Facebook Reaches New Milestone of 2 Billion Monthly Users

Social media giant Facebook announced it now has 2 billion monthly active users. The new milestone comes five years after reaching 1 billion users, and 13 years after Mark Zuckerberg first launched the platform. According to TechCrunch, Facebook leads social apps based on number of logged-in users, “above YouTube’s 1.5 billion, WeChat’s 889 million, Twitter’s 328 million and Snapchat’s estimated 255 million.” Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger each have 1.2 billion users, while its Instagram photo-sharing app recently exceeded 700 million. Continue reading Facebook Reaches New Milestone of 2 Billion Monthly Users

Snap Map Location Sharing Aims to Bring Friends Together

With its new Snap Map feature, now available on iOS and Android, Snapchat encourages friends to get together in real life instead of just digitally. Snap Map shares your current location via a map that updates when Snapchat is opened. The tech is based on Snap’s acquisition of social map app Zenly. Users can select specific friends for location sharing or disappear from the map via Ghost Mode. Tapping a friend’s “BitMoji avatar opens their Story to show what they’re up to, or lets you message them directly to make meetup plans,” explains TechCrunch. “Snap Map also gives users an alternative way to discover Story content beyond the well-worn Stories feed.” Continue reading Snap Map Location Sharing Aims to Bring Friends Together

Facebook Offers Tips for Effective Video Ads in a Mobile Era

In a blog post this week, Facebook VP of core ads Mark Rabkin discusses “Video Advertising in the Mobile Age” and includes some interesting trends in television and social media consumption. While TV remains a powerful medium, people commonly turn to mobile feeds, apps, websites and texting when television no longer holds their attention. Facebook conducted a small study of TV viewers who watched the season premiere of a popular show last fall and found, not surprisingly, that use of Facebook increased during commercial breaks. The post shares tips for creating more effective ads for this audience. Continue reading Facebook Offers Tips for Effective Video Ads in a Mobile Era

China’s Tencent Invests in Feature Films, U.S. Tech Startups

Tencent, parent company of China’s biggest social network WeChat and, by revenue, the biggest global online game business, is also an entertainment titan, with China’s biggest online businesses in music, literature, comics and animation. Tencent Pictures, which invested in last weekend’s smash hit “Wonder Woman,” and “Kong: Skull Island,” is key to Tencent’s effort to become a global player in feature filmmaking. The company is also investing heavily in Silicon Valley projects so as not to miss out on the next big thing. Continue reading China’s Tencent Invests in Feature Films, U.S. Tech Startups

WeChat Adds Luxury Brands, Competes With Alibaba, Baidu

China’s most popular messaging app WeChat is drawing in luxury fashion brands. France’s Longchamp and U.K.’s Burberry are selling clothes and purses there, and LVMH brands Givenchy and Dior are conducting flash sales on the app. By hosting upscale retail, WeChat owner Tencent Holdings has put itself in competition with Alibaba Group Holding, China’s dominant e-commerce company, as well as search engine Baidu. All three titans are testing the waters outside their traditional businesses. Continue reading WeChat Adds Luxury Brands, Competes With Alibaba, Baidu

Chat App Kik Plans Debut of Ethereum-Based Cryptocurrency

Ted Livingston, founder/chief executive of messaging app Kik, is a bitcoin enthusiast — so much so that he plans to debut his own cryptocurrency, dubbed Kin and based on the Ethereum network, later this summer. The company plans what is called an initial coin offering (ICO), which lets startups create their own digital money, raise funds via crowdsourcing, and thus develop their own cyber economies. Livingston had previously launched another cryptocurrency, Kik Points, in 2014, which ended its run in the fall. Continue reading Chat App Kik Plans Debut of Ethereum-Based Cryptocurrency

TV Networks Add Snapchat Shows to Multiplatform Strategy

Snapchat Shows is exceeding Snap Inc.’s expectations, encouraging the company to focus on an ambitious expansion to the app’s 166 million daily global users. The first Snapchat Show launch, in January 2016, was an internal creation, “Good Luck America,” which has since averaged 5.2 million viewers per episode in its second season, a 53 percent surge from its first season. That popularity is emboldening a long list of celebrities and media entities to jump on board, among them Jimmy Fallon, James Corden, A&E and BBC. Continue reading TV Networks Add Snapchat Shows to Multiplatform Strategy

Tumblr Explores a New Direction with Video Chat App Cabana

In a first for Yahoo-owned Tumblr, the blogging platform is launching a group video chat app it has named Cabana. The new app — available now on iOS and coming to Android next month — enables video chat for up to six users who can also stream YouTube video content while chatting. Blogging remains the company’s primary focus, but Cabana represents the first communication app it has developed. Tumblr is “not pivoting, but definitely exploring a new direction here,” said founder/CEO David Karp. “The idea is similar to Houseparty, the app from the company behind former live-streaming darling Meerkat,” notes Recode, and “similar to Airtime, Sean Parker’s chat startup that was revived a year ago.” Continue reading Tumblr Explores a New Direction with Video Chat App Cabana

Slack Faces Off Against Bigger Competitors, Tweaks Software

Slack came to life three years ago, out of a failed video game, and, as messaging software, combines rich data on how people use a product with information on how people feel about using it. When it debuted in 2014, word of mouth catapulted Slack to a value of $4 billion. Now, the private company has attracted competition from Microsoft, which last fall unveiled Teams, free to 85 million users of Office 365, and Facebook with its free collaboration tool Workplace. A smaller company, Atlassian, has also had success. Continue reading Slack Faces Off Against Bigger Competitors, Tweaks Software

Snapchat Introduces Search Tool Based on Machine Learning

In a few cities last week, Snapchat introduced a new search tool that relies on machine learning to collect text and visual metadata, enabling users to find content, even from users they do not follow. Previously, users only saw Stories from others they followed or that Snapchat served up. This is Snap Inc.’s first major change to its Snapchat software since the company went public in early March; in January, Snap added a search function allowing users to search for friends and publisher content. Continue reading Snapchat Introduces Search Tool Based on Machine Learning

Facebook Co-Opts Stories, Puts More Pressure on Snapchat

Facebook has again integrated one of Snapchat’s most notable features, introducing Stories, which allows users to create photo/video montages that vanish within 24 hours. Two other camera-oriented features allow users to make the camera accessible with one rightward swipe and add filters and masks; and introduce a direct-messaging tool. All three features will be unveiled this week. Facebook has experienced a slump in posting, and is studying Snapchat as a way to zero-in on its millennial appeal. Continue reading Facebook Co-Opts Stories, Puts More Pressure on Snapchat

Vice Media Has Plans to Produce Original Shows for Snapchat

Vice Media will join other media companies in producing exclusive short-form content for Snapchat. The first Vice show to appear via the social and messaging app will be the eight-episode dating series “Hungry Hearts with Action Bronson,” to debut later this year. “The new show is the first of several Vice has planned for Snapchat,” reports TechCrunch. “Vice had already worked with Snapchat in the past, having been a global launch partner for Snapchat Discover back in 2015.” Snapchat already has deals with ABC, BBC, Discovery, NBC, Time and others to add original content to the platform. Notable content is currently provided by “Saturday Night Live,” “The Bachelor,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Voice.” Continue reading Vice Media Has Plans to Produce Original Shows for Snapchat

Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook announced the beta release of a new voice search feature for the company’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. “This feature lets you perform voice searches from Oculus Home to intuitively navigate games, apps, and experiences,” explains the Oculus team, noting future plans to “add even more functionality like seeing if a friend is online or contextual commands to invite people to a play a game with you.” While VentureBeat points out the feature “won’t let you look at your friends, your notifications, your profile, your avatar, app updates that you haven’t installed, or individual settings,” the review is largely positive and envisions future applications: “The speech technology might well end up becoming a part of Facebook’s more popular services, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and even good old Facebook itself.” Continue reading Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Messenger has joined Instagram and WhatsApp in emulating Snapchat’s popular Stories concept. Messenger Day is a new feature within the Facebook Messenger app that encourages users to share a daily photo story. Users can post photos and 15-second videos taken with the Messenger camera or images and GIFs saved on their smartphone. The Messenger Day story is visible to all Facebook friends, but it disappears after 24 hours. Facebook’s unique special filters for the images are designed to spark conversations and encourage meet-ups. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

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