How Instagram is Evolving

November 20, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 11-20-2014Like any other social media platform, it’s important for Instagram to stay ahead of the game, especially with so many other image sharing social media apps competing for the number one spot. Thus, Instagram has been making a number of interesting changes over the course of the past few months, with many of these changes intended to give users more freedom over their Instagram accounts. Back in the summer, Instagram launched Hyperlapse, which was a separate time lapse app under the Instagram brand. Hyperlapse itself was updated to include a ‘Selfielapse’ mode in September, allowing users to do the same things with the front-facing camera.

More recently, Instagram made some changes to the actual Instagram app itself. One new addition to the application is the inclusion of a “People” Explore tab that can be used to discover interesting new Instagram accounts to follow. The tab is personalized based on who you follow and the things that you like on Instagram. Another well-received feature that Instagram has added recently would be the ability for users to edit image captions, which wasn’t available until last week, despite it being one of the top requests from the Instagram community.

Not every change to Instagram has been received so positively, however. In particular, Instagram launched their first video advertisements this month. Ads are important for the monetization of major social networks, but many people believe that social networks are particularly affected by video advertisements in a negative way, as they can be distracting and obnoxious. Through the good and the bad, however, Instagram is proving that it is able to change and evolve just like any other social network.

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The Aim to Consolidate Your Social Media

November 13, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 11-13-2014These days, many people find themselves with profiles on many different social networks: one person alone might have separate Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts, on top of plenty of others. As these social networks continue to grow, some app developers have been trying to find ways to make it easier to combine all the functions of these social networks into one consolidated application. This is something that has been handled in different ways, depending on the app.

Many of these apps work directly with existing social networks. For example, Snowball is an application that allows Android users to have a universal inbox for different messaging clients. This way, users are able to view all of their messages on one simple home screen. The app includes messages from Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, and more, as well as including basic text messages in the mix. Comparatively, on iOS, an application called Accounts has been launched, which is more of an attempt to create a universal address book. It pulls from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and more and attempts to aggregate these accounts to make things easier for its user base.

Other new applications seek to enhance the features of your existing social media apps. For instance, Xpire is an app for iOS that’s focused on the ephemerality of all of your social networks. It aims to allow your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr posts to effectively self-destruct in the same way that Snapchat automatically allows you to. This app also has other features, such as allowing users to determine how much inappropriate content appears on their Twitter account (which may lead users to want their tweets to be a bit more ephemeral).

Still others are trying to launch mobile apps that will work as replacements for other social media apps, by offering multiple features all in one. One notable instance of this would be Selphee, an app that has been billed as Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine combined. Even Selphee, which features all of these functions, still allows users to share photos and videos through existing social networks, however. Each new app appears to be one step closer to our social networks being nearly interchangeable and smoothly working together as cogs in a social media machine.

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The Newest Tweaks to Twitter

November 6, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 11-6-2014The nature of social networks, likely due to their easily-bored user base, is to constantly be changing and evolving, in an attempt to provide users with the most intuitive design and the most useful features. Over the past few months, Twitter has made a number of relevant, interesting tweaks to their interface for these reasons. Back in June, they announced a small but well-received change that allowed the social network to support the sharing and viewing of animated GIFs on Twitter’s website, as well as on Android and iOS platforms.

Then in September, Twitter announced that they would be adding a “Buy” button, which would allow users to make direct purchases from tweets. Users can easily hit the button, enter their billing and shipping information, and complete a transaction in only a few taps on their phone. They have partnered with a number of artists, brands, and charities that will be able to sell products with this button; the list will be expanding as time goes on. This is Twitter’s first dive into a commerce-related situation, something that Facebook has had available for quite some time.

Most recently, Twitter managed to find another way to do something similar to Facebook. In an effort to make it a little bit easier to tweet on Twitter.com, Twitter moved their “what’s happening?” box, where you can enter a tweet, to the top of users’ home timelines. It was previously available on the left-hand side, but Twitter determined it would be easier for their users to tweet in this new location. A number of social media bloggers have noticed that this movement makes Twitter look a whole lot more like Facebook, which also features its status bar in the same place.

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

Facebook Lets Users Go Anonymous with Rooms

October 30, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 10-30-2014Facebook’s adamant refusal to allow people to create profiles with pseudonyms or alternate names is what led them to coming under fire recently. As I’ve mentioned before, rival social network Ello reaped the benefits of this incident, pulling in Facebook users looking for a social network with no ads where they could use whatever name they felt comfortable with. Interestingly enough, Facebook responded in turn earlier this month with rumblings that they would be launching a mobile application of their own that would allow for anonymous chatting, seemingly against their own established policies.

With other social media apps already existing to serve this purpose like Secret and Whisper, as well as the fact that Facebook had recently come under fire for their refusal to allow pseudonyms on their primary social network, a number of news blogs were skeptical about Facebook’s sudden half-baked changed of heart. What would draw new users in that they couldn’t get from other applications? However, Facebook pushed forward and proved that these rumors were true last week with the launch of an app called Rooms.

Rooms intends to separate itself from other anonymous chatting apps by allowing users to set up discussion spaces regarding any topic. Text, photos, videos, and comments can be shared with others who are using Rooms, which doesn’t require a Facebook account or even an email address. These Rooms can be shared using invitations that look like QR codes, requiring you to take a picture of the invitation, which will then allow you to sign into the Room. These invite codes can be posted anywhere online or shared privately and the creator of a Room has moderation controls.

Some media blogs continue to be skeptical about Facebook’s first endeavor into anonymity, and not even because the launch of this app seems hypocritical in the wake of recent events. Gizmodo referred to Rooms as “unnecessarily complicated” in reference to the app’s requirement of QR codes for invitations. They also acknowledged that Facebook hasn’t had the best track record with their standalone apps (such as Slingshot), so it remains to be seen if Rooms will take off the way that Facebook wants it to.

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Snapchat Buckles and Finally Gets Advertisements

October 23, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 10-23-2014For a while now, it’s been apparent that Snapchat would eventually be getting advertisements. Though the value of the company has been incredibly high, having turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook (although some claims value the company at $10 billion), the company has not been generating a whole lot of revenue. Rumblings came a couple of weeks ago stating that Evan Spiegel, the owner of Snapchat, had decided that ads would be coming to the popular mobile application soon. It seems that time has finally come.

The ads, which were implemented for the first time this weekend, appear in the Snapchat Stories section of the app, rather than appearing intrusively in personal snaps that have been sent from user to user. The advertisements will only play if a user chooses to activate them from the app and — like other Snapchat Stories — they disappear after being viewed or after 24 hours. The company has been fairly straightforward about the reason behind the ads: they need to make money.

Snapchat does not intend to target their ads towards users, hoping instead to include ads that are merely fun and informative. The first ad that has been launched through this medium has been a 20-second trailer for the horror movie Ouija, which is due to be released tomorrow. It is not yet clear how frequently Snapchat will be rotating out new advertisements, but it’s likely that Snapchat users will be seeing a number of new ways to view ads through Snapchat as they continue to experiment.

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

The Snappening: Hackers Cause the First Major Snapchat Leak

October 16, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 10-16-2014Snapchat’s core purpose is to provide its users with the ability to privately send photos and messages that will disappear forever after a short period of time. However, some third-party applications have been attempting to combat this aspect of the ephemeral social network. Apps like SaveSnap and SnapSpy allow users to save the photos that are sent to them, ultimately defeating the entire purpose of Snapchat. The existence of these sorts of apps is a huge problem in regards to the safety of what one sends via Snapchat, which was proven in an event the Internet has been calling ‘The Snappening’.

Initially, it was unknown whether or not the hack had actually happened, but claims were being made on anonymous image-boards saying that hackers had found a way to access stolen Snapchat photos through a third party app and planned to release the sexually explicit pictures alongside those users’ usernames. Snapchat was able to confirm that there was a leak, but that their servers had never been breached and that their user base had been victimized by one of the many third-party apps intended to add other features to Snapchat.

However, the leak was ultimately confirmed as true when a collection of nearly 98,000 files was posted to a torrenting website called The Pirate Bay. Rather than a third party app, it was revealed that the leak actually came from a website that offered similar features, called Snapsaved.com, which was shut down after the leak. Furthermore, a website called TheSnappening.org was launched, making the content acquired from the incident publicly available to anyone with access to the Internet.

The website was receiving more than 5 million views a day but was quickly shut down by the administrator, potentially for legal reasons, considering the high likelihood that the images acquired including pictures of underage pornography. Snapchat has a reputation for being used by younger users for these sort of purposes, considering the intention of Snapchat is for these sorts of pictures to remain private. Following this incident and the iCloud breach that resulted in the leak of many nude celebrity photos, only time will tell whether people continue to trust these sorts of mobile apps and features.

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The Newest Facebook Tweaks and Updates

October 9, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 10-9-2014Social media is always changing and with Facebook being the biggest social network in the world, it’s no surprise that they’re constantly looking to find ways to change things up for their users. Sometimes this comes in the form of a new feature, a layout change, or even a side project that their users will be able to enjoy. Recently, Facebook has been going through a number of changes and they have also been testing out plenty of new features that may be rolled out in the coming months. They have even removed old features that people weren’t using to eliminate the clutter; Facebook recently discontinued the Facebook Gifts service, which allowed users to buy gift cards for one another.

Though many Facebook updates obviously improve the site, not every change to Facebook is well-received. Most recently, word came out that the social network was testing out a ‘Satire’ label for stories from The Onion and similar websites. Some argue that this somewhat defeats the purpose of the satire and insults the intelligence of Facebook users, but considering how common it is for Facebook users to share satirical posts while thinking the statements are real, it’s not impossible to understand.

Facebook is looking to test out some other new features as well. In particular, they’re looking into adding a couple of separate apps to the Facebook repertoire. One of these is FB@Work, which is Facebook’s attempt at building an at-work version of Facebook, which can be used in the office to communicate with one another. Their intention is to make a network for employees that allows them to easily communicate and plan without being distracted by the typical features of Facebook.

On top of that, Facebook is also looking to launch a more private version of Facebook, which can be used to share things between very small groups of people. This potential application is currently codenamed ‘Moments’ and is intended for sharing intimate moments with one’s closest friends and family, rather than sharing these moments to hundreds of acquaintances on one’s News Feed in Facebook. While Groups in Facebook already somewhat serve this function, a separate app may still help to separate what’s important from the rest of the clutter of Facebook.

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Ello: The Social Network with No Ads

October 2, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 10-2-2014Recently, Facebook made the decision to crack down on people using their social network whose profiles weren’t using their real names. In particular, they began to crack down on drag queens and similar performers, who frequently use campy stage names as part of their performances. Many drag performers and supporters of LGBT causes saw this decision as discriminatory, as drag performers are often just as (or even more so) connected to their stage names as they would be to the names they were born with. Facebook, however, has still chosen to continually shut down profiles of drag performers (and other types of performers who are better known by stage names).

Perhaps the most famous drag performer of the modern era would be RuPaul, whose influence in the LGBT community has soared thanks to his progressive and popular reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Thus, when RuPaul announced that the best alternative to Facebook was a little-known ad-free social network known as Ello, people listened, and began signing up for Ello accounts in droves. In addition to having no ads, Ello also does not adhere to Facebook’s strict ‘real names only’ policy.

I’ve talked about the ‘Facebook killer’ before, a concept related to the idea that eventually Facebook may be usurped by another social network. Social networks have tried before such as Google Plus and Diaspora. However, Ello’s commitment to keeping ads off of its platform, as well as its open doors to the LGBT community who are currently aggravated with Facebook’s policies, may lead to the previously unknown network becoming a powerhouse in the social media industry.

Ello is not yet perfect, however. As a new social network, it has not had the time to develop an intuitive layout in the same way that Facebook has; there are also issues with the search functions and no mobile app is yet available. Similarly, there are issues with the available privacy settings on the site. However, the creators of Ello have stated that they are planning on adding many new features to the network. They plan on funding themselves (without ads) by offering additional premium features that users can purchase.

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Play Counts for Vine and Facebook Videos

September 25, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 9-25-2014Sharing videos has become a crucial part of the social media experience over the years. While this was fairly unprecedented back when social networks were first becoming popular, most of them instead focusing on sharing photos, it is rare for a social network to not have some sort of method for sharing videos with other users. Some social media apps, such as Vine, have a focus exclusively surrounding the sharing of videos. Back in July, Vine introduced a feature called Loop Counts.

If you don’t know already, Vine operates by allowing users to create a short, six-second video that loops over and over when shown to other users. In the update that included Loop Counts, Vine allowed iOS and Android users (as well as Vine users on computers) to see how many times a particular Vine has been looped, allowing Vine users to better understand the popularity of their Vines. Before the launch of Loop Counts, there was no way to determine which were the most-watched Vines ever. Now, determining this is easy, as the Loop Count will update in real-time.

Not to be excluded, Facebook announced a few weeks ago that they would also be updating their videos to add video view counts, for the same reasons. Some social media bloggers are comparing Loop Counts and Facebook’s video view counts to YouTube and its methods of determining the popularity of a video. This can be important for those who are using Facebook or Vine to advertise a brand, considering they can now have a better understanding of how many people are actually viewing their videos.

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The Many Ways to Message Friends via Social Media

September 18, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 9-18-2014With Facebook’s recent emphasis on the usage of their separate Facebook Messenger app, opinions have been somewhat split. Some are happy to utilize the new features available with the application, while others don’t understand why it’s necessary to have an additional messaging app from Facebook on their phone when there was nothing especially wrong with the way it worked previously. Facebook is still making upgrades to the app; the version of Facebook for Windows Phone recently acquired the integration of the Facebook Messenger application. However, for those who are fed up with Facebook messaging, there have been other recent leaps in social media messaging.

Other major social media apps have also been making updates to their messaging systems. For instance, back in April, Vine introduced a feature that allowed users to send direct video messages to one another, likely to compete with the similar features available from Instagram Direct. Even Pinterest is finally getting in on the messaging train, as they added the ability to message and have discussions revolving around Pins last month.

Even if you’re tired of all of the existing forms of social media messaging, there are still new social apps being launched all the time that offer messaging features. One of the most intriguing new messaging applications would have to be Fling. Fling differs greatly from the majority of social media messaging apps because it’s all about sending messages to other random Fling users. When you send a message, picture, or captioned picture with Fling, it makes its way to fifty other random users anywhere in the world, who you can privately message back and forth with if they decide to reply to your message. With all these different options, anyone tired of Facebook’s messaging system has plenty to fall back on.

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