April 2017

Tech Crunch
Stories: it seems every social media platform is on board. Snapchat started it all, being the first to allow users to upload video clips and photos to a daily 'story', available for friends to view for 24 hours.User's daily digital diary entries, if you will.

Rival Facebook - owners of Instagram - then introduced the feature to the popular photo sharing app, then more recently, Messenger. It seems there's a copy-cat culture occurring across apps; they all seem to be morphing into the same thing with features tweaked for originality.

Snapchat wins for the best filters, hands down - don't tell me you're not amused when your face gets put in a video of a dancing man in a bee costume; they're's some funny filters day-to-day as they switch them up. Instagram stories is very 'Instagram', with that glowy pen tool and Boomerang feature giving you licence to be artsy - without the silly face-squashing effect Snapchat offers.

From my social media experience since it's launched, Messenger stories hasn't taken off as well as it's Instagram counterpart, in the battle against the original 'storymakers' Snapchat. And it seems Instagram's winning that battle as it stands, with more users than Snapchat - bit of a kick in the teeth for that cute smiley Snapchat ghost right?

Instagram stories daily user-ship has increased by 50 million since January, and has been on it's way to overtake Snapchat after it copied the feature in August last year. Daily, Instagram gets 200 million users using the Stories feature, creating artsy Boomerangs, adding cheesy selfies or filming their oh-so-adorable pet.

Snapchat on the other hand, only has 158 million daily users of the Stories feature - I say 'only - 158 million is still a huge amount of people, but in comparison, Instagram have quite a significant lead. I wouldn't be surprised if Snapchat were pretty cheesed-off after thieving Instagram have been more successful with their feature than they have.

However, with Snapchat stories still popular - 158 million is a big number - and it's likely they'll come out with a new, unique feature to set themselves apart from Instagram again and increase their popularity...which may or may not be stolen back when Instagram copy them again...

Donald Trump's stance on immigration is no secret, in fact it was the centrepiece of his entire campaign. Since taking office, the US attitude towards immigration has become... Unfortunate. On Wednesday, the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, was introduced. Not only is it a completely inaccurate acronym (VICEO?), it's a completely madcap idea - granted special services to people who have been victims of a crime perpetrated by an immigrant.

Let me break that down, if you get mugged, you call the police, like any rational person would. If you get mugged and you think that the person who mugged you may not have been born in the USA, then you get VOICE on the case. Do crimes committed by immigrants require a different kind of approach to resolve? They do not. Does the Trump administration have a vested interest in making immigrants look bad? I couldn't possibly say.

Twitter, as it turns out, could possibly say, and they've found a rather ingenious way to do it. For the past few days, they've been flooding the VOICE hotline with complaints about crimes committed by aliens, the ones from space. Borg burglaries, jawa carjackings, xenomorph, erm, assault and battery, you name it, aliens done did it. Twitter users across the nation have been sharing the hotline number and encouraging everyone to report their alien sightings.

Just to add an extra dose of appropriateness to this mountain of excellence, all this started happening on April 26th, which in 2016 was declared Alien Day by 20th Century Fox, due to the fact that the day and month mirror the name of the planet where the titular creature is first discovered in Alien - LV426. Think of it like 'May the 4th be with you', but more obscure, and less witty.

Before long, the #AlienDay hashtag had taken on a whole new meaning, and a wonderful kind of mocking protest had begun. I just wish I could have seen the VOICE office that day as they struggled to field the flurry of phone calls from people complaining that E.T. had cloned their credit card.

Marketing Land
The live streaming race rages on. Facebook and Twitter battle back and forth over sports, influencers search for exciting new ways to make money from it, VR developers tinker away and now Twitter are making wildly ambitious promises about eternal broadcasting.

Twitter are adopting an 'always-on' approach to live-broadcasting, effectively turning the platform into a new kind of 24/7 network, showing entertainment, news, sport and everything in between, all day every day. Familiar format, unfamiliar setting.

The idea of it is that users will be able to dip in and out of live content as and when interesting things are brought to their attention. Say, for instance, you're in two minds about watching a basketball game, then you notice that half the people on your feed are tweeting about it. Hit one link and you're there. The same principle could be applied to a breaking news story, live feed of a gig or just about anything else.

This is an ambitious undertaking, one which Twitter currently lacks the means to achieve, but if enough broadcasters, networks and franchises get on board, it's not impossible. Twitter recently lost the battle for Thursday night NFL broadcasting to Amazon, but there's plenty of real estate left out there for them to claim.

Of course, it does mean that they'll have to deviate away from any high concept, in-house broadcast projects. In order for this to work, it's going to be about quantity over quality, Twitter will need to stretch their budget as wide as they can to make sure there's a strong enough variety of content to keep people interested.

If they manage to pull it off, though, Twitter could become a new kind of haven for live streaming, and before long they could be fielding offers, rather than making them. The ad revenue for 24/7 broadcasting is currently speculative, but excitingly so. If this works the way Twitter want it to, it could not only sustain them financially and strengthen their stock valuation, but change the way broadcasters approach live content full stop.

It was only after the US presidential election that stories about fake news really began to ramp up. Many held Facebook directly responsible for the election's result, claiming that the platform played a hand in circulating false information, which went on the influence the way people voted. It's a debate which rages on, as Facebook continue to find ways to cope with the ongoing issue.

Two more pivotal elections are now breaching the horizon - the French presidential election on the 7th of May and the snap UK general election on the 8th of June. Both are controversial for entirely different reasons, but in both cases, the spread of fake news has been culpable for the way things have developed. Now, the UK select committee are calling for Facebook to do more.

The chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, Damian Collins, has urged Facebook to improve their response to fake news, and says that if they don't, then they are threatening the "integrity of democracy". That's a big statement, but given how frequently fake news stories were shared in the run up to the US election, not an inaccurate one.

Facebook have repeatedly stated that they don't wish to take any responsibility for the way news spreads on the platform, but they're finding it harder and harder to skirt around the fact that fake news, and the disproportionate prevalence of it on the platform, are having a pronounced effect on voter activity. Would Trump have still won if the top 20 fake news stories prior to the election hadn't been shared more than the top 20 real ones? It's hard to say, but the presence of impact can't be denied.

Collins is arguing that Facebook aren't responding quickly enough to reports and complaints, especially when the post in question is on the verge of going viral. While Facebook have recently made statements reminding critics that fake news is an "evolving challenge", and that they have no intention of acting as the "arbiter of truth".

They're still making efforts to curtail fake news, but far more progress has been made in the US, and even France and Germany than in the UK. With parties gearing up to start campaigning, Facebook's response over the next week ways could be critical to the tone of the election.

Snapchat are once again pumping a dose of steroids into Discover. This time around, they're looking to Germany, launching the feature in the country for the first time. The first media outlets to publish in German on Discover include Vice, Sky Sport and Spiegel Online. After France and Norway, this is the fourth international iteration of Discover to be added in.

Norway in particular was a strategic move on Snap's part. Over 50% of all smartphone users in Norway have Snapchat, and similarly the app has seen a whopping 207% increase in daily active users in Germany in the past year. As a part of this deal, Snapchat seem to have also tweaked the revenue parameters, so that they share ad revenue with German publishers, rather than keeping it all in exchange for a flat fee.

Meanwhile, the Stateside rendition of Discover has just added a new member to the roster - The New York Times. This has been on the cards since February, and now it's happened, with the Times posting five stories per week pulled from their 'Morning Briefing' feature. They've also thrown the crossword in, just because it wouldn't be the New York Times without it. Canadian and Australian users will also have access to this content.

It's a wise move for Snap to pay particular attention to Discover. With Facebook focusing so heavily on Stories, it remains one of the app's most unique, interesting features, and an engaging way to bridge the gap between news media and social media.

There is one, rather unfortunate caveat though. Expanding into Germany could well be regarded by many as another move from Snap which is too heavily biased towards wealthier markets. Recently, a former employee claimed that Evan Spiegel had said that Snapchat was "only for rich people" and that they weren't interested in expanding into "poor countries like India and Spain".

Snap have denied the comments, but it's still caused something of an uproar in India in particular, and an expansion into the German market likely won't do much to remedy that. Snapchat don't strike me as a culturally elitist company, but it's on them now to prove that to the rest of the world.

The Motley Fool
LinkedIn are moving from strength to strength at the moment. As they've continued to improve the look of their platform and upgrade various aspects of it, their user count has carried on climbing. In the past six months alone, they've gained a further 133 million users, bringing the grand total up to half-a-billion. Their reach also now spans over 200 different countries.

For a social network which was set up to help people find jobs, and only people in very particular sectors, this is even more impressive. Platforms like Facebook have experienced far more rapid growth, but they offer something for everyone, while LinkedIn has little to nothing to entice, say, students. This is a victory for LinkedIn but in many ways it's also a call to action.

There's a key difference between users and active users, and in this sense LinkedIn is falling short. Next time you're out with friends, ask them how many have signed up to LinkedIn, then ask how many of them use it on a weekly basis. I'd put good money on the number dropping. LinkedIn's largest problem is keeping its users consistently engaged.

If you aren't actively looking for a job, networking to bolster your freelance rolodex or recruiting new staff, there seems to be little incentive to remain active. In reality, there are plenty of reasons to keep using LinkedIn regularly, the trouble is that they aren't immediately obvious. Over the past few months, LinkedIn's primary aim has been to alter that perception.

Article publishing has been their most significant play, but tighter, more interactive communities, better messaging functionality and deeper profile building have also been added in to make the experience more comprehensive. Most of this change has happened since Microsoft picked up the company for $26 billion last year, a huge investment which they're doing everything possible to capitalise on.

At that point, only around 25% of LinkedIn users were logging in more than once a month. That number has likely risen since then, but the platform will have to do a lot more to not only keep users engaged, but prove the worth of the platform. With time and work, LinkedIn could become the biggest job hunting platform on the internet, but it has a long, long way to go yet.

The Post Turtle
On March 14th, the US Customs and Border Protection sent a summons to Twitter. Among other things, it requested information about a particular account - @alt_USCIS. Said account is one of the various 'rogue' Twitter profiles which posts revealing and negative information about the Trump cabinet and their policies, in this case someone working at Citizenship and Immigration.

Earlier this month, Twitter took the issue to federal court, drawing the legality of such a request into sharp question. In particular, the request wanted the real identity of the account's creator to be identified. It's hard not to see why some might regard that as a violation of personal privacy. One day after the lawsuit was called, Homeland Security withdrew the request.

Now, Homeland Security are actually investigating CBP to figure out if the summons constituted an abuse of power, as well as "potential broader misuse of the Department". This is the first time since Trump's inauguration that a governmental body has faced investigation for anything to do with social media, and it's a first for the USA in general. Homeland rarely have to investigate themselves, and even in that regard, this is rather unusual.

Interestingly, Inspector General John Roth used the exact same adjective to describe the effect of the summons on Twitter users as Twitter themselves in his letter - "chilling". This is clearly a matter that Homeland are taking very seriously, which says a great deal about the disparities between the government's goals and the US constitution.

National authorities ask Twitter for account info all the time, you can see how much in their transparency report, but it's usually tied to criminal cases. The user in question committed no crime, as such, they merely used the account to criticise US foreign policy, mainly through sharing articles. It could be suggested that what the CBP staff in question were doing was a violation of freedom of speech. Strongly suggested.

This is unlikely to be the last case of its kind to flare up during the Trump presidency. Now that he's running the US, threatening to sue his critics is a far riskier move, and he's accrued more critics than ever. While the laws surrounding information access on social media are still very loose, there's no arguing with the fact that someone's personal information is exactly that unless you can identify them as a genuine threat.

A Blog on Blogging
There's a common misconception about the terms 'social media' and 'social network'. Many think that the two are interchangeable, but in fact there are a number of distinct differences. Social media is far more broad - it describes literally any online platform which allows people to freely transmit information to other people. Social networking creates actual connections between people. If you fill in a profile, send friend requests and so forth, it's a social network. If not, it's social media.

There are a number of different platforms which blur this line. Facebook is a clear cut social network, but platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest live in a grey area. Sure, you create a rudimentary profile and connect with other people, but content sharing lives at the core of the experience, not networking. Most platforms are happy to invite the comparison, and even encourage it, but Pinterest are trying to relinquish it.

For a while now, Pinterest have been restyling themselves as an image searching platform, and a very powerful one at that. They've introduced more intricate categorisation tools, better tagging options and now they've gone a step further by eliminating the 'Like' button from the platform.

Liking is more closely associated with Facebook than any other platform, but it's become so prevalent that you'd be hard pressed to find any site that doesn't employ some variation on the theme, social network or otherwise. In some cases, it makes total sense, but on others it certainly seems somewhat unnecessary, and Pinterest is one of them. Scrolling through images and adding them to boards isn't an activity that warrants or benefits from the approval of random strangers.

Pinterest are clearly well aware of this, as well as the fact that it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between 'Like' and 'Save'. They claim that, by removing it, they're encouraging users to "live in the real world". To further this, they're also in the process of developing a new US-based ad campaign which highlights the differences between Pinterest and the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

There's no reason for Pinterest to compete with social networks, it's a fight they'd never win and they occupy a completely different space. Sadly the nature of sharing and profile creation has lumped them in with the big networks, even though they're offering something which has nothing to do with social networking.

For businesses, being able to create social media bots to increase the reach of their content is vitally important. There are a number of different ways to do it, but by far the easiest is to use a third party app. There are a few cross-platform ones, numerous Twitter dedicated ones and a fair amount for Instagram too. The relationship between these services and the platforms themselves has always been rocky, however, and now one of the biggest has been shut down for good.

The site, known as Instagress, announced in a statement that they were shutting down due to a request from Instagram themselves. As you can see below, they also included a GIF of Godzilla ripping a pagoda down in the statement, just in case it wasn't clear how they feel about all this. Users are also being offered refunds.

Instagram have been clear that they have a zero tolerance policy towards fake accounts, yet since they originally promised to get rid of them all 3 years ago, the practise is still going strong. In the strictest sense, the accounts that Instagress create aren't fake, they're just automated. The idea is that they use likes and shares to push up the reach of a particular post. Usually this is done to increase the chance of gaining some ad revenue, and that's where the issue gets really murky.

Artificially bolstering the popularity of a post is one thing, but using that popularity to earn money which could have gone to someone who was generating interest organically isn't exactly the most amicable way to conduct business. Instagram are trying to be fair to everyone, and paying to have posts boosted is distinctly unfair.

In some ways, Insta have only themselves to blame for this trend coming into existence. By changing the feed from chronological to algorithmic, they created a system wherein some posts simply will not get seen unless something is done to increase their popularity. Given how much some brands and influencers rely on Instagram, it's hardly surprising that some of them have started cheating.

Instagram can play whack-a-mole with this paid services all they want, but there are plenty of other workarounds out there which aren't so easy to police. Pods, for example are a community-driven way of achieving the same goal, and for every large scale bot operation that gets snubbed out, there are 5 more to take it's place. One way or another, this is going to keep on happening.

Ghosting and breadcrumbing, two distinctly similar ways to badly mishandle your love life (or be mistreated by your significant other). While both of them certainly predate the social media age, the terms were only coined recently, owing to a distinct rise in this kind of behaviour.

If you need reminding, ghosting is the act of cutting off all contact with a significant other without any explanation in the hopes that they'll take the hint. Breadcrumbing, meanwhile, is the act of keeping said significant other at an arm's length, while still dropping the odd indicator that you're interested to keep them 'in reserve'. They're both horrible, and now they have a new sibling, 'haunting'.

While the former two have only been exacerbated by social media, haunting couldn't have existed without it. If you're being haunted, it means that an ex-lover is keeping a very close eye on your social media feeds, throwing you the odd like here, or viewing your Instagram stories, just to wordlessly reinsert their name into your memory bank.

This behaviour is more common on Instagram, because unless you have a private account, anyone can follow you. If any of your exes are still on your Facebook, chances are things ended pretty amicably, otherwise you'd have deleted them, right? Well yes, but that's the thing about haunting, it doesn't actually have to be an ex.

Someone could be doing it to you right now and you might not even realise. Is there someone who you don't know very well who likes a lot of your posts? Perhaps it's someone you had a one-night stand with, or someone you suspected might be interested in you? It's entirely possible that they're haunting you. If you get a notification saying that they liked a really old picture of you, then it's time to get really worried.

In a way, this is like observing a whole new generation of people adjust to the way romance works. Past generations have had their own renditions of ghosting and haunting, we just didn't have names for them. The difference here is that past generations didn't have the means to get into their ex-lover's heads like this. Before Instagram came along people just texted each other and then pretended it was a wrong number, or used friends as spies, or challenged their new partner to a duel.

This trend has been particularly affected by Stories, chiefly on Instagram but also on Facebook. Because you're the only person who can see the 'watched' list, it's like someone is sending a private message simply stating "I've got my eye on you."

The real awkwardness of it is, as is often the case with this kind of creepy behaviour, you'll only be met with denial if you actually confront them about it. Really and truly though, it shouldn't be that difficult to ignore someone if all they're ever doing is liking and viewing, the crucial thing to remember is that however much their activity is getting on your nerves, for a them it's completely hopeless attempt to worm their way back into your life. Eventually they'll realise that, and it'll suck.

The Daily Dot
All of Twitter's data is stored in one centralised hub, including all the user data from all over the world. It's standard practise for a social media platform that size, but some governments would rather it worked a little bit differently. Earlier this week, Russian media sources reported that a new deal had been struck with Twitter which will see Russian user data transferred to local servers within the next 12 months or so.

Twitter have, as yet, declined to comment on the matter, but inside sources claim not only that they are considering the move, but that they're specifically looking at where they store the data of Russian users who actually advertise on the platform. This doesn't guarantee anything, but the fact that Twitter are even considering it raises some interesting questions about their priorities.

Just how much ad revenue comes to Twitter from Russia? Enough to warrant the users (and government) being granted special treatment? If Twitter did store Russian data in local servers, how would these servers be managed?

It might not be an issue of ad revenue, at least not entirely. Last November, LinkedIn were hit with the same demands, and after refusing to comply, the platform was blocked in Russia. The government has repeatedly claimed that this law is intended to protect the data of citizens, but some have suggested that it will make it easier for the government to access said data.

That in mind, the idea that advertisers might be targeted first is all the more sinister. Beyond just handing over their email addressers, users who advertise on the platform also have to put forward payment data. With the threat of being blocked nationwide, Twitter are obviously looking for ways to meet Russia in the middle.

Some tech companies have already complied with the data localisation law, including Apple and Google, but Facebook and Twitter continue to hold out. Unlike Twitter, there's been no suggestion that Facebook have even considered saying yes. Given the kind of information stored there, you can understand why Facebook would be the most reluctant to play ball.

It seems like developers are still trying to reinvent the dating app wheel. Following the success of Tinder, dozens of other developers have attempted to put their own spin on the approach, with varying levels of success. Whether it's an app that always lets the girl open first, or one that only matches you with people you've walked past, there's always a USP.

Wingman, as the name suggests, uses a rather novel one - getting your friends involved. In order to use Wingman, you have to have at least one friend willing to help you search for love. The friend in question will then be asked to list your best qualities and scroll through the subsequent potential matches, forwarding the suitable ones onto you. Just like in, well, there are too many romcoms and sitcom episodes to name just one.

It's pretty thorough, making sure that the wingman you select is a friend, rather than someone you might have a more complex history with. Aside from the 'why this person is great' section, the rest of the profile info is pulled from Facebook. The key benefit here is that you're allowing somebody close to you to talk about your best qualities, somebody who might know you better than you know yourself.

Filling out dating profiles is awkward, and in the view of many modern apps, unnecessary. Tinder users rarely include more than a sentence or two. Their philosophy is based around liking the look of someone from their pictures, and then opening up a dialogue. That can be risky, and there plenty of horror stories to find online. While it would be very easy to misrepresent a friend by writing them a glowing, exaggerated bio, I'd say it's a much better way to get the sense of someone before deciding to speak with them.

Here's the real kicker though, once this friend starts picking partners for you, will you be interested in dating them? Will they have poor taste in potential partners? Do you? It's certainly not without risk, but if you're bored with the current state of play in online dating, it's certainly worth a shot.

The Tech Portal
When Snapchat first introduced Lenses, they not only changed the way we think about selfies, they brought in a whole new audience - basically anyone who ever wanted to transform their face into a zombie or a cyborg. Lenses have been around for a while now, and we've seen a staggering multitude of shapes and sizes. Other platforms have made their own steps into the world of augmented reality, but Snapchat Lenses remain the most canny application of it yet seen.

Canny though they may be, they aren't all that sophisticated, but now Snap have introduced a new, far more advanced version of the feature. World Lenses take the concept and remove the need for a human face to fiddle with. Now, you can use the forward facing camera and apply 3-dimensional filters to whatever you happen to be looking at.

Rather than the 3D image remaining forward facing regardless of how you move about, a-la Pokemon Go, these animations actually remain static as you walk around them, allowing you to look at them from different angles as if they were actually there.

Examples of the lenses available at launch include plants which you can hurl into the ground, a sad cloud, a happy rainbow and a big, flashy 'OMG'. That might not sound like a particularly broad or imaginative range, but it's just the first wave. The normal lenses are updated daily and it will be the same with the new ones. It would also be safe to assume that we'll also eventually see branded content added into the mix.

This release allows for a bit more insight into where Snap's interests lie. Last month their IPO value went up - $28.3 billion - but investors didn't show as much interest as expected. This, combined with the ever increasing threat of Facebook and Instagram, means they need to try harder than ever to demonstrate value. With World Lenses, they're offering something which no other app or platform can.

Yesterday (19th of April), Facebook trotted onto the stage of their F8 conference and let the world know what they've been up to. Included in the presentations were a computer that lets you type with nothing but your brain, 360° video that knows where you're going to look, and hardware that lets you hear though your skin.

All these things are still very much in the developmental phase, however, and we probably won't be seeing any of them for months or years yet. Meanwhile, something which was showcased late last year is ready for the public - Facebook Spaces.

Spaces is a kind of VR chatroom that purports to allow users to interact in VR in the same way they would in real life. You can watch videos, play games, draw and interact in a number of other different ways, provided you're availed of an Oculus Rift and Touch. During the F8 conference, it was announced that the service is now in open beta.

At the Oculus Connect conference last year, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated how the technology could allow you to jump into chatrooms with people, edit the background, take 'mixed reality' selfies and even jack in using Messenger. The version of Spaces which is now available is virtually identical to the one Zuckerberg showed off in October.

Once thrown into Spaces, you find yourself in control of an avatar - a floating torso with a vague approximation of your own face and customisable clothing. From the landing area, you can use a panel on your wrist and a console just in front of you to call up games, doodle images or search the web for photos and videos to pull into this virtual world.

Anything you doodle takes on physical form, so if you wanted to draw a big stick to swing around, or a ball to hurl, you can. You can also fiddle with the surroundings, either picking from a list of pre-rendered ones or pulling a 360° photo from your Facebook. That's the real kicker, you have full access to all your Facebook content, to do with what you please.

Your avatar also sports a range of different facial cues, which can be activated with various different hand motions. For example, placing your hands over your eyes will make your avatar act scared. In a cute way, mind. This is the biggest leap forward Facebook have taken in VR yet, and it will definitely interesting to see how the public at large react to it. The ones lucky enough to own an Oculus, that is.

A little while back, Formula One's new owners pledged to soften social media regulations in order to help the sport find a broader (and younger) audience, and give the drivers a bit more freedom to connect to their fans. It was a decision praised by many (including me), and regarded as a positive step away from the draconian approach taken by the previous ownership.

Sadly, it hasn't worked out quite so well. Lewis Hamilton uploaded footage of his pole lap in China to Instagram, but said footage turned out to be in violation of guidelines protecting broadcast partners. Said partners weren't exactly gassed about it, and Liberty Media had no choice but to ask Hamilton to take it down again.

So what gives? Well, as much as Liberty Media have encouraged drivers to share photos and footage, they can't share anything which has already been licensed to broadcast partners. In layman's terms, Hamilton made something which should have only been available on TV universally available. Welcome to the world of social media sport regulation, Liberty Media. On your left you'll see the NBA and NHL, feel free to ask them for pointers. On your right you can see the NFL standing in the corner; they've been given a time out, best not to ask them anything.

These social media guidelines are so new that it's going to take drivers and teams a while to figure them out, but Hamilton certainly should have known that uploading poll footage isn't OK. In the past, Hamilton often butted heads with the ownership over his social media activity, but that was back when he basically wasn't allowed to post anything, now he can post pretty much whatever he wants and he still found a way to make waves.

The point of loosening social media regulations was to broaden the sport's appeal to younger audiences, or just anyone who isn't currently having a midlife crisis. The trouble with that is that it may devalue the entire brand, as broadcasters will have a harder time trusting that their rights are protected, especially after this. In the long run it shouldn't do the sport much harm, but Liberty Media need to send a clear message to racers and teams about what alright and what isn't.

It's not often that I get to write about Tumblr, mostly because the only newsworthy things which ever seem to happen are related to either fandom warfare or Yahoo making another questionable business decision, but every now and again, something does crop up. In this case, it's that a new app has been launched under the Tumblr banner, and it's another social video app.

Tech and social media companies seem to be taking a scattershot approach to app development of late, and no genre is more oversubscribed that video sharing. Tumblr's rendition is called Cabana, and once again it revolves around users sharing and watching videos together in real time, as well as video chatting. The key difference is that it's marketed directly to the Tumblr crowd - teenagers.

There's no direct connection between the two services, and in fact the main reason Cabana was developed through Tumblr is because CEO David Karp ran into the project lead at a Yahoo event. Cabana was developed by a Yahoo incubator called Polyvore, who before now have never taken anything public, but Karp saw such a strong link between Cabana and Tumblr that he decided to get involved.

Tumblr is a place for people to share content with just about anyone, be they friends, acquaintances, strangers or anything in between. Cabana, meanwhile is designed to let you share content with an immediate circle of friends, without the need to be physically near them. Elementary stuff, right? That's probably why there are dozens upon dozens of shiny new apps out there with the exact same function at their hearts.

Cabana does it like this - users can either create or join 'rooms', which either privately or publicly let people all watch the same video at the same time, and react to it. Once in a room, you can add other friends up to a total limit of six. You can leave and join rooms at will, but you can only be in one at a time. Imagine some weird art installation where you wander between small spaces with videos being projected on the wall, remove everything physical until you're just left with the core concept, add a smartphone and you get the idea.

If you 'created' the room, you're the arbiter of the content. You can film yourself, what's happening in front of you or pull up videos from elsewhere to share. It's an interesting trend, apps like Cabana seem to almost be moving backwards to move forwards, creating a more confined experience to better replicate what we do in person - pull something up on YouTube and gather around a screen.

Looking forwards, Karp is planning to merge Cabana's brand advertising with Tumblr's, and once Tumblr has a dedicated live-streaming service, that will be factored in as well. Whether or not Cabana stands out enough to become the social video app remains to be seen, but it's at least encouraging to see Tumblr branching out into new enterprises after years of minor alterations and damage control.

A few months after overhauling the desktop version of the platform, LinkedIn have brought in yet another improvement. Before, messaging was a separate page, so you had to treat it like its own task, the same as job hunting, networking or updating your profile. Now there's a messaging tab so that you can carry on messaging people you're connected with, regardless of what else you might be doing.

It might seem small, but it's emblematic of the approach LinkedIn are taking now. Before, messaging on LinkedIn was more akin to emailing, which makes sense for a career-focused platform, but this new version is more akin to Facebook. LinkedIn are trying to move beyond a careers site into something more all-encompassing, something which will push the average user's active time up.

The landing page already has a very strong Facebook news feed vibe, and users are encouraged to share links and even write articles themselves. Being able to see messages in real time will not only make those activities easier, it will streamline pretty much everything typically done on the platform.

Here's the issue, though, this upgrade is placing them in more direct competition with Facebook than they've ever been before, and that's a battle they can't hope to win. LinkedIn have 467 million users, a figure which is utterly dwarfed by Facebook, who are also rapidly encroaching on their job hunting domain.

That being said, LinkedIn have seen a 40% uptick in messaging in the past 12 months, an increase which certainly won't be hindered by this new change. They've also added contextual prompts to help users figure out what to say, depending on whether they're looking at a job posting, company page or whatever else. This isn't only about making the platform broader, it's about changing the way job hunting is approached.

The biggest carrot in this is response times. During the testing phase, LinkedIn reported a 10% increase in responses sent within one minute of the original message. Job hunting is time-consuming work, and the increased likelihood of a near-immediate response will be very enticing to a lot of people.

That's where LinkedIn have an advantage over Facebook. While they are trying to steer people who joined for social reasons towards job hunting, LinkedIn only have to use social devices to make like easier for their career minded users. The messaging tab is now active on LinkedIn globally.

Mobile Marketing Magazine
After Germany revealed that Facebook (and other platforms) could face hefty fines for failing to remove criminal or extremist content, the blue giants are now facing a potential prosecution in the UK. Yet again, a newspaper (The Times, in this case) has released a report citing the presence of illegal content on the platform, and it makes for pretty uncomfortable reading.

The paper found several instances of child pornography and extremist content on the site which had managed to slip through without getting flagged. As in the case with the investigation the BBC conducted, The Times reported the content, but even being reported some of it came back as safe.

This time, it's drawn sharp criticism from the NSCPCC, and several experts have warned that Facebook could well end up facing criminal charges for failing to deal with the content. Facebook's line with this kind of thing has classically been that they are a social media platform, not a media distributor, and thus the users take full responsibility for the content they put up.

Now, however, they have actually come forward and taken further responsibility for their ineffective moderation. In a statement thanking The Times for bringing the content to their attention, they went on to say that "It is clear that we can do better, and we'll continue to work hard to live up to the high standards people rightly expect of Facebook."

Following on from this, they've promised to strengthen their moderation to avoid anything like this happening in the future. They've been steadily developing more sophisticated image recognition AI which is capable of identifying and flagging content so that it can be forwarded on to investigators, an initiative that they're now aiming to speed up.

Of course, automated content tagging is what got them into this situation in the first place. Some would argue that no matter how sophisticated an AI system like this becomes, there will always be grey areas. More and more, the notion of illegal content lurking on social media is starting to make brands uncomfortable, Google are currently doing their best to try and deal with it but if a viable solution doesn't come along soon it could place the entire business structure of social media in peril.

Facebook are at a particular disadvantage in this sense. They've already been in hot water for over-estimating their audience engagement figures, and even though they're promising to prioritise issues like this, well done is better than well said. An advertiser exodus from Facebook might not be on the cards just yet, but this is strike two, and assurances of beefier AI aren't going to be enough by themselves.

Savid News
While Facebook might own WhatsApp, it's still very much separate business, and there isn't a great deal of crossover. Sure, some of the higher ups might work on both sides and the money gets moved around, but that's pretty much as far as it goes. New developments in the EU might change all that, however.

Facebook caused a stir last year when they announced that they would be changing WhatsApp's privacy policy to make user data easier to share around. At the time, some speculated that Facebook would start finding ways to use WhatsApp data on their own platform, and now it looks like that's exactly what's happening.

When the changes were first announced, numerous European data protection watchdogs made it abundantly clear that they weren't pleased with this decision, causing a complete shutdown of cross-platform data sharing first in the UK, then in the EU at large. Now, Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner has indicated that she expects a compromise to be reached within the next few months.

The key issue seems to have been that Facebook weren't making it clear what was in the data, or what they were planning to use it for. When you hear that a company which is privy to your mobile number, email, location and possibly bank details is going to 'use your data', but nothing else, it's bound to set off a few pretty clamorous alarm bells.

What we can expect, then, is a new plan which will acknowledge the need for further transparency, and probably provide a larger window for users to opt out of data sharing. That probably still won't be enough for some, though. Even if the revised proposal gets past the initial EU barrier, it's easy to imagine countries like Germany and Belgium taking umbrage with it, as they have with past Facebook and WhatsApp data sharing policies.

Facebook have struggled with this kind of thing more in the EU than other parts of the world, largely because European countries all take markedly different approaches to data protection laws, and they can't apply the same one-size-fits-all approach that they use in the States. Something or other is being to be in violation of a national regulation somewhere.

Whether or not Facebook do manage to get data sharing authorised in the EU, this is just one heading in a long list of issues Facebook have weathered since decided to monetise WhatsApp, something which they promised they wouldn't do when they bought it in 2014. While it's been easy to maintain a kind of equilibrium between Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, WhatsApp remains something of a problem child.

The Huffington Post
One of the biggest problems with selling advertising on social media is finding the proof that it's actually working. Engagement figures can be balanced against sales figures but it's hard to say with any certainty that the ads are going to carry on working consistently. Many companies argue that data transparency is the problem, that platforms like Facebook simply aren't sharing enough information with them to help them reformat their strategy, and Snap seem to have come up with an answer to that.

On Wednesday, they released their Snap to Store feature. It allows marketers to see how much their Snapchat campaigns are driving people towards their establishments. Once they balance that out against local sales info, they'll be able to tell almost exactly how well the Snapchat campaign is working.

To go along with this, Snap also released some new data detailing what percentage of the user base use Snapchat at particular locations. For instance, 80% use it at restaurants, 66% at malls and 50% at gyms. Even that information is tantalising, but what Snap are promising with Snap to Store is not only detailed, it's already proven.

Snap to Store has been in the client testing phase since last year. 7-Eleven, Paramount Pictures and Wendy's have all been using it and there have already been measurable, impressive results. Wendy's created a geofilter to promote one of their sandwiches, and the stats showed that the filter was directly responsible for 42,000 people visiting Wendy's in the space of only a week.

Being able to see how many users saw the campaign, versus how many who actually went to the location, and then being able to break that down into different demographics is a massively valuable resource for marketers, and all Snap had to do to get it was share user location data.

When Snapchat originally started advertising, the promise was that it wouldn't be 'creepy' and it wouldn't abuse user data with targeted advertising. This new feature seems to run counter to that ethos, but with their IPO valuation causing tension and Facebook breathing down their neck, proving themselves as a good marketing and sales resource is vitally important right now.

Snap have asserted that, in spite of releasing all this new data, they're still very much committed to user privacy, and they still don't track user location data when the app isn't open, something which Facebook have been doing quite happily for a while now. Even with companies able to see how many users are going to their establishments, Snapchat won't share any additional location data, so the user base at large shouldn't be too concerned about this new strategy.

Have you ever used Instagram for messaging? I didn't think so. Despite most of the discussion on the platform emanating from photo comments, it does actually feature a surprisingly robust messaging service - Instagram Direct. Direct is the hub for two separate kinds of messaging - ephemeral and permanent, and until now, they both lived on different parts of the screen.

Now, though, a key change has been made. Rather than ephemeral messages staying confined to their own domain, users can now post ephemeral messages within permanent chat threads. Simply put, if you're talking to someone and you want to post one of Instagram's vanishing picture messages without exiting the screen, you can.

This also means that the Stories bar has been removed from Instagram Direct, which means that there's at least one place on a Facebook-owned platform where you don't have to put up with it looming over you constantly. It seems like Facebook have realised that a more simplified messaging system was appropriate for Instagram.

According to Facebook, Instagram Direct is actually considerably more popular than it appears to be. They report that the service now has 375 million monthly users, which is more than 50% of the total monthly active figure for the platform.

One more change has been made - the 'New Message' button has been replaced with a big, round camera/video recording prompt. This suggests that Instagram are still trying to nudge people more towards photo and video messaging, rather than text. If they're focusing on that, it shows that, at least on the Instagram front, their mission to replicate Snapchat's success is actually working, and working rather well.

Snapchat haven't had much to worry about from Messenger Day or Facebook Stories, but their stock actually went down 2.79% when Direct was announced, and this new improvement won't help. Of the 3 platforms, Instagram shares the most DNA with Snapchat, and it's the more direct competitor to it. We may well see yet another spike in user engagement for the service following this news.

The Next Web
Twitter is big in Japan. Since launching there in 2008, it has become one of their most successful markets outside of the UK. After English, Japanese is the most tweeted language, and only the Dutch are more active on the platform as a whole (which is probably thanks in part to their comparatively smaller population).

In 2013, the record for most tweets per second was shattered, and it wasn't because of a shocking sports result or even news event, it happened during an airing of Hayou Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky on Japanese TV. Let me try and put this into perspective - Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar win peaked at 440,000 tweets per minute. Japan's record breaking moment peaked at 143,199 tweets in a single second. And that was all down to a movie which came out in the 1980s.

The Japanese love Twitter, but they're lukewarm at best when it comes to Facebook, making them an even more valuable market for the maligned platform - less risk of Facebook encroaching on their territory. Last August, Twitter reported that Japan was responsible for 10% of their quarterly global revenue.

The interesting thing is, Twitter haven't had to strategise much to keep Japan interested. The format of the platform seems to fit with Japanese culture almost effortlessly, but now Twitter are taking steps towards nailing down one of the more reluctant demographics - professionals in their 30s. They're aiming to convince them that Twitter is the optimal by-the-minute source of information for them anywhere on the internet, regardless of what their interests are.

It's a fair claim, there are plenty of niche communities on Twitter, and Japan is no exception. Given that Japanese culture is so inherently tribal - with people splitting off into endless clubs and societies based on their mutual interests - it makes sense for Twitter to home in on that. Over 30s are just outside of the age range who already embrace Twitter in this way. They typically take a more old-school view of the platform, a view which Twitter are trying to render defunct.

Essentially, Twitter want to show 30-somethings that the platform doesn't have to be used actively, it can be used to discover new things, and you don't have to participate in the conversation to draw something from it. It's long been common knowledge in the West that Twitter holds the most appeal as a breaking news ticker, but in Japan, older audiences haven't quite grasped it in the same way.

Payments have been an option on Messenger since 2015, but until now it was only available in one-on-one conversations. As of this week, you can now send and receive money on group chats as well. It might not sound like much, but it makes the payment feature more versatile, and enables Facebook to offer more than other message-payment services like Venmo.

Being able to send money in a group chat will make things like arranging group trips or joint purchases much easier to organise, and eliminates the need to chase each individual person for payment. Once you've put your payment details on the group chat, you can select which members you want to either pay or request money from.

Add this to the fact that the Messenger payment service is totally free and doesn't require any additional setting up, and all of a sudden it doesn't just seem like a viable alternative to Venmo, it seems like a better one. If you've ever had to chase people down for money owed, the fact that completed payments are visible to everyone on the chat will also likely hold some appeal.

A big concern for a lot of people with Messenger payments has been security, but the company have continued to assure users that their details are secure, and in the almost 2 years since the service went active, there have been no reported cases of payment details being hacked. New methods of online payment always have to break through a 'wall of trust', and it seems like Messenger has achieved this now.

In the past, Facebook have been somewhat reserved about the payment option, wary of people becoming mistakenly convinced that they were building a new business within the platform. In fact, this is one of the most practical additions ever to be made to Messenger - it's functional, it makes sense within the platform and it saves time. Facebook have never taken a percentage from Messenger payments, and they claim that they never will.

The lines between social networking and job hunting have certainly blurred in recent years, but I doubt that anyone saw this one coming. McDonald's have given Aussie job hopefuls the chance to apply using Snapchat.

Using a special filter, applicants can send a 10 second video application to the McDonald's (or Macca's, as it's often called there) official Snapchat account. The filter shows the applicant wearing the staff uniform, and the idea is that they use the 10 seconds to explain or demonstrate why they would be a good fit for the Macca's workforce.

Once the video has been submitted, applicants will receive a link to the actual careers page, where they can apply for the job for real. Really then, it's just a fun way of starting the application process, as everyone who sends a video gets given the same link, regardless of the actual content. If you look at it in a certain way, though, it's much more than a gimmick.

You have to be of a certain persuasion to work at a place like McDonald's. You have to be friendly, you have to deal with a very broad range of people and you have to work well as part of a team. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of sending them a 10-second video of yourself, you're probably not going to be a good fit. Retail and over the counter jobs are far easier to handle if you try and have fun with them. Believe me, I know.

A spokesperson from McDonald's also made the point that, for many, this is an entry level job, their first foray into the working world. Without a CV to fall back on, personality usually becomes the most important thing. This application process captures an, ahem, snapshot of that, which once again means that it will inherently appeal to and attract the exact kinds of people who are best suited to a job at McDonald's.

Marketing Week
Engaging with younger voters is an ongoing conundrum across the world, and the UK is no exception. Despite the fact that twice the expected number of younger voters turned out to cast their ballots in the EU referendum last year, it still wasn't enough to stem the tide of the leave vote, which was led by an older demographic. The May elections in 2015 saw a 43% turnout among 18-24 year olds, and a 54% turnout for 25-34 year olds.

Each time this happens, the same argument tends to get rolled out - the government and opposing political parties simply aren't doing enough to connect to younger voters. For the local elections in May (which have historically had a young voter turnout even lower than the above examples), the Electoral Commission are trying out a new tack - Snapchat.

Teaming up with developers working for the company, the Commission have created a Geofilter which reminds users that they need to register before April 17th if they want to vote. The filter is particularly aimed at 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland, since this is the first time they've been able to vote in council elections. Scotland have always fared better than other parts of the UK for young turnout, and adding 16 and 17-year-olds to the register is being regarded by some as a move which should be applied to the UK at large.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have introduced tools in the past encouraging people to register and vote, but this is the first time that the Electoral Commission has worked directly with a platform like Snapchat. Hillary Clinton worked with them during her electoral campaign last year, but for obvious reasons her Snapchat approach was much more geared to marketing her image.

As much as British politicians could benefit from communicating better with potential youth voters, the larger problem is that the necessary information just isn't reaching them. Recent polling suggested that not even 50% of Scottish people even realise that under-18s are now eligible to vote. Across the UK, a mere 69% of 18-24 year-olds are actually registered to vote at all.

When you look at it in those terms, this is a small step, and it probably won't make much measurable difference, but it demonstrates that the British government are at least trying to understand how to better implement social media. Voting should be the least political thing a person does, but among the youth it's long been disregarded as pointless and ineffectual, as 'uncool'. Snapchat isn't going to change that, but the attitude which brought this idea about may well do.

The Ringer
Social media has changed the framework of many industries, and journalism is perhaps the most prominent example. If you're any kind of journalist, editor or content creator, social media is guaranteed to find its way into your work schedule. Facebook have now found a shiny new way to capitalise on this - a set of short online courses designed to build better journos.

These three courses - each one taking around 15 minutes - are designed to teach writers how to incorporate the platform's vast array of tools and features into their work. In particular, the courses focus on the 360 tool and Facebook Live. The courses were created in collaboration with Poynter, the Floridian media institute which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Once you reach the end, you're tasked with filling out an assessment to test if everything you've been learning has really sunk in. Succeed, and you're awarded with a certificate "recognised by both Facebook and Poynter", but something tells me it won't carry much clout on your CV or LinkedIn profile.

According to reports from people who've done it, it's much more geared towards understanding how Facebook works than how to be a good journalist. Much of the information is based around using Facebook tools to boost engagement, which for most websites is the job of the social media manager, not the person who wrote the article/appeared on camera.

It seems to me that Facebook have missed a real trick here. This course could have been a way to educate people on how to verify sources properly, how to use the platform as a research resource and how it can help writers communicate and network. Instead, it blurs the lines between journalism and social media management, and only offers successful students a certificate which means virtually nothing.

Facebook are right about the fact that more journalists are utilising it as time goes by, but it's been going on for years and media companies across the world have all developed their own approaches to it, approaches which are far more time-tested and trustworthy than an online short course. If you want to get the best introduction into how to use Facebook for journalism, just ask an actual journalist.

Facebook Stories hasn't had the most comfortable birth. Now that the usual round of Snapchat foul crying has died down, a new problem has arisen - nobody is actually using it. The service has proven to be decidedly unpopular, so most people have been seeing little more than an empty feed at the top of their screens.

Facebook have decided to change the way an inactive Stories feed looks like in order to remedy this, but rather than adding, say, a tumbleweed animation, they've actually taken a somewhat passive aggressive approach. Now, the feed will show all your top friends as blurred out 'ghosts' until they post something.

This way, you'll see the obscured icons of your nearest and dearest stacked up next to anyone 'cool' enough to actually post something. Hover your mouse over one of the former and it comes up with a message stating that they haven't put anything up in a while (probably never). Facebook are hoping that this will be an incentive to get people posting, because it will make them stand out more on the platform.

The thing is, the feature isn't even universally available yet, it's still in the staggered launch phase. For this reason, a lot of the people who aren't using it actually can't. Bringing in a change like this before the Stories feature has had a chance to get a real foothold seems like an oversteer. If it looks like Facebook are really pushing for people to use it, it may well have the opposite effect.

Stories was always going to be a hard sell, Facebook have to convince people that they should use it in spite of the fact that they could do the exact same thing on Snapchat, Instagram or Messenger. Turning your closest friends into blurry phantoms isn't going to encourage many people to pick Facebook Stories over the other options, the only thing that will do that is making the feature more versatile than the others. The tools to do this are there, but if Facebook just leave it as is then it's going to be a ghost gallery for a long time.

Despite its consistent popularity, Twitter is regarded by most investors as poison. Shareholder pressure has blighted the platform many times in the past, particularly in the wake of sliding quarterly earnings reports. It's not necessary a Twitter problem, it's a social media problem; we're living in an age when the most popular brands aren't actually lucrative. It's not about sales figures any more, it's about ad revenue, and ad revenue is a fickle mistress.

Facebook remain the best example of what a successful social media business model looks like, but they stand on precarious ground. In reality, social media is ill-suited for capitalist economics, they're too new and the system is too archaic. This is part of the reason why some Twitter users are trying to turn it into a co-op.

For the unaware, a co-op is a business which is owned by consumers, so that everyone gets an equal say, rather than big investors taking the controlling stake. Pooling the labour and sharing the cost. Originally, co-ops were most associated with agriculture, so applying the concept to a social media platform is still a bit of a reach, but the more you unpack it, the more sense it begins to make.

The group of users in question are aiming to revive Twitter from its recently failed sale by placing it the hands of people who have the most interest in keeping it, well, Twitter. As a co-op, all of the changes made to the platform would come from, and be evaluated by, the user base. Moreover, the promise of greater say in the way the platform changes could actually reignite user interest.

The proposal is being considered for a shareholder meeting next month, but board members have already criticised the idea, describing the discussion of it as a "misallocation of resources". For this reason, the idea may never get any further, but even the suggestion of it has raised some interesting points about how social media platforms are best equipped to function as a business.

The Next Web
The Facebook Messenger gaming push has been going on for a while now, and meaningful data about engagement is gradually beginning to emerge. The arcade classics like Pac-Man, Arkanoid and Space Invaders are among the most popular, and the average play rate is highest in countries like Singapore.

Singapore is also the latest country to be introduced to Gamee, a Czech platform which provides instant games either through a standalone platform or through Messenger and Kik, depending on your inclination. There's another thing that makes Gamee standout from other Messenger game developers though - they're targeting brands and influencers to make games for them.

It goes beyond that though, in Singapore they found influencers on social media, and tasked them to create games which they could then directly challenge their fans on. Because most Messenger games are built around a scoreboard, it's easy to people to see how they stack up against against others, and if the 'others' in question are famous, so much the better.

What Gamee are doing in Singapore is to hand over control of their toolkit to influencers and brands, and trust that they will make the next step by themselves. Choosing to get this process rolling in a country outside of Europe which was already statistically proven to be gaming-mad was a canny move, to say the least, as it will place then in far better stead to score funding when they want to go global.

Messenger gaming is a largely untapped market at the moment, but Gamee's approach may end up becoming something of a yardstick for other companies. The biggest advantage of Messenger gaming is that it requires no downloading, no account registration and minimal waiting time, you just boot up the Messenger or Kik app and get playing. The next step after that is figuring out how to use a game as a totem for further community building and brand engagement, and that is something that Gamee have locked at the moment.

Gamee just secured a further 2 million euros of funding, which they plan to put into product development and upper level hiring. They're also working with Coca-Cola and a number of other brands on gaming content. Their success could well mark a big change in Messenger gaming.

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