Author: Sarah Perez

Facebook launches ‘Memories,’ a new home for reminiscing

Facebook today is introducing a dedicated page called “Memories,” where you can reflect on the moments you’ve shared with family and friends over the years. The page is essentially an expanded collection of familiar Facebook features, like “On This Day,” which lets you look back on this date last year and the years prior, as well as other memory recaps and memories you’ve shared with friends.

The content found on the Memories page isn’t necessarily new, it just now has its own section on Facebook so you can more easily find it at any time.

Among the other options you’ll see here is the “Friends Made on this Day” feature, which includes a list of friends you made on this same day in the past. You’ll also see special videos and collages to celebrate your “friendversaries” – the term Facebook coined for celebrating the day you and someone became Facebook friends.

You’ve likely seen these video collages pop up in your News Feed before with their collections of shared photos set to upbeat music.

Also on this page are “Memories You May Have Missed,” for those who don’t log in often enough to see these sharing suggestions in their Feed, and”Recaps of Memories” – meaning those seasonal or monthly recaps that have been bundled into a short video or message ready for sharing.

The social network had first introduced these memory recaps just over a year ago, as a way to encourage more personal sharing on a network where organic sharing has been on the decline.

The company has tried a number of things to try to push more people to post their own messages and comment on friends’ updates  – like adding colored backgrounds for status updates and adding support for GIFs in comments, among other things.

It even bought a briefly popular teen messaging app tbh, to power a new “Did You Know” social questionnaire which outright asked Facebook users to share personal tidbits.

But these days, people aren’t sharing as much personal content on Facebook directly, as before when it was the only game in town.

Now users’ posts are spread around on other social media sites, like Snapchat and Instagram (luckily it owns this one too), as well as through private messaging channels – where Facebook also has a large stake through WhatsApp and Messenger.

Memories are also tied to Facebook’s focus on time-well-spent efforts, which aim to increase the focus on quality engagement on Facebook, even if time on site suffers as a result.

 

For what it’s worth, Facebook notes the Memories feature includes controls to adjust what content you want to see, as some memories are not always things you want to revisit.

“We know that memories are deeply personal — and they’re not all positive. We try to listen to feedback and design these features so that they’re thoughtful and offer people the right controls that are easy to access,” writes Facebook Product Manager, Oren Hod, in an announcement. “We work hard to ensure that we treat the content as part of each individual’s personal experience, and are thankful for the input people have shared with us over the past three years,” Hod said.

Memories will be available through the Memories bookmark either to the left of the News Feed on the desktop, in the “more” tab in the bottom right of the mobile app, through notifications and messages in the News Feed, and through Facebook.com/memories.

 

Facebook kills its ‘Trending’ section

Facebook really doesn’t want to be a media company. The social network announced this morning it’s removing its often controversial “Trending” section from its site next week, in order to make way for “future news experiences,” it says. These experiences include things like a dedicated section for news videos on its video hub Facebook Watch, a breaking news label publishers can use on their posts, and a dedicated section called “Today In” which connects people to news and information from local publishers in their city along with updates from local officials and organizations.

Over 80 news publishers are currently testing the “breaking news” label, which allows them to opt to flag their Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live video as breaking news, the company tells us.

Facebook says that the early results from this testing have led to a 4 percent lift in click-through rates, a 7 percent lift in Likes, and an 11 percent lift in shares. The product is still in what Facebook calls “alpha” testing, which indicates it’s very early days for this feature – an alpha test precedes a beta test, which itself is ahead of a public launch.

Meanwhile, the “Today In” feature is in testing in 33 U.S. cities across the U.S.

Facebook says publishers featured in this section are seeing an average of an 8 percent incremental increase in distribution – meaning outbound clicks.

The company didn’t provide a time frame for when Facebook’s news-focused video hub would go live, but said that “soon” 10 to 12 U.S. publishers will be launching news shows in Watch, focused on live coverage of breaking events, daily shows and weekly shows. These efforts will be funded by Facebook itself, the company said. However, the company declined to provide a list of publishers or details on the funding.

The changes arrive at a time when Facebook has been held accountable for allowing the spread of fake news across its network, and it has responded with a host of fake news-fighting features like fact checking, adding publisher context, the addition of related articles, shrinking fake news in the News Feed, and other initiatives.

However, the “Trending” section in particular has been a source of concern ever since the company fired its Trending editors, leaving the selection of stories to its algorithms. And, because algorithms are not perfect, they repeatedly goofed up, allowing fake news stories to spread across the network by highlighting factually inaccurate links that were going viral as well as other inappropriate content.

Even as Facebook addressed the issues around fake news, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stuck to his belief that Facebook itself is not a “media company”– something he’s been saying for years. When recently testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he insisted again that Facebook is a tech company.

“I consider us to be a technology company because the primary thing that we do is have engineers who write code and build product and services for other people,” he told Congress.

And in nearly the same breath, he then went on to admit that Facebook pays to “help produce content” – as it’s doing now with these new news videos.

It’s unusual for a site that’s used for search, like Facebook, to not manage a trending section. Google offers a whole suite of products around tracking trends, and Twitter offers trends, even down to a local level.

Facebook didn’t announce any plans to bring back Trending, or some version of it in the future.

Trending is being pulled from Facebook next week and it will also remove products and third-party partner integrations that rely on the Trends API, the company said.

“People tell us they want to stay informed about what is happening around them,” wrote Alex Hardiman, Head of News Products at Facebook, in an announcement. “We are committed to ensuring the news that people see on Facebook is high quality, and we’re investing in ways to better draw attention to breaking news when it matters most,” Hardiman said.

Messenger Kids no longer requires the kids’ parents to be friends, too

Facebook’s Messenger Kids application, which allows children under 13 to chat with parents’ approval, is today rolling out a small, but notable change – it no longer requires that the children’s parents be Facebook friends with one another, in order for the children to connect. This solves one of the problems with the app’s earlier design, where it operated more like an extension of a parents’ own social circle, instead of one for their child.

Of course, parents still have to approve every contact their child adds, as usual.

As any parent understands, there are always going to be those friends of your child where you have an acquaintance-type, friendly but casual relationship with the parents that falls short of earning “Facebook friend” status. While you might text them for the occasional play date or nod politely at drop-off, you’re not necessarily “friends.” But your kids are friends with each other. And you’re fine with that.

The Messenger Kids update now allows those kids to connect, if you okay it.

The new feature will still require that both parents are on Facebook.

On Facebook, the parent visits the Messenger Kids section in Facebook’s own main navigation menu, as per usual, and does a search for the name of the parents of the child’s friends. You can then invite them to get the app and allow the children to connect.

This change could potentially help the app grow beyond the 325,000 installs it had as of April, according to Sensor Tower data – especially once the kids figure out how this invite system works. (And don’t put it past them to just inform you.)

Facebook says it made this decision as a direct result of parent feedback.

However, there is one challenge in not being good friends with the other kids’ parents: it can be harder to discuss problems like bullying or bad behavior, if they come up. With my daughter’s half a dozen or so friends on Messenger Kids (hey, I know), I’m not worried about these things because I know the parents well enough to have a discussion if the kids start fighting. We’d work together to resolve the problems, were they to occur. (And obviously, her family connections on the app are not an issue).

But when you start approving connections with those families you’re less close to, you may run into issues and not have a good way to communicate about them.

That’s why Facebook should be working to roll out systems that flag concerns in kids’ chat sessions – if a bad word is used, for example, or if the child says something rude – that alerts the child’s own parents. The company already has A.I.-based anti-bullying technology that could do this now. And I imagine many parents would opt into a system that asks if you wanted to be alerted to offensive language in chats.

Even a simple chat and call log could help parents address problems – like tell me how often I need to remind my daughter that we don’t place video calls to friends before 9 AM…even if you see them playing Animal Jam and know they’re online. Rules are rules, kiddo.

As it stands now, the best way to monitor the child’s chats is to install a second copy of the app on your own device and actually read them. That takes time and can be a little bit invasive for older kids, who have more of a sense of privacy.

The update is live today on the Messenger Kids app.

 

Facebook launches new tools for Group admins, including free customer service

Facebook’s Groups are one of the social network’s most popular products, with more than 1.4 billion monthly users across tens of millions of active groups. Today, the company is rolling out a series of new features aimed at those who create and manage these groups, including customer support with answers and help provided by a real person, not a machine or automated responses. Admins are also getting a dedicated online education portal and more tools to manage their groups’ posts.

Unfortunately, the customer support service is not available to all groups at this time.

Facebook instead is beginning a pilot program for admin support that’s only available to a limited number of group admins on iOS and Android at this time, initially in English and Spanish.

“We spend a lot of time speaking with admins, and we listen to their feedback quite a lot,” explains Alex Deve, Product Management Director for Groups. “And the first thing we heard from them – very loud and clear – is that they want to be able to reach out to us and get a very quick response,” he says.

The free service will allow admins to send any issues they have to Facebook, and the company will respond within one business day. This is made possible by the additional hires the company made to expand its moderation team, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously announced, Deve notes.

The idea with the admin support isn’t just about helping admins out directly – it’s also about figuring out what their needs are, what troubles they have, and what features they want. This will help Facebook roll out new features for admins that they’ll find useful, but it also ties into another new product being announced today: an online educational center for admins.

At facebook.com/community, Facebook has collected best practices, tutorials, product demos, and case studies based on the experiences and expertise from the admin community, and is sharing it with others in the form of audio and video content. There are tips on things like growing groups, setting the rules, building a team, using group tools, managing conflicts, and more.

“Going forward, the support work is going to feed into this. [Facebook will learn] what other themes are very common that people want to hear about from other admins. So we’ll create more videos in the future,” says Deve.

Additionally, Facebook is rolling out two new admins tools today, created in response to user feedback.

The first will allow admins and moderators to notify a member whose post gets pulled down which group rule they broke that caused its removal. They’ll also be able to collaborate with other admins and moderators by adding notes in an activity log when they remove a post.

The other new feature, “pre-approved members,” will allow admins and moderators to select members whose content will automatically be approved whenever they post. This will save admins time by not having to moderate content from trusted people.

Groups have been a particular interest for Facebook in recent months, especially as the trend towards private networking and sharing continues to grow. At the company’s F8 Developer Conference in May, Facebook announced other features that will make Groups a more prominent part of the Facebook experience, as a result. This includes a new tab for Groups, where your groups are better organized and you can find others to join – similar to Facebook’s now-defunct standalone Groups app. And it introduced a new Groups plugin that admins could use on their websites or emails to solicit people to join their group.

All the new Groups features are rolling out starting today to about 20 percent of supported users, and will continue to roll out to the rest of the world in the weeks ahead. The online educational portal is live now in English, but will launch in Spanish in June.

Instagram officially launches re-sharing of posts to Stories

No, it’s not a “regram” option. Sorry!  But today, Instagram is officially launching a new feature that will allow users to re-share someone’s Instagram post with their friends via Instagram Stories – something it confirmed was in testing earlier this year. The idea with the new re-sharing option is to give users a way to add their own commentary or react to a post, without repurposing it as their own – the way a regram (reposting to feed) feature would have permitted.

For example, you can now re-share something you saw posted by a brand or influencer on Instagram that you like, or add your own comments on top of a funny meme, or even tag a friend on a post you want them to see.

In fact, tagging friends through Instagram comments had become so common on the social network over the years, that it rolled out a way to send posts via Direct Messaging as an alternative. The new re-sharing option now gives users a third way to get their friends’ attention.

Re-sharing can only be done from public Instagram accounts, Instagram says. If you want to run a public account, but don’t want people re-sharing your posts, you can opt to turn off the new feature in the app’s settings.

To share an Instagram feed post to your Story, you first tap the paper airplane icon – the same as you tap today to send a post through direct messaging. However, you’ll now see a new option to create a Story as well. Tap this to see the feed post appear as a sticker of sorts with a customized background, reading for re-sharing.

You can also rotate, scale or move the sticker around, and tap on it to explore other styles. Of course, you can add your own commentary, scribbles and other decorations on top of this “sticker,” as you can today when sharing a photo to an Instagram Story.

When posted, the Story will display the original poster’s username, which others can tap on to head back to the original post.

That potential source of traffic may encourage some Instagram users to create posts specifically designed for this new sharing format, given it could increase their account’s exposure to a wider audience.

The company may not be done rolling out new features for Stories yet – continual improvement of this popular product is one way Instagram (and parent Facebook) is able to challenge Snapchat, which first popularized the Story format.

As Twitter users Jane Manchun Wong spotted, Instagram is also testing a floating Story Tray that will minimize when you scroll. That would give Stories more prominence on the network – though not everyone is thrilled with their takeover.

Instagram says the feature is live today on Android and will roll out to iOS in the coming week.

* Yes, I’m confused about this example image Instagram sent, too. 

Tinder’s upcoming location-based feature seems a bit creepy

Do you want random Tinder users to see where you’ve been? Uh, no? Well, great news: an upcoming Tinder feature called Places will allow for just that. According to screenshots detailing Tinder Places uncovered by The Verge, the dating app is developing a feature that tracks your location via its app, then shows potential matches where you’ve been. The idea is to allow people to come across their real-life missed connections, similar to how the dating app Happn works today.

There are some caveats about the new feature. For starters, this is something Tinder has in testing – the way it works at launch could be different. Also, the feature can be shut off, the documentation says – a toggle in the app’s settings let you turn it on or off at any time. And we’ve learned that, thankfully, this feature will be opt-in.

However, that’s a decision you should approach with caution.

Above: Places documentation, image credit: The Verge

The way Tinder has implemented the location feature is concerning. Instead of allowing users to explicitly “check in” to a given place – like their favorite coffee shop or a cool restaurant or bar – Tinder continuously tracks users’ location with its app, then makes a determination about which of your “places” it will show to your potential matches.

The company, at least, thought to remove things like doctors, dentists, banks, and the place where you live or work from this automated location-sharing option. It also won’t add a place to your list until after you’ve left – though it doesn’t say how long it waits to do so. (The documentation hedges on the timeframe by saying things like “we’ll wait a while” or “it’ll take some time.”)

While Tinder says your recent places will expire after 28 days – meaning, other Tinder users won’t be able to see where you’ve been past that point – the company does appear to be keeping a wider history of users’ location and travels for itself. The documentation explains that Tinder will use this Places information in order to improve the product – by learning which places lead to matches, which users are always deleting, and it will use the data to improve its ability to show users better matches.

Above: Tinder Places, image credit: The Verge

In other words, Tinder will be tracking you, as well as giving potential matches the ability to narrow down the parts of the city you frequent – right down to your daily habits. That means potential matches could figure our things like which bar you regularly hit up for after-work drinks, where you work out, what your favorite breakfast spot is, and so on.

The advantage to daters gaining access to this information about other Tinder users is fairly limited. After all, simply hitting up the same Starbucks in the morning isn’t any sort of signal about someone’s potential as a love match.

But it does put a lot more data into the hands of potential stalkers, while offering Tinder access to a massive treasure trove of location data – the selling of which, even anonymized and in aggregate, could be a big business. Even if Tinder doesn’t aim to sell the data directly, it clearly paves the way for the company to show more specific location-based ads in its product.

It also lets Tinder group users into cohorts regarding their interests – without explicitly asking for that data, like Facebook does. For example, Tinder would know if someone shows up at church every week, or regularly takes their dog to a dog park – things it could use to classify users and match them accordingly.

That’s useful to some extent, in a handful of cases – but just because you have a dog, doesn’t mean you need to date someone with a dog, too. In the end, it’s less useful to have “things” in common with people – it’s more useful to share the same values, experts say. And those values are more important than the initial attraction (which fades as the hormones wear off), and more important than a set of common interests – those can be negotiated in a relationship.

In the end, there’s far more for Tinder to gain here, than users to gain from the Places feature – especially with the downside regarding its potential for harassment or stalking.

One serious concern was whether Places would be opt out or opt in – the documentation The Verge found didn’t make this clear. However, we’re relieved to hear (from people familiar with product) that Places is an opt-in experience.

That this feature’s launch is nearly is not a surprise. Tinder already said it was working on rolling out a new location feature this year during its earnings calls, something it described as having the potential to bring in a new audience and “expand the definition of dating.” That could imply the company wants to make Places more of a social networking, or friend-finding feature, rather than just an option for finding dates.

Watch Facebook’s F8 2018 Day 2 keynote right here

Facebook is hosting its F8 developer conference in San Jose this week. Yesterday, it kicked off with a keynote from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who addressed the company’s latest scandals, including Cambridge Analytica, election meddling, and fake news. But he also spoke of his commitment to Facebook’s mission of connecting the world, and his optimism for the future. The company then introduced a number of new products across its platform, as well as on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

We saw things like Facebook Dating, Instagram video calling, Oculus Go’s launch, a new Messenger, VR memories, 3D Photos, and more.

Today, live coverage of F8 2018’s Day 2 begins again at 10 AM PT, 1 PM ET, Wednesday May 2.

On the schedule is a second, less lengthy keynote address.

Typically the Day 2 keynote focuses more on research, like machine learning technology, and other forward-looking projects and developments. We may hear from Facebook’s research divisions and perhaps the Telecom Infra Project. (Details on the keynote’s speakers haven’t yet been provided, so these are just guesses for now.)

The full F8 schedule is here.

The keynote will stream to Facebook’s F8 website, though yesterday it experienced a lot of glitches. Even the F8 website was down for a while. If that happens again, you can just follow along the news via TC’s Twitter account or here on the site.

 

F8 2018 Day 2 Keynote

Facebook's CTO Mike Schroepfer is kicking-off day two of #F8. Watch it live here.

Posted by Facebook for Developers on Wednesday, May 2, 2018