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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

Facebook Introduces Chatbots for Messenger, Pushes Further Into Live Video

As was rumored last week, Facebook today announced plans to bring chatbot support to its Messenger platform. At the Facebook F8 Developer Conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated a Messenger chatbot on stage, using the Messenger platform to order flowers from 1-800-Flowers through a text conversation. "To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again," said Zuckerberg, explaining that Facebook chatbots are designed to allow users and businesses to connect together in new ways. "You don't have to install an app or enter your credit card." Developers will be able to build chat programs to interface with users. These will range from product-based companies like 1-800-Flowers to news companies like CNN, another one of Facebook's partners. Facebook also plans to expand its Live Video feature, which has proven popular with users and public figures. According to Zuckerberg, Live Videos on Facebook garner 10 times more comments than standard videos, which is one of the reasons Facebook recently began rolling out a prominent video tab in the Facebook app to allow users to quickly access live videos from friends and other people. Starting today, Facebook is opening up its Live Video API, allowing the feature to be built into any device. One of Facebook's early launch partners is drone company DJI, and drone live streaming video was shown on stage. Over the next five years, Zuckerberg says Messenger Platform and Live Video will be built up over the next five years, and over the next 10 years, Facebook will focus on connectivity,

Facebook Plans to Introduce Customer Service Chatbot and Live Chat APIs for iOS Messenger App

Facebook is planning to provide developers with toolkits for customer service chatbots and live chat APIs, according to a few sources that spoke with TechCrunch. The company will debut the new features at Facebook's F8 conference next week, following in line with a host of recent institutions getting behind chatbot support. Facebook's intentions are to connect its users with businesses via its standalone chat app, Messenger. [Direct Link] The new program will connect those businesses with Facebook-approved chatbot developers, so instead of needing to navigate the construction of complex automated response systems themselves, they can focus on their company while developers create the chatbot software. TechCrunch acquired a presentation by Facebook aimed at chatbot developers, and it described some of the functionality the automated responses might have. It details how beyond just text chatbots will be able to respond with what it calls “Structured Messages.” These include a title, image, a description, a URL and calls to action such as visiting a website, viewing an e-commerce order or making a restaurant reservation. To further encourage the universality of Messenger, the social media company is also hard at work on plug-ins for the app that can be installed on a website's contact page. Facebook's idea is that this would eventually take preference over calling or emailing for questions, linking them out directly to the Messenger app on iOS or Messenger.com on the web. Going one step beyond automated responses, this would lead to live chat conversations with

Facebook Rolls Out New Video Discovery Tab With Heavy Focus on Live Broadcasts

Facebook today announced a dedicated segment of its popular iOS and Android app will find a renewed focus on both live and pre-recorded videos, taking the place of the Messenger button which sent users to that separate private messaging app. The social network's main focus in the new hub will be on starting up your own live videos, or joining in on another, but Facebook hopes the new feature makes it easier to find videos in general rather than just scrolling across them in a feed, which has been the case in the past. The company launched Facebook Live late last summer through its Mentions app, only to a handful of celebrities, and is now ready to begin a widespread rollout in the proper Facebook app. Facebook has introduced a few new features in the launch, as well, including the ability to launch a live video within a specific Facebook Group or Event. "Live in Groups" lets users begin a live video that will only notify the people in a specific group, "so you can go live in your family group, or share a workout plan in a fitness group." Alternatively, "Live in Events" means those part of an RSVP event can get exclusive live video from a performer ahead of the scheduled event, or a user could share video from a party to those who couldn't make it. The company is also introducing a new metric analyzing feature, aimed at publishers and media companies, that lets broadcasters parse the fluctuating statistics of viewers during a video with various charts and graphs. With the new update, Facebook will accommodate the growing popularity of interactive comments and

Facebook iOS App Gets VoiceOver Feature to Help Blind Users 'See' Photos

Facebook has introduced a new accessibility tool to its iOS app for blind and visually impaired people to help identify images posted on their social feed. The function, called Automatic Alternative Text, works via VoiceOver and generates descriptions of photos that are spoken out loud as a user swipes past photos in the Facebook app. Previously, people using VoiceOver would only hear the name of the person who shared the photo, followed by the term "photo", when they came upon an image in the News Feed. Thanks to the new function – made possible by advancements in object recognition technology – a richer description is now available. For example, a user may hear, "Image may contain three people, smiling, outdoors." Automatic alternative text is currently only available in English, but Facebook plans to add the function for other languages soon. To use the feature on an iOS device with the Facebook app installed, go to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver and turn on the VoiceOver function. Facebook is free on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link

Facebook Messenger Gains Airline Information Bot

Facebook released a new feature today for its iOS Messenger app that allows users to receive booked flight information updates. The instant messaging service's first 'airline bot' enables KLM Royal Dutch Airlines customers who have booked tickets through the airlines' website to have all their flight information delivered to a dedicated thread within the app. The bot is designed to supply customers with their itinerary, boarding pass, and check-in confirmation, as well as notify of any flight delays. An option to speak to a human KLM staff member is also included. Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that Facebook was offering select developers access to its Messenger SDK which would allow them to build helpful service bots for the app. According to the report, Facebook was likely giving third-party developers access to the chat SDK in an effort to make Messenger more like its Asian counterparts, such as WeChat and Line, whose users can contact dedicated accounts to buy movie tickets and pay bills. In December 2015, Uber announced integration with Messenger via a new Transportation feature, which lets customers book taxis and receive live progress updates from within a chat thread. Facebook Messenger is free on the App Store for iPhone. [Direct Link]

Facebook Acquires Popular Live Filter iOS App 'MSQRD'

Apps that add real-time filters to selfies and videos are growing in popularity, and today Facebook announced the acquisition of the team behind MSQRD, a much-downloaded live filter app available on iOS and Android devices. First introduced in January of 2016, MSQRD applies live filters to photos and videos captured with the iPhone's front-facing camera. It includes face swapping capabilities, along with a range of filters and masks that include celebrities, animals, and effects like larger eyes or rabbit ears. Filters like these have been gaining popularity in recent months following their implementation in Snapchat last fall. Apple has made an investment in similar technology, having purchased real-time motion capture firm Faceshift in 2015. Faceshift worked with game and animation studios on technology designed to quickly and accurately capture facial expressions using 3D sensors, which could be used to create real-time video avatars for video chat. It isn't clear what Apple will do with the technology, but it could potentially be incorporated into Photo Booth or FaceTime. Though the technology has been acquired by Facebook, ">MSQRD will continue to be available on iOS devices as a standalone product. The app can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link

Facebook Expands the 'Like' Button to Offer Six Different 'Reactions'

Facebook today announced the rollout of its long-requested expansion of the simple "Like" button, with the introduction of "Reactions" onto its web and mobile platform. The update, meant to give users an easier and more diverse way to react to a friend's post, will begin slowly rolling out to Facebook users worldwide today. To use Reactions, all you have to do is hover over the traditional Like button on the web (or tap to hold on mobile), and choose from six different animated emoji reactions if a simple thumbs up is not enough. Including Like, the other five Reactions factor in Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. We understand that this is a big change, and want to be thoughtful about rolling this out. For more than a year we have been conducting global research including focus groups and surveys to determine what types of reactions people would want to use most. We also looked at how people are already commenting on posts and the top stickers and emoticons as signals for the types of reactions people are already using to determine which reactions to offer. Specifics on the introduction of Reactions to the mobile app were not given, but presumably the iOS and Android apps will see a slow rollout of Reactions alongside their web-based counterpart. Facebook said its early beta tests of Reactions "have received positive feedback so far," so it's confident users will see the use in an assorted mix of emotive responses in lieu of the previous solitary thumbs up button. Check out Facebook's blog to see Reactions in

Facebook and Twitter Announce Support for Apple in Backdoor Dispute With FBI

Both Facebook and Twitter today joined the ranks of a growing number of tech companies announcing support for Apple's decision to oppose a government order that would require it to weaken the security of its iOS devices. The FBI is demanding Apple create a version of iOS that would let it crack the passcode on the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, something Apple has called a "dangerous precedent." In a tweet shared this afternoon, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey thanked Tim Cook for his leadership and said the company stands with Apple. In the tweet, Dorsey also links to Cook's strongly worded open letter that calls the FBI's software request "too dangerous to create." We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)! https://t.co/XrnGC9seZ4— Jack (@jack) February 18, 2016 Facebook announced its support through a statement shared with USA Today, which says the company will "fight aggressively" against government requirements to weaken security. Facebook says the FBI's demands "would create a chilling precedent.""We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe," the statement reads. "When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct

Facebook iOS App Under Fire Again for iPhone Battery Drain Issues

Facebook this morning came under fire once more over concerns regarding the impact its iOS app has on iPhone battery life. Writing in The Guardian, technology reporter Samuel Gibbs claims to have found that uninstalling Facebook's iOS app and accessing the social media site via Safari can save up to 15 percent of an iPhone's battery life. Gibbs relates how he uninstalled the app on his iPhone 6s Plus and recorded its battery life at the same time each day for a week, comparing the numbers to a daily average taken from a week with the app installed. The writer accessed Facebook's site through Safari for the same amount of time and for the same purposes as he had using the dedicated app. Gibbs also notes that he left Facebook's Messenger app installed throughout. In conclusion, Gibbs states that his iPhone had on average 15 percent more battery life by 10:30 p.m. each day without the social media app installed. He also notes large gains in free space, since the deleted app had consumed 500MB in total of his iPhone's capacity. Gibbs chalks most of that up to Facebook's cache, owing to the fact that the app itself is only a 111MB download. Several other users of the app were recruited to carry out further tests and corroborated Gibbs' energy-saving results without the app installed. A Facebook spokesperson said the company is investigating the matter. Facebook is no stranger to concerns regarding the impact of its iOS apps on battery life. In October the company released an update to fix issues raised by users who saw large amounts of battery drain on

Facebook's Live Video Feature Now Available to All U.S. iPhone Users

Facebook today announced that the Live Video feature it introduced in December is now available to all iPhone users in the United States, with plans to roll it out to the rest of the world in the coming weeks. Facebook's built-in Live Video feature is designed to compete with live streaming services like Periscope and Meerkat, which allow people to share in-the-moment video through iOS apps. Live Video on Facebook can be used to share streaming video with friends and family members directly in their Facebook news feeds. Sharing Live Video can be done by tapping on the Update Status button on an iPhone and then choosing the Live Video icon. Live Video can be limited to a select audience of Facebook friends, and it can be accompanied by a text status update. While streaming, it includes information such as the number of live viewers, the name of friends who are viewing the stream, and real-time comments. Completed Live Videos remain visible in a user's Timeline. Facebook for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Facebook iOS App Update Expands 3D Touch Support

Facebook has begun rolling out support for further 3D Touch actions on compatible iPhones in the latest update to its primary iOS app. The newest iteration in the social media company's series of weekly app updates allows iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus owners to use "peek" and "pop" gestures directly from within a Facebook timeline. A light press or "peek" on a profile, link, page, group or photo triggers a preview of the content in question, while a harder press or "pop" opens the link, photo, profile or group. A new "Quick Action" also comes to the Facebook app icon, with a homescreen shortcut that takes users directly to their account’s profile page. Original Quick Actions (left); a new Action takes users to their Facebook profile (right). The introduction of new 3D Touch features follows support for several Quick Actions that Facebook brought to its app back in October. However, unlike the first 3D Touch-equipped update, the company is limiting access to the latest features to "a small group of people," before rolling them out globally "over the coming months," reports The Verge. Despite the potential for frustrating some of its users, Facebook's gradual rollout strategy is in line with last month's muted announcement of staggered support for Live Photos, which allows Facebook users to share motion-enabled pictures taken on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices with followers running iOS 9. Increased support for 3D Touch comes on the heels of similar features introduced in other Facebook-owned apps, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, while other

Facebook Messenger Desktop App for Mac Revealed in Leaked Photo

Facebook may be developing an official Messenger desktop app for Mac, according to TechCrunch. The technology website obtained a blurry photo that allegedly shows a Facebook employee using the Messenger client on Mac, which would be easily accessible from the OS X dock as opposed to a tab in a web browser. Leaked photo of claimed Facebook Messenger for Mac app (Image: TechCrunch) Messenger for Mac appears to have a navigation tab bar in the bottom left with options matching the Messenger for iOS mobile app, including Recent, Groups, People and Settings. These menu options are reportedly not found in unofficial Messenger apps, making it more likely the app is not a third-party version. The company's goal is likely to create a standalone Messenger experience on Mac, similar to how it released a dedicated Messenger app for iOS in August 2011. But unlike when Messenger was detached from the main Facebook app on iOS in July 2014, the web version of the chat platform may remain available alongside the desktop app.It’s unclear but seemingly unlikely that Facebook would require users to chat via the desktop software instead of the website. We have no information about when or even if Facebook might release Messenger For Mac. The company often builds and internally tests apps that never ship. Still, this app seems like a smart move. Slack has proven people enjoy a dedicated desktop app for messaging. It could help Facebook box out competitors like Google, WeChat, Line, Kik, and KakaoTalk.Facebook released a Messenger desktop app for Windows in March 2012, and said it was

Facebook for iOS Gaining Support for iPhone 6s Live Photos Starting Today

Starting today, some Facebook users will be able to view Live Photos in their Facebook feeds using the Facebook for iOS app, reports TechCrunch. Introduced with the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus, Live Photos are motion-enabled images that capture the moments just before and after a photo is taken. Facebook plans to gradually roll out support for Live Photos, so while some Facebook app users will be able to post and view Live Photos as of this morning, others will not have access to Live Photos support until the beginning of 2016. According to TechCrunch, uploading a Live Photo is done in the same way as uploading a regular photo, but there will be an option to choose whether to upload an image as a Live Photo or a regular photo during the uploading process. In a Facebook feed, Live Photos are denoted by a set of concentric circles and can be pressed to play. You’ll have to tap that box manually with each Live Photo, and with good reason: once enabled on your iPhone, Live Photos are created with little to no thought on your part. It’s easy to forget the feature is even on. Add in the fact that Live Photos include 1.5 seconds of video and audio from before/after the instant you hit that shutter button, and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where you unwittingly capture something you… maybe don’t want to make public. By making it opt-in with each photo, there’s less of a chance you’ll accidentally upload stuff you forgot was even there.While only the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can take live photos, all iOS devices running iOS 9 can view them in the Facebook app. All

Facebook Ends Creative Labs Initiative and Shuts Down Slingshot, Rooms and Riff

Facebook today ended its Creative Labs project, which was designed to allow its engineers to come up with unique and innovative smartphone and tablet apps. With the shuttering of Creative Labs, several of the apps that came out of the program are being shut down and removed from the App Store. Slingshot, Rooms, and Riff, all apps that were released across 2014 and 2015, are no longer available in the App Store. Slingshot, announced in June of 2014, was an ephemeral messaging app modeled after Snapchat, but with a slight twist. Before viewing a message or a photo, the recipient was required to send a message back. Rooms, launched in October of 2014, allowed users to create anonymous invite-only chat rooms based around specific themes, while Riff, announced in April 2015, was designed to let users create collaborative video mashups with their friends. Despite being backed by Facebook, none of the now-defunct apps managed to catch on with users and thus received a limited number of updates from the company. Riff, for example, was never updated since it was released in April, and Slingshot and Rooms were last updated in March and July of 2015, respectively. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the end of Creative Labs in a statement to CNET, noting none of the apps had been updated for some time and many of the features have been added into the company's primary apps. "Since their launches, we've incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps." While none of the apps are available for download, Slingshot continues to

Facebook Announces tvOS SDK With Login Support

Earlier today Facebook announced (via 9to5Mac) Facebook SDK for tvOS, which the company says will help developers "build immersive social experiences on that platform." The three features the SDK allows thus far are Facebook Login, Share to Facebook and Facebook Analytics for Apps. Similar to Facebook Login on iOS, tvOS' Facebook Login would allow users to easily log in to their apps without having to worry about creating multiple accounts. Additionally, users wouldn't have to use Apple TV's cumbersome text entry method. Like some other TV authentication methods, Facebook Login would require a user to enter a confirmation code. Facebook Login: A fast and easy way for people to log into your app and for you to provide rich, personalized experiences. To log into an app with their Facebook account, people can simply enter a confirmation code displayed on the TV into their smartphone or computer, rather than entering their username and password with the remote.While Facebook Login would make it simpler for users to log into third-party apps and games, it's unlikely the same ease will be available for video apps like HBO Go, which require a user to authenticate the app via a cable or satellite provider account. The new SDK would also include the ability for developers to allow users to share links, photos and video from tvOS to Facebook and help developers understand their audience with Facebook-based analytics. Developers can download the SDK from Facebook's developer site

Facebook Debuts 'Music Stories' on iOS for Better Album & Song Discovery

Facebook today announced a new feature for its iOS app called "Music Stories" that will allow users to sample 30-second clips of songs that their friends and family post to the social network from services like Apple Music, iTunes, and Spotify. Users will be able to stream the clip directly from their feed and even follow a link to purchase or add the music directly into their Apple Music or Spotify playlists. There are few things people love more than music. People find out about it from artists and friends alike, and they love to share their discoveries. Today we are enabling better music discovery and sharing on Facebook. We hope by making this experience better, artists will share more, friends will share and engage more, and music will become a better part of the Facebook experience overall. The company promises that support for other streaming music services will be coming soon, and that it sees Music Stories as a way to further mold Facebook into a one-stop experience where users can get updates on friends, family, entertainment and political news, and now new song and album recommendations. Facebook didn't give any word on when the new music-centric feature would be making its way to other platforms like Android or the web. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); We’re introducing “Music Stories” today to