Facebook’s Messenger Platform Adds New Ways to Connect With Friends & Businesses

facebook f8One of the main announcements from Facebook’s F8 Conference yesterday was the launch of Facebook’s new Messenger Platform, which will open the Messenger SDK to third-party apps and services, as well as a new customer service initiative that allows customers connect with businesses directly over Facebook Messenger.

Users will be able to access third-party Messenger content apps via a button next to the options for adding photos or stickers. Using these apps, users can create custom GIFs, videos, and other personalized content and send their creations to friends and family through Messenger. The recipient will receive a link to download or open the third-party app to view and respond to the message with their own content. Facebook’s David Marcus emphasized that the content apps will not be included within Facebook Messenger, but will remain standalone apps that link to Messenger:

“If we added a 10th of the capabilities [directly to Messenger] that we’ve added with partners today, it would make it really slow… If you don’t want to use those things, you’re not forced to… because those experiences don’t live inside of Messenger. It’s not like the overall experience of the app is getting very bloated.”

The Messenger platform will launch with support for a wide range of popular apps, including ESPN, Bitmoji, JibJab, Legend, Ultratest, Ditty, Giphy, FlipLip, ClipDis, Memes, PicCollage, Kanvas, Action Mobile FX, Boostr, Camoji, Cleo Video Texting, Clips, Dubsmash, Effectify, EmotionAR, EMU, Fotor, Gif Keyboard, GifJam, Hook’d, Imgur, Imoji, Keek, Magisto, Meme Generator, Noah Camera, Pic Stitch, PingTank, Score on Friends, Selfied, Shout, StayFilm, Facebook Stickered, Strobe, Tackl, Talking Tom, Tempo, The Weather Channel, to.be Camera, and Wordeo. More apps will undoubtedly follow as developers have a chance to experiment with the SDK.

Facebook also hopes to improve interaction between customers and businesses by bringing the intuitive Messenger experience to the marketplace. Facebook has partnered with businesses like Zulily and Everlane to allow customers to cancel, modify, and track orders directly within Messenger. Integration with ZenDesk and other customer service platforms will let businesses to respond to customer inquiries through Messenger as well. In addition, businesses will be able to send push notifications to consumers’ devices, even if the business itself does not have its own app.

Although no monetization strategy has been announced for Messenger’s new business features, it’s likely that the information Facebook gleans from these customer-to-business interactions, such as where users shop and what products they buy, will allow for improved ad targeting, perhaps leading to more profits from Facebook’s ad platform down the line.

All in all, the improvements to Messenger seem to confirm that Facebook is continuing its efforts to differentiate from the competition and protect its substantial market share. The emphasis they’re placing on keeping third-party functionality separate from the core Messenger app also coincides with Facebook’s gradual transition from an all-in-one app to multiple apps for specific functionalities.

What do you think of Facebook’s F8 announcements? Which of Messenger’s new features are you excited to try out?

TweetDeck rolls out New Teams Feature

tweetdeck logoI prefer to access my various Twitter accounts thru the TweetDeck web interface. It organizes all of the different accounts and their associated streams very well, and it makes it much easier and more enjoyable to use Twitter.

Today, TweetDeck announced a new “Teams” feature, which will allow multiple users to access the same Twitter accounts but those users won’t need to share passwords in order to log in. From the Twitter blog, linked above:

TweetDeck Teams is a simple solution to Twitter account sharing. It enables you to delegate access to as many people as you like, and remove accounts when they no longer need access.

TweetDeck Teams works by having the owner (Admin) of one Twitter account create a team inside of TweetDeck and from there, that owner can add other users (Contributors). Those users confirm their place on the team thru an e-mail invitation. Account owners can also remove team members anytime. More from the Twitter blog:

Admins are users who sign in to TweetDeck with their personal account. As an admin, the user can Tweet from the account (plus build lists, follow or unfollow accounts, send Tweets and schedule Tweets), add or remove team members and view the team. An admin cannot access the account off of TweetDeck or change the credentials or password.

And contributors are those people who can Tweet from and act as the account (plus build lists, follow or unfollow accounts, send Tweets and schedule Tweets). Contributors cannot view, add or remove team members, and can not access the account outside of TweetDeck.

[Read more…]

Jigsie Is A Fun New Social Network At CES

jigsie logo

Living abroad, I’m always on the lookout for innovative new ways to communicate with friends and family back home, beyond your ordinary old social networks. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Jigsie, a fun new social app with a twist.

Jamie and Nick spoke to Paolo Farrari, CEO of Bella Technologia, about the app. Jigsie is a social app that turns your photos into personalized digital jigsaw puzzles that you can send to your friends and family. With options to add info like location, calendar dates, and more to your “Jigs”, the possibilities are endless with Jigsie.

Jigsie is available for free now for iOS and Android.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Businessfriend is Where Professionals Collaborate at CES

BusinessFriend logoLove ’em or hate ’em, social networks are here to stay. Over the years, many companies have entered this market. Networks like Facebook want to connect everyone, while networks like LinkedIn are aimed at business users. A new network called Businessfriend hopes to bridge the gap between the personal and professional social network.

Scott met with Glenn from Businessfriend. Glenn explained that Businessfriend is a “one-stop shop” for social networking and collaboration tools. Businessfriend users can do standard social-network stuff like follow the feeds of friends, colleagues and brands. But Businessfriend users can also access tools like instant messaging, video chat, audio chat and cloud-based document collaboration. Best of all, Businessfriend is one app that can be accessed via desktop computers or iOS and Android mobile apps, allowing users to connect no matter what platform they’re on.

Interview by Scott of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Schneider Optics Interchangeable Lenses

Schneider LogoDigital pictures and cameras on smartphones have changed the photography beyond recognition in the last twenty years and the quality of the imagery is such that innovative filmmakers are using iPhones to record footage. One restriction remains and that is the lens itself; there’s only one and it’s fixed in place. There’s no swapping in a macro lens, though Schneider Optics might have a solution. Todd finds out more from Don.

Schneider Optics iPro Lens systems provides a selection of high quality optical lenses for Apple iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S4, including macro, wide-angle, super wide, tele and fisheye. The system works by fitting the smartphone itself into a case and then mounting the lens onto the case with a bayonet connector to ensure the best possible optical alignment. The smallest offset can lead to aberrations and a loss of picture quality, which the iPro Lens case and lens combination avoids.

The iPro Lens is available now for the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus variant will be on sale shortly. Lenses cost from $39 to $99, the case is $31 and there are kits available too.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Zolt Charger Plus Is Ready For Your Power-Hungry Devices at CES

Zolt logoRemember a time when all you needed to worry about was keeping the battery in your laptop charged? Now, there’s the laptop battery, smartphone, Bluetooth headset, camera… the list goes on. What to do when you’re on the go and all of these devices start giving the low-battery warning? Plug those power-hungry monsters into the new Charger Plus from Zolt.

Chris had a chance to speak with Steve Gibson from Zolt. Steve explained how Charger Plus can be used to charge a laptop computer, using a special USB cable plugged into the top USB port of the charger, leaving the second port free to charge another device. Charger Plus will ship with adapters that work with most of the popular laptops on the market. (A special adapter for MacBooks will be sold separately.)

Charger Plus is available for preorder now at $79.99. It will have a full retail release early summer at $99.99.

Interview by Chris Davis for the TechPodcast Network.

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ShotTracker Basketball Performance at CES

ShotTracker Logo

Sports such as running and cycling have been well supplied for several years with monitoring and tracking devices to record and improve performance. At this year’s CES, several other sports have become connected, including tennis with the Babolat Play racket and here basketball with the ShotTracker. Jamie and Todd chat to Davyeon Ross, Co-Founder of ShotTracker.

ShotTracker is made of 3 components: a wrist sensor, a net sensor and the ShotTracker App. The wrist sensor and net sensor work together to track shots: when a player shoots, the wrist sensor sends a signal that a shot was attempted and the net sensor sends a signal indicating if the ball made it into the basket. Both signals are sent to the mobile device via Bluetooth where the ShotTracker app keeps track of the player’s shooting stats. The wrist sensor fits into sweat band or sleeve to go on the player and the net sensor clips onto the net.

The app shows statistics (shots, makes and misses), gives workouts and helps identify on-court weaknesses. Data from multiple ShotTrackers can be aggregated into a coaching version of the ShotTracker app, giving a team view. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

The ShotTracker starter kit is on sale now for $149 from the store.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly andTodd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Upp Fuel Cell at CES

Beupp LogoWhile USB battery packs are ubiquitous, they’re only any good if there’s somewhere to charge the battery pack in the first place. If there’s no electrical supply, options can be limited but with Intelligent Energy‘s new hydrogen fuel cell, Upp, there’s one more option available. Todd and Jamie get enthused with Julian Hughes of Intelligent Energy.

The Upp fuel call consists of a hydrogen micro generator and reusable fuel cartridge. One fuel cartridge gives approximately five full smartphone charges and is approved for carriage in aircraft. Each cartridge has a shelf-life of nine years, making it perfect for storage for emergencies. As it’s a fuel cell, not a battery, it doesn’t need charged from the electricity. Once turned on, the Upp with power devices at 1A via a full size USB port.

When spent the fuel cartridges can be recharged with hydrogen and extra cartridges can prolong time off grid. It’s perfect for those on long hiking trips or for those involved in emergency disaster relief.

The Upp is available in the UK for £149 including one cartridge. Additional cartridges are £49 and recharges costs £5.95. The Upp is expected to come to the US later in the year.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Ello, Ello? Is there anybody NOT on there?

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By now you’ve probably at least heard about Ello. It’s the new “Anti-Facebook” social network. No ads, no name policies and well, no privacy either.

The simple platform is still in beta but over the past few days, the site has exploded, as users hand out invites to pretty much everyone. I signed up about a 16 days ago and there weren’t too many users at the time, relatively speaking. Very few that I knew, and a couple of celebs. It’s always interesting to see celebs post on a new network and have NO comments. However, Ello gained a
ton of traction following Facebook’s latest push to ban people not using real names. The drag queen nation led the march out of town, as most don’t use their birth names for performing. Following in their high heeled footsteps, were many other performers and people who feel safer using a pseudonym. Ello has no rule (as of yet) about what name you choose, so many people started going there.

What you find when you get there, however, is nothing like Facebook. It’s very bleak, very simple, and a little clunky at this point. There are no “Likes” or hearts or anything to indicate your agreement with a post, other than a comment box. The other thing to remember when you post – EVERYTHING YOU POST IS PUBLIC. You have a friend list and a “Noise” list, but what you post doesn’t go to just one list or the other, it goes to everyone who can look up your username. Ello has released a notice that more privacy settings are coming, including ways to block, and flag people. Also private messaging is supposedly on the way.

Something else that’s a little foreign to people who are used to the Facebook comment threads, is the way you’re notified (or not notified) when someone @’s you. You get an email. There doesn’t seem to be a way to find your mentions any other way, apart from reading every comment and post. And speaking of email notifications.. Ugh. My inbox over the past few days, has been nearly nothing but “so and so is now following you” messages from Ello. Most are people I don’t know, and I’m assuming a ton of them are spam or bots already.

But it’s not all bad. You can post large images (which I like), you can post animated gifs (which some people won’t like) and do some formatting with your text.  The simplicity is also sort of nice, compared to the million settings in Facebook and things Google makes you opt out of if you don’t like it on G+. The thing to keep in mind, is that Ello is still very new, and not even public yet. We’ll see if it survives liftoff or dies before the engines even fire.

You can find me at @thelangley on Ello.

Promoted Pins are Coming to Pinterest

Pinterest logoIt was only a matter of time. Pinterest is going to start adding Promoted Pins into their website. This idea has been floating around since May of this year but has not gone into effect across all of Pinterest yet. The Promoted Pins are intended to be “tasteful, transparent, relevant and improved based on your feedback”.

Pinterest is going to update their Privacy Policy on October 19, 2014. You can view what that update will include right now. These changes will only affect Pinterest users in the United States.

There are changes coming to how Pinterest uses the data it collects from Pinners. Most notably, they will start showing users ads that “you might be interested in”. Another change says: “Online advertisers typically use third party companies to audit the delivery and performance of their ads on websites and apps. We also allow these companies to collect this information on Pinterest”.

Would you like to opt-out of having Pinterest share your information with online advertisers? They suggest that you can do that by opting-out of Google Analytics by installing Google’s Browser Opt-Out Add-On. Or, you can change your account settings by shifting two boxes from “Yes” to “No”.

Opt Out of Promoted Pins

Pinterest notes a few things you should be aware of. The Promoted Pins can include “a pixel or similar technology” that can be used by companies to find out how well their Promoted Tweets are doing.