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Facebook Messenger Streamlines Controls for Creating Group Video and Audio Chats

In December 2016, Facebook Messenger rolled out the ability for users to create group video chats with up to six members participating, and today the company has further streamlined the feature. Before today's update, if users were already in a one-on-one video or audio call they had to hang up, start a new conversation, and choose every member to invite to the new group chat. Now, while in a video chat or voice call, there will be a new "add person" icon so that users can simply scrub through a list of their Facebook Messenger friends, tap who to invite, and wait for them to join -- all without leaving the original call. With the ability to add more people seamlessly to your calls, you can continue your conversation in the moment, just like if you were together in real life. Never again worry about skipping a beat when sharing your BFF’s spontaneous karaoke performance on Messenger. Sharing moments like these is now a few quick taps away. Otherwise, the feature remains the same with six total users able to video chat at once and various filters and effects still supported. After the call ends, Facebook Messenger also creates a group chat automatically in each user's inbox, so that members can keep texting one another. Facebook's refinement to group video chats in Messenger comes as a similar feature has yet to debut in Apple's FaceTime app. The long-requested, multi-person FaceTime call update is now being rumored for a potential launch within iOS 12 later this year, but Bloomberg has stated that it may not be ready for a debut in 2018. If group video calls

Facebook Promoting its Onavo VPN in Facebook iOS App

Facebook has started promoting the Onavo VPN client it acquired back in 2013 directly within the Facebook app for iOS devices. A link to the Onavo VPN client is available in the Facebook app in the United States under a new "Protect" section of the Facebook navigation menu. To get to it, tap on the hamburger menu in the right hand side of the app, and then scroll down. "Protect" features a blue icon with a shield, and when you tap on it, it links to the Onavo VPN app in the iOS App Store. As TechCrunch points out, while Onavo offers to "keep your data safe while you browse" and let you know when you "visit potentially malicious or harmful websites," Facebook's real aim with Onavo is tracking user activity across multiple different apps to learn insights about how its customer base uses third-party apps.But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections. Instead, Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.In August of last year, The Wall Street Journal took a look at how Facebook uses Onavo to track what people do on their smartphones outside of the Facebook ecosystem. Using Onavo data, for example, Facebook was able to determine that the Instagram Stories feature was impacting Snapchat's business well ahead of

Facebook and Apple Work Out Deal for Subscription News Purchases in iOS App

Facebook in October introduced a new feature designed to let publishers sell subscriptions to their news sites directly on Facebook, but the social network could not work out a deal with Apple, preventing the news subscription options from being available on Facebook for iOS. At issue was Apple's demand for its standard 30 percent cut of any subscription revenue brought in through the Facebook iOS app, while Facebook wanted all money to go to publishers. At today's Code Media event, Facebook executive Campbell Brown said the dispute with Apple had been resolved, which means the subscription service tool will launch on iOS devices on March 1. Brown did not provide details on the deal that Facebook and Apple worked out, so it is not clear if Apple will be taking a standard 30 percent cut, a lower cut, or no cut at all. Facebook's news service does not offer subscriptions purchased directly on Facebook, but instead redirects customers to sign up for a subscription on the publisher website once the article limit has been reached. Publishers have asked Facebook to change the number of free articles Facebook users can view without a subscription from 10 to 5, a change Facebook will also implement starting on March

Facebook Tests Reddit-Like 'Downvote' Feature for Disliking User Comments

Facebook is said to be testing a "downvote" button among some users of the social network, according to a report on Thursday. The "dislike"-like option apparently appeared in the comments section of posts within Facebook groups and on old Facebook memories content, as shown in screenshots shared with The Daily Beast. A Facebook spokesperson denied that the company is "testing a dislike button", but then went on to offer an explanation that appeared on the face of it to suggest something just like one. Image via The Daily Beast We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only.The feature in testing reportedly gives users the ability to downvote certain comments, similar to the way votes in Reddit work, but it's unclear how far the tests will go. According to a 2016 Bloomberg report, Facebook executives had rejected a dislike button long ago "on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity" on the social network. In February 2016, Facebook launched Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give users more ways to share their reaction to a post. The emoji-like feature extended to Facebook Messenger in March last year. Facebook regularly tests features with a small number of users and many never reach the stage of a broader rollout to the general

Facebook Announces Series of Updates Aimed at Improving User Privacy

Facebook this week has detailed how it plans to give its users "more control" of their privacy on the mobile and desktop versions of the social network. One of the major new additions is described as a "privacy center" that will provide simple tools to manage privacy and combine all core privacy settings into one easy-to-find interface. In order to explain how to use these features to its users, the company today is rolling out educational videos in its News Feed centering upon topics like "how to control what information Facebook uses to show you, how to review and delete old posts, and even what it means to delete your account." This marks the first time that Facebook shared its privacy principles with its users, stating that the updates "reflect core principles" it has maintained on privacy over the years. As pointed out by TechCrunch, Facebook's planned rollout of beefed up privacy features comes ahead of a May 25 deadline for compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. The GDPR's goal is to give citizens back control over their personal data while "simplifying" the regulatory environment for business, essentially affecting "any entities processing the personal data of EU citizens." [Facebook] will need to make users feel they trust its brand to protect their privacy and therefore make them feel happy to consent to the company processing their data (rather than asking it to delete it). So PR and carefully packaged info-messaging to users is going to be increasingly important for Facebook’s business, going forward. While all Facebook

Facebook Doubling Down on Stories Format By Testing Ability to Post From Desktop

Facebook is testing a feature that will let users post stories on Mac and PC, in an effort to further make the ephemeral sharing feature stick on the platform. Once the test rolls out wide, Facebook users will be able to click an "Upload Photo" button to share pictures and videos to their story, or "Open Camera" to record a story with a webcam. Images via TechCrunch The test also includes "much more prominent placement" for stories on desktop, where they will now sit on top of the News Feed -- similar to their location on the iOS app -- instead of in the sidebar. TechCrunch reported that all of this amounts to a new effort in "doubling down" on the stories format, despite the fact that most users have responded critically to the addition, and its poor performance last year caused the company to slightly tweak the app's user interface in an attempt to boost usage. While some normal users might remain hesitant to use stories, it's believed Facebook's introduction of stories onto its desktop website could lead to "brands, event promoters, and group admins" embracing the format more. For users that visit Facebook daily on the web, the company said that the site will remain easy to navigate. “We are always working to ensure people can easily navigate and enjoy Facebook, regardless of how they connect,” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. “We are testing the option to create and share Stories from Facebook on desktop and are also testing moving the Stories tray from the top right corner to above News Feed, just like on mobile.” Previously you could only consume

Facebook to Overhaul News Feed With More Content From Family and Friends, Less From Publishers

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this afternoon announced some major changes that are coming to the Facebook News Feed, which will cut down on the content displayed from publishers to instead highlight more content from family and friends. According to Zuckerberg, feedback from Facebook users has suggested content from businesses, brands, and media is crowding out personal content from friends, something Facebook wants to correct. Rather than aiming to help Facebook users find relevant content, it will now help users find "meaningful social interactions."Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.Zuckerberg says that it will take months to roll out the new focus to all of its products, but the first change will be coming to the News Feed, which will feature more content from family, friends, and groups. Less public content will be displayed, and what is displayed, should encourage meaningful interactions.As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.Through implementing these changes, Zuckerberg expects to see engagement and the time people spend on Facebook go down, but the time that is spent on Facebook "will be more valuable." Doing the right thing, he says, will be "good for the community" and Facebook's

Facebook is Testing a New City-Specific 'Today' Feed for Local News and Events

Facebook is currently testing a new section of its mobile app called "Today in...", which serves up a feed of city-specific events, announcements, and local news, according to TechCrunch. The company is kicking off the local hub with a small batch of test markets, including New Orleans, Louisiana; Olympia, Washington; Billings, Montana; Binghamton, New York; Peoria, Illinois; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Users in those markets can access the feature via the lower-right menu button, indicated by three horizontal lines in the main Facebook app. The feed will be populated using a mixture of human-curated and algorithmically-plucked content, and is being spearheaded by Facebook's Journalism Project, designed to support news literacy and to serve as a hub for journalists and publishers to learn and share. It also comes on the back of the company's recently announced Journalism Project Initiative, which aims to build local news partnerships as one of its core goals. This isn't the first time Facebook has dabbled in promoting local content. Last year the social network giant introduced a separate Explore Feed that is said to use live location information occasionally to suggest posts, articles, photos, and videos from local sources a user hasn't followed, but might be interested in. In another attempt to establish links within local communities, Facebook recently expanded its e-commerce Marketplace service, which lets users advertize and check out region-based private and business listings for things like vehicles, properties, and household

Snapchat Copies Facebook Feature For Once With 'A Look Back at 2017'

Snapchat today turned the tables on Facebook for once by mimicking one of the social media giant's favorite features – your year in review, based on photos and videos posted in the last 12 months. The feature can be accessed using the memories icon at the bottom of Snapchat's home screen interface. Selecting "A Look Back at 2017" automatically generates a Story around your timeline of pictures, but the arrangement can be tweaked by selecting "Edit Story" and tapping the X on individual snaps to remove them from the collage. The Story can then be saved and shared with friends. Image via The Verge As The Verge notes, the "Look Back" feature may not appear if there isn't enough media from the last 12 months to create a story, so only avid Snapchat users are likely to see it. Facebook continued its seemingly relentless trend of copying Snapchat features last month, when it began testing a new feature that plays on the latter's chat streak challenge, which encourages users to "keep your streak going" when messaging friends. Prior to that, Facebook created a carbon copy of Snapchat's day-long, vanishing post idea in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, which gained 100 million users following the update last year. The company also previously aped Snapchat's face filters and rewinded video features for Instagram, which also proved a hit. Today's feature debut follows news yesterday that Snapchat is testing a feature which will let users share stories outside of the mobile app, in an effort to boost sign-ups to the

Facebook Announces Messenger App for Kids That Parents Can Remotely Monitor

Facebook today is rolling out a preview for a new standalone app aimed at kids under the age of 13, which the company says was built to make it easier for kids to "safely video chat and message with family and friends." The "Messenger Kids" preview is available only on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in the United States, letting young family members download the app, which can then be controlled by their parent's Facebook account. Facebook said that it developed the app with guidance from the National PTA, as well as experts in child development and online safety. Messenger Kids does not require children to create a Facebook account, but instead asks parents to download the app, authenticate it, and then create a miniature profile of their kid that is linked to the parent's Facebook account. Once parents set up an account, kids can have one-on-one or group video calls only with contacts approved by their parents. The home screen of the app shows these approved contacts, as well as which are online. Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. Like other Facebook apps, there are a wide variety of masks, emojis, and sound effects to use within video chats. Kids will be able to send photos, videos, and text messages -- and edit them with GIFs, frames, stickers, and doodling tools -- to their

Facebook Expands Captcha Test That Asks for Clear Photo of Your Face When Suspicious Activity is Spotted

Facebook users are beginning to notice a new account verification test on mobile devices that asks for them to upload a clear photo of their face, which will then be used to confirm that they are a real person, similar to other basic captcha tests that prove human users are not a bot. The selfie verification test has been around since at least earlier this spring, but the story is just now beginning to spread after more users have shared screenshots of the test on Twitter (via Wired). Facebook told Wired that this new photo test was created to "help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including creating an account, sending Friend requests, setting up ads payments, and creating or editing ads." a friend sent me this: Facebook is now locking users out of account features, then demanding that those users "verify" their account to get back in by scanning an image of their face. AN IMAGE OF THEIR FACE. pic.twitter.com/T4TIsJFxX8— can Amy Goodman pls stop inviting Assange on thx (@flexlibris) November 28, 2017 Every step of the process is automated, from the moment when Facebook flags an account for suspicious activity and asks for a photo verification, to the actual process of checking the uniqueness of the uploaded photo, meaning you'd have to upload a picture not previously shared on Facebook. Once the process is done, Facebook said that it will "permanently delete" the image from its servers. This is one of "several methods" the company uses to detect suspicious activity. Earlier in November, Facebook announced a trial

Facebook Launches New 'Creator' App for Video Makers

Facebook today announced the launch of a new "Facebook Creator" app and accompanying website, both of which are designed for people who want to create videos. Facebook Creator sounds similar to the tools available on YouTube. It is described as a "one stop shop for creators of all kinds," allowing users to create original video, stream live video, and connect with their community on Facebook. Creator is actually a rebranding of the existing Mentions app, which was something that was previously only available to verified public figures. With the revamp, the app is available to all users. The app includes a Live Creative Kit, with tools that Facebook says are meant to make it easy to create live broadcasts with a personalized feel. There's an option to create and add intros and outros to live broadcasts, custom live stickers, graphic frames, and more. With the Community Tab, video makers can connect with their fans and collaborators with a unified inbox that includes comments from Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. A Camera & Stories section lets content creators add "fun camera effects and frames" to videos, and it also allows videos to be crossposted to other social networking platforms. Finally, an Insights option provides content creators with metrics to allow them to custom tailor their videos to meet fan demand. The accompanying Facebook for Creators website includes tutorials to "make content shine," answers to creator-specific questions, and a community of creators to interact with. Facebook Creator is launching globally today on iOS devices,

Facebook Rebrands Standalone 'Events' iOS App as 'Facebook Local'

One year after launching the standalone "Events" app for iOS and Android devices, Facebook today announced a rebranding and relaunch of the app that will also bring bars, restaurants, and nearby attractions to your attention. Now called "Local from Facebook," or simply "Facebook Local," the app combines your Facebook events with nearby hotspots into a single app, which is powered by the company's 70 million business Pages as well as your own friends and family members' personal reviews (via TechCrunch). Images of Facebook Local via TechCrunch The app's home page includes shortcuts to show you nearby restaurants, cafes, drink spots, attractions, and more, as well as a guide to where your friends visit often. The original app's calendar of your Events is located here, as well as a Trending Events section, guides to music, nightlife, and other notable happenings, and filters to see all events occurring on specific days. Facebook Local can sync with your iPhone's Calendar app to combine all of your plans into one area, and the new app also allows you to update your current city if you're traveling. Facebook's recent Order Food feature isn't implemented into Local, but Pages for certain restaurants sometimes include a link to other delivery apps like Grubhub. According to Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal, all of these features are meant to further Facebook's new mission of "bringing the world closer together." Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal tells me the goal was to “Make it as lot easier to do certain kind of looks ups that are very

Facebook Expands Apartment Rental Category in Marketplace With 'Hundreds of Thousands' of Listings

Just over one year after Facebook replaced the Messenger tab in its iOS app with "Marketplace," the company today announced that the tab will now support an expanded section for listings related to house and apartment rentals. United States users looking to rent will be able to browse "hundreds of thousands" of listings in Marketplace thanks to Facebook's partnership with real estate sites Apartment List and Zumper (via Engadget). To begin with, the rollout will feature filters for location, price, amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of rental, pet friendliness, and square footage. Landlords renting the locations will be able to add 360-degree photos to each listing so interested renters can get a better view of the inside of each unit. "Marketplace is a popular place for people to look for a home to rent," said Facebook's Bowen Pan. "Now that we're adding listings from Apartment List and Zumper, people can search even more options in the U.S. to find a place to call home. First with vehicles and now with housing rentals, we're partnering with businesses to bring more ease and convenience for consumers." Before today's update, house and apartment listings on Marketplace were exclusive to those posted manually by Facebook users, so the partnership with Apartment List and Zumper will allow Marketplace to automatically populate with nearby listings from local real estate agents. Facebook has been releasing frequent updates to its iOS app that aim to keep users on the social network, most recently adding in mobile food ordering and a "Work Histories" feature to

Facebook Rolls Out Messenger Instant Payments Service to Users in the UK

Facebook said on Monday that Messenger users in the U.K. will be able to send money to each other through the app as it rolls out its peer-to-peer payments feature in the next few weeks (via BBC). The Messenger payments service was originally launched in 2015, but hasn't been available to users outside the United States until now. The social network said it has been used in that time to make all sorts of transactions, including to split restaurant bills, pay babysitters, and send cash gifts. Most users send less than $50 (£38), according to the company. Facebook said it had chosen to bring Messenger payments to the U.K. because it has so many "mobile-savvy consumers". It is collaborating with major banks and credit card firms to launch the feature, which requires both the sender and recipient to register their cards. Facebook is also introducing M suggestions, a virtual assistant that recognizes when users are discussing payments and suggests the Messenger payments as a quick and easy solution. The U.K. is already home to a similar bank-run peer-to-peer payments service called Paym, which allows registered users to pay each other using just their phone number. Paym says four million people have used the service at one time or another over the past three and a half years, amounting to £400 million worth of transactions, but Facebook will hope that it is uniquely positioned to become more widely used, thanks to its large existing Messenger user

Facebook Expanding New GIF-Based Polling Feature to More Users on iOS and Web

Facebook is today beginning a wide rollout for a new status update polling feature on iOS, Android, and the web (via The Next Web). There is only room for two response options on Facebook (Twitter has four available), but Facebook's new feature also lets you add in GIFs or pictures as options, which you can caption. Facebook previously supported polls in brand pages, so the new rollout is the first time a wide group of personal users can poll their friends and family on Facebook. Some brand pages -- including movies -- had the chance to test the GIF-based polls earlier this year. Twitter first introduced polls to its users back in 2015, and Facebook just added polls to Instagram Stories one month ago. It appears that Facebook's new version is rolling out on the web first, and should be appearing on iOS and Android devices

Facebook Announces Halloween-Themed Camera Effects, Posts, and Interactive Game

Following Instagram's debut of Halloween filters yesterday, Facebook today announced the launch of Halloween-themed camera effects, posts, and even a new interactive game within the camera on the app. The update will be rolling out starting today and leading up to Halloween next Tuesday, October 31. Included in the update are more than twelve different masks and frames themed around the holiday, and Facebook Live broadcasts will gain Halloween effects that you can place directly into your videos. In the camera there will also be a virtual game that turns you into a trick-or-treater who has to jump their way out of a haunted house by hopping up the walls to escape. The game uses face tracking as its controls, so turning your head side to side changes the direction in which you jump, allowing you to climb higher and avoid traps, similar to the iOS game Doodle Jump. When you finish you can share your high score with a photo and send a challenge to friends to beat your record. The colored background options on text posts will gain new themed backgrounds, including bats, pumpkins, a graveyard, and more. Additionally, Facebook plans to ensure that you're aware of Halloween events near you by sending prompts about local events to your feed. Besides the main Facebook iOS app, Messenger will also gain various Halloween masks and frames for you to take pictures with, as well as send videos to friends. Facebook is known to launch holiday updates like this, doing the same one year ago with Halloween-themed reactions and using its acquisition of MSQRD to debut Halloween

Facebook Teams Up With Auto Car Dealers to Introduce New Vehicle Marketplace

Facebook has teamed up with auto car dealers to introduce a new Marketplace section for vehicles on its flagship social media app (via TechCrunch). The new section features search filters to find a vehicle of a specific type, maker, transmission, color, and more, offered by members of the public as well as car dealerships including Edmunds, Auction123, Cars.com, CDK Global, and SocialDealer. The automobile Marketplace includes a price checking function that uses the industry standard Kelly's Blue Book, and integrates with Messenger bots to allow users to communicate with dealers in real-time. Today's announcement comes following an apparent upsurge in car listings, with the social media platform already featuring a dedicated vehicles category that lets users search by make, year, milage, and price. Facebook doesn't receive a fee for any Marketplace transactions, but it has recently started testing ads within Marketplace to promote certain products. The company said the new car inventory will populate and new features will start rolling out over the next few

Facebook Officially Launches 'Workplace Chat' Mobile and Desktop Apps

Facebook brought its redesigned Workplace apps out of beta today, opening up the business-focused team chat service to anyone who wants to use it. The new Slack-like apps for mobile and desktop are called Workplace Chat, which have the same functionality as Workplace's existing messaging features, but come as standalone apps for PC, Mac and iOS. After installing the apps, Workplace users can access messaging features like screen and file sharing, video calling, and private and group messages. Facebook said it also plans to add group video calling to the platform in the coming months. In addition, Both mobile and desktop apps have redesigned interfaces to make them functionally similar to Facebook's flagship social networking app. Workplace Premium costs $3 per user for the first 1,000 active users, with $2 and $1 price plans for increasing numbers of users. Workplace can also be used for free and includes the communication and productivity features, but loses the enterprise features and admin

You Can Now Pay Friends Through Facebook Messenger Using PayPal

Last year, PayPal launched within Facebook Messenger as a way for users to shop and complete payments directly through the messaging app. Today, the two companies are expanding the focus of this feature and opening up peer-to-peer payments for Facebook Messenger users who have linked their PayPal account to the app. With a rollout starting today, Facebook Messenger users will be able to tap on the blue plus icon within the app, then select the green Payments button, and choose PayPal to send money. This functionality will work in one-on-one conversations, as well as in group texts. PayPal said this will make it easy to split a bill, pay rent, and more. Although PayPal's press release doesn't specify, the company's image depicting the new feature confirms that a user's PayPal balance and linked banking accounts can be chosen for P2P payments in Facebook Messenger. We’re excited today to announce an expansion of our relationship with Facebook with the addition of PayPal as a funding source for peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, right in Messenger. People will have the option to send and request money using their PayPal account, and this integration in Messenger is starting to roll out to U.S. consumers today. As the leader in P2P payments with $24 billion in P2P volume during Q3 2017 alone (up 47% year-over-year), the ability to send and request money in Messenger – one of the most widely used apps in the world – gives people more choice and more convenient ways to get things done in different contexts. Whether it’s splitting a bill for a cab ride or a night