Posts tagged with "facebook"

Facebook Launches Safety Check

Great idea by Facebook: an easy way to let people update their News Feed to tell friends and family they're safe after a disaster.

In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates. It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families anxious for news.

We want to provide a helpful tool that people can use when major disasters strike, so we’ve created Safety Check – a simple and easy way to say you’re safe and check on others.

On iOS, Safety Check will be a push notification that takes you to a page where you can confirm whether you're safe or not in the area monitored by Facebook. This is a good example of how data gathered by Facebook can be useful and important on a practical standpoint. I have seen friends using Facebook to reconnect after a natural disaster, and Safety Check makes perfect sense.

As Mark Zuckerberg puts it:

Over the last few years there have been many disasters and crises where people have turned to the Internet for help. Each time, we see people use Facebook to check on their loved ones and see if they're safe. Connecting with people is always valuable, but these are the moments when it matters most.

Safety Check is our way of helping our community during natural disasters and gives you an easy and simple way to say you’re safe and check on all your friends and family in one place.

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Facebook Launches Slingshot

Today, Facebook has launched Slingshot, a new messaging app that mixes ephemeral photos with “pay to play” mechanics. Like Snapchat, photos you share with your friends disappear after you close them, but there's a catch: you can only view messages shared with you if you send a photo (or video) back. If you don't share, you won't “unlock” messages, which will accumulate in the app showing a numeric count and a pixelated preview.

Slingshot was developed by Facebook Creative Labs, the same team behind Paper. From their announcement:

With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator. When everyone participates, there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences. This is what Slingshot is all about.

The Slingshot team mentions Snapchat but notes that they wanted to do “something new and different” with shortcuts to share with all your contacts at once:

We’ve enjoyed using Snapchat to send each other ephemeral messages and expect there to be a variety of apps that explore this new way of sharing. With Slingshot, we saw an opportunity to create something new and different: a space where you can share everyday moments with lots of people at once.

In his overview at TechCrunch, Josh Constine highlights the fact that Slingshot could be seen as a gimmick or an advantage over established messaging apps:

The reply-to-unlock mechanic could create the right incentive to share back, feeding on our natural curiosity. It’s gamified sharing. The satisfaction of revealing hidden content could be enough to entice people to find something worth capturing. Perfect pics could end up on Facebook and Instagram, especially intimate ones could go to Snapchat, and Slingshot could pull in our day-to-day moments

Alternatively, reply-to-unlock could be seen as an annoying gimmick, introducing too much friction. Why make a friend work for your photo when you could just text them? The chore could leave Slingshot wasting away in some folder on your screen.

Over at The Verge, Ellis Hamburger reviews Slingshot, with a focus on notifications and sharing options:

But because you have to respond to a shot before you can see it, these notifications act as nags instead of notifiers. If you tap on a new notification, “Shot from Adam,” you won’t be able to view it — until you send a shot of what you’re doing back to Adam. Thus, shots feel less urgent than messages, since there’s no expectation that you’ll be able to open them immediately. The app feels far more like a News Feed with push notifications than anything else — except this News Feed requires you to share a post before you can view it, so there’s its no place for lurkers.

Slingshot is free on the App Store, and requires your phone number to sign up.

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Facebook Adding Audio Recognition Feature

Ellis Hamburger, writing for The Verge about Facebook's “audio recognition”, an upcoming feature to tag music and TV shows when posting to the service with the Facebook app:

Facebook’s implementation, in fact, only works in the US for now, can recognize only 160 TV channels, struggles to recognize music in commercials (which are a big part of Shazam’s business), and only recognizes a few million songs so far. In most cases Shazam works seamlessly, an important part of the company’s secret sauce, but Facebook isn’t exactly competing with Shazam here. Facebook’s audio recognition is designed not to help you figure out what’s playing, but to make it as easy as possible to update your friends about what you’re listening to or watching.

An interesting experiment to drive traffic to Facebook pages for artists and TV shows, but far from a Shazam or SoundHound competitor. Much of the appeal of those apps is that you don't need to post your discoveries anywhere, whereas Facebook is simply building a feature for the Post interface.

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Facebook Pulls Poke and Camera Apps From The App Store

Ellis Hamburger:

To Facebook, Poke was always “more of a joke” than anything else — so why did the company leave it in the App Store for more than a year after its troubled debut? We may never know, but today, Facebook finally put an end to Poke. If you check the App Store for Facebook's famed Snapchat clone, you won't find it. Facebook also took the opportunity, seemingly, to remove Camera, its photo uploading app. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the removals to The Verge, but provided no further comment.

Poke was indeed a joke, but Facebook Camera was a solid app with lots of clever details. From our original coverage in 2012:

Animations throughout Facebook Camera are fluid, the app is fast, and there's a lot of clever interaction to take advantage of throughout the interface — clearly Facebook's acquired talents have been hard at work in making the app to not just feel like a boring extension of Facebook, but rather a necessary addition that belongs, no, deserves to be on a Facebook user's smartphone. Facebook has made an incredibly bold statement with Facebook Camera — they've stepped up to the plate to deliver a solid application that doesn't feel tacked on or only done for the sake of their platform. It's a serious release. Just look at their landing page.

In fact, the way uploads and editing were handled in Facebook Camera were so good, Facebook eventually integrated them into the main Facebook app, making Facebook Camera essentially useless. The app never received an iOS 7 update and I'm surprised it stuck around this long.

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Facebook Open-Sources Pop, The Animation Engine Behind Paper

Facebook has open-sourced Pop, the animation engine behind the company’s alternative client for iPhone, Paper. Used to power transitions and animations inspired by real-life physics and interactions, Pop has allowed Facebook to build Paper’s popular gestural controls, which have become one of the app’s marquee features. In Paper, many of Facebook’s functionalities are only available through gestures, as the app focuses on content and stories while removing chrome and other standard UI elements in its reimagination of the classic news feed.

Writing on the Facebook Engineering blog, Kimon Tsinteris (co-founder of Push Pop Press, which Facebook acquired in 2011) has explained the motivation behind Pop and the kind of animations it offers to developers willing to implement the framework in their apps:

When I co-founded Push Pop Press in 2010, our goal was to create a realistic, physics-everywhere experience. We wanted a solution that would allow us to evoke the same delightful experience of UIScrollView throughout the whole application. Pop is the latest manifestation of that vision, allowing us to keep the familiar and powerful programming model of Core Animation while also capturing a gesture’s velocity and better reflecting user intent. Paper has given us the opportunity to further refine both the vision and the animation engine behind it.

“Spring” and “decay” are dynamic animations that help bring Paper to life. “Spring” gives Paper elements their attractive bounce. “Decay” brings movement to an eventual slow halt. Both take velocity as an input and are good candidates for realistically responding to user gestures.

According to Tapity’s Jeremy Olson, Pop can be used to “revolutionize the way you think about animation in your app”; Olson has been testing Pop to create animations for Tapity’s upcoming iPhone app, Hours.

Two weeks ago, members of Facebook’s Paper team shared details on the making of Paper and some of the interface, framework, and user experience decisions behind the app in a developer event available on YouTube (embedded above). Facebook will also integrate Pop in Origami, the free design prototyping toolkit used by the Facebook design team to create interactive mockups without programming.

Pop is the latest entry in Facebook’s library of open-source projects, joining KVOController, Shimmer, and Tweaks. Pop is available now on GitHub.


Facebook Acquires “Activity Diary” App Moves

In a blog post published on their press website, Finnish company ProtoGeo Oy has announced that Facebook has acquired their fitness and activity tracking app for iOS and Android, Moves.

Today, we’re delighted to announce that Facebook has acquired our company and the Moves app. Since we launched Moves, we’ve been focused on running a simple and clean activity diary that millions of people have enjoyed using.

Now, we’re joining Facebook’s talented team to work on building and improving their products and services with a shared mission of supporting simple, efficient tools for more than a billion people.

According to the company, Moves will continue to operate independently as a standalone app, with “no plans to change that or commingle data with Facebook”.

Moves is the latest in a series of acquisitions that have seen Facebook expanding towards established markets (messaging and WhatsApp) as well as new categories (VR and Oculus Rift). Moves used sensors on a smartphone to keep track of a user’s location during the day, building a visual log of places through a “bubble UI” that indicated for how long users stayed in a specific location and when they left. Moves was capable of associating standard GPS coordinates with relevant points of interests, and it could also guess whether a user walked, ran, or used other transportation systems to arrive at a location. With that information, Moves’ diary counted steps taken and estimated calories burned, allowing users to browse a visual timeline that also contained data about their physical activity throughout the day with the possibility of expanding the UI to show entire weeks and months.

Last year, Moves launched an API to allow third-party apps to access collected data, with a dedicated website highlighting iOS, Android, and Web clients with Moves integration. Moves also added support for Apple’s M7 co-processor for the iPhone 5s, which helped the app collect motion data with higher accuracy and lower battery consumption. Moves couldn’t automatically determine a user’s activity (such as “excercising” or “watching a movie”) based on location alone, but it featured an intuitive interface to add context and verbs to tracked locations and times.

Amid rumors of Apple looking to enter the wearable and fitness tracking space with a standalone device later this year, Moves poses an interesting acquisition for Facebook, which has built a large location database over the past several years and recently rolled out a feature to let users easily discover friends nearby.

Following today’s news, Moves is currently available on the App Store for free.


Facebook Messenger 4.1 Adds Free WiFi Calls For All Users

Previously limited to the UK, US, and Canada on iOS and selected countries on Android, Facebook's Messenger app has today added free audio calls on WiFi (VoIP) for all users in all countries.

Free calls in Facebook Messenger can be initiated from the chat interface by tapping on a phone icon in the upper right corner of the screen. Once started, Facebook Messenger will start "ringing" another user's device -- because Messenger can't always run in the background like Apple's Phone app, however, the company is using standard push notifications to inform users that a call is being received. In the Facebook Messenger app, the call interface is reminiscent of Apple's Phone app design for iOS 7.0 and iOS 7.1 with circular buttons for speaker, mute, and hide, and standard green and red targets to answer or end a call.

While there's no shortage of free VoIP calling solutions on iOS, Facebook aims at making it easier to reach your friends by building the feature into the existing Messenger contact database, prominently featuring the button in the chat UI of the app. Facebook Messenger was updated last week to version 4.0 with group management features, and version 4.1 is available now on the App Store.


Facebook Messenger 4.0 Adds Group Creation, Message Forwarding

Facebook's Messenger app for iPhone was updated to version 4.0 earlier today, adding support for group creation and a "Forward" feature for individual messages reminiscent of the same option in Apple's Messages app.

Groups can be created in the dedicated Groups section of the app, which provides a separate area to list all ongoing groups as cards; group conversations are also listed in the main Recent section. Groups can be created by picking contacts and choosing a group photo, and once created in Messenger they will sync with Facebook's Messages view on the web and other clients. A minor addition to the chat experience is the Forward button, which can be accessed by tapping & holding an individual message in a conversation.

Facebook Messenger, first launched in 2011, is the company's standalone chat app focused on conversations and photo/location sharing. Version 4.0 is available (still only for iPhone and iPod touch) on the App Store.