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Instagram says ‘you’re all caught up’ in first time-well-spent feature

Without a chronological feed, it can be tough to tell if you’ve seen all the posts Instagram will show you. That can lead to more of the compulsive, passive, zombie browsing that research suggests is unhealthy as users endlessly scroll through stale content hoping for a hit of dopamine-inducing novelty.
But with Instagram’s newest feature, at least users know when they’ve seen everything and can stop scrolling without FOMO. Instagram is showing some users a mid-feed alert after a bunch of browsing that says “You’re All Caught Up – You’ve seen all new post from the past 48 hours.” When asked about it, Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s testing this feature. It declined to give details about how it works, including whether the announcement means you’ve seen literally every post from people you follow from the last two days, or just the best ones that the algorithm has decided are worth showing you.
The feature could help out Instagram completists who want to be sure they never miss a selfie, sunset or supper pic. Before Instagram rolled out its algorithm in the summer of 2016, they could just scroll to the last post they’d seen or when they knew they’d last visited. Warning them they’ve seen everything could quiet some of the backlash to the algorithm, which has centered around people missing content they wanted to see because the algorithm mixed up the chronology.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s one of the app’s first publicly tested features that’s clearly designed with the “time well spent” movement in mind. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been vocal about prioritizing well-being over profits, to the point that the network reduced the prevalence of viral videos in the feed so much that that app lost 1 million users in the U.S. and Canada in Q4 2017. “I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down . . . If we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too,” he wrote.
But Instagram’s leadership had been quiet on the issue until last week, when TechCrunch broke news that buried inside Instagram was an unlaunched “Usage Insights” feature that would show users their “time spent.” That prompted Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to tweet our article, noting “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”
Instagram is preparing a “Usage Insights” feature that will show how long you spend in the app. Image via Jane Manchun Wong
It’s reassuring to hear that one of the world’s most popular, but also overused, social media apps is going to put user health over engagement and revenue. Usage Insights has yet to launch. But the “You’re All Caught Up” alerts show Instagram is being earnest about its commitment. Those warnings almost surely prompt people to close the app and therefore see fewer ads, hurting Instagram’s bottom line.
Perhaps it’s a product of Facebook and Instagram’s dominance that they can afford to trade short-term engagement for long-term sustainability of the product. Some companies like Twitter have been criticized for not doing more to kick abusers off their platforms because it could hurt their user count.
But with Android now offering time management tools and many urging Apple to do the same, the time-well-spent reckoning may be dawning upon the mobile app ecosystem. Apps that continue to exploit users by doing whatever it takes to maximize total time spent may find themselves labeled the enemy, plus may actually be burning out their most loyal users. Urging them to scroll responsibly could not only win their favor, but keep them browsing in shorter, healthier sessions for years to come.

Instagram CEO confirms upcoming “time spent” Usage Insights

The difference between good and bad Facebooking

Instagram says ‘you’re all caught up’ in first time-well-spent feature

FCC slaps robocaller with record $120M fine, but it’s like ’emptying the ocean with a teaspoon’

Whoever thought we would leave telemarketing behind in this brave new smartphone world of ours lacked imagination. Robocalls are a menace growing in volume and even a massive $120 million fine leveled against a prominent source of them by the FCC likely won’t stem the flood.
The fine was announced today during the FCC’s monthly open meeting: a Mr Adrian Abramovich was responsible for nearly 100 million robocalls over a three-month period, and will almost certainly be bankrupted by this record forfteiture.
“Our decision sends a loud and clear message,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “This FCC is an active cop on the beat and will throw the book at anyone who violates our spoofing and robocall rules and harms consumers.”
That sounds impressive until you hear that these calls took place in 2016, and meanwhile there were 3.4 billion robocalls made last month alone. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel applauds the fine, but questions the practicality of pursuing damages when actions need to be taken to prevent the crimes in the first place.
“Let’s be honest,” she wrote in a statement, “Going after a single bad actor is emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.”
She points out that a set of rules designed to prevent robocalls was overturned a couple months ago, and that 20 petitions to the FCC under those rules for legal exemptions and such have yet to be addressed. And a technology designed to prevent robocalls altogether, recommended in a report more than a year ago and currently set to be implemented in Canada in 2019, has no such date here in the States.
As someone who gets these robocalls all the time, I fully support both this fine and the more serious measures Rosenworcel suggests. And the faster the better, I literally got one while writing this story.

FCC slaps robocaller with record $120M fine, but it’s like ’emptying the ocean with a teaspoon’

Facebook beats in Q1 and boosts daily user growth to 1.45B amidst backlash

Amongst massive criticism over data privacy, Facebook showed the resiliency of its advertising machine by beating Wall Street’s $11.41 billion revenue estimate in its Q1 2018 earnings report by raking in $11.97 billion in revenue with $1.69 EPS compared to the $1.35 estimate.
Facebook added 48 million daily active users to hit 1.449 billion, up 3.42 percent to revive Facebook’s growth after slower 2.18 percent growth last quarter. But Facebook only added 70 million monthly active users to reach 2.196 billion, a 3.14 percent growth rate that was a little slower than last quarter’s 3.39 percent growth. Both daily and monthly users are up 13 percent year-over-year, showing Facebook’s troubles haven’t paralyzed its growth.
This was perhaps the most tumultuous quarter since Facebook went public. Facebook faced intense criticism regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its data privacy practices, leading a massive pull-back of developer capabilities as Zuckerberg headed to testify before Congress. Last quarter saw Facebook’s first-ever decline in users in a market, with a 700,000 user drop in the U.S. & Canada market following changes to promote well-being that reduced the prevalence of viral videos.

Facebook was able to revive its U.S. & Canada user growth this quarter, perking back up to 185 million, from 184 million last quarter — though that’s just a return to where it was in Q3 2017. Monthly active user count in the market went from 239 to 241 million. That shows that while people might disagree with Facebook’s approach to privacy, they aren’t about to give up their News Feeds.
Demonstrating Facebook’s declining web presence, mobile made up $10.7 billion, or 91 percent of all ad revenue, up from 89 percent last quarter. Facebook reached $4.98 billion in profit, up from a weak $4.26 billion last quarter. Average Revenue Per User reached $5.53, up 30 percent year-over-year thanks to strong gains this quarter in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Facebook’s headcount has swelled 48 percent year-over-year as it’s now half-way to its promise of doubling its security and content moderation staff from 10,000 to 20,000 in 2018.

The recent scandals have put a lot of downward pressure on its share price, but apparently the company thinks it’s a good buy. It’s increased the amount authorized under a share repurchase program by an additional $9 billion, on top of an original $6 billion plan, of which it’s spent $4 billion. It’s partly to offset big stock distributions for employees, but CFO David Wehner also said it was “opportunistic,” aka related to Facebook perceiving its price as too low. Wall Street apparently liked the earnings report as shares are up over 4.38 percent to $166.68 in after-hours trading.
The question is whether the new ads transparency requirements, developer platform crackdown and Facebook’s quest to make using it healthier will show up in next quarter’s earnings. These changes could deter advertisers, give users less functionality to play with and remove low-quality viral content that might make users feel bad but keeps them scrolling.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that, “Despite facing important challenges, our community and business are off to a strong start in 2018. We are taking a broader view of our responsibility and investing to make sure our services are used for good. But we also need to keep building new tools to help people connect, strengthen our communities, and bring the world closer together.” We’ll get to hear more from him at 2pm Pacific during the earnings call, so stay tuned here.
Updates from the earnings call:
Zuckerberg said that Internet.org has now helped almost 100 million people connect to the internet, up from 40 million in November 2016.
Zuckerberg said 200 million people are now in “meaningful Groups,” up from 100 million last year, though Facebook has a long way to its 1 billion goal.
WhatsApp Status has pulled away as the most popular of Facebook’s Snapchat Stories clones. It was at 300 million daily users, equal to Instagram Stories, last time Facebook provided a stat.
Since users are moving from feed reading to Stories watching, Facebook says it needs to make Stories ads as good as feed ads to protect its core revenue stream.
Facebook CFO David Wehner warned that GDPR may cause Facebook’s European user count to be flat or shrink in Q2, and that it may have a minor impact on ad revenue.
Zuckerberg says one of his biggest regrets is that Facebook didn’t get to shape the mobile ecosystem because the company was still small when iOS and Android launched. That’s why Zuckerberg is adamant about Facebook having a major role in the future of virtual reality and augmented reality, which he sees as computing platforms of the future.

Facebook warns GDPR could flatten or reduce European user count

Facebook’s Internet.org has connected almost 100M to the “Internet”

Facebook beats in Q1 and boosts daily user growth to 1.45B amidst backlash

The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription

Would being asked to pay Facebook to remove ads make you appreciate their value or resent them even more? As Facebook considers offering an ad-free subscription option, there are deeper questions than how much money it could earn. Facebook has the opportunity to let us decide how we compensate it for social networking. But choice doesn’t always make people happy.
In February I explored the idea of how Facebook could disarm data privacy backlash and boost well-being by letting us pay a monthly subscription fee instead of selling our attention to advertisers. The big takeaways were:
Mark Zuckerberg insists that Facebook will remain free to everyone, including those who can’t afford a monthly fee, so subscriptions would be an opt-in alternative to ads rather than a replacement that forces everyone to pay
Partially decoupling the business model from maximizing your total time spent on Facebook could let it actually prioritize time well spent because it wouldn’t have to sacrifice ad revenue
The monthly subscription price would need to offset Facebook’s ad earnings. In the US & Canada Facebook earned $19.9 billion in 2017 from 239 million users. That means the average user there would have to pay $7 per month

How ad-free subscriptions could save Facebook

However, my analysis neglected some of the psychological fallout of telling people they only get to ditch ads if they can afford it, the loss of ubiquitous reach for advertisers, and the reality of which users would cough up the cash. Though on the other hand, I also neglected the epiphany a price tag could produce for users angry about targeted advertising.
What’s Best For Everyone
This conversation is relevant because Zuckerberg was asked twice by congress about Facebook potentially offering subscriptions. Zuckerberg endorsed the merits of ad-supported apps, but never ruled out letting users buy a premium version. “We don’t offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads” Zuckerberg said, later elaborating that “Overall, I think that the ads experience is going to be the best one. I think in general, people like not having to pay for a service. A lot of people can’t afford to pay for a service around the world, and this aligns with our mission the best.”
But that word ‘today’ gave a glimmer of hope that we might be able to pay in the future.
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 11, 2018. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
What would we be paying for beyond removing ads, though?. Facebook already lets users concerned about their privacy opt out of some ad targeting, just not seeing ads as a whole. Zuckerberg’s stumping for free Internet services make it seem unlikely that Facebook would build valuable features and reserve them for subscribers
Spotify only lets paid users play any song they want on-demand, while ad-supported users are stuck on shuffle. LinkedIn only lets paid users message anyone they want and appear as a ‘featured applicant’ to hirers, while ad-supported users can only message their connections. Netflix only lets paid users…use it at all.
But Facebook views social networking as a human right, and would likely want to give all users any extra features it developed like News Feed filters to weed out politics or baby pics. Facebook also probably wouldn’t sell features that break privacy like how LinkedIn subscribers can see who visited their profiles. In fact, I wouldn’t bet on Facebook offering any significant premium-only features beyond removing ads. That could make it a tough sell.
Meanwhile, advertisers trying to reach every member of a demographic might not want a way for people to pay to opt-out of ads. If they’re trying to promote a new movie, a restaurant chain, or an election campaign, they’d want as strong of penetration amongst their target audience as they can get. A subscription model punches holes in the ubiquity of Facebook ads that drive businesses to the app.
Resentment Vs Appreciation
But the biggest issue is that Facebook is just really good at monetizing with ads. For never charging users, it earns a ton of money. $40 billion in 2017. Convincing people to pay more with their wallets than their eyeballs may be difficult. And the ones who want to pay are probably worth much more than the average.

Let’s look at the US & Canada market where Facebook earns the most per user because they’re wealthier and have more disposable income than people in other parts of the world, and therefore command higher ad rates. On average US and Canada users earn Facebook $7 per month from ads. But those willing and able to pay are probably richer than the average user, so luxury businesses pay more to advertise to them, and probably spend more time browsing Facebook than the average user, so they see more of those ads.
Brace for sticker shock, because for Facebook to offset the ad revenue of these rich hardcore users, it might have to charge more like $11 to $14 per month.
With no bonus features, that price for something they can get for free could seem way too high. Many who could afford it still wouldn’t justify it, regardless of how much time they spend on Facebook compared to other media subscriptions they shell out for. Those who truly can’t afford it might suddenly feel more resentment towards the Facebook ads they’ve been scrolling past unperturbed for years. Each one would be a reminder that they don’t have the cash to escape Facebook’s data mines.

But perhaps it’s just as likely that people would feel the exact opposite — that having to see those ads really isn’t so bad when faced with the alternative of a steep subscription price.
People often don’t see worth in what they get for free. Being confronted with a price tag could make them more cognizant of the value exchange they’re voluntarily entering. Social networking costs money to operate, and they have to pay somehow. Seeing ads keeps Facebook’s lights on, its labs full of future products, and its investors happy.
That’s why it might not matter if Facebook can only get 4 percent, or 1 percent, or 0.1 percent of users to pay. It could be worth it for Facebook to build out a subscription option to empower users with a sense of choice and provide perspective on the value they already receive for free.
For more big news about Facebook, check out our recent coverage:

Facebook shouldn’t block you from finding friends on competitors

Zuckerberg’s boring testimony is a big win for Facebook

Highlights and audio from Zuckerberg’s emotional Q&A on scandals

The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription

Apple Finally Gives Proper Credit To OpenStreetMap In iPhoto For iOS

osm_logo

When Apple launched iPhoto for iPhone, it quickly became clear that there was something odd going on with the maps in the application. Even though Apple never talked about this publicly, the data Apple used to render these new maps was clearly not from Google anymore. Instead, most experts agreed, Apple was using a number of different sources to create its new map tiles without giving proper credit to groups like OpenStreetMap, the Wikipedia-like crowdsourced mapping organization. This week’s update to iPhoto for iPhone, however, finally gives credit where credit is due.

iPhoto for iPhone’s acknowledgments page now prominently features OpenStreetMap, as well as other free and commercial sources including Urban Mapping, GeoNames, LeadDog, the U.S. government’s TIGER/Line and Canada’s StatCan.

OpenStreetMap Foundation’s Richard Fairhurst told TalkingPointsMemo’s Carl Franzen that he would have preferred if Apple had reached out the organization and credited it from the start, but, he said, “If the biggest computer company in the world, one with a perfectionist instinct, feels that OpenStreetMap data meets its needs and is happy to publicly attribute us, then that’s a great vote of confidence in our community’s work.”

The OpenStreetMap Foundation, Fairhurst told Franzen, “made informal contact with Apple,” but he credits one of the organization’s volunteers who is also an iOS developer for finally getting through to the company and getting it to credit OpenStreetMap.

While Apple is using a number of different sources for its maps, it’s worth noting that a number of other developers made the switch to OpenStreetMap over the last few month. Foursquare, for example, now uses OpenStreetMap data and Wikipedia, too, has made the switch in its iOS and Android apps.


Apple Finally Gives Proper Credit To OpenStreetMap In iPhoto For iOS