If you’re old enough to remember the outrage that followed Twitter’s decision to replace stars with hearts (aka likes instead of favorites), then you know that Twitter’s user base has strong feelings about how it wants to engage with tweets. Now, Twitter is considering another radical change on this front that could shake things up yet again. The company has been surveying users throughout the month to get input on how they feel about a broader set of emoji-style reactions, similar to what you’d see on Facebook.
“We’re exploring additional ways for people to express themselves in conversations happening on Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson said of the survey.
Specifically, Twitter’s survey proposed a few different sets of reaction emojis, all of which include the heart (like), laughing face with tears (funny), thinking face (interesting) and crying face (sad).
It then proposed some variations on this basic set, where the “awesome” sentiment could be expressed with either the shocked face or fire emoji, or where a “support” sentiment could be indicated with either the hug emoji or the raised hands.
More controversially, Twitter is considering a way for users to signal a general like or dislike for the tweet with either a thumbs up or thumbs down, a “100” in either green or red to indicate “agree” or “disagree,” or a green up arrow icon or red down arrow icon, reminiscent of Reddit’s upvote and downvote mechanisms.
The survey questions demonstrated that Twitter is aware of the challenges that come with introducing emoji reactions that could imply negative sentiments. It asked the respondents how they would want to take advantage of a downvote or dislike, for example — whether they would use the reaction instead of replying to a tweet, or whether they would downvote irrelevant or offensive tweets, as well.
Twitter also asked how users would feel if their own tweets were downvoted and whether that would discourage them from tweeting in the future, or if they would take it more as “constructive” feedback about their content. (Ha!)
The company clearly understands that the introduction of reaction sets could have a significant impact on how people engage with Twitter content and, potentially, could even lead to a chilling effect on Twitter usage if people became overly concerned about having their tweets downvoted.
That said, the upvote and downvote mechanism — whether as thumbs or arrows or anything else — remains a common way to engage with content elsewhere on the web. This includes not only forum sites like Reddit and others, but also YouTube, Imgur and Pandora, to name a few. A “thumbs up” signal by itself, meanwhile, is even more popular thanks to Facebook’s lead. But today, this like button can also take the shape of an arrow, heart or just a box to click — like when you mark an Amazon.com user review as “Helpful,” for example.
Meanwhile, the use of expanded emoji reactions has become more common since Facebook’s emoji reaction set debuted in 2015. Since then, other social media sites adopted their use, like LinkedIn. Twitter even added emoji reactions to its DMs (direct messages) last year.
Twitter’s survey additionally asked users about how the thought the emoji reactions should be displayed — like whether negative reaction counts should be visible, for instance.
Twitter told TechCrunch the work it’s doing in the space of reactions is exploratory — it’s only running this survey now because the company is thinking about ways people could add more nuance to the conversations they’re having, and how, by doing so, readers would be able to better understand the additional context around those conversations. Plus, Twitter notes that the new emoji reactions would not replace the “heart;” they’re additive.
But although Twitter hasn’t yet built out its emoji reaction set or put it into testing, it appears it’s on the path to do so.
In response to a user’s recent request to test emoji reactions instead of just hearts, Twitter Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis replied, “we’ll have something for you soon.”
Facebook tests a new ‘Professional’ mode for creator profiles – TechCrunch
Meta (formerly Facebook) today is introducing a new “Professional” mode for user profiles, designed to be used by creators looking to monetize their followings on the social network. The new mode, which is initially available to select creators in the U.S., will present creators with additional money-making opportunities and expanded insights that had been previously only available to Facebook Pages.
Among these will be the ability for creators to participate in the new Reels Play bonus program, where some creators are able to earn up to $35,000 per month based on the views for their short-form video content. However, access to this program, for the time being, is invite-only — meaning Meta will determine which creators qualify to earn bonuses.
While Meta didn’t share what other monetization options will be available in the days ahead, it did note that it will also make professional-level insights available to these creators, which are similar to what Page owners have access to. This includes access to post, audience and profile insights. For example, creators will be able to now see the total number of shares, reactions and comments that their posts have and be able to view their follower growth over time. This allows them to make better, more informed decisions about the content they post and how it resonates with their audience.
While many creators are already using Facebook profiles instead of Pages to attract fans and followers, Meta warns that others who decide to opt into this new experience will be opening themselves up to being more of a public figure on the social network. That means anyone can follow them and see the public content posted to their feed, but they’ll be able to mark posts as either public or friends-only, as you could otherwise on a private profile.
Meanwhile, creators who are using Facebook Pages will be opted into the new Pages experience instead. This will provide access to a Professional Dashboard that will serve as a central destination for admins to review the Page’s performance and access professional tools and insights, the company notes. Facebook is also testing a two-step composer on Pages. which allows creators to schedule posts and cross-post into a group.
The changes come at a time when Meta is heavily investing in its creator user base, as it sees the potential in a new revenue stream that comes from things like creator subscriptions and virtual tips, aka “Stars” — the latter which it just made available yesterday outside the app stores through a new website where it no longer has to pay commissions to Apple and Google. The company earlier said it was planning to lure in creators with $1 billion in payments, like the Reels bonuses among other things, as the competition for creator talent heats up with TikTik and other top social apps, like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and others.
Meta notes that the new Professional mode is still in testing with select creators in the U.S. for now, but will roll out more broadly in the future, including to the EMEA region.
Reddit to roll out personalized end-of-year recaps with stats about users’ habits – TechCrunch
Reddit is launching a new personalized Spotify Wrapped-like recap feature for all users tomorrow. The new recaps will include a variety of stats, including a summary of the time you spent on the platform, a look at the content that you interacted with or contributed, topics you engaged with and communities you’ve viewed or joined. Reddit notes that users will be able to hide their username and avatar if they want when sharing the recap across other social media apps.
“In previous years, Reddit Recap focused on aggregated trends across the platform. This year we wanted to add a fun, personalized in-product experience to remind users of their contributions and belonging on the platform,” Reddit said in a statement. “Every Redditor has a unique role to play on Reddit, and so we referenced user browsing and engagement data from January 1st, 2021 to November 30th, 2021 to help shape the stories about how they fit in.”
End-of-year recaps have become increasingly popular thanks to Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature that is widely shared across social media each year. Given its success, it’s no surprise that other companies like Apple, YouTube, Snapchat and now Reddit are looking to mimic the popular feature with their own versions.
In addition to the launch of recaps, Reddit has released data about the most popular themes on the platform in 2021. The company notes that cryptocurrency, gaming, sports, weddings, health and fitness, food and drink, and movies and television were the most popular categories. In terms of cryptocurrency, the top five most-viewed crypto communities this year were r/dogecoin, r/superstonk. r/cryptocurrency, r/amcstock and r/bitcoin. So far this year, Reddit has seen 6.6 million mentions of “crypto” across its platform.
As for gaming, the top five most viewed communities in 2021 were r/genshinimpact, r/leagueoflegends, r/gaming, r/rpclipsgta and r/ffxiv. For the sports category, the top five communities were r/nba, r/soccer, r/nfl, r/squaredcircle and r/mma. In terms of the weddings category, the top five communities were r/weddingplanning, r/engagementrings, r/bridezillas, r/wedding and r/weddingsunder10k.
Regarding health and fitness, the top five communities were r/lifeprotips, r/sports, r/progresspics, r/fitness and r/loseit. As for the food and drink category, the top five were r/food, r/cooking, r/keto, r/kitchenconfidential and r/starbucks. Lastly, the top five communities in the movies and television category were r/movies, r/marvelstudios, r/starwars, r/moviedetails and r/dc_cinematic.
Reddit also revealed that users created 366 million posts in 2021, which is a 19% year-over-year increase. The company has seen 2.3 billion total comments, a 12 percent increase year-over-year and 46 billion total upvotes, a 1% increase year-over-year so far this year.
Instagram announces plans for parental controls and other safety features ahead of congressional hearing – TechCrunch
On Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate for the first time on the issue of how the app is impacting teens’ mental health, following the recent testimonies from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, which have positioned the company as caring more about profits than user safety. Just ahead of that hearing, Instagram has announced a new set of safety features, including its first set of parental controls.
The changes were introduced through a company blog post, authored by Mosseri.
Not all the features are brand new, and some are smaller expansions on earlier safety features the company already had in the works.
However, the bigger news today is Instagram’s plan to launch its first set of parental control features in March. These features will allow parents and guardians to see how much time teens spend on Instagram and will allow them to set screen time limits. Teens will also be given an option to alert parents if they report someone. These tools are an opt-in experience — teens can choose not to send alerts, and there’s no requirement that teens and parents have to use parental controls.
The parental controls, as described, are also less powerful than those on rival TikTok, where parents can lock children’s accounts into restricted experience, block access to search, as well as control their child’s visibility on the platform and who can view their content, comment or message them. Screen time limits, meanwhile, are already offered by the platforms themselves — that is, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems offer similar controls. In other words, Instagram isn’t doing much here in terms of innovative parental controls, but notes it will “add more options over time.”
Another new feature was previously announced. Instagram earlier this month launched a test of its new “Take a Break” feature, which allows users to remind themselves to take a break from using the app after either 10, 20 or 30 minutes, depending on their preference. This feature will now officially launch in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Unlike on rival TikTok, where videos that push users to get off the app appear in the main feed after a certain amount of time, Instagram’s “Take a Break” feature is opt-in only. The company will begin to suggest to users that they set these reminders, but it will not require they do so. That gives Instagram the appearance of doing something to combat app addiction, without going so far as to actually make “Take a Break” enabled by default for its users, or like TikTok, regularly remind users to get off the app.
Another feature is an expansion of earlier efforts around distancing teens from having contact with adults. Already, Instagram began to default teens’ accounts to private, and restrict target advertising and unwanted adult contact — the latter by using technology to identify “potentially suspicious behavior” from adult users, then preventing them from being able to interact with teens’ accounts. It has also restricted other adult users from being able to contact teens who didn’t already follow them, and sends the teen notifications if the adult is engaging in suspicious behavior, while giving them tools for blocking and reporting.
Now it will expand this set of features to also switch off the ability for adults to tag or mention teens who don’t follow them, and to include their content in Reels Remixes (video content), or Guides. These will be the new default settings, and will roll out next year.
Instagram says it will also be stricter about what’s recommended to teens in sections of the app like Search, Explore, Hashtags and Suggested Accounts.
But in describing the action it’s taking, the company seems to have not yet made a hard decision on what will be changed. Instead, Instagram says it’s “exploring” the idea of limiting content in Explore, using a newer set of sensitive content control features launched in July. The company says it’s considering expanding the “Limit Even More” — the strictest setting — to include not just Explore, but also Search, Hashtags, Reels and Suggested Accounts.
It also says if it sees people are dwelling on a topic for a while it may nudge them to other topics, but doesn’t share details on this feature, as it’s under development. Presumably, this is meant to address the issues raised about teens who are exploring potentially harmful content, like those that could trigger eating disorders, anxiety or depression. In practice, the feature could also be used to direct users to more profitable content for the app — like posts from influencers who drive traffic to monetizable products, like Instagram Shopping, LIVE videos, Reels and others.
Instagram will also roll out tools this January that allow users to bulk delete photos and videos from their account to clean up their digital footprint. The feature will be offered as part of a new hub where users can view and manage their activity on the app.
This addition is being positioned as a safety feature, as older users may be able to better understand what it means to share personal content online; and they may have regrets over their older posts. However, a bulk deletion option is really the sort of feature that any content management system (that’s behaving ethically) should offer its users — meaning not just Instagram, but also Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
The company said these are only some of the features it has in development and noted it’s still working on its new solution to verify people’s ages on Instagram using technology.
“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety,” Mosseri wrote, “and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” he added.
In response to Meta’s announcement, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement:
Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along. This is a hollow “product announcement” in the dead of night that will do little to substantively make their products safer for kids and teens. But my colleagues and I see right through what they are doing. We know that Meta and their Silicon Valley allies will continue pushing the envelope out of selfishness and greed until they can no longer do so.
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