Posts tagged with "facebook"

Facebook Starts Testing New ‘M’ Personal Assistant in Messenger

Facebook has begun testing M, a new personal assistant built into the Messenger app that can look up information and perform actions on the user's behalf. Wired writes:

It won’t take long for Messenger’s users to realize M can accomplish much more than your standard digital helper, suspects David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook. “It can perform tasks that none of the others can,” Marcus says. That’s because, in addition to using artificial intelligence to complete its tasks, M is powered by actual people.

The people supervising M in the initial rollout are called 'M trainers' inside Facebook, and the company is hoping to expand the team to thousands of people eventually.

Here's Facebook's David Marcus on what M is:

Today we're beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people.

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it's an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives.

As Wired notes, M won't use data gathered from Facebook accounts, at least not initially:

For now, M doesn’t pull from the social data Facebook collects to complete tasks. So, if you request a gift for your spouse, the service will make suggestions based only on your answers to questions it asks you and previous conversations you and M have had. Marcus says that may change “at some point, with proper user consent.” The service is free, and will be available to all Facebook Messenger users eventually.

Interesting that Facebook is using a conversational UI for an assistant baked into its popular Messenger app. I'll be curious to see how it scales.

See also: this idea by Matt Galligan from earlier this year.

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Linky 5.0 Brings Better Sharing for Twitter on iOS with Images, Textshots, and More

I covered Linky for iOS back in September, when the app's iOS 8 update added a share extension that turned Linky into a supercharged share sheet for Twitter and Facebook thanks to excellent integration with any iOS app. I wrote:

Linky the share extension is a great way to tweet links from Safari on iOS 8. Once enabled, Linky will appear as an extension of Safari and other apps that can share URLs such as Instapaper or a Pinboard client. The design of the app’s composer is minimal and easy to understand. You can switch between accounts by tapping the profile picture, tap buttons to insert the title or link of a webpage (if they’ve not been automatically inserted), and there’s a character counter in the bottom right.

For the past nine months, I've been using Linky every day to tweet links and quotes from Safari and other apps. Unlike the built-in Twitter share extension, Linky comes with thoughtful touches such as highlighting for links and text that exceeds the 140-character count – if you share dozens of links on a daily basis, the convenience of details adds up, and Pragmatic Code found a good niche for Linky to thrive.

The problem with Linky was that it worked well for text, but it didn't have support for images. Tweeting screenshots from my camera roll or so-called textshots accompanying links to articles has become a common practice for me, but Linky couldn't be part of my social sharing workflow whenever I needed to post something that wasn't just text. Linky 5.0, released today on the App Store, wants to fill this gap with built-in support for images – but like prior releases, there are several hidden details that make the experience of sharing with Linky superior to alternatives on iOS.

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Facebook Instant Karma

MG Siegler on Instant Articles, Facebook's initiative for native articles that was rolled out yesterday:

So rather than wait around for the web browsers to catch up, Facebook is taking action. And, by the way, they’re hardly the first to do this. Isn’t Facebook Instant essentially the same thing Flipboard and others have been doing for years? Yes, yes it is.

And again, it’s the right thing to do from a user experience perspective. Who wants to wait longer to load what they’re looking for, be it a game or an article? No one. While they’ll never admit it, even those with fears that this will lead to an end of the “open web” don’t want to wait.

As I tweeted, Instant Articles are so fast and smooth, comparing them to in-app web views isn't even funny. There's no contest – Facebook is offering a superior reading experience that, if you're used to tapping links, waiting, and then reading, is just impressive and obvious (for the vast majority of news websites).

As a publisher, Instant Articles concern me: what if there's an audience on Facebook that expects articles to be that fast and rich? What if, years down the road, each major social broadcasting service will offer a way to bundle together assets and text to produce native articles that are faster than web views? Will I still own 100% of my content? What happens to the open web and RSS feeds?

I guess there's only one way to find out.

(I plan to experiment with Instant Articles as soon as possible.)

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Facebook Introduces Instant Articles

Late yesterday Facebook launched Instant Articles, a new feature for Facebook's iPhone app that will allow select media partners including the New York Times, National Geographic and BuzzFeed to publish articles on Facebook itself. For users, the big advantage is that Instant Articles will load much quicker than an webpage and Instant Articles can also include interactive elements.

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

Along with a faster experience, Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways. Zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting your phone. Watch auto-play videos come alive as you scroll through stories. Explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.

The Verge has a great in-depth look at Instant Articles, including a terrific 4 minute introduction video which also features Facebook's Mike Matas.

Facebook is currently partnering with nine media organisations, but there's no doubt more will be added over time. The launch partners are: The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.

If you want to read an Instant Article yourself, just open the Facebook app on your iPhone, go to the Facebook page of one of the media partners and scroll until you see an article with a gold bookmark in the top-right corner. I've had a look at a few and they certainly load faster than a typical article would load, and they also look great, particularly with some of the new interactive elements.

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No Ecosystem Is an Island: Google, Microsoft, Facebook & Adobe’s iOS Apps

Apple doesn't make a single Android or Windows Phone app, and makes barely anything for Windows. But Apple's reluctance to develop on other platforms hasn't stopped Google and Microsoft from bringing their own apps across to iOS. That shouldn't be any surprise at all, given the different business strategies the three take. But what might be surprising is the extent to which Google and Microsoft have committed to bringing apps to iPhone and iPad users.

You are no doubt aware of the big apps from Microsoft (Word, Outlook and Minecraft) and Google (Gmail, Maps, Calendar), but the reality is that these two companies alone have over 150 apps available on the iOS App Store today. For good measure, I've also taken a look at the iOS development efforts from Adobe and Facebook, which are also significant.

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WhatsApp Adds iOS 8 Share Extension

With an update released today, WhatsApp has introduced free audio calling on iOS (previously launched on Android), improvements to how photos can be attached to conversations, and a new iOS 8 share extension to send content from other apps.

VoIP calling is still rolling out to users worldwide and I'm not a heavy user of media sharing through WhatsApp (I prefer iMessage's higher quality settings), but I often share links and images downloaded from the web with WhatsApp, and I was curious to try the new extension.

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Facebook Messenger’s “Optimized” Approach and App Discovery

Over at Fast Company, Sarah Kessler has a good summary of Facebook's Messenger announcements from today's F8 developer conference:

Facebook wants to turn its Messenger app into more than just a messaging app. At its F8 conference in San Francisco Wednesday, the company announced details on its much-rumored plans to integrate Messenger with purchases made on other sites, and to allow third-party developers to build apps that work within it.

Messenger users will soon be able to select from a list of services inside of the app. At launch, most of these apps help users create new content, like singing telegram app Ditty, GIF app Giphy, and voice app FlipLip Voice Changer. There’s also a fun special effects app available from J.J. Abrams and an ESPN app that provides users with sports GIFs. Facebook says 40 apps will be available today or in the days to come.

I was curious about Facebook's plans for Messenger Platform, and the addition of an API immediately caught my interest. I tweeted:

After reading more about how Messenger Platform works with third-party apps, though, I realized that my tweets from earlier today don't exactly apply to what Facebook is doing.

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Origami 2.0 and Origami Live

Facebook's mobile prototyping tool, Origami, has been updated to version 2.0 with plenty of new features that include code export, Sketch integration, and an iOS app. Called Origami Live and available for free on the App Store, Origami Live lets designers try prototypes in real time on iOS devices with interactions and animations.

Facebook's Brandon Walkin writes on Medium:

Origami Live has changed how we design products at Facebook. It lets us interact with our prototypes on an iPhone or iPad while we edit them live. We can quickly try new ideas — using multitouch, device sensors, etc. — and fine-tune them with ease, without writing any code. Then we hand over our device to team members or users and have them try out a high-fidelity prototype that looks and feels like a final product.

And about the new presentation mode in Origami 2.0:

You’re able to go into full screen, show off your prototype in a phone with a hand and a touch point in front of beautiful backgrounds — like a mountain top, subway station, or even a Beyoncé concert. Personally, I’m fond of the one where you’re using your phone on a canoe (but somehow also paddling?). This gets presented all while you’re controlling the prototype with an iPhone or iPad running Origami Live or with your trackpad. If you want to show someone a multitouch or phone rotation interaction, they can use it on the device and the screen will be mirrored live on the TV to the rest of the room so others can see what’s going on.

You can check out Origami here and browse the new examples here.

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Facebook Launches Dedicated Groups App

Dieter Bohn, reporting for The Verge about Facebook's latest standalone app for iOS and Android, Groups:

We've been using the app for a few days now and found it to be fast, fluid, intuitive, and surprisingly fun. That's not a huge surprise – it comes in part from Facebook's Creative Labs, which has been responsible for other polished Facebook apps like Paper and Slingshot. Animation on both Android and iOS is fluid and fast, the overall app layout is simple and direct, and functionality (including privacy settings) is easy to intuit just by poking around a bit. It's a great app.

Groups joins Messenger in the list of dedicated utilities for specific Facebook features, but, unlike Messenger, users won't be forced to use it and Groups will still be available in the main Facebook app (for now?). Like most recent standalone experiments by Facebook, I'm skeptical that this will take off in the real world.

Anecdotally speaking, I have a lot of friends who use groups to coordinate events and chat together – on WhatsApp. I have seen WhatsApp groups that go back years, with my friends using photos uploaded to a group as essentially another camera roll for shared photos.

I wish that I could say the same about iMessage group threads, but that would only be a sad joke.

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