Social

WhatsApp could wreck Snapchat again by copying ephemeral messaging

WhatsApp already ruined Snapchat’s growth once. WhatsApp Status, its clone of Snapchat Stories, now has 450 million daily active users compared to Snapchat’s 188 million. That’s despite its 24-hour disappearing slideshows missing tons of features, including augmented reality selfie masks, animated GIFs, or personalized avatars like Bitmoji. A good-enough version of Stories conveniently baked into the messaging app beloved in the developing world where Snapchat hasn’t proved massively successful. Snapchat actually lost total daily users in Q2 and Q3 2018, and even lost Rest Of World daily users in Q2 despite that being where late-stage social networks rely on for growth. That’s why it’s so surprising that WhatsApp hasn’t already copied the other big Snapchat feature, ephemeral messaging. Wh...

Zuckerberg denies knowledge of Facebook’s work with GOP opposition research firm

Today in call with reporters preceded by a frantic if fairly uneventful distraction-pushing media blitz, Facebook responded to a damning New York Times story published yesterday that cited interviews with more than 50 sources privy to Facebook’s decision making. The call kicked off with the operator’s suggestion that Facebook is “happy to take a couple of questions on yesterday’s news” but would prefer to focus on what it wants to talk about — namely anything but the New York Times story. Amidst the strategic fluff, Zuckerberg did come out strongly on one thing — denying any knowledge of or involvement in Facebook’s hiring of Definers Public Affairs, a Washington D.C.-based Republican opposition research firm. “I learned about this reading it in the New York Times yesterday,” Zuckerberg sa...

Discover the next messaging giant at Disrupt Berlin

Truecaller may already be a familiar name, but many of you probably don’t know that it’s slowly becoming a significant messaging app. That’s why I’m excited to announce that Truecaller co-founder and CEO Alan Mamedi will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Truecaller first started as a call screening app. Some countries are more affected than others. But it’s clear that text and call spam is the most intrusive form of spam. The Swedish company then leveraged this user base to quietly turn the app into a full-fledged messaging app with one focus in particular — India. With the acquisition of Chillr, the company shows that it wants to recreate a sort of WeChat for India. The company launched payment features — Truecaller Pay lets you pay other Truecaller users as well as pay your bills. Ev...

Chappy, the Bumble-backed dating app for gay men, inks partnership with GLAAD

Chappy, the dating app for gay men, has today announced a partnership with GLAAD. As part of the partnership, Chappy will make a donation to GLAAD for each conversation initiated on the dating app, from now throughout 2019. The company won’t disclose the amount of the donation, but said that it hopes to raise “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Chappy launched in 2017 to give gay men an authentic, discrimination-free way to connect with one another. The app uses a sliding scale to let users indicate what they’re looking for in a relationship, ranging from ‘Cute’ to ‘Sexy.’ The app has more than 650,000 registered users, and has seen more than 1 billion swipes. Chappy is backed by Bumble and controlled by Bumble shareholders, falling under the Badoo umbrella of dating apps. Last month, Bumb...

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week. Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice. The ...

Listen to the music of a Martian sunrise

[embedded content] Two researchers, Dr. Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University and Dr. Genevieve Williams, have “sonified” a video of the 5,000th Martian sunrise captured by the Mars rover, Opportunity. The music is a representation of the experience of seeing the sun rise over the red dunes as light pierces the planet’s atmosphere. It’s beautiful. From the release: Researchers created the piece of music by scanning a picture from left to right, pixel by pixel, and looking at brightness and colour information and combining them with terrain elevation. They used algorithms to assign each element a specific pitch and melody. The quiet, slow harmonies are a consequence of the dark background and the brighter, higher pitched sounds towards the middle of the piece are created by the son...

Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone

Done cloning Snapchat, Facebook is now chasing Chinese short-form video sensation TikTok with the launch of its knock-off Lasso. Available now for iOS and Android, Lasso is Facebook’s answer to the zany mobile lipsyncing playground that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West. The release confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from last month that the company was building an app called Lasso to let people share short videos with soundtracks. With TikTok looking like the next big thing, it’s not surprising to see Facebook playing chase, much like it did, successfully, when Snapchat posed an existential threat. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the launch of Lasso on iOS and Android is in the U.S. only for now, telling us “Lasso is a new standalone app for short-form, enter...

Limiting social media use reduced loneliness and depression in new experiment

The idea that social media can be harmful to our mental and emotional well-being is not a new one, but little has been done by researchers to directly measure the effect; surveys and correlative studies are at best suggestive. A new experimental study out of Penn State, however, directly links more social media use to worse emotional states, and less use to better. To be clear on the terminology here, a simple survey might ask people to self-report that using Instagram makes them feel bad. A correlative study would, for example, find that people who report more social media use are more likely to also experience depression. An experimental study compares the results from an experimental group with their behavior systematically modified, and a control group that’s allowed to do whatever the...

Facebook Dating arrives in Canada and Thailand

On the heels of Tinder’s plans to go more casual, Facebook is today expanding access to its own dating service, Facebook Dating. First launched two months ago in Colombia for testing purposes, the social network is today rolling out Facebook Dating to Canada and Thailand. The company is also adding a few new features to coincide with the launch, including the ability to re-review people you passed on and take a break by putting the service on pause, among other things. If that latter feature sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also something dating app Bumble recently announced, as well. Bumble in September launched a Snooze button for its own app, which addressed the problem many online daters have – the need for a detox from dating apps for a bit. Sometimes that’s due to frustration or ju...

White House shares manipulated Infowars video to justify CNN press ban

Read this slowly: The White House’s press secretary has tweeted a manipulated video shared by the editor-at-large of conspiracy theorist outlet Infowars to attempt to justify its decision to suspend the press credentials of CNN’s chief white house correspondent. CNN’s Jim Acosta had his press pass pulled by the White House earlier today after press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed he had “plac[ed] his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”. Acosta disputes this. The journalist had being trying to continue asking president Trump questions during a contentious exchange at a White House press briefing. During this exchange Trump cut over him verbally — saying “that’s enough” — at which point a female White House intern moved towards Acosta and attempted to take the microphone out of...

Facebook is facing an EU data probe over fake ads

The UK’s privacy watchdog has asked Facebook’s lead EU regulator to look into ongoing data protection concerns about its ad platform — including how its platform is being used to target and spread fake adverts to try to manipulate voters. Facebook’s international HQ is in Ireland so the regulator in play here is the Irish Data Protection Commission. The ICO noted the action in a 113-page report to parliament yesterday giving an update on its long-running investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns — writing: We have referred our ongoing concerns about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques that are used to monitor individuals’ browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices to the to the IDPC. Under the GDPR, the IDPC is ...

Facebook connects Russia to 100+ accounts it removed ahead of mid-terms

The 115 accounts Facebook took down yesterday for inauthentic behavior ahead of the mid-term elections may indeed have been linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, according to a new statement from the company. It says that a site claiming association with the IRA today posted a list of Instagram accounts it had made which included many Facebook had taken down yesterday, and it also has since removed the rest. The IRA was previously llabeled as responsible for using Facebook to interfere with US politics and the 2016 Presidential election. Facebook’s head of cyber security policy Nathaniel Gleicher issued this statement to TechCrunch: “Last night, following a tip off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked...