ProBeat: Facebook sits on Snapchat

You know when you’re wrestling someone significantly bigger and you realize they can simply sit on you? It doesn’t matter what Snap is scheming, Facebook this week showed that it has figured out how to throw its weight around. Instagram announced yesterday that Stories is now used by 200 million people daily. The latest figure we…

AI Weekly: VB Messenger bot, DeepMind, Dropbox, and more

Here’s this week’s newsletter: VentureBeat today announced the launch of a personalized news bot for Facebook Messenger, which follows the release of our voicebot for Google Home. What sets the VB Messenger bot apart from other news bots are its built-in learning and intelligence. The VB bot observes readers’ behavior and continuously updates their profiles…

Facebook’s F8 plans include camera effects platform, offline Instagram

 What will Facebook launch next week at its F8 conference? The schedule reveals plans to give Instagram offline features that are already in testing, opening its Camera Effects Platform to developers so they can create more powerful photo and video overlays for people to use, and a Places Graph for developers to do more with…

Instagram Stories now used by 200 million people daily, gets new creative tools

Instagram is seeing continued growth in the number of people using its Snapchat Stories-like feature. Four months after launching, the company revealed that 150 million people were using Instagram Stories daily. And four months later, that number has grown to 200 million. Although Instagram said that 200 million people use the stories feature every day,…

VentureBeat’s personalized news bot is now available on Messenger

VentureBeat today announced that its personalized news bot is now available on Facebook Messenger. What sets the VB Messenger bot apart from other news bots are its built-in learning and intelligence. The VB bot observes readers’ behavior and continuously updates their profiles based on their interests to deliver personalized news feeds. Over time, as readers’…

A top engineer at Twitter left the company last month

Here’s one that slipped through the cracks. Chris Pinkham, who joined Twitter two years ago as vice president of engineering, has left the social networking company. Pinkham is well-known in tech circles as one of the creators of the early Amazon cloud computing service more than a decade ago. Amazon Web Services is now a…

Facebook Messenger passes 1.2 billion monthly active users

Less than a week before Facebook holds its 2017 F8 developer conference, the company has revealed that more than 1.2 billion people use Messenger every month. This is a 20 percent increase from July 2016, when the app first passed the 1 billion mark. It’s also 64 percent of Facebook’s 1.68 billion monthly users, a…

Facebook Messenger hits 1.2 billion monthly users, up from 1B in July

 Normally adding 200 million users in 8 months to a product that already has a billion would reduce the average engagement, but most apps don’t have Facebook Messenger’s network effect. Now with 1.2 billion monthly active users, “we increased engagement massively in terms of number of messages sent per active user. We had double-digit growth percentage-wise&#8221……

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 won’t have the Bixby voice assistant until this spring

Bad news for those interested in testing out Bixby voice assistant with the Samsung Galaxy S8 later this month: It won’t be immediately available. While other key features of the artificial intelligent assistant will be available such as vision, home, and reminder, the voice-enabled service will be absent until this spring, and only for those in the…

Facebook adds group payments to Messenger

Facebook is moving beyond peer-to-peer payments in Messenger with the addition of group payments. Now you don’t have to pay your friends individually, just tap on the plus sign in the bottom left-hand corner of a group conversation, select the payments icon, enter the amount per person or the total sum to be divided evenly,…

Facebook Messenger now supports group payments

 Facebook introduced person-to-person payments within Messenger in early 2015, but today the company announced the feature is expanding to support groups, as well. The payments feature essentially works the same in group chats as in private ones, but now allows users to pay either everyone in the group or individual members through a click of the payments…

Instagram Direct unites ephemeral and permanent messaging for 375M users

 After successfully cloning Snapchat Stories, Instagram is looking to one-up its competitor in chat with a reimagining of its sleeping giant of a private messaging feature, Instagram Direct. Rolling out today to everyone, Instagram Direct will now combine disappearing ephemeral photo and video messages with traditional permanent text and image messages in the same one-on-one…

Instagram: Direct Inbox is now used by 375 million people

Four years ago, Instagram introduced Direct, its private messaging feature and on Tuesday, the Facebook-owned company announced that 375 million people are using it. In addition, Direct is getting an update that merges the sections containing your normal messages with the ephemeral ones with the goal of making it easier for you to communicate with…

Twitter lets brands create custom hearts within Periscope broadcasts

Twitter is giving brands a bit more creative freedom when it comes to live video. The company announced the launch of Custom Hearts, a program whereby broadcasters will be able to customize the hearts within their Periscope livestream so it matches their brand. The new reactions are not supplanting the existing hearts and having them…

Microsoft announces Minecraft Marketplace for buying third-party content

Microsoft has announced a new Minecraft Marketplace is coming, allowing fans of the popular sandbox block-building game to purchase add-ons developed by third-party creators. Players have previously been able to buy digital goods for Minecraft that were developed in-house and sold via an online store, while some third-parties have sold add-ons via their own portals, but with restrictions. The new official Minecraft…

Facebook has more than 5 million advertisers, with 75% from outside the U.S.

Facebook marks another milestone in showing its prowess in helping businesses reach new customers. The social media company announced on Monday that it now counts more than 5 million active advertisers, a 1 million increase in the past seven months. Three quarters of these advertisers are outside the U.S. and the biggest verticals are e-commerce,…

Samsung’s $150 million bet to find the next big startup

Samsung is no stranger to the world of venture capital — it ranked as one of the most active corporate-backed venture firms in 2016. But at the beginning of this year, the company underwent a transformation, launching a new $150 million fund to spend on emerging-tech startups. Called Samsung NEXT, this new investment vehicle is…

Airbnb bans host after guest’s reservation was cancelled over race

An Airbnb host in California has been banned from the service after reportedly cancelling a reservation at the last minute due to the guest’s race. An Airbnb spokesperson told Fortune that the host had been permanently removed from the platform. “This behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable,” the company wrote in an email. Dyne Suh, a…

Facebook now lets you watch Messenger Day stories on Messenger.com

Last month, Facebook continued its rollout of Snapchat’s stories features across its properties, adding it to Messenger. But while many paid attention to its addition to the iOS and Android apps, the social media company has also added it to Messenger.com, the web-version of the popular chat app. The experience on Messenger.com is markedly different…

Some people are saying Facebook Messenger looks like iMessage now

Yesterday Facebook made a pretty significant update to its Messenger app for messaging and voice and video calls: It finally started letting people access its M virtual assistant in conversations. But there’s more to it than that. Facebook also adjusted the design of the app in a way that makes Messenger look like Apple’s Messages…

Peter Fenton is leaving Twitter’s board of directors

 Benchmark partner Peter Fenton, who had been on Twitter’s board since 2009, will not seek re-election after his term expires in 2016 according to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. To be sure, Fenton was expected to depart the company’s board once his term expires according to reports going back to when…

Facebook adds call-to-action buttons to Instant Articles

Facebook’s Instant Articles opened up to all publishers nearly a year ago, but the mobile viewing product was very much read-only. Publishers didn’t really have a native way to support converting readers into something more, like subscribers. On Friday, the social media company launched call-to-action units with the goal of providing a “more direct line…

Otonomo raises $25 million to help connected-car makers monetize their data

Otonomo, a cloud-based platform that pulls together car manufacturers, app developers, and other service providers to leverage data generated from connected vehicles, has raised another $25 million in “strategic” funding. The round was led by automotive supplier Delphi Automotive, with participation from existing investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, StageOne Ventures, and Maniv Mobility. Founded out of Israel…

Skype’s real-time voice translation tool now works in Japanese

Microsoft is expanding its real-time Skype translation tool for spoken word into Japanese, its tenth language. The software giant first introduced Skype Translator in English and Spanish back in 2014, and it has since expanded into a number of additional languages, including Mandarin, Italian, Russian, and Arabic. In a nutshell, Skype Translator leverages artificial intelligence…

Hands-on with Apple’s Clips: Simple and fun video editing, only for iOS

Today Apple released its latest app, Clips. It’s an answer to Snapchat and Instagram’s rapid and generally unimportant but absolutely modern systems for recording, editing, and sharing photo-video mashups. Do you need to use it when you have Instagram or Snapchat? No. Is it more understandable those other apps? At this point, I think so….

Twitter refuses to release identity of @alt_uscis, had sought verification status in January

The pseudonymous Twitter @alt_uscis account, whose true identity is being sought by the Trump Administration, contacted Twitter in January to ask about verification for #altgov accounts, VentureBeat has learned. What’s more, VentureBeat has learned of a coordinated effort by the operators of #altgov accounts to protect their anonymity. Two operators of #altgov accounts and a source close…

Lyft reportedly raises $500 million

Lyft has reportedly raised a new round of funding to fund its on-demand ride hailing service. It’s believed that investors have put in $500 million more into the company’s coffers, probably invigorated by its recent market growth and Uber’s stumbles. A Lyft spokesperson declined to comment. And while the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal…

Facebook Messenger’s AI “M” suggests features to use based on your convos

 Write “You owe me $20” and Messenger will suggest you use its payments feature. If someone says “goodbye”, Messenger will recommend a “bye-bye” GIF. That’s how Facebook’s new M Suggestions work. Facebook’s artificial intelligence assistant will privately interject these recommendations above the message composer in your Messenger… Read More

Facebook Messenger gets M assistant-powered suggested responses

For more than 1 billion people, Thursday will be the first time they will experience Facebook’s M assistant on their terms. The social media company is launching suggested responses within its Messenger app, meaning that relevant “actions” will be proffered within conversations to make them “more engaging and personalizable.” This feature is available on iOS…

One in five Facebook videos is Live as it seizes the verb

 While most people still aren’t sure what to broadcast, and some have misused the format for unsavory or criminal purposes, Facebook now says one-fifth of the videos share on its network are now Live videos. It’s also seen Live broadcasting grow 4X in the past year, according to Facebook’s head of video Fidji Simo. This…

Facebook puts link to 10 tips for spotting ‘false news’ atop feed

 Today Facebook begins fighting misinformation with news literacy education, in addition to product features. This week, users in 14 countries, including the U.S., will see an alert above the News Feed several times over the next few days that links them to Facebook’s Help Center where they can read “Tips to Spot False News.” Read…

Twitter simplifies API platform, publishes 2017 developer roadmap

Twitter wants you to know that it hasn’t given up on developers and that it’s charging forward with efforts to make it easier for them to build applications on its platform. Today, the company announced a more “unified” API platform, which it said came about through feedback gleaned from its #HelloWorld tour last year. Now…

Twitter releases ‘lite’ version for emerging markets

Twitter has introduced Twitter Lite, a mobile browser-friendly version that caters to people who have to worry about slow mobile networks, expensive data plans, or lack of storage on their device. This compact version follows efforts by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others to improve accessibility to users worldwide, especially in emerging markets. Twitter Lite has been optimized for…

You can now draw with a thicker brush in Snapchat

 Yesterday Snapchat tweaked their drawing tool so you can draw thicker lines on your snapsterpieces. To change your brush size all you have to do is select a color to draw with, then use two fingers to “pinch” in or out to make the brush size bigger or smaller. It’s exactly the same motion you’d use…

Microsoft launches “Who’s In,” a social event planning app for iMessage

 Microsoft’s name isn’t exactly synonymous with social networking, though that hasn’t stopped the company from finding angles into this space – generally, with more of a focus on the business side of socializing, as with its LinkedIn and Yammer acquisitions. It’s own efforts in social, meanwhile, have failed, as with last month’s shuttering of its social……

Netflix ditches 5-star rating system for thumbs-up and thumbs-down

We knew it was coming, but Netflix is finally beginning to replace its old five-star rating system with a simple thumbs-up and thumbs-down button. The move mirrors other similar online content companies such as Spotify, and is designed to solicit more feedback from its users, while alleviating confusion about how the rating system actually works. Contrary…

Twitter lets brands use location data in direct messages

Twitter has launched a new tool for brands to use when interacting with customers. Within direct messages, businesses can now ask for or share location data, which should help guide people to nearby retail stores. This feature is available through Twitter’s developer program to partners offering customer service tools for brands. Above: Twitter now lets brands…

SoundCloud for iOS gets Chromecast support

SoundCloud has updated its iOS app with support for Google Chromecast. The company previously only allowed casting through its Android app, but has extended it and added new features along the way. “With SoundCloud and Google Chromecast, you can stream everything you want, the way you want, through your TV and speakers,” SoundCloud wrote in…

How Stories Search makes Snapchat a real-time YouTube

 Snapchat is shifting from a social network limited to content shared by people you follow to an ephemeral, real-time database of what’s going on now everywhere. Today Snapchat launched Search for Stories submitted to its public Our Stories. It makes Snapchat as deep as whatever the world is sharing, creating near-infinite rabbit holes to go…

Snapchat launches search for stories, rolling out now in select cities

The battle over Stories continues with Snap releasing an update for its ephemeral messaging app that now lets you search across stories. Rolling out city by city, the company claims it has built a way to “understand what’s happening in Snaps that are submitted to Our Story, and to create new Stories using advanced machine…

Twitter ditches default profile photo in bid to reduce anonymity

Twitter users that have resisted uploading a profile picture will start to see a change today as the company is ditching its default egg image in place of something less creative. After seven years, Twitter wants you to be more expressive in your profile, while perhaps subtlety reducing the number of people who troll the…

Snapchat now lets you search across over 1 million Stories

 Snapchat has opened up search across over 1 million curated public Stories, with a new feature release that could be a very helpful tool not only for users, but for advertisers, too. The search feature allows users to find Stories relevant to their interest by keyword, from a large number shared publicly by users and…

Soon your pizza will be ordered, made, and delivered through robots

ANALYSIS: In the not-too-distant future, your pizza will be ordered through robots, made by robots, and delivered by robots. Earlier this week, Domino’s revealed a new pilot project in a handful of Dutch and German cities to use automated ground drones to deliver food within a one-mile radius of select stores, thanks to a tie-up…

Facebook now lets all pages share branded content

Nearly six months after granting verified pages and profiles the ability to share branded content, Facebook is expanding the service to everyone. Now any page admin can apply to receive access to the tool, which enables any post with text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos, and live videos to add a third-party marketing spin….

Twitter stops counting @ Replies towards its 140 characters on web and mobile

 Nearly a year ago, Twitter announced it would begin distancing itself from the requirement that all tweets could only contain 140 characters by no longer counting some things – like media attachments or @ replies towards the character count. However, it didn’t begin testing the change with @ replies until last fall. Today, Twitter says…

Facebook will launch group chatbots at F8

 Facebook will reveal at its F8 conference a new class of group bots that work inside Messenger group chats. These group bots can keep users informed about real-time news such as a sports game’s progress, ecommerce deliveries, and more, according to three sources familiar with the development of the feature. Facebook is already working with…

Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope gets an analytics dashboard

 Trying to figure out this whole live video broadcasting thing? Good news! Periscope, the Twitter-owned live-broadcasting app, picked up a new trick this morning: a shiny new analytics dashboard. It’s not the most groundbreaking thing in the world, but it makes sense. Making a successful live video on the internet — particularly one that doesn’t…

First look at Samsung’s Bixby assistant

In the world of artificial intelligent assistants, you’re perhaps most familiar with Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Amazon Alexa. Samsung wants to be counted in that list and today formally introduced Bixby, a service designed to simplify your life and help manage your connected devices. News of the AI assistant had been previously released, but…

Facebook tests a second News Feed headed by a rocket ship icon

 Facebook’s launch of Stories may be the social network’s big news of the week, but some Facebook users have spotted another addition, and are thoroughly confused. A “rocket ship” icon has popped up in the app of select users worldwide, adjacent to the News Feed button. Its appearance is prompting a lot of users to…

The 5 best U.S. cities for women in tech

What do Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., Baltimore, Indianapolis, and New Orleans have in common? According to a recent report, they’re the best places to be if you’re a woman in tech. To conduct its annual Best Cities for Women in Tech report, Smart Asset, a New York-based financial technology company, analyzed data from the…

Facebook pivots into Stories

 In its biggest change in a decade, Facebook is evolving from text and link-focused sharing to the visual communication format its admits “Snapchat has really pioneered”. Starting today, all users will soon have access to the new Facebook Camera feature that lets them overlay special effects on photos and videos. They can then share this…

Facebook Stories looks like an ill-fitting mask

 Facebook has finally capped off its strategy of cloning Snapchat’s USP by slotting a camera-first, ephemeral multimedia sharing feature into its entire social sharing estate. Read More

Twitter brings pre-roll ads to Periscope live videos

Twitter is doing more to help broadcasters better monetize their Periscope live videos. The company announced that it is extending its pre-roll ads, which previously only were for videos on Twitter, to Periscope. This feature will initially be available to advertisers through custom Amplify packages, but will be more accessible “in the coming months.” Coming…

Tinder Online is a new web version of the dating app

 Tinder is today introducing a new way for users to access the platform with the launch of Tinder Online, a web-optimized version of the dating app so people can Tinder at their desktops. Tinder Online still requires that you sign on to your account through Facebook, and it doesn’t include any of Tinder’s revenue features…

Facebook brings Snapchat Stories to its flagship app

Four years ago, the company formerly known as Snapchat turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. Since then, numerous efforts have been made by Facebook to copy the ephemeral messaging app. Eventually a breakthrough happened and the company found its momentum, bringing the Snapchat Stories feature to not only Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook…

Tinder is testing a Matches Up For feature

Tinder is testing a new feature called “Matches Up For…” that lets singles set a status to indicate they are interested in meeting up for a specific activity. The company confirmed with us that the feature is not a permanent addition, meaning not all users currently have the experiment and it may not be here…

Snap shares surge as banks give flurry of ‘buy’ ratings

(Reuters) – Shares of Snap jumped nearly 5 percent on Monday after several of the Snapchat owner’s IPO underwriters handed it badly needed “buy” ratings. Snap’s listing on March 1 was the largest by a technology firm in three years but trading has been volatile, with many investors critical of decelerating user growth. Snap has warned…

Facebook Messenger now lets you share your location, but only for 1 hour

Facebook apparently isn’t done adding new features to Messenger in the weeks leading up to its F8 developer conference. The social media company announced today that Messenger now supports live locations, meaning that you can share your location with friends to help meet up in real life. Sharing lasts up to 60 minutes and can be terminated…

Stories are the new News Feed

 If the camera is the new keyboard, then the future of social media will look more like a slideshow than a Word document. So while Snapchat invented Stories, we’ll have to get used to using them everywhere. Read More

ProBeat: Dear Twitter, bring back TweetDeck for Android and iOS

I have never been a fan of Twitter — I still honestly have a love-hate relationship with the service — but TweetDeck was the exception. Having the app on my phone was incredibly powerful. It’s probably the main reason that I grudgingly caved and joined the flock. The Twitter mobile apps have always been horribly…

Facebook to start testing GIFs in comments

During a Facebook Live event in December, Mark Zuckerberg indicated that more support for animated GIFs would be coming to the social network, this time within the comment thread. VentureBeat has learned that on Monday, the company will begin testing this feature out to a “small percentage” of people, thereby making it easier to be…

Facebook finally tests a GIF button for comments

 After years of stubborn caution, Facebook is finally embracing the animated GIF. Next week Facebook will begin testing a GIF button that lets users post GIFs from services like Giphy and Tenor as comments, a source told TechCrunch. We inquired with Facebook, which confirmed the GIF test is coming with this statement: “Everyone loves a…

Facebook Messenger adds support for reactions and @mentions

Facebook is making conversations within Messenger more dynamic and interactive. Starting today, you’ll be able to post a reaction to specific messages and also receive notifications when someone mentions you in a chat. These features will also be available for teams using Facebook’s Workplace Work Chat service. More than 300 billion reactions have been shared…

Instagram begins blurring some sensitive content, opens two-factor to all

 Instagram is already doing a lot to spot and censor posts that violate its community guidelines, like outright porn, but now it’s also taking steps to block out potentially sensitive material that might not technically run afoul of its rules. The social network is adding a blurred screen with a “Sensitive Content” warning on top…

Facebook tests an enhanced local search and discovery feature offering business suggestions

 Facebook is testing an enhanced local search feature that could see the social network creeping in on Google Maps, Foursquare and Yelp territory, TechCrunch learned and Facebook confirmed. Facebook users are now able to surface recommendations of nearby places – like “dinner nearby” or “bars nearby,” for example  – by entering a query in… Read More

Facebook Live adds PC game and desktop livestreaming

 Facebook is taking a swing at Twitch while also one-upping its mobile livestreaming video competitors. Today, all users can go Live directly from Facebook’s desktop website via their webcam, stream through professional equipment and software hooked up to a desktop, and broadcast gameplay from their computer. Previously, Facebook had only allowed Pages to stream from…

Coffee Meets Bagel launches premium membership for $35 per month

Dating app Coffee Meets Bagel today launched a premium membership for $34.99 per month. The option is rolling out to Android users today and to iOS users “in the next few weeks.” Coffee Meets Bagel has offered in-app purchases from the very start (coffee beans are the in-app currency to unlock various features), but in…

LinkedIn launches trending news section

LinkedIn is launching trending topics, highlighting what’s most popular and relevant to your professional world. Officially called Trending Storylines, it’s an additional feed you can access showing you curated and interest-based content, pulled from your network, publishers, and human editors within LinkedIn. This is not going to replace your existing news feed, but complements it….

Twitter uses software to ban 377,000 accounts advocating violence

(Reuters) – Twitter said on Tuesday it had stepped up efforts to rid its social network of posts from users advocating political or religious violence, and was increasingly using software to find them rather than relying on reports from users or governments. U.S. and European governments have been pressuring social media companies including Twitter, Facebook and…

Reddit adds user profiles to morph into a real social network

Reddit, long centered around communities, is finally giving face time to the individual users. Reuters reports that Reddit is joining the ranks of the “big” social media sites like Twitter and Facebook with the addition of user profiles. Redditors will be able to start threads directly on their profile, which they will moderate themselves. Other…

Twitter’s Producer API lets you stream live videos without connecting to Periscope

Twitter is making its Periscope Producer service more accessible with the launch of an API. Available in private beta, this tool enables developers and broadcasters to stream live video through their computer, camera, Xbox, virtual reality headset, or any non-phone device without needing to connect directly through the Periscope app. Early partners already signed up…

YouTube’s plan to protect advertisers from controversial videos: stricter enforcement and more control for brands

Google has given a little more insight into how it plans to help brands avoid appearing alongside controversial videos on YouTube. The internet giant has faced growing criticism for making money off ads that run against videos associated with terrorist group sympathizers among other so-called hate groups, with brands often unaware or unable to control the ad placements. At…

SoftBank invests $300 million in shared-office space startup WeWork

(Reuters) — SoftBank Group Corp has invested $300 million in shared-office space company WeWork, the first installment of a multi-billion-dollar bet, according to a source familiar with the matter. SoftBank, the Japanese telecommunications and internet company, has made bold and wide-ranging bets in the technology industry, including India ride-service company Ola, San Francisco-based financial services…

Lyft acquires and shuts down Q&A startup FinitePath

Lyft has acquired the team behind social service FinitePath in a bid to improve its large scale infrastructure and services. The move comes as the on-demand ride sharing service has been rather aggressive in its expansion, launching in more than 100 new markets this year. The hiring of Balaji Raghavan and Vinay Kakade could be…

Twitter launching Live video API tomorrow

 Twitter is about to make it much easier for media publishers to post live video broadcasts with the launch of a live video API tomorrow morning. The API will let companies hook up professional broadcasting and video editing equipment to Twitter with more powerful integrations than Twitter’s existing Periscope Producer feature. The forthcoming API was…