Google Aims to Replace SMS with an Android Messaging App

Google is at work creating consensus among every major global cellphone carrier to replace SMS with “Chat,” based on a standard dubbed the Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services. Chat is the consumer name for RCS (Rich Communication Services) and is not actually a new texting app but rather a new set of features inside an app (Android Messages) already installed on most Android phones. Google is leading development to ensure interoperability of Chat on every carrier’s service. Continue reading Google Aims to Replace SMS with an Android Messaging App

Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress Next Week

In light of Facebook’s latest revelation that data from as many as 87 million users — not the 50 million figure originally reported — was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted he made a “huge mistake” by not paying more attention to the potential for abuse. Facebook further revealed that marketers, using a now-disabled feature that distributed profile data connected to email addresses and phone numbers, could have harvested data from “most people on Facebook.” Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before federal committees next week. Continue reading Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress Next Week

Save Tweets for Later With Twitter’s New Bookmark Feature

After years of requests (and users experimenting with inefficient workarounds), Twitter is finally introducing a feature called Bookmarks that allows users to save tweets in a private area on the app for later viewing. The feature, which Twitter announced last fall was in development, should provide a convenient option for saving articles and videos. “In the scheme of things, Bookmarks is a small change,” notes Recode. “It’s not the kind of feature that’s going to have a notable impact on Twitter’s user growth or revenue. It’s not going to help with Twitter’s abuse problems. It’s just a simple way to make Twitter better.” Continue reading Save Tweets for Later With Twitter’s New Bookmark Feature

Twitter Doubles the Longstanding Character Limit for Tweets

After more than a decade of limiting tweets to 140 characters, Twitter announced yesterday that the limit has been doubled in most countries. The new 280-character limit has been testing since September in hopes that it would increase engagement. “In addition to more tweeting, people who had more room to tweet received more engagement (likes, retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter,” the company explained in a blog post. Twitter considered expanding character limits in the past, but retreated due to negative response from its community. Continue reading Twitter Doubles the Longstanding Character Limit for Tweets

Signal’s Encryption Features Make It a Choice Messaging App

Messaging has become increasingly confusing, as users pick among Instagram, iMessage, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter and Google’s Hangouts and Allo — not to forget the basic but limited SMS. Notifications pile up and search becomes difficult if not impossible. According to Wired, all that confusion would disappear if users would simply pick a single app, Signal, which is free, has strong encryption and works on every mobile platform. Signal’s developers say they won’t add emojis, ads, stickers or web-tracking, to keep it simple to use and speedy. Continue reading Signal’s Encryption Features Make It a Choice Messaging App

Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon stated that an Alexa-enabled device can create a Voice Profile by the user reciting ten phrases to the Alexa app, which allows it to then recognize that individual’s voice. The AI-powered assistant will then deliver results based on the user’s profile or previously enacted preferences. This capability will first be available for shopping on Amazon, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers, news briefings, calls and messages (not including SMS messages). More features will be unveiled in the future. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

Facebook, which bought WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014, is now testing two free business tools on the messaging service. WhatsApp Business lets small businesses answer customer questions and send updates; larger businesses can avail themselves of another free tool that plugs in to the WhatsApp platform. Facebook is also debuting verified profiles for businesses on WhatsApp, to distinguish them from individuals. Businesses in Brazil, Europe, India and Indonesia, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, are testing the new tools. Continue reading Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

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

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

Pandora Unveils AMPcast Social Audio Messaging for Artists

Pandora just launched AMPcast, which lets a musician communicate with his fans via audio messages that he can record on his mobile phone and post to run in conjunction with his music streams. Pandora, which has 80 million users, is competing in this space with Spotify, which has acquired startups to expand messaging and social networking. AMPcast also competes with Superphone, a new service from musician Ryan Leslie that uses SMS and users’ phone numbers to directly message fans. Continue reading Pandora Unveils AMPcast Social Audio Messaging for Artists

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

Twilio Aims to Help Businesses Send Photo, Video Messages

The company behind Uber’s driver calls and Airbnb’s text messages is now offering multimedia messages for businesses that want to reach their customers with photos and videos. Twilio’s API enables businesses to run call centers and send voice and text messages through Amazon Web Services for mere pennies. The new multimedia offering will work via MMS, or multimedia messaging service, through contracts with phone carriers in the U.S. and Canada. Continue reading Twilio Aims to Help Businesses Send Photo, Video Messages

Marvel Comics Launches API Featuring 75 Years of Content

Marvel Comics is launching a beta version of an API and developer platform, which will give developers and fans access to its massive library of comics for building apps. The API will include artwork, character bios, expanded stories and more from the original creators spanning 75 years. There are more than 30,000 comics, 7,000 series and 5,000 creators in the database, and developers can even build mini-apps around their favorite characters, titles and creators. Continue reading Marvel Comics Launches API Featuring 75 Years of Content

Google Unveils New Google+ “Auto Awesome” Photo Features

During a recent live-streamed conference, Google announced new Google+ photo features, including Action, Eraser and an iMovie Trailers-like Auto Awesome Movie tool. The company announced that the Google+ Hangouts app for Android now offers location sharing, animated GIF support and SMS integration. There have also been changes to Google+ Hangouts On Air, including a new Control Room menu. There are currently 540 million monthly active Google+ users. Continue reading Google Unveils New Google+ “Auto Awesome” Photo Features

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