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 The small but loyal user base of the original Foursquare is angry that the gamification that originally made Foursquare popular has been entirely removed.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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
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.

Did you like this? Share it:
Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Web 2.0