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WhatsApp Dark Mode Spotted in Android Beta

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WhatsApp has updated its Android beta app to version 2.19.82, and the app teardown reveals that the company is finally making some headway with Dark Mode. This anticipated feature has cropped up quite a few times in the past, and this latest update gives us a first look at Dark Mode, hinting at an imminent launch soon. The feature is under development and isn’t enabled for everyone as of yet. Recent beta versions also indicate that WhatsApp is working new forwarding features as well.

WhatsApp beta tracker WABetaInfo found traces of the Dark Mode in the 2.19.82 beta update and has published screenshots of it as well. The tipster notes that WhatsApp has implemented the Dark Mode in Settings only, and the screenshots show the new mode applied in notifications settings, data and storage settings, chats settings, and even account settings.

The tipster also notes that Dark Mode on Android “won’t be OLED friendly but it’s based on a very dark grey colour.” As mentioned, it hasn’t been enabled as of yet i.e., it is disabled by default, so you won’t probably see the feature, even if you have updated to the latest 2.19.82 version of Android. Dark Mode has been a work in progress since last year.

In WhatsApp for Android version 2.19.80, two new features called Forwarding Info and Frequently Forwarded, were spotted in the works. Forwarding Info will allow users to get more details about a forwarded message. It will let the user know how many times the message has been forwarded. Frequently Forwarded, on the other hand, is a label that will show up if one message has been forwarded more than four times.


We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Instagram head Adam Mosseri says the app will offer a chronological feed option early next year – TechCrunch

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Instagram is bringing back a chronological feed, according to statements made by Instagram head Adam Mosseri during his testimony today before a Senate panel over the harms to young people using the app. Mosseri was asked if he believed consumers should be able to use the Instagram app without “being manipulated by algorithms,” and the executive said he would support giving people the option to have a chronological feed. He then added that the company was developing that option now, in fact.

“We believe in more transparency and accountability and we believe in more control. That’s why we’re currently working on a version of a chronological feed that we hope to launch next year,” said Mosseri.

Pressed for more details on the company’s plans on this front, Mosseri noted that Instagram has been for a few years experimenting with different ways to offer users more control over their experience. One idea it tested publicly was called “Favorites,” which allowed users to pick a subset of people whose accounts they wanted to see at the top of their feeds. The other idea the company had been working on is a chronological version of Instagram, Mosseri said.

“I wish I had a specific month to tell you right now, but right now we’re targeting the first quarter of next year,” Mosseri noted as to when the chronological option would be introduced to the public.

Instagram’s switch to an algorithmic feed back in 2016 was a decision that had been fraught with controversy. Although filtered feeds were becoming the norm across social media at the time, as they improved engagement metrics, many users were unhappy with the changes. Instagram even went so far as to agree to add more recent posts to its algorithmic feed due to the user backlash in subsequent years after the new feed’s launch.

In 2020, the company had been spotted building an internal prototype of a “Latest Posts” feature that would allow users to get caught up on recent updates through a special section in the app, but it was not a full-fledged return to a reverse-chronological feed — like the one Facebook offers today as a News Feed option. The feature also never rolled out publicly to Instagram’s global user base.

Now, under oath, Mosseri is promising that users may actually get a chronological feed option once again. But it’s highly unlikely that Instagram would make this a default setting or even an obvious choice, given the benefits that an algorithmic feed brings in terms of keeping users engaged with the app.

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Instagram’s Adam Mosseri defends the app’s teen safety track record to Congress – TechCrunch

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Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri testified before Congress for the first time Wednesday, defending the app’s impacts on teens and its aspirations to bring younger children formally into the fold.

In September, leaked documents from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen painted a picture of a company that knows it takes a toll on the mental health of some of its most vulnerable users.

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” researchers said in an internal presentation, reported by the Journal. Internal research also found that within a group of teen Instagram users who said they experienced suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users connected their desire to commit suicide to Instagram.

The company now known as Meta conducted that research internally and it was only brought to light through a revelatory series of reports in The Wall Street Journal. The leaked documents came up repeatedly in Wednesday’s hearing, with lawmakers on the Senate’s consumer protection subcommittee citing the revelations and pressing unsuccessfully for access to more of Instagram’s internal findings on its impacts on kids and teens.

Disturbing findings

In his opening statement, subcommittee chair Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said that just prior to the hearing, his staff again made a test to explore dangerous content on Instagram and easily found algorithmic recommendations serving dangerous content. “…Within an hour, all of our recommendations promoted pro anorexia and eating disorder content.”

Ranking member Marsha Blackburn’s own office also made a test account for a teen and noted that it defaulted to “public” rather than private, as Instagram says that accounts for users under 16 do. Mosseri admitted that Instagram failed to enable the safety step for accounts create on the web.

“This is now the fourth time in the past two years that we have spoken with someone from Meta and I feel like the conversation repeats itself ad nauseam,” Blackburn (R-TN) said during opening statements. “Nothing changes — nothing.”

In the hearing, Mosseri followed Meta’s approach to recent damning reporting, dismissing some of the findings outright — even intuitive ones. In response to a question on concerns about Instagram’s addictive nature — a phenomenon that most Instagram users could attest to — Mosseri asserted that “Respectfully, I don’t believe that research suggests that our products are addictive.”

Prior to Mosseri’s testimony, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis appeared before the Senate subcommittee to address teen safety concerns. “We have put in place multiple protections to create safe and age-appropriate experiences for people between the ages of 13 and 17,” Davis argued, defending the company’s efforts.

Meta doubled down, defending its practices in light of the reports and Haugen’s subsequent testimony to U.S. lawmakers. The company argued that the precautions it takes on Instagram are adequate and that the research was taken out of context. “It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls,” Facebook Head of Research Pratiti Raychoudhury wrote in a blog post slamming The Wall Street Journal’s reporting.

In late September, facing the firestorm of criticism, Mosseri announced that Instagram would pause its plans to develop Instagram Kids, a version of the app specifically for children under 13. The company faces ongoing criticism from the mental health community and lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad who believe that Instagram is not a responsible custodian for the well-being of children and teens.

In the hearing, Mosseri repeated the company’s argument that kids are already using the platform in spite of its age requirements and building a kid-specific app would create a layer of safety that doesn’t currently exist. “We know that 10- to 12-year-olds are online… we know that they want to be on platforms like Instagram,” Mosseri said. “And Instagram quite frankly wasn’t designed for them.”

Meta still wants to regulate itself

Mosseri also used the hearing to propose a new “industry body” that would create tech-wise best practices on issues like age verification, parental controls and product design for kids and teens. Mosseri also took the notable step of stating that Instagram would be willing to follow rules from this theoretical pseudo-regulatory agency in order to “earn some of our Section 230 protections.”

Blumenthal slammed Mosseri’s proposal for self regulation, pressing the Instagram head on what enforcement would look like in that scenario. Mosseri wasn’t eager to agree with Blumenthal’s suggestion that the U.S. Attorney General should be able to oversee enforcement if tech companies failed to meet their own standards. “Self policing based on trust is no longer a viable solution,” Blumenthal said, concluding the hearing.

Policy leads from YouTube, Snap and TikTok testified before Congress in October on the same issues, largely spending their time contrasting their own policies on kids and teens to those of rival Facebook. “Being different from Facebook is not a defense,” Blumenthal said during that hearing. “That bar is in the gutter. It’s not a defense to say that you are different.”

Last month, Instagram began testing an opt-in feature called “Take a Break” that would remind users to take up to a 30 minute break from the famously addictive app, if enabled. A day prior to Mosseri’s testimony, that feature launched alongside the announcement that Instagram would roll out its first set of parental controls in March of 2022. Those controls will allow parents to monitor and limit time spent on the app but fall short of the powerful controls offered by rivals like TikTok.

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Twitter is the latest platform to test a TikTok copycat feature – TechCrunch

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Twitter posted today that it’s testing a feature that would turn its in-app explore page into a TikTok-like video feed, complete with even a “For You” tab. This feature is testing on both Android and iOS for users in certain countries who use Twitter in English.

“We’re testing out a revamped, more personalized Explore page to make it easier for you to unwind, find new interests and see what’s happening,” a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. The company said it is a visual-forward way of surfacing content that already exists on Twitter. This is part of Twitter’s ongoing effort to improve personalized recommendations and discovery across the platform.

Twitter is the latest social app to see if it can capitalize on TikTok’s rapid growth — the short form video app surpassed one billion monthly active users this year, making it one of the fastest companies to hit that milestone. TikTok clones like Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight and YouTube Shorts have incentivized creators to use their platforms and have grown in popularity. Even apps like Netflix, Spotify and Reddit are experimenting with the format.

Twitter has been constantly churning out new products and features this year, like Spaces, Twitter Blue and Tip Jar. This momentum is expected to continue with Parag Agrawal taking over as CEO after co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last week. Already, Agrawal has begun restructuring the company to support what he called “ambitious goals” in an email to staff, which he tweeted upon his appointment.

Spaces, Twitter’s live audio product, is now the default center icon on the app’s bottom navigation bar. This indicates that Twitter is committed to promoting this Clubhouse competitor. But Twitter’s copycat features haven’t always been successful. Fleets, its Snapchat/Instagram stories competitor, was shuttered after eight months. So, just because Twitter is testing a short form video feed doesn’t mean that this will definitively become its vehicle for content discovery. But, as TikTok’s success has shown, people find short videos to be quite engaging.

Update 12/8/21, 3:45 PM EST with comment from Twitter

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