This is The Download, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.
F8 2018 day 1 recap
Facebook held the first day of its F8 developers conference today, here’s what you need to know.
Facebook building Clear History feature to let users stop collected browsing history, app usage from being associated with account
Facebook users will soon be able to opt out of the company being able to collect and use people’s web browsing history, which the company sues to sell targeted ads.
The company collects this data thanks to web and app developers that use Facebook’s software plugins, which send data back to Menlo Park.
The company uses this data for a variety of reasons, most notably to target you with ads. For example, if you’re looking for a pair of shoes at Nordstorm and don’t buy them, Facebook can then show you an ad for those same shoes on Facebook.
As part of the site’s upcoming “clear history” feature, users can delete their browsing data from Facebook’s data or ask the company not to collect it at all. According to a spokesperson for the company, the data could still be retained anonymously in an aggregated set for companies that use Facebook for analytics purposes but it wouldn’t be tied to your profile or used for targeting. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can’t opt out of this data collection.
If you choose to simply delete the data rather than opting out entirely, it won’t be deleted instantaneously. Facebook will still retain that information for a short time after instructing the company to delete it. However, it will still be much shorter than the two-year time limit that the company currently holds onto that data at 90 days.
Facebook takes on Tinder with new dating features
Facebook is adding a dating layer to its main mobile app. The features are a long time coming, since the platform has allowed users to broadcast whether they’re single or in a relationship since first going live in February 2004.
The move will likely pit Facebook into a competitor of Match Group, which owns and operates sites like OkCupid and Tinder.
“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships – not just for hookups. We have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning. Your friends aren’t going to see your profile, and you’re only going to be suggested to people who are not your friends.”
Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO
Facebook product chief Chris Cox shedded some more light on the new dating features and to give the audience a tour of the design. The profiles look similar to mobile-focused dating apps like Tinder or Bumble with full-page profile photos. However, Facebook focuses more on community with its approach with integrations for the events and groups you’re part of on the site.
Cox also mentioned “unlocking,” a feature that will let any user of Facebook’s dating platform make his or her profile visible to other attendees of events or group members. From there, messaging happens in distinct chat threads separate from Facebook Messenger. According to Cox, Facebook will announce more information, including a release date and rollout information, later this year after a testing phase.
Messenger updated with chat translations, AR features, simplified UI
Facebook will begin rolling out chat translation within Messenger through its M Suggestions assistant.
According to Facebook head of Messenger David Marcus, the messaging platform has over 200,000 active developers and 300,000 active bots (up from 100,000 of each a year ago) that facilitate messages between people and businesses each month. That’s up four times since last year.
Translation is starting with just English-Spanish conversions for users in the U.S. who start a conversation through Facebook Marketplace, its peer-to-peer commerce feature. All Messenger users will get access in the coming weeks, with Facebook saying that it will “launch this functionality in additional languages and countries” over time.
Meanwhile, businesses can now build augmented reality experiences into Messenger.
“If you’re a brand and you want people to experience AR at scale, there’s really no way to do that.”
David Marcus, Facebook head of Messenger
When people interact with certain businesses on Messenger, they can be prompted to open the app’s camera and use a pre-populated brand-specific AR effect. They can then return to the conversation or shoot a photo or video of the experience and share it with friends.
Branded AR is launching in closed beta, with launch experiences including a way to drop a virtual Kia car onto your driveway and try out customizations, an ASUS phone unboxing, a Sephora make-up try-on demo, and a change to check out Nike’s newest Kyrie Irving inspired shoes. Users can then make purchases within Messenger with payment info on file with Facebook. That payment feature is also in closed beta, but Marcus said that the company hopes to open up to more partners soon.
WhatsApp Status notches 450M DAUs
WhatsApp Status, itself a clone of Instagram Stories, itself a clone of Snapchat Stories, has now notched 450 million daily active users. That’s compared to 191 million daily users on all of Snapchat.
Rather than rest on its laurels, WhatsApp is adding stickers and group video calling. Users already spend two billion minutes a day on WhatsApp video and audio calls. However, in the coming months, they’ll be able to have at least four people on a split-screen video call. Rather than just chat with text, you’ll be able to send stickers inside WhatsApp soon. Third-party sticker packs will also be available.
Meanwhile, the messaging app is edging towards monetization. Three million companies are on its new WhatsApp for Business app,
Facebook announces new Groups tab along with Groups plugin for websites/emails, to launch later this year
Facebook is doubling down on community with a new Groups tab.
“In a community, you can meet new people who share your values – for some, this might be a support group for new parents. For others, it might be about a disease you have. For others, it might be about finding people to come together and volunteer. People want to be a part of meaningful communities.”
The company also provided an update on how large the Groups community has become. Today, 1.4 billion people use Groups every month with 200 million or so of the groups are those that the company calls “meaningful.”
The new tab will help people find all their Facebook groups in a single place. The tab will promote the discovery of new groups, along with helping you enjoy your time in those groups more. This includes “Watch Party,” a new feature that lets group members watch video together.
“This is just the experience of watching the same frame of the same video at the same time with thousands of people all around the world.”
Chris Cox, Facebook chief product officer
Group leaders, video creators, or audience members can also use a new feature called live commentating that lets them put their face on the screen and narrate whatever they want to say about what’s being watched. According to the company, it’ll make co-watching more social.
Along with this, the company is launching a new Groups plugin that admins and developers can add to their websites and newsletters that solicits people to join their Facebook group.
“Every great community has engaged leaders. So a lot of what we need to do is just give more people the tools to be community leaders.”
Crisis Response feature updated to let users share reports of what’s happening on the ground, launches new blood donation hub
Facebook has updated its Crisis Response that expands the tool from allowing you to mark yourself as safe to sharing a bit more information about what’s happening on the ground. The company also noted that its Safety Check feature, which launched in 2014 and is part of the Crisis Response tool set, has been activated over 1,000 times.
These new first-person accounts can let users share information about road closures, fires, flooding, electricity outages, and other dangers during a disaster.
After this, Facebook is also launching an update to its existing blood donation program. The company is launching a new hub that will make it easier for clinics, blood banks, and donors to find each other. Using this tool, blood banks can notify potential donors (who can share their blood type) of a blood shortage, for example, and steer them towards their location.
This is an expansion of the “Blood donations on Facebook” service that’s already live in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Over eight million people have signed up for the service.
Instagram updated with redesigned Explore page, video chat
Instagram is rolling out several new features, including video chat and a redesigned Explore page.
The Explore page will now feature a carousel at the top of the page, with buttons that give you the option to swipe through subjects like animals, photography, and architecture to see relevant posts about a topic.
Video chat is also being added for users, though it’s currently in a testing phase and will “soon” roll out globally. To start a chat, tap the new camera icon at the top of a direct message thread with the people you want to call.
You can chat with one person or a small group, and minimize the video screen during a conversation while continuing to browse Instagram.
All users will get access to the features over the coming weeks.
Instagram expands anti-bullying tools, including hiding comments that attack appearances
Instagram is also rolling out a bullying filter in another move towards keeping the comments section clean on the platform, according to Instagram head of analytics and data science Tamar Shapiro.
Shapiro said that the filter will hide language that’s intended to harass or be upsetting.
According to an Instagram blog post, the filter looks out for comments that attack someone’s appearance or character, or makes threats against them.
Facebook/Instagram Stories allow sharing from other apps
Third-party apps like Spotify, SoundCloud, and GoPro can now let their users share to Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories. Rather than screenshotting, users can hit a button to share a photo or video of a playlist, song, or mini-movie from another app into either app’s Stories camera, where they can embellish it with effects and post it to their friends.
According to Cox, launch partners include selfie editor Meitu, lipsyncing social network Musically, and Indian streaming music service Saavn.
While the new wing of the Facebook platform is opening to all developers, only approved partners that go through a review process like those mentioned so far will have attribution watermarks added to the shares.
Apple Q2 2018 earnings: Revenue of $61.1B, 52.3M iPhone sales, 9.1M iPad sales, 4.08M Mac sales
Apple has reported its second quarter 2018 financial results, posting quarterly revenue of $61.1 billion on sales of 52.2 million iPhones, 9.11 million iPads, 4.07 million Macs, and $9.19 billion in services.
This is up 16 percent year over year, compared to 50.76 million iPhones, 8.92 million iPads, and 4.199 million Macs sold in Q2 2017 that generated $52.9 billion in quarterly revenue. Earnings per share was up 30 percent, generating over $15 billion in operating cash flow.
“We’re thrilled to report our best March quarter ever, with strong revenue growth in iPhones, Services, and Wearables. Customers chose iPhone X more than any other iPhone each week in the March quarter, just as they did following its launch in the December quarter. We also grew revenue in all of our geographic segments, with over 20 percent growth in Greater China and Japan.”
Tim Cook, Apple CEO
The biggest growth area in the quarter came from services and “other products,” which saw 31 and 38 percent increases respectively likely fueled by strengthened sales of Apple Music, Apple Pay, and the Apple Watch.
Helped by the iPhone X’s high price tag, the iPhone found a 14 percent revenue gain despite only growing unit sales by three percent. Once again, the Mac fell in sales for the quarter, down three percent in unit sales year over year, though it held steady in revenue.
Geographically, Apple’s strongest revenue growth came from Japan with a 22 percent increase year-over-year. China followed close behind with a 21 percent increase. Meanwhile, the Americas showed a 17 percent increase, while Europe’s nine percent and the rest of the Asia/Pacific’s four percent increase were lower but still on the upswing.
“Our business performed extremely well during the March quarter, as we grew earnings per share by 30 percent and generated over $15 billion in operating cash flow. With the greater flexibility we now have from access to our global cash, we can now efficiently invest in our US operations and work towards a more optimal capital structure. Given our new confidence in Apple’s future, we are very happy to announce that our Board has approved a new $100 billion share repurchase authorization and a 16 percent increase in our quarterly dividend.”
Luca Maestri, Apple CFO
Apple’s board of directors declared a $0.73 per share of common stock cash dividend, payable May 17 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on May 14.
For Q3 2018, the company is offering revenue guidance ranging between $51.5 billion and $53.5 billion, with a gross margin between 38 and 38.5 percent.
Amazon warns Signal to stop using anti-censoring domain-fronting technique if it wants to keep using AWS
Amazon has reached out to Signal informing the company that it must discontinue any sort of domain fronting practices if it wants to continue using Amazon Web Services.
“With Google Cloud and AWS out of the picture, it seems that domain fronting as a censorship circumvention technique is now largely non-viable in the countries where Signal had enabled this feature. The idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you’d have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn’t like that plan.”
Moxie Marlinspike, Signal founder
Domain fronting lets services like Signal hide the endpoint of internet traffic behind a domain that’s allowed by a censor. In this case, Amazon specifically used the example of Signal using Souq.com, a domain owned by Amazon. A country that blocks Signal would see traffic going to Souq.com and allow it. On the other side of Amazon’s SSL certificate, the traffic would be routed to Signal.
In other news
- AT&T confirmed that it has no plans to sell LG’s G7 ThinQ, but will offer an exclusive LG device this summer.
- Billboard will set new rules into effect on June 29 that will prioritize paid subscription streams in how it calculates the Hot 100 songs and Hot 200 albums charts.
- Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam announced in an interview with Geekwire that the company plans to launch its fixed 5G service by the end of 2018.
- Vine 2.0 has been delayed indefinitely after overwhelming attention made estimated costs for the project too high to bear for cofounder Dom Hofmann.
- Chinese home robotics company UBTECH has raised a $820 million Series C funding round led by Tencent and a slew of other investors.