HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

The Android and iOS app stores have been dominant in gaming, but the advent of HTML5 may change that up. Developers will be able to create instant games, which they hope will grab the attention of more consumers. Games based on HTML5, which run in a browser and don’t require a download, are already being built into social media platforms and messaging systems. Instant game advocates argue that apps can be hard to find, require heavy advertising, and have to be downloaded and installed in order to play. Continue reading HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new image-based Status feature that allows users to post a disappearing Status update, which erases after 24 hours just like Snapchat Stories. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has a pattern of integrating Snapchat-like features into its apps, such as Instagram and Facebook Messenger. With the new Status feature, a major departure for the text-based application, WhatsApp hopes to capitalize on the success of the format that Snapchat originated, which emphasizes videos and ephemeral content. Continue reading WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

The Signal app from non-profit Open Whisper Systems provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, voice calling, and now video chatting. The new feature, along with improved voice calling functionality, comes as part of a beta update for the app’s Android and iOS versions. Signal is a popular choice for activists and journalists who need a private communications platform, but it is still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream because it sacrifices some popular features for security.  Continue reading Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

In its IPO filing, Snap Inc. revealed that an average of 158 million people use the Snapchat app — sending more than 2.5 billion messages and images — every day. The company’s annual revenue grew from $58.7 million in 2015 to $404.5 million last year. Nearly all its revenue comes from advertising, especially on mobile. Expected to seek a market valuation of $20 billion, Snap may receive $4 billion, which, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence would make the company one of the biggest tech offerings ever in the U.S. Continue reading Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

Slack Technologies, launched in 2014, just introduced a new version of its workplace-centric messaging app, with the goal of gaining large corporate contracts. The new Slack Enterprise Grid is built to handle the group messaging needs of very large companies, with thousands or more employees, and includes security tools and regulatory compliance required for such companies’ IT departments to sign off. The original group messaging app is already in play at a few big companies, including Electronic Arts and Samsung Electronics. Continue reading Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

Google Key Transparency Project to Boost Messaging Security

To improve encryption, Google has launched an open source project, Key Transparency, a follow-up to its Certificate Transparency, both of which focus on the need to verify the authenticity of the person or server the user believes he is connecting to. Keybase, a collection of verified users and their “cryptographic credentials” is one solution, but Google now wants to ascertain that the contacts are verified systematically and are privacy-protected, by having the address “double-check” itself. Continue reading Google Key Transparency Project to Boost Messaging Security

Snapchat’s Strategy Behind Rebuffing Influencers, Celebrities

Many social networks have thrived on creating relationships with celebrities and influencers, but Snapchat prefers to treat them like ordinary users — so much so that its terms of service prohibit users from getting paid to post. The aim is to provide users a more authentic, less product-promoting experience. It’s also Snapchat’s strategy for differentiating its platform, thus better attracting advertisers that prefer the credibility of an “authentic experience” to influencer endorsements of products. Continue reading Snapchat’s Strategy Behind Rebuffing Influencers, Celebrities

Facebook Amps Up Visuals with Group Video Chat and Masks

After adding a new camera to its messaging app Messenger, Facebook is now enabling group video chatting, with support for up to six different users at the same time. The move fits in with Facebook’s strategy of emphasizing videos and photos, and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s statement on the company’s November earnings call that, “soon, we believe a camera will be the main way we share.” That may be good for Messenger users, but a challenge to several video-messaging apps just receiving venture capital infusions. Continue reading Facebook Amps Up Visuals with Group Video Chat and Masks

Signal Emerges as a Must-Have Hacker-Proof Messaging App

The free encrypted messaging app Signal is gaining users, not just because privacy advocates and security researchers have all given it a seal of approval. The app, available for smartphone and computer, is a bulwark against hacking, which got a national spotlight when WikiLeaks posted emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Others fear increased government surveillance under the incoming President Donald Trump, a reaction to Trump’s choice of CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, who advocates just that. Continue reading Signal Emerges as a Must-Have Hacker-Proof Messaging App

Facebook Rolls Out Instant Games in News Feed, Messenger

In its newest effort to keep users on its site and amp up gaming, Facebook introduced Instant Games, which allows users to play 17 different titles in its news feed and messaging app Messenger. Currently, 15 percent of the time people spend on Facebook is for gaming. The game titles, which will be available on iOS and Android devices and the Web for free, include Bandai Namco Entertainment’s “Pac-Man” and Activision Blizzard’s new “Shuffle Cats Mini.” Instant Games will debut initially in 30 countries. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out Instant Games in News Feed, Messenger

Instagram Mimics Snapchat and Periscope with New Features

Facebook’s Instagram just debuted two new features for live streaming video and ephemeral messaging, both of which reflect the popularity of such features in Snap’s Snapchat and Twitter’s live-streaming Periscope. By doing so, Instagram has heated up its competition with Snapchat and now competes more directly with Periscope. Instagram, which will roll out the new video features to a small group before a wider launch, also recently introduced Instagram Stories, which apes Snapchat Stories.  Continue reading Instagram Mimics Snapchat and Periscope with New Features

High Profile Snap IPO Could Push Other Startups to Go Public

Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. has confidentially filed for its IPO, according to sources familiar with the matter. The four-year old messaging app could go public as early as March 2017, in what is expected to be one of the highest-profile stock debuts in years, and one that could potentially convince other tech startups to test public markets. The Venice, California-based company is looking to raise as much as $4 billion, with a valuation in the $25 billion range, which could make it the largest U.S.-listed tech offering since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba went public in 2014. Continue reading High Profile Snap IPO Could Push Other Startups to Go Public

Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Group messaging is heating up. Startup Slack Technologies, valued at $3.8 billion, got it going and, now, Microsoft, with Teams, and Facebook, with Workplace by Facebook, are moving in on the space. Slack has been expecting this level of competition for some time, and it’s one of the reasons behind the company’s recent partnership with IBM to use Watson artificial intelligence services. All of this makes it clear that tech companies, big and small, see messaging as the next big thing after email. Continue reading Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Facebook Takes on Snapchat with New Flash Messaging App

Facebook launched a picture and messaging application that’s nearly identical to Snapchat, something it has already attempted to do twice. Both previous attempts — Poke and then Slingshot — failed. But this new app, Flash, which is about one-third a big as Snapchat’s Android app for Google’s new Pixel phone, is aimed specifically at emerging markets where Wi-Fi and connectivity are both scarce commodities. This move makes it clear that Facebook hopes to dominate in a market that Snapchat has not yet taken over. Continue reading Facebook Takes on Snapchat with New Flash Messaging App

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