Digital assistant M helps users purchase goods, services within Messenger app
Facebook has started to publicly test its own attempt at a digital assistant to its users, as previously rumored. Codenamed Moneypenny but now known as "M", the assistant exists within Facebook Messenger for a small number of users, and allows them to complete various shopping-based tasks on the user's behalf, such as acquiring and delivering gifts to family members, booking a table at a restaurant, making travel arrangements, and other similar services.
Gaming news summary for August 11, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, the lawsuit between ZeniMax and Facebook over Oculus-related trade secrets continues, Bungie reveals why one Destiny actor has been replaced, Rockstar permanently bans some game modders, and a developer files for bankruptcy after finishing a Kickstarter project
Project codenamed Moneypenny said to provide services via Facebook Messenger
Facebook is working on its own virtual assistant, usable within Facebook Messenger, according to a report. The social network is allegedly looking to compete with Siri, Google Now, and Cortana with a new assistant internally called "Moneypenny," a reference to the iconic secretary in the James Bond film franchise, though unlike its main competitors, Facebook is opting for more of a "concierge" approach, as well as focusing more on allowing users to acquire goods and services.
Music videos in Facebook feed still being negotiated
Facebook is not planning to launch its own streaming music service in the coming months, a company representative has confirmed. The social network has spoken out about a recent report claiming it was working to offer its users an on-demand music service, and though it has outright denied offering anything similar to Spotify, there are still rumors that Facebook will be doing something music-related in the future.
Users able to register on Messenger separately from Facebook
Facebook is making it easier for potential users of its Messenger app to sign up, by removing the requirement to have a Facebook account beforehand. Starting with Canada, the United States, Peru, and Venezuela, the app will allow anyone to sign up without having an existing account with the social network, with a new signup process requiring a user to set themselves up using their phone number, name, and a photograph for the profile.
A Swiss Army Knife of image tools
It's misnamed. Not that we have any idea what it should be called, but Reformator 1.2.2 does so much more than reformatting that we'd contemplate a name like Image-o-Matic. Within this app, you can convert any or all of your photos between different handy formats, you can watermark them, do certain edits, and more.
Beacons will trigger Facebook Place Tips on customer smartphones
Facebook is giving businesses another way to interact with customers, by offering stores Bluetooth beacons. The free devices are able to trigger Facebook's Place Tips on a customer's smartphone if they have the Facebook app installed, providing them with more information about the business, a welcome note, posts from the company's Facebook page, and also any friend recommendations relating to the business.
Apply photo effects to your images if you must
Drag a photo into Magic 1.1 from Ohanaware, and you can enhance it with a range of pre-built styles. Drag, select a style, click and go. You can apply a growing number of effects filters, and you can then make fairly considerable adjustments to suit you and the image you took.
Facebook adds selective location sharing to Messenger app
Facebook has updated its Messenger app to make it easier for users to selectively provide their location to friends. The existing location-sharing function has been replaced, allowing users to send a map to their friends within an existing conversation, with the pointed-to place being either the user's present position or a nearby store or building of their own selection, if the user does not want to reveal exactly where they are.
Google creates My Account tool to manage security, privacy settings
Google is making it easier to manage the security and privacy of a user's account, by bringing everything within the same page. The new My Account site allows users to manage their Google account's privacy settings, device activity and notifications, and other settings that apply across all Google services. Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup tools also aim to simplify the process, taking users gradually through the account settings. A second site, privacy.google.com, has been created to explain what Google does with user data, how it is secured, and other similar queries.
Amazon Echo can read appointments stored in Google Calendar
Alexa, the virtual assistant that forms part of the Amazon Echo network-connected speaker, has been upgraded to allow it to read Google Calendar events. Android Central reports Alexa can now be linked to the user's Calendar and will respond to queries about it, such as "Alexa, what's on my calendar?" and "When is my next event?" So far, it appears Alexa can only read appointments, not add new items, but this could be included in a future update of the device.
Simple app provides all the Facebook features you need, none of the ones you hate.
If you're like us, nothing frustrated you more about the more recent Facebook updates than when, for no discernible reason whatsoever, Facebook decided to split its messaging system into a separate app from everything else. Despite the outcry, Facebook hasn't decided to change it. Fortunately for us, there's a third-party Facebook app, named Friendly, that sets it right.
Facebook Messenger video calling rolls out globally
Facebook is making video calling via the Messenger app available to more users. Previously available in 18 countries, including the United States, the Facebook Messenger video calling has been rolled out globally for iOS and Android users, though some countries will be delayed in receiving the calls due to ongoing work to improve the service's quality in those regions.
Complaints about net neutrality issues prompts expansion of Internet.org
Facebook is allowing more online services to take part in its Internet.org free access scheme, following complaints. The initiative, which allows for free access to certain web services for mobile phone users in emerging markets, drew criticism from some over the "walled garden" created by the free service, something which goes against the concept of an open Internet and net neutrality principles.
Twitter now optional to Meerkat, extra features added
Meerkat, the video streaming startup, is adding Facebook integration following Twitter's actions to restrict the app's popularity. The latest update, rolling out on iOS now with an update to the Android beta likely to follow, effectively frees the live video broadcasting service from Twitter entirely, making the linking of a Twitter name to an account an extra social networking option rather than core to its operation.
Publishers could receive larger percentage of advertising revenue from Facebook-hosted articles
Facebook may host news stories and articles on behalf of online publishers, to make it easier for users to share them throughout the social network, a report claims. Titled "Instant Articles," the service could start as soon as this month, with users expected to be able to click on and read content directly from within Facebook itself, instead of waiting for the publisher's site to load.
Video update to Facebook Messenger arrives one year after VOIP addition
Facebook is making its Messenger app more competitive against Skype and FaceTime, by adding video calling one year after it introduced free voice calls. The standalone Messenger app can now start a video call with other users from within any conversation, by tapping the camera icon, and allows for video calling sessions to work between different mobile platforms, including Android and iOS.
Company points to acquisitions, costs growing stifling profit growth
Facebook today reported financial results for the quarter that ended on March 31. Revenue for the first quarter of 2015 totaled $3.5 billion, an increase of 42 percent, compared with $2.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Revenue slightly missed Wall Street estimates, with the consensus being $60 million more than the company reported. On the strength of user growth, revenue from advertising was $3.3 billion, a 46 percent increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 73 percent of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2015.
Videos recorded on Riff added to end of long clip chain, shared on Facebook
Facebook has launched an app for collaborative video creation with friends on the social network. Riff, a new app from Facebook's Creative Labs and initially created as an employee side-project, lets users film a video on a topic of their choice, and then allows friends to add their own contribution, with the video extending with each new participant's video clip.
Pac-Man playable on Google Maps, uses streets for game board
Continuing a long tradition of April Fools' Day treats, Google has turned Google Maps into a playable version of Pac-Man. On computers, selecting the Pac-Man view in the bottom left of the screen turns part of the currently-viewed map into the game board, while mobile users will have to navigate to specific locations and select the Pac-Man map pin before playing.
Voice calls quietly added to WhatsApp in new update
WhatsApp is rolling out its voice calling function to all mobile users, starting with Android. Slowly introduced to users in early February, the latest update to WhatsApp in the Google Play app store is apparently enabled for the service, which lets users call other contacts instead of sending messages, though it appears users are still having to wait for their account to be enabled.
Disrupting industries is the new black, great apps and fair app prices, bad jokes
The MacNN Podcast episode seven is now available, and this week we looked at the rumor that Apple is preparing to revamp the Apple TV and sweeten the pot with an optional package of channel offerings that don't require a cable subscription; Google's entry into the MVNO space; the recent Microsoft announcements about Windows 10; Facebook getting into inter-site payments; the return of Launcher to the App Store, and the removal of so-called "anti-virus" iOS apps; our latest "Living With" column; and our favorite apps of the week.
Rollout of money-sending service in Facebook Messenger app can take months
Facebook has launched its rumored money transfer service, rolling it out in its Messenger app for iOS and Android, as well as for desktop users. The new feature will allow users to make payments to other Facebook members directly from within the app, with the financial transfers said to be completely free for all parties involved, and with payments claimed to take between one and three days to complete.
The rebranding will focus on two popular features
Google's largely-failed social media experiment, Google+, is reportedly approaching a transformation, with a renewed focus on Photos and Hangouts. The two popular features appear to be splitting apart from the central service, marking the first step in an apparent rebranding effort that is likely aimed at revitalizing -- or quietly killing -- the stagnate social network.
Support offered to Facebook users reported writing concerning updates
Facebook is introducing new tools to help prevent suicides. Working with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Now Matters Now, and other mental health organizations, users of the social network can report any posts they see where the author expresses suicidal thoughts or indicates they may be self-harming, with the possibility of a response from Facebook to the affected individual designed to help them.
VR Facebook experience being worked on by social network
Facebook is working on apps that will work with virtual reality devices, the social network has confirmed. Capitalizing on its $2 billion acquisition on virtual reality headset producer Oculus VR, the company is apparently producing apps, not just for the consumption of VR content, but also allowing people to easily make and share content for VR systems.
Legacy Contact allows for nominated person to manage account of deceased Facebook user
Facebook users will be able to dictate what happens to their profile after their death, thanks to some new account options. A new Legacy Contact system is being introduced which will allow users to specify who gets control of their account when they pass away, giving more flexibility over the profile contents than the current memorial account list presently offers.
Facebook Paper rolls out update for iPhone users
Facebook has released an update for its Paper app for iPhone users this week, offering improved photo sharing. Paper is an alternative fullscreen layout for viewing one's Facebook feed, including customization options and gestures. The latest update includes the Camera Roll now organized by the date photos were taken, as well as the new ability to quickly share photos from the Favorites album that was introduced in iOS 8. The app is free to download, and requires iOS 7 or later.
Feature so far limited to iPhones, New York City
Facebook has introduced a new feature to its iPhone app, called Place Tips. These appear at the top of a News Feed while on the go; tapping on an entry expands it, and shows not just related posts and images from friends, but popular menu items and any upcoming events. Tips are triggered based on location tracking, and Facebook is currently testing them only in New York City areas, including Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and JFK Airport.
Over half a billion Facebook users access social network only through mobile devices
Facebook's latest quarterly earnings reveal the social network is in good shape and continuing to beat projections, with a lot of it down to the continued increase of mobile devices to access the service. The social network's total revenues of $3.85 billion with earnings per share of $0.54, up from the previous quarter's $3.2 billion revenue and $0.40 earnings.
Draft law in France would force Google, Facebook to act on hosted terror content
French lawmakers want to hold tech companies accountable for online hate speech. A proposed law, which will apparently be presented next month, will make Google, Facebook, and any company that offers online services to the public "accomplices" to hate-speech crimes, in an attempt to coerce them to monitor their services more closely, and force the removal of terror-related content.
Facebook denies downtime caused through Lizard Squad hack
A brief one-hour outage of Facebook and Instagram last night was not caused by hackers, the social network has admitted. Refuting claims by a hacking group that it was behind the downtime, Facebook advises it was caused by an alteration on its systems that it quickly repaired, rather than interference from an outside group attacking its servers.
Sondra Arquiett getting paid $134K for use of her likeness without permission
A New York state resident has settled with the US government and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) over a suit involving the law enforcement agency impersonating her on Facebook without her permission. Sondra Arquiett has accepted a $134,000 settlement from the US government, with the agency not admitting to having done anything outside a "legitimate law enforcement purpose."
Facebook attempts to reduce number of hoaxes in News Feed
Facebook is trying to reduce the number of fake or hoax stories that appear in a users News Feed. The social network will take into account whenever a user reports a post as a "false news story," as well as whenever users delete posts linking to an article, when deciding what is shown to other users. While Facebook will stop short of blocking the content entirely, it will give the flagged hoax a "reduced distribution" in News Feed, as well as adding a notice to the top of the post warning that users "have reported that this story contains false information."
'Tiny' segment of users will see reviews of voice messages on screen
Facebook VP of Messaging Products David Marcus posted to his wall on Friday, announcing a test program for voice message transcripts automatically generated with voice recognition software. The feature began rolling out today on a "tiny scale." No timeline was mention on when the feature will be made more widely available.
Walls off Candy Crush, friend feeds to create social network for job collaboration
Social media giant Facebook has launched on a new service for the web, iOS and Android called "Facebook at Work" that is intended to give office communications a familiar interface. Offering a (literally) gray take on the usual Facebook interface, the service creates a variation of the popular social service that is limited to co-workers only, and intended for office communications, messaging, file sharing, and other forms of collaboration. The service is currently still testing with partners, but is available as an app on the iOS App Store.
Chinese smartphone maker denies story, emphasizes good relations with partners
Last month, China's top smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi raised $1.1 billion in investment capital to help fuel expansion plans. However, prior to its successful fundraising round, CEO Lei Jun invited Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to his home for dinner, where the two discussed the possibility of an investment by the social media company.
Amber Alerts will be sent to users in missing child search locations
Facebook will start to post into its users News Feed alerts about missing children in the future, in an effort to locate them. A partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will involve the social network showing Amber Alerts to Facebook users located in specific search areas, both on mobile devices and desktops.
Increases user attachments to Messenger
Facebook has released Stickered for Messenger, an app that lets users add virtual "stickers" to photos shot on an iPhone or iPod touch. The stickers can be added after or even before a photo is taken, as well as to pre-existing images in the Camera Roll. As necessary, stickers can be dragged, resized, and rotated. As the name of the app implies, created images are shared via Facebook's Messenger service.
Move not indicative of any change in attitude toward Microsoft
Social network behemoth Facebook has removed Microsoft Bing search results from its pages in the last few days. The move, confirmed by Facebook officials, shifts the users' results to its own "Facebook Search" effort to help focus "on helping people find what's been shared with them." The move underscores Facebook's continued competition with Google. In parallel with the Bing excision, Facebook rolled out changes to "Graph Search" to return specific posts to searchers, instead of just results for people.
Proposed tool would help keep photographs taken while drunk away from Facebook
Pictures of drunk people on Facebook may lessen in future, if plans revealed by the social network's AI research lab come to fruition. Lab head Yann LeCun wants to create a digital assistant for Facebook which is capable of detecting whether photographs being uploaded to the service are being done while the user is under the influence of alcohol, with the aim of preventing anything the user would find embarrassing when they are sober from being shown to visitors.
Milestone blog post reveals Instagram user base doubled in just over a year
Instagram has overtaken Twitter in terms of active users, the Facebook-owned photo app has revealed. According to a company blog post, Instagram currently has more than 300 million active users sharing over 70 million photographs and videos daily, eclipsing the the 284 million monthly users claimed by Twitter at the end of October.
iCloud attacks likely key subject of discussion
Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Lu Wei -- the chairman of China's State Internet Information Office -- during the latter's recent trip to the US, reports say. Lu is also said to have met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It's unclear what Lu discussed with the executives.
Facebook Groups is the fifth app to come out of Creative Labs in 2014
Facebook announced that yet another standalone application is available for one aspect for its social media platform. Facebook Groups takes the act of socializing in groups through the social media service, and crams it into a mobile experience that is said to be easier to manage and navigate. The app is available now on Android and iOS devices.
Social network for employees said to be used by Facebook workforce daily
Facebook is reportedly trying to push itself into the workplace, by making a service for communications within a company. Said to be called "Facebook at Work," the service is said to be able to allow employees and management to talk to other team members, connect with other professionals, and collaborate over documents.
Input device issue is largest barrier for Oculus Rift commercial release
A consumer edition of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset could arrive sooner than expected, the Oculus VR CEO claims. Speaking at Web Summit 2014 in Dublin, Brendan Iribe advised that the VR headset is "close," and the third Crescent Bay model of the popular head-mounted display is said to be "largely finalized for a consumer product."
Facebook looks to build a business from virtual reality, betting on long term
During the earnings call for third quarter financial results, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave further information on the expectations of the Oculus Rift, including the path he sees Oculus traveling in the future. While no exact information was stated about a consumer release, Zuckerberg said it could take years for the technology to be "meaningful."
Company beats projections, monthly users up only 2.2 percent from last quarter
Facebook released its third quarter results for the 2014 fiscal year, announcing that $3.2 billion in revenue was pulled in for the period ending September 30. The company beat Wall Street projections of an earnings per share (EPS) of $0.40 on $3.12 billion in revenue. While Facebook beat the EPS on diluted non-GAAP figures by three cents, the company posted only a $0.30 EPS under GAAP.
App allows users to create customized chat rooms, log in with any user name
Facebook's Creative Labs team is bringing a new, yet old way to socialize over the Internet to users through its application Rooms. The free iOS app lets users create custom chat rooms on a topic, without requiring any special log in or connection to a Facebook account. Instead, users can select whatever user name they like and chat in virtual anonymity.
Safety Check lets users tell family, friends they are OK via Facebook notification
Facebook has turned its attention to helping its users during times of crisis or a major disaster, by creating a new tool. Safety Check aims to provide a way for people in locations affected by a natural disaster to let their friends and family know they are OK, as well as allowing them to check on friends who may also be affected by the disaster.