Facebook tests Snap Map-style redesign of Nearby Friends – TechCrunch
Helping friends meet up offline has been a massive missed opportunity for Facebook . Whether because the brand is too creepy or the politely opt-in 2015 rollout of its location sharing feature wasn’t creepy enough, Facebook Nearby Friends never quite took off. Only 103 of my 1,120 friends in San Francisco have it turned on.
It’s not the only one struggling with “The quest to cure loneliness.” Foursquare Swarm, Glympse, Apple’s Find My Friends and Google Maps’ real-time coordinate-sharing option have all failed to become a ubiquitous standard.
But last year, Snapchat launched a different take on the idea based on its biggest acquisition ever, French app Zenly. With Snap Map, it wasn’t just about the utility of seeing a list of friends’ locations like on Facebook, but also splayed them out across maps that you could dive into to see their latest geo-tagged Stories. It was as much about fun and content as it was about actually hanging out with people in person.
Now Facebook is testing a significant redesign of Nearby Friends that looks a lot more like Snap Map. It replaces the list view of the neighborhoods and cities friends are in with a map that groups friends together by city. A “view list” button opens up the former homescreen, though in both views you still can only see a friend’s approximate location in a neighborhood or city, not their exact coordinates. Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that “We’re testing a new design for Nearby Friends, a tool people have used for the past four years to meet with their friends in person. People have complete control over whether to use Nearby Friends or not. They can turn it on in the Nearby Friends bookmark.”
That statement both subtly promotes Facebook’s opt-in privacy setting for Nearby Friends while urging people to actually go back and activate it. The screenshot was generated from the code of Facebook’s Android app by mobile researcher and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. Interestingly, after TechCrunch’s inquiry, Wong tells me Facebook appears to have deactivated server-side the ability to access the map feature.
The reason this matters is that Facebook is desperate for engagement, especially amongst younger users who are slipping away from it to Snapchat and Instagram. If revamped with this map and other improvements, Nearby Friends could become a more popular utility that keeps people opening Facebook. Getting more people to share their real-time location could open new opportunities for local ad targeting. And Facebook could benefit from showing it unlocks meaningful offline connections given its recent brand troubles following election interference and calls that it’s the opposite of “time well spent.”
Snap Map was smart, but it’s sadly buried behind an awkward pinch gesture from Snapchat’s homescreen, or inside the search bar where some users wouldn’t expect it. Internal Snapchat usage data scored by Taylor Lorenz for The Daily Beast revealed that Snap Map had sunk from a high of 35 million daily unique viewers after its June 2017 launch to just 19 million by that September — merely 11 percent of Snapchat’s users at the time. Users never seemed to cease on it as a method of browsing Snapchat’s geo-tagged content.
Unfortunately, none of these location apps have figured out that meeting up isn’t all about location. It’s about availability. It doesn’t matter if I see my best friend is at a coffee shop right away if they’re not actually available to hang out. They could be on date, having a business meeting or trying to get some work done. If I drop in just because I see they’re close by, it could be awkward. You’d have to first message them, but you can come off seeming desperate if they can’t or don’t want to meet up with you.
Location apps need an availability indicator similar to the green “online” dot used by many chat apps. You could toggle that on if you wanted to show you’re interested in some spontaneous friend time.
Facebook’s actually spent the last year trying to build this into Messenger in the form of “Your Emoji” status. It lets you pick an emoji like a martini, fork and knife or barbell that’s temporarily overlaid on your profile pic thumbnail to let people know you’re down for drinking, getting dinner or working out. The feature is yet to be widely tested, indicating that Facebook hasn’t quite cracked the nut of encouraging online meetups.
Ideally, Facebook would combine Nearby Friends and Your Emoji to help users share both approximately where they are and whether they want to hang out. The next step would be making it easy to watch a friend’s geo-tagged Facebook Story from wherever they are. And then, Facebook could further copy Snap Map by making public Stories and other location-based content accessible from the map so you could browse it for fun instead of the News Feed or Stories tray.
Still, making Nearby Friends work could require Facebook to rethink the privacy element. The friend graph has bloated to include family, co-workers, bosses and distant acquaintances with whom users might not want to share their real-time location. Finding a better way to let you share where you are with just your closest friends could make more people comfortable with the feature.
Facebook needs to rethink its entire product stack to embrace the high-definition cameras, big phone screens and fast network connections that make it easier to convey information through imagery than text. Visual communication is the future, and that goes far beyond Stories.
The first round of Disney layoffs begins this week, CEO Bob Iger shares in memo
In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders in an earnings call that the company plans to lay off 7,000 employees as part of a significant restructuring. Today, in an internal memo to employees, which TechCrunch was able to obtain, Iger revealed that there will be three rounds of layoffs, with the first beginning this week.
“This week, we begin notifying employees whose positions are impacted by the company’s workforce reductions,” Iger wrote. “Leaders will be communicating the news directly to the first group of impacted employees over the next four days. A second, larger round of notifications will happen in April with several thousand more staff reductions, and we expect to commence the final round of notifications before the beginning of the summer to reach our 7,000-job target.”
The job cuts will reportedly affect Disney’s media and distribution segment along with ESPN and the parks and resorts division, according to CNBC.
“For our employees who aren’t impacted, I want to acknowledge that there will no doubt be challenges ahead as we continue building the structures and functions that will enable us to be successful moving forward. I ask for your continued understanding and collaboration during this time,” Iger added.
Iger returned as CEO in November 2022, replacing Bob Chapek. Since the takeover, Iger has already made significant organizational changes to the company. In addition to the layoffs, the company will also cut down on spending. Disney plans to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in content spend.
Iger has also admitted to being “open-minded” about the sale of Hulu, which Comcast partially owns.
Despite Disney’s direct-to-consumer division increasing in revenue by 13% to $5.3 billion, the company reported an operating loss of about $1.1 billion, which it blamed on higher costs at Disney+ and Hulu.
While Disney+ reported its first-ever subscriber loss in Q1 2023, the company noted that its streaming business — Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ — will become profitable in late 2024. Netflix is one streaming service that has managed to turn a profit.
Disney+ lost 2.4 million global subscribers in the first quarter of 2023. However, it managed to gain 200,000 subs in the U.S. and Canada. Hulu and ESPN+, on the other hand, added 800,000 and 600,000, respectively.
Disney’s annual shareholder meeting is set to occur on April 3.
As media companies continue to face losses in the current market, many are adopting the same strategy as Disney. In 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery dealt with job cuts and removed HBO Max content as it confronts a debt load of $53 billion. This company intends to save $3 billion in 2023.
You can now bundle Frontier internet with YouTube TV on the same bill
YouTube TV announced today that it expanded its partnership with internet service provider Frontier to launch a single billing option, which will allow customers in the U.S. to bundle fiber internet with YouTube TV on one bill.
YouTube TV teamed up with Frontier in 2021 to give customers access to fiber internet and a live TV streaming service. However, they had to pay the providers separately. Today’s launch of integrated billing will make it more convenient for users.
Also, Frontier fiber internet customers will now get $10 off the YouTube TV subscription for one year, whereas existing Frontier TV customers will receive $15 off.
The offering is likely to convince customers to switch to YouTube TV as Frontier no longer offers its TV service. After filing for bankruptcy in 2020, Frontier stopped offering cable television in 2021.
Many cable TV companies have decided to either launch streaming services or partner with services like YouTube TV. For instance, in 2021, Disney announced plans to shut down hundreds of cable channels as it shifted focus to its flagship streamer Disney+.
“Our partnership with YouTube TV makes it easier for customers to ditch cable,” John Harrobin, Frontier’s Executive Vice President of Consumer, said in a statement. “We take our position as the un-cable provider seriously and are constantly listening to consumers. Many want one source for internet and TV, and that’s what this partnership is all about.”
It’s important to note that Frontier is only available in 25 states. However, YouTube TV also partners with other internet companies, such as Verizon.
YouTube TV has more than five million paid subscribers and trialers in the United States. Earlier this month, the company increased its subscription price to $72.99 per month, up from $64.99.
Here’s how to stream Major League Baseball games in 2023
Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is back this week, with Opening Day beginning on Thursday, March 30. MLB Opening Day 2023 will be one to watch since all 30 teams play their first game of the regular season on the same day– the first time since 1968 when such an event occurred.
With so many major league teams, it can be tricky to figure out where and how to watch the games you want to watch—especially for cord-cutters. For instance, nationally televised games will be broadcast on Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network, whereas local team’s games will air on regional sports networks (RSNs).
Another channel worth watching is MLB Network Strike Zone because it provides highlights, updates, scores, standings and stats from teams across the league. The channel broadcasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, when several games are going on at once, to ensure you don’t miss out on the action.
Plus, this year will be the second time that Apple TV+ is the exclusive home of “Friday Night Baseball” games. Peacock also livestreams exclusive MLB games with its Sunday morning package, “MLB Sunday Leadoff.”
In total, the MLB regular season consists of 2,430 games.
Here are some of the best live TV streaming services to watch MLB games this 2023 season:
- Sling TV
- Hulu Live TV
- YouTube TV
Starting off with an obvious one, MLB.TV is a streaming package that Major League Baseball directly offers.
The subscription costs $24.99 per month or $149.99 per year and allows fans to watch every out-of-market game, making it a great option for viewers who want to watch a team that doesn’t play in their home city.
While MLB.TV subscribers won’t be able to watch a livestream of their local team, the games are available to watch on-demand 90 minutes after they end.
Fans can sign up for MLB.TV either on the MLB website or through streaming services like Prime Video and Fubo.
The most expensive on the list is DirecTV’s “Choice” plan, which is $84.99 per month. Fortunately, the plan is also the most comprehensive, with access to every national MLB channel, including Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network.
You’ll most likely get your local RSN as well, depending on your location.
DirecTV also has the MLB Extra Innings add-on, which is $149.99 per season, and gives you every out-of-market game along with MLB Network Strike Zone and MLB Extra Innings Mix, which lets users stream up to eight games at the same time.
Sling TV, on the other hand, is arguably the best bang for your buck. For $70 a month, users can sign up for the Orange & Blue bundle ($55/month), as well as the Sports Extra add-on ($15/month), to get access to Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN, MLB Network and MLB Network Strike Zone.
However, there are no RSNs or out-of-market games on Sling TV.
Fubo (formerly FuboTV) offers MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and RSN coverage. One caveat is that Fubo doesn’t broadcast TBS.
Fubo has three subscription plans: Pro ($74.99/month), Elite ($84.99/month) and Premier ($94.99/month).
The streaming service recently announced it is launching an MLB.TV add-on for $24.99 per month.
Hulu Live TV is great for fans who want to watch nationally broadcast games on FOX, TBS and ESPN. However, the streamer doesn’t have as many RSNs as it used to, so there may be blackout restrictions. For example, Hulu Live TV doesn’t offer RSN groups like AT&T SportsNet and Bally Sports.
Also, out-of-market games aren’t available on Hulu Live TV.
ESPN+ is home to daily regular-season games that air live on ESPN. Note that MLB games on ESPN+ may have local blackout restrictions.
While YouTube TV ($72.99/month) dropped MLB Network this year, it still carries most RSNs and national networks like Fox, ESPN, and TBS.
The reason YouTube TV dropped MLB Network was because of a carriage dispute, which is becoming more common recently. These disputes are making it very difficult for sports fans to find RSNs across both live TV streaming services and linear television.
Plus, YouTube TV is another streaming service that doesn’t offer Bally Sports RSNs.
Speaking of Bally Sports, 19 of its RSNs may be in trouble. Recently, Diamond Sports Group (DSG), an independent subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group that owns these 19 RSNs, filed for bankruptcy.
But the good news is that Major League Baseball will likely take over the RSNs if DSG is no longer able to broadcast them.
Here are some of the most important dates to keep an eye on this season, including Opening Day, which starts at 1:05 p.m. ET with the first two games scheduled: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants vs. New York Yankees.
- March 30: Opening Day
- April 29-30: Mexico City Series
- July 11: All-Star Game
- October 1: Final day of MLB regular-season
- October 3: MLB Playoffs
Note that the dates for the World Series, Division Series and Championship Series are TBD.
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