July 2014

Bolt: Yet Another Snapchat Competitor

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.

The ‘Buy’ Button: Facebook’s Newest Feature

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.

Facebook Launches New App for Celebrities Only

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.

How Facebook Messenger Has Changed

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.