Instagram Launches Layout for Photo Collages

March 26, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-26-2015Instagram has recognized that its users are very interested in making collages. There are plenty of third-party apps that allow for this very function such as Pic Stitch, PhotoGrid, InstaCollage, and more. After recognizing that one in five monthly active users on Instagram had used one of these collage apps at least once, Instagram decided that they would launch their own collage-making application, hoping to make the experience easier and more efficient for their user base.

The app that they have launched is called Layout and it’s trying to make an effort to separate itself from the herd of similar collage applications. While most of these third-party collage apps start out by offering empty grids where pictures can be arranged, Layout is different in that it has you choose the pictures that you will be using first, and then automatically arranges the photos for you, once you have selected a collage style. From there, it is easy to replace photos, resize them, or move them into different positions.

Many news sources are already comparing Layout to Hyperlapse, which quickly became the defining app for creating timelapse videos. From the way it looks, Layout could similarly become the definitive collage app, even amidst all of these other competing apps. Considering the success of Hyperlapse, it is likely that Layout will also have success, because of its direct affiliation with Instagram and its overall ease of use. The app launched for iOS on Monday and is expected to be released for Android in the coming months.

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

Facebook Messenger Adds Friend-To-Friend Payments

March 19, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-19-2015In various ways, Facebook has competed with most of the major online forces around. Their social media functions compete with Twitter and Snapchat; their search functions compete with Google and Bing; their ownership of Instagram even pits them against a number of other image and video sharing services. Now, it appears that Facebook is ready to go up against payment services such as PayPal, as they have just officially announced that Facebook Messenger is adding a friend-to-friend payment service that is free of charge.

Using this feature is fairly simple. A user simply needs to add their debit card information in Facebook Messenger’s setting sections. Then, you select the ‘$’ icon in Facebook Messenger and tap ‘pay’. From there, any user can send any amount of money directly into their friend’s bank account. Facebook has plenty of experience with transactions and mobile payments through their apps and games, so the security of one’s debit card information won’t have to be something to worry about.

Facebook’s goal is to offer this feature as a convenience. They recognize that people are already going to be logging time on Facebook, so why should they have to spend time adding friends to another application like Venmo (an app running similar features, offered by PayPal) when they can already use their existing list of Facebook friends? Though it’s too early to tell if this feature will be the death of other payment apps, Facebook certainly has the upper hand here.

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

Bringing Live Streaming to Twitter

March 12, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-12-2015Over the past few years, live-streaming has become immensely popular. This is largely thanks to the popularity of Twitch, which is a live streaming video platform that initially focused on streaming video game playthroughs and e-sports, though its brand has continued to expand. Amazon’s purchase of Twitch in September 2014 only helped to expand the brand’s popularity. Thus, it’s unsurprising that live-streaming has been on the brains of many people since Twitch’s surge in viewership, which has turned it into one of the top 200 visited websites on the Internet.

A couple weeks ago, Meerkat was launched as a live-streaming video app that works directly in conjunction with Twitter. Though Meerkat is an independent app with no official connections to Twitter, it uses Twitter to allow people to live-stream video or record video to be scheduled for a later tweet. As Meerkat runs live-streaming video, other users are able to engage the user’s Twitter account with replies, which appear at the bottom of the video feed. When the live-stream is completed, its default setting is to be ephemeral and disappear, although the streamer has the option of saving the video to their phone’s memory.

In the weeks since its launch, Meerkat has become extremely popular, though only time will tell if it will merely be a passing fad or if it will reach the same level of popularity as Twitch. In any case, Twitter has reportedly been in talks to purchase another live-stream app known as Periscope. Periscope has not yet launched, but beta testers have described the app as similar to Meerkat. If Twitter purchases Periscope and launches it, they could potentially be burying Meerkat before it has a chance to truly shine. At any rate, it’s definitely likely that live-streaming is going to be the next big thing for Twitter.

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

The Broadening Horizons of Snapchat

March 5, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 3-5-2015Like any social network, Snapchat is always trying to find new ways to expand and evolve. Recently, they added the ability for different brands to get content to interested users through Snapchat Discover. However, there have been other ways that Snapchat has been trying to appeal to their users, albeit with mixed results. Snapchat launched an ephemeral scripted web series through Snapchat Discover called Literally Can’t Even, which is interesting in that episodes can only be watched for 24 hours before disappearing, but has premiered to largely negative reviews.

Better responses have been received from a different feature that was recently added to Snapchat. Last month, Snapchat began allowing users to record video while playing music from their phones, whether they’re using Spotify, Pandora, or the phone’s built-in MP3 player. Previously, Snapchat did not allow users to play music from apps like these at the same time as shooting video, so this may give users some additional versatility regarding the videos they share on Snapchat.

Not everything that Snapchat has been doing has been about adding new features. In fact, there were some negative reactions when Snapchat added the Snapchat Discover feature, because it came alongside the removal of the ‘Best Friends’ feature. This was a fairly minor feature that allowed users to view the top three users that one of their friends exchanged Snapchat messages with.

Many people, likely accustomed to the somewhat voyeuristic aspects of social networking, were displeased that this feature had been removed, considering it allowed users to see who their friends were messaging the most, on an otherwise private social media app. The CEO of Snapchat responded that the Best Friends feature will be returning in a different form, though there have been no updates about the feature since then.

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

How Do Social Networks Seem Like They’re Psychic?

February 26, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-26-2015Occasionally, when you glance at the sidebar on Facebook, you might wonder how exactly it is that Facebook seems to know exactly how to cater to what you’re interested in. What you might not know is that Facebook has algorithms intended to help find the ads that suit you best. Since mid-2014, Facebook began using app and website data from your browsing habits, effectively going through your search history in order to determine which ads to target to you. While Facebook provides the ability to opt out of this, the default setting allows this sort of ad targeting to occur.

More recently, Facebook revealed that they were rolling out a new advertisement option called Product Ads, which are dynamically optimized to ensure that the products you see in the advertisements are based specifically on your interests and activities, as well as your location and whether or not you have already visited the advertiser’s website or used their application. These will be particularly useful for showing different types of products that come from the same company, such as Target and Shutterfly.

You may not realize how much information social networks can gather just from the things you have ‘liked’, the things you have posted and shared, and your general search history. One long-term study had subjects take personality tests and then used an algorithm based on their Facebook profile to see how closely their personality could be predicted alongside the test. The algorithm was able to produce a more accurate description of their personality than that subject’s friends and family.

Facebook is not the only social network that has been used to predict things. One study took a look at the emotional language used on Twitter, comparing the amount of angry tweets to mortality rates for atherosclerotic heart disease in particular counties. The researchers in this study determined that Twitter was actually a more effective means of predicting heart disease than conventional methods that look at smoking, diet, or obesity. This is evidence that a lot can be learned from social networks and these sorts of studies could wind up serving greater purposes than just targeting advertisements.

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Tags: Social Bookmarking,Social Media,Social Networking,Studies & Stats,Web 2.0

Post-Mortem Posting: Death and Social Media

February 19, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-19-2015As everyone knows, death is an inevitable part of life. However, life has been changing quite a bit thanks to social media and because of that, death is changing too. Facebook recently announced a ‘legacy contact’ feature, which allows you to choose someone to manage your Facebook account after you die. Your legacy contact will have the ability to add a memorial post to the top of your Facebook page, as well as respond to friend requests and change your profile picture.

Who you choose as your legacy contact does not get a sudden window into all of your private messages and discussions, of course. Your legacy contact cannot check your personal messages and they cannot post as you, nor can they delete anything that you have posted on your Facebook page. While many people may be interested in having their Facebook page essentially memorialized, you can also opt in to have Facebook delete your page entirely when you die, if you would rather have your social media profile removed after you’re gone.

The legacy contact feature may be Facebook’s first foray into the realm of the social media afterlife, but they’re not the first to consider this sort of thing. There are a number of services that cater to those who wish to have post-mortem posts on their social media profiles. DeadSocial can send out public Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media posts after you have died, as well as sending out scheduled messages for anniversaries or birthdays of loved ones. Another service called If I Die can send out private messages over Facebook or email to your loved ones after you pass on. In any case, there are many ways for your social media memory to live on once you’ve left this world.

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

Additional Video Support for Social Networks

February 12, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-12-2015Videos have been a major part of many social networks for quite some time now. At this point, Facebook is reaching over 3 billion video views a day. Over 50% of people in the United States that visit Facebook on a daily basis watch at least one video per day. Social networks that are focused purely on video, such as Vine, have continued to expand. Vine has recently launched Vine Kids, which is a kid-friendly version of the social network, which will allow children to share amusing videos with one another without running into potentially inappropriate content.

However, not every social network has excelled when it comes to videos. Surprisingly enough, Twitter has never had any direct video support, despite (or perhaps, because of) the fact that Vine is a Twitter acquisition. Recently though, Twitter finally got around to adding video support in the app itself. Not surprisingly, the interface looks quite similar to Vine, but videos that are shared can be up to 30 seconds long, instead of limited to 7 seconds, which is the case on Vine. It is likely that part of Twitter’s decision to add video support is to allow video ads to be shared on Twitter, to help generate income for the social network.

Not every social network is adding videos for the sake of advertisements though. The social network Ello was notoriously founded in response to Facebook, as a social network that vowed to never have any ads, instead generating money through paid-for features. Ello had a small surge in popularity when Facebook was under fire for cracking down on users that went by alternative names in their Facebook profiles. However, Ello’s time in the sun may have passed. Regardless, they recently added video support to the social network, in an effort to continue finding ways to make it better.

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

Twitter Finds New Ways to Interact with Search Engines

February 5, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-5-2015One of the best ways for social networks to move up in the world is to pair themselves with the major search engines. Many of the larger social networks have some kind of history working with Google or Bing in different capacities. This is something that Twitter has recently been doing, as new features have been announced that directly implement aspects of these search engines. When it comes to Bing, Twitter has paired up with the search engine for translation reasons.

On the Twitter website, as well as in the mobile apps, users can now easily translate any tweet in a foreign language to the user’s default language. Though the translation tool is not perfect, it’s still a step up from not being able to read foreign tweets at all. Bing is not the only search engine that Twitter has found themselves recently pairing with, however. There has also been a deal made between Twitter and Google, which will ultimately allow tweets to appear in Google searches.

Yahoo and Bing already offer the ability to show tweets in their searches, but this will allow Google to have the same benefits. Twitter and Google had an agreement that was similar to this in 2009, but it was discontinued in 2011, around the same time that Google Plus launched. Google pairing themselves up with Twitter again may be yet another sign that they’re gradually removing support from Google Plus, which has been circling the drain for a while now.

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

Snapchat Discover Offers Content from Major Brands

January 29, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 1-29-2015Snapchat has known for a long time that their platform could be monetized. That’s why they turned down billions of dollars that were offered when Facebook attempted to purchase them. However, we hadn’t seen many ways that Snapchat was actually pursuing these sorts of endeavors, apart from some occasional ads that have made their way into users’ Snapchat apps. This week, however, things changed with the launch of Snapchat Discover, which will be offering content from brands such as CNN, ESPN, Comedy Central, and more.

Snapchat Discover will allow all sorts of different brands to deliver content to users and users can pick which brands they hope to see information from. These brands will be able to regularly launch their own ephemeral content for users to check out and Snapchat Discover will be regularly refreshed with new options for users to browse through. The featured brands will change from day to day. Snapchat Discover launched with CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News, and Warner Music Group, but these will change daily.

Snapchat is not requiring companies to pay to feature content on their app. The way that Snapchat Discover will work to generate money will be by selling ad space that runs alongside the content that is viewed through Snapchat Discover. For instance, CNN content appears alongside BMW ads, while Vice content shows up with ads for GrubHub. Snapchat Discover could be a real game-changer for the way different companies will be spreading information to their user base. Furthermore, being on Snapchat will allow these brands to expand their user base by offering content to a younger demographic, the group that most frequently uses Snapchat.

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

The Subsidiaries of Facebook

January 22, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Beheading films on FacebookPart of the way that Facebook continues to evolve its social network platform is by acquiring other companies and oftentimes integrating aspects of that company’s work into Facebook itself. In other cases, Facebook will make acquisitions that are mostly separate from the social network, such as when they purchased Oculus VR last year. Though purchasing Oculus might not do much to enhance Facebook itself, Facebook has made a couple of recent acquisitions that will.

One of these acquisitions was Wit.ai, which is a startup that was founded a year and a half ago, focusing on voice recognition software. Wi.tai’s platform will still remain open and free to all, but Facebook will likely integrate this type of technology into Facebook itself in some way. In addition to that, Facebook is continuing a trend of helping out developers with building their apps, so that those developers will in turn pay Facebook for ads or split revenue with Facebook for hosting its ads. This is one of the reasons that Facebook acquires certain subsidiaries without immediately incorporating new technologies into their own social network.

Another recent acquisition made by Facebook was that of QuickFire Networks, a company that is working hard on reducing video file sizes and upload times. These sorts of things would be extremely useful for Facebook, which features video ads as well as video sharing. The hopeful end result of this acquisition would be lower buffering times without having to sacrifice the quality of the video.

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

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