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Facebook Celebrates 50th Anniversary of 'Star Trek' With Custom Reactions

Facebook marketing lead Lindsey Shepard recently posted a blog sharing new details of the company's celebration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary, taking place today. After updating the "Like" button to a set of emotional reactions earlier in the year, the social network is temporarily giving each reaction a Star Trek themed makeover to celebrate the franchise's premiere on September 8, 1966. In order to make this understood by all Star Trek fans, we chose the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols from the original Star Trek series, as well as the Next Generation. We also wanted to honor the original design and spirit of Reactions, so we needed visual cues that were easy to identify at a glance, like Geordi’s visor. This led us to our final cast: Kirk, Spock, Geordi and a Klingon. This project has truly been a labor of love. We hope that people find as much joy in using these different celebratory elements as we have in creating them. We may test experiences like this in the future, and will focus on community and moment-driven events like this one. Live long and prosper. Shepard said Facebook chose "the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols from the original Star Trek series" as inspiration for the new reaction buttons, and paired them with what users expect from reactions. The new Star Trek reactions include a sparkly thumbs-up (Like), Vulcan salute (Love), Captain Kirk (Haha), Spock (Wow), Geordi (Sad), and a Klingon (Angry). The update to reactions also comes with a customized greeting and profile frame that Facebook says only

Facebook Introduces Live Streaming 'Instant Video' Feature in Messenger App

In yet another deeper push into video, Facebook today is rolling out a new update to its Messenger app [Direct Link] that adds a new live video button into every chat window. When used, Facebook users will begin live streaming in a small pop-up window with sound turned off by default, allowing them to keep texting with the person on the other end while sharing visual details of their location that might be easier through video rather than simple text. Facebook is calling the new feature "Instant Video," and says it represents "a reflection of the ubiquity of video" that's expected in most messaging apps nowadays. Rather than a full-on video chatting experience, the social network hopes for Instant Video to be a companion to traditional texting. Instant Video is a reflection of the ubiquity of video — we simply expect to have that ability in real-time, all the time. With Instant Video, you can bring your conversations to life in the most authentic way — seamlessly and instantly. It’s perfect for sharing quick moments with friends who aren’t right by your side or making your conversations richer by seeing each other face-to-face when you are messaging. Sometimes you want to ask a friend’s opinion on a pair of shoes you want to buy, weigh in on what ice cream flavor they should bring home, or just want to see your BFF’s reaction to your witty message when you’re in a place where you can’t actually talk live. To start an Instant Video conversation, there will be a new video icon in the top right corner of each Messenger conversation. This will bring up the live

WhatsApp to Share User Data With Facebook to Show Targeted Ads

WhatsApp has updated its terms of service and privacy policy to reflect that it will begin sharing select data with Facebook, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service. Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, will use the information to provide better friend suggestions and targeted ads and offers to users of its own service. By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of.WhatsApp ensures that nothing users share on the service, including messages, photos, and account information, will be publicly shared onto Facebook for others to see. The updated terms and privacy policy also state that the new data sharing measures will help WhatsApp more accurately count unique users, fight spam and abuse, and improve the overall experience of its messaging service. Existing WhatsApp users can choose not to share their account information with Facebook. On the iPhone app, before you tap "Agree" to accept the updated terms, tap on "Read," scroll to the bottom, and toggle the control. Users that agree to the updated terms also have an additional 30 days to opt out by going to Settings > Account >

Facebook Now Testing Autoplay Videos With Sound in iOS App

Starting today, Facebook will begin testing autoplay videos -- including ads -- with sound in its iOS and Android apps. Facebook told Mashable the test will be limited to Australian users and rolled out in two different ways to gauge how users react. In both versions of the test, sound will only play if the iPhone's volume is turned up, and sound can also be turned to "always off" in Facebook settings. In one version of the test, sound plays immediately as the video begins, if you have sound enabled on your device. Another group is able to turn sound on during the test session using an icon that will sit to the bottom right of videos. Both groups see a pop-up message informing them about how to use the controls, and sound will only play if the smartphone's volume is up. If you don't want to annoy your workmates, sound can also be turned to "always off" in Facebook settings.The test is interesting given that Facebook's own research concluded that mobile users prefer having the choice to opt in to sound, with 80% of people reacting negatively towards both the platform and advertiser if sound is unexpectedly played. But, given that Facebook is an advertising-driven company with aspirations of pushing deeper into video content, autoplay sound may eventually be a necessary

Facebook Announces Video-Based Social App 'Lifestage' For High Schoolers

Facebook has released a new teens-only social app called "Lifestage" that asks users to create profiles by uploading video clips instead of filling in text fields. The standalone app is aimed at high school kids aged 21 and under, and doesn't require a Facebook account. Users are asked to select their high school and are then shown video profiles of people at the same school or ones nearby, as long as at least 20 people from the same school use the app. User profiles ask kids to upload videos of their "happy face", "sad face", likes, dislikes, best friend, the way they dance, and more, and Lifestage turns the clips into a video profile that others can then watch on the app's social feed. While there's no restriction on who can download the app and create an account, anyone 22 or older will only be able to see their own profile, although Lifestage notes during sign-up that it can't verify that users are the age they say they are. The app includes various highly visible blocking and reporting options, apparently to guard against the possibility of suspect users. TechCrunch reports that the app was designed by Michael Sayman, a 19-year-old Facebook product manager who aims to replicate Facebook's original incarnation as a college student network. "I wanted to work on an app that my demographic would relate to, or at least that my friends would want to use," said Sayman. The launch of Lifestage is certainly consistent with Mark Zuckerberg's stated goal of putting video at the heart of all of Facebook's apps and services, but it also points to the company's

Facebook Begins Testing MSQRD Live Filters in Brazil and Canada

After acquiring live filter app MSQRD back in March, Facebook today has begun officially integrating its capabilities into the main Facebook mobile app, focusing first on a soft rollout in Brazil and Canada (via TechCrunch). The Olympics-themed launch will greet users with an open, front-facing camera window when first jumping into Facebook, letting them swipe between various filters that add animations and graphics onto their face, which they can then take a photo or video of and then post directly to their feed. For now, Brazilian and Canadian users will only see filters inspired by the Rio Olympics -- like Brazilian flags and a "Go Canada!" motto -- that attach to the user's face and move around with them, similar to Snapchat's popular camera filters. Facebook is also introducing static banners in its rollout, with similar country and team-supported messages that attach to any picture or image. "The way that people share has changed a lot" Facebook Product Manager Sachin Monga tells me. "12 years ago, most of what was shared was text" so Facebook’s status composer with a big white text box. "Now, mobile changed things a little bit, but we didn’t really change our tools. If you look at what people are sharing, now it’s mostly photos, and soon it will be mostly videos. Our strategy is really simple. We want to make it really easy to share photos and videos" Monga explains. Facebook has long been pushing its video content, whether created by media companies or everyday users, as a main focus of the social network in the future. Although the company didn't confirm a

Facebook Messenger Celebrates Reaching 1 Billion Monthly Active Users

Yesterday on Facebook, the company's dedicated messaging app, Facebook Messenger, posted news regarding its recent milestone of surpassing 1 billion monthly active users. As The Next Web pointed out, that's a growth of 200 million users since January, and roughly suggests that 1 out of every 7 members of the population are logging onto Facebook Messenger each month to text with friends and family. In the message thanking users, the Facebook Messenger team mentioned that the company will be celebrating by debuting the launch of new animated balloons into the chat app. Anyone can try it out by sending someone a traditional balloon emoji within Facebook Messenger to activate the new animation. On behalf of the entire Messenger team, we'd like to thank the more than 1 billion people who are now using Messenger every month. People use Messenger to connect with the people and businesses they care most about. They make plans, share dreams, send payments, tell jokes, play games, let their loved ones know they're thinking of them and much, much more. We know that every message is important to you - no matter what you want to say - and we're grateful that you choose to communicate using Messenger. To put its growing popularity into perspective, Facebook also released some stats related to its messaging service. According to the company, 22 million GIFs are sent every day (approximately 254 per second), and popular holidays saw a noticable uptick in user messaging, with 300 million flowers sent on Mother's Day and 360 valentine-related chats sent on February 14. Among a

Facebook Messenger Adds Support for New Peek and Pop 3D Touch Gestures

Facebook Messenger today was updated to version 79.0, bringing with it the debut of new Peek and Pop gestures within the messaging client. On the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, users will now be able to try out the pressure sensitive abilities of 3D Touch to more easily navigate through the app. Within each conversation thread, 3D Touch allows for quick previews of any links or contacts posted within a message. The company also noted that throughout the app, Peek and Pop will be available to "preview contacts, conversations, photos, videos, stickers, links and locations." Facebook Messenger previously added 3D Touch support on its app icon with a few Quick Actions that present options to jump into recent chats, start a new message, or generate your personal messenger code to add a friend on the service. Anyone who wants to check out the new 3D Touch features of Facebook Messenger can download the app for free from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Facebook Testing End-to-End Encryption in Messenger

Facebook has announced that it will begin rolling out optional end-to-end encryption within its Messenger app for iOS and Android on a limited test basis, ahead of the option becoming more widely available through early September. Messenger users will be able to create one-to-one "Secret Conversations" in Messenger that will be end-to-end encrypted and which can only be read on one device of the person they are communicating with. Within secret conversations, Messenger users will have the option to set a timer to control the length of time each message sent remains visible within the conversation. The technology is based on the Signal Protocol by Open Whisper Systems [PDF]. Facebook said secret conversations do not currently support rich content like GIFs and videos, making payments, or other popular Messenger features. End-to-end encryption will not be enabled by default, and secret conversations will not be available through Messenger.com, Facebook chat, or the desktop Messenger app for now, per TechCrunch, which also explained how to start a secret conversation:…just tap on your friend's name at the top of your current message thread. If you're part of Facebook's test group, you'll see an option called "Secret Conversation." Once you click it, a new conversation thread opens, with a notice at the top informing you that the chat is end-to-end encrypted. The timer feature that allows messages to be erased after a certain time period has elapsed is located right next to the text field. It offers a drop-down list of times you can select for how long you

Facebook to Shut Down 'Paper' News Creation and Curation App

Facebook is shutting down news creation and curation app Paper, reports The Verge. Paper, which debuted in 2014, was the first product to come out of Facebook Creative Labs, which has since been dismantled. Paper, a Flipboard competitor, consisted of a news reader that pulled content from a user's Facebook News Feed and a variety of well-known online publications, organizing it all into a magazine-style layout with sections ranging from technology to animals. A team of editors curated the most popular online content for users and for a time, it was a popular replacement for the traditional Facebook News Feed. Though it received positive reviews and was one of Facebook's most downloaded apps, it was not able to attract and maintain a large audience, leading to Facebook's decision to shut it down. Paper has been defunct for a while, going without an update since March of 2015. According to Facebook, many of the concepts introduced in Paper, like Instant Articles, have since been added to its other apps and services. Instant Articles is a platform designed to speed up the loading times of articles and news stories and it adopted much of its design language from Paper. Paper has been removed from the App Store as of today and existing app users will no longer be able to use the app after July

Facebook Promises That Location Data is 'Only One of the Factors' in Friend Suggestions [Updated]

Facebook has never specified the exact methods it uses to present friend suggestions within its "People You May Know" tab, but a new report by Fusion suggests that a shared GPS data point could be a bigger factor in curating friendship than Facebook wants users to know. A nameless source told the site that he suspected the social network of digging into his location information to curate potential friendships with parents who had attended an anonymous meeting for suicidal teenagers. When a fellow parent appeared on his People You May Know section -- without any shared contact information or interests -- he double checked the privacy settings of Facebook in his iPhone to prevent the app from "always" sharing his location. As far as he could tell, the sole factor in common between the two Facebook users had been the similar GPS location at one of the meetings. Still, when Facebook was reached out to provide a comment, the company confirmed that location data, by itself, is never used for the purpose of presenting friendships on the social network. While this could be potentially useful for connecting with people you might forget to exchange contact information with, Facebook also realizes the potential for a breach of security if you happen to be visiting somewhere more private. “People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors.” “Location information by itself

Facebook App Takes on Movie-Making Feature in iOS 10 With 'Slideshows'

Facebook is shifting the movie-making Slideshow feature from its Moments app to its flagship iOS app in an attempt to counter Apple's Photos update in iOS 10. For those unfamiliar with Apple's big addition to its Photos app coming in iOS 10, a new feature called Memories uses facial- and object-recognition to automatically cluster photos based on people, scenes, dates, and locations, and intelligently creates mini-movies of occasions like vacations, birthdays, and weddings. Similarly, Facebook's Slideshow feature, which originally appeared in August as part of its photo-centric Moments app, combines user photos and videos into a short clip that can be customized with transitions, themes, and music soundtracks. In its new manifestation in Facebook's flagship app, the feature will now do this automatically whenever users take at least five photos or videos in the last 24 hours. And if users come upon a slideshow in the News Feed, they can tap a "try it" option to make their own. Images can be edited to add or remove images, and themes include Nostalgic, Playful, Night Out, Birthday, Epic, Thankful, Tropical, Bollywood, and Amped. The move represents a direct attempt by the company to take on Apple's movie-making feature in iOS 10, which is coming this fall, although both companies are actually playing catch-up to Google, which offered a similar feature last year as part of Google Photos Assistant. Earlier this month, Facebook attracted the ire of users by forcing account holders to download its Moments app if they wanted to keep synced photo albums

Facebook for iOS Now Features Human-Curated Events List in 10 Cities

Facebook today announced plans to add human curation to its Facebook Events feature on iOS devices, with designated curators set to highlight notable events in a select number of cities. Facebook Events, for those unfamiliar, is the Facebook feature that allows users to create dedicated Facebook event pages for parties, festivals, and more, and sign up to attend those events. Event pages are a useful way to share event details with a large number of people, including time, location, and information on others who are attending. According to TechCrunch, iOS users in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. will see a new "Featured Events" option on the Events section of the app. Some users, described as "highly engaged," will also receive push notifications for interesting events. Facebook's curators will cull through each city's top art, entertainment, family, festival, fitness, food & drink, learning, community, music, and sports events, and select a few with the capacity to accept some extra foot traffic. "You can think about it like a weekend or weekly digest of cool stuff that you can do in your city" Facebook Events product manager Aditya Koolwal tells [TechCrunch].Curated Featured Events will join existing event suggestions Facebook users receive, which have included events based on interest, past attendance, and friend attendance. Facebook's goal with Featured Events is to surface events early enough to give people time to plan to attend. Facebook is also enhancing its Events

Facebook Forcing Users to Install 'Moments' App to Retain Synced Photos

Facebook has begun notifying users who upload photos from their iOS devices that their synced albums will be deleted next month (via TechCrunch). Facebook's iOS photo syncing feature was launched in 2012, and let users automatically upload all photos on their mobile devices to a private album called 'Synced' or 'Synced from Phone'. The idea behind the feature was that copying the photos makes it easier to find and share pictures with friends on the social network. Users are now being informed by email and via app notifications that these albums will cease to exist on July 7, and that they should either download the albums, or install the company's photo-centric Moments app to retain their uploaded status. News of the change has seen the Moments app shoot up the App Store's Top Free Apps chart, where it currently ranks #2 ahead of Facebook's hugely popular Messenger app, which sits at #3. The forced adoption of yet another Facebook app has caused consternation among a number of social media account holders, who were subject to a similar heavy-handed approach in early 2014. I'm gonna delete @facebook from my phone before I install Messenger AND Moments! Facebook is the new MySpace. https://t.co/ewszcNBEGY— Ray Ulrich (@ulrichray) June 2, 2016 On that occasion, the company pushed all users to download Facebook Messenger after it removed the chat feature from its flagship app. Messenger has remained among the App Store's top-ranking free apps ever since. This month, the company also announced that it would be removing chat from its mobile web app

Facebook Quietly Kills Off 'Notify' News Alert App for iOS

Facebook has officially shut down Notify, its real-time, notification-based news app for iOS. The company sent an alert to users of the app last night, explaining that it would be transitioning parts of the Notify service into its other products and that the app would no longer be supported. Notify, which went live in November, enabled users to receive news notifications and choose their sources from over 70 publishers, with options for granular alerts about specific sub-topics of interest. Notifications included short summaries and allowed users to tap through to view the news articles, but the app has clearly failed to capture the attention of Facebook's user base and the wider news-reading public. Facebook told TechCrunch: Starting on Wednesday, we will begin integrating Notify functionality into other Facebook products, like Messenger, and will be removing Notify from the App Store. Since launching Notify, we've learned a lot about how to make notifications as timely and relevant as possible and we heard from people using the app that Notify helped them stay informed about things they cared about throughout the day. With more than 900 million people using Messenger each month, we think there is a great opportunity for publishers to reach even more people interested in real-time updates from their favorite sources.According to mobile app analytics startup SensorTower, Notify only achieved 63,000 downloads in its lifetime. Facebook's other iOS news-related app, the digital magazine-like Paper, appears to remain in the company's future standalone service

Facebook Considering Optional End-to-End Encryption for Messenger

Facebook is planning to introduce an optional end-to-end encryption mode for its Facebook Messenger chat platform, currently used by more than 900 million people, reports The Guardian. Citing sources "close to the project," The Guardian says the encryption will be an opt-in feature because turning it on will impact some of the new machine learning features being built into the Messenger app like chat bots. Google's upcoming "Allo" messaging app also offers an opt-in end-to-end encryption option it calls "incognito mode." Many major technology companies have taken a stronger stance on privacy, embracing end-to-end encryption following Apple's standoff with the FBI. Earlier this year, the FBI demanded Apple unlock the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook by bypassing Apple's own passcode security features. Apple refused, and the FBI eventually found an alternate way to access the iPhone, but the dispute has scared technology companies into bolstering security. Dozens of major technology companies supported Apple during its fight with the FBI, all of whom were concerned about the precedent the FBI's demand could set. Popular Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp enabled full end-to-end encryption in April, and in March, Swiss software developer Proton Technologies released ProtonMail, an email app offering end-to-end encryption. Apple is also rumored to be working on enhanced security measures for its software and hardware, and apps like Telegram Messenger have grown in popularity. It is not clear exactly when Facebook might introduce new

Facebook Moments for iOS Gets Approval in Canada and EU App Stores

Facebook yesterday released its Moments private photo sharing app in Europe and Canada, almost a year after it appeared in the U.S. App Store. The app helps users find Facebook photos of themselves, their friends, and particular places, and collects these together for private viewing or sharing. It does this by attempting to recognize who appears in them based on facial features, and also takes into account the date, time, and location where the photos were taken. The U.S. and international versions of the company's photo-centric app use facial recognition technology to identify people in Facebook photos, but the feature ran afoul of privacy laws and regulations in Europe and Canada. To get around the ban, the new modified version has been stripped of facial recognition technology and instead groups together multiple photos that "appear to include the same face", according to the social media company (via TechCrunch). It does this by relying on a less accurate form of technology that uses object recognition to analyze the distance between a person's eyes and ears. Moments also integrates with Facebook and Messenger apps, where users are alerted to the fact that their friends have shared photos featuring them. ">Moments is a free app for iPhone and iPad available for download in the App Store. [Direct Link

Third Party App 'Littlebook' Brings Facebook to the Apple Watch for $2.99

Although a number of social networks have introduced scaled-down apps for the Apple Watch, the biggest holdout thus far has been Facebook. Thanks to a third party app called "Littlebook," Facebook users will now be able to browse their news feeds right from Apple's wearable device (via The Next Web). In addition to basic browsing, Littlebook lets users interact with posts by tapping to like things, and even includes full in-line photos and videos in the news feed. An offline mode lets users save articles to read later, and the app allows for transferring over to the iPhone with Handoff support, if the small size of the Apple Watch isn't enough for lengthy reads. There's also a voice dictation feature that can be used to post full status updates to your friends and family. Reto Stuber, Littlebook's developer, does remind potential users that the app has its limitations due to the platform, including the fact that posts on the feed are limited to preview samples with no "read more" option, sharing and reactions are not yet supported, and YouTube videos won't work since playback is only supported by embedded Facebook videos at launch. Still, the developer promised that he tried his "best to recreate the Facebook-App experience," and Littlebook will continue to be supported with updates in the future. Littlebook can be downloaded from the App Store for $2.99. [Direct Link]

Facebook Developing Standalone Camera and Live Video App

Social networking site Facebook is developing a new standalone camera app aimed at encouraging Facebook users to share more photos and videos, reports The Wall Street Journal. Developed by a Facebook team in London, the app reportedly opens directly to a camera much like Snapchat, giving users a way to quickly capture photos and videos. Another feature planned for the device is the ability to live stream video, mimicking existing apps like Meerkat and Periscope. In recent months, Facebook has been making a strong push into live video. The app may be designed to combat a growing decline in the number of photos and videos Facebook users are sharing as focus has shifted towards articles and away from original content. Market research conducted by GlobalWebIndex suggests 37 percent of Facebook users uploaded or shared their own photos in 1Q 2016, down from 46 percent in 1Q 2015. Other methods Facebook is using to encourage the sharing of original content include news feed prompts based based on interests and location, an "On This Day" feature for sharing past posts, and an option to post pre-made collages taken from a user's Facebook photo repository. According to sources who spoke to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook's camera project remains in the early stages and could potentially never see a release should it be

Facebook Messenger Debuts Group Voice Calls With a Limit of Up to 50 People

Facebook has announced a new feature coming to its standalone Messenger app that will let users start up group calls with up to 50 friends and family members. Rolling out now to the iOS and Android Messenger apps, the update will use previously established group chats within Facebook's messaging client as a springboard for starting a voice call with the group's members (via TechCrunch). Users will be able to begin a group call by tapping the new phone icon at the bottom of a group chat window, picking which members they specifically want included in the call, and waiting for them to receive a Messenger notification and jump in on the conversation. The social media company confirmed that a total of 50 people can be in on one group call at a time, and that anyone late to the call can join after the fact through the same phone icon in the group's chat log. An in-progress group call on the Messenger apps for iOS and Android Group calls are an extension of Messenger's established one-on-one voice and video calling features, and the company has said that group video conferencing could be coming down the line, as well. "Group video calling is definitely a use case that a lot of our people might be interested in at some point," Stan Chudnovsky, Messenger's head of product, said in an interview last year. "It would be a big deal if the whole [shakes hand to simulate lack of video stabilization] thing goes away.” In addition to expanding Messenger into its own self-sufficient communication hub, Facebook has been slowly rolling out new features into its mainline