Facebook looks to cut spammy posts from your News Feed

11.04.2014, 8:36

Facebook is on the hunt for spam, introducing three measures today to combat the irrelevant content that clogs many users’ News Feeds.

No more bait!

The first targets what Facebook calls “like-baiting,” or posts that straight-up ask News Feed browsers to like, comment or share a post in order to circulate it more widely than it would normally.

Call-to-actions typically work, thus thrusting like-baiting posts to the top of the News Feed spotlight. However, that doesn’t change their spam status, and users reportedly find these types of stories 15% less relevant than other posts with a similar number of likes, comments and shares.

Facebook’s like-baiting solution will supposedly better detect these stories and keep them from appearing in prominent places on the News Feed. Pages “genuinely trying to encourage discussion among their fans” won’t be affected, and the initial implementation will focus on Pages that frequently ask for likes, comments and shares.

The second area Facebook is looking to improve is frequently circulated content, or photos and videos that are uploaded ad naseum.

Repetition doesn’t always equate to relevancy, so in that vein Facebook is moving to de-emphasize these Pages that frequently post the same photos and videos.

Finally, Facebook has set its sights on spammy links in misleading posts, such as those that claim to lead to a photo album but really take clickers to a website full of ads.

Facebook’s method to address the problem is pretty nuanced; it can detect spammy links by measuring how frequently people who visit a link choose to like the original post or share it.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has tinkered with its News Feed algorithm, and it certainly won’t be the last. Hopefully with today’s changes, we see more like/comment/share-worthy posts and less spam stream through our Feeds.

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Facebook apps to kill chat, throw users into standalone Messenger’s arms

10.04.2014, 8:24

Facebook is starting to alert users that it will soon force them into using its standalone Messenger app if they want to chat with friends.

Will you continue using it?

“Today we are starting to notify people that messages are moving out of the Facebook app and over to the Messenger app,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email to TechRadar. “To continue sending messages on mobile, people will need to install the Messenger app.”

Referred to as an “update,” the change will affect iOS and Android users. Currently, users in a handful of European countries are being notified of the policy shift, and Facebook wouldn’t offer details on a further roll out.

However, according to TechCrunch, all Facebook mobile users will eventually be forced to make the messaging switch.

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Facebook does care about privacy, it looks out for you 80 trillion times a day

09.04.2014, 8:17

Facebook is once again seeking to cleanse its mucky reputation when it comes to privacy by furnishing the world new information regarding how it looks after user content and data.

That’s true care!

In a briefing given to reporters, the social network said it runs a rather sizeable 80 trillion checks every single day to ensure any data isn’t being wrongly exposed to the world.

The firm also said it conducts 4,000 surveys a day (in 27 languages, no less) directly relating to privacy. Among other things, those results prompted it to start showing on-screen explanations for privacy controls.

Facebook now plans on introducing a host more explanations, which it hopes will lessen the confusion and misconceptions experienced by users when the company changes tact, as it often has in recent times.

Users will be informed they can change the visibility of old cover photos and it will also offer clarification that when a friend shares content it will only be visible to the person’s mutual friends.

The company also plans to introduce an in-line box to explain the differences between public status updates and those meant only for friends.

As well as word of the privacy checks and surveys, Facebook also revealed the logistics behind its privacy efforts.

Responsibilities are split into two teams: the Privacy Product Engineering squad, which builds the consumer-facing settings; and the Privacy Infrastructure Engineering team which works to make sure any unassigned data is shut down.

So, according to Facebook, it does work really, really hard when it comes to protecting its members from the accidental over-sharing of content, despite their desire to have users share with ‘everybody.’

Has the above made you feel more secure about your Facebook privacy settings? ‘fess up in the comments section below.

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Twitter buys contextual Android lock screen Cover, but why?

08.04.2014, 9:44

Twitter has purchased the Android lock screen app Cover for an undisclosed sum, the two companies have announced on – where else? – Twitter.

A puzzling development!

“Cover is joining Twitter! Excited for the future of Android and what’s to come,” tweeted Cover’s official account. Twitter welcomed it “to the flock” in reply.

But what exactly is to come? What does the future of Android involve, according to Twitter and Cover?

And does Twitter really think it’s this important to compete with Facebook Home?

Cover was created and launched by former Google employees in 2013.

“We started Cover a year ago because we believed in two things: 1) the untapped potential of the supercomputers we carry in our pockets, and 2) the amazing power of Android,” the company wrote in a blog post discussing the acquisition.

Cover Twitter
Solid math? We’ll see

The lock screen replacement displays six apps contextually on users’ devices based on their actions and locations.

So if you’re driving to work it might show Spotify and Google Maps, while if you’re sitting at home it could swap Flipboard or Feedly in.

The company says the app has been used by “hundreds of thousands” of people since October.

But comparisons to Facebook Home are inevitable.

The house that Zuckerberg built made a play at the Android lock screen early in 2013, turning users’ lock screens into glorified Facebook feeds.

It’s not a bad-looking overlay, but its reception was not exactly overwhelmingly positive. It seems that won’t stop Twitter from making its own play, though.

“Twitter, like Cover, believes in the incredible potential of Android,” Cover said. “They share our vision that smartphones can be a lot smarter – more useful and more contextual – and together we’re going to make that happen.

“We’ll be building upon a lot of what makes Cover great, and we’re thrilled to create something even better at Twitter.”

The existing Cover app will remain available in Google Play for now, but that might change as the companies’ plans progress.

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The rift with Oculus Rift revealed – why Facebook needs a reality check

31.03.2014, 9:42

The “good” and “evil” sides of the tech world clashed this week, with the clean-shaven, youthful and extremely popular makers of the Oculus Rift VR headset agreeing to be purchased by the evil, goatee-bearded, dark forces of the hated Facebook mega-empire.

Some smile, others not!

Many toys were thrown out of prams and as we see every week, there’s always one joke everyone furiously types out and thinks they’re the first with.

This week, it was something along the lines of “FarmVille in 3D! LOL!” that everyone raced to wryly observe first. Plus the fact that legendary PC coder and unmitigated brainbox John Carmack is now a humble Facebook employee caused many simple people some low levels of mirth.

These jokes were even funnier when they were repeated the next day, becoming funnier still by the third day.

But mostly there was anger. Anger about Kickstarter being used to kickstart a $2bn business, anger at Facebook chucking its money around again and anger that the promising VR tech may eventually be used as little more than a new way to get your mum to click on adverts for discounted last-minute cruises around the Norwegian fjords.

Those writing beneath a Valleywag piece suggested Facebook was the “worst possible partner” for the VR firm, fury was vented by those who saw Oculus using Kickstarter as a method of not only building a project, but building a company worth $2bn in a couple of years.

This was accurately nutshelled by commenter I’m Here Mostly for the Chicks, who said: “At this point it’s safe to assume Kickstarter in its entirety is for suckers. Maybe the first few months it was a good outlet for homebrew ideas, but all you’re doing now is subsidising corporations so they don’t have to take risks.”

Reader Greensky was a little more generous about his criticism of the deal, suggesting: “Kickstarter has led people to believe that they’re investing in an independent company. That their contributions are vital in allowing them to get off the ground and to forge their own way. Oculus proves that there can also be Kickstarters whose sole goal is to become popular enough to sell. Which isn’t wrong per se, but it’s also not the nice heart-warming underdog story that most Kickstarters use to get more backers.”

On a more aggressively negative vibe was Economist reader Guest Sensation, who said: “The very last thing humanity needs is a life sucking screen strapped to its face. What a shame people are embracing this technological ‘advancement’. Bye bye family time, hello 3D porn, virtual worlds to waste your life in, and mass media control. Disgusting.”

There’s 3D porn? *Writes cheque for $2.5bn, phones bank to arrange overdraft facility*

This is all a sign that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has gone bonkers and is currently on a cash-fuelled spree he’ll eventually come to regret, according to Pondbridge72, who raged: “Paying twice the market price for Instagram and then WhatsApp was one thing. But this latest digression into geek hardware while alienating the very gamers necessary for Oculus to succeed is ham-fisted at best. Florid 5 and 10 year visions disguise an I-know-better-than-the-market intellectual arrogance and inability/unwillingness to take counsel from others.”

Just looked up what “florid” means. It’s a real word. It means “excessively intricate or elaborate.” Nice one, Pondbridge, teaching people about online fury and English at the same time.

STR agreed and was baffled by the decision, eventually concluding: “This is a case study in why no investor should trust their money with a company who has a 29 year old with sole majority control.”

But not everyone’s entirely negative about the sale. $2bn is a lot of money, and Register reader Stu is fantasising about how it might be spent by the newly loaded Oculus team, dreaming: “Well I’ve pre-ordered DK2, and am thinking of cancelling, but I’m coming to realise that Facebook have injected a serious cash flow into Oculus, hence would have a lot more clout in the HW market to demand the screens and other tech they want – specifically it would benefit from curved OLED, ultra resolution, very low latency, and very low persistence.”

Stu then suggests creating a throwaway Facebook profile to use solely for Oculus (and perhaps Tinder at the weekends), although he adds: “Adverts, well if that happens then I’m out!”

Beneath a Guardian piece entirely structured around how bad an idea it all seems, comment turned to whether or not Kickstarter backers ought to get a cut of the $2bn, seeing as they are, in some small way, the original venture capitalists that set Oculus on its way to financial stardom.

Reader Unpleasantmilk contributed the observation that: “People put money into it, to help the company build. Now that company has been sold for billions, why shouldn’t those who helped make it so, profit? This leaves a bad taste, but that is no surprise if *uckerburg is involved.”

And ChrisKS wasn’t happy with Oculus either, raging: “Oculus did exactly the opposite of what Kickstarter is used for, and didn’t actually do what their stated aims were. Look at their Kickstarter campaign and you’ll see that the support was generated by promises of open-sourcing and prototypes being built to facilitate/accelerate games development.”

“It was NOT supposed to be their engine for personal enrichment, but that’s what they used all that money for,” he finished with, probably hitting the keyboard really hard and with a satisfied flourish on that final full stop.

Finally, Facebook’s flaw of letting the most thumbed-up comments float up to the top of response threads meant Zuckerberg’s own announcement of the Oculus deal was instantly hammered by negativity, with Dave Woodruff rising to internet fame with his 1,000+ liked satirical comment: “I’m excited to announce we can’t innovate but we can buy other companies.”

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Oculus CTO John Carmack ‘wasn’t expecting Facebook,’ says it gets ‘big picture’

31.03.2014, 9:31

Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, the maker of the Oculus Rift VR headset surprised almost everyone, including the gaming company’s chief technology officer John Cormack.

Better hope so!

The gaming legend has broken his silence on the $2 billion buyout in response to a blog post by Peter Berkman, saying “wasn’t expecting Facebook.” and admitting there are companies “with more obvious synergies” than the social network.

However, he added that he has ‘reasons’ to believe Facebook will do right by the company’s vision to make virtual reality gaming a reality.

In the blog’s comments section, he wrote: “I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim.”

Carmack did say he met with Zuckerberg a week prior to the buyout being announced, but had no inkling the Facebook CEO was interested in buying the company.

“I wasn’t personally involved in any of the negotiations – I spent an afternoon talking technology with Mark Zuckerberg, and the next week I find out that he bought Oculus.”

He also said he was unconcerned about the privacy implication involved with Facebook’s advertising and data-centric business model.

“I did skip the data mining issue, mostly because I just can’t get very worked up about it,” he added.

“I’m not a “privacy is gone, get over it” sort of person, and I fully support people that want remain unobserved, but that means disengaging from many opportunities. The idea that companies are supposed to interact with you and not pay attention has never seemed sane to me.”

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Facebook announces it’s building drones armed with the internet

28.03.2014, 9:42

While everyone’s distracted by looking through virtual reality goggles like Oculus Rift, Facebook is preparing to fly drones overhead to beam the internet to new places.

To fly above Turkey?

This airborne Internet.org mission is being carried out by the Facebook Connectivity Lab, which has been tasked with building drones, satellites and lasers.

Its goal is to deliver “affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world,” wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a status update today.

There’s certainly a need. Less than three billion people are able to access the internet among a population of 7.1 billion.

Penetration is low in developing countries without infrastructure and government censorship often stymies free and open access. Turkey is just the latest case this month.

Facebook and Internet.org have been able to connect more than three million new people to the internet in the past year through conventional methods.

Countries like the Philippines and Paraguay have seen double the number of mobile data users thanks to the Internet.org’s partnerships with operators, reported Zuckerberg.

That’s a start, but beaming the internet to the entire world requires inventing new technology and experts.

That’s why Facebook is bringing experts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center onboard as well as key members of the UK-based Ascenta to its Connectivity Lab.

Ascenta is known for being involved in its early stages Zephyr, a UAV technology that went on to become the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.

This fits right into the scope of Internet.org’s plains, which call for internet delivery at 60,000 feet in the air with planes that are powered by the sun.

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Minecraft creator scraps Oculus Rift plans post Facebook purchase

26.03.2014, 9:31

An Oculus Rift version of Minecraft may have been in the works… until Facebook bought up Oculus VR for US$2 billion.

Oculus Rift

Posting on Twitter, Minecraft creator Markus Persson wrote, “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal.”

Why? “Facebook creeps me out,” Persson added in the tweet.

He explained his decision further via blog post, stating that he didn’t trust the social media platform.

“Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform. There’s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me,” he said in his blog post.

According to Persson, talks about producing a slimmed-down, free version of Minecraft for Oculus began just two weeks ago.

Persson’s decision to can the project goes beyond his distrust of Facebook. He went on to say that he thinks VR is perfect for a social platform, but explained that he doesn’t want to work with social.

“I want to work with games,” he wrote. “I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook.”

And so all may not be lost. With Sony revealing their own VR headset, Project Morpheus, and Microsoft hinting that it has its sights on VR for Xbox as well, Persson might have other avenues for a VR version of Minecraft.

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Facebook buys Oculus: Is this the right move for the leader in VR?

26.03.2014, 9:24

It still hasn’t completely sunk in that Facebook bought Oculus, maker of the Oculus Rift VR headset. A social media marriage with virtual reality? It’s a head-scratcher that’s sure to make the masses furious, confused and compelled to take up arms – meaning we’ll probably see a barrage of snarky internet memes for awhile.

Zuckerberg wants to play!

The deal struck between the two companies is worth approximately $2 billion,(about £1.2b, AU$2.1b), and an additional $300 million (about £181m, AU$327m) in earn-out cash and stock will be paid if Oculus hits “certain milestones.”

With such large sums of dough being doled out, my immediate thought about Facebook buying Oculus is simply that it’s an astoundingly bad idea. It reeks of dump trucks full of easy money for a burgeoning start-up, which admittedly makes sense with the big dogs like Sony’s Project Morpheus in the picture and Microsoft’s wishy-washy VR dabbling.

But in all honesty, virtual reality needs as much time in the limelight as it can get if it wants to stay relevant and not fade away like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, and with the power of Facebook behind it, Oculus is bound to get plenty of air-time. However, relevance doesn’t necessarily mean opting for a social media company acquisition is the right answer.

Public opinion of Oculus is generally high thanks to its modest Kickstarter beginnings. We also can’t forget Palmer Luckey’s early days participating in MTBS forums (Meant to Be Seen) and John Carmack of Doom fame joining the team, furthering the VR startup’s popularity. It’s a textbook tech fairy tale story about the underdog slowly rising to fame.

The same can be said for Facebook’s own humble Harvard inception. Both companies have the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the tech industry – but why do we all roll our eyes at the thought of Facebook likes, posts and its numerous layout changes?

There’s no doubt that Facebook’s numbers are big and that its user base is massive – heck everyone and their grandma is on “the Facebook.” Yet the mention of the “F” word leaves a dirty taste in the mouth.

We all use it but we all abuse it, too. The prevalence of social media has become a permanent fixture in our lives, and arguably has been more negative than positive. After all, where else did the selfie generation develop? And the need to post every mundane aspect of a morning routine? Or more seriously, the addictive, alienating effects of being on the site all the time?

This makes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s determination to bring Oculus on board as a means to further the social connection, or in his own words during an analyst call, “connect the world … in entirely new ways” less exciting than a site redesign.

No one wants to feel that familiar Facebook animosity for a future-forward device that has such promising capabilities. Or, more frankly, we don’t want to see Facebook screw up a good thing.

To be fair, Zuckerberg did say that Oculus will remain an individual operation and will stay in its Irvine, Calif. headquarters to continue tinkering away on the head mounted display. But it’s clear that Zuck and Co. have big plans for the device as well since the CEO stated VR has “the potential to be the most social platform ever.”

He mentioned sports, education, doctors visits and shopping as just a few of the virtual experiences that are a goggle away with an Oculus at home. This does match up with Oculus Rift’s own goals – to bring immersive VR to every household – but vision is one thing and execution is another.

We see what Facebook wants, but from how the social media platform has evolved, it just doesn’t look very promising.

Regardless, if there’s one good thing that must be said, virtual reality is an exciting space that deserves more attention. Meaning if Facebook has to buy Oculus Rift for VR for people to start noticing, so be it. As long as it opens doors for other companies to join the fold and make it big.

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Facebook hits 1 billion mobile users, 200 million on Instagram

26.03.2014, 9:12

Not only is Facebook forking over around $2 billion for the company that makes Oculus Rift, it’s also stepping out with some pretty heady numbers for its longer-standing properties.

A collage of people!

First up, Facebook’s first true love: mobile. Zuckerberg revealed Facebook now has 1 billion users on its mobile apps. The company repeated its December figure of 945 million monthly users just last week, but clearly it was time for an update.

Furthermore, Zuckerberg said that looking at all mobile phone usage, more than 20% of peoples’ time is spent on Facebook.

The company has made much of its “mobile first” approach, and it appears to be paying off.

As for Instagram, Facebook’s first big payout, the photo sharing service revealed today that it has over 200 million users, with over 50 million joining in the last six months.

Users sat at 100 million when Facebook purchased the tiny team in 2012.

During a call with investors to discuss the Oculus purchase, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Instagram is “already ahead of where we want it to be.”

He assured Facebook wouldn’t be making multi-billion dollar purchases every few months a regular thing, but with Instagram growing, WhatsApp expected to reach 1 billion people and Oculus Rift’s potential as the future of computing, there’s certainly some things Zuck is wiling to spend his bucks on.

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