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Messenger Chat Feature Spotted in Testing Within Facebook App Ahead of WhatsApp, Instagram Unification Plans

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Facebook’s plans of creating a unified messaging platform based on the infrastructure of Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram won’t materialise until 2020, as per founder Mark Zuckerberg. But a recent discovery might give us an idea of how this cross-connected vision of Facebook might look like. Renowned application researcher, Jane Manchun Wong, has shared screenshots depicting the chat functionality of Messenger within the main Facebook app. The new discovery indicates that Messenger, or at least its chat feature, might finally return to the vanilla Facebook app soon.

The screenshots shared by the famed app reverse engineer show a small Messenger icon at the top in the Facebook app. Tapping on the Messenger icon opens the conversation feed with the list of all contact in the same fashion as they appear in the Messenger app. From the screenshots, it appears that users will be able to have a regular chat with any of their acquaintances in the main Facebook app.

However, the integrated Messenger chat feature only has support for a simple chat without any multimedia bells and whistles at the moment – though emojis are possible to use. If the user wants to send a reaction, make a voice call or send a photo, they’ll have to rely on the Facebook Messenger app for doing so. Just to be clear here, the Messenger chat feature in the Facebook app is not available widely to users, and was spotted in testing by Wong.

The social media giant released the Messenger app back in 2011 and three years later, removed the Messenger functionality from the main Facebook app. It now appears that Facebook plans to bring back the Messenger feature in preparations for its grand unification plan to bring Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram under a single roof, something that probably won’t happen until next year. However, it is unlikely this time around that Facebook will pull the plugs on the Messenger app once the integration happens, as they serve different markets that Facebook won’t risk losing.



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Facebook is testing pop-up messages telling people to read a link before they share it – TechCrunch

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Years after popping open a pandora’s box of bad behavior, social media companies are trying to figure out subtle ways to reshape how people use their platforms.

Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6 percent of Facebook’s Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news stories on the platform.

Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform.

Twitter introduced prompts urging users to read a link before retweeting it last June and the company quickly found the test feature to be successful, expanding it to more users.

Facebook began trying out more prompts like this last year. Last June, the company rolled out pop-up messages to warn users before they share any content that’s more than 90 days old in an an effort to cut down on misleading stories taken out of their original context.

At the time, Facebook said it was looking at other pop-up prompts to cut down on some kinds of misinformation. A few months later, Facebook rolled out similar pop-up messages that noted the date and the source of any links they share related to COVID-19.

The strategy demonstrates Facebook’s preference for a passive strategy of nudging people away from misinformation and toward its own verified resources on hot button issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

While the jury is still out on how much of an impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can make on the misinformation epidemic, both Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.

Pop-up messages that give users a sense that their bad behavior is being observed might be where more automated moderation is headed on social platforms. While users would probably be far better served by social media companies scrapping their misinformation and abuse-ridden existing platforms and rebuilding them more thoughtfully from the ground up, small behavioral nudges will have to do.

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State AGs tell Facebook to scrap Instagram for kids plans – TechCrunch

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In a new letter, attorneys general representing 44 U.S. states and territories are pressuring Facebook to walk away from new plans to open Instagram to children. The company is working on an age-gated version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13 that would lure in young users who are currently not permitted to use the app, which was designed for adults.

“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the coalition of attorneys general wrote, warning that an Instagram for kids would be “harmful for myriad reasons.”

The state attorneys general call for Facebook to abandon its plans, citing concerns around developmental health, privacy and Facebook’s track record of prioritizing growth over the well being of children on its platforms. In the letter, embedded below, they delve into specific worries about cyberbullying, online grooming by sexual predators and algorithms that showed dieting ads to users with eating disorders.

Concerns about social media and mental health in kids and teens is a criticism we’ve been hearing more about this year, as some Republicans join Democrats in coalescing around those issues, moving away from the claims of anti-conservative bias that defined politics in tech during the Trump years.

Leaders from both parties have been openly voicing fears over how social platforms are shaping young minds in recent months amidst calls to regulate Facebook and other social media companies. In April, a group of Congressional Democrats wrote Facebook with similar warnings over its new plans for children, pressing the company for details on how it plans to protect the privacy of young users.

In light of all the bad press and attention from lawmakers, it’s possible that the company may walk back its brazen plans to boost business by bringing more underage users into the fold. Facebook is already in the hot seat with state and federal regulators in just about every way imaginable. Deep worries over the company’s future failures to protect yet another vulnerable set of users could be enough to keep these plans on the company’s back burner.

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Spotify adds timestamped podcast sharing and other social features – TechCrunch

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On the heels of its expanded partnership with Facebook, Spotify this morning announced new sharing features that broaden the way Spotify content, including both music and podcasts, can be shared across social media. As part of this, Spotify’s Canvas feature, which adds a looping, visual art experience to songs, is being improved. Spotify will also now allow users to share a timestamped link to a podcast, which allows users to tune into to a particular moment of the podcast episode.

Previously, if you wanted to share a podcast episode, you could only post the link to the entire episode. But many times, people want to comment on or discuss a particular part of an episode. Now, they’ll be able to do so by using the “switch to share” feature at the current playtime, after tapping the “share” button while listening to the show.

This is toggle switch that lets you share from the timestamp where you’ve paused the show. After turning this one, you’re able to choose where you want to share to — like Instagram, Facebook (Stories or Feed), Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS, and more.

The feature could also potentially be used for podcast marketing purposes. Typically, creators post an interesting clip from their latest episode that includes a link to the episode. But Spotify’s new feature could entice someone to tune in at a particular part, then continue listening. They may even choose to follow the podcast after doing so, as they’ll have already found themselves in the Spotify app. While it may not replace other marketing — not everyone uses Spotify, after all — it could serve as a handy supplement to the creator’s existing promotional activity.

The update to Spotify’s Canvas, meanwhile, is a smaller improvement. Now, users are able to preview their social share across Instagram Stories and now Snapchat, to see how it will appear. Before today, Canvas art could only be shared to Instagram Stories.

Spotify notes that social sharing features had become a more important aspect of using its service during the pandemic, as in-person concerts and fan events had been shut down. Artists and creators still want to engage with their fans, but have had to do so remotely and digitally. And fans want to support their favorites by posting their content to social networks where others can discover them, too.

The new sharing features are a part of Spotify’s larger investment in expanded social media distribution, which recently led to its partnership with Facebook on something the social network called “Project Boombox.” Facebook in April introduced a new miniplayer that streams Spotify’s music and podcasts from the Facebook app. That way, users can listen while they scroll, with Spotify playing in the background. But Spotify’s deal with Facebook doesn’t limit it from making it easier to share to other platforms, as well, as these new features indicate.

Spotify says the new features are rolling out now to global users on both iOS and Android.

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