly, which also works with sharing location, has mentioned that they think it’s a little too coincidental that Foursquare has launched Swarm under that name, considering the Swarmly CEO claims that Foursquare is already quite aware of their app. Regardless of this potential naming conflict, the main issue will be whether users are interested in using the newly updated Foursquare and its companion app Swarm at all.

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

Snapchat Dives into Messaging and Video Chat

May 1, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 5-1-2014As older social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been updating their functionality to keep up with the times, newer social networks like Snapchat are adding new features in order to stay ahead of the game. In an effort to consolidate a large number of useful features into one mobile application, Snapchat announced today that its platform will now include live video chat and ephemeral messaging options, putting it in direct competition with other apps, without damaging the integrity of Snapchat’s original purpose.

In order to use these new functions, a Snapchat user simply must swipe right from the main camera screen, which will lead to their list of friends. From there, messaging and video calls can be made. One of the biggest draws to Snapchat is that pictures sent via the mobile app are ephemeral, meaning that they appear for a temporary amount of time before deleting themselves. Keeping in tune with this, the messages are also ephemeral and are erased after they are viewed.

Snapchat announced these updates by sending out a Snapchat message to all of its users, featuring a video that showed the messaging and video chat functions in action. There have been applications that featured ephemeral messaging that have been released to varying degrees of success, such as Ansa, but Snapchat’s ever-increasing popularity makes it quite likely that these new additions to the application will result in a purge of its rivals, or at the very least, will force its new rivals to implement additional features to their own mobile apps.

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

Deleting the Past: Teenagers and Social Networks

April 24, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 4-24-2014Social networks have long been associated with youths, as the younger generations tend to be the ones who pick up on new Internet trends and phenomena before adults fully grasp the concepts. Even though Facebook has recently seen its first decrease in teenage users, as they drift towards newer social networks and applications like Snapchat, there is still a very heavy presence of youths and teenagers using social networks. Even LinkedIn recently opened its user base up by allowing students over the age of thirteen to create their own pages.

Because of their heavy usage of social networks and their teenage mindsets, it’s unsurprising that it has become quite common for teenagers to post information that they might later regret online. Sometimes these might be pictures of themselves wearing not enough clothing or statuses referring to their partying and underage alcohol consumption. Many people believe that these mistakes and indiscretions shouldn’t follow them throughout the rest of their lives and make it more difficult for them to get a job or get into college.

For this reason, California enacted a law last year that will give children under the age of 18 the legal right to delete anything they post online. Though most mainstream social networks such as Facebook and Twitter already allow their users to delete posts, this law will require any social media websites to provide the option for minors to delete anything that they have posted. Because most major social networks already provide this, some news sources see this law as unnecessary and unrealistic considering users cannot delete posts that other people have made about them, and believe that it will need to further evolve before it can become worthwhile.

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

Facebook Wants to Let Your Friends Know Where You Are

April 18, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 4-18-2014Facebook’s most recent updates to its user interface have focused specifically on letting your Facebook friends know where you are or where you are going to be. First, Facebook started with the launch of their “traveling to” feature, which allows users to mark where they are traveling to so that all of their Facebook friends can see. Though right now, the feature simply allows for an accompanying emoji, some news sources believe that Facebook will eventually use this to alter the interface of your Facebook when you are in a different city. For instance, if you marked that you were going to New York, your News Feed might be more focused on the posts of your friends in New York. Facebook has not made any announcements like this just yet, but it does seem like the next logical step.

In addition to the “traveling to” feature, Facebook’s next big update has been with the “Nearby Friends” feature. This feature ties in with the fact that most Facebook users are connecting through their mobile phone app, and smartphones these days are generally connected to GPS. Facebook has decided to merge these two concepts into the “Nearby Friends” feature, which — if you choose — will allow your Facebook friends to see where you are at all times.

The Nearby Friends feature is not turned on by default, so those who want to protect their privacy (or otherwise don’t want their Facebook friends to know where they are) can refrain from using the new feature. Facebook users can choose whether they want to share their general location with all of their Facebook friends, close friends, or a specific list of people. Your location can only be shared with other users who have opted in to the Nearby Friends feature who have also chosen to share their location with you.

Facebook users can be alerted when their friends are nearby, which happens in real-time, to differentiate it from the manual check-in feature that was already available with Facebook. There is even a precise location function that allows you and a specific friend to view each other’s exact map locations for a certain period of time, which can be used to help find a friend in a crowd or if you’re both trying to navigate a city’s streets to find one another. This isn’t the first time a feature like this has been included with a social network, as similar functions have been available with Google Latitude and Foursquare. However, Facebook is well-known for constantly finding new ways for their users to connect, so there is a lot of potential available with the Nearby Friends feature.

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Facebook Pushes Their Messenger App

April 10, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 4-10-2014Recently, Facebook has been making more efforts to push the Facebook Messenger application on mobile phones. While the app has long been available for iOS and Android, it finally reached Windows Phone in early March, a whopping two years after the application had arrived on the other platforms. The reasoning behind this launch seems to be that Facebook very much wants its user base to download Facebook Messenger in addition to Facebook itself.

To make this push even more clear, recent reports are stating that Facebook will be removing messaging entirely from the standalone Facebook application, so that users will be forced to download the Facebook Messenger app in order to message their friends on Facebook. Some users in Europe have already been getting notifications stating that they will need to download Facebook Messenger to keep using the chat functions and it is expected that this will eventually ring true for all users of the Facebook mobile app.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook Messenger application was launched in order to remove friction from the standard Facebook app, so that there could be a more streamlined experience for chatting and direct messaging through a separate application. Though this may be good news for some, others are worried about the potential consequences of this action.

Some suggest that not everyone will want to manage multiple Facebook apps on their phone, while others wonder if this is Facebook’s first step towards merging Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which they recently acquired. Others have issues with the interface of Facebook Messenger itself, which features icons of people that one is chatting with in a somewhat intrusive manner on the phone’s homescreen. The only way to escape using Facebook Messenger in the future will be to use an Android phone with an OS that is too old to run the app, to use Facebook’s mobile website, or to use Facebook’s news reader app, Paper.

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

Twitter Evolves, Becomes Less Like Twitter

March 27, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-27-2014Yesterday, Twitter announced that it was launching a few new features related to its image sharing abilities. These new changes will allow Twitter users to tag other Twitter users in photos, something that social networks such as Facebook and Instagram have allowed for a long time. Up to ten people can be tagged in a photo on Twitter; this is useful for Twitter users who previously had to use some of their 140 characters to mention other Twitter users in their posts. Now, Twitter users can mention their friends and link them to images without having to shorten the accompanying tweets.

In addition to the ability to tag multiple users in Twitter image posts without using any characters, Twitter has also enhanced their photo sharing abilities by allowing users to share up to four photos in one tweet; these additional images will also not affect the character limit, and tweets will still be able to contain 140 characters in full, removing any user tags or additional photo links from the equation.

Though it’s obvious to see how these new updates to Twitter’s interface could be useful, some critics are not responding well to the updated features. The updates to Twitter have been compared to Facebook, and some say that this is pulling away from what Twitter is meant to represent. Many people like that Twitter is a very different social network than Facebook and enjoy the minimalism that Twitter represents by offering only 140 characters to work with when it comes to each tweet.

By adding in ways to offer more photos and more tags for friends, these critics believe that Twitter is transforming to fit standards that have been established by Facebook, and though this might be the best move for Twitter when it comes to evolving with the times, it may alienate some Twitter users who use the social network as a means of getting away from Facebook.

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The Evolution of Social Network Security

March 20, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-20-2014There’s an odd conflict in the world of social networks regarding privacy. Although social networks tend to be an arena for users to share information with everyone that they know, no matter if these are truly friends or mere acquaintances, the overall privacy of these social network profiles is constantly a hot-button issue. People want to be able to share private information with other Facebook users that they befriended after meeting them once in a bar, but are up in arms if that same information is accessible by strangers or the government. Though this split is a little bit silly in some ways, there are some genuine concerns to be had here and it is generally believed that Facebook and other social networks are doing what they can to protect what their users might consider private information.

The fact of the matter is that social networks are ripe for security breaches. Considering many social network users do not think about if the information or pictures they are posting might be made public, it has not been difficult for hackers (or even government agents) to access potentially damning information about social network users. The NSA has been confirmed to use fake Facebook servers to install malware on computers so that they have an easier time monitoring unsuspecting social network users.

It’s not just Facebook that’s been ripe for privacy breaches. Twitter and Snapchat have had issues with leaked usernames and passwords, which Snapchat responded to at the beginning of the year with privacy updates to its iOS and Android apps. It has been stated that Snapchat has added internal restrictions that make it more difficult for hackers to access private information such as usernames and passwords and Snapchat has also added security features allowing Snapchat users to opt out of the ‘Find Friends’ feature that uses their cell phone number.

Facebook has recently made their work on security a little bit more public so that Facebook users can see exactly what is being done in order to keep their own information private from hackers, government agents, and anyone else that might try to breach security. Some, however, do not trust Facebook regarding its relationship with privacy, and believe that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp will lead to a lack of privacy in the popular messaging application as well.

One social networking and messaging application, Wickr, is already well-known for its impressive security and encryption features. The company has found a way to monetize their ‘Security Suite’ by offering it for sale to other social networks that wish to implement the level of privacy that is currently offered by Wickr, which has never sold user data or allowed any user data to be accessed by others. Wickr’s ‘Security Suite’ could be the wave of the future when it comes to social networking privacy.

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Updated Designs for Facebook and Twitter

March 13, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-13-2014Perhaps due to the low attention span of millennials – the largest user base of social media – social networks like Facebook and Twitter often find themselves going through redesigns. Social networks like these have to be sure that they are keeping up with the times and integrating features that are practical for their users. Having a functional design is a large part of this, which is likely why Facebook and Twitter both recently went through redesigns of their own.

Twitter’s redesign came forth in early February and changed things quite a bit from a design perspective. The redesign was received with generally positive feedback from various news sources, as there has been a focus with this update to make sure the social network looks cleaner. Not to be left behind, Facebook rolled out their own redesign for its News Feed at the beginning of March.

However, it seems that even with these recent updates to the designs of Facebook and Twitter, neither company is satisfied with where they are at. A few people have already been able to view yet another new Twitter design update that seems to integrate aspects of Pinterest and Facebook. Though this is not a guarantee that the design will go through, as social networks have tested out designs in the past that never came to fruition, it is still possible that Twitter is looking into making an even larger update to their interface.

In Facebook’s case, they announced an overhaul roughly a year ago for their News Feed that never manifested itself. It is not yet known if this overhaul that was supposed to be launched last year has been abandoned entirely or if it is still an update that’s on the horizon. It’s possible Facebook is still making tweaks to it, especially seeing that other social networks like Twitter are making constant updates to their own interface. Either way, it’s very likely that Facebook and Twitter as they are now are not likely to look the same six months or a year from now.

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New Social Networks Launching with Different Purposes

March 6, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-6-2014At this point in time, everyone has heard of Facebook and Twitter, and probably Instagram and Snapchat too. Whether or not certain people are willing to accept them, social networks are here to stay, and while there is a small group of social networks that everyone seems to have heard of, there are also plenty of smaller social networks out there trying to become the next big thing by offering new services and features that other social networks might not have available.

Some social networks are making a name for themselves by providing users with ways to connect that they previously did not have. For instance, Anchor is a social media network that is specifically for offices and allows users to keep their coworkers’ contact information in one easily available place. There are chatting functions and other options that make it useful for offices that want to stay connected with one another.

Another interesting social network that has been launched recently is Livewith.us, which is a social network for people who are looking for new roommates. As many people are fed up with the limitations of finding roommates on Craigslist, Livewith.us seeks to fill the void by providing users with a functional interface that allows users to find potential roommates that seem like they might be a good fit with one another. The social network even features some integration with Craigslist, knowing that it is currently the most popular way for people to find new roommates online.

There are also social networking apps that have delved into the ephemeral world that has been popularized by Snapchat. One prominent up-and-coming example of this is Wickr, which works similarly to Snapchat, only with a focus on sending temporary, self-destructing messages rather than sending photos. Wickr takes its security very seriously in order to ensure privacy of one’s messages. With new social networks and apps popping up left and right these days, it’s hard to tell which will be the ones that stick and which will fade away.

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Facebook Pays $19 Billion for WhatsApp Acquisition

February 27, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-27-2014WhatsApp is an instant messaging app for smartphones that has been getting enormously popular in recent months, becoming the most popular messaging app for mobile devices; it works best as a messaging service that can send messages between phones internationally and allows for users to send text, images, audio, and video messages to one another. Some have stated that WhatsApp is doing for text messaging what Skype did to phone calls on landlines, in that it is totally revolutionizing the process.

Thus, it is unsurprising that a major company like Facebook took notice of WhatsApp, considering WhatsApp already had over 450 million users and was adding an additional million users every day at the time of the purchase, a number which is already increasing. With a growth rate that impeccable and a service that is extremely useful, Facebook leapt on the opportunity to purchase WhatsApp last week, by paying a whopping $19 billion to the employees of WhatsApp: $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in stock, and another $3 billion in stock grants that will be paid out if WhatsApp’s founders and staff remain employed by Facebook for four years.

Facebook has a tendency to always be growing, expanding, and changing with the market. The acquisition of WhatsApp is no different. Just like Facebook has continued to expand its other properties such as Instagram, they already have big plans for how to further enhance WhatsApp. Their first announcement has been that WhatsApp will be adding voice calls to its messaging service, putting it in competition with Skype and even mobile carriers.

There has been additional speculation about what Facebook will be doing with WhatsApp in the coming months. Though WhatsApp will continue to operate independently, it is likely that Facebook will do a lot of what it did for Instagram. The growth of WhatsApp and its user base is something that Facebook will likely focus on, as well as recruiting new employees from other companies and making design and coding changes to make WhatsApp better and more efficient.

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