All posts in “Facebook Messenger”

Facebook now lets everyone unsend messages for up to 10 minutes

Facebook has finally made good on its promise to let users unsend chats after TechCrunch discovered Mark Zuckerberg had secretly retracted some of his Facebook Messages from recipients. Today Facebook Messenger globally rolls out “Remove for everyone” to help you pull back typos, poor choices, embarrassing thoughts, or any other message.

For up to 10 minutes after sending a Facebook Message, the sender can tap on it and they’ll find the delete button has been replaced by “Remove for you”, but there’s now also a “Remove for everyone” option that pulls the message from recipients’ inboxes. They’ll see an alert that you removed a message in its place, and can still flag the message to Facebook who’ll retain the content briefly to see if its reported. The feature could make people more comfortable having honest conversations or using Messenger for flirting since they can second guess what they send, but it won’t let people change ancient history.

The company abused its power by altering the history of Zuckerberg’s Facebook’s messages in a way that email or other communication mediums wouldn’t allow. Yet Facebook refused to say if it will now resume removing executives’ messages from recipients even long after they’re delivered after telling TechCrunch in April that “until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages.”

For a quick recap, here’s how Facebook got to Unsend:

-Facebook Messenger never had an Unsend option, except in its encrypted Secret messaging product where you can set an expiration timer on chats, or in Instagram Direct.

-In April 2018, TechCrunch reported that some of Mark Zuckerberg’s messages had been removed from the inboxes of recipients, including non-employees. There was no trace of the chats in the message thread, leaving his conversation partners looking like they were talking to themselves, but email receipts proved the messages had been sent but later disappeared.

-Facebook claimed this was partly because it was “limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages” for security purposes in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack, yet it never explained why only some messages to some people had been removed.

-The next morning, Facebook changed its tune and announced it’d build an Unsned button for everyone, providing this statement: “We have discussed this feature several times . . . We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time. And until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages. We should have done this sooner — and we’re sorry that we did not.”

-Six months later in October 2018, Facebook still hadn’t launched Unesned, but then TechCrunch found Facebook had been prototyping the feature.

-In November, Facebook started to roll out the feature with the current “Remove for everyone” design and 10 minute limit

-Now every iOS and Messenger user globally will get the Unsend feature

So will Facebook start retracting executives’ messages again? It’d only say that the new feature would be available to both users and employees. But in Zuckerberg’s case, messages from years ago were removed in a way users still aren’t allowed to. Remove for everyone could make messaging on Facebook a little less anxiety-inducing. But it shouldn’t have taken Facebook being caught stealing from the inboxes of its users to get it built.

Mark Zuckerberg explains why he wants to merge Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram

Zuck has a plan.
Zuck has a plan.

Image: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The separation between Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram is about to get even blurrier.

Speaking during the company’s quarterly earnings call, Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook wants to make it easier to send messages across its apps, but cautioned that it would be a “a 2020 thing or beyond.” 

“We’re really early in thinking through this. There’s a lot more we need to figure out before we finalize the plan,” Zuckerberg said.

Still, the CEO offered an explanation of why the company wants to merge the apps’ underlying infrastructure.

“The first reason I’m excited is moving more to end to end encryption by default in our products. People like this in WhatsApp. I think it’s the direction we should be going in. I think there’s an opportunity … to have encryption work in a consistent way across the things that we’re doing.”

Zuckerberg also noted that there would be practical benefits to allowing people to send messages between apps. In countries where WhatsApp is dominant, for example, being able to message a Facebook Marketplace seller via WhatsApp instead of Messenger might be more convenient. He also said the “tens of millions” Android users who currently use Messenger as their default SMS app would benefit from having encryption enabled as a default.

The CEO didn’t share any thoughts on how such a plan would benefit Instagram.

News of Facebook’s plan to merge the back-end infrastructure behind all its messaging apps has raised a number of questions about privacy. It’s also just the latest sign that Zuckerberg is tightening his control over the services, which he and initially promised independence from Facebook, as Facebook depends on Instagram and WhatsApp more for future growth.  

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Facebook is combining Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp infrastructure into one, report says

Same same.
Same same.

Image: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Facebook’s tentacles are starting to look more and more alike.

A new report from the New York Times says that Facebook is integrating all of its messaging platforms — Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp — into the same infrastructure. The services would remain distinct, but the back-end connections between the three apps would grow into one master messaging platform. 

It would also add end-to-end encryption to all of the services — something that is already standard on WhatsApp — which would mean increased privacy and security for DMs over Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly behind the initiative, pushing for deeper messaging services integrations both technically, and with the functioning of the companies. Zuckerberg reportedly promised Instagram and WhatsApp relative autonomy when Facebook acquired the services. But more control over the companies from Facebook and Zuckerberg himself reportedly led to the departure of the original leaders of both WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook did not deny the report, and told the Times that it wants to “build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.” The project is reportedly already underway, and it hopes to complete the integration by 2020.

Facebook has a business interest to connect these networks. The popularity of Facebook has waned, particularly among younger users, but Instagram is still a cherished social network. WhatsApp continues to grow and is a popular messaging application internationally. By knitting all of the services together, Facebook may be able to better reach, analyze, and advertise to its entire audience at once.

But the move also raises questions about what this means for users. In contrast to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram users aren’t required to use real names. So if a WhatsApp user doesn’t have a Facebook account, will their real identity be automatically generated in Facebook’s backend? We already know that Facebook essentially keeps user profiles on non-users (called Shadow Profiles). Does this messaging integration take that ability a step further?

Further, the scrutiny of Facebook as a monopoly has grown in recent months; there have been an increase in calls to “break up Facebook.” It’s not clear how technically making all of Facebook’s companies into one messaging behemoth would affect that debate. But it could add to the argument that Facebook runs one integrated product — not that it has monopolistic control over distinct competitors.

The initiative has reportedly sparked backlash, particularly at WhatsApp. Employees aren’t sure what’s behind Mark Zuckerberg’s insistence in the project. But apparently, the engineers are giving this one a thumbs down.

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Facebook adds Boomerangs, AR stickers, and portrait mode to Messenger

Facebook is adding three new dynamic camera features to Messenger, it announced Monday. Users will be able to create and send Boomerangs, use a portrait mode, and integrate AR stickers into photos they send over chat.

These camera features come on the heels of a Messenger redesign that sought to simplify the interface, which Facebook rolled out in October.

Boomerangs were originally a standalone video creating app created by Instagram. A Boomerang is a looped short video that looks like a custom-made gif. They rose to popularity on Instagram, especially once the platform integrated the ability to create Boomerangs into the app itself. 

Portrait mode will add focus to the subject, and blur the background. AR stickers lets users place three-dimensional stickers within your photos. 

AR stickers move out of chat and into the world.

AR stickers move out of chat and into the world.

Image: Facebook

In the redesign, three tabs — chat, people, and discover — replaced the previous five. Incidentally, that made Messenger look more like Snapchat. Now, Messenger’s photo sending options are more playful and robust — an area where Snapchat has previously been dominant. Snapchat pioneered AR lenses and stickers, and Snapchat began testing its own version of Boomerangs in June.

1.3 billion people use Messenger every month, according to Facebook. In the summer of 2017, Facebook rolled out ads on Messenger to start capitalizing on that sizable audience. Now, ads appear in the chat feed alongside messages with your friends. Integrating business bots has also been a priority for Facebook with Messenger; at Facebook’s developer conference in May, it boasted that Messenger hosted 300,000 bots.

The new features are a fun, consumer facing update. But they also show the importance of Messenger to Facebook’s ecosystem. The growth of messaging platforms is outpacing “traditional” social media. And Facebook is making investments in Messenger, and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, to capitalize on people’s love of DMs. 

At this point, messenger apps are starting to converge in what they can do. With chat, AR lenses and stickers, photo filters, and even, now, Boomerangs, available in various combinations on on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, one feature isn’t likely to pull you one way or the other. 

What you use to send messages will probably just depend on where your friends are. And with 1.3 billion users, those are good odds for Messenger.

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Facebook Portal adds games and web browser amidst mediocre Amazon reviews

After receiving a flogging from privacy critics, Facebook is scrambling to make its smart display video chat screen Portal more attractive to buyers. Today Facebook is announcing the addition a of a web browser, plus some of Messenger’s Instant Games like Battleship, Draw Something, Sudoku, and Words With Friends. ABC News and CNN are adding content to Portal, which now also has a manual zoom mode for its auto-zooming smart camera so you can zero in on a particular thing in view. Facebook has also added new augmented reality Story Time tales, seasonal AR masks, in-call music sharing through iHeartRadio beyond Spotify and Pandora that already offer it, and nickname calling so you can say “Hey Portal, call Mom.”

But the question remains who’s buying? Facebook is already discounting the 10-inch screen Portal and 15-inch Portal+. Formerly $100 off if you buy two, Facebook is still offering $50 off just one until Christmas Eve as part of a suspiciously long Black Friday Sale. That doesn’t signal this thing is flying off the shelves. We don’t have sales figures, but Portal has a 3.4 rating on Amazon while Portal+ has a 3.6 — both trailing the 4.2 rating of Amazon’s own Echo Shows 2. Users are griping about the lack of Amazon Video support for Ring doorbells, not receiving calls, and of course the privacy implications.

Personally, I’ve found Portal+ to be competent in the five weeks since launch. The big screen is great as a smart photo frame and video calls look great. But Alexa and Facebook’s own voice assistant have a tough time dividing up functionality, and sometimes I can’t get either to play a specific song on Spotify, pause or change volume, or other activities my Google Home has no trouble with. Facebook said it was hoping to add Google Assistant to Portal but there’s no progress on that front yet.

The browser will be a welcome addition, and allow Facebook to sidestep some of the issues around its thin app platform. While it recently added a Smart TV version of YouTube, now users can access lots of services without those developers having to commit to building something for Portal given its uncertain future.

The hope seems to be that mainstream users who aren’t glued to the tech press where Facebook is constantly skewered might be drawn in by these device’s flashy screens and the admittedly impressive auto-zooming camera. But to overcome the brand tax levied by all of Facebook’s privacy scandals, Portal must be near perfect. Without the native apps for popular video providers like Netflix and Hulu, consistent voice recognition, and more unique features missing from competing smart displays, the fear of Facebook’s surveillance may be outweighing people’s love for shiny new gadgets.