Author: Sarah Perez

Tinder begins testing its first video feature, Tinder Loops

Tinder is getting into video. On Wednesday, the popular dating app will begin testing its first video-based feature, Tinder Loops, with iOS users in Canada and Sweden. The company says it will evaluate how users respond to Loops before making a decision to roll it out to other markets.

As you may have guessed by the name – “Loops” – the feature isn’t focused on traditional video, but rather on a shorter, almost GIF-like looping video format that’s been popularized by apps like Instagram’s Boomerang and, before that, Twitter’s Vine. In Tinder’s case, Loops will be just two seconds long, and can be added to users’ profiles alongside their photos.

The company says it decided to test videos because it believes videos can show more of users’ personalities, and that can increase people’s chances of getting right-swiped (liked, that is). It suggests the videos could be used for showing off your favorite activities – like shooting hoops or cliff jumping. But it’s likely that Tinder users will find other use cases for looping videos beyond that.

Loops represents the next step in the evolution of our classic profile,” said Brian Norgard, Chief Product Officer at Tinder. “With the addition of video, users have a new way to express themselves while also gaining key insights into the lives of potential matches. Whether it’s dancing at a concert, doing cartwheels on the beach, or clinking glasses with friends, Loops makes profiles come alive. We anticipate Tinder Loops will lead to even more matches and conversations and look forward to seeing how our users creatively adopt the feature,” he added.

More realistically, looping videos may better show people as they are – not hidden behind a soft photo filter or snapped from a classic MySpace angle. And that could lead to less surprise on first dates, as people will have already gotten a better sense of who they’re meeting, as well as how they like to have fun.

But at only two-seconds long, Loops are not as intimidating as posting a “real” video for users who are more shy.

To try the new feature, iOS users in the supported markets will be able to go to their profile, then tap the “Add Media” button to upload a video. Once the video is selected, you can drag the time strip to select the part you want to loop, preview it, and post it to your profile.

Tinder Loops currently supports only videos or Live Photos imported from your iOS Camera Roll. It doesn’t allow users to capture Loops directly from the app.

Alongside the option to add Loops, a subset of users in the test markets will also be given the ability to upload nine photos (or Loops), instead of just six. That could encourage more uploads of Loops as users won’t have to remove their existing photos to give the feature a try.

Tinder would not be the first dating app to dabble with video.

Starting last year, a number of its rivals began to support video in various contexts, as well. Hinge started allowing users to add videos up to 30 seconds long to their profiles; Match and Bumble announced Stories-like features involving video (BumbleVID didn’t pan out); and Zoosk tried video in a separate app, Lively, which has since pivoted to trivia. Integrating video, it appears, is not that easy.

The feature’s launch comes at a time when the competition between modern dating apps has been heating up. Specifically, Tinder and Bumble’s battles have gotten nasty, with Tinder suing Bumble over patents, and Bumble suing Tinder back for fraudulently obtaining trade secrets. Tinder also recently said it would roll out a ladies-first option in its app, which is the thing Bumble is best known for.

Now, with Loops, Tinder is differentiating itself further from the rest of the pack. Whether or not users will respond, however, remains to be seen.

Loops is rolling out today to the supported test markets.

 

Messenger adds support for sharing HD video, 360-degree photos

Perhaps aiming to snag some attention away from Snapchat’s big group video call update out this morning, Facebook also announced an update to its chat app Messenger, which will now allow users to share 360-degree videos and HD quality video (720p). In both cases, you’ll have to capture the photo or video outside the Messenger app, the company notes.

The update follows another that rolled out last fall, allowing users to share high-resolution photos through Messenger – something that Facebook said was the result of its significant investments in helping people “communicate visually.”

The idea that mobile messaging is often a camera-first experience isn’t unique to Facebook Messenger, of course – it’s the premise of the Snapchat experience and, these days, Instagram too.

Unfortunately for Facebook, news of improved media-sharing capabilities comes at a time when the company is under siege for its mishandling of user data, and, most recently, another reveal that it had been retaining videos that users believed to be deleted. The broader effect of this news cycle around Facebook’s approach to privacy, is an increased general mistrust of Facebook’s products as the place to share – including sharing through Messenger, which isn’t as distanced from the core product as Facebook-owned Instagram and Whatsapp are.

Facebook says if you want to share a 360-degree photo, you’ll need to first snap it with your camera or another 360-photo app before uploading it to Messenger where it will then be converted to an immersive experience that can be navigated through by the recipients via either tapping and dragging on mobile, or clicking and dragging on Messenger.com.

Similarly, HD videos will need to be first captured from the phone, or re-shared from the Facebook Newsfeed or other messages.

The rollout of the HD feature is limited to select markets for now, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S. on iOS and Android.

360 photos, however, are available worldwide on iOS and Android.

Twitter to live stream weekly MLB games in renewed deal

Major League Baseball games are coming to Twitter as a result of a renewed partnership. This Thursday, Twitter will live stream the Texas Rangers versus the Oakland Athletics at 3:35 PM ET. The game will be the first of the weekly day-game live streams of out-of-market MLB games in the weeks ahead, during the 2018 season.

The MLB will announce the games that will air on Twitter ahead of each month’s slate, usually via a tweet.

Twitter has worked with the MLB before. As the company was ramping up its live streaming efforts in 2016, it announced it would begin streaming weekly MLB games, along with those from other sports organizations like the NHL and NFL. It then aired weekly games from April through October 2017.

Now it will be a home to weekly games, available to U.S. users to stream for free from April through September 2018.

Fans can watch the games on live.twitter.com/MLB online and on connected devices, and they don’t need to login to a Twitter account in order to do so. However, the games will not be exclusive to Twitter. The company notes that each stream is a simulcast with a participating team’s local TV broadcast, and that Twitter will be offering advertising packages for the content to be made available to sponsors.

There is a rev share on those ad deals, but Twitter declined to comment on how the revenue is split.

Twitter is not the only online home to MLB games. Facebook recently scored an exclusive deal to live stream 25 afternoon games – which means they won’t be available elsewhere.

The MLB has been busy making its games available on newer streaming services, too. For example, YouTube TV announced last month a multi-year deal to be the presenting sponsor for the World Series, which includes plans to heavily market its service with in-stadium signage, TV ads, on-air callouts, and more. And ESPN+, the Disney-owned streaming service arriving this month, will air over 180 MLB games, with the option to view more by purchasing the MLB.TV out-of-market package.

In addition to the games, the MLB will again be making real-time highlights available via its @MLB Twitter account throughout the season, with Spanish highlights available from @LasMayores during 2018, says Twitter.  And Twitter has partnered with the MLB on hashtag-triggered emoji for all 30 MLB teams.

The April schedule of games is available below:

 

 

Music app Genius launches its own take on Stories, aided by YouTube

Genius, the big database of song lyrics and musical knowledge, is today launching its own version of “stories,” the Snapchat and Instagram-like short form sharing format that’s been rapidly spreading to a number of sites and apps, including Facebook, Messenger, Skype, and even Google. Genius’ “Song Stories,” as the new product is called, combine Genius artist interviews with YouTube content like concert footage, music video clips, and playlists.

As the user moves through the story, they’ll see the sort of behind-the-music details that Genius is known for, but in a more interactive format.

If you’re already familiar with Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories, you’ll find Song Stories easy to use as well.

As you listen to the song, you can tap to advance through the cards in the Story, tap and hold to pause a card, or do nothing and watch the story advance automatically, appropriately synced with the music.

On some of the cards, you’ll also be able to swipe up to access additional YouTube content directly.

For example, a Song Story might point you to other YouTube videos to watch, like concerts, covers, interviews with the artist, themed playlists, and more.

The collaboration between Genius and YouTube is notable, given YouTube’s plans to launch a revamped premium subscription service in the near future. A deeper integration with Genius could be a competitive advantage for YouTube.

And while nothing was announced in terms of a YouTube product today, this launch signals a closer and productive working relationship between two companies – despite the fact that Genius already works with YouTube Music’s competitor Spotify to power its “Behind the Music” feature.

“At YouTube we’re working every day to push the envelope and find new ways to enhance the overall music experience by better connecting artists and fans,” said Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, in a statement. “This project with Genius provides a more immersive way to explore music—it’s the perfect example of innovating in pursuit of this goal.”

“Genius and YouTube, the two biggest sources of musical deep cuts and rabbit holes on the planet, are natural collaborators on this mission,” added Ilan Zechory, Genius’s co-founder and president.

Not all bands and artists have been given the Song Story experience, however.

At launch, there’s a Gallery of Stories available on the Genius website, featuring artists like Lil Uzi VertCardi B feat. 21 SavageJoy DivisionTroye Sivan, and others. It remains to be seen how widely the Story format will roll out across the Genius database of song info going forward.

Twitter makes it easier to share the right part of a live video with launch of ‘Timestamps’

Twitter today is introducing a new feature that will make it easier to share a key moment from a live video, so those viewing the tweet don’t have to scroll to the part of the broadcast you want to talk about. The feature, called “Timestamps,” is something Twitter says it built in response to existing user behavior on Twitter.

Before, users could only tweet an entire live video . So, if they wanted to highlight a particular segment, they would tweet the video along with the specific time in the video where the part they’re trying to share begins.

Those viewing the tweet would then have to scroll through the video to the correct time, which can be cumbersome on longer broadcasts and challenging on slower connections.

For instance:

The new Timestamps feature makes this whole process simpler. Now, when you tap to share a live video (or a replay of a live video), you’re able to scroll back to the exact time you want the audience to watch. You can then add your own thoughts to the tweet, and post it as usual.

But anyone seeing the tweet will start watching right at the time you specified.

If the video is still live, they’ll then be able to skip to what’s happening now by clicking the “live” button, or they can scroll back and forward in the video as they choose.

The new option ties in well with Twitter’s live streaming efforts, which has seen the company focused on offering live-streamed sporting events, news broadcasts, and other events.

For example, those live-streaming a sports match could re-share the same live video broadcast every time the team scores a goal, with the video already positioned to the right part of the broadcast to capture that action. That could increase the video’s number of viewers, which could then translate to better advertising potential for those live streams.

However, Twitter will not allow advertisers to place their ads against the Timestamped moments at launch, because they don’t want to get into a situation where an advertiser is positioned up against a moment that’s not considered ‘brand-safe.’

Beyond the sports-focused use cases, people could also take advantage of Timestamps to share their favorite song from a live-streamed concert, while reporters could highlight something important said during a press conference.

Twitter notes the Timestamps feature will be available to anyone – not just professional content publishers. It will also work for anyone doing a broadcast from their phone, and will support live videos both on Twitter and Periscope.

On Twitter, you’ll be able to share the live video as a tweet, while on Periscope you’re able to share to your Periscope followers, in addition to sharing to Twitter or sharing as a link.

Timestamps isn’t the first feature Twitter built by watching how people were using its product. The company has a long history of adapting its product to consumer behavior as it did with the previous launches of @ replies, the hashtag, retweets and, most recently, threads. 

The update that delivers support for Timestamps is rolling out today on Twitter for Android and iOS, Twitter.com and Periscope.

Zoosk relaunches dating app Lively as a way to meet new people while playing trivia games

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of trivia applications like HQ Trivia, dating app maker Zoosk has just released an experimental app that combines trivia with the potential for meeting someone new. The app is a relaunch and complete makeover of Zoosk’s Lively, which first debuted in July 2016 as a dating app that used video to tell stories, instead of static profile images.

The new version of Lively is nothing like its former namesake.

As Zoosk explains, the previous version of Lively’s group video chat app was fun, but people didn’t know how to connect and relate to one another using the video format. It felt awkward to start conversations, with no reason to be there besides wanting to date.

The company went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to think about what sort of experiences could bring people together. Trivia, naturally, came to mind.

Lively aims to reproduce the feeling that comes with competing at a bar trivia night. When you join, you’re placed in a group video chat team of two to four people. Together, the team works to answer a series of 12 questions while discussing the answers over video in real-time. When they finish the questions, they’ll be able to see how their scores compared with other teams.

The “dating” component to the app isn’t quite what you would expect. In fact, it’s less of a way to find a date for a night out, than it is to just make new friends. After the game wraps, you’ll have the option to continue chatting with the other players, if you choose. You can also add people as a friend, if you hit it off.

And when trivia isn’t in session – the games run twice daily at 3 PM and 7 PM PST – you can group video chat with others on Lively.

Because you’re not added to a team with nearby players, your ability to make friends who are also possible real-life dating prospects is decidedly limited. That’s something that Lively could change to support in time, if it’s able to grow its user base. But for now, it needs to match users with any live players in order to fill out its teams.

It’s understandable why it went this route, but it doesn’t lend itself well to meeting someone special – unless you’re open to meeting people anywhere (which some are), or are fine with just making new friends and seeing where that leads.

Unlike HQ Trivia, which features live streams with a host, Lively is just group video chat with a trivia component. That means it won’t be as challenging for Zoosk to operate, as it doesn’t have to worry with bandwidth issues and other costs of putting on a live game show. Also, because there are no prizes or payouts, you can join anytime during the 30-minute gaming session to be placed into a team and play along.

Lively is not the first app to support a group video chat interface where gameplay is an option. A number of video chat apps over the years have integrated games into their experience, including older apps like Tango or Google+ Hangouts, Line, and more recently, Facebook Messenger. But none have integrated games for the purpose of facilitating new relationships.

Zoosk today has 38 million members, but wanted to find a way to reach a younger demographic, which is why it originally launched Lively. The app was the first product to emerge from Zoosk’s in-house incubator, Zoosk Labs, where the company experiments with new ideas to expand its core business.

Whether or not Zoosk can turn trivia players into love connections remains to be seen, but it’s interesting how HQ Trivia’s success has led to this wider market full of knock-offs (e.g. Genius, Joyride, Cash Show, The Q, TopBuzz, Live Quiz, Live.me, Halftime Live!, Jam Music, etc.) and other tweaks that follow its idea of live trivia games.

Lively is available on iOS only for now.

Facebook opens Instant Games to all developers

Facebook’s Instant Games are now open to all developers, Facebook announced this week in advance of the Game Developers Conference. First launched in 2016, the platform lets developers build mobile-friendly games using HTML5 that work on both Facebook and Messenger, instead of requiring users to download native apps from Apple or Google’s app stores.

The Instant Games platform kicked off its launch a couple of years ago with 17 games from developers like Bandai Namco, Konami, Taito, Zynga and King, who offered popular titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words with Friends. The following year, the platform had grown to 50 titles and became globally available. But it wasn’t open to all – only select partners.

In addition to getting users to spend more time on Facebook’s platform, Instant Games provides Facebook with the potential for new revenue streams now that Facebook is moving into game monetization.

In October, Facebook said it would begin to test interstitial and rewarded video ads, as well as in-app purchases. The tools were only available to select developers on what was then an otherwise closed platform for Facebook’s gaming partners.

Now, says Facebook, all developers can build Instant Games as the platform exits its beta testing period.

Alongside this week’s public launch, Facebook introduced a handful of new features to help developers grow, measure and monetize their games.

This includes the launch of the ads API, which was also previously in beta.

In-app purchases, however, are continuing to be tested.

Developers will also have access to Facebook’s Monetization Manager, where they can track manage ads and track how well ad placements are performing; as well as a Game Switch API for cross-promoting games across the platform, or creating deep links that work outside Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook says it also updated how its ranking algorithm surfaces games based on users’ recent play and interests, and updated its in-game leaderboards, among other things.

Soon, Instant Game developers will be able to build ad campaigns in order to acquire new players from Facebook. These new ad units, when clicked, will take players directly into the game where they can begin playing. 

Since last year, Facebook Instant Games have grown to nearly 200 titles, but the company isn’t talking in-depth about their performance from a revenue perspective.

It did offer one example of a well-performing title, Basketball FRVR, which is on track to make over 7-digits in ad revenue annually, and has been played over 4.2 billion times.

With the public launch, Facebook is offering Instant Games developer documentation page and a list of recommended HTML5 game engines to help developers get started. Developers can then build and submit games via Facebook’s App page.