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

Streaming Services Top Chart of Apps Earning Most Revenue

When examining top apps based on revenue (outside of games), streaming services dominated 2016. Sensor Tower lists Spotify as the top earner, generating the most revenue across platforms, including Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Android chat app LINE took the second spot, followed by Netflix, Tinder, Pandora and HBO Now. Hulu ranked No. 7 on the App Store and No. 9 in overall revenue. “The list indicates that the trend toward cord cutting … is still going strong, as is the growth of subscription-based streaming of music,” reports TechCrunch. However, translating app success into profits remains a challenge for some (Pandora is laying off 7 percent of its workforce, despite touting more than 4.3 million subscribers). Continue reading Streaming Services Top Chart of Apps Earning Most Revenue

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

Group Chat, Chatbots Gain Traction as Business Applications

Chat is the latest significant tool in enterprise, as evidenced by Facebook’s introduction of Workplace by Facebook, a version of its social network for organizations, and Microsoft’s new Office 365 productivity tool Microsoft Teams. More such chat tools come from HipChat and Slack Technologies, the latter of which counts four million daily active users and is valued at $3.8 billion. Facebook also opened Messenger for businesses to build virtual assistants, and developers have already built more than 33,000 so-called chatbots. Continue reading Group Chat, Chatbots Gain Traction as Business Applications

Facebook Borrows From Snapchat, Periscope Adds AR Masks

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery it’s said, and that’s what’s going on among social media platforms. Facebook’s WhatsApp is experimenting with a Status feature that is basically a photocopy of Snapchat Stories, sharing photos, videos and emoji. Elsewhere, Periscope is copying both Facebook and Snapchat, by offering its own animated augmented reality selfie masks. The first ones offered, which allow the user to look like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, have been available throughout the duration of the election. Continue reading Facebook Borrows From Snapchat, Periscope Adds AR Masks

Facing Slow Growth, Twitter Said to Be Considering Takeover

Twitter is reportedly in early discussions with Google, Salesforce.com and others about a possible takeover of the San Francisco-based company. “Twitter is considering divesting itself of … Vine, the mobile six-second video service, and MoPub, a mobile advertising business,” according to The New York Times. Stalled growth has been a challenge for Twitter, which has largely failed to keep up with competitors in recent years. Facebook’s “offerings like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger continued to outpace Twitter in user growth and profitability, while five-year-old Snapchat has become the newest darling of the social media world.” Continue reading Facing Slow Growth, Twitter Said to Be Considering Takeover

EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

The European Union has unveiled proposed regulations designed to help protect its consumers. The goal is to create a single market out of Europe’s many regions, enabling its 500 million consumers to access the same services. But the EU proposals also create stricter demands for privacy and against copyright infringement, including reforms that would hold streaming services responsible for instituting better anti-piracy methods. From the perspective of Silicon Valley and much of Hollywood, the EU’s efforts are a form of protectionism. Continue reading EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

The European Union’s executive arm is poised to propose that online communication services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp be regulated similarly to telecoms, a move that telecom executives have long advocated as creating a level playing field. Telecoms would actually prefer that the EU repeal regulations on user privacy among other specifics but, in lieu of that, are content to see their industry-specific regulations extended to online communication services, most of which are currently free. Continue reading EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook

When Facebook bought the popular free messaging service WhatsApp, it promised it wouldn’t change the privacy policies. Now the company has done just that, and organizations including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy are not happy. Facebook has stated it will now connect users’ phone numbers with Facebook’s systems, offering “better friend suggestions” and more relevant ads. The new approach will help Facebook finally monetize WhatsApp. Continue reading WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook

EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Deutsche Telekom and Spain’s Telefónica have long lobbied the European Union to either repeal some of the onerous regulations governing carriers or to extend them to Internet-based text-message and voice-call services, including Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Now, carriers might get their wish as the EU’s executive body is on the verge of suggesting more rules for Skype, WhatsApp and their ilk: tighter privacy and security, and an easier way for consumers to move information when switching services. Continue reading EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Facebook Touts Major Growth, Driven by Mobile Advertising

Facebook added 220 million monthly users in the past year, for a current total user base of 1.71 billion people. More than 90 percent of those users access Facebook via their mobile devices, where Facebook reaped 84 percent of its $6.2 billion in advertising revenue in the last quarter. The company saw 80 percent growth in Q2 from mobile ads, from an overall 59 percent growth rate in advertising. WhatsApp and Messenger, both of which have 1 billion users, are part of the company’s next move into video. Continue reading Facebook Touts Major Growth, Driven by Mobile Advertising

Twitter Struggles with Worst Quarterly Revenue Growth Ever

Twitter announced lackluster Q2 earnings, with $602 million in revenue for a net loss of $107 million. While the company improved over Q2 2015, when it lost $136.6 million, and monthly active users increased from 310 million to 313 million, its numbers fell short of Wall Street expectations and the company’s stock dropped more than 10 percent in after-hours trading. Despite new deals for live-streaming sports in the near future, the platform is not keeping up with the growth of social rivals such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Continue reading Twitter Struggles with Worst Quarterly Revenue Growth Ever

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