Facebook-owned Instagram has been rumored to be working on a new photo messaging app to go head-to-head with popular rivals like Snapchat, and evidence supporting such hearsay may have just turned up in the most unlikely of places.
A swift appearance!
The Verge today reported that Instagram appears to have mistakenly leaked the existence of a new Snapchat competitor called Bolt, which turned up as a new banner ad inside the current Instagram for Android app.
“Introducing Bolt,” the screenshot snapped by Twitter user Richard Groves late Wednesday reads, promising “one tap photo messaging” and offering a link to download the free app via the Google Play Store.
Needless to say, that particular button goes absolutely nowhere, and the mysterious banner ad vanished 15 minutes later, but not before other late-night internet users managed to spot the same message lurking in their own Instagram installations.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has tested unannounced features inside its mobile apps, with the recent iOS app Slingshot actually leaking onto the App Store before the social network had the chance to announce its existence.
While it’s easy to connect the dots and assume Bolt could be a Snapchat wannabe, a separate report from TechCrunch arrived at an entirely different conclusion, suggesting the app could be a fictional title instead.
“It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing in this leak that specifically confirms that Bolt is a forthcoming Instagram-owned property,” remarked Sarah Perez, hypothesizing “Bolt” could simply be a placeholder for parent company Facebook’s lucrative mobile app install ads.
We’ve reached out to Instagram for further clarification one way or another, but in the meantime, Instagram lovers on Android should keep their eyes peeled for the elusive banner ad that kicked off all this speculation in the first place.
Ordered yourself a shiny Oculus Rift DK2? You might want to check your email – after a frustrating last-minute delay, it looks like the next-gen headset has finally begun shipping.
Check your mailbox!
Around 10,000 of the 45,000 ordered Rifts will be initially sent out, so a lot of you will have to make do with this reality for a few weeks longer. But hey, at least the wheels are finally turning, right?.
It’s an appropriate week for this to happen, with Facebook and Oculus announcing they’d finally sealed the deal. At the time, Imre Jele, co-founder of Bossa Studios (creator of VR title Surgeon Simulator), told TechRadar that Oculus promised him “nothing will change” after the acquisition when it comes to gaming VR. We certainly hope that’s the case.
With DK2, the Rift has a 1080p, less motion blur and, most importantly, motional head tracking. Patience is most definitely a virtue. Trust us, we’ve tried it – and it’s so, so awesome.
The House of Zuckerberg put on the quarterly dog and pony show for investors Wednesday, and while there’s plenty of cash to go around, the real story is how many of Facebook’s users are ditching the desktop for greener pastures on mobile devices.
Everywhere and anywhere!
Facebook today announced earnings for the second quarter of 2014, and one thing is clear: The social network is fast becoming a mobile-centric company, with a full 62 percent of advertising revenue now generated from smartphones and tablets.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s former Harvard University project is now home to 1.32 billion users, with people flocking to the social network at a rate of 14 percent year over year.
But the real story is just how many of those users are exclusively logging in from mobile devices: 399 million, or roughly a third of the site’s total user base, with plenty more apparently on the way as mobile growth increased 31 percent in the last year.
All of the above translated to bigger quarterly profits for Facebook, with a 61 percent increase to $2.91 billion (about UK£1.71B, AU$3.08B) in revenue, handily beating Wall Street analyst expectations with earnings of 42 cents per share for the second quarter, which ended June 30.
Facebook also somehow managed to spend less over the last three months, more than doubling quarterly profits to $791 million (about UK£464M, AU$838M), a 138 percent increase over the same period last year, which eked out a mere $333 million profit (about UK£196M, AU$353M).
Not surprisingly, the majority of Facebook’s quarterly revenue ($2.68 billion, about UK£1.57B, AU$2.84B) came from advertising, a 67 percent increase over last year’s June quarter, with a whopping 62 percent of ad revenue generated from mobile devices.
Facebook executives plan to leverage video-based advertising to help grow future revenue, and expects to keep operating in an aggressive “investment mode” through 2015 on the heels of the recent Oculus Rift and WhatsApp acquisitions.
Facebook’s new Mentions app is exclusively for celebrities with verified accounts, meaning that until the TechRadar band finally takes off, we’re unable to test it for ourselves.
That means we’ll have to rely on the stars themselves to scrutinise the new app, and there’s really only one person for the job: William Shatner.
Unfortunately his verdict is one big thumbs down, but the guy certainly gives the app a thorough working over on Shatner Speaks, leading to a riveting conclusion:
“I’m not quite sure why Facebook released this app for “celebrities”. It seems to be ill conceived. I will probably use it to post to my Facebook when I’m on my phone but it doesn’t allow for mail or groups. I will continue to use my regular Facebook app as well as the Pages app.”
Thanks Bill, we salute you. If you fancy reviewing some phones, you know where to find us.
Facebook has introduced a new ‘save it for later’ feature that allows users to store interesting web links, pages, movies and music for a more convenient time.
Without adds, hopefully!
The new ‘Save’ tool, which is rolling out to the web, iOS and Android apps, makes it easier to keep track of interesting News Feed content without it being lost in the shuffle after falling below the fold.
The Saved content, be it a checked-in restaurant the user may wish to try, or a shared album they want to hear, will be accessible via the ‘More’ tab on mobile and within the sidebar on the web.
The feature apes the functionality offered by apps like Pocket and the Reading List feature in Apple’s Safari web browser.
Such is the exponential growth of sharing web content on Facebook, the feature comes at a time when many users are struggling to keep up with everything posted by their friends.
While checking out interesting links over the lunchbreak can offer a welcome distraction from the grind, an all day presence on social media can be a productivity catastrophe.
The Save option will allow users to get a little work done, while promising the treat of excellent web content for the commute home, without the risk of being infiltrated by a trillion Buzzfeed posts.
The world of tech can be a strange place. It’s a place where zeroes become heroes, where public enemies become pillars of society and where tabloid villains turn out to be perfectly legitimate after all. Come with us as we discover the sites, services and (ahem) personalities who became notorious on the net and then tried to come back.
From pirates to…
BitTorrent used to be a byword for movie piracy, but BitTorrent Inc has been making a concerted effort to go straight. BitTorrent Bundles, which combine free and protected content, have been used by Madonna, Eddie Izzard, De La Soul and Public Enemy to promote their work.
The protected content is unlocked when users provide an email address, but soon BitTorrent Bundles will offer content that is unlocked in exchange for money, with BitTorrent taking a cut of the proceeds.
The shy, retiring Mr Dotcom is the copyright industries’ public enemy number one: his file sharing website, Megaupload, was shut down by the US Department of Justice in 2012, and he’s currently being sued by six Hollywood film studios and facing possible extradition to the US.
Undeterred, Dotcom is planning to launch a legitimate music streaming service, baboom.com, later this year. Until the formal launch there’s only one album on it: Dotcom’s own (bloody awful) Good Times
Ashley Madison is the kind of website you’d expect to see advertised in the darker corners of the web: it’s a dating site set up specifically for people who want to cheat on their partners. However, through a combination of high-profile advertising, affiliate marketing and PR stunts, the site has become part of the mainstream: it boasts more than 21 million members in 30 countries.
Napster and its imitators destroyed the music business as we knew it: the lure of free music and the infinitesimal risk of getting caught meant an entire generation stopped paying for tunes. At its peak it had over 80 million users. Years of litigation finally killed the service in 2001, but the name and logo live on: today it’s a Spotify-style subscription music service.
Kazaa was a blatant attempt to mimic Napster without falling foul of the same legal problems that killed the file-sharing pioneer, but that didn’t stop the music business from suing it silly. Like Napster it went on to become a legal subscription service, but unlike Napster it didn’t survive. Its earliest backers did though, and Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis went on to create Skype and Joost.
Anyone who thinks The Pirate Bay wasn’t largely based on piracy is rather naïve. If all those torrent users were really sharing Linux distributions, Linux would be the most popular consumer OS on earth – but TPB did try a number of things to clean up its act, such as The Promo Bay.
The Promo Bay showcased up-and-coming bands that were quite happy for people to torrent their stuff, but even though it was moved to a separate domain it still ended up blocked by UK ISPs. That blocking was removed in late 2012 and UK internet users can now access The Promo Bay, but not its piratey parent (well, not easily).
Craigslist didn’t start off as an online bad guy: the listings service began as a way to publicise local events and became a cheap and cheerful home for classified ads. Unfortunately the more adult ads caused controversy, with Craigslist accused of facilitating prostitution and even sex trafficking. In 2009 Craigslist decided to clean up its listings and binned the adult services categories in the US and Canada.
Here’s yet another music poacher turned gamekeeper: a Kazaa-style peer-to-peer service that is now 100% RIAA-approved. It still does file sharing but content is limited to its database of 15 million approved songs and videos.
The BitTorrent client formerly known as Azureus was one of the world’s most popular BitTorrent programmes, but since version 3 it’s been pushing legal content from partners including the BBC and Showtime. Vuze is adamant that its users shouldn’t use illegal torrents.
Some technologies get a bad rap, and that’s definitely the case with Tor. Despite coming from military-sponsored research and helping activists avoid censorship and surveillance in the world’s scarier places, the privacy-protecting service is widely believed to be a tool for criminals.
According to the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre last year, as reported in the Independent, 5,000 of the estimated 15,000 Tor users in the UK were using it for criminal purposes such as buying drugs and sharing illegal images.
Privacy activists are attempting to repair Tor’s reputation: the Electronic Frontier Foundation published “7 things you should know about Tor” this week and argues that everybody should be using it. You should be aware, however, that using it may put you on the NSA’s watch list.
In 2007, YouTube’s future wasn’t looking too rosy: media giant Viacom was suing its new owner, Google, for $1 billion in damages for alleged copyright infringement. Viacom had a point: as the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2006, many of the top-viewed videos on the site involved “some type of copyright infringement”. These days, of course, YouTube generates huge amounts of cash for copyright owners.
Christopher Poole, aka moot, is best known as the creator of controversial image board 4Chan, but in 2011 he amassed a reported $625,000 in funding to create a new online service called Canvas. The site was described as a PG-rated 4Chan, a place to create and share memes using its built-in image sharing tools. Canvas spawned DrawQuest, an online illustration app, but Poole ran out of money and closed both sites earlier this year.
Facemash was Hot or Not for Harvard students. “I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive,” wrote its creator, adding later “I’m a jerk for creating this site.” The site was shut down and accused of copyright violation, breaching security and violating people’s privacy, but its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, went on to invent Facebook.
If you’re wondering what it would have been like for those 689,000 guinea pigs who had their emotions manipulated by that controversial Facebook News Feed experiment? Well now you can. Sort of.
Pull a “Zuckerberg” on yourself!
With more than a hint of sarcasm, one developer has built a FB Mood Manipulator plug-in for the Google Chrome web browser, allowing users to select which emotions they see reflected within status updates.
Using a progressive slider, users choose to see more or less Positive, Emotional, Aggressive and Open posts, with the News Feed automatically updating to account for words that fit the parameters.
Those four emotions were used by Facebook in its emotional contagion study, which found users posted more positively or negatively when exposed to similar emotions within their News Feeds.
“Why should Zuckerberg get to decide how you feel? Take back control. Leverage Facebook’s own research to manipulate your emotions on your terms,” writes New York-based developer Lauren McCarthy.
Of course, we took the Mood Manipulator for a quick spin. Requesting more positive emotions summoned happy posts with works like; outstanding, phenomenal, rock, rule, proud, fun, sun, lovely, great and love.
Now we feel all warm inside, although that could be the faulty air conditioning inside this Starbucks.
Regardless, the Mood Manipulator seems like a viable way of getting rid of those Negative Nancys clogging up the News Feed on those days you need a little more sunshine in your life. Give it a spin and let us know your thoughts below.
No one likes advertising intruding on their online experience, but Facebook is looking for ways to deliver more relevant ads to users of its social network by acquiring one of the companies responsible for feeding such content to big media brands.
Facebook today announced an agreement to acquire LiveRail, an advertising technology company best known for wedging themselves between content providers and users with online video ads.
Founded in 2007, LiveRail currently powers the advertising pushed to websites and apps owned my Major League Baseball, ABC, A&E Networks, Gannett and Dailymotion, specializing in the delivery of only the most relevant ad content.
With hundreds of millions of digital video viewers watching LiveRail-powered advertising each and every month, Facebook aims to satisfy publishers and marketers alike with more “interesting and engaging” online ads.
Facebook Vice President of Ads Product Marketing and Atlas Brian Boland describes LiveRail as “a complete advertising solution for video publishers,” although the announcement Wednesday doesn’t offer details on how the acquisition might improve the experience for social network users already fatigued by online ads.
At least for now, Facebook plans to keep LiveRail and its staff of 170 people operating independently of the House That Zuckerberg Built, although Boland hopes to use the combined expertise to “make video advertising much better for everyone.”
Although Facebook has primarily focused advertising on the web thus far, the clock is ticking on that front after announcing a mobile ad network initiative called Facebook Audience Network at the F8 conference back in May.
The acquisition of LiveRail is likely to dovetail nicely with Facebook’s own burgeoning advertising network, which the social network hopes to expand beyond the walls of its own branded mobile apps.
After getting caught red handed for playing with user’s new feeds, Facebook has come out with an official apology for trying to play with its users’ emotions.
During a visit to New Delhi, India the USA Today reports that Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg apologized saying that the company had communicated poorly on the experiment.
This latest statement from Sandberg is a reaction to the recent news uncovering a Facebook experiment from 2012, which artificially tweaked the newsfeeds of 689,003 users. The social network ran an experiment for one week to see how showing more depressing or more positive stories would effect the user’s own status updates as well as posts.
“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” said Sandberg.
Facebook isn’t just feeling the backlash from its community of users. Authorities from around the world – including the British data protection authorities, Ireland, and France – are currently investigating the legality of the experiment.
In response to the investigation Times of India reports Sandberg also explained Facebook is working closely with regulators around the world. “[W]e are fully in compliance [with regulations],” the Facebook COO expounded. “We know this because we have these dialogues and we have felt very confident there.”
“We take privacy very seriously. It is the hallmark of our service, it is the underpinning of our service,” she added.
In case you have to know how many times someone's watched your trick shot vid
As if we needed another way to measure the popularity of our cat, baby and selfie videos, Vine has created a counter that enables users to monitor how many times people watch one of their videos. Think of “Loop Count” as an addition to the endless stream of content validation features on social media, such as “Likes,” “Favorites” and “Views.”
Social Media managers prepare!
Vine users will be able to determine how many “loops” a video has received based on the number in the bottom right corner of a video – similar to how we monitor YouTube views.
However, unlike similar features on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, loops only count if a viewer views a video more than once. For example: one click does not count as a loop; however, if a viewer clicks and watches a video twice, the video will receive two loops.
Vine, which is owned by Twitter, has been testing the feature since April 3. Any videos created prior to that date will feature an icon that indicates the total number of views might actually be higher than indicated (because narcissism, that’s why).
Loop Counts are available on mobile and desktop versions of Vine.
Vine has also added a notification mechanism that lets users know when posts reach milestones like 25 or 100 likes (as if you’re not maniacally monitoring this already).
In May, Vine announced that the web version of the mobile app will allow visitors to view content without being a registered member. One month earlier, Vine added a feature that lets users send each other private, direct messages (which will come in handy after you’ve looped someone’s video 500 times).