Архив метки: IGTV

Foursnap? Snapchat tries ‘Status’ location check-ins

Today’s teens missed the Foursquare era, so Snapchat is giving them another shot with a new feature to aid in-person meetups. Snapchat is now testing Status, an option to share to the Snap Map a Bitmoji depicting what you’re up to at a certain place. You could show your little avatar playing video games, watching TV, asking friends to hit you up and more. And Snapchat will compile these into a private diary of what you’ve been doing, called Passport
This fixes the biggest problem with Snap Map and many other location check-in apps. Just because someone is down the street doesn’t mean they want you to drop in on them. They could working, in a meeting or on a date. Snapchat Status lets people convey their activity and intention so you can tell the difference between “I’m nearby but stuck with my parents” and “I’m nearby and want to hang out!” As Snapchat refocuses on messaging after Instagram stole its Stories thunder, Status could ensure there’s more to see that makes Snap Map worth opening.

Snapchat Status and Passport were first spotted by reverse-engineering expert and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. “Share the Moment with Status,” the introduction to the feature explains. “You can now share where you are or what you’re up to. Your Status will only be visible to friends you share your location with.” To see your status, you choose from reams of poses for your Bitmoji ranging from them reading a book to holding a sign saying “text me?”
Meanwhile, “Passport is Just For You: Passport helps you keep track of the Places you’ve been. Places you set your Status at will be added to your Passport along with who you were there with. Only you ca see your Passport, and you can delete a Place from your history at any time.” Your Status only lasts until you leave a place, but it’s tallied along with the number of countries and cities you’ve check into on your Passport.

A Snap spokesperson confirms that “Yes, we are currently testing new ways for Snapchatters to better communicate on the Snap Map with their friends. This test is running with a percentage of Snapchatters in Australia.” Previously, special Bitmoji were only displayed on the Snap Map involuntarily, like when you were road tripping or flying to a new place; visited somewhere special like a beach, mall or major event; or if there was a breaking news moment.
If you don’t want to use Status or even show up on Snap Map, you can go into ghost mode at any time, plus all your location-based content disappears if you don’t open the app for eight hours. And if you do want to be found, you can check who’s viewed your location or Status in case you need to know who’s blowing you off.
Snap launched Snap Map back in June 2017, basing the idea off its acquisition of French location startup Zenly that it bought for $213 million in cash plus bonuses. Beyond spurring real-world interaction, Snap has also made Snap Map an embeddable way to explore breaking news events or hotspots around the world. Status could provide structured data about your behavior, which could beef up Snapchat’s scrawny repository of ad-targeting information. The app could even try surfacing nearby businesses or discounts.

Snapchat’s tighter-knit social graph and stronger track record on privacy lets it offer features that would freak people out if built by Mark Zuckerberg. Given Facebook is aggressively cloning Snap’s whole product philosophy, from its direct copy of Stories to ephemeral messaging to its premium content hubs Watch and IGTV, Snapchat desperately needs to differentiate. Luckily, Facebook has failed to figure out offline meetups, and has yet to roll out the “Your Emoji” status feature that similarly tries to convey what you’re up to visually but within Messenger instead of a map.
Doubling down on Snap Map is a smart move because its one of the few areas where Facebook can’t follow.

Foursnap? Snapchat tries ‘Status’ location check-ins

Instagram is now testing a web version of Direct messages

Insta-chat addicts, rejoice. You could soon be trading memes and emojis from your computer. Instagram is internally testing a web version of Instagram Direct messaging that lets people chat without the app. If, or more likely, when this rolls out publicly, users on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac, a non-Android or iPhone or that access Instagram via a mobile web browser will be able to privately message other Instagrammers.
Instagram web DMs was one of the features I called for in a product wish list I published in December alongside a See More Like This button for the feed and an upload quality indicator so your Stories don’t look crappy if you’re on a slow connection.
A web version could make Instagram Direct a more full-fledged SMS alternative rather than just a tacked-on feature for discussing the photo and video app’s content. Messages are a massive driver of engagement that frequently draws people back to an app, and knowing friends can receive them anywhere could get users sending more. While Facebook doesn’t monetize Instagram Direct itself, it could get users browsing through more ads while they wait for replies.

Given Facebook’s own chat feature started on the web before going mobile and getting its own Messenger app, and WhatsApp launched a web portal in 2015 followed by desktop clients in 2016, it’s sensible for Instagram Direct to embrace the web too. It could also pave the way for Facebook’s upcoming unification of the backend infrastructure for Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct that should expand encryption and allow cross-app chat, as reported by The New York Times’ Mike Isaac.
Mobile reverse-engineering specialist and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong alerted us to Instagram’s test. It’s not available to users yet, as it’s still being internally “dogfooded” — used heavily by employees to identify bugs or necessary product changes. But she was able to dig past security and access the feature from both a desktop computer and mobile web browser.
In the current design, Direct on the web is available from a Direct arrow icon in the top right of the screen. The feature looks like it will use an Instagram.com/direct/…. URL structure. If the feature becomes popular, perhaps Facebook will break it out with its own Direct destination website similar to https://www.messenger.com, which launched in 2015. Instagram began testing a standalone Direct app last year, but it’s yet to be officially launched and doesn’t seem exceedingly popular.
Instagram’s web experience has long lagged behind its native apps. You still can’t post Stories from the desktop like you can with Facebook Stories. It only added notifications on the web in 2016 and Explore, plus some other features, in 2017.
Instagram did not respond to requests for comment before press time. The company rarely provides a statement on internal features in development until they’re being externally tested on the public, at which point it typically tells us “We’re always testing ways to improve the Instagram experience.” [Update: Instagram confirms to TechCrunch it’s not publicly testing this, which is its go-to line when a product surfaces that’s still in internal development. Meanwhile, Wong notes that Instagram has now cut off her access to the web Direct feature.]
After cloning Snapchat Stories to create Instagram Stories, the Facebook-owned app decimated Snap’s growth rate. That left Snapchat to focus on premium video and messaging. Last year Instagram built IGTV to compete with Snapchat Discover. And now with it testing a web version of Direct, it seems poised to challenge Snap for chat too.

Instagram is now testing a web version of Direct messages

The year social networks were no longer social

The term “social network” has become a meaningless association of words. Pair those two words and it becomes a tech category, the equivalent of a single term to define a group of products.
But are social networks even social anymore? If you have a feeling of tech fatigue when you open the Facebook app, you’re not alone. Watching distant cousins fight about politics in a comment thread is no longer fun.
Chances are you have dozens, hundreds or maybe thousands of friends and followers across multiple platforms. But those crowded places have never felt so empty.
It doesn’t mean that you should move to the woods and talk with animals. And Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn won’t collapse overnight. They have intrinsic value with other features — social graphs, digital CVs, organizing events…
But the concept of wide networks of social ties with an element of broadcasting is dead.
From interest-based communities to your lousy neighbor
If you’ve been active on the web for long enough, you may have fond memories of internet forums. Maybe you were a fan of video games, Harry Potter or painting.
Fragmentation was key. You could be active on multiple forums and you didn’t have to mention your other passions. Over time, you’d see the same names come up again and again on your favorite forum. You’d create your own running jokes, discover things together, laugh, cry and feel something.
When I was a teenager, I was active on multiple forums. I remember posting thousands of messages a year and getting to know new people. It felt like hanging out with a welcoming group of friends because you shared the same passions.
It wasn’t just fake internet relationships. I met “IRL” with fellow internet friends quite a few times. One day, I remember browsing the list of threads and learning about someone’s passing. Their significant other posted a short message because the forum meant a lot to this person.
Most of the time, I didn’t know the identities of the persons talking with me. We were all using nicknames and put tidbits of information in bios — “Stuttgart, Germany” or “train ticket inspector.”
And then, Facebook happened. At first, it was also all about interest-based communities — attending the same college is a shared interest, after all. Then, they opened it up to everyone to scale beyond universities.
When you look at your list of friends, they are your Facebook friends not because you share a hobby, but because you’ve know them for a while.
Facebook constantly pushes you to add more friends with the infamous “People you may know” feature. Knowing someone is one thing, but having things to talk about is another.
So here we are, with your lousy neighbor sharing a sexist joke in your Facebook feed.

As social networks become bigger, content becomes garbage.

Facebook’s social graph is broken by design. Putting names and faces on people made friend requests emotionally charged. You can’t say no to your high school best friend, even if you haven’t seen her in five years.
It used to be okay to leave friends behind. It used to be okay to forget about people. But the fact that it’s possible to stay in touch with social networks have made those things socially unacceptable.
Too big to succeed
One of the key pillars of social networks is the broadcasting feature. You can write a message, share a photo, make a story and broadcast them to your friends and followers.
But broadcasting isn’t scalable.
Most social networks are now publicly traded companies — they’re always chasing growth. Growth means more revenue and revenue means that users need to see more ads.
The best way to shove more ads down your throat is to make you spend more time on a service. If you watch multiple YouTube videos, you’re going to see more pre-roll ads. And there are two ways to make you spend more time on a social network — making you come back more often and making you stay longer each time you visit.
And 2018 has been the year of cheap tricks and dark pattern design. In order to make you come more often, companies now send you FOMO-driven notifications with incomplete, disproportionate information.

I created a new Facebook account just so I could access an Oculus thing. Despite having no friends, apparently I’m really missing out on a whole lot of «fun» activity from all these specifically-named people I don’t know. And I have two notifications already! «Cool.» pic.twitter.com/uBHicji3pj
— Nick Farina (@nfarina) October 1, 2018

This isn’t just about opening an app. Social networks now want to direct you to other parts of the service. Why don’t you click on this bright orange banner to open IGTV? Look at this shiny button! Look! Look!

This navigation bar makes no sense Facebook. Also it’s an insult to trick people’s brains with animated to foster engagement pic.twitter.com/eMGxbh7r4a
— Romain Dillet (@romaindillet) November 27, 2018

And then, there’s all the gamification, algorithm-driven recommendations and other Skinner box mechanisms. That tiny peak of adrenaline you get when you refresh your feed, even if it only happens once per week, is what’s going to make you come back again and again.
Don’t forget that Netflix wanted to give kids digital badges if they completed a season. The company has since realized that it was going too far. Still, U.S. adults now spend nearly six hours per day consuming digital media — and phones represent more than half of that usage.
Given that social networks need to give you something new every time, they want you to follow as many people as possible, subscribe to every YouTube channel you can. This way, every time you come back, there’s something new.
Algorithms recommend some content based on engagement, and guess what? The most outrageous, polarizing content always ends up at the top of the pile.
I’m not going to talk about fake news or the fact that YouTubers now all write titles in ALL CAPS to grab your attention. That’s a topic for another article. But YouTube shouldn’t be surprised that Logan Paul filmed a suicide victim in Japan to drive engagement and trick the algorithm.
In other words, as social networks become bigger, content becomes garbage.
Private communities
Centralization is always followed by decentralization. Now that we’ve reached a social network dead end, it’s time to build our own digital house.
Group messaging has been key when it comes to staying in touch with long-distance family members. But you can create your own interest-based groups and talk about things you’re passionate about with people who care about those things.
Social networks that haven’t become too big still have an opportunity to pivot. It’s time to make them more about close relationships and add useful features to talk with your best friends and close ones.
And if you have interesting things to say, do it on your own terms. Create a blog instead of signing up to Medium. This way, Medium won’t force your readers to sign up when they want to read your words.
If you spend your vacation crafting the perfect Instagram story, you should be more cynical about it. Either you want to make a career out of it and become an Instagram star, or you should consider sending photos and videos to your communities directly. Otherwise, you’re just participating in a rotten system.
If you want to comment on politics and life in general, you should consider talking about those topics with people surrounding you, not your friends on Facebook.
Put your phone back in your pocket and start a conversation. You might end up discussing for hours without even thinking about the red dots on all your app icons.

Tech fatigue

How I cured my tech fatigue by ditching feeds

The year social networks were no longer social

Facebook Lasso app lead Brady Voss leaves for Netflix right after launch

Facebook Lasso has a steep uphill climb ahead as it hopes to chase the musical video app it cloned, China’s TikTok (which merged with Musically). Lasso lets you overlay popular songs on 15-second clips of you lip syncing, dancing or just being silly — kind of like Vine with a soundtrack. It’s off to a slow start since launching Friday, having failed to reach the overall app download charts as it falls from No. 169 to No. 217 on the U.S. iOS Photo and Video App chart, according to App Annie. Sensor Tower estimates Lasso has been downloaded fewer than 10,000 times across both iOS and Android.
Forme Facebook Lead Product Designer Brady Voss
And now one of the Lasso team’s bosses, Brady Voss, is leaving Facebook for a job at Netflix. He’d spent five years as a lead product designer at Facebook working on standalone apps like Hello and major feature launches like Watch, Live, 360 video and the social network’s smart TV app. He previously designed products for TiVo and Microsoft’s Xbox.
“After five life-changing years at Facebook, my last day will be this Friday, 11/16,” Voss wrote on Facebook. “Following our launch of our new app, Lasso, a project I’ve been working on for a while now, the timing works well to explore what’s coming next…. As for what’s next? I have accepted a position at Netflix in Los Gatos, California.” A Facebook spokesperson responded that “Yes, I can confirm that Brady is leaving Facebook.”
Voss added some color about joining Facebook, noting, “There was actually a discussion about whether or not I’d be a great culture fit because I wore a tie to my interviews–which is funny because we don’t believe dressing like that is what enables people to bring their best everyday. Thankfully, they saw past the common clichés–because suits and ties are not me.” As for Facebook’s troubles, he wrote that “I was even there for the big freak out moments along the way–we’ll keep them unnamed ”, which could refer to his work on Facebook Live that spawned big problems with real-time broadcasts of violence and self-harm.

While it’s reasonable for anyone to want a change of pace after five years, especially after the brutal year Facebook’s had in the press, his departure just a week after Lasso’s launch doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence in the app’s trajectory. It might have been a sensible stopping point haven gotten the app out the door, but you’d also think that if Lasso had a real shot at popularity, he’d have wanted to stick around to oversee that growth.
Lasso’s first rodeo
TechCrunch first broke the news last month that Lasso was in development, citing Voss as one of the team’s heads. But in the meantime, the world’s highest valued private startup ByteDance managed to push its TikTok app past Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube on the download charts. It’s now at No. 5 on the U.S. iOS overall charts and No. 1 in Photo and Video. Facebook seems to have shooed Lasso out a little prematurely before losing more ground, given it lacks many of the augmented reality features and filters found in Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok .
Facebook Lasso
TechCrunch asked the company for some more details about the Lasso roadmap. A spokesperson told me that Facebook will be evolving Lasso and adding new features with time, and may test a feature for uploading videos instead of being restricted to shooting them in-app right now. Voss’ departure post includes a “Made With Lasso” video featuring an augmented reality effect with him conjuring Facebook Like thumbs-ups out of his hand. [Update: He tells me he added this in AfterEffects, but it shows that Facebookers think AR should be part of Lasso.]
As for monetization, Facebook tells me there are no plans to show ads right now. Typically, Facebook tries to build products to have hundreds of millions of users before it potentially endangers growth by layering in revenue generators. I asked if users might be able to pay their favorite video creators with tips, and the company says that while that’s not currently available, it hopes to explore ways to allow creators to earn money in the future. Instagram said the same thing about IGTV when it launched in June, and we still haven’t heard anything on that front. Facebook likely won’t be able to lure creators to new platforms with smaller audiences than their main channels unless it’s going to let them earn money there.
If Facebook is truly serious about challenging TikTok, it may need to build closer ties between Lasso and Instagram. Facebook left its previous standalone video apps like Slingshot and Poke out to dry, eventually shuttering them after providing little cross-promotion. Given the teen audience Lasso craves is already on Instagram, it will be fascinating to see if former VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri, who’s now running Instagram, will insert some links to Lasso. A Facebook spokesperson says that Facebook may investigate promoting Lasso on its other apps down the line.
And one final concern regarding Lasso is that Facebook isn’t doing much to prevent underage kids below 13 from getting on the app. Tweens flocked to Musically, leading to some worrisome content. Ten-year-old girls in revealing clothing singing along to the scandalous lyrics of pop songs frequently populated the Musically leaderboard. That prompted me to question Musically CEO Alex Zhu onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015 about whether his app violated the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that prohibits online services from collecting photos or videos of kids under 13. He denied wrongdoing with flimsy excuses, claiming parents were always aware of what kids were doing, and stormed out of the backstage area after our talk.

Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone

So I asked Facebook how it would prevent such issues on Lasso, where all content is public and adults can follow children. A spokesperson told me that you need a Facebook or Instagram account to sign up for Lasso, and those services require people to be 13 older. But “require” isn’t exactly the right word. It asks people to state they’re of age, but doesn’t do anything to confirm that. Lasso does have a report button for flagging inappropriate content, and the company claims to be taking privacy and safety seriously.
But if the tech giants are going to build apps purposefully designed for young audiences, asking for kids to merely promise they’re old enough to join may not be sufficient.

Facebook Lasso app lead Brady Voss leaves for Netflix right after launch

Instagram’s next cash cow: instant Promote ads for Stories

Instagram hopes dollars from the long-tail of small businesses and social media stars can help it pull its weight in the Facebook family. A new ad type called “Promote” for Stories allows Instagram business pages to show their ephemeral slideshows to more users without doing much work. Admins can choose to auto-target users similar to their followers, people in a certain location, or use all of Instagram’s targeting parameters to inject their Story into the Stories queue of more users as an ad that can also link to business’ Instagram profile or website.
Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that Promote for Stories works similarly to Facebook’s Boost option that lets them pay to instantly show their feed posts to more users. “I can confirm that we are testing this feature globally. We don’t have an immediate timeline for 100 percent rollout, but will keep you posted” an Instagram spokesperson told me. Screenshots of Promote were first shared by social consultant Matt Navarra.
Instagram tests new Promote Stories ads. Image Credit: Matt Navarra
Instagram already has 2 million active advertisers, compared to Facebook’s 6 million. But designing and targeting ads, especially full-screen video Stories ads, can be daunting to small businesses and public figures. Promote offers an easy way to turn their existing Stories into ads.
The feature could unlock more spend at a crucial time when Facebook’s revenue growth is in massive decline. It dropped from 59 percent in Q3 2016 to 49 percent in Q3 2017 to 33 percent in Q3 2018 as it hits saturation in lucrative developed countries and runs out of News Feed space. Facebook warned Wall Street about revenue deceleration, as sharing shifts from feeds to Stories and advertisers have to adapt, but turning local merchants and influencers into paying customers could smooth that transition.
Instagram Analytics Launches In Beta
In other Instagram business news, today it launched Instagram Analytics in beta as part of Facebook Analytics. The tool goes beyond Instagram’s existing Insights tool that just counted different types of engagement with an account and its content, such as new followers, website clicks, post impressions and Story exits.

With Instagram Analytics, business accounts can track life time value and retention rates for people who do or don’t interact with their content, and create audience segments to see if people who commented on a particular post generate more value for them. They can also analyze how their Instagram audience overlaps with people who visit their site, download their app or like their Facebook Page.
The more Instagram analytics businesses have access to, the better they’ll be able to prove that their investment in the platform is paying off. Being able to see exactly how followers move through a conversion funnel will result in higher confidence in campaigns and translate into more ad and content spend.
IGTV hopes for virality with Stories previews
And there’s one final piece of Instagram news for the day. IGTV hasn’t quite blown up like Instagram Stories since launching in June, but a combination could bring some much needed attention to the app’s longer form video hub. Instagram today launched the ability to share a preview image of an IGTV video to your Instagram Story. Friends can tap through to actually watch the full video on IGTV.

Now you can share your favorite IGTV videos to your story. Tap the paper airplane at the bottom of the video you want to share. When friends see your story, they can tap the preview to watch the whole video in IGTV. pic.twitter.com/oaatUoOqZY
— Instagram (@instagram) November 1, 2018

The IGTV previews don’t actually play, they’re just a static sticker. Shazam launched its own Instagram Stories integration today that works similarly to the IGTV previews, as well as SoundCloud and Pandora’s partnerships. Shazam lets you share a preview image of a song to your Instagram Story, but to actually hear any music you have to click through to Shazam. That makes these integrations inferior to Instagram’s own native music-sharing feature that actually lets you add a soundtrack to your Stories that friends can hear as they watch.
Shazam now can share song preview images to Instagram Stories, but you have to tap through to hear anything
IGTV has also recently added a History tab that shows what you’ve recently watched. This could be helpful for getting back to your favorite clips or jumping to a new episode of a show you’re hooked on.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday’s earnings call that “People really want to watch a lot of video”, and the company plans to invest more in premium Facebook Watch content. But so far, it’s niether publicly announced any deals to pay for IGTV content, nor has opened any direct monetization options to creators. With viewership taking time to grow, there just aren’t enough incentives for creators to invest in producing polished, longer-form vertical video when there’s nowhere else to put it but IGTV. Virality through these previews could convince them there’s big fan-base growth opportunities available if they stick with IGTV.

These updates show that the departure of Instagram’s co-founders hasn’t slowed down the company’s innovation. Former Facebook News Feed VP Adam Mosseri kept up a brisk pace of product launches, and now with Instagram he seems determined to keep users, creators and businesses glued to what’s quickly becoming the social giant’s premier property.

Instagram’s next cash cow: instant Promote ads for Stories