WhatsApp Nears One Billion Users, Explores New Applications

Now reaching nearly one billion users, WhatsApp, the mobile messaging startup Facebook purchased for about $19 billion in February 2014, is looking at ways to make money. Until now, it’s been free for a year, and $1 per year thereafter, making it very popular for users outside the United States. In the process it’s become a social network and a way for businesses to communicate with the world. Now, chief executive Jan Koum dropped that $1 fee and has begun to experiment with how to create revenue. Continue reading WhatsApp Nears One Billion Users, Explores New Applications

Facebook Adds Uber Ride-Hailing Service to Messenger App

Facebook users will soon be able to start hailing an Uber ride without leaving the Messenger app. The new partnership will also allow the Uber service to capitalize on Facebook Messenger’s millions of users. Facebook plans to add other ride-sharing companies in the coming months. The new service is part of Facebook’s strategy to emulate rival Asian apps such as WeChat, which already allows users to message each other, hail rides, and shop for goods and games. Continue reading Facebook Adds Uber Ride-Hailing Service to Messenger App

Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

Text messaging is a regulatory gray zone that is currently the object of a dispute between AT&T, Verizon and other wireless carriers, and Twilio, a software company that enables automatic text-sending, with consumer advocacy groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and Free Press. Twilio is petitioning that the FCC impose common carrier regulations on text messaging, which means carriers could not block or throttle texts. The carriers say they’re protecting consumers against spam. Continue reading Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

Microsoft Project Oxford Updates Could Bring AI to More Apps

Following announcements that Google is releasing its TensorFlow machine learning platform so developers can create their own artificial intelligence programs, and Nvidia has made a significant update to its Jetson TX1 supercomputer-on-a-chip, Microsoft is the latest with major AI news. The company has updated its Project Oxford suite of AI tools with powerful new features and programs designed to identify human emotions and voices, for example, that could make their way into the apps we use on a daily basis. Continue reading Microsoft Project Oxford Updates Could Bring AI to More Apps

Facebook Builds Pages into Digital Mall for Small Businesses

Forty-five million small business use Facebook Pages, and the Silicon Valley company is now upgrading the app to make it easier for them to make money with the feature by reaching mobile users. The upgrade includes a tabbed mobile layout, so businesses can display storefront sections and let visitors shop for products or look at a list of services. The new Pages also makes it much easier for a user to contact the small business in question, with Call Now, Send Message and Contact Us graphics bigger, more prominent and colorful. Continue reading Facebook Builds Pages into Digital Mall for Small Businesses

Facebook Three Times as Popular as Twitter with Adult Users

According to the new “Mobile Messaging and Social Media” report from the Pew Research Center, Facebook is now more than three times as popular as Twitter among adults in the U.S. The report notes that 72 percent of adult Internet users are on Facebook, while 31 percent use Pinterest, 28 percent use Facebook-owned Instagram, 25 percent use LinkedIn, and about 23 percent use Twitter. The figures represent slight increases over 2014 for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest; no change for Twitter from the previous year; and a 3 percent decrease for LinkedIn. Continue reading Facebook Three Times as Popular as Twitter with Adult Users

The Mobile Future: Operating Systems Versus Messaging Apps

Search and apps may dominate today’s landscape for mobile devices, but two different trends are already vying to dominate the future of smartphones and the Internet. One group, led by Apple and Google, sees a future in which artificial intelligence or a virtual assistant — think Siri and Google Now — integrate apps, websites and any other online “silos.” The other group plans to leverage messaging apps to incorporate as many functions as possible. China’s WeChat dominates here, but Facebook and Snapchat also fall into this group. Continue reading The Mobile Future: Operating Systems Versus Messaging Apps

Slack Uses Artificial Intelligence to Build New Virtual Assistant

Stewart Butterfield, founder and CEO of office chat software maker Slack Technologies, says his company is using AI to help build an advanced virtual assistant. Slackbot, Slack’s current built-in assistant, is an icon used for tips, searches and even a sprinkling of humor. In discussing the future potential of Slackbot, Butterfield compares it to the Samantha software voiced by Scarlett Johansson from the film “Her.” Butterfield is leveraging natural language processing and machine learning to build a truly helpful digital office assistant. Continue reading Slack Uses Artificial Intelligence to Build New Virtual Assistant

China Ratchets Up Internet Control with On-Site Cyber Police

The Chinese government stated it will place cybersecurity police units at the country’s major Internet companies and websites, to prevent fraud, other illegal activities and the amorphously phrased “spreading of rumors,” reports the state-owned Xinhua News Agency. The Internet in China is monopolized by three major companies: e-commerce site Alibaba, Tencent for gaming and messaging, and search engine Baidu. Neither Facebook nor Google operate in China; LinkedIn, which has agreed to China’s cybersecurity measures, does. Continue reading China Ratchets Up Internet Control with On-Site Cyber Police

BuzzFeed and iHeartRadio Join Snapchat’s Discover Platform

To meet the needs of its younger audience, Snapchat has added BuzzFeed and iHeartRadio as new content partners for its Discover portal. Snapchat launched the platform earlier this year in hopes that teens and millennials would follow their news and entertainment without leaving the app. The addition of BuzzFeed and iHeartRadio should bolster its efforts and get users to check out other Discover channels. Snapchat hopes to grow Discover, and recently moved the feature to its central Stories screen for easier access. Continue reading BuzzFeed and iHeartRadio Join Snapchat’s Discover Platform

Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

Facebook plans to ramp up its efforts to provide free basic Internet on mobile devices, after successfully debuting the application through its Internet.org platform in 17 developing countries. The company will launch a dedicated portal for mobile operators to offer the service under Internet.org, which has brought nine million people online in the last year. Facebook hopes to bring an estimated 4.5 billion people online in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The platform offers free pared-down Web services and Facebook’s social network and messaging. Continue reading Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

Users of Google Apps and Services No Longer Need Google+

Google recently announced it would relocate features once accessible through Google+ to other Google services. For example, location-sharing will be moved to Google Hangouts and photo features have been moved to Google Photos. The most celebrated change appears to be Google’s removal of the requirement of a Google+ account to make comments on YouTube, a point of contention between users and the company for years. Moving forward, interested users will only need a Google account to log in to the company’s apps and services. Continue reading Users of Google Apps and Services No Longer Need Google+

TVShow Time Update Revamps App’s Community Interactions

French startup TVShow Time released a 5.0 update to its app that offers a more social experience for its 500,000 monthly users. New features permit users to track how many new episodes they have watched, send messages and show recommendations to friends, and view show ratings. The app has a newly designed interface and layout that makes content more accessible than before. Previously, TVShow Time used a simple calendar format that allowed users to keep track of their favorite TV shows. Continue reading TVShow Time Update Revamps App’s Community Interactions

Verizon and Vice Partner to Provide New Mobile Video Service

Verizon Communications and Vice Media have formed a multiyear partnership to create a mobile-first video service, which will include: exclusive Vice shows that will only air on Verizon; Vice content on food, travel and technology; and a Vice original series called “Autobiographies,” which will spotlight and interview celebrities. Verizon’s new service reportedly will also include live National Football League games and other sporting events, as well as 200 hours of original and scripted series from AwesomenessTV. Continue reading Verizon and Vice Partner to Provide New Mobile Video Service

Scent Messaging Tech Allows for Aromas to Be Shared Digitally

An increasing number of startups are looking to integrate scent into the world of digital messaging. Similar to how perfumed stationery would help spark memories, new technologies are bringing scents to books, video, clothing and more. Companies such as Scentee and Vapor Communications are already in the process of releasing products to create scent messaging. David Edwards, one of the three founders of Vapor, describes the goal of the product: “To be able to deliver scent like iPod delivers sound.” Continue reading Scent Messaging Tech Allows for Aromas to Be Shared Digitally

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