WhatsApp Debuts Communities with End-to-End Encryption

Meta Platforms is globally releasing a major update for WhatsApp called Communities, which doubles the number of group chat members to 1,024, and adds video (and voice) for up to 32. Designed for schools, clubs, churches, the workplace and other organizations, Communities features include support for sub-groups, admin controls and in-chat polls. “We’re aiming to raise the bar for how organizations communicate with a level of privacy and security not found anywhere else,” the company said of the upgrade, stressing end-to-end encryption. In fact, Communities are not publicly discoverable, requiring an invitation. Continue reading WhatsApp Debuts Communities with End-to-End Encryption

Twitter Users Are Testing Decentralized Social Site Mastodon

In a social media ecosystem roiling with change, Mastodon is a newcomer that’s picking up steam as change agents and disaffected Twitter users seek alternative outlets. With 4.5 million accounts and growing, the microblogging platform is the brainchild of 29-year-old German software engineer Eugen Rochko, whose “free, open-source decentralized platform” has become the elephant in the room for Elon Musk, who on Monday tweeted three derogatory comments about the service. Musk later deleted the posts, but not before generating waves of publicity for his upstart competitor. Continue reading Twitter Users Are Testing Decentralized Social Site Mastodon

Meta Explores New Monetization Features for Its Social Apps

Meta Platforms is assessing “possible paid features” for its social apps, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, according to an internal employee memo. The initiative, under a freshly minted division called New Monetization Experiences, led by Pratiti Raychoudhury, represents Meta’s first coordinated move into paid features across social platforms serving an estimated 3.65 billion monthly users worldwide, per Statista. It comes at a time when Meta is under pressure to increase revenue, which has taken a hit from Apple’s ad-tracking changes and a general softening in digital ad spending. Continue reading Meta Explores New Monetization Features for Its Social Apps

Google Stadia Adds Party Stream and Resume Live Features

Google is introducing Stadia improvements including Party Stream, which lets players invite up to nine others to participate in a game session directly through the Stadia app, eliminating the need for a third-party intermediary. Friends can be invited to play along or just watch in any combination, limited to a total of 10. Stadia’s Party Stream chat makes voice and emoji reactions available. Party Stream is available beginning this week to desktop users and through the mobile web on Android. Also new, ”resume live stream” lets players switch Stadia games without having to end a live stream. Continue reading Google Stadia Adds Party Stream and Resume Live Features

Twitch Users Can Soon Ask Guests to Join Their Live Stream

Twitch is rolling out a new feature called Guest Star that allows users to invite up to five guests to join their live stream. Guest Star will at first deploy to a small group and expand to all users by the end of the year. Anyone with a Twitch account will be able to join a stream from their desktop or mobile app. Previously, those who wanted to have guests join a stream had to do it through a third-party platform like Discord. Creators using Guest Star will be able to host their guests directly within Twitch Studio or Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Continue reading Twitch Users Can Soon Ask Guests to Join Their Live Stream

Snapchat+ Subscription Tier Launches in Limited Territories

Snap Inc. is beginning the rollout of Snapchat+,  a subscription tier promising “exclusive, experimental and prerelease features” as well as priority support for a monthly fee of $3.99. Targeting “our most passionate users,” Snapchat+ will be available at launch in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with plans for further expansion as the tier evolves. The Snapchat+ launch follows similar moves by Twitter, with Twitter Blue, and Meta Platforms, with Facebook Subscriptions as social platforms seek to supplement advertising with additional revenue streams. Continue reading Snapchat+ Subscription Tier Launches in Limited Territories

Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has focused attention on its attempts to censor Big Tech, but the nation’s most onerous recent move to control speech came last July, when President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring foreign tech companies with more than 500,000 monthly visitors from within the Russian Federation to establish a physical presence within the country that would be held responsible for violations of local law. Russian authorities have warned companies including Meta, Apple, Google, TikTok and Twitter that they had until the end of February to comply with what has become known as “the landing law.” Continue reading Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Sony Interactive to Acquire ‘Destiny 2’ Maker Bungie for $3.6B

Sony Interactive Entertainment is purchasing Bungie, creator of the “Halo” video game franchise and “Destiny 2.” The deal, valued at $3.6 billion, caps a robust month of game company acquisitions that saw Microsoft make a $68.7 billion bid on Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive offer $12.7 billion for Zynga. The Bellevue, Washington-based Bungie will be operated as an independent that continues to make multi-platform games, SIE president Jim Ryan said in an announcement. “Destiny 2” was released for Xbox and PC as well as PlayStation platforms. Continue reading Sony Interactive to Acquire ‘Destiny 2’ Maker Bungie for $3.6B

CES: Case Studies on How Gaming Tech Can Improve Health

Much has been written on how gaming can be an incentive to change behavior. But can it also be used to clinically improve health outcomes? Lygeia Ricciardi, founder and chief executive of AdaRose — “a community of powerful women who are maximizing self care, health and wellness” — gathered executives at CES who said their companies have successfully used gaming to improve health for numerous use cases including pain reduction, aid in concentrating, lower drug reliance and more medical compliance as well as generally improved levels of well-being. Continue reading CES: Case Studies on How Gaming Tech Can Improve Health

Clubhouse Fights to Retain Share in Now-Competitive Market

The social audio boom that grew out of COVID-19 lockdowns has resulted in a reshuffling of players in the chat app space, as Clubhouse fights to maintain its once-dominant market share against competition from newer entries like Twitter Spaces, Spotify Greenroom and Facebook audio chat. Discord and platforms focused on gaming and NFTs also offer audio conversation features, and Amazon is reportedly working on a similar feature. Founded in 2020, Clubhouse initially had only Discord to contend with, resulting in early growth and a funding round valued at $4 billion. Continue reading Clubhouse Fights to Retain Share in Now-Competitive Market

TikTok Reveals New Content Creation Tools, Tests Live Studio

TikTok is introducing new camera and editing tools, a collaboration with Giphy, and support for 1080p video. The platform is also taking on Twitch and YouTube with TikTok Live Studio. The Windows program is currently in a test phase, allowing creators who download it to their desktop to stream live from the host computer or a connected device such as a smartphone or game console. This could keep TikTok fans in-app for live streaming, eliminating the need for third-party broadcast software like Streamlabs or OBS Studio. Continue reading TikTok Reveals New Content Creation Tools, Tests Live Studio

Discord Premium Helps Creators Monetize Within the Platform

Discord has begun testing a Premium Membership feature that lets creators monetize their communities by offering subscriptions. The program allows content providers to offer tiered-access, create subscription-only channels, or paywall entire communities (which Discord calls “servers”). “With Premium Memberships, creators and community owners will have the ability to gate part or all of their server behind a paid subscription,” the company says. Many Discord communities have been offering that sort of experience by integrating services like Patreon, Twitch and YouTube. With Premium Memberships they’ll be able to do it natively through Discord. Continue reading Discord Premium Helps Creators Monetize Within the Platform

Microsoft Brings Updated Edge Browser to Its Xbox Consoles

Microsoft continues to merge the desktop PC and game console experience by making its updated Chromium-based Edge browser available for Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S platforms. The update lets Xbox owners stream Google Stadia games and access Steam PC or web games like “Krunker” or “QuakeJS” from the comfort of a browser housed within your console dashboard — no third-party hardware or software hacks required. Users can also access subreddits, social media and Discord on the web to join voice calls and text channel chats with mouse and keyboard support on current and last-gen Xbox consoles. Continue reading Microsoft Brings Updated Edge Browser to Its Xbox Consoles

TikTok Eclipses Facebook as Most Downloaded App Globally

A 2020 survey of downloads around the world revealed that TikTok tops the list of social media providers for the first time since the survey was initiated in 2018. TikTok parent company ByteDance debuted the international version of the app in 2017, which has since outdistanced Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, all of which fill the other four spots in the top five apps. In 2020, former president Donald Trump called on TikTok to be forced to sell off its U.S. operations, citing security concerns. Continue reading TikTok Eclipses Facebook as Most Downloaded App Globally

Spotify Introduces Live Audio App and Plans Its Creator Fund

Music streaming service Spotify launched its live audio app, Greenroom, for iOS and Android. Built on Locker Room — the app focused on sports content created by Betty Labs and acquired by Spotify in March — the Greenroom app is similar to Clubhouse in that it allows users to host live conversations about music, sports and other topics. Branded with Spotify colors and a new logo, Greenroom features native recordings, which can be distributed as podcasts. Although users can sign in with Spotify credentials, it is not required to use the app. Continue reading Spotify Introduces Live Audio App and Plans Its Creator Fund