Author: Lucas Matney

Reddit adds a desktop night mode as it continues rolling out major redesign

For being one of the most visited websites on the web, Reddit‘s product has rocked a notoriously basic design for much of its existence. The site is in the process of slowly rolling out a major desktop redesign to users, and today the company announced that part of this upgrade will be native support for night mode.

Night mode will likely be a popular feature for the desktop site that seems to have a core group of users that never sleep. Reddit’s mobile apps have notably had a native night mode for a while already.

While night mode won’t likely be too controversial, some Redditors already seem resistant to the redesign change. Nevertheless, I’ve found it to be a pretty friendly upgrade (classic view is still the best) that gels with the surprisingly great mobile apps the company has continued to update. Reddit’s recent heavy integration of native ads is only more apparent in the new design, something that is understandably frustrating a lot of users, but it was surprising the ad-lite good times lasted so long in the first place.

You can access the night mode feature with a toggle in the username dropdown menu in the top-right corner of the site.

Facebook is updating how you can authenticate your account logins

You’ll soon have more options for staying secure on Facebook with two-factor authentication.

Facebook is simplifying the process for two-factor verification on its platform so you won’t have to give the company your phone number just to bring additional security to your device. The company announced today that it is adding support for third-party authentication apps like Duo Security and Google Authenticator while streamlining the setup process to make it easier to get moving with it in the first place.

Two-factor authentication is a pretty widely supported security strategy that adds another line of defense for users so they aren’t screwed if their login credentials are compromised. SMS isn’t generally considered the most secure method for 2FA because it’s possible for hackers to take control of your SIM and transfer it to a new phone through a process that relies heavily on social engineering, something that isn’t as much of a risk when using hardware-based authentication devices or third-party apps.

Back in March, Facebook CSO Alex Stamos notably apologized after users started complaining that Facebook was spamming them on the phone numbers with which they had signed up for two-factor authentication. They insisted that it won’t happen again, but it also definitely won’t if they don’t have your number to begin with.

The new functionality is available in the “Security and Login” tab in your Facebook settings.

Twitter algorithm changes will hide more bad tweets and trolls

Twitter’s latest effort to curb trolling and abuse on the site takes some of the burden off users and places it on the company’s algorithms.

If you tap on a Twitter or real-world celebrity’s tweet, more often than not there’s a bot as one of the first replies. This has been an issue for so long it’s a bit ridiculous, but it all has to do with the fact that Twitter really only arranges tweets by quality inside search results and in back-and-forth conversations.

Twitter is making some new changes that calls on how the collective Twitterverse is responding to tweets to influence how often people see them. With these upcoming changes, tweets in conversations and search will be ranked based on a greater variety of data that takes into account things like the number of accounts registered to that user, whether that tweet prompted people to block the accounts and the IP address.

Tweets that are determined to most likely be bad aren’t just automatically deleted, but they’ll get cast down into the “Show more replies” section where fewer eyes will encounter them. The welcome change is likely to cut down on tweets that you don’t want to see in your timeline. Twitter says that abuse reports were down 8 percent in conversations where this feature was being tested.

Much like your average unfiltered commenting platform, Twitter abuse problems have seemed to slowly devolve. On one hand it’s been upsetting to users who have been personally targeted, on the other hand it’s just taken away the utility of poring through the conversations that Twitter enables in the first place.

It’s certainly been a tough problem to solve, but they’ve understandably seemed reluctant to build out changes that take down tweets without a user report and a human review. This is, however, a very 2014 way to look at content moderation and I think it’s grown pretty apparent as of late that Twitter needs to lean on its algorithmic intelligence to solve this rather than putting the burden entirely on users hitting the report button.

Facebook’s AR camera effects platform comes to Instagram

The augmented reality platform on Facebook has largely been hampered by the fact that it’s only on Facebook. Well, today the feature lands on Instagram, where it will arrive it front of an audience more devoted to photo-sharing in a platform more suited to AR filters.

The filter platform will operate a little differently on Instagram, where people will be exposed to user-designed filters based on the accounts that they follow. The AR camera effects platform will also enable users to try out filters directly from their friends’ Stories, so if they see something they haven’t seen before, they can see who made it and follow the account.

This change will do a lot to promote more appropriate filters being suggested to users in a way that Snapchat’s platform just isn’t set up to handle.

Facebook reopens app reviews on its platform

Onstage at Facebook’s developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company will be re-opening its app review process following the pause it took in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica crisis.

“Now, I know that it hasn’t been easy being a developer these past couple months, that’s probably an understatement. What I can assure you is that we’re hard at work making sure people don’t misuse this platform so you can all keep building things that people love, and today I’m happy to share that we’re reopening app reviews so you can all keep moving forward,” Zuckerberg said onstage.

This is certainly welcome news for developers who build on the platform who have had to deal with Facebook making major changes without their input as the company has tried to navigate its latest scandals.

Mozilla Hubs is a super-simple social chat room for robots

The socially networked web is frightening enough, but maybe chatting with some friendly robots will ease the tension.

Today, Mozilla showed off a preview of Hubs, a dead-simple social WebVR experience that users can dive into with a couple of clicks, share a URL and meet up with other people across platforms, including mobile, desktop and VR.

It’s not Second Life, or even Facebook Spaces; it’s pretty low-key. You’re just a humble robot hanging with other robots who are hopefully your friends.

It’s admittedly kind of hilarious how childish so many of these social apps for VR look right now. It’s pretty much due to the marriage of PS1-level graphics and a Club Penguin social schema. The thing that’s really being tested here isn’t a lifelike approach to detail or nifty interface cues, it’s the bare-bones simplicity of getting people into a social environment together and facilitating connections.

The broader issues that Mozilla is tackling here are the same ones others are, though Mozilla is starting its efforts with a heavy approach to cross-platform compatibility by building Hubs entirely on WebVR. Mozilla says Hubs has support for all of the major VR headsets out now. Having the web as the backbone for the service is something that’s easy to take for granted, but with most social VR experiences requiring app stores and downloads, the idea of using a URL to dive into a social environment is oddly unique.

Even when compared to VR itself, WebVR is in its earliest stages, but Mozilla is continuing to experiment and attract other developers to it. This is just a preview of Hubs; the company has plans to bring some new avatar systems and tools for developing custom spaces inside it soon.

Reddit hires former Time Inc. exec Jen Wong as COO

Reddit, one of the internet’s largest hubs for both traffic and controversy, announced today that it has hired former Time Inc. President of Digital Jen Wong to take on the role of COO.

She will be tasked with managing Reddit’s business strategy, working out of the company’s New York office. Wong left Time Inc. earlier this year when the company was acquired by Meredith Corp for $1.84 billion.

In a blog post, the company detailed the scope of her role as COO. A major focus will be building the company’s advertising strategy:

Her goals as COO will align closely with her past experience at Time, PopSugar, and AOL: using her media, publisher, advertising, and operations expertise to help us build out our offerings for users, advertisers, and partners; applying her experience building successful digital advertising offerings for internet media giants to our own ads platform; and, through it all, working to grow our business while staying true to the things that make Reddit unique.

Despite claiming 330 million monthly active users, Reddit is still a relatively small operation by Silicon Valley standards. A major part of that is that they’ve been slow to build out a sophisticated advertising product, though in recent months they’ve begun rolling out native ads in the company’s mobile apps.

“Jen is a seasoned digital veteran and successful executive at some of the biggest media companies in the world, her experience and vision will help carry Reddit’s momentum forward in the years to come,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a statement.