All posts in “facebook groups”

Sidestepping App Stores, Facebook Lite and Groups get Instant Games

HTML5 almost ruined Facebook when baking in the mobile web standard to speed up development slowed down the performance of the social network’s main iOS and Android apps. It eventually ditched HTML5, rebuilt the apps natively, and Facebook became one of the most powerful players in mobile.

Now Facebook is giving HTML5 another shot as a way to expand its Instant Games like Pac-Man and Words With Friends to the developing world through Facebook Lite, and to interest communities via Facebook Groups.

Instead of having to download separate apps for each game from the Apple App Store or Google Play, Instant Games launch in a mobile browser. That keeps Facebook Lite’s file size small to the benefit of international users with slow connections or limited data plans. And it lets Instant Games integrate directly into Groups so you can challenge not only friends but like-minded members to compete for high scores.

90 million people each month actively participate in 270,000 Facebook Groups about gaming, and now they’ll see Instant Games in the Groups navigation bar next to the About and Discussion tabs. Facebook is also considering making games an opt-in feature for non-gaming Groups. In Facebook Lite, Instant Games will appear in the More sidebar so they’re not too interruptive.

The expansion demonstrates how serious Facebook is about becoming a gaming company again. Back in its desktop days, the games platform dominated by devleopers like Zynga racked up tons of usage, virality, and in-game payments revenue for Facebook. That revenue declined for years after mobile usage began to dominate in 2014, but recently stabilized at around $190 million per quarter. Apparently someone is still playing FarmVille.

Facebook launched Instant Games in late-2016 to give people something to do while they’re waiting from friends to reply to their messages. Around the same time, Facebook launched Gameroom — a Steam-like desktop software hub for mid-core gamers, though there’s been less news on that product since. Instant Games rolled out worldwide in mid-2017, and opened to all developers in March of this year. It’s since been expanding monetization options for developers to make building Instant Games a sustainable business. That includes making Instant Games compatible with Facebook’s playable ads that let developers lure in users from the News Feed.

Facebook won’t actually be earning money from in-app purchases on Instant Games on iOS where it doesn’t allow IAP due to Apple’s policies, or on Android since it began forgoing its cut last month. It does take 30 percent on desktop though. But the bigger monetization play is in ads where Facebook is a juggernaut.

With Instant Games on Messenger, Facebook’s desktop site via a bookmark, its new Fb.gg standalone gaming community app, and now Facebook Lite and Groups, the company is prioritizing the space again. That seems wise as gaming becomes more mainstream thanks to players livestreaming their commentary and phenomena like Fortnite. And with Facebook’s expansion into hardware with the Portal smart screen and a forthcoming TV set-top box, it will have more places than ever for people to play or watch others duke it out.

Facebook Groups can now launch up to 250-person group chats

If you miss the old AOL chat rooms, you’ll love Facebook’s plan to combine Groups and with Messenger without spamming you to death. Starting today, Facebook will gradually roll out the abilty for members of Facebook Groups to launch group chats about specific sub-topics that up to 250 members can join. A dog owners’ Group could spawn threads for discussing spontaneous park meetups, grooming tips, or sharing photos as they’re puppies grow up. Chat for Groups could make Facebook’s discussion forums more real-time and engaging, strengthening loyalty to one of the social network’s most differentiated features.

But instead of immediately alerting you of every message in every thread, you’ll first get a Facebook Groups notification inviting you to each new group chat you have to voluntarily join to receive further notifications. If you miss that initial alert, you can always go to the new Chat tab on Facebook Groups to browse the active threads or launch a new one. And if a Group chat gets overwhelming, you can turn off notifications about message reactions and Messenger games, or opt to only be notified if you’re @ mentioned in the thread. As a last resort against spam, Group admins can always shut down a group chat or limit their creation to only other admins.

Facebook has been poking around how it could integrate Messenger and Groups for a while. It already offers group chat for up to 250 members of a Facebook Event, and in 2016 Messenger tested public discussion “Rooms”. Now Facebook has settled on building chat as an extension of its existing Groups instead.

As the News Feed gets more politically combative and the algorithm preferences generalist content that’s appealing to everyone, there’s less room for niche interest content on Facebook. That’s contributed to an explosion of group chat activity on competitors like Telegram. WhatsApp revamped its own group chats with more admin tools in May to fight off this threat.

With 1.4 billion people active in Facebook Groups each month as part of tens of millions of active Groups, the feature generates a ton of activity and return visits for Facebook. With Groups Chats, Facebook expects users could “plan events, arrange in-person meetings, or have deeper discussions”. Messaging could also help Facebook build towards its goal of getting 1 billion people into what it calls “meaningful Groups” after it announce 200 million people already were as of May. With all the scandals plaguing its reputation and concerns that it polarizes the populace, Facebook is eager to find more ways to show it actually brings people together

Facebook Pages can now join Facebook Groups

Your Facebook Page can now join members-only Facebook Groups.

In a new setting update spotted by social media aficionado Matt Navarra, Facebook is now going to let Pages on the site interact with communities through Facebook Groups. 

Within Facebook Group settings, a new option has popped up for group owners that enables them to “allow Pages to request to join as group members.” Previously, only personal profiles could join Facebook Groups and post and comment within them.

“We’ve heard from people that engaging with public figures, non-profits, publishers, and businesses in a more intimate setting can be meaningful,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. “We previously launched the ability for Pages to start Facebook Groups so that they can engage with their communities. We are now testing the ability for Pages to join existing Facebook Groups as well.”

As Facebook points out, there are a number of Facebook Page types that really stand to benefit from this change. For one, there are actors, musicians, politicians and all other sorts of celebrities and public figures who use Facebook Pages as their main account. Some might not make their personal Facebook profiles public. Others might not even have a personal profile at all. 

Before this change, various public figures and brands could have been prohibited from interacting with their fans or supporters within Facebook Groups. Now that Pages can join groups, Facebook might soon see verified Pages with millions of “likes” interact on a more personal level within Groups. 

Page owners using the Page itself in Facebook Group can now also possibly see an uptick in likes due to these interactions as opposed to friend requests on their personal profiles from users they may barely even know. Page owners can now build the brand they properly want to use within Groups instead of being forced to use personal profiles which Facebook requires a real name to use.

With the positives from these changes, there’s bound to be some negatives, too. Hiding behind a random Page name as opposed to your real name on a profile is bound to lead to some abuse. And Facebook seems to have prepared for that. Facebook tells me that Group administrators can turn off the option allowing Pages to join their Facebook Group. Admins can also ban Pages just as if they were any other group member. 

All Facebook Group administrators will soon be informed of this brand new feature. Enabling Pages to join Groups will be the platform wide Group default. Group admins will also be told how to turn the setting off.

Facebook appears to be taking its Groups feature more seriously in recent months. Along with the options for Facebook Pages to both join and create Groups, earlier this summer Facebook announced a Group subscription plan option, allowing some Groups to charge members for access.

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Illegal animal trade uncovered on Facebook in Thailand

Over 200 wildlife species are being illegal sold via Facebook groups in Thailand. The slow loris, pictured above, is among the most commonly advertised for sale.
Over 200 wildlife species are being illegal sold via Facebook groups in Thailand. The slow loris, pictured above, is among the most commonly advertised for sale.

Image: Getty Images/500px Plus

A wildlife trafficking watchdog is calling out Facebook for hundreds of listings of animals in Thailand.

TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization, is releasing a report today detailing a multiyear investigation that monitored Facebook groups that facilitated the sale of wildlife. The listings included live and dead animals, as well as animal body parts according to the BBC.

Of the over 1,500 animal listings discovered by TRAFFIC, more than half of the animals offered up for trade are protected under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act. Some of the listed animals, such as the Helmeted Hornbill and the Siamese crocodile are a critically endangered species. In the case of a species like the Helmeted Hornbill and the Siamese crocodile, TRAFFIC says its critically endangered status meant that even a single creature removed from the wild would be detrimental for the species’ survival.

In total, the group found listings for 200 species. Listings included animals native to Thailand, like the Asiatic black bear, as well as species not native to the country like the Eurasian otter and the black spotted turtle, all of which are barred from international trade.

The listings were all uncovered by TRAFFIC during a single month in 2016. They were discovered across 12 different animal trade Facebook groups the organization was monitoring. While two Facebook groups have since shut down, TRAFFIC revisited the remaining groups to analyze in 2018. The organization found that total membership across the groups had grown. In 2016, total membership of all the animal trade Facebook groups monitored by TRAFFIC was 106,111. Now, two years later, the groups boast a total of 203,445 members.

Facebook policy prohibits the sale of any animals — domesticated pets, livestock, or otherwise. In a statement to the BBC, a Facebook spokesperson said “Facebook does not allow the sale or trade of endangered species or their parts, and we remove this material as soon as we are aware of it. We are committed to working with Traffic and law enforcement authorities to help tackle the illegal online trade of wildlife in Thailand.”

As Gizmodo points out, Facebook provided a similar statement to the BBC two years ago when TRAFFIC released a report on the same types of illegal wildlife sales Facebook groups operating in Malaysia.

Earlier this year, it was reported that a complaint was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by the National Whistleblower Center on behalf of an informant over advertising that was being displayed on Facebook groups engaging in the illegal wildlife trade. The complaint accused Facebook of monetizing groups selling rhino horn, elephant ivory, and other threatened animal body parts.

Mashable has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

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Facebook quietly relaunches Apps For Groups platform after lockdown

Facebook is becoming a marketplace for enterprise apps that help Group admins manage their communities.

To protect itself and its users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook locked down the Groups API for building apps for Groups. These apps had to go through a human-reviewed approval process, and lost access to Group member lists, plus the names and profile pics of people who posted. Now, approved Groups Apps are reemerging on Facebook, accessible to admins through a new in-Facebook Groups apps browser that gives the platform control over discoverability.

Facebook confirmed the new Group apps browser after our inquiry, telling TechCrunch “What you’re seeing today is related to changes we announced in April that require developers to go through an updated app review process in order to use the Groups API. As part of this, some developers who have gone through the review process are now able to access the Groups API.”

Facebook wouldn’t comment further, but this Help Center article details how Groups can now add apps. Matt Navarra first spotted the new Group apps option and tipped us off. Previously,  admins would have to find Group management tools outside of Facebook and then use their logged-in Facebook account to give the app permissions to access their Group’s data.

Groups are often a labor of love for admins, but generate tons of engagement for the social network. That’s why the company recently began testing Facebook subscription Groups that allow admins to charge a monthly fee. With the right set of approved partners, the platform offers Group admins some of the capabilities usually reserved for big brands and businesses that pay for enterprise tools to manage their online presences.

Becoming a gateway to enterprise tool sets could make Facebook Groups more engaging, generating more time on site and ad views from users. This also positions Facebook as a natural home for ad campaigns promoting different enterprise tools. And one day, Facebook could potentially try to act more formally as a Groups App Store and try to take a cut of software-as-a-service subscription fees the tool makers charge.

Facebook can’t build every tool that admins might need by itself, so in 2010 it launched the Groups API to enlist some outside help. Moderating comments, gathering analytics, and posting pre-composed content were some of the popularity capabilities of Facebook Groups Apps. But in April, it halted use of the API, announcing that “there is information about people and conversations in groups that we want to make sure is better protected. Going forward, all third-party apps using the Groups API will need approval from Facebook and an admin to ensure they benefit the group.”

Now apps that have received the necessary approval are appearing in this Groups Apps browser. It’s available to admins through their Group Settings page. The apps browser lets them pick from a selection of tools like Buffer and Sendible for scheduling posts to their Group, and others for handling commerce messages.

Facebook is still trying to bar the windows of its platform, ensuring there are no more easy ways to slurp up massive amounts of sensitive user data. Yesterday it shut down more APIs and standalone apps in a what appears to be an attempt to streamline the platform so there are fewer points of risk and more staff to concentrate on safeguarding the most popular and powerful parts of its developer offering.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has subsided to some degree, with Facebook’s share price recovering and user growth maintaining at standard levels. However, a new report from the Washington Post says the FBI, FTC, and SEC will be investigating Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and the social network’s executives testimonies to congress. Facebook surely wants to get back to concentrating on product, not politics, but must take it slow and steady. There are too many eyes on it to move fast or break anything.