Facebook Announces Messenger App for Kids That Parents Can Remotely Monitor

Facebook today is rolling out a preview for a new standalone app aimed at kids under the age of 13, which the company says was built to make it easier for kids to "safely video chat and message with family and friends." The "Messenger Kids" preview is available only on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in the United States, letting young family members download the app, which can then be controlled by their parent's Facebook account.

Facebook said that it developed the app with guidance from the National PTA, as well as experts in child development and online safety. Messenger Kids does not require children to create a Facebook account, but instead asks parents to download the app, authenticate it, and then create a miniature profile of their kid that is linked to the parent's Facebook account.


Once parents set up an account, kids can have one-on-one or group video calls only with contacts approved by their parents. The home screen of the app shows these approved contacts, as well as which are online.
Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone.
Like other Facebook apps, there are a wide variety of masks, emojis, and sound effects to use within video chats. Kids will be able to send photos, videos, and text messages -- and edit them with GIFs, frames, stickers, and doodling tools -- to their friends also on Messenger Kids, as well as adult family members. The adult contacts will receive these messages on their normal Messenger app.


For parents, there will now be a Messenger Kids parental controls panel on their own Facebook app, where they can approve or disallow certain contacts from being able to talk with their kid. Facebook said that there are "no ads" in Messenger Kids and any of the child's information from the app "isn't used for ads."

Messenger Kids is available on the iOS App Store for free starting today [Direct Link], and Facebook confirmed that there are no in-app purchases. For more information, visit Facebook's new website for the kid-focused app.


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Facebook Tests Yet Another Snapchat-Like Feature With Messenger ‘Streaks’

Facebook is continuing its seemingly relentless trend of copying Snapchat with the testing of a new feature that plays on the latter's streak feature, which encourages users to "keep your streak going" when messaging friends.

Facebook Messenger streaks include an emoji status to indicate friends that a user is currently in a streak with – who they've messaged for at least two days in a row – and encourages them to keep chatting to keep the streak alive.


A spokesperson for Facebook Messenger who spoke to Mashable confirmed its testing of the feature, saying it was a way "to see at a glance fun facts about the people you message with".
"For example, a lightning bolt may appear next to the name of a person you've messaged with for at least three days in a row, and a counter will indicate how many consecutive days you've been chatting. We're interested to see if people enjoy this insight, but we don't have any additional information to share at this time."
Streaks have been a popular feature with younger Snapchat users for some time, with many seeing them as a fun, addictive challenge to see how long they can make a streak last for. Whether or not the trend catches on with the wider age demographic of Messenger users is a different proposition, and will undoubtedly dictate the chances of a wider rollout.

In its last straight-up feature clone, Facebook created a facsimile of Snapchat's day-long, vanishing post idea in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, which gained 100 million users following the Snapchat-like update last year.


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Facebook Rolls Out Messenger Instant Payments Service to Users in the UK

Facebook said on Monday that Messenger users in the U.K. will be able to send money to each other through the app as it rolls out its peer-to-peer payments feature in the next few weeks (via BBC).

The Messenger payments service was originally launched in 2015, but hasn't been available to users outside the United States until now. The social network said it has been used in that time to make all sorts of transactions, including to split restaurant bills, pay babysitters, and send cash gifts. Most users send less than $50 (£38), according to the company.


Facebook said it had chosen to bring Messenger payments to the U.K. because it has so many "mobile-savvy consumers". It is collaborating with major banks and credit card firms to launch the feature, which requires both the sender and recipient to register their cards.

Facebook is also introducing M suggestions, a virtual assistant that recognizes when users are discussing payments and suggests the Messenger payments as a quick and easy solution.

The U.K. is already home to a similar bank-run peer-to-peer payments service called Paym, which allows registered users to pay each other using just their phone number.

Paym says four million people have used the service at one time or another over the past three and a half years, amounting to £400 million worth of transactions, but Facebook will hope that it is uniquely positioned to become more widely used, thanks to its large existing Messenger user base.


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Facebook Rolls Out Messenger Instant Payments Service to Users in the UK

Facebook said on Monday that Messenger users in the U.K. will be able to send money to each other through the app as it rolls out its peer-to-peer payments feature in the next few weeks (via BBC).

The Messenger payments service was originally launched in 2015, but hasn't been available to users outside the United States until now. The social network said it has been used in that time to make all sorts of transactions, including to split restaurant bills, pay babysitters, and send cash gifts. Most users send less than $50 (£38), according to the company.


Facebook said it had chosen to bring Messenger payments to the U.K. because it has so many "mobile-savvy consumers". It is collaborating with major banks and credit card firms to launch the feature, which requires both the sender and recipient to register their cards.

Facebook is also introducing M suggestions, a virtual assistant that recognizes when users are discussing payments and suggests the Messenger payments as a quick and easy solution.

The U.K. is already home to a similar bank-run peer-to-peer payments service called Paym, which allows registered users to pay each other using just their phone number.

Paym says four million people have used the service at one time or another over the past three and a half years, amounting to £400 million worth of transactions, but Facebook will hope that it is uniquely positioned to become more widely used, thanks to its large existing Messenger user base.


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Facebook Announces Halloween-Themed Camera Effects, Posts, and Interactive Game

Following Instagram's debut of Halloween filters yesterday, Facebook today announced the launch of Halloween-themed camera effects, posts, and even a new interactive game within the camera on the app. The update will be rolling out starting today and leading up to Halloween next Tuesday, October 31.

Included in the update are more than twelve different masks and frames themed around the holiday, and Facebook Live broadcasts will gain Halloween effects that you can place directly into your videos. In the camera there will also be a virtual game that turns you into a trick-or-treater who has to jump their way out of a haunted house by hopping up the walls to escape.


The game uses face tracking as its controls, so turning your head side to side changes the direction in which you jump, allowing you to climb higher and avoid traps, similar to the iOS game Doodle Jump. When you finish you can share your high score with a photo and send a challenge to friends to beat your record.

The colored background options on text posts will gain new themed backgrounds, including bats, pumpkins, a graveyard, and more. Additionally, Facebook plans to ensure that you're aware of Halloween events near you by sending prompts about local events to your feed.


Besides the main Facebook iOS app, Messenger will also gain various Halloween masks and frames for you to take pictures with, as well as send videos to friends. Facebook is known to launch holiday updates like this, doing the same one year ago with Halloween-themed reactions and using its acquisition of MSQRD to debut Halloween live filters in its camera.


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You Can Now Pay Friends Through Facebook Messenger Using PayPal

Last year, PayPal launched within Facebook Messenger as a way for users to shop and complete payments directly through the messaging app. Today, the two companies are expanding the focus of this feature and opening up peer-to-peer payments for Facebook Messenger users who have linked their PayPal account to the app.

With a rollout starting today, Facebook Messenger users will be able to tap on the blue plus icon within the app, then select the green Payments button, and choose PayPal to send money. This functionality will work in one-on-one conversations, as well as in group texts. PayPal said this will make it easy to split a bill, pay rent, and more.


Although PayPal's press release doesn't specify, the company's image depicting the new feature confirms that a user's PayPal balance and linked banking accounts can be chosen for P2P payments in Facebook Messenger.
We’re excited today to announce an expansion of our relationship with Facebook with the addition of PayPal as a funding source for peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, right in Messenger. People will have the option to send and request money using their PayPal account, and this integration in Messenger is starting to roll out to U.S. consumers today.

As the leader in P2P payments with $24 billion in P2P volume during Q3 2017 alone (up 47% year-over-year), the ability to send and request money in Messenger – one of the most widely used apps in the world – gives people more choice and more convenient ways to get things done in different contexts. Whether it’s splitting a bill for a cab ride or a night out, paying for your share of the rent, or making sure you get paid back for Mom’s birthday present, PayPal makes exchanging money between friends and family simple.
There will also be a new PayPal customer service bot for Messenger, letting PayPal customers receive account support without leaving Facebook's app. Specifically, with the company's bot PayPal users will be able to reset passwords, ask for help with refunds or payment issues, and other general account inquiries.

PayPal's new P2P solution in Facebook Messenger is debuting ahead of Apple Pay Cash, which still has an unclear launch date in a future update to iOS 11. When it releases, Apple Pay Cash will let users send money to one another within Apple's Messages app.


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Facebook Messenger’s Apple Music Chat Extension for Recommendations and Sharing Songs Now Rolling Out

Facebook's Messenger service was today updated with a new Apple Music chat extension, allowing Messenger users to link to Apple Music content to share songs and directly within the Messenger app.

The extension can be accessed by tapping on the "+" icon next to the text bar to add Apple Music to a conversation. There's also an option to interact directly with the Apple Music chat bot to ask for music recommendations.


Apple Music subscribers can listen to full tracks from Apple Music, while non-subscribers are able to share and listen to 30 second clips from any music track. There's an option directly within Messenger to sign up for Apple Music.

This feature appears to still be rolling out to users. While Engadget has access, we're not yet seeing full functionality.

Facebook first announced plans for both Spotify and Apple Music integration in Messenger in April of 2017. The Spotify chat extension has been available for months ahead of the launch of the Apple Music extension.


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Facebook Messenger Home Screen Ads Rolling Out Worldwide

Home screen ads in Facebook Messenger, which have been in testing in Australia and Thailand since January, will soon roll out to all users in a beta capacity, Facebook announced in a blog post this morning.

The Facebook Messenger home screen currently displays recent messages from friends, "Shared Days," Favorites, and friends who are currently online. When ads roll out, this screen will also feature tailored advertisements similar to the ads already displayed on Facebook and Instagram.
Today we're pleased to announce the global beta expansion of Messenger ads. People already spend time on Messenger interacting and conducting commerce with businesses and brands they love, and now with Messenger ads, they have an opportunity to discover experiences directly on their home tab.
Home screen ads will join "Click to Messenger" ads that drive customers to Messenger after clicking an ad in Facebook or Instagram, and sponsored messages, designed to let companies to send ads to users after an interaction to "re-engage."

According to Facebook, a "small percentage" of people will begin to see ads on the Messenger home screen towards the end of the month as the company begins to build ad inventory. Facebook says ads will gradually be extended to additional users over the coming months as it learns from the beta experience to ensure it is "continuing to deliver the best experience."

Global ads will be available to a select number of advertisers starting today, and those advertisers can begin to add Messenger to their ad campaigns.


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Facebook Messenger Gets Reactions and Filters in Video Chat, New Assistant Suggestions

Facebook this week announced it has added several new features to video chatting in its Messenger app for iPhone and iPad.


In both one-on-one and group video chats, Messenger users can now add or use animated reactions, filters, effects, and new masks, while Facebook has added a conveniently placed camera icon to take a screenshot of your video chat.

For animated reactions, Messenger users can choose one of five emoji icons: love, laughter, surprise, sadness, or anger. Tapping an emoji generates a related reaction that animates on the screen for a short period of time.


On the artificial intelligence side, Facebook has expanded the capabilities of Messenger's built-in "M" personal assistant, adding a "save it for later" function, birthday wishes, and call initiations, according to Engadget.

The personal assistant, which is currently available in the United States only, is designed to provide proactive suggestions in Messenger [Direct Link].


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Spotify Announces Group Playlists for Messenger

Spotify today announced a new mobile feature called Group Playlists for Messenger, which enables users of Facebook's chat app to create music mixes collaboratively within a conversation thread.

With Group Playlists for Messenger, users can create new Spotify playlists with friends and immediately begin collaborating to build out their perfect mix. Ideal for parties, road trips, or simply collecting new favorites, Group Playlists provide a seamless way for users to collaborate and share music more easily than ever before.
The new feature means Messenger users can create a Group Playlist, share it with friends, and add songs to it directly from within the Messenger app via the Spotify Chat Extension, which is available by tapping the blue + icon next to the composer.

By tapping the Create button at the bottom of the screen, users can give their playlist a name before sending it to the group chat session, where it will appear as a thumbnail preview accompanied by a button below to add songs.

While the person creating the playlist must be a current Spotify user, others in the conversation thread can add more songs to it, even if they aren't on Spotify. The Group Playlists extension can also be accessed from within Messenger using this link.


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