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Tech News

Instagram’s IGTV could soon challenge YouTube’s dominance

June 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Instagram was born as a simple photo-sharing app in 2010, but it began moving into video in 2013, when it started letting users upload short clips. Now, five years after making that initial push into the space, the company plans to take its efforts even further with the launch of IGVT. It’s a standalone app that’ll feature vertical videos up to an hour long, which is major shift from the one-minute time limit on Instagram. IGTV will also have a dedicated space in the main Instagram app, in case you want to watch these videos in the same place you look at pictures and Stories. With creators including Fortnite champ Ninja and singer Lele Pons on board, it’s clear Instagram wants to lure internet personalities like them to IGTV — even if it can’t pay them just yet.

Although CEO Kevin Systrom did tell a group of reporters that monetization options will be available to IGTV users down the road, Instagram missed a huge opportunity to become a serious threat to YouTube on day one. Especially as YouTubers are desperately looking for alternatives to Google’s video site. The company is continuously changing its advertising guidelines — which affects how channels earn money. Last year, during an effort to automatically demonetize offensive videos, YouTube ended up stripping innocent creators of revenue. It eventually made amends and fixed its mistake, but not before it led to an avalanche of very public complaints from YouTubers about what they called “adpocalypse.”These constant shifts in YouTube’s monetization rules, and its algorithms, have led some creators to have public breakdowns and address growing mental health problems caused by the anxiety of their jobs. The pressure of having to constantly produce new content, while worrying about whether their videos may end up violating the service’s ad guidelines, has become a stressful ordeal. So, for those making a living out of YouTube, other sources of revenue would be more than welcome.

This should be where IGTV comes in. But Instagram decided to push its product out the door without any of the tools necessary for creators to actually make money. Of course, it could easily run into similar issues as Google. But YouTube’s problems are well-documented and could provide a rough roadmap for what to do and what not to. Even though Instagram doesn’t have a way to pay creators yet, there’s obvious interest from some of the world’s biggest — as shown by Ninja and Lele Pons’ presence at the launch event. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it would be a mistake for any of them to ignore an app that now has 1 billion monthly active users and counting.

“We’re not starting there because we’re trying to just give a good consumer experience,” Ashley Yuki, Instagram’s product manager, told Engadget about the decision to leave ads out of IGTV at first. These videos can have links in their description, which could direct

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A first look at Instagram's IGTV

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

As rumored, Instagram is ready to get into long-form video. And today the company made those plans official with the reveal of IGTV, its new standalone video app geared toward internet creators, like the ones who have made a living out of YouTube. IGTV is all about vertical videos, and although it has its own app, you can get the full experience within the main Instagram application, too — from uploading to keeping up with your favorite content makers, including the cutest dog on earth, Jiffpom. Inside Instagram, soon you’ll see an icon that’ll take you into the full vertical video experience, or you can choose to download the IGTV app if you want to keep Stories and pictures out of it.

Instagram says it wanted to give people the option to choose, rather than forcing them into a separate experience. Once you’re in IGTV, the experience is quite seamless. You’ll instantly see videos from people you already follow on Instagram, and then you swipe to the side to keep browsing. If you swipe up, you can discover more content through four different tabs: “For you,” “Following,” “Popular” and “Continue Watching,” which you can like, comment on or send to your Instagram friends via direct message.

Gallery: Instagram IGTV hands-on | 8 Photos 8 +4

IGTV is going to be perfect for creators with thousands or millions of followers — especially since Instagram has an audience of 1 billion monthly active users — but anyone with an account can upload videos up to an hour long. Yes, you too can try to become an influencer on IGTV. Instagram said that the hour-long limit is only for the launch, since it plans to eventually let people upload content without restraint.

IGTV is coming to iOS and Android in the next few days, but in the meantime, you can watch some of these vertical videos starting today in the Instagram app.

Tech News

Instagram reaches 1 billion monthly users

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bloomberg via Getty Images

After surpassing 800 million monthly active users last September, we knew it was only a matter of time before Instagram would reach that coveted 1 billion mark — and today is that day. The company has announced its latest milestone at an event in San Francisco, where it’s also TKTKTK. With 1 billion monthly users, Instagram continues to grow at a tremendous pace since being acquired by Facebook in 2012, when it had just 40 million. If that’s not impressive, then what is?

Instagram now also joins other Facebook-owned social apps that have hit that remarkable number: Messenger (1.3 billion) and WhatsApp (1.5 billion). And then, of course, there’s Facebook, which is at 2.2 billion and counting. Despite the privacy controversies of late, it’s clear people love Facebook products, and Instagram’s growth is only one of many perfect examples.

Developing…

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Facebook won't exempt publishers from new political ad policy

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

If publishers think Facebook would give them an exemption from its new political ad disclosure policy, they have another thing coming. The social network’s Campbell Brown has rejected calls for publisher exemptions to the “paid for” label in a blog post, arguing that equal treatment is necessary to ensure the policy works. It would “go against our transparency efforts,” Brown said, and would be ripe for abuse. A “bad actor” could hide its identity by claiming to be a publisher, and news outlets can take definite political stances.

Brown also denied allegations that this was a “criticism or judgment” of publishers. It’s just meant to encourage “more informed consumption,” he said.

This isn’t likely to satisfy publishers who’ve seen their ads and promoted posts vanish and have sometimes turned to registering as political advertisers to get news stories into people’s feeds. However, they might get Facebook to change its mind regardless of how much they push for a special exemption. The company is determined to prevent election meddling, and has been willing to take drastic steps (such as blocking all foreign ads during Ireland’s referendum) to avoid even a hint of impropriety. The new disclosure policy is consistent with that take-no-chances attitude.

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Facebook tells advertisers to get consent for email and phone targeting

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook has had no shortage of privacy debacles lately, and it’s taking steps to prevent another one before it starts. The company has instituted requirements for its Custom Audience advertising that, as of July 2nd, will tell them to ask permission for targeting ads based on contact info like email addresses and phone numbers. They’ll also have declare how they got that contact info (direct consent, partners or a mix of both).

You’ll have more control as a user. The “why am I seeing this?” link with each ad will show just who was responsible for the targeting information an whether or not your contact info was involved (say, an email subscription). If you object to a company using those methods, you can block their ads.

The system isn’t perfect, as it requires advertisers to tell the truth about where they got their info. It’s entirely possible that a company will simply lie about the origins in order to hawk their wares to customers. This at least creates a record of that deception, though, and may open the eyes of companies that didn’t realize they should get your explicit say-so.

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Twitter is making it easier to follow your favorite topics and events

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter has always been the ideal site for conversations and reactions around live events, be it a sports game, an awards show or serious breaking news. Up until today, you’ve been able to use the Twitter mobile apps to get notifications from specific accounts you’re into, like an NBA team or a media outlet, as well as breaking news. But now, the company wants to take that one step further and make it easier for you to see the latest about events and topics you care about. You’ll notice this in the form of push notifications that will be sent to your phone based on your particular interests, including who you follow and what you tweet about.

It’s a feature designed for Twitter to be proactive about keeping you in the know about “what’s happening now,” and the hope is that as a result you’ll spend more time in the app. If you’re worried about being spammed, Twitter says it’ll be extra conscious to not flood your device with notifications that aren’t valuable to you. And, if you want to, you do have the option to turn off these types of notifications altogether by going to your recommendation settings.

In addition to this, Twitter is making changes to Moments (they’re vertical now) and its Explore tab, which will now let you navigate by topic (such as entertainment, music, sports and technology) rather than content type (articles and videos). Similarly, Twitter’s “Happening Now” feature, which groups tweets about ongoing events on the top of your timeline, has also been tweaked to show you breaking and personalized news. Once you’re browsing that section, you’ll see tweets with text, images and videos related to whatever is taking place at that moment. Of course, the idea with all these changes is for you easily see what people are saying about the things you’re into and others that are happening around the world.

That’s not it, though. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia kicking off tomorrow, Twitter is rolling out a dedicated hub for the tournament and individual pages for all 64 games. If you search the app or desktop site for “World Cup,” you’ll get tweets, scores, videos and Moments about every match. Soccer (football) fans will also see this pop up at the top of their timeline, so they’ll have easy access to the news from the globe’s biggest sporting event. Here in the US, Twitter struck a pivotal deal with Fox Sports to offer users access to highlights and a show called FIFA World Cup Now, which is going to stream live from Russia during the months of June and July.

Sriram Krishnan, Twitter’s senior director of product management, told Engadget that the goal is for people to use these features to engage in “momentous” conversations in real time, about anything

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Facebook provides 452-page answer to Congressional questions

June 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Alex Brandon

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress was frustrating if you were expecting plenty of immediate answers about Facebook’s policies — he frequently promised follow-ups, and there were questions that went unasked. Facebook is now filling in some of those holes, however. The company has posted responses to questions its CEO didn’t answer during the hearings themselves. There’s a lot of material to comb through (452 pages’ worth without introductions), and not all of it is useful — some of it is little more than grandstanding. Still, there’s already a highlight.

Notably, Facebook has answered a question about the data it collects from people who opt in. It takes information you explicitly provide, of course, with protections in some countries for sensitive info like ethnicity, religion and political inf). It also receives your connections (including contact and SMS history if you choose to upload it), usage statistics, purchases made through its service and interactions that directly involve you (such as when someone comments on a photo of you).

The company’s Business Tools also let partners share data from outside Facebook, so long as they’re legally allowed to collect and share that data. A game developer could tell Facebook what games a user plays, for example. Facebook also gathers device info like device IDs, app behavior and device traits like storage and signal strength. These are for practical purposes, such as fighting bots or streaming a video to your TV.

These and other answers won’t necessarily settle concerns (from Congress and others) about Facebook’s practices, whether it involves the Cambridge Analytica scandal or the potential for bias. Even so, it’s at least tackling some of the unknowns from April.

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Facebook's Memories is a dedicated spot for nostalgia

June 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Facebook

Facebook’s On This Day and other nostalgia-driven posts are helpful for reminding you of moments from years past, but they eventually drift out of your News Feed. What if you want to revisit them at any time? You can now. The social site has launched a dedicated Memories section that collects all those souvenirs and anniversaries in a single place. It also includes previous “Memories You May Have Missed” and “Recaps” features that respectively help you catch up on milestones and summarize a busy season.

As you might expect, you can control which moments appear in Memories, so you don’t have to relive the pain associated with an ex or the loss of a family member.

The Memories feature is available either through the Memories bookmark on the desktop or in the “more” section of the Facebook smartphone app. You’ll also periodically see it in notifications and News Feed messages. You probably won’t visit Memories often, but Facebook likely doesn’t mind. As TechCrunch observed, this is more about encouraging you to post quality material than the amount of time you spend with its content. If this encourages you to get back in touch with an old friend or to reminisce about your partner, Facebook has likely achieved its goals.

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A DC-themed Snapchat Lens could get you into Comic-Con

June 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Andrea Comas

You’re not completely hosed if you missed your chance to attend San Diego Comic-Con… if you’re willing to dabble in some augmented reality art. Snap and DC Comics have launched a DC Super Heroes Challenge that asks you to create a DC-themed Lens championing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman for the chance to win an expenses-paid trip to San Diego Comic-Con in July. You don’t have to start completely from scratch, thankfully, as there’s a load of DC assets to bring into Lens Studio.

The Challenge is open to Americans, and you have until the night of July 8th to submit your AR masterwork.

This is Snap’s first Lens Studio Challenge involving a big-name brand, and it hints at how the company might spur you to create Lenses in the future — if your artistic muse isn’t enough to make it happen, a tangible reward might. No, Snapchat isn’t about claim a decisive victory over Facebook in the AR space as a result of this contest. However, it might give you a reason to keep returning to Snapchat (whether or not you’re a creator) when you’d otherwise drift away.

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Facebook makes it easier to find and support game streamers

June 7, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Facebook

Facebook hasn’t been shy about its plans to challenge game streaming services like Twitch, Mixer and YouTube Gaming, and it’s taking that effort to its next logical step. The social site recently started testing a dedicated gaming video portal (appropriately shortened to fb.gg) that highlights both live and pre-recorded footage based on the games, creators, pages and groups you follow. It’ll also put the spotlight on eSports competitions and game-related events, and mobile gamers will see a section for Instant Games. The experience will no doubt seem familiar if you’ve used rival services, but it’s hard to complain when you can find a Fortnite stream that much faster.

At the same time, Facebook is giving new streamers more opportunities to find their footing. It’s unveiling a Level Up program in the months ahead that will let newcomers earn money from viewers who buy and send virtual items in the middle of live streams. It’s somewhat like Twitch’s Affiliate tier — you can still generate an income without a full-fledged partnership. On that note, Facebook said it plans to expand its creator subscription test to include more partners in the weeks ahead.

There’s a clear goal behind the two moves: Facebook is hoping to turn its game streaming into more of a viable option with better exposure and money-making opportunities. It’s still a long way off from attracting a host of superstar broadcasters like Ninja, but it might have a larger influence going forward.