Social Media Tag

The Snappening: Hackers Cause the First Major Snapchat Leak

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.

The Newest Facebook Tweaks and Updates

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.

Ello: The Social Network with No Ads

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.

Play Counts for Vine and Facebook Videos

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.

Secrecy, Privacy, and Ephemerality in Social Media

Picture 9-11-2014In a world where millions of people post every thought, photograph, or video to our social media profiles, we have effectively given up our privacy. And yet we still cling to the idea of privacy, even if that just means setting some sort of limit to the people who see all the things we’re posting for everyone else to see. Social media security has been a hot-button issue for this reason and over the course of the past couple of years, there have been a large number of breaches and hacks where social media users’ information has been compromised. I’ve talked before about hacks that affected Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, but these are not the only social media networks and apps that have had breaches in their security.

Back in June, the simplistic social media app Yo was hacked by three college students, who were able to get the phone numbers and contacts of every Yo user as well as being able to send them false messages that appeared to be from other users. Considering Yo was developed in merely eight hours, it wasn’t a huge surprise that there were security issues, but what’s disturbing is how quickly users latched on to the new hot social media app without considering that their personal information might be at stake. The social network Secret was marketed as the ‘anonymous social network’ but hackers last month were able to find an easy way to make it a lot less anonymous.

Though Yo and Secret have issued fixes to these security breaches, as have the larger, more popular social networks, it would not be crazy to say that our faith in social network security is waning. Facebook is making efforts to change things; they acquired a cybersecurity start-up company called PrivateCore last month in an effort to help protect the data of Facebook users. However, with the state of social media privacy and security still unsure, there are other things people and social networks are turning to (including Facebook).

Ephemerality is the nature of apps like Snapchat, Bolt, Slingshot, and plenty of similar social media applications. The idea here is to ensure some manner of privacy by making messages, photos, and videos only appear temporarily before being deleted forever. Recently, Facebook began testing their own new ephemeral feature, which will allow users to use a ‘Choose Expiration’ function. This feature will give posts a life expectancy from anywhere between an hour and a week. Thus far, this feature has only been available to a small set of users operating Facebook for iOS and it is unclear what the future of the feature may be.

Hyperlapse: The New Time Lapse App from Instagram

Picture 9-4-2014It was only about a month ago that Instagram launched their recent project, Bolt, a competitor to Snapchat, available exclusively to New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. Their newest project, however, has been far more widespread: the app is called Hyperlapse and it allows users to create time lapse videos. Historically, the creation of proper time lapse videos has often required expensive photography equipment, which is something that Hyperlapse aims to move past (not unlike the filters available on Instagram).

An Instagram account is not required to use the separate Hyperlapse app, which launched for iOS devices on August 26. Users simply need to tap once to start recording and once again to stop and then are able to alter the playback speed as well as a number of other options. Once the videos are created, they can be easily shared via other social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Though ultimately the functionality of the application may seem simple, Hyperlapse is using a lot of powerful technology that allow users to shoot steady, professional-looking videos from their mobile devices. Some social media blogs believe that Hyperlapse was launched as its own separate application so that it would not merely be buried as an Instagram feature, and people could fully get a chance to harness the powerful technology behind it. On top of this, Hyperlapse’s focus is more as a video creation app rather than a social network, although it is quite easy to share the videos via social networks once they are completed. Due to technological limitations, there are not yet plans to bring the app to Android devices.

Twitter Analytics Now Available to Everyone

Picture 8-28-2014Ever wanted to be able to accurately measure your social media presence via hard numbers and data? Twitter understands that many people use Twitter to make a name for themselves, whether that means promoting a product or a website or trying to get attention as a comedian or blogger. There are an enormous number of uses for Twitter and the release of Twitter’s Twitter Analytics program allows Twitter users to better understand how frequently their tweets are being viewed and reacted to (referred to as ‘impressions’ and ‘engagements’ respectively).

Twitter Analytics was quietly being tested roughly a month ago and finally received a widespread release yesterday. Twitter Analytics is available to anyone who has had a Twitter account for at least two weeks, due to the fact that the Analytics provided are only available for the past two weeks. Prior tweets are not counted. Though this aspect may be a bit disappointing, it still allows for an eye-opening change in Twitter’s future, allowing everyone from business executives to cruise ship comedians to see their precise Twitter presence.

Though the ‘average’ Twitter user may just consider this to be a useless function, this addition can mean the world to people who advertise using Twitter (which is an ever-growing number of people and businesses). Twitter users will be able to monitor trends of what makes their tweets popular and what helps to encourage others to interact with their tweets. Currently, Twitter Analytics is only available via the computer; there is no word yet on whether its features will be extended to mobile usage.

Social Networking for Kids

Picture 8-21-2014When Facebook was initially launched in 2004, it was geared only as a social network for Harvard University students. During this period of time, teens and technology-savvy adults were dipping their feet into other social networks like Friendster and MySpace and business-oriented networks liked LinkedIn were also being launched. Eventually, Facebook expanded to allow other college students to join, which in turn led to high school students, until eventually anyone over the age of thirteen was able to join Facebook.

I remember a time not very long ago where the mention of Facebook would usually bring a confused look to a person’s face. These days, Facebook and other social networks like Instagram and Snapchat are ubiquitous. Everyone’s hearing about them and more than a billion people on the planet are using them. Even though children don’t meet the terms of use for networks like Facebook and Instagram, there is no proof of age required to create an account. Thus, kids are on Facebook and other social networks, and there’s not much that can be done about that.

However, there may be ways for parents to better introduce their children to the world of social networking, considering they will inevitably find out about it themselves. After all, these days, posting a picture of a newborn baby on a social network is extremely commonplace; these kids are already on social networks whether they like it or not literally as soon as they’re born.

One social network that has recently been created specifically for kids is called Kuddle, which is essentially a facsimile of Instagram that has been designed for kids to be safely introduced to social media and share pictures with their friends. Thanks to security and safety features, photos must be approved by parents who are notified every time their child uploads a picture. There are no comments allowed on photos, which is intended to prevent cyber-bullying, although kids are allowed to draw on their own photos and add captions.

We currently live in a world where children are going to be exposed to social media at younger and younger ages. Many people I knew growing up got their first cell phones in high school, but it’s become more and more common for parents to purchase cell phones for children as young as eight years old or even younger, often for safety reasons so that children can more easily stay in contact with their parents. Cell phones and social media are nearly interchangeable these days, so it’s probably a good thing to find safe and positive ways to introduce children to social media like Kuddle.

Foursquare Rebrands and Potentially Loses Its Charm

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.

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.