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Now Facebook Messenger Gives Context About People Contacting You

Getting messages from someone you don’t know can be a pretty intimidating experience. How did they find you? Why did they reach out?

To make new connections less jarring, Facebook Messenger is introducing a new feature on Thursday that gives you bits of information about someone messaging you for the first time, whether the person is one of your Facebook friends or not. The Messenger team is rolling it out to iOS and Android users in the U.S., UK, France and India over the next few weeks.

Think of it almost like an icebreaker, or “a way to give you more context about new conversations in Messenger,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable.

When someone messages you for the first time, Messenger plucks bits of information from their Facebook profile, like what their job is, which town or city they live in, and who your mutual friends are (if you have any), then displays that info above their first message, alongside their profile name and photo, like so:

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Image: Facebook

The new feature is similar to one offered in Hello, the app Facebook quietly rolled out in April, which gives Android smartphone owners tidbits of information about the person on the other end of the line.

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Messenger’s new context feature is somewhat similar to the one in Hello, the Android app Facebook released in April, only savvier.

But the feature people will see in Messenger is a tad more savvy. It shows information Facebook thinks will prove most useful, while respecting both users’ privacy settings. That’s key, especially if you and the other person aren’t actually friends on Facebook — in which case, only publicly available information on your profiles is used.

It’s a small feature in the big scheme of things for Messenger but one that makes sense. Facebook already sits on data from 1.44 billion active monthly users, so why not use some of their publicly available information to give a little context about new folks who message you? And of course, if the feature helps boost Messenger’s user engagement — the more friends you message, the more time you spend on the service — it’s a win-win.

You Can Now Sign up in Periscope without Twitter Account

Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope got a few updates on Monday, making it lot easier to use for those not already locked into the Twitter ecosystem.

Now you can use your phone number to sign up for Periscope, with no need for a Twitter account at all.

The version 1.0.4 update, detailed in this post on Medium, also adds the ability to reply directly to comments in Periscope chats — a change that could vastly improve the app’s social interaction features.

And because not all Periscope users are always on their best behavior, the app will now notify all users watching when a user has been blocked — effectively calling out any trolls on a particular stream.


Image: Periscope

Finally, the update allows a user to change her avatar. You can use any image in your camera roll, or you have the option to take a new photo.

Taken together, the updates indicate that Twitter is looking to aggressively grow the app’s footprint beyond the wordy confines of its text-based platform. The strategy is particularly interesting considering Meerkat’s recent update, which also reduced its reliance on Twitter.

With both live-streaming apps moving away from Twitter dependence, their growth will likely be more affected by user experience and service reliability than ever before.

Reddit Going To Launch Its First Email Newsletter, Called Upvoted Weekly

Reddit, the internet’s portal into virality, needs a table of contents — and it’s getting one, with the site’s first curated email newsletter.

The new email newsletter will go out to users every Sunday and will be curated by staffers to help surface stories that might otherwise get lost in one of the thousands of communities, which are called subreddits. The social news site announced the launch on Tuesday.

The newsletter, called Upvoted Weekly, comes three months after Reddit debuted its first podcast, also called Upvoted, which follows up with the people behind the big stories popping on Reddit.

The move may help Reddit to take more ownership of the viral content that users post, which ranges from the inspiring to cute cats to gross fast food stories. It also helps fend off curatorial competitors like Tumblr, which is competing for Reddit’s “front page of the Internet” status.

“Content surfaced and created by redditors sets the global agenda every day,” Alexis Ohanian, cofounder and executive chairman of Reddit, told Mashable. “This new approach is another example of getting in front of new audiences while re-engaging existing ones via new channels.”

The subtext to that statement: Reddit is often a go-to source for media outlets (including this one) to discover viral Internet stories and occasional news, but some of those publications arguably end up profiting more from content that first surfaced on Reddit than Reddit itself does.

Part of the reason for Reddit getting cut out of the viral publishing game as a middleman is that the site is more chaotic and difficult for new and even some existing users to navigate, leaving an opening for other publications fill the void.

Ohanian hinted at this problem in an interview with Mashable late last year: “We need to do a better job with things like mod tools and discovery… It’s a failure of UX that so many people don’t even understand how reddit works.”

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Ohanian rejoined Reddit full-time as executive chairman in November after CEO Yishan Wong abruptly resigned following a dispute over office space.

Since then, Ohanian has used the credibility that comes from being cofounder of Reddit to crack down on nude images, work toward building safer communities and push for better discovery — all of which could make Reddit just a little more approachable as it vies for the mainstream.

Instagram Introduces New Editing Tools and Post Notifications

Instagram is making it easier to keep tabs on posts from friends, celebrities or other users you want to follow more closely. The app’s latest update adds the ability to subscribe to posts from specific users and introduces two new editing tools that allow you to adjust the color tones of your photos

The new editing tools, fade and color, appear in the app’s adjust menu and allow you to tweak the way colors look in your photo.

Fade softens all of the colors in your image “to bring a quiet tone,” Instagram says. The look is similar to certain filters already in the app but the fade tool seems to apply the effect in a more uniform way than filters, which focus more on particular parts of an image. Like other tools in the adjust menu, fade comes with a slider that allow you to control the strength of the effect.

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Instagram’s new “fade” tool. Image: Instagram

Color also plays with the color tones of an image by adding different tints to a photo’s shadows or highlights. Choose whether you want to focus on the darker parts of an image (shadows) or the lighter areas (highlights) and choose the tint. Yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, cyan and green are the colors currently available.

This effect doesn’t have a slider control but it can be more or less dramatic depending on the image — red or purple tints may be more noticeable on a lighter image than a darker one, for example.

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The new color tool adds different tints to your photo.

Finally, Tuesday’s update also adds the ability to subscribe to posts from users you follow. When viewing a friend’s profile, the “…” menu in the top right corner now has the option to “Turn on Post Notifications.” When enabled, Instagram will send push notifications each time the users you follow share a new post.

The latest update is rolling out to Android users Tuesday and to iOS “in a few days.” Post notifications are already available in both apps.

Pinterest’s Developed New ‘Pin It’ Button for Faster Bookmarking

Pinterest launched a new “Pin It” button on Thursday that makes it faster for users to bookmark content across the Internet.


According to the company, the new and improved button, which Pinterest users can install as an extension for web browsers including Safari, Chrome and Firefox, trims the number of clicks needed to save web content — articles, photos, and so on — from six clicks to three.

“The Pin It button is how you save anything you want for later,” Pinterest Product Manager Cesar Isern wrote in a post. “Whenever you spot something you want to try some day, you just Pin It, and it’s saved.”

The three-click process is simple: Clicking the Pin It button on the web browser brings up a screen where users pick an item to save to Pinterest. Another screen pops up afterwards showing the user’s three most-recently used boards and an “All Boards” list.

Et voila! Pinned.

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Image: Pinterest

Pinterest’s new Pin It button reduces the number of clicks to save web content from six clicks to three.

Since cofounders Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp launched Pinterest five years ago, users have pinned over 50 billion items, the company says. Pinterest currently has over 47 million monthly active users in the U.S., research firm eMarketer estimates, a number expected to top 50 million in 2016. That’s a sizable user base but well behind Facebook’s 1.4 billion and Twitter’s 280 million.

The company says the new button increased user bookmarking by 3% in its early tests. It’s one positive sign as the company continues to grow. In February, Pinterest raised a staggering $367 million at an $11 billion valuation for global expansion, bringing its total funding to $1.1 billion.


Twitter celebrates 9th Birthday with Video of Kids, Who Tells How to Party

The microblogging service known as Twitter, which grew from Internet curiosity into essential media tool and social media channel, just turned 9 years old.

To celebrate its milestone, the company, which launched in 2006, created a charming video that features 9-year-old children describing what that age means to them.

Companies turning one year older aren’t usually noteworthy until you start talking decades, but in this case, the video’s cuteness factor makes it hard to resist.

Twitter turns 9 years old today. 9 years! Birthdays are always a good time to express some gratitude.

— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2015


New Twitter Tool Makes it Slightly Easier For You to Report Threats to Police

Twitter’s new harassment-reporting tool is making it easier for users to report threatening tweets to the police. Sort of.Users who report threatening tweets now have the option of receiving an emailed report, summarizing the tweet, when it was sent and other information that may be relevant to law enforcement.

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It’s still up to individual users, however, to bring these reports to the attention of police and other officials. It’s not clear what, if any, impact this will have for police investigations. The emailed reports don’t provide information Twitter users couldn’t find on their own, though it will save users some time from having to find the information themselves.

Twitter also provides a series of guidelines and recommendations to officials, which include their policies for how they handle requests for non-public information (which require a subpoena or court order) and emergency disclosure requests.

But outside of how to make official requests, Twitter doesn’t provide extensive information on how to help users. For example, in the “assisting a Twitter user” section of its guidelines, Twitter suggests that “most issues” can be handled by Twitter itself, which seems a little circular given that these reports are meant to give users facing threats new ways to get help from police.

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An example of one of the reports.

Image: Twitter

“We can’t compel law enforcement to act on threats (the user will have to do that him/herself), but we can provide users with the information law enforcement will request from them,” Twitter’s Nu Wexler said.

Tuesday’s update is the latest in a series of steps the social network has recently taken to combat threats and abuse on its platform. The company has come under increasing scrutiny for its failure to effectively deal with these issues, which the recent Gamergate debacle brought into sharp focus.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told employees in an internal memo, which was later leaked to the media, that the company needs to fix how it handles issues of trolling and abuse on the platform. Last December, the company introduced better reporting tools, and just last week the site updated its privacy guidelines to address revenge porn.

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Twitter’s Opening its First Office in Dubai

Twitter has announced that it’s opening an office in Dubai. The social network is tremendously popular in the Middle East, and will look to increase its ad sales and partnerships in the region with its new outpost.

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Shailesh Rao, vice president of Asia Pacific, Latin America and Emerging Markets made the announcement of its first office in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit today.

Said Rao, “MENA is a key strategic market for us and our new Dubai office will serve as the focal point to help our development across the region.

“Dubai is a regional hub for many brands and advertising agencies and we are excited to build a team on the ground here who can work with partners directly, helping them get the most out of Twitter.”

It’s possible that the company might also work with television channels and producers to boost its presence in the region. Rao said, “TV was a significant catalyst — we saw a 200 percent increase in TV conversations between 2013 and 2014.”

Twitter has been experimenting with a second-screen experience for TV shows, and could certainly find an audience for it there.

The social network initially began selling ads on its network in 2013, after it signed on Connect Ads in Cairo as a representative in the Middle East. With roughly six million users in the region, there’s a lot of ground for Twitter to gain with a dedicated sales team.

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