TikTok Popularity Surge Continues as U.S. Ultimatum Looms

ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for more time to work out the preliminary deal to sell its U.S. operations to Oracle and Walmart. November 12 is the deadline for the deal to be completed. The company also stated it had been in discussions with the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), but “feedback had stopped” in recent weeks despite the approaching deadline. App Annie reports that TikTok’s substantial growth is expected to continue throughout 2021. Continue reading TikTok Popularity Surge Continues as U.S. Ultimatum Looms

Big Tech Companies Report Strong Third Quarter Revenues

In an otherwise glum economic picture, Big Tech companies have boomed. The general economy is improving, while Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are reporting profits that suggest they may be capable of generating the kind of wealth that a single industry hasn’t seen in generations. In fact, those four companies had a quarterly net profit of $38 billion, despite regulator scrutiny and other obstacles. Amazon saw an almost 200 percent rise in profits, and Facebook had a stupendous quarter, despite the advertiser boycott. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Report Strong Third Quarter Revenues

Facebook Unveils Business Suite Tools for Small Companies

In response to COVID-19, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg debuted the Facebook Business Suite aimed at small businesses, which are bearing much of the brunt of the pandemic. Yelp data revealed that business closures from mid-July to end of August rose 23 percent; since March, 60 percent of the business closures have been permanent. According to Facebook, the Business Suite is initially available to small businesses but will expand to larger businesses next year. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Business Suite Tools for Small Companies

Facebook Rolls Out New Messenger Feature, Watch Together

Facebook launched Watch Together, a feature for Messenger and videoconferencing platform Messenger Rooms, to allow users to watch videos in real time with family and friends on Apple and Android mobile devices. Users choose videos to view through Facebook’s video hub, Facebook Watch. The push to promote yet more video comes at a time when, due largely to COVID-19, more people than ever are at home watching content. Facebook Messenger allows up to eight people on a video call, and Messenger Rooms tops out at 50 people. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out New Messenger Feature, Watch Together

Facebook Builds Out Its Shopping Features Across Platforms

Next Tuesday, Facebook will begin the global rollout of a new tab in its main app called Facebook Shop, which allows users to browse product catalogs and buy items directly on the social media platform. The new feature, previously in beta with a small group of U.S. users, joins a similar feature launched on Instagram last month. Prior to Facebook Shop, businesses could add catalogs to their Facebook pages, but the new feature is a dedicated marketplace for multiple retailers. Instagram’s Checkout feature will also soon be broadly available. Continue reading Facebook Builds Out Its Shopping Features Across Platforms

Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

In a direct challenge to Google’s YouTube, Facebook introduced licensed music videos to its platform earlier this month. The videos are accessible by genre, artist and mood from a new section in Facebook Watch and are also available via Facebook artist pages. The social network is partnering with publishers including Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, BMG, Kobalt, Merlin and others with licensing deals similar to those already established with YouTube. Meanwhile, YouTube Music is expanding its features as Google gets ready to shut down its Play Music app. Continue reading Facebook Teams With Top Publishers to Offer Music Videos

Facebook Targets E-Commerce with Updated Instagram Shop

Facebook debuted a major redesign of its Instagram Shop platform, which had already been accessible from a button in the Explore tab but now offers more functionality. The new version of Instagram Shop will first be available in the U.S., with a global rollout “in the coming weeks” said the company. In Shop, consumers will find special collections, a “Suggested for You” section and curated offerings from Instagram’s @Shop account. A double arrow symbol means the user can buy the product without leaving the app. The move is seen as Facebook’s stronger push into e-commerce. Continue reading Facebook Targets E-Commerce with Updated Instagram Shop

Snap Introduces Its First Shoppable Original Show: ‘The Drop’

At Snap’s first Digital Content NewFronts presentation, VP of sales for the Americas Peter Naylor announced “The Drop,” the platform’s first “shoppable” original show, highlighting “exclusive streetwear collabs” from celebrities and designers. It also debuted the Verizon-sponsored “Fake Up,” in which make-up artists compete to create optical illusions and greenlit the second season of original series “Driven,” about custom cars. Naylor, a former Hulu executive, said his two Gen Z daughters are “big Snapchat users.” Continue reading Snap Introduces Its First Shoppable Original Show: ‘The Drop’

Facebook Papers Reveal Progress on AI Shopping Assistant

In May, Facebook debuted Shops, which allows companies to set up digital stores across Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, and also described its goal to develop an AI assistant to recommend products. The assistant would learn about a user’s preferences by analyzing images in his wardrobe and allow him to virtually try on clothing. Based on papers Facebook will present at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition 2020, it appears the company is deep in development of this assistant. Continue reading Facebook Papers Reveal Progress on AI Shopping Assistant

Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to Shops, a new version of an existing Facebook feature that lets retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can access Shops on the retailer’s page or, by clicking on an ad, will land on the retailer’s Facebook-located Shop. Zuckerberg stated that Shops will eventually be available on Messenger and WhatsApp as well. The company relies on several AI systems, including GrokNet, which can “segment, detect and classify images.” Continue reading E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart revealed that the app now has more than two billion active users; numbers were last released two years ago. Cathcart also emphasized that he will continue to defend the messaging app’s encryption, noting that, “for all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other … and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society.” Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, finds encryption a barrier to recuperating its investment. Continue reading WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is contemplating a preliminary injunction against Facebook over antitrust issues related to its integration of apps and whether they work with competitors. The injunction could prevent Facebook from further integrating apps, and possibly reverse past integration as a step to breaking up the company. An injunction would require a majority vote of the five-member FTC. Prominent antitrust experts have presented a plan to separate Facebook from recent acquisitions Instagram and WhatsApp. Continue reading FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

Although U.S. Attorney General William Barr has advocated against encryption, Facebook is advancing its plans to add the technology to all its messaging platforms. Barr wants Facebook to allow at least some government access to those platforms, in the name of public safety. WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky responded to Barr that, “undermining encryption in their products for law enforcement would create a ‘backdoor’ vulnerability that malicious actors also could leverage to harm users.” Continue reading Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

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