Instant Articles will let stories load more than 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles and will include content from publishers such as the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, Facebook said in a blog post on its website.
“Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models,” said Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.
The news publishers can either sell and embed advertisements in the articles and keep all of the revenue, or allow Facebook to sell ads.
The Internet social networking company will also let the news companies track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.
The other launch partners for Instant Articles are NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild, Facebook said.
The new app, which will eventually make it to Android devices, isn’t just about ecards. It’s part of a broader mission within the Hallmark eCard division to help users connect more deeply through mobile devices and social networks than they do today, said Dan Kessler, general manager of Hallmark eCards.
“We’re talking about depth versus breadth” of social communications, Kessler said an interview. “If you post ‘Happy Birthday’ on somebody’s Facebook wall, at the end of the day you’re really just a number, a little red number at the top of somebody’s Facebook page. What we’re trying to provide artistically and technologically is a way to communicate more deeply.”
Facebook, WhatsApp and other social networks often provide social interactions without much meaning, he said.
“We’re entering a golden age for the greetings business,” Kessler said. “There’s an ongoing backlash against soulless communicating, and people are going back to a time of where it matters to say ‘Happy Birthday.’ I could just write it on somebody’s wall or [instead] send a card or an ecard.”
Kessler’s description of a ‘golden age’ might be an exaggeration. Still, there’s little question that mobile devices are opening a big door for ecards, said Natasha Rankin, executive director of the Greeting Card Association in Washington, which has 150 members, including Hallmark and American Greetings as its largest members.
“As with every company, Hallmark is recognizing wisely that to stay relevant, expanding into mobile is essential,” Rankin said in an interview. “There’s definitely an expansion toward leveraging technology.”
Ecards are still relatively small compared to paper cards, with about $274 million in revenues for U.S. ecard companies, according to the analyst firm IBISWorld.
Apple’s latest nice looking over priced junkware is getting it into a spot of legal bother.
A lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court against Apple (but also Samsung, Google, and Microsoft) demands that the companies bankroll a billion dollar programme to educate drivers about the dangers of using smartwatches while driving.
The Coalition Against Distracted Driving(CADD)’a Stephen Joseph filed the complaint on April 18.
Joseph is “acting in this case in the public interest” while recognizing “potential injury to himself caused by the possibility of being hit by a driver who cannot see the road because he or she is using a smartphone or smartwatch,” the suit states.
Driving while using smartphones is dangerous and smartwatches can be more dangerous, reports the lawsuit.
Looking at notifications from smartwatches “creates a far greater distraction than smartphones” because it is more difficult to ignore notifications, given that the device is strapped to one’s wrist, the suit states. The temptation to view the notifications is “irresistible” and while looking at smartwatch “the road becomes invisible to the driver.”
The $1 billion cost of a national education program, “is a tiny fraction of profits that defendants receive from the sale of smartphones and smartwatches,” the suit states.
The suit argues that smartwatches with smartphones are nuisance while driving and the companies fail to issue warnings. A new ruling found that nuisance cases could be brought “to make such criminal activity … less likely through the imposition of operating conditions.”
With the feature, Facebook is also going aftert competing products like Apple’s FaceTime, Microsoft’s Skype and Google Hangouts. Facebookpreviously allowed video calling through its site on the desktop, but not within its Messenger app.
The video calling feature is available in the iOS and Android Messenger apps. iOS users will be able to video chat with Android users, and vice versa. It began rolling out Monday in the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries including Mexico, Nigeria and Uruguay, with availability in more regions slated for the coming months, Facebook said in a blog post.
The feature arrives as Facebook makes Messenger a platform for a variety of digital tasks. Other app developers can now integrate their software into Messenger, and users will soon be able to interact with businesses via the app to check the status of their orders. In March, Facebook began letting Messenger users send each other money through the app.
Messenger already handles more than 10 percent of all Internet-based voice calls, according to Facebook. The company sees video as an important extension of its functionality, especially when a voice call won’t do.
To start a video call, users tap the video camera icon in the upper right corner of the chat window.
With Messenger now available on the desktop, the feature could become a useful communications tool for businesses. It’s designed to work over Wi-Fi and LTE even when the signal strength is low.
With more than 600 million users who log in monthly, Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular apps.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp, meanwhile, supports voice calling, but does not yet offer video calling.
“Nokia notes recent news reports claiming the company communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of a R&D facility in China. These reports are false,”Nokia said in a statement posted on its website.
“Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets.”
However, Nokia has said it is looking into returning to the smartphones business by brand-licensing.
Nokia sold its phone business to Microsoft last year, but just months after that it launched a new brand-licensed tablet computer, produced under license by Taiwan’s Foxconn, with an intention to follow up with more devices.
Nokia has agreed with Microsoft that it will not enter the mobile phone business before 2016.
“It would be crazy not to look at that opportunity. Of course we will look at it,” Sebastian Nystrom, the head of products at Nokia’s Technologies unit, told Reuters in November.
Nokia this month announced a takeover of France’s Alcatel-Lucent, a bid to boost its mainstay network equipment business, and also said it could hive off its map business, which has reportedly drawn interest from carmakers as well as Facebook and online taxi service Uber.
Discount and deal site Groupon has a novel way of dealing with bounty hunters who point out security flaws in its systems. It lets them discover the flaws and refuses to pay up.
Brute Logic says that the security issue is all the more serious because Groupon stores credit card details, and it would be incredibly easy to craft a spoof Groupon-related URL to trick victims into visiting a fake site.
On April 17 he contacted Groupon security team then got back saying that it had isolated the issue and would be back in touch once a patch has been produced.
As a contributor to XSSposed.org Brute Logic spoke with people at the site and made a reference to one of the security issues ended up being published. This only appeared online for a few moments, and was removed after it was realized it had been published in error. But Groupon is using this as a reason for refusing to pay out.
Groupon’s Bug Bounty Program terms say:
“We encourage you to report it to us in a private and responsible way. In order to encourage this, we have established a reward program which will pay a bounty for verifiable security issues reported to us through the proper channel.”
Brute Logic argues that an additional 30 problems still existed and very scant details of the security flaw were published for only a very short time. In a further email, Groupon said:
“Unfortunately we won’t be able to offer you a bounty for this submission. In the future we ask that you respect our responsible disclosure policy and not publicly disclose the vulnerability without properly notification. We noticed that you submitted the vulnerability to xssposed.org.”
Understandably Brute Logic is not happy, seeing the company trying to get out of a bounty on the basis of a technicality.
Facebook’s total first-quarter revenue was US$3.54 billion, up more than 40 percent from a year earlier, the company reported Wednesday. That was a bit less than the consensus analyst estimate of $3.56 billion, as polled by Thomson Reuters.
With a bounty of personal data on its billion-plus members — many of whom now log in from their smartphones — Facebook’s mobile ad business has become a juggernaut.
During the quarter, which ended March 31, Facebook grew its mobile ad sales by 59 percent to $2.59 billion. After going public in mid-2012, Facebook faced questions from investors over its ability to grow its business on mobile, but the company eventually dispelled those doubts.
Net income came in at $512 million, down 20 percent, while earnings per share dropped 28 percent to $0.18.
On a pro forma basis, which excludes certain costs, such as share-based compensation and related payroll tax expenses, Facebook had earnings per share of $0.42, up from $0.35 last year, and beating the analyst consensus estimate of $0.40.
“This was a strong start to the year,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.
The company’s costs and expenses rose by more than 80 percent from a year earlier, to $2.61 billion.
The number of people who log in monthly to Facebook grew by 13 percent, to 1.44 billion. And the number of those people who log in from a mobile device grew faster, by 24 percent to 1.25 billion.
In addition to its primary mobile app, Facebook now operates a suite of apps including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. But its flagship app generates by far the most mobile ad sales.
Facebook began placing ads in Instagram in 2013, but by its own admission has done so slowly and gradually. Neither Messenger nor WhatsApp carry ads yet.
The Internet company has hired advisers to help it evaluate options for the stake, Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer told investors on a conference call on Tuesday. It will not be included in the planned spin-off of its stake in China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, she said.
Investors have been urging Mayer to monetize the Yahoo Japan stake separately, after she announced plans to spin off the Alibaba stake in January, which could be worth $40 billion.
The advisers will help Yahoo “determine the most promising opportunities to maximize value” for the Yahoo Japan stake, said Mayer.
But Wall Street remained broadly cautious about the plan.
“They are taking the slow train, stressing the process,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst BGC Partners, who warned that a deal, if any, could be a long way down the line. “Engaging advisers doesn’t mean spinning it out.”
Yahoo owns about 35 percent of Yahoo Japan Corp, which has a market value of almost $25 billion on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Japanese internet company SoftBank Corp is the biggest shareholder, with about 36 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Last month Yahoo shareholder Starboard Value LP said the Alibaba spin-off was a “good first step” but urged Yahoo to also spin off its Yahoo Japan stake in a tax-efficient manner. Starboard did not reply to a request for comment.
Twitter.com has been redesigned to make content posted to the site more accessible to people who do not have accounts with the service. Those people can visit the site, and as of Wednesday they will find 18 tabs leading to streams of content on various topics, whether it be country singers, general news, or travel guides.
There’s also dozens of other curated streams of content accessible from links on the home page, with the content organized around more granular topics like U.S. federal agencies, art museums and wedding guides.
Previously, visitors to Twitter.com who did not have accounts were greeted with a sign-up page.
The changes come as Twitter faces continuing pressure to grow the number of people who use its site, and find new ways to make money off people who see its tweets and interact with them. Twitter ended the last quarter of 2014 with 288 million users who log in monthly — a 20 percent increase from the previous year, but the smallest annual growth rate Twitter ever reported.
One of Twitter’s biggest problems is that many people still don’t understand what it’s for.
With the redesigned home page, the company is trying to address this, by highlighting the site’s value as a source of real-time information and news. The tweets Twitter has selected for its new streams, the company says, come from some of the most popular accounts posting on those topics.
People without accounts still can’t do much to interact with the content. To reply to, re-tweet or “favorite” one of the tweets, the visitor is prompted to create an account. But with the redesign, Twitter hopes it might give the uninitiated enough bait to sign up.
And even without a flood of new sign-ups, Twitter’s new home page is likely to get more tweets in front of more people. That could give rise to new advertising methods around those tweets.
The new home page is available first in the U.S. on the desktop, Twitter said on Wednesday, though it will be arriving “to more places over time.”
After less than two years at the helm of Zynga, Don Mattrick is on the move again. He’s picking up the best part of $20 million on his way out the revolving door, so don’t feel too bad for him, but after his catastrophic mis-management of the Xbox One’s development and launch, his failure to lift Zynga out of its post-IPO slump looks like yet another blot on the extremely expensive copybook of the former Microsoft executive.
There will be plenty of I-told-you-so’s over this news, but in truth, it wasn’t so predictable. Mattrick always looked like a better fit for Zynga than he was at Microsoft; the balls-up he made of the Xbox One could be attributed, if we’re feeling charitable, to having sensibilities far more in-tune with a broad mass-market than with the core audience a launching console needs to please. As such, the social- and (latterly) mobile-focused Zynga should have been a more suitable challenge for him; and indeed, while the company’s performance under his tenure hasn’t exactly been good, or even mediocre, there have been some important bright spots, most notably the (clever) acquisition of mobile specialists NaturalMotion, and the (achingly slow, but getting there) transition away from browser-based games to mobile platforms.
That the company’s performance in terms of finances and share price alike failed to pick up under Mattrick’s tenure, though, is something easily presented as an outright failure; and after the mess he made at Microsoft, it would be straightforward to roll our eyes at the spectacle of yet another overpaid exec with bugger all knowledge about games being given an enormous sack full of $100 bills with which to break his falls after a gentle defenestration from his latest failure. That’s not entirely an unfair characterisation, but not entirely fair either, I suspect, because no sooner was Mattrick out of the CEO’s chair than Zynga founder and former CEO Mark Pincus had his backside back in the seat – and that, to me, sets off all sorts of alarm bells.
For a CEO to depart and to be instantly replaced is not entirely unusual, but it does raise some eyebrows; for a CEO to depart after a short and unfruitful period, only to be replaced instantly by the company founder whom they replaced in the role, strongly suggests that the company founder never actually took their fingers out of the pie. The reasons for Pincus leaving the CEO’s role were pretty clear; he was broadly seen by investors as a millstone around the company’s neck, his dictatorial nature, inflexibility and tendency to make stupid, inflammatory statements in public being pretty damaging to a firm struggling to recover from an overheated IPO. That he’s been waiting in the wings for Mattrick to depart raises troubling questions over just who has actually been running Zynga for the past two years; it’s not hard to imagine Mattrick finding his hands tied by the presence of a highly opinionated and influential founder who never actually wanted to let go of the reins in the first place, something which might explain a good deal about the tardy pace of Zynga’s turnaround.
The markets, unsurprisingly, reacted to the news by dumping Zynga stock; the founder who was doing a miserable job of being CEO has stepped back up to replace the new guy who was also doing a poor (but better) job of being CEO? It’s a net negative, not merely because for all his faults Mattrick was broadly considered a better CEO than Pincus, but because it suggests that the upper echelons of Zynga’s management are in absolute disarray.
Still, though; even this latest dump of Zynga’s stock is only going to bring the company back to depths it already plumbed back in February… and in December… oh, and last October, too. Zynga is bumping along the bottom, and has been since mid-2012, in share price terms. It looked like it might climb off the floor around the start of 2014, but since the middle of last year it’s traded at around $3 and under; frankly, the depths to which it can fall off the back of this executive-revolving-door farce are severely limited by the fact that it’s already at rock bottom. That’s because Zynga’s real problems, although they may well start from its dysfunctional management, are much more deeply rooted. The company hasn’t had a hit in years – even more problematically, it has never had a bona fide, honest to god hit on a mobile platform. It bought some smaller developers with mobile hits, and then failed to grow or develop them (in some embarrassing cases, they flopped almost immediately after being purchased). FarmVille, a game franchise whose existence you had entirely forgotten until I just mentioned its name at the start of this sentence, remains the jewel in Zynga’s crown. The “Games” section on Zynga’s website reads embarrassingly like a blow-by-blow account of games everyone seemed to be into for a few months, years ago.
There might – might – be light at the end of the tunnel. It would be easy to dismiss Zynga’s new Great Hope, the action strategy title Dawn of Titans, as absolute folly; the “Clash of Clans” market, so utterly saturated that top games in the category have ended up spending millions on Superbowl commercials to try and soak up the last remaining dregs of the market, is a horrible place to be launching a new product. Dawn of Titans, though, is just branded and presented a little like Clash of Clans; the game itself looks quite different, and most of all, it’s from the genuinely brilliant NaturalMotion. If I were to pick the most likely source of a Zynga renewal, it would be NaturalMotion; one can only hope that, in a similar manner to the Activision / Blizard relationship, Zynga’s management has the good sense to let NaturalMotion do their jobs and keep their paws off to the greatest extent possible.
Still; the fate of a company is a big thing to rest on one development team, no matter how talented. What Zynga needs is a hit, undoubtedly. What it really, really needs is hits – plural. Once upon a time, there was a formula for social gaming success, based on just the right balance of compelling game design (yes, Farmville really was compelling in its own way), pulling the right social levers, monetising intelligently and with a light touch, and spreading through some fairly nakedly unpleasant viral approaches on Facebook. Mark Pincus got that formula down perfectly; that is, thus far, the only thing that Zynga has ever executed perfectly. That formula, of course, is part of the history books now; it doesn’t work any more and never will again.
The new formula that Zynga needs to discover is actually a much trickier one, one which game companies have struggled with for decades; the formula for making great games people actually want to play and actually want to recommend to their friends. The CEO who could potentially turn Zynga into a company where that happens would have to create an environment of intense creativity and freedom, utilising the short development cycles, rapid prototyping and start-up style Minimum Viable Product soft-launching strategies enabled by mobile platforms to let creators exercise their imaginations and try many different ideas in search of the hits; a CEO who truly valued creativity and understood how to let it thrive. Mark Pincus wasn’t that CEO first time around. He’s going to have to work hard to prove that Pincus 2.0 is any better.
The move is Facebook’s attempt to create a dedicated hub for chats on the web as it incorporates many new features into the Messenger mobile app and grows its use. Facebook users can still chat with others as they would normally do on Facebook.com. But the new web app, accessible at Messenger.com, is aimed solely at messaging, without other distractions like the news feed or profile pages.
To use Messenger.com, which went live on Wednesday, users must sign in with their Facebook credentials. It works largely the same as the mobile app, with support for voice calling, stickers and emoticons, and syncs chats across devices. It’s available to all English-speaking Facebook users globally. Facebook is working on making it available in other languages in the coming weeks, a spokeswoman said.
On mobile, Facebook has extended the functions of its Messenger app well beyond simple messaging. For example, users can now send each other money within the app. Third-party developers can also integrate their software into the app, giving users more ways to place digital content inside their chats. Facebook is also making Messenger a platform to let users interact with online retailers and receive updates on the status of their orders.
If someone has the new payments feature enabled in the Messenger mobile app, that function will be included in Messenger.com. Content from third-party mobile apps will be integrated into people’s chats on the web, but that content can’t be created from Messenger on the web.
Facebook’s Messenger app now has roughly 600 million users who log in monthly, which is almost half of Facebook’s total user base.
In a move that could produce even more automated suggestions and tips for LinkedIn users, the professional network has purchased California startup Refresh, the maker of an app that gathers news and insights about participants in meetings.
Launched three years ago, Refresh is designed to be a “digital briefing book” that can call up online information related to people that users are scheduled to meet. The information can be anything from blog posts, news articles or Facebook posts to personal notes or favorite sports teams.
The Refresh mobile and desktop app is aimed at helping people relate to one another more quickly, but it can also be used to refresh one’s memory when running into acquaintances unexpectedly.
The details of the deal were not disclosed. Refresh has stopped taking on new users and its app will shut down April 15.
“Refresh has surfaced insights associated with hundreds of millions of meetings, and has been central to countless connections and closed deals,” co-founder Bhavin Shah wrote on the Refresh blog in announcing the deal.
LinkedIn already has an app called Connected that was somewhat of a rival to Refresh. It can log the people users have met and offer updates and information about interests shared with “connections,” which are acquaintances in the LinkedIn lingo. It’s unclear whether Refresh features will be added to Connected or the LinkedIn website itself.
“Our team will focus its efforts on providing LinkedIn members with more insights to help them better do their jobs,” Shah wrote.
With the Apple Watch slated for release on April 24, third-party application developers are rushing to write extensions that can run on the device. Now Instagram is sharing some code it wrote for its own app to help others.
The Facebook-owned company has posted a set of Objective C code that provides a way for an application to use complex data structures, which could facilitate feature-rich apps for the tiny device.
“We’re really excited to be one of the first apps on the platform, and were able to build some solutions that we think will help other people build their apps more quickly and easily,” Instagram engineer Ryan Nystrom wrote in an emailed statement. “We’ve been able to build on open-source technology at Instagram, so it’s exciting for us to contribute, too.”
Instagram’s Watch app can display items from a user’s Instagram photo feed and lets the user “Like” other photos and leave emoji comments.
Apple has published a preliminary framework for programmatically manipulating the Watch, though the company warns that some commands may change before the final release.
The Instagram code is different from Apple’s standard software in how it deals with multi-dimensional data, or a single piece of data with multiple items within it. Instagram says it provides an easier way to do things like using that data to populate multiple choices in a hierarchical menu.
Instagram is not alone in rushing to build apps for the watch, many of which will probably serve as extensions of iPhone and iPad apps. Evernote, City Mapper, real estate listing service Redfin, Salesforce, and the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper all are preparing Watch apps.
Germany’s BMG music rights company announced that it has signed a music digital distribution deal with China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as the world’s largest e-commerce giant firms up its bid to become a digital media empire.
The deal, one of the first in China made by a major music publisher rather than a label, will bring more than 2.5 million copyrights to Alibaba, whose music platforms already had many of the songs from artists including Kylie Minogue, the Rolling Stones and Jean-Michael Jarre, an Alibaba spokeswoman said.
Alibaba has set its eyes on becoming an online-media powerhouse, with music, film and television. The $210-billion firm has touted the potential for selling digital products as well as physical products in China, despite the country’s track record of users not paying for media content.
In the process, it is vying with Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest social networking and online entertainment firm, and search leader Baidu Inc and its online video unit, iQiyi.
For BMG, the tie-up is both a chance to boost earnings by its artists in China and part of its attempt to “grow the legitimate music market in China”, the company said.
BMG last November linked up with Chinese independent company Giant Jump to manage publishing and recording rights both at home and overseas.
Alibaba’s Digital Entertainment arm will “promote BMG writers and artists through channels such as its streaming apps Xiami and TTPod” and “monitor and take action against digital and mobile services who may infringe the rights of BMG clients,” the subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, said in a statement.
“Internet and particular mobile media are quickly providing an answer to the music industry’s long-time challenge of how to monetize the vast untapped potential of the Chinese market,” BMG Chief Executive Hartwig Masuch said in Monday’s statement.
Facebook’s Messenger app mostly been used for keeping in touch with friends. Now people can also use it to send each other money. In the future, it could become a platform which other apps could use, if recent rumors prove true.
This Wednesday and Thursday at its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook will show off new tools to help third-party developers build apps, deploy them on Facebook and monetize them through Facebook advertising.
Among those tools might be a new service for developers to publish content or features of their own inside Messenger, according to a TechCrunch article. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.
Such a service could make Messenger more useful, if the right developers sign on. Search features, photo tools or travel functions could be incorporated into Messenger and improve users’ chats around events or activities.
However, Messenger already lets users exchange money, and it also handles voice calls. Layer on more services and Messenger could become bloated and inconvenient to use.
In other words, making Messenger a platform would be a gamble.
A more versatile Messenger could generate new user data Facebook could leverage for advertising, helping it counter a user growth slowdown in recent quarters. It could also boost Facebook’s perennial efforts to increase participants in its developer platform and the number of users of its third-party apps.
Even if Facebook doesn’t turn Messenger into a platform at F8, it will likely do so in the future, said John Jackson, an IDC analyst focused on mobile business strategies. For the same reasons Facebook might turn Messenger into a platform, it could do the same for other apps like WhatsApp or Instagram, he said.
“The objective is to enrich and multiply the nature of interactions on the platform,” providing valuable data along the way, he said.