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Posts tagged with "facebook"

Facebook Shutters Paper

The Verge reports that Facebook is removing Paper, its design-forward alternative Facebook client, from the App Store today.

Paper was notable for the novel animations it used to guide you through the app — tap on a link and it would unfold like a letter; pull down on the story and it would fold back up, returning you to the feed.

Paper was one of the first products launched by Facebook from Creative Labs an experimental design and development group within Facebook that hired numerous high-profile designers around 2011, including Mike Matas. Matas' early career highlights include stints at Delicious Monster and Apple where he had a hand in several of the interface elements of the original iPhone, iPad and OS X. He left Apple to found Push Pop Press with the goal of reimagining digital books. Push Pop Press had one product, an interactive version of Al Gore's book Our Choice.

In August, 2011, Facebook acquired Push Pop Press. The animations and other design elements of Facebook's Paper, which debuted in early 2014, were heavily influenced by Matas' and Push Pop's work on Our Choice and critically acclaimed at the time for their innovations, but the app never caught on with Facebook users. Facebook closed the Creative Labs group last December and Matas left Facebook earlier this year, so the shuttering of Paper is not surprising.

Facebook users who previously downloaded Paper can continue to use it until July 29, 2016, after which Facebook has said the app will no longer work.

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Facebook Buys Popular MSQRD Face Swapping App

Alex Heath, reporting for Tech Insider:

Masquerade's app lets you overlay playful, animated filters over your face using your phone's selfie camera. The effects range from Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars (right) to a monkey, and they're fun to play with. You can record video in the app or take a still photo to share on other social networks.

And:

Expect Masquerade's face swapping filters to show up in the Facebook app eventually.

The social network also plans to keep Masquerade operational as a standalone, free app, as well as integrating its technology into Facebook. The effects join a line of creative tools Facebook has added to its app already, like stickers, finger doodles, and photo filters.

Masquerade built impressive technology for real-time camera manipulation (I also featured the app in a recent collection of MacStories Weekly for Club members). The acquisition makes sense – from anecdotal experience, in the past couple of months I've seen a lot of my friends post selfies modified with Masquerade and Face Swap.

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Facebook Starts Rolling Out Support for Live Photos

Harry McCracken, writing at FastCompany:

Facebook is announcing that it's begun introducing support for Live Photos in its app for the iPhone and iPad, allowing users of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to upload Live Photos from their devices. The feature will be available to just a small percentage of members at first, and will gradually roll out to more.

People who are included in the app rollout and who view those photos on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 will see the photos you shared as Live Photos. Everybody else—such as those with Android phones, Macs, or Windows PCs—will just see a conventional still picture and be none the wiser.

Facebook follows Tumblr as the second big network to add native support for Live Photos. If only there was also a social network where you could post pictures as quick updates and they could animate in a timeline. That would be nice, I guess.

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Facebook Shuts Down Creative Labs

In more shutdown news today, Facebook has also announced they're closing Creative Labs, their internal initiative aimed at shipping separate, more creative apps. Ian Sherr, writing at CNET:

As of Monday, Slingshot, Rooms and Riff, an app that allowed users to create and share short videos based on a theme, have been pulled from app stores. The Menlo Park, California-based company has also removed the Web page for Creative Labs.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the apps had disappeared, noting they hadn't been updated in some time.

"Since their launches, we've incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps," she added.

Creative Labs was also behind Paper, the company's alternative Facebook app, which is still only available on the US App Store. Personally, I've always preferred Paper's interactions to the official Facebook app, but I feel like it's going to follow the same path as the other Facebook apps.

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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.

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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.

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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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