Facebook pulls an Instagram with auto-playing videos on iOS

12.12.2013, 15:09

Facebook has pushed out a new update for its iOS app, adding a feature that sees videos automatically play as you scroll past them.

Facebook: Auto-playing videos since 2013

Like it or loathe it, the version 6.8 update introduces the mandatory auto-play function, which follows in the footsteps of Vine and Instagram.

Like Instagram, the sound will be muted unless you actually click on it, but if you want you can alter the settings so that video and audio start playing together in harmony.

While it won’t be embraced lovingly by everyone, the good news is that you can set auto-play to Wi-Fi-only if you’re watching the old data allowance.

Facebook also told TechCrunch that it plans to roll out the feature to the web version of Facebook.

This means that everything is in place for Facebook to start rolling out those 15-second autoplaying ads that are rumoured to start appearing soon.

Right now this is just on the iOS app, but we’ve asked Facebook when the same feature might roll over to other platforms and will update when we hear more.

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Really incredibly inspiring examples of Facebook timeline photos

11.12.2013, 10:15

Facebook is currently the largest social network. Naturally, you can find all kind of people in it, some of them very “creative”. Amongst them, some persons strive to create beautiful, inspiring, or even funny, Facebook Timeline Photos.

You would think there is not much room to do something creative with Facebook’s Timeline Photos. You would be wrong. Very wrong. On the contrary, you will see how the timeline images below are not only aesthetically pleasing but also interact perfectly with the profile photo.

Additionally, the article will give you some tutorials, tips and tricks that will invite you to try.

Come on, take a look and enjoy – we certainly did!

Antonio Fadda

Designer: Antonio Fadda

© Antonio Fadda

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook hires NYU professor to head new artificial intelligence lab

10.12.2013, 9:43

Facebook is expanding its interest in artificial intelligence by creating a new AI laboratory and selecting New York University professor Yann LeCun to head it up.

Prof. Yann LeCun

“Facebook has created a new research laboratory with the ambitious, long-term goal of bringing about major advances in Artificial Intelligence,” LeCun announced on his Facebook page today.

The social networking company is also entering into a partnership with New York University’s Center for Data Science to carry out research in data science, machine learning, and AI.

The brainy group will have locations in Menlo Park, London, and at Facebook’s new facility in New York City, right up the street from where LeCunn will still teach part time.

LeCun’s hire could act as a long-term method of improving Facebook’s already sophisticated social graph, which determines the stories pop up on your newsfeed.

It could also act as a way to counter Google and its own artificial intelligence endeavor with futurist Ray Kurzweil that was announced earlier this year.

Both companies are competing to have computers better understand human language by hiring top minds from the outside. Yahoo, similarly, is scooping up whole companies dealing with natural language.

Since LeCun didn’t have a whole lot of details to share in his post, TechRadar contacted him and Facebook for more details about how such AI research will benefit the end user. We will update this story if we hear back.

In the meantime, LeCun did mention that Facebook is hiring the most intelligent among us for its newly formed artificial intelligence lab.

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Apple, Microsoft, Google and more fight the privacy fight with NSA-bashing letter

09.12.2013, 10:43

Eight of the biggest tech companies on the planet have put their names against an open letter to US president Barack Obama that asks for urgent reform of the NSA and the way it can access our information.

NSA Seal

With several of them being named and shamed in the Edward Snowdon Prism leaks, it’s no surprise that AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have publicly suggested that things have to change.

The letter – published in the Washington Post and set to appear as a print ad across the US press – calls for greater transparency over the number and type of requests made by government agencies to release user data, and an overhaul of the way in which our privacy is safeguarded.

“Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done,” reads the letter.

“Our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.

“We also continue to encourage the Administration to increase its transparency efforts and allow us to release more information about the number and types of requests that we receive, so that the public debate on these issues can be informed by facts about how these programs operate.”

“We urge the Administration to work with Congress in addressing these critical reforms that would provide much needed transparency and help rebuild the trust of Internet users around the world.”

It’s clear that the eight companies involved feel that the government has put them in a terrible position – drastically reducing user trust under the critical but often abused banner of national security.

It remains to be seen if the companies continue this public outrage across other countries – including the UK.

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Facebook pondering ‘Sympathise’ button to offer sad friends a little comfort

09.12.2013, 9:08

Remember, before Facebook, when friends used to ring you up to wish you a happy birthday? Or to congratulate you on a new job rather than writing on the wall or clicking the ‘Like’ button?

More Facebook Gestures?

Well now the traditional expressions of sympathy during sad times, an arm around the shoulder, an invite for a pint, a card in the post or a bunch of flowers are potentially under threat from the social network.

Facebook has revealed it is actively experimenting with a ‘Sympathise’ button, which was dreamt up at a recent hackathon event and was an immediate hit.

It would work, as thus: If you tag your status with a negative emotion, such as ‘feeling sad’ then a ‘Sympathise’ button would replace the ‘Like’ button.

“It would be, ‘five people sympathise with this,’ instead of ‘five people ‘like’ this,’” said Dan Muriello, a Facebook engineer. “Of course a lot of people were – and still are – very excited about. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet.”

In some cases, this would be a nice idea. After all, when someone expresses a loss, users may appreciate the sentiment’s expressed in a status update, but clicking ‘Like’ doesn’t quite seem appropriate.

Also when one of your mates complains about their boss, or the late running trains, or their relegation-threatened football team, Like also doesn’t seem to cover it.

However, Facebook already does so much to take the effort out of maintaining a real, friendship and the sincerity of real-life well wishes, do we really need that threatened further by a sympathy button?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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WhatsUp, Facebook? WhatsApp new king of smartphone IM, survey claims

02.12.2013, 10:56

Facebook has lost its mobile messaging lead to the upstart WhatsApp platform, according to new research published this weekend..


OnDevice surveyed almost 4,000 smartphone users in five countries and found that a whopping 44 per cent of them were using WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends.

35 per cent of those folks – in US, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and China – were using Facebook Messenger in November.

Despite eliminating BlackBerry users, the reborn BBM platform was down in 5th place with a respectable 15 per cent of those surveyed using the service, behind WeChat (28 per cent) and Twitter (16 per cent).

BlackBerry’s platform does seem to be doing exceedingly well in South Africa, according to the study, will 34 per cent of surveyed users frequenting the app in November.

Another takeaway from the research was the popularity of social messaging apps compared with traditional SMS messaging.

OnDevice found the 85 per cent of its sample used the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook last month, while 75 per cent used text messages.

As is often the case with these surveys, it’s by no means conclusive. There was no mention of the $3 billion-valued Snapchat, while the influential European mobile market was ignored entirely.

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No sex please, we’re too busy Facebooking and emailing in bed

27.11.2013, 11:24

The explosion of mobile technology has resulted in less fireworks in the bedroom, according to a new survey which suggests of-age Brits are doing the old mattress mambo with decreasing regularity.

Bed Time!

From a poll of 15,000 Briton’s, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found those aged between 16-44 are having sex five times a month, down from more than six in 1990-91 and 1999-2001.

Dr Cath Mercer of University College London reckons the fall in fornication can be partly attributed to the amount of social networking, web browsing, game playing, emailing and viewing on-demand video apps at bedtime.

She said: “We think modern technologies are behind the trend too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails.”

Will this make you think twice before bring your tablet to bed with you in future?

Don’t read this saucy array of blips with a hopeful partner lying beside you…

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Forget Facebook: why teens are turning to other social apps

25.11.2013, 12:53

In early November, it was announced that photo sharing service Snapchat had turned down a Facebook buyout worth a staggering $3 billion. Many observers thought that $3 billion was an incredible sum and a massive overvaluation of the social service. But many more had a simpler question: what the hell was Snapchat?

Introducing Snapchat

Snapchat is what Facebook used to be: the hip young kid on the block. As Facebook’s early adopters age, their offspring increasingly want social spaces of their own.

Facebook famously began as a college social network, but these days it caters for an older age group. The biggest growth in usage is among salt-and-pepper-haired baby boomers, and the early adopters have long since grown up, settled down and filled everybody’s News Feeds with photos of their kids.

Teens are still important to Facebook. ComScore reckons around one-fifth of Facebook’s British users are aged between 15 to 24, while the Pew American Life Project reports that 77% of online teens use the site.

But it seems that Facebook may be becoming less important to teens who may have profiles but who do their networking elsewhere.

In October, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer reported that Facebook was seeing a significant decline in the daily usage of its younger teen users – a remark that gave investors a heart attack.

Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual survey of teens would have given them a few more. A year ago 42% of teens told researchers that Facebook was their most important social network; six months ago that had fallen to 33%, and now it’s 23%.

Teens are still networking, it’s just that increasingly they don’t do it where their parents, all their peers and the odd potential employer can see them.

While the grown-ups share baby photos, inspirational quotes and urban myths on Facebook, younger users are waxing lyrical on WhatsApp, kicking back on Kik and sharing selfies on Snapchat.

That’s partly because for many teens, Facebook missed the mobile boat. Teens are a phone-first demographic, not PC-first like their parents, and apps such as Snapchat work brilliantly on mobile.

Facebook has since filled the gaps, first with its blatant Snapchat clone Poke in late 2012 and more recently with the updates to its standalone Facebook Messenger app. But by the time Facebook decided to take on Snapchat the newer service already had a huge audience. It shared its billionth photo in November 2012.

Snapchat is often characterised as the social network for sexting, but the appeal is more nuanced than that. The promise that what you post won’t hang around forever (more or less) or fall into the wrong hands encourages fast, funny and quickly-forgotten sharing of what you’re doing, thinking or watching right now.

Ephemeral sharing isn’t the only attraction. Parents and older relatives don’t use it. Pew Internet found that while 26% of under-30s used Snapchat, the numbers of over-30s were negligible – and until recently it’s largely flown under the radar, so there was little danger of parents attempting to connect with or follow their children on it.

They don’t care about the money, money, money

As a result Snapchat has seen explosive growth, and in November it reported daily sharing of more than 400 million images.

That’s more than Facebook and Instagram combined, and the average Snapchat user now sends more snaps than SMS.

That’s impressive, but it’s nothing compared to WhatsApp. By June of this year it was processing 27 billion messages a day.

It’s the most popular messaging app in the UK, and it has more than 350 million monthly active users worldwide: that’s bigger than Twitter (232 million monthly active users) and more than one-quarter of Facebook.

WeChat is doing big numbers too: while its audience is largely in China, it now has more than 100 million registered user accounts from outside China.

WhatsApp’s appeal is simple: it does everything important (individual and group messaging, photo and video sharing and location sharing) really well, without ads, and for a very reasonable fee. For example you can currently get the app for free and you’ll pay $0.99 a year thereafter.

If you’re thinking “Facebook does all of that, and it doesn’t cost anything” you’re right but Facebook also does everything else.

It’s bogged down in the aforementioned baby photos, people Like-ing things to try and win competitions, endless game invites, things you saw online last week, all kinds of irrelevant content and lots of ads. By comparison Snapchat and WhatsApp are much more focused and less ad-heavy: they do what you want and don’t do what you don’t.

WhatsApp is a lot simpler than Facebook

Snapchat and WhatsApp aren’t the only services with large teen appeal. Twitter usage is increasing among teen users, Instagram’s doing well too, and negative newspaper coverage of Ask.fm doesn’t appear to have done it any harm.

Teens are using Skype, Vine and Tumblr, Pinterest, Pheed and Instagram, with newer services such as diary.com hoping to capture some of this notoriously fickle demographic too.

The services that are doing well tend to fall into three categories: chat, creation and curation. Chat is self-explanatory; creation is posting stuff you’ve made yourself, whether that’s a bathroom selfie or an Instagrammed burger; and curation is posting stuff that others have made, such as when you reblog a Tumblr image or retweet on Twitter.

Creation and curation are increasingly important. Pew reports that 54% of adult internet users are involved in online creation (up from 46% the previous year) and that 47% take part in curation, up from 41% the previous year.

It’s important to keep all of this in perspective, though. Facebook has 1.19 billion active users and it’s continuing to grow. However, its sheer scale means that even a tiny percentage of its user base represents an enormous number of people, and the more mature it becomes the more teenage users will want to use something else.

If you can tempt even a fraction of Facebook’s teen users to spend time in your mobile app instead, you’ve got a nice little business.

The kind of business that can afford to turn down $3 billion dollars.

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Instagram to become IM-stagram with new instant messaging feature?

25.11.2013, 9:29

Instagram has become a household name thanks to its filter-friendly photo and video sharing tools, but the Facebook-owned company has no plans to stop there, according to reports on Friday.

Instagram to go Social

Sources within the company have told Gigaom that the next version of the app will feature a private instant messaging feature that will allow users to converse beyond the current commenting mechanism

The feature is likely to be integrated into an update before the end of the year, according to the source, and could even enable group messaging, which the site has reportedly been experimenting with.

Integrating messaging could give Instagram a shot at competing with apps like Snapchat, which are proving popular with the younger sectors of Instagram’s audience.

Indeed, Facebook itself reportedly attempted to buy Snapchat for $3 billion recently amid a significant surge in its popularity, so may be operating under a ‘If you can’t beat of buy ‘em, join ‘em’ strategy.

An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Is instant messaging to 2013 what filtered photos were to 2013? Would you welcome IM within Instagram? Let us know in the comments section below.

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How Snapchat turned down Facebook’s $3bn buyout offer

14.11.2013, 14:48

Snapchat reportedly rejected a buyout offer from Facebook. Here’s an exclusive look at how it (may have) gone down:

Snapchat’s Price Tag

Facebook’s five top lawyers smirk as they slide a slip of heavy weighted paper across a varnished walnut boardroom table.

Overachieving 23-year-old Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel leans forward, picks the paper up and casually unfolds it. There’s a pause and all the carefully temperature-controlled air seems to go out of the room.

Spiegel snorts quietly, stands up, buttons his smart-casual sports jacket the way he’s seen lawyers do it on TV and strides through the heavy double doors, tossing the paper over his left shoulder as he goes.

The paper flutters slowly down to the varnished table top and the number on it slowly comes into focus: $3,000,000,000 neatly printed in black ink, each 0 a smiling ghost.

As the slip comes to rest, it bursts into a bright flame – just for a second – and then whoosh. It’s gone.

The lawyers shift uncomfortably in their pressed Tom Ford suits. Zuckerberg is not going to like this.

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