Архив рубрики: Apps

Facebook Messenger preps Auto Status location type sharing

Facebook Messenger could soon automatically tell your closest friends you’re at the gym, driving or in Tokyo. Messenger has been spotted prototyping a ported version of the Instagram close friends-only Threads app’s Auto Status option that launched in October.
The unreleased Messenger feature would use your location, accelerometer and battery life to determine what you’re up to and share it with a specific subset of your friends. But instead of sharing your exact coordinates, it overlays an emoji on your Messenger profile pic to indicate that you’re at the movies, biking, at the airport or charging your phone.

It’s unclear if or when Messenger might launch Auto Status. But if released, the feature could become Facebook’s version of the AOL Away Message, allowing people to stay in closer touch without the creepiness of exact location sharing. It might also help people coordinate online or offline meetups by revealing what friends are up to. Auto Status creates an ice breaker, so if it says a close friend is “at a cafe,” or “chilling,” you could ask to hang out.
Back in 2016, I wrote about how exact location sharing had failed to become mainstream because knowing where someone is doesn’t tell you their intention. What matters is whether they’re free to interact with you, which none of the social networks offered.

The quest to cure loneliness

A few products, like Down To Lunch and Free, came and went in the meantime. Snapchat’s Snap Map and its acquisition of Zenly both doubled down on precise location sharing, yet still we’re often stuck home wondering if anyone we care about is similarly bored and might want to hang out.
Facebook has been experimenting in this space since at least early 2018, when its manual Emoji Status was spotted. That allowed you to append an emoji of your choosing to your Messenger profile pic. Then in October, Facebook introduced Auto Status, but only in the Instagram side-app Threads.

Some users were initially creeped out by the idea of Facebook relaying battery status. But Instagram director of Product Management Robby Stein explained to me that because you might not respond to a message if your phone goes dead or is left on the charger, it’s useful info to relay to friends who might be wondering what you’re doing.
Then earlier this month, reverse engineering master and constant TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong revealed a new, unreleased version of Emoji Status hidden in Messenger’s Android code. Then today, Wong showed off how she similarly spotted Facebook trying to port Auto Status to Messenger. That would bring the feature to more than one billion monthly users compared to the relatively small base for Threads.
With Auto Status, you can “Let specific friends see what you’re up to as you go about your day. Share location info, weather, and more, even when you’re not in the app.” Auto Status is only visible to a special list of friends you can change at any time, similar to Instagram Close Friends. And the feature shares “no addresses or place names. Just types of locations, like “at a cafe.” Movement (driving, biking, walking), venue (at the movies, airport), cities (in Tokyo) and battery status (low battery, charging) are some of categories of what Auto Status shares.
A Facebook Messenger communications representative confirmed to TechCrunch that the Auto Status feature was being prototyped by Messenger, noting that “We’re always exploring new features to improve your Messenger experience. This feature is still in early development and not externally testing.” The company also tweeted the statement.

One of the biggest unsolved problems in social networking and messaging remains knowing whether friends are free to chat or hang out without having to ask them directly. Reaching out at the wrong time only to be ignored or rejected can feel awkward or intimidating, and can discourage connection later. But if you have a vague idea of what a close friend is up to, you can more deftly plan when to message them, and be more likely to get to spend time together in person or just online.
That could be a cure to the loneliness that endless feed scrolling by ourselves can leave us feeling.

Instagram launches Threads, a Close Friends chat app with auto-status

Facebook Messenger preps Auto Status location type sharing

Under quarantine, media is actually social

The flood of status symbol content into Instagram Stories has run dry. No one is going out and doing anything cool right now, and if they are, they should be shamed for it. Beyond sharing video chat happy hour screenshots and quarantine dinner concoctions, our piece-by-piece biographies have ground to a halt. Oddly, what remains feels more social than social networks have in a long time.
With no source material, we’re doing it live. Coronavirus has absolved our desire to share the recent past. The drab days stuck inside blur into each other. The near future is so uncertain that there’s little impetus to make plans. Why schedule an event or get excited for a trip just to get your heartbroken if shelter-in-place orders are extended? We’re left firmly fixed in the present.
A house-arrest Houseparty, via StoicLeys
What is social media when there’s nothing to brag about? Many of us are discovering it’s a lot more fun. We had turned social media into a sport but spent the whole time staring at the scoreboard rather than embracing the joy of play.
But thankfully, there are no Like counts on Zoom .
Nothing permanent remains. That’s freed us from the external validation that too often rules our decision making. It’s stopped being about how this looks and started being about how this feels. Does it put me at peace, make me laugh, or abate the loneliness? Then do it. There’s no more FOMO because there’s nothing to miss by staying home to read, take a bath, or play board games. You do you.
Being social animals, what feels most natural is to connect. Not asynchronously through feeds of what we just did. But by coexisting concurrently. Professional enterprise technology for agenda-driven video calls has been subverted for meandering, motive-less togetherness. We’re doing what many of us spent our childhoods doing in basements and parking lots: just hanging out.
It’s time to Houseparty
For evidence, just look at group video chat app Houseparty, where teens aimlessly chill with everyone’s face on screen at once. In Italy, which has tragically been on lock down since COVID-19’s rapid spread in the country, Houseparty wasn’t even in the top 1500 apps a month ago. Today it’s the #1 social app, and the #2 app overall second only to Zoom which is topping the charts in tons of countries.
Houseparty topped all the charts on Monday, when Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch the app’s download rate was 323X higher than its average in February. As of yesterday it was #1 in Portugal (up 371X) and Spain (up 592X), as well as Peru, Argentina, Chile, Austria, Belgium, and the U.K. I despite being absent from the chart a week earlier. Apptopia tells me Houseparty saw 25 downloads in Spain on March 1st and 40,000 yesterday.
Houseparty rockets to #1 in many countries
A year ago Houseparty was nearly dead, languishing at #245 on the US charts before being acquired by Fortnite-maker Epic in June. Our sudden need for unmediated connection has brought Houseparty roaring back to life, even if Epic has neglected to update it since July.
“Houseparty was designed to connect people in the most human way possible when they are physically apart” the startup’s co-founder Ben Rubin tells me. “This is a time of isolation and uncertainty for us all. I’m grateful that we created a product that gives a sense of human connection to millions people during this critical moment.”
Around the world, apps for direct connection are spiking. Google Hangouts rules in Sweden. Discord for chat while gaming is #1 in France. Slack clone Microsoft Teams is king in the Netherlands. After binging through Netflix, all that’s left to entertain us is each other.
Undivided By Geography
If we’re all stuck at home, it doesn’t matter where that home is. We’ve been released from the confines of which friends are within a 20 minute drive or hour-long train. Just like students are saying they all go to Zoom University since every school’s classes moved online, we all now live in Zoom Town. All commutes have been reduced to how long it takes to generate an invite URL.
Nestled in San Francisco, even pals across the Bay in Berkeley felt far away before. But this week I had hour-long video calls with my favorite people who typically feel out of reach in Chicago and New York. I spent time with babies I hadn’t met in person. And I kept in closer touch with my parents on the other coast, which is more vital and urgent than ever before.
Playing board game Codenames over Zoom with friends in New York and North Carolina
Typically, our time is occupied by acquaintances of circumstance. The co-workers who share our office. The friends who happen to live in the neighborhood. But now we’re each building a virtual family completely of our choosing. The calculus has shifted from who is convenient or who invites us to the most exciting place, to who makes us feel most human.
Even celebrities are getting into it. Rather than pristine portraits and flashy music videos, they’re appearing raw, with crappy lighting, on Facebook and Instagram Live. John Legend played piano for 100,000 people while his wife Chrissy Teigen sat on screen in a towel looking salty like she’s heard “All Of Me” far too many times. That’s more authentic than anything you’ll get on TV.
And without the traditional norms of who we are and aren’t supposed to call, there’s an opportunity to contact those we cared about in a different moment of our lives. The old college roommate, the high school buddy, the mentor who gave you you’re shot. If we have the emotional capacity in these trying times, there’s good to be done. Who do you know who’s single, lives alone, or resides in a city without a dense support network?
Reforging those connections not only surfaces prized memories we may have forgotten, but could help keep someone sane. For those who relied on work and play for social interaction, shelter-in-place is essentially solitary confinement. There’s a looming mental health crisis if we don’t check in on the isolated.
The crisis language of memes
It can be hard to muster the energy to seize these connections, though. We’re all drenched in angst about the health impacts of the virus and financial impacts of the response. I certainly spent a few mornings sleeping in just to make the days feel shorter. When all small talk leads to rehashing our fears, sometimes you don’t have anything to say.
Luckily we don’t have to say anything to communicate. We can share memes instead.
My father-in-law sent me this. That’s when you know memes have become the universal language
The internet’s response to COVID-19 has been an international outpour of gallow’s humor. From group chats to Instagram joke accounts to Reddit threads to Facebook groups like quarter-million member “Zoom Memes For Quaranteens”, we’re joining up to weather the crisis.
A nervous laugh is better than no laugh at all. Memes allow us to convert our creeping dread and stir craziness into something borderline productive. We can assume an anonymous voice, resharing what some unspecified other made without the vulnerability of self-attribution. We can dive into the creation of memes ourselves, killing time under house arrest in hopes of generating smiles for our generation. And with the feeds and Stories emptied, consuming memes offers a new medium of solidarity. We’re all in this hellscape together so we may as well make fun of it.

The web’s mental immune system has kicked into gear amidst the outbreak. Rather than wallowing in captivity, we’ve developed digital antibodies that are evolving to fight the solitude. We’re spicing up video chats with board games like Codenames. One-off livestreams have turned into wholly online music festivals to bring the sounds of New Orleans or Berlin to the world. Trolls and pranksters are finding ways to get their lulz too, Zoombombing webinars. And after a half-decade of techlash, our industry’s leaders are launching peer-to-peer social safety nets and ways to help small businesses survive until we can be patrons in person again.
Rather than scrounging for experiences to share, we’re inventing them from scratch with the only thing we’re left with us in quarantine: ourselves. When the infection waves pass, I hope this swell of creativity and in-the-moment togetherness stays strong. The best part of the internet isn’t showing off, it’s showing up.

Under quarantine, media is actually social

Instagram prototypes Snapchat-style disappearing text messages

Instagram is finally preparing to copy Snapchat’s most popular feature, and one of the few it hasn’t already cloned. Instagram has prototyped an unreleased ephemeral text messaging feature that clears the chat thread whenever you leave it, a Facebook spokesperson confirms to TechCrunch. That could make users more comfortable with having rapid-fire, silly, vulnerable, or risque chats, thereby driving up the reply notifications that keep people opening Instagram all day long.

Instagram already has disappearing photo and video messaging which it launched in February 2018 to let users choose if chat partners can “view once”, “allow replay” multiple times for a limited period, or “keep in chat” permanently. Technically you could use the Create mode for overlaying words on a colored background to send an ephemeral text, but otherwise you have to use the “Unsend” feature which notifies other people in the thread.
But today, reverse engineering specialist and TechCrunch’s favorite tipster Jane Manchun Wong unearthed something new. Buried in the code of the Android app is the a new “” mode, labeled in the code with the ‘speak-no-evil’ monkey emoji.
How Instagram Disappearing Messages Work
When users enter this mode by swiping up from Instagram Direct message thread, they’re brought to a dark mode messaging window that starts as an empty message thread. When users close this window, any messages from them or their chat partners disappear. The feature works similarly to Snapchat, which clears a chat after all members of a thread have viewed it and closed the chat window.
Here’s how Instagram disappearing messages work
The ephemeral messaging feature is not currently not publicly available but a Facebook spokesperson confirms to me that they are working on it internally. “We’re always exploring new features to improve your messaging experience. This feature is still in early development and not testing externally.” The company later tweeted the confirmation. They gave no indication of a timeline for if or when this might officially launch. Some features never make it out of the prototype phase, but others including many spotted by Wong end up being rolled out several months later.
Instagram has seen great success using Snapchat as a product R&D lab. Instagram’s version of Stories rocketed to 500 million daily users compared to just 218 million users on Snapchat as a whole.

But ephemeral messaging has kept Snapchat relevant. Back in late 2017, just 51 million of Snapchat’s 178 million users were posting Stories per day, and that was when Instagram Stories was still in its first year on the market. According to Statista, Snapchat’s top use case is staying in touch with friends and family, not entertainment.
Instagram Stories caused Snapchat to start shrinking at one point, but now it’s growing healthily again. That may signaled that Instagram still had more work to do to steal Snap’s thunder. But Instagram’s existing version of ephemeral messaging that is clunkier, Facebook scrapped a trial of a similar feature, and WhatsApp’s take that started testing in October hasn’t rolled out yet.
That’s left teens to stick with Snapchat for fast-paced communication they don’t have to worry about coming back to haunt them. If Instagram successfully copies this feature too, it could reduce the need for people to stay on Snapchat while making Instagram Direct more appealing to a critical audience. Every reply and subsequent alert draws users deeper into Facebook’s web.

Instagram prototypes Snapchat-style disappearing text messages

TikTok brings in outside experts to help it craft moderation and content policies

In October, TikTok href=»https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/15/tiktok-taps-corporate-law-firm-kl-gates-to-advise-on-its-u-s-content-moderation-policies/»> tapped corporate law firm K&L Gates to advise the company on its moderation policies and other topics afflicting social media platforms. As a part of those efforts, TikTok said it would form a new committee of experts to advise the business on topics like child safety, hate speech, misinformation, bullying and other potential problems. Today, TikTok is announcing the technology and safety experts who will be the company’s first committee members.
The committee, known as the TikTok Content Advisory Council, will be chaired by Dawn Nunziato, a professor at George Washington University Law School and co-director of the Global Internet Freedom Project. Nunziato specializes in free speech issues and content regulation — areas where TikTok has fallen short.
“A company willing to open its doors to outside experts to help shape upcoming policy shows organizational maturity and humility,” said Nunziato, of her joining. “I am working with TikTok because they’ve shown that they take content moderation seriously, are open to feedback and understand the importance of this area both for their community and for the future of healthy public discourse,” she added.
TikTok says it plans to grow the committee to around a dozen experts in time.
According to the company, other committee members include:
Rob Atkinson, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, brings academic, private sector, and government experience as well as knowledge of technology policy that can advise our approach to innovation
Hany Farid, University of California, Berkeley Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences and  School of Information, is a renowned expert on digital image and video forensics, computer vision, deep fakes, and robust hashing
Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami Law School, focuses on the intersection of law and technology and will provide valuable insight into industry challenges including discrimination, safety, and online identity
Vicki Harrison, Stanford Psychiatry Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, is a social worker at the intersection of social media and mental health who understands child safety issues and holistic youth needs
Dawn Nunziato, chair, George Washington University Law School, is an internationally recognized expert in free speech and content regulation
David Ryan Polgar, All Tech Is Human, is a leading voice in tech ethics, digital citizenship, and navigating the complex challenge of aligning societal interests with technological priorities
Dan Schnur, USC Annenberg Center on Communication and UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, brings valuable experience and insight on political communications and voter information
Nunziato’s view of TikTok — of a company being open and willing to change — is a charitable one, it should be said.
The company is in dangerous territory here in the U.S., despite its popularity among Gen Z and millennial users. TikTok today is facing a national security review and a potential ban on all government workers’ phones. In addition, the Dept. of Defense suggested the app should be blocked on phones belonging to U.S. military personnel. Its 2017 acquisition of U.S.-based Musical.ly may even come under review.
Though known for its lighthearted content — like short videos of dances, comedy and various other creative endeavors — TikTok has also been accused of things like censoring the Hong Kong protests and more, which contributed to U.S. lawmakers’ fears that the Chinese-owned company may have to comply with “state intelligence work.” 
TikTok has also been accused of having censored content from unattractive, poor or disabled persons, as well as videos from users identified as LGBTQ+. The company explained in December these guidelines are no longer used, as they were an early and misguided attempt to protect users from online bullying. TikTok had limited the reach of videos where such harassment could occur. But this suppression was done in the dark, unasked for by the “protected” parties — and it wasn’t until exposed by German site NetzPolitik that anyone knew these rules had existed.
In light of the increased scrutiny of its platform and its ties to China, TikTok has been taking a number of steps in an attempt to change its perception. The company released new Community Guidelines and published its first Transparency Report a few months ago. It also hired a global General Counsel and expanded its Trust & Safety hubs in the U.S., Ireland and Singapore. And it just announced a Transparency Center open to outside experts who want to review its moderation practices.
TikTok’s new Advisory Council will meet with the company’s U.S. leadership to focus on the key topics of importance starting at the end of the month, with an early focus on creating policies around misinformation and election interference.

“All of our actions, including the creation of this Council, help advance our focus on creating an entertaining, genuine experience for our community by staying true to why users uniquely love the TikTok platform. As our company grows, we are focused on reflection and learning as a part of company culture and committed to transparently sharing our progress with our users and stakeholders,” said TikTok’s U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas. “Our hope is that through thought-provoking conversations and candid feedback, we will find productive ways to support platform integrity, counter potential misuse, and protect the interests of all those who use our platform,” she added. 

TikTok brings in outside experts to help it craft moderation and content policies

Revolut launches Revolut Junior to help you manage allowance

Revolut is introducing a new product specifically targeted toward kids aged 7-17 years old — Revolut Junior. Revolut Junior is a new app and service that integrates directly with the main Revolut app on the parent’s side.
Parents or legal gardians who are also Revolut users can create a Revolut Junior account for their kid. After that, your kid can download the Revolut Junior app and get a Revolut Junior card.
The new app offers a limited set of features with an interface divided in two tabs — Account and Profile. Kids can see a list of transactions in real time in the Account tab. They can configure card settings in the Profile tab. And that’s about it.
On the other end, parents can control their kids’ spending from Revolut. They can transfer money to a Revolut Junior account instantly. Parents can also access balances and transactions as well as disable some card features, such as online payments. They can also choose to receive notifications when a child is using their card.
The reason why Revolut Junior can attract a ton of users is that Revolut itself already has over 10 million users. It’s going to be easier to convince existing Revolut customers to use Revolut Junior over a custom-made challenger bank for teens, such as Kard or Step. Arguably, the biggest competitor of challenger banks for teens is still cash.
As kids grow up, chances are they’ll switch to a full-fledged Revolut account if they’ve been using Revolut Junior for years. Revolut Junior represents a great acquisition funnel as well.
Revolut Junior is only available to Premium and Metal customers in the U.K. for now. The company will eventually roll it out to more users and more countries.
Revolut plans to add more features to Revolut Junior in the future. For instance, parents will be able to set a regular allowance and financial goals. Kids will get savings options, spending reports, spending limits and more.

Revolut launches Revolut Junior to help you manage allowance