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Posts tagged with "facebook"

Facebook Confirms Background Audio Issues in iOS App, Releases Fix

In a post on Facebook, Ari Grant, engineering manager for iOS at Facebook, has confirmed that the Facebook app was affected (among other bugs) by background audio issues which caused high battery consumption.

The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing. The app isn't actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.

From what I've heard, today's update to Facebook for iOS has removed the background audio permission completely. Facebook is working on more fixes, which, as Grant also mentions, include improvements to the app's network code.

At this point, I don't think it's productive anymore to speculate on how long the problem has been around. I'm glad that Facebook has publicly acknowledged issues that were affecting battery life on iOS and it's good to see fixes being released to address them.

I'm going to reinstall the Facebook app and see how it goes.


The Background Data and Battery Usage of Facebook’s iOS App

Nick Heer, commenting on Facebook's battery usage on iOS in response to a piece by Matt Galligan:

Make no mistake: this is user-hostile. Facebook is actively creating channels to continue refreshing their app in the background when the user has explicitly stated that they do not want it to. Ironically, the best way to reduce the battery and data consumption of the Facebook app in the background is to switch Background App Refresh back on. Better still, remove the Facebook app from your phone, and perhaps replace it with Paper (US store only).

Every time I take a look at a friend's iPhone, Facebook is the app with the highest amount of battery usage in the background – even with Background App Refresh turned off. This has been going on for years, and instead of fixing the issue, it does seem like Facebook is always coming up with new ways to circumvent user control and consume more energy.

The fact that a company the size of Facebook can't optimize energy consumption of their iOS app is simply ridiculous. If they can but don't want to (because of processes they want to run in the background, constant notifications, etc.) – well, that's even worse.

My solution has been the same for the past couple of years: never install the Facebook app, and always access Facebook from Safari.

Update: With iOS 9's improved energy consumption stats, it's easier to guess one of the various tricks Facebook may be employing to stay active in the background and drain battery. On my girlfriend's iPhone, for instance, iOS 9 reports 5 hours of on-screen usage for the last 7 days, and another 11 hours of background audio usage with Background App Refresh turned off.

My guess is that Facebook is hijacking audio sessions on iOS by keeping silent audio in the background whenever a video plays in the app. And because, by default, videos on Facebook auto-play on both Wi-Fi and Cellular and few people ever bother to turn it off, that means there's a high chance the Facebook app will always find a way to play a video, keep audio in the background, and consume energy to perform background tasks. I'm not alone in noticing the mysterious "Facebook audio" background consumption, and video auto-play seems to me the most likely explanation at this point. I don't know if turning off auto-play may fix the problem, but I'd recommend doing that anyway to save data.

I wonder if Apple should consider additional battery controls to take action against shady practices like invisible background audio. What Facebook is doing shows a deep lack of respect for iOS users. I continue to recommend using Safari instead.

Update 10/15: In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Facebook confirmed they're aware of an issue causing battery draining for users, and they're working on a "fix". Facebook didn't provide any additional details on the nature of the issue.


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.


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.)


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.


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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