All posts in “Social”

Facebook won’t retreat from Stories as it adds desktop posting

Facebook Stories might feel redundant since 300 million people use its other Snapchat clones on Instagram and WhatsApp. But Facebook is convinced that the narrative, ephemeral, camera-first format is the future of sharing…and advertising.

So despite criticism and a slow start for traction, Facebook is doubling down on Stories by testing the ability to create them from desktop, and a much more prominent placement for viewing Stories atop the News Feed instead of in the sidebar.

“We are always working to ensure people can easily navigate and enjoy Facebook, regardless of how they connect” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. “We are testing the option to create and share Stories from Facebook on desktop and are also testing moving the Stories tray from the top right corner to above News Feed, just like on mobile.” Previously you could only consume Stories on web that had to be created on mobile.

All Aboard The Stories Train

Brands, Event promoters, and Group admins who manage their Facebook presence from desktop might embrace Stories more now that they can post from their too. Collaborative Stories where Group members and Event attendees can all contribute are one of the most exciting opportunities for Facebook Stories.

But the company has to be careful that brands don’t drown out friends’ Stories, but that’s one of the advantages of algorithmically filtering the slideshows that disappear in 24 hours. Expect Facebook not to make the same mistake it made allowing professional publishers to overwhelm the News Feed, which it’s now walking back in a massive change to its content ranking strategy.

Advertisers might also be more comfortable getting aboard Stories thanks to desktop access. Digiday reports Facebook is building an augmented reality team in London to help it pitch sponsored AR filters to advertisers, similar to how Snapchat monetizes beyond injecting traditional display ads between Stories as Facebook does on Instagram.

Facebook users will be able to upload photos or videos, or shoot them with their webcam to post from desktop. That could attract the monologue-style YouTube vloggers who have trained themselves to talk into their computer.

By showing Stories above the News Feed instead of the to the side, Facebook clearly thinks the content deserves more attention, and is even willing to push down its status update composer and News Feed posts to make room. That’s a bold shift, considering Facebook hesitated until August to show Stories on desktop after their January launch and March rollout on mobile.

Stories Are Critical To Facebook’s AR Future

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that while eyeglass computers might be the future of augmented reality, Facebook won’t wait for it, and the smartphone is already a capable AR device. But for Facebook to have a functioning AR strategy — whether for keeping people coming back to play with AR face masks, watch friends jazz up their lives, or giving advertisers creative tools — it has to get people watching Stories en masse.

That’s why it started syncing Facebook Stories across Facebook and Messenger so posts on one show up in both. It’s why it’s allowing people to syndicate their Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories. It’s why it’s recruiting an army of outside developers to build AR tools for Story-tellers. And it’s why Facebook’s desktop site now fully adopting Stories.

Whether users warm up to them is another question. Facebook’s social graph has bloated to include distant acquaintances and family you might not want to be able to see a raw view into your day-to-day adventures. That’s the advantage of Snapchat’s closer-friends network, and something Facebook may need a better privacy solution for to get people to share.

But remember that people protested the News Feed when it first arrived on Facebook. And the younger generation that’s addicted to Snapchat shows how users can pour a half hour a day into sending, posting, and watching camera-based content. If that’s any portent, Facebook might just be early to delivering mainstream users the shift from text to Stories. And if you give people a prominent space to show off for friends, vanity and narcissism may eventually compel them to fill that space with snippets of their life.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

No, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t buy a giant yacht


Update: A spokesperson for Mark Zuckerberg offered a pretty flat-out denial of reports saying that the Facebook founder had purchased a $150 million ultra-luxury super yacht in Monaco this past September, “The reports related to Mark purchasing a yacht are completely inaccurate as he did not purchase a yacht.”

A report from the Hürriyet Daily News had detailed that Zuckerberg had purchased the giant ship. Turns out, that report was inaccurate.

The vessel at hand, an expedition yacht named “Ulysses,” is 107 meters long, includes dozens of rooms and is primed for journeys as long as 8,500 nautical miles. The report had details that Zuckerberg bought the yacht “in secret” from another self-made billionaire, Graeme Hart. It was purchased late last year by an unknown buyer.

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WhatsApp officially launches its app for businesses in select markets


WhatsApp today officially launched its new WhatsApp Business app in select markets, including Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., ahead of its planned worldwide rollout. The addition of business profiles and new messaging tools aimed at business customers is part of the company’s broader plan to generate revenue by charging larger enterprises for advanced tools to communicate with customers on the platform now used by over a billion people worldwide.

The WhatsApp Business app is the initial entry point in this market.

Aimed at smaller businesses, the free app – Android-only for now – helps companies better connect with their customers and establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service. Essentially, it’s the WhatsApp version of a Facebook Page.

The company had previously announced the app’s arrival, and begun verifying business accounts as part of its WhatsApp Business pilot program back in September 2017. Verified accounts were given a green checkmark as a means of demonstrating their authenticity.

With the new WhatsApp Business app arriving today, small companies can set up their WhatsApp Business profiles by filling out information like a business description, email, address and website.

WhatsApp says people will know when they’re talking to a business because these accounts will be listed as “Business Accounts.” Over time, some of these will become “Confirmed Accounts,” after WhatsApp verifies the account phone number it registered with matches the business phone number.

Once established on the WhatsApp network, businesses can then use a series of tools provided by the app, like smart messaging tools that offer similar technology as what you’d find today in Facebook Messenger.

For example, the app offers “quick replies” that provide fast answers to customers’ frequently asked questions; “greeting messages” that introduce customers to the business; and “away messages,” that let customers know you’re busy.

Businesses will also be able to access messaging statistics, like number of messages read, and they can send and receive messages from the desktop via WhatsApp Web.

While businesses will need to use this new app to communicate with customers, for the general WhatsApp user, there’s no change. They’ll be able to message businesses but can control their experience by blocking numbers and businesses, as well as report spam.

In addition, businesses will only be able to contact people who provided their phone number and agreed to receive messages from the business, the company had previously said.

The Business app will later be joined by an enterprise solution aimed at large businesses with a global customer base – like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks, WhatsApp had said last fall. It didn’t announce any news regarding this solution today, but in the past the company said it would charge for these enterprise tools. Presumably, they’ll be built on top of the current WhatsApp Business core product.

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The company also indicated today how critical it is to address the needs of businesses on its service, which now reaches 1.3 billion users. According to data it cited from Morning Consult’s research, over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil said that WhatsApp helps them communicate with customers and grow their businesses.

WhatsApp declined to say how many businesses are today active on its app, when asked.

At launch, the WhatsApp Business is available as a free download on Google Play in supported markets. WhatsApp didn’t offer an ETA on when the Business app would rollout to worldwide markets beyond “the coming weeks,” or when an iOS version would arrive.

However, the company did confirm to us that – while it prioritized Android after researching with businesses where WhatsApp is used prominently – it does plan to support other platforms in the future.

Instagram just added a powerful new way to stalk people on the app

Image: lili sams/mashable

Instagram is now even more of a stalker’s paradise.

Everyone’s favorite photo and video sharing app has just added an “Activity Status” that lets all your friends and followers “see when you were last active” on the app, just like on Facebook Messenger. Creeeeeeeepy!

SEE ALSO: 12 awesome Instagram features you’re probably not using

When you open up Instagram Direct, the messaging section of the app, you’ll now see it shows whether your friends are “active” on the app or when they were last active on it.

For Instagram stalkers — don’t pretend like you don’t do it — this is change that’ll let you keep even closer tabs on who is and isn’t ignoring you on the app.

Did your crush just read your DM (you’ll know because it says “seen” underneath the message) and not respond? Well, by default, you can now see if they’re really ghosting you or not. The new Activity Status is enough to give Instagram addicts even more anxiety.

If you think this new Activity Status is a step too far, you’re not alone. Needless to say, there are are a lot of pissed and annoyed Insta users:

Fortunately, there’s a way to stop this creepy activity broadcasting: Go Instagram’s app settings (the gear icon) inside of your profile, and then toggle off the “Show Activity Status.” 

“When this is turned off, you won’t be able to see the activity status of other accounts.”

As Instagram becomes ever more popular, it’s also becoming more and more like Facebook, and that’s, to be honest, kind of scary. The reason why Instagram was great was because it wasn’t Facebook. It didn’t have creepy activity status trackers.

But now that it does, it might be time to consider deleting Instagram off your phone, just like people are doing with the Facebook app.

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Facebook agrees to take a deeper look into Russian Brexit meddling


Facebook has said it will conduct a wider investigation into whether there was Russian meddling on its platform relating to the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in the UK.

Yesterday its UK policy director Simon Milner wrote to a parliamentary committee that’s been conducting a wide-ranging enquiry into fake news — and whose chair has been witheringly critical of Facebook and Twitter for failing to co-operate with requests for information and assistance on the topic of Brexit and Russia — saying it will widen its investigation, per the committee’s request.

Though he gave no firm deadline for delivering a fresh report — beyond estimating “a number of weeks”.

It’s not clear whether Twitter will also bow to pressure to conduct a more thorough investigation of Brexit-related disinformation. At the time of writing the company had not responded to our questions either.

At the end of last year committee chair Damian Collins warned both companies they could face sanctions for failing to co-operate with the committee’s enquiry — slamming Twitter’s investigations to date as “completely inadequate”, and expressing disbelief that both companies had essentially ignored the committee’s requests.

“You expressed a view that there may be other similar coordinated activity from Russia that we had not yet identified through our investigation and asked for us to continue our investigatory work. We have considered your request and can confirm that our investigatory team is now looking to see if we can identify other similar clusters engaged in coordinated activity around the Brexit referendum that was not identified previously,” writes Milner in the letter to Collins.

“This work requires detailed analysis of historic data by our security experts, who are also engaged in preventing live threats to our service. We are committed to making all reasonable efforts to establish whether or not there was coordinated activity similar to that which we found in the US and will report back to you as soon as the work has been completed.”

Last year Facebook reported finding just three Russian bought “immigration” ads relating to the Brexit vote — with a spend of less than $1. While Twitter claimed Russian broadcasters had spent around $1,000 to run six Brexit-related ads on its platform.

The companies provided that information in response to the UK’s Electoral Commission, which has been running its own investigation into whether there was any digital misspending relating to the referendum — handing the exact same information to the committee, despite its request for a more wide-ranging probe of Russian meddling.

In its Brexit report, Facebook also only looked at known Russian trollfarm the Internet Research Agency pages or account profiles — which it had previously identified in its US election disinformation probe.

While Twitter apparently made no effort to quantify the volume and influence of Russian-backed bots generating free tweet content around Brexit — so its focus on ads really looks like pure misdirection.

Independent academic studies have suggested there was in fact significant tweet-based activity generated around Brexit by Russian bots.

Last month a report by the US Senate — entitled Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US National Security — also criticized the adequacy of the investigations conducted thus far by Facebook and Twitter into allegations of Russian social media interference vis-a-vis Brexit.

“[I]n limiting their investigation to just the Internet Research Agency, Facebook missed that it is only one troll farm which ‘‘has existed within a larger disinformation ecosystem in St. Petersburg,’’ including Glavset, an alleged successor of the Internet Research Agency, and the Federal News Agency, a reported propaganda ‘‘media farm,’’ according to Russian investigative journalists,” the report authors write.

They also chronicle Collins’ criticism of Twitter’s ‘‘completely inadequate’’ response to the issue.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch/Getty Images