Facebook Messenger Passes the One Billion User Milestone

Facebook’s messaging app Messenger just reached a landmark: one billion people use it every month, says the Silicon Valley company. Facebook’s other messaging app — WhatsApp, which it acquired for $19 billion two years ago — is the most used messaging app in the world, passing the one-billion user mark in February, likely growing further since. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says each messaging app is distinct. The company goal is to make messaging, not apps, its primary computing interface. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Passes the One Billion User Milestone

YouTube Faces Rivals, Diversifies to Capture Niche Audiences

For the first time, Internet video pioneer YouTube has had to take into account that its dominance is being challenged, most notably by Facebook, Snapchat and Amazon. Now, YouTube has more than a billion users, an app audience of 18-to-49-year-olds that dwarfs that of any U.S. cable network, and an average mobile viewing session more than 40 minutes long. To keep ahead of the competition, YouTube has diversified, with apps devoted to specific niche audiences: YouTube Music, YouTube Kids and YouTube Gaming. Continue reading YouTube Faces Rivals, Diversifies to Capture Niche Audiences

Netflix’s New Flixtape Site Lets Users Create, Share ‘Mixtapes’

Netflix has debuted Flixtape, a standalone website that allows users to make playlists of their favorite movies and TV shows. The lists can be created on the basis of genre (comedy, drama, documentary) or any kind of theme. According to Netflix, these lists can either be shared, via text message, email or social networks including Facebook and Twitter, with family and friends, or simply created for the user’s own reference. The list, however, is limited to a total of six titles. Continue reading Netflix’s New Flixtape Site Lets Users Create, Share ‘Mixtapes’

Zendesk Customer Service Product Built on Machine Learning

Zendesk is introducing Automatic Answers, a service that answers a business’s emails from customers, without human intervention. But it’s far more sophisticated than today’s well-known auto-responders, having been built on a machine-learning platform that in-house data scientists and engineers have been developing for some time. The platform is also used for another Zendesk service, Satisfaction Prediction, which helps determine the customer experience. Automatic Answers will be rolled out later in the year. Continue reading Zendesk Customer Service Product Built on Machine Learning

Facebook Messenger Will Soon Enable ‘Secret Conversations’

Facebook Messenger currently has more than 900 million regular monthly users, more than quadruple the 200 million it touted in early 2014. To grow in international markets, Facebook is testing a new feature inside Messenger that will encrypt some messages, creating “secret conversations” between the users of the two mobile devices. Users must opt-in to a secret conversation. Although this isn’t the full encryption found in WhatsApp, the new feature offers more security than before, which Facebook hopes will appeal to global users. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Will Soon Enable ‘Secret Conversations’

Apple Releases Public Beta Version of its Feature-Rich iOS 10

Apple released an early public beta version of its next mobile operating system yesterday for iPhone and iPad users interested in testing the new updates. Some industry analysts have described iOS 10 as the most extensive update in years, citing features such as improved photo software, a new messaging app, and a more convenient way to take devices out of sleep mode. Beta testers can also check out redesigned apps for music, maps and news. “If more early testers report bugs and give other feedback to Apple, it is less likely that major problems will remain on release” this fall, reports The New York Times, noting that Microsoft was largely successful with its similar testing process for Windows 10. Continue reading Apple Releases Public Beta Version of its Feature-Rich iOS 10

New Snapchat Ads API Helps Brands Lower Advertising Costs

Sources indicate that Snapchat will cut its advertising prices for brands, due in large part to its new ad platform that enables more options and experimentation. With the new API launched earlier this month, Snapchat can deliver ads through third party companies. Snapchat is dropping the cost of its ads API from a minimum of $500,000 when the platform first opened to ads, to a minimum of $100,000, say insiders. Advertisers have expressed concern regarding the high cost of working with Snapchat — and interactive ads in general — both of which are now coming down. Continue reading New Snapchat Ads API Helps Brands Lower Advertising Costs

App for Broadcasting Text Chats Rolls Out with ‘SummerBreak’

Avner Ronen, founder of consumer electronics startup Boxee, has rolled out Public, a messaging service that he calls “a third medium for broadcasting conversations.” Public, which raised $2 million at the end of 2015 and is available as an iPhone app and website, broadcasts group chats to an audience, complete with GIFs and emoji. A handful of active participants chat about a topic, which anyone can follow in real-time or read later. Chats can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or embedded in other websites. Continue reading App for Broadcasting Text Chats Rolls Out with ‘SummerBreak’

Apple Envisions a Future Based on Siri, Intelligent Messaging

At the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook described how the company’s virtual assistant Siri will become ubiquitous across Apple platforms and capable of sending messages, making phone calls, ordering a Lyft ride and interacting with non-Apple apps and services. Mastering voice services is key to Apple’s success in an arena where Google, Amazon and others have made headway. Apple also plans to vastly improve Messaging, which, with third party apps, will empower it to do much more. Continue reading Apple Envisions a Future Based on Siri, Intelligent Messaging

Alphabet Update on Wireless Internet, Search, Education, Cars

At its annual shareholders meeting, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt reiterated the company’s plan to wirelessly connect homes to high-speed Internet. The technology, viable now due to improvements in computer chips and more accurate wireless signal targeting, can deliver a 1 gigabit per second connection, equivalent to Google Fiber’s capabilities. Schmidt also delved into the company’s plans to advance search features, explore 3D printing for building construction, meatless meat, autonomous cars and other sectors. Continue reading Alphabet Update on Wireless Internet, Search, Education, Cars

Android Users Are Spending Less Time with Social Media Apps

SimilarWeb examined the amount of time Android users in nine countries spent on social apps Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat during the first three months of 2016 and found that there has been a year-over-year decline. Facebook-owned Instagram saw the most significant drop of 23.7 percent (36.2 percent in the U.S.), followed by Twitter and Snapchat. Facebook was down 8 percent overall, 6.7 percent in the U.S. However, Facebook users in the U.S. spend a daily average of more than 45 minutes with the app. “Meanwhile, Facebook’s messaging apps — WhatsApp and Messenger — increased installs, up 15 percent and two percent respectively,” notes CNBC. Continue reading Android Users Are Spending Less Time with Social Media Apps

Slack Strives to Be Artificial Intelligence-Powered Office Portal

Slack has plans to evolve its workplace app to become the center of the office’s digital environment, connecting a wide variety of third-party business apps, with the ultimate goal of becoming the artificial intelligence-powered portal to the entire workplace. Head of search, learning and intelligence Noah Weiss described those plans for Slack, currently used by three million people every day in the work environment, and added that the company is also evolving its voice capabilities to become more sophisticated. Continue reading Slack Strives to Be Artificial Intelligence-Powered Office Portal

Facebook Bot Recommends Movies Based on Your Interests

While Facebook’s bot platform remains in its early stages as developers test potential apps and the challenges involved with natural language processing, a company named And Chill has created a movie recommendation engine that may be ideal for the social platform. Going beyond the basic like/dislike model, the new bot can be accessed through Messenger or SMS and asks each user for specific reasons why he or she likes a given movie. The information is then analyzed by And Chill to provide appropriate recommendations of similar films and links to YouTube trailers. Continue reading Facebook Bot Recommends Movies Based on Your Interests

Twitter Character Update Makes Room for Interactive Content

Twitter is planning a series of changes designed to make communication easier via the social platform, hopefully without alienating its loyal base (earlier proposed changes led to public outcry). Notably, Twitter will modify the 140-character limit of a tweet, which often frustrates some users, but in many ways has come to define the service. “Under the rule-bending, tagging users by their handles at the beginning of replies and adding photos, GIFs and videos will no longer count against the 140-character limit in tweets,” reports The New York Times. “Twitter users will also be able to quote and ‘retweet’ — or rebroadcast — their own older tweets, which was not possible before.” Continue reading Twitter Character Update Makes Room for Interactive Content

Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

As the result of a court order, Facebook-owned WhatsApp was shut down in Brazil yesterday. In an effort to obtain user data for a criminal investigation involving drug trafficking, Judge Marcel Maia Montalvão ordered telecoms to suspend the popular messaging service for 72 hours throughout Brazil. In March, Judge Montalvão ordered the arrest of Facebook exec Diego Dzodan, who was briefly taken into custody for refusing to turn over WhatsApp data (a higher court ordered the release of Dzodan after one night). WhatsApp says it has cooperated to the “full extent of [its] ability with local courts.” Continue reading Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

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