Facebook Will Now Let You Raise Money for Nonprofits on Your Birthday

Facebook today announced an update coming to its iOS and Android mobile apps, as well as its main website, that is aimed to make birthdays more "meaningful" for users based in the United States.

Two weeks ahead of your birthday, Facebook said it will now send you a message in your News Feed with the option of creating a fundraiser. If you opt-in, you can choose from any of the 750,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations on Facebook and set a funding goal. Then on your actual birthday, all of your friends will get the usual notification to send you a happy birthday message, which will also include a prompt to donate to your organization of choice.


Facebook said the update is a way to streamline a popular birthday tradition, which sees people dedicating the day to a specific cause instead of asking for gifts of their own.
People often dedicate their birthday to support a cause, and we’ve seen people using Facebook to raise money for causes they care about. For those in the US, we’re now making it easier to do this by giving you the opportunity to create a fundraiser for your birthday directly on Facebook.

Birthdays have always been a part of Facebook, and we hope to continue providing you with a variety of experiences that make celebrating on the platform fun and meaningful for you and your friends.
The company has supported user-generated fundraisers in the past, earlier this year allowing each Facebook user to create fundraisers for six specific categories: education, medical, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergency, and funeral and loss. With those fundraisers, and presumably the new birthday-focused fundraisers, users were able to make a donation to the cause directly within the Facebook app.

The birthday announcement also included a new celebratory video that will appear whenever a birthday of a close friend is coming up. Similar to the social network's previous anniversary videos, it combines pictures and status updates that include both you and your friend.

Yesterday, Facebook announced a few design changes also coming to its mobile apps, including circular profile pictures, easier to tap buttons, revamped comment sections, and more. The company said that the changes should make the Facebook app "more conversational and easier to read and navigate."

Facebook is available to download for free on the iOS App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Bringing Design Improvements to News Feed for Better Navigation and Conversation

Facebook today announced plans to make several changes to the Facebook News Feed with the intent of making it "more conversational and easier to read and navigate."

The "look and feel" of News Feed is being refreshed with improved color contrast to make typography more legible, larger link previews to make it easier to read links, circular profile pictures, and updated icons and Like, Comment, and Share buttons that are meant to be easier to tap.


To improve conversations, Facebook plans to implement a chat bubble-style comment design, which the company says is aimed at making it easier to see which comments are direct replies to another person.


Facebook plans to simplify navigation with the following features:
- See where a link will take you before clicking on it
- See whose post you're commenting on, reacting to, or reading while you're in the post
- Return to News Feed once you've finished reading via a more prominent back button
Facebook says the design changes will be available users "over the coming weeks."

Facebook is also starting to roll out several new camera features that have been in testing over the course of the summer, including the ability to create GIFs that can be shared on the social network and a new feature for starting a live stream from the camera interface.

Tag: Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Rolling Out New Trending News Section on Mobile

Facebook is introducing a new "Trending News" section to the Facebook app on iOS and Android devices, designed to make it easier for Facebook users to access current and trending news stories, reports TechCrunch.

Trending News aggregates news stories from a wide range of sources and ranks them by the number of publications that are sharing a particular story. The Trending News section can be accessed by going to the "Explore" tab and then scrolling down to the specific "Trending News" section, which Facebook began introducing on iOS a few weeks ago.


From there, news stories are displayed in a list, and tapping a story allows users to read headlines from a range of sources, watch videos, see photos, and view top Facebook posts about the topic. Trending Topics that are seen in the Facebook search feed also share a similar design when tapped.

Facebook first announced plans to redesign its Trending Topics section back in May, with the update aimed at allowing users to see how publications are covering a particular topic as well as relevant discussions from friends and public figures.

Facebook can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Announces ‘Watch’ Platform for Facebook-Exclusive TV Shows

Facebook today announced the launch of an upcoming platform called "Watch," which is designed to Facebook-exclusive TV shows.

Watch is Facebook's official platform for shows on Facebook, and it will be available on mobile, desktop, and in Facebook's TV apps. According to Facebook, its shows are "made up of episodes -- live or recorded -- and follow a theme or storyline."

Watch includes a Watchlist so Facebook users can keep up with their favorite shows, and it includes personalization to people find new shows to watch. Show discovery categories will include things like "Most Talked About," "What's Making People Laugh," and "What Friends Are Watching."


Along with serving as a platform for end users to watch shows, Watch is also a platform that's meant to help creators and publishers find an audience for their content, build a community, and earn money. In today's announcement, Facebook outlines what kinds of shows it thinks can be successful:
- Shows that engage fans and community. Nas Daily publishes a daily show where he makes videos together with his fans from around the world. The Watchlist makes it easy for fans to catch every day's new episode.

- Live shows that connect directly with fans. Gabby Bernstein, a New York Times bestselling author, motivational speaker, and life coach, uses a combination of recorded and live episodes to connect with her fans and answer questions in real time.

- Shows that follow a narrative arc or have a consistent theme. Tastemade's Kitchen Little is a funny show about kids who watch a how-to video of a recipe, then instruct professional chefs on how to make it. Each episode features a new child, a new chef, and a new recipe. Unsurprisingly, the food doesn't always turn out as expected.

- Live events that bring communities together. Major League Baseball is broadcasting a game a week on Facebook, enabling people to watch live baseball while connecting with friends and fellow fans on the platform.
Facebook expects Watch to become "home to a wide range of shows" in all categories, from reality to comedy to live sports. Facebook has also already funded some shows, such as "Returning the Favor," a show that stars Mike Rowe finding people who do extraordinary things for their community.

Facebook says Watch will be available to a limited group of people in the United States on mobile, desktop, and its TV apps. The company is aiming to make it available to additional U.S. viewers "in the coming weeks."

Tag: Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Removes Standalone ‘Groups’ and Teenage-Focused ‘Lifestage’ Apps From iOS App Store

Facebook has removed two of its standalone apps from the iOS App Store: the high school chat app "Lifestage" and community-focused gathering place "Groups." Lifestage had been on the App Store since August 2016, while Groups had been around as a standalone app since 2014.

The company discussed the closure of Groups directly on its website (via TechCrunch), assuring users that the feature will continue to be a major aspect of Facebook on mobile and the web, but the standalone app will no longer allow users to log in after September 1, 2017. "Because we're focusing on groups in the main Facebook app and on facebook.com, we are discontinuing the Facebook Groups app for iOS and Android."

Separately, Lifestage was built for those under 21 years of age, allowing users to search for their local high school and discover fellow classmates who go to the same school, then chat with each other primarily through videos and selfies. The video-focused app included user profiles to showcase short clips of each person's "happy face," "sad face," likes, dislikes, best friend, favorite dance, and more. These features and the app's UI earned it a designation as another one of Facebook's Snapchat clones.


Now, Facebook has confirmed to Business Insider that the app was removed from the App Store on August 4. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that while the app has been shut down, the company "learned a lot from Lifestage," and will use this information to continuously bolster similar camera- and video-focused Facebook features, likely referring to Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories.
“We originally launched Lifestage to make it easier for teens in the US to connect with others at their school by creating a video profile with content for all of things that make up their identity," a company spokesperson told BI. "Teens continue to make up an important part of the global community on Facebook, and we've learned a lot from Lifestage. We will continue to incorporate these learnings into features in the main Facebook app.”
Facebook started the first wave of "Snapchat clone" stories last summer with Instagram Stories, which let users post 24 hour-long visual updates to their profiles for their friends to watch. The company followed with WhatsApp Status, Messenger Day, and then Facebook Stories directly within the main Facebook app earlier this year, which so far has yet to catch on with users as much as Instagram Stories.

Facebook's next big push into video will be a "higher end" version of YouTube that's set to combine short 5-10 minute videos with original big-budget, cable-length dramatic series in one section of the social networking app. In July, sources predicted that the major push into video from Facebook was gearing up for a mid-August launch, but now that we're approaching the middle of the month it's unclear whether or not Facebook has delayed the launch yet again.

Tag: Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Hiring Apple Veterans to Build ‘Siri-Style’ Voice Assistant for Two Home Speaker Devices

Last week, a source in the Taiwanese supply chain reported that Facebook has entered into small production on a smart home speaker with a touchscreen, preparing to compete with companies like Apple and Amazon in the smart speaker market. A report by Bloomberg this week has continued that rumor, and added onto it by claiming the company is in fact working on two separate speaker devices to release to the public, and that it's hiring from Apple to get a "Siri-style" AI voice assistant up and running for the devices' launch.

Coming out of Facebook's Building 8 lab, today's report confirmed many of the features already discussed regarding the touchscreen-enabled speaker. Facebook plans to launch it with a screen size between 13 and 15 inches, a wide-angle lens, and microphones and speakers all powered by artificial intelligence. The screen rests on a thin, vertical stand and Facebook is now deciding whether the UI will run on a version of Android or if it will build its own OS, according to people familiar with the plans.

A few possible Siri commands on HomePod

Although the touchscreen speaker is only in the prototype stage, Facebook has begun testing it in employee homes.
Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring’s F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they’re in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people’s homes.
The advanced smart speaker will be aimed at video calling and connecting friends and family members across long distances, with Facebook testing a way for its camera to automatically scan a user in its range, lock onto them, and track their movements to keep them in shot during a video call. A 360-degree camera was a possibility at one point during the touchscreen device's development, but now it's "unlikely" to be ready in time for Facebook's rumored launch of early 2018, likely ahead of or around the company's annual F8 conference in the spring.

In addition, Facebook is working on "at least one other product," representing a more basic and "standalone" smart speaker that would be aimed at competing with the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It's rumored that the standalone speaker would be priced "in the low $100 range," coming in under the flagship Echo ($180) and Google Home ($130). On the higher end, the touchscreen speaker made by Facebook would be priced at "a few hundred dollars."

In order to get a helpful AI assistant on both devices, Facebook is looking at hiring some "Apple Inc. veterans" to work at Building 8 and help create the social network company's own version of assistants like Siri and Alexa. The exact Apple veterans that Facebook is hiring were not specified in the report.
The social media giant is working on at least one other product -- a standalone smart speaker that would compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, said the people, who asked not be named discussing unannounced products. Facebook is hiring Apple Inc. veterans to help it create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices, they said.
Last week's supply chain sources claimed that Facebook's smart speaker would be mostly controlled through the touchscreen and lack voice controls, but now Bloomberg's sources suggest the company is in fact working to include such voice-activated features. People close to the plans also mentioned that Facebook is prepared to abandon the cheaper, more basic speaker and pivot to prioritizing the touchscreen-enabled speaker instead, due to potentially intense competition in the standalone smart speaker market.

Apple will finally enter the same space later this year with the HomePod, which the company is billing as primarily a high-quality music playback device that also has helpful smart features that can be controlled by Siri. HomePod will sell for $350 when it launches this December.

Tags: Siri, Facebook

Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook’s ‘Higher End’ Version of YouTube Said to Be Ready for Mid-August Launch

Earlier in May, news came out that Facebook was working to develop a slate of television shows that would combine short 5-10 minute videos with big-budget, cable-length dramatic series in a new video section on the popular social network. After a delay, people familiar with the company's plans are pointing towards a mid-August debut for the new TV-focused Facebook update (via Bloomberg).

Facebook is said to be asking its video partners to deliver the first episodes of their "spotlight shows," mainly focusing on the shorter and more inexpensive programs that will run under 10 minutes in length. The longer marquee series will launch "later on the site," and presumably on the main iOS app and video-focused Apple TV app.

Facebook Video for Apple TV launched earlier in February

Despite being delayed numerous times already, the people close to the project said that "further delays could occur." Eventually, the new video section of Facebook will combine both scripted and user-generated content, with Bloomberg describing Facebook's aim to create a "higher end" version of YouTube. While the company is funding hour-long, TV-style shows, those close to the project said that it is refraining from directly competing with the likes of Netflix, HBO, and Showtime.
The company has been asking its partners to turn in the first episodes of their spotlight shows, the people said. Some already have finished these short-form, inexpensive programs. Facebook is also funding higher-end TV-style shows, which will be launched later on the site, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.

The new video section will offer the social network’s more than 2 billion users a mix of scripted and user-generated content. Facebook aims to make something higher-end than Google’s YouTube, but it’s not competing with video producers such as Netflix, HBO and Showtime.
Even though it doesn't want to enter the market as a competitor to such big networks, Facebook hopes to use the TV content to gain a cut of the overall advertising market that's traditionally associated with cable networks. To this end, Facebook has already hired former MTV executive Mina Lefevre to oversee its push into original TV shows, one of which is said to be a dating series from media partner Condé Nast.

Original TV production is becoming a focus for many companies that aren't normally associated with scripted television content, with Snapchat having already launched short-form shows on its app, and Twitter gearing up for a big 24/7 live news network in partnership with Bloomberg.

Apple Music has also become Apple's home for its first original TV content, having debuted Planet of the Apps in June and getting ready for the launch of Carpool Karaoke: The Series in August. Down the line, Apple intends to launch its own traditional TV-length dramatic content with shows from potential partners like J.J. Abrams, guided by two former Sony executives who are helping to create the slate of original TV shows.


Discuss this article in our forums

Facebook Smart Speaker Coming Next Year With 15-inch Touch Panel

Facebook is planning to release its own smart speaker to compete with similar connected devices offered by Amazon, Google, and Apple, a report out of Taiwan claimed on Tuesday.

However, instead of voice recognition functions in the vein of Siri or Alexa, Facebook's speaker will focus more on displaying visual imagery via a 15-inch touch panel, according to sources in the supply chain.

Amazon's Echo Show was the first smart speaker to feature a display

The device will be manufactured by Pegatron for release in the first quarter of 2018 and has already begun small volume pilot production at plants in China, said the sources. The touchscreen is said to be supplied by LG Display using in-cell technology, while the chassis is constructed from a magnesium-aluminum-alloy.

Market watchers predicted high growth for Pegatron going into the second half of the year, with the manufacturer already fulfilling iPhone orders for Apple as well as Surface and Xbox One orders for Microsoft.

Amazon is reportedly working on a successor to its popular flagship Echo speaker for release later this year. The company hopes to steal the spotlight from Apple as it prepares to launch its music-oriented HomePod speaker, costing $350.

Research firm Strategy Analytics claims worldwide smart speaker shipments reached 5.9 million units in 2016, 4.2 million of which were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2016. The smart speaker market is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2022.

(Via DigiTimes.)

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tags: Facebook, Amazon Echo

Discuss this article in our forums

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.


Discuss this article in our forums

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].


Discuss this article in our forums