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Facebook Messenger starts rolling out Unsend; here’s how it works – TechCrunch

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Facebook secretly retracted messages sent by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, TechCrunch reported seven months ago. Now for the first time, Facebook Messenger users will get the power to unsend too so they can remove their sent messages from the recipient’s inbox. Messages can only be unsent for the first 10 minutes after they’re delivered so that you can correct a mistake or remove something you accidentally pushed, but you won’t be able to edit ancient history. Formally known as “Remove for Everyone,” the button also leaves a “tombstone” indicating a message was retracted. And to prevent bullies from using the feature to cover their tracks, Facebook will retain unsent messages for a short period of time so if they’re reported, it can review them for policy violations.

The Remove feature rolls out in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia and Lithuania today on Messenger for iOS and Android. A Facebook spokesperson tells me the plan is to roll it out globally as soon as possible, though that may be influenced by the holiday App Store update cut-off. In the meantime, it’s also working on more unsend features, potentially including the ability to preemptively set an expiration date for specific messages or entire threads.

“The pros are that users want to be in control . . . and if you make a mistake you can correct it. There are a lot of legitimate use cases out there that we wanted to enable,” Facebook’s head of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky tells me in an exclusive interview. But conversely, he says, “We need to make sure we don’t open up any new venues for bullying. We need to make sure people aren’t sending you bad messages and then removing them because if you report them and the messages aren’t there we can’t do anything.”

Zuckerberg did it; soon you can, too

Facebook first informed TechCrunch it would build an unsend feature back in April after I reported that six sources told me some of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook messages had been silently removed from the inboxes of recipients, including non-employees with no tombstone left in their place. We saw that as a violation of user trust and an abuse of the company’s power, given the public had no way to unsend their own messages.

Facebook claimed this was to protect the privacy of its executives and the company’s trade secrets, telling me that “After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications. These included limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages in Messenger.” But it seems likely that Facebook also wanted to avoid another embarrassing situation like when Zuckerberg’s old instant messages from 2004 leaked. One damning exchange saw Zuckerberg tell a friend “if you ever need info about anyone at harvard . . . just ask . . . i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns.” “what!? how’d you manage that one?”  the friend replied. “People just submitted it . .  i don’t know why . . . they ‘trust me’ . . . dumb fucks” Zuckerberg replied.

The company told me it was actually already working on an Unsend button for everyone, and wouldn’t delete any more executives’ messages until it launched. Chudnovsky tells me he felt like “I wish we launched this sooner” when the news broke. But then six months went by without progress or comment from Facebook before TechCrunch broke the news that tipster Jane Manchun Wong had spotted Facebook prototyping the Remove feature. Then a week ago, Facebook Messenger’s App Store release notes accidentally mentioned that a 10-minute Unsend button was coming soon.

So why the seven-month wait? Especially given Instagram already allows users to unsend messages no matter how old? “The reason why it took so long is because on the server side, it’s actually much harder. All the messages are stored on the server, and that goes into the core transportation layer of our how our messaging system was built,” Chudnovsky explains. “It was hard to do given how we were architected, but we were always worried about the integrity concerns it would open up.” Now the company is confident it’s surmounted the engineering challenge to ensure an Unsent message reliably disappears from the recipient.

“The question becomes ‘who owns that message?’ Before that message is delivered to your Messenger app, it belongs to me. But when it actually arrives, it probably belongs to both of us,” Chudnovsky pontificates.

How Facebook Messenger’s “Remove for Everyone” button works

Facebook settled on the ability to let you remove any kind of message — including text, group chats, photos, videos, links and more — within 10 minutes of sending. You can still delete any message on just your side of the conversation, but only messages you sent can be removed from their recipients. You can’t delete from someone else what they sent you, the feature’s PR manager Kat Chui tells me. And Facebook will keep a private copy of the message for a short while after it’s deleted to make sure it can review if it’s reported for harassment.

To use the unsend feature, tap and hold on a message you sent, then select “Remove.” You’ll get options to “Remove for Everyone” which will retract the message, or “Remove for you,” which replaces the old delete option and leaves the message in the recipient’s inbox. You’ll get a warning that explains “You’ll permanently remove this message for all chat members. They can see that you removed a message and still report it.” If you confirm the removal, a line of text noting “you [or the sender’s name] removed a message” (known as a tombstone) will appear in the thread where the message was. If you want to report a removed message for abuse or another issue, you’ll tap the person’s name, scroll to “Something’s Wrong” and select the proper category such as harassment or that they were pretending to be someone else.

Why the 10-minute limit specifically? “We looked at how the existing delete functionality works. It turns out that when people are deleting messages because it’s a mistake or they sent something they didn’t want to send, it’s under a minute. We decided to extend it to 10, but decided we didn’t need to do more,” Chudnovsky reveals.

He says he’s not sure if Facebook’s security team will now resume removing executive messages. However, he stresses that the Unsend button Facebook is launching “is definitely not the same feature” as what was used on Zuckerberg’s messages. If Facebook wanted to truly respect its users, it would at least insert the tombstone when it erases old messages from executives.

Messenger is also building more unsend functionality. Taking a cue from encrypted messaging app Signal’s customizable per thread expiration date feature, Chudnovsky tells me “hypothetically, if I want all the messages to be deleted after six months, they get purged. This is something that can be set up on a per thread level,” though Facebook is still tinkering with the details. Another option would be for Facebook to extend to all chats the per message expiration date option from its encrypted Secret messages feature.

“It’s one of those things that feels very simple on the surface. And it would be very easy if the servers were built one way or another from the very beginning,” Chudnovsky concludes. “But it’s one of those things philosophically and technologically that once you get to the scale of 1.3 billion people using it, changing from one model to another is way more complicated.” Hopefully in the future, Facebook won’t give its executives extrajudicial ways to manipulate communications… or at least not until it’s sorted out the consequences of giving the public the same power.



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Nufa lets you live up to unrealistic beauty standards at the tap of an app • TechCrunch

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It isn’t like Instagram is a beacon of truth as it is, but things are about to get a lot worse, as Nufa takes any image and sculpts you into the “after” picture dream that every gym owner wants to project into our souls as they continue on their mission to make us all look like body-building beasts with cleavage out the wazoo and abs for days.

The new mobile app “seamlessly transforms the human body into a picture in one click,” as it considers muscle structure, body type, skin color, body position and even tattoos to provide a “digital experience that hardly differs from real body transformation pics.”

“For women, we have an additional feature of transforming the breast from the 1st to the 5th size that works even with neckline clothes,” Nufa’s head of Analytics, Artem Petrikeev, said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are changing body pics similar to how Faceapp changes selfies.”

Can we be done making ourselves feel less than already?

But hey, if this is your jam, I guess you, too, can see what you’d look like if you conformed to completely unrealistic beauty standards. You do you, boo, but if you install this app, perhaps think about what it is you’re buying into. You’re perfect as you are, and if you don’t believe that, think about where that belief came from.

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TechCrunch’s parent company links up with Taboola • TechCrunch

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Folks often ask if Crunchbase and TechCrunch are still the same company (nope). Many express surprise that AOL was once this publication’s sole parent (yep). The saga of Who Owns TechCrunch is actually somewhat interesting. Various corporate developments over the last decade saw TechCrunch trade hands several times, including our most recent ejection from Verizon (long story) into the arms of private equity (shorter story).

Today we’re part of a reconstituted Yahoo, an entity that combines its historical assets — sans Alibaba — with AOL and other properties including this publication. I bring all that up because our parent company is in the news today. So much so that we’re pushing the value of a public company sharply higher by dint of our partnering with it, and taking a sizable stake in its equity at the same time.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

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Because my employer is about to own just under a fourth of Taboola, I want to rewind the clock a bit today and recall how we wound up in a world where both Taboola and Outbrain — online advertising companies that you are familiar with, and have at times collected criticism — are public companies.

This should be lightweight and fun. Frankly, before today, I had never read a Taboola or Outbrain earnings report. We will explore together! Into the numbers!

A merger that didn’t

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Yahoo gets 25% stake in Taboola as part of long-term advertising deal • TechCrunch

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Yahoo is taking a nearly 25% stake in advertising network Taboola. In exchange for this move, Taboola is becoming Yahoo’s native advertising partner through a 30-year commercial agreement.

If you’re not familiar with Taboola, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as USA Today, Insider and The Weather Channel. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites. Those links appear in recommendation widgets at the end of news articles or in the middle of a content newsfeed.

Yahoo is a name that you may already know quite well. It is now a private company owned by investment firm Apollo Global Management. It owns many popular media properties, such as Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo News, AOL and Engadget. Yahoo’s homepage and Yahoo Mail are also important products for the company as they attract large audiences. Yahoo is TechCrunch’s parent company as well.

This isn’t the first time Taboola is signing a strategic partnership that covers some of these properties. In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL. The next year, Taboola and AOL signed a strategic partnership that led to integrations of Taboola’s ads on AOL properties. Shortly after, Verizon also acquired Yahoo and merged AOL with Yahoo.

And now, the second incarnation of Yahoo, which includes AOL’s activities and operates separately from Verizon, is doubling down on digital advertising. With this new deal, Taboola becomes the exclusive partner for native advertising across all of Yahoo’s digital properties.

It means that you’ll soon scroll through news articles on Yahoo Finance and see an item that looks just like a normal article. But it will be a Taboola-powered advertising unit instead. Or at least, that’s the idea. Advertisers will be able to buy Taboola through the Yahoo DSP.

“Partnering with Taboola enables Yahoo to further enhance the contextual and native offerings within our unified advertising stack. The partnership also allows Yahoo and Taboola to continue to differentiate in market, improving user, advertiser and publisher experiences across properties, while benefiting from the long-term tailwinds in digital native advertising,” Yahoo CEO Jim Lanzone said in a statement.

As Yahoo currently reaches nearly 900 million monthly active users, it represents a significant deal for Taboola. Right now, Taboola partners with 9,000 publishers and reaches 500 million users every day.

This deal isn’t just a way to display Taboola ads in front of more eyeballs. As technology companies and regulators are cracking down on privacy-invasive targeting methods, adtech companies like Taboola need to find new ways to target audiences in an effective way.

“Our collaboration with Yahoo will give advertisers access to what I believe is the most sophisticated contextual dataset online. Together, we’re going to build a ‘Contextual Powerhouse’, enabling advertisers to target relevant audiences without relying on third-party cookies and while maintaining complete user privacy,” Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda writes in a blog post.

Taboola went public last year by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, also known as a SPAC. Taboola shares (NASDAQ:TBLA) are currently up 70% in pre-market trading compared to yesterday’s closing price — but Taboola shares have been steadily going down over the past twelve months. Shares should open at around $3.14.

As part of the deal, Yahoo is becoming Taboola’s largest shareholder with a 24.99% stake in the advertising network company. Yahoo will also get a seat on Taboola’s board of directors. Both companies expect to generate $1 billion in annual revenue from this newly formed partnership if integrations go well.

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