Snapchat Continues to Find Ways to Stay Relevant

December 24, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 12-24-2014Some could argue that 2014 has been a bit of a rough year for Snapchat. Though this is the year that Snapchat was monetized for the first time, the ephemeral social media app ran into a variety of snags. In one instance, third-party apps allowed many photos taken with Snapchat to be saved and eventually exposed, in an event known as ‘The Snappening.’ However, Snapchat has proven this year that they are willing to change and alter their interface to provide a better experience for its users. In reaction to The Snappening, Snapchat added a function that allowed users to see if another app was saving pictures from Snapchat.

Another hurdle for Snapchat occurred when the Sony Pictures hack organized by North Korea led to a variety of Snapchat company secrets being exposed. These leaked emails had a number of early reveals to the public about what Snapchat will be working on in the future. One that stands out in particular would have to be the fact that Snapchat has met with Sony Music Entertainment in an attempt to bring a music service to the Snapchat platform, an interesting move that is definitely different from the norm for Snapchat.

Though some of Snapchat’s recent announcements and information reveals have been reactionary, Snapchat has found plenty of other ways to upgrade their service in the past few months. In November, Snapchat launched Snapcash, a feature that allows friends to send money to one another via debit card. They also opened up their Geofilters tool to the public a few weeks ago, which allows users to submit artwork that will appear as a geo-targeted filter in Snapchat photos. With these recent developments, one can only expect that Snapchat will continue to expand in the future.

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

Facebook and Bing Go Their Separate Ways

December 18, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 12-18-2014Facebook and Microsoft have had a long-standing relationship, which for quite some time has led to Facebook including Bing results in the Facebook search bar. Similarly, searching in Bing would allow Facebook users to find results from their friends. However, it appears that Facebook has been making some changes regarding the way their search function works. In particular, it looks like they have removed Bing from the equation, without fanfare.

One of the reasons that Facebook worked with Bing in the first place was because it has long considered Google to be a rival, especially with Google’s mostly unsuccessful plunge into social network territory with Google Plus. What this means for the future of the partnership between Facebook and Bing is currently unclear, though it is likely that these changes have been made in relation to Facebook’s new search functions, which I talked about last week.

It seems that Facebook wants to refocus their search functions to work within Facebook, rather than extending to the rest of the web. However, the refining of their search functions appears to be used to compete with other search experiences. A Microsoft spokesperson says that they continue to partner with Facebook in other areas apart from the search function. It still is possible that Facebook and Bing will work concurrently in the future, but under what circumstances is currently unknown.

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

Facebook Now Lets You Search for Specific Posts

December 11, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 12-11-2014Last month, Twitter released an update to their search function that allowed users to search for any tweet that had ever been posted, from Twitter’s launch to tweets being posted right now. Twitter’s search had worked similarly to this beforehand, though it didn’t quite extend all the way back to the beginning of Twitter. Not wanting to be left behind, Facebook has updated their own search function in response and finally is now allowing users to find older posts.

Facebook has been working on this feature for more than a year. Searching is customized for each user, so that users can search only through posts that have been shared with them, rather than all posts on Facebook. Users simply have to type in any word and can find all posts that use that word or phrase. These can be specified to certain users, so that you could type in a friend’s name and find any posts that they might have written that used the word “Florida” or “restaurant.”

There are plenty of applications for this new feature that could benefit Facebook and even build it up as a competitor to Yelp or Google. For instance, now any user can type in “happy hour” or “great burger” and find every time that one of their friends referenced this sort of thing. It allows Facebook to operate as a service for friend-based recommendations. The search function can also be used to find friends’ opinions regarding major news events by typing in keywords like “ebola” or “Ferguson.” With Facebook making everyone’s posts that much more public, your privacy settings may be more important than ever, so it may be worth taking a look at those again now that Facebook has rolled this feature out.

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

Filtering Out the Garbage on Facebook and Twitter

December 4, 2014 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 12-4-2014Part of the social networking world often involves seeing a lot of information that we have no interest in or that flat out offends us. This is the kind of thing that happens when we add acquaintances, co-workers, or other people you may have randomly met on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Yet it’s become quite commonplace to add these people as ‘friends’ despite you not being friends with them outside of the virtual world. It’s even considered a faux pas in some instances to deny a person’s friend request. Luckily, Facebook and Twitter understand this and are adding features to help you see only what you want to see, regardless of who you might follow or be friends with.

Facebook launched a new tool last month in their News Feed Settings, which shows friends and Pages that take up the most space in a user’s News Feed. Through this setting, you can easily unfollow these people without having to delete them as friends and potentially run into the social awkwardness that can be associated with this. Other settings have also been included that make it easier to determine what it is that you want to see less of, so that your News Feed is more customized to show you the kinds of things you might actually be interested in.

While Facebook is giving users options to reduce annoying posts, Twitter is currently seeking to reduce harassment and other more specific troubles. Twitter released new tools of their own yesterday that allow uses to report harassment, offensive, threatening, or suicidal tweets, so that the company is able to more quickly handle the situation. Considering how there have been many instances of people using Twitter for malicious or abusive purposes, it seems that Twitter is trying to find ways to cut down on this sort of behavior amongst its user base.

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

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

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

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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