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

Pyne: The Polling Social Media App

June 26, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 6-26-2014There are plenty of question and answer applications (or Q&A apps) available for mobile phones. Some of the more popular ones include Jelly, Need, and ChaCha. While ChaCha focuses on getting a question answered quickly (by a staff member who’s presumably an expert Googler), Jelly and Need are more focused on the social components of asking questions and answering them, which is something that the new iOS app Pyne tries to build off of.

While many people seem fatigued by the amount of Q&A apps that have been released recently, early news reports say that Pyne seems to break the mold with its fast, simple, and well-designed approach to polling. Users of Pyne can set up a Yes/No or multiple choice question and easily poll either their friends or all other users of Pyne. The questions are loaded very quickly and others with Pyne are presented with them to answer as soon as they are added.

In addition to being able to ask and answer questions, Pyne users can also talk with one another on the results page of various polls. The answers can also be filtered by different demographics. Eventually, it is expected that Pyne will further increase its range of use, potentially for dating or other purposes. Regardless of its future, Pyne as it currently exists already holds a lot of potential, especially if its user base continues to increase so that more questions can be asked and answered. Currently, the app is only available for iOS; plans have not yet been announced for an Android edition.

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

Yo: The Simplest Social Network

June 19, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 6-19-2014Since social networks began to expand outside of their initial target audience, simplicity has been something that many companies have focused on. Twitter only allows users to have 140 characters to communicate messages to their friends; Snapchat only allows users to look at their pictures for a few seconds; even Facebook and other major social networks have gone through major changes in order to make themselves more accessible to new users. Yet none have been quite as simple as the new hot social messaging application known as Yo.

Yo is about as simple as it comes — it simply allows users to send a single greeting to their friends: “Yo.” The application says that this greeting is all-encompassing and can be sent to friends if you want to say ‘good morning’ or ‘thinking about you’ or ‘are you awake’ or anything in between. Though the basic premise of the app seems pretty silly, Yo has already garnered $1 million and its creator has relocated from Tel Aviv to San Francisco, where the social media industry is booming.

The creator, Or Arbel, believes that there are many potential uses for his admittedly simplistic app. Companies like Starbucks could send a “Yo” when your drink is ready or airlines could send a “Yo” when it’s time board one’s flight. The app was launched on April Fool’s Day this year and is only recently beginning to surge in popularity, already with over 50,000 users who have sent out nearly 4 million Yos. Arbel believes the efficiency of Yo is its true selling point (it takes 11 taps to send “Yo” in WhatsApp, while it takes only 2 taps to send “Yo” in Yo). Still, some people are highly critical of the app’s simplicity and it remains to be seen whether the application will take off.

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

Slingshot: Facebook’s Newest Answer to Snapchat

June 12, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 6-12-2014On Monday, Facebook briefly teased users (albeit accidentally) with a new standalone app called Slingshot, which appears to be their newest foray into creating a Snapchat competitor. Facebook previously attempted to compete with Snapchat using an app called Facebook Poke, which never really took off and was ultimately removed from the app stores after a year of failing to threaten Snapchat’s popularity. However, Slingshot differs in a few major ways from Facebook Poke and Snapchat, though it still maintains the ephemeral self-destructing nature of these previously existing apps.

The largest way that Slingshot differs from Snapchat is that users are required to send something to their friends in order to unlock the picture that has been sent to them. For instance, one person may ‘sling’ a photo to a friend, but that friend cannot see the photo until they ‘sling’ something back to the person who sent the initial photo. Some news sources are already skeptical about this feature, considering it could make it quite difficult to send reaction photos, which is something that is easy with Snapchat.

Slingshot emulates some features associated with other apps, such as Taptalk and Rando, which supposedly influenced the creation of the app. Though the Slingshot app is already intriguing, it was only available on the iOS App Store for a brief period of time. A Facebook spokesperson stated that Slingshot was accidentally released early, but that an updated version would be ready soon for users to try out. There is not yet any word on when the app will return to the market or when an Android version will be released; it also remains to be seen what additional features may be added to the app before it is finalized.

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

Instagram Launches New Features for Phone Photographers

June 6, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 6-6-2014On Wednesday, Instagram made an announcement through their official blog that they would be adding some major updates to the Instagram formula, effectively launching what they’re referring to as Instagram version 6.0. The primary focus of this launch appears to be new creative tools that can be used for people who like to take pictures via Instagram but want to be able to make more edits to their photos.

It seems that Instagram noticed that plenty of people were posting photos using their mobile app, but far fewer were editing their photos, turning to other apps such as VSCO Cam or Litely. Instagram appears to want to be an all-in-one photo app, allowing users to upload, edit, and share their photos with relative ease, all without having to use multiple apps or separate social networks.

The tools that have been added to Instagram include the ability to adjust filter strength, brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, highlights, shadows, vignette, as well as being able to further sharpen, crop, or straighten one’s photos. The features have been implemented with simple sliders that make it very easy for anyone to make edits to their photos. Many existing apps that feature these photo editing features are either expensive or cheap but not especially functional; Instagram hopes that including these features for free will allow cell phone photographers to create the photos they want for free without having to delve into different apps to find the best choice.

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Facebook Introduces Privacy Updates via Cartoon Dinosaur

May 29, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 5-29-2014Considering the frequency that social network privacy comes under scrutiny in the media, it’s important to companies like Facebook that they make privacy settings more accessible and easily understood by their user base. Last month, Facebook introduced a pop-up function featuring a little cartoon dinosaur that was intended to help guide users of Facebook that haven’t adjusted their privacy settings. The overall intention is to make changing one’s privacy settings easier and more straightforward.

When they announced the beginning of these changes back in April, Facebook admitted that many of their users were confused about privacy in general, which is why they decided to introduce more on-screen explanations for their users who might need a little bit of additional help. The company mentioned that they do 80 trillion privacy checks per day and run thousands of surveys about privacy every day, in order to better find ways to ensure the safety of their users’ information. These surveys have led to some changes already, regarding the privacy of Cover photos, resharing content, and what status updates are shown to which groups of friends.

Most recently, Facebook made even more changes to privacy settings, including finally setting the default visibility of status updates and photos from ‘public’ to ‘friends only’. The new updates will also add a Privacy Checkup, which will allow users to review and confirm their privacy settings in order to ensure that the information they are sharing on Facebook is only able to be seen by who users want to see it. With Facebook’s friendly cartoon privacy dinosaur along for the ride, Facebook users should be able to set their privacy settings much more easily than they have been able to in the past.

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Facebook Adds Audio Identification Features

May 22, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 5-22-2014Not long ago, Facebook added a feature that allowed users to mark what they were ‘listening to’ or ‘watching’ that would automatically include links to things like Spotify and feature a neat little icon (such as a pair of headphones or a television) to better show off what users were doing. Though it was a cool little addition, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. A recent announcement by Facebook made on Wednesday has stated that this is about to change.

Facebook has announced that they will be implementing a feature that uses audio recognition, similar to the popular Shazam application. This function — which users can choose to use or not — will be able to use their phone’s microphone to automatically use audio recognition to determine whatever music you are listening to or whatever TV show or movie you are watching, and instantly update your Facebook with this information. If the feature is turned on, an icon will be shown on the phone’s screen as a status update is being written. This means the new, unnamed feature is listening and determining what song, TV show, or movie is being listened to.

The audio recognition will be able to allow users to share a 30 second clip of whatever song they are listening to; if it is a TV show, Facebook will automatically be able to pick up what season and episode is being watched, which can be used for further discussion with one’s Facebook friends. While Shazam is usually used to determine the name of a song you’re listening to, perhaps so you can share it with your friends, Facebook seems to be attempting to cut out the middleman, which could be quite detrimental to Shazam and other audio recognition software. Of course, Facebook will also likely be using this information to better gear advertisements to their user base.

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

Twitter Unleashes the Mute Button

May 15, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 5-15-2014Twitter announced on Monday that they’re rolling out a new feature that will be available on the Twitter website as well as the iPhone and Android applications. For quite some time, Facebook has featured the ability to ‘hide’ a friend, which allows them to be completely taken off of your timeline without defriending them completely. This allows a Facebook user to not have to see obnoxious or annoying or boring posts without the potential social awkwardness of having to delete someone from your friend list (which is often seen as a personal denouncement).

Twitter’s announcement is the release of a similar feature, known as the mute button. The mute button will allow a Twitter user to stop seeing posts by users that they do not want to hear from; they will no longer receive notifications on their phone from that user and that user’s Tweets and Retweets will not show up in the timeline. A user who has been muted will not be notified that they have been muted, again allowing users to restrict potentially annoying or otherwise unwanted messages to prevent any awkwardness.

This isn’t exactly a brand new feature, however. As the ‘hide’ function has long been popular with Facebook users, certain third-party Twitter clients such as Tweetbot, have allowed mute functions for quite some time, even including the ability to mute specific hashtags and keywords, which is an option that Twitter has not yet made available. Hopefully, in the future, Twitter will continue to expand on this new feature to maximize its usefulness for what Twitter users do and don’t want to see in their timeline.

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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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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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