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.
Follows words with actions in effort to increase diversity in tech-centric jobs
Following the release of its own diversity report that found its female involvement in engineering and other technology posts lacking, Apple and other tech companies is said to have sent "hundreds" of employees to answer questions and recruit potential employees at the current Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. Facebook, Google, Microsoft were among the other companies represented at the conference, which had over 8,000 attendees.
App allegedly offers multiple pseudonyms for discussions about sensitive topics
Facebook is working on a mobile app for anonymous interaction between users, a report claims. The app will allegedly let users to talk to each other under multiple pseudonyms rather than real names, in a similar way to Secret, allowing for identities to be protected when people are discussing subjects which are taboo or could be damaging to a person's reputation.
Original $19B purchase valuation of WhatsApp increases due to Facebook share price
Facebook has completed its acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp, days after the European Commission gave the all-clear to proceed. The purchase, originally valued at $19 billion when the process began ten months ago, has now concluded with the publication of an SEC filing, with the co-founder and chief executive of WhatsApp gaining a seat on the Facebook board.
Whatsapp, Facebook deemed "not close competitors" by European regulator
European regulators have given the all-clear on the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp. Four months after Facebook requested the European Commission to review the acquisition over possible antitrust-related issues, the regulator has determined that Facebook and its own Messenger service is not a "close competitor" of WhatsApp, and has authorized the purchase.
Proposals for Facebook research to undergo more stringent reviews
Facebook has admitted fault over its handling of user-based research, a matter which erupted this summer, and is taking steps to prevent such incidents from happening again. The social network is putting in place measures that it hopes will place a greater degree of scrutiny on future research projects, at the time of proposal, and at the time of publication.
Deal said to be unconditional, no conditions likely to be assessed
According to sources familiar with the matter, the European Commission is poised to offer unconditional approval to Facebook's purchase of message service WhatsApp. The official decision is due by the European regulatory agency on October 3, and no official comment of approval has yet been made.
Questionnaire sent by European Commission gaging impact of merger
The European Commission, the EU's antitrust agency, is seeking input from companies that may be impacted by Facebook's acquisition of messenger developer WhatsApp. The questionnaire is asking if queried companies are foreseeing any business issues with the merger, or if customers will be negatively impacted by the $19 billion deal.
User behavior away from site, sharing now determine if feed articles are click-bait
In a blog post from Facebook today, the social media company said that it's trying to improve the News Feed by reducing "click-baiting headlines." The company stated that it wants to help users find posts and links that are interesting, while removing stories that are generally considered spam by people that don't want them to turn up in their feeds.
Major apps identified as culprits
A number of iOS apps -- including Facebook Messenger, Gmail, and Google+ -- have a security vulnerability that could allow malicious parties to force an iPhone to auto-dial, observes Romanian developer Andrei Neculaesei. iOS supports a tel:// URI that can make a call automatically, even though developers are allowed to bypass confirmation prompts for the dialer if they want. Through a vulnerable app and the right web code, a person could potentially be tricked into dialing a toll number. A FaceTime variant could let someone capture images of a person before disconnecting.
OpenTable expands meal-pay service from pilot, to be available to 20 new cities
Restaurant reservations app OpenTable has announced the expansion of its payment service to an additional 20 cities by 2015. Originally launched as a pilot program in San Francisco, OpenTable's new service allows diners at participating restaurants to add a credit card to the app, and then pay their bill quickly with a few taps. The expansion is beginning with New York City, with the rest of the national expansion to follow.
Amicus briefs filed with NY Supreme Court decry overly broad warrants
Facebook is battling the New York courts over what it says are overly-broad warrants to examine user profiles and data. Supporting the social media giant, Dropbox, Foursquare, Google, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Yelp have all filed amicus curae ("friend of the court") briefs with courts in support of the Facebook effort, complaining that services like Facebook are multi-faceted and require more granular warrants, rather than a sweeping motion to collect all data about a targeted user.
Pinterest adds direct messaging of followers to service
Pinterest has added the ability to message other users to its service for the first time. An extension from last year's pin-sharing feature, Pocket-Lint notes the social network's mobile apps include the option to send messages back in responses to pins, including support for messaging multiple followers in the same thread, with the site suggesting it could be useful for planning events or projects with others.
Lawsuit launched in Austrian court, points to privacy issues, violation of EU law
Law student Max Schrems has turned from filing complaints against Facebook's Irish subsidiary to filing a European lawsuit against the social media company for privacy violations. Schrems filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, asking people from outside the United States and Canada to join in. At the heart of the matter are violations Schrems and his group, Europe vs. Facebook, believe are against European data privacy laws.
SnapChat rival's core requirement backtracked, Messenger now allows fullscreen viewing
On Thursday, Facebook updated two of its applications for iOS users: the now-required Messenger chatting program, and its SnapChat-like photo-messaging app Slingshot. The latter's biggest change is the removal of what was previously a puzzling core requirement of the app -- users no longer have to "reply" with a message, photo or video before being allowed to see the message, photo or video sent to them. The now-mandatory Messenger app has been updated to allow full-screen viewing of photos and videos.
Free access to search, essential online services provided by Internet.org app
The Facebook-spearheaded Internet.org initiative is making progress in providing low-cost or free Internet access in developing countries, by launching a smartphone app. Initially available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia, the Internet.org app will provide basic access to a number of essential online services, with customers not being charged for the use of data at all.
Now TV streaming service app from Sky available on Xbox One in UK
Now TV, the on-demand streaming service from satellite broadcaster Sky, is now available on the Xbox One game console in the United Kingdom. Previously available on the Xbox 360, as well as a large number of streaming devices and the PlayStation 4 as of last week, Pocket-Lint reports the Now TV app on Xbox One lets users pay in advance for passes to view the Sky Sports, Entertainment, and Movies packages, without requiring a satellite subscription.
Yelp iOS app adds ability to create up to 12-second video clips
Branching out in its ability to offer reviews of local businesses, Yelp has now updated its iOS app to version 8.1, which gives users the option to create a shortly 3-12 second-long video message alongside or in place of written reviews, comments or images. The video option is the only significant new feature, alongside the usual bug fixes and tweaks, and "lives" alongside the photo option -- which can now be toggled between photos and videos. Users can find existing video reviews alongside photos in both the app and on the company's website.
Dating site owns up to experiments, claims that's just 'how websites work'
Dating site OkCupid took to its blog today in a small defense of the outrage over Facebook's study involving manipulation of users' emotional states through data on its news feed for "psychological research." In a post titled "We Experiment on Human Beings," the dating company proceeded to make light of the data situations, while owning up to several of its own experiments.
FTC net neutrality letter addresses concerns about Internet 'hyper-giants'
In a letter filed with the US Federal Communications Commission regarding the pending net neutrality proposal, pro-cable company advocacy group The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) believes that if the "fast lane" net neutrality proposal stands as is, then "hyper-giants" like Amazon, eBay, Netflix, Facebook, and Google could charge the cable companies to allow customers to access services, essentially holding Internet Service Providers hostage. The cable companies allege to have no defense against such tactics, and claim to lack a "practical ability" or the incentive to throttle said large Internet companies.