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 Expands Captcha Test That Asks for Clear Photo of Your Face When Suspicious Activity is Spotted

Facebook users are beginning to notice a new account verification test on mobile devices that asks for them to upload a clear photo of their face, which will then be used to confirm that they are a real person, similar to other basic captcha tests that prove human users are not a bot. The selfie verification test has been around since at least earlier this spring, but the story is just now beginning to spread after more users have shared screenshots of the test on Twitter (via Wired).

Facebook told Wired that this new photo test was created to "help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including creating an account, sending Friend requests, setting up ads payments, and creating or editing ads."



Every step of the process is automated, from the moment when Facebook flags an account for suspicious activity and asks for a photo verification, to the actual process of checking the uniqueness of the uploaded photo, meaning you'd have to upload a picture not previously shared on Facebook. Once the process is done, Facebook said that it will "permanently delete" the image from its servers. This is one of "several methods" the company uses to detect suspicious activity.

Earlier in November, Facebook announced a trial for a "non-consensual intimate image pilot" program, where part of the process asked users to send such images to themselves on Facebook Messenger. This was intended to eventually prevent any of these images from being spread online by reviewing and hashing the image, "which creates a human-unreadable, numerical fingerprint of it." This way, if someone else did try to share the image on Facebook, the company's database of hashes would spot the image and prevent it from being uploaded.

As with any of Facebook's tests, it's unclear how widely available the new image verification system is currently, or if it will expand to a wider user base in the future. According to a deleted Tweet spotted by Wired, if Facebook asks you for the photo log-in you might be locked out of your account completely until you provide the image, with a message stating: "You Can't Log In Right Now. We'll get in touch with you after we've reviewed your photo. You'll now be logged out of Facebook as a security precaution."


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Facebook Launches New ‘Creator’ App for Video Makers

Facebook today announced the launch of a new "Facebook Creator" app and accompanying website, both of which are designed for people who want to create videos.

Facebook Creator sounds similar to the tools available on YouTube. It is described as a "one stop shop for creators of all kinds," allowing users to create original video, stream live video, and connect with their community on Facebook.


Creator is actually a rebranding of the existing Mentions app, which was something that was previously only available to verified public figures. With the revamp, the app is available to all users.

The app includes a Live Creative Kit, with tools that Facebook says are meant to make it easy to create live broadcasts with a personalized feel. There's an option to create and add intros and outros to live broadcasts, custom live stickers, graphic frames, and more.

With the Community Tab, video makers can connect with their fans and collaborators with a unified inbox that includes comments from Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.

A Camera & Stories section lets content creators add "fun camera effects and frames" to videos, and it also allows videos to be crossposted to other social networking platforms. Finally, an Insights option provides content creators with metrics to allow them to custom tailor their videos to meet fan demand.

The accompanying Facebook for Creators website includes tutorials to "make content shine," answers to creator-specific questions, and a community of creators to interact with.

Facebook Creator is launching globally today on iOS devices, and while the app is still showing up as Facebook Mentions, it should be updated soon. [Direct Link]


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Facebook Rebrands Standalone ‘Events’ iOS App as ‘Facebook Local’

One year after launching the standalone "Events" app for iOS and Android devices, Facebook today announced a rebranding and relaunch of the app that will also bring bars, restaurants, and nearby attractions to your attention. Now called "Local from Facebook," or simply "Facebook Local," the app combines your Facebook events with nearby hotspots into a single app, which is powered by the company's 70 million business Pages as well as your own friends and family members' personal reviews (via TechCrunch).

Images of Facebook Local via TechCrunch

The app's home page includes shortcuts to show you nearby restaurants, cafes, drink spots, attractions, and more, as well as a guide to where your friends visit often. The original app's calendar of your Events is located here, as well as a Trending Events section, guides to music, nightlife, and other notable happenings, and filters to see all events occurring on specific days.

Facebook Local can sync with your iPhone's Calendar app to combine all of your plans into one area, and the new app also allows you to update your current city if you're traveling. Facebook's recent Order Food feature isn't implemented into Local, but Pages for certain restaurants sometimes include a link to other delivery apps like Grubhub.


According to Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal, all of these features are meant to further Facebook's new mission of "bringing the world closer together."
Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal tells me the goal was to “Make it as lot easier to do certain kind of looks ups that are very common when making plans with friends.”

Facebook’s new mission is “Bringing the world closer together” and few things do that as vividly as nightlife. The company is often criticized for supposedly isolating people, but there’s no replacement for Facebook Events. When I hear people considering deleting their Facebook account, it’s often Events that they stay for. By bundling these with local business listings, Facebook could finally give Events the spotlight they deserve.
Before Facebook Local, the company just yesterday expanded Marketplace to include apartment rentals, and previously launched car listings in October. In terms of standalone apps, in August Facebook shuttered the Groups and Lifestage apps, specifically stating that Groups was returning to be a focus of the main Facebook app and the social network's website.

You can download Local from Facebook on the iOS App Store for free today. [Direct Link]


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Facebook Rebrands Standalone ‘Events’ iOS App as ‘Facebook Local’

One year after launching the standalone "Events" app for iOS and Android devices, Facebook today announced a rebranding and relaunch of the app that will also bring bars, restaurants, and nearby attractions to your attention. Now called "Local from Facebook," or simply "Facebook Local," the app combines your Facebook events with nearby hotspots into a single app, which is powered by the company's 70 million business Pages as well as your own friends and family members' personal reviews (via TechCrunch).

Images of Facebook Local via TechCrunch

The app's home page includes shortcuts to show you nearby restaurants, cafes, drink spots, attractions, and more, as well as a guide to where your friends visit often. The original app's calendar of your Events is located here, as well as a Trending Events section, guides to music, nightlife, and other notable happenings, and filters to see all events occurring on specific days.

Facebook Local can sync with your iPhone's Calendar app to combine all of your plans into one area, and the new app also allows you to update your current city if you're traveling. Facebook's recent Order Food feature isn't implemented into Local, but Pages for certain restaurants sometimes include a link to other delivery apps like Grubhub.


According to Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal, all of these features are meant to further Facebook's new mission of "bringing the world closer together."
Facebook Local product manager Aditya Koolwal tells me the goal was to “Make it as lot easier to do certain kind of looks ups that are very common when making plans with friends.”

Facebook’s new mission is “Bringing the world closer together” and few things do that as vividly as nightlife. The company is often criticized for supposedly isolating people, but there’s no replacement for Facebook Events. When I hear people considering deleting their Facebook account, it’s often Events that they stay for. By bundling these with local business listings, Facebook could finally give Events the spotlight they deserve.
Before Facebook Local, the company just yesterday expanded Marketplace to include apartment rentals, and previously launched car listings in October. In terms of standalone apps, in August Facebook shuttered the Groups and Lifestage apps, specifically stating that Groups was returning to be a focus of the main Facebook app and the social network's website.

You can download Local from Facebook on the iOS App Store for free today. [Direct Link]


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Facebook Expands Apartment Rental Category in Marketplace With ‘Hundreds of Thousands’ of Listings

Just over one year after Facebook replaced the Messenger tab in its iOS app with "Marketplace," the company today announced that the tab will now support an expanded section for listings related to house and apartment rentals. United States users looking to rent will be able to browse "hundreds of thousands" of listings in Marketplace thanks to Facebook's partnership with real estate sites Apartment List and Zumper (via Engadget).

To begin with, the rollout will feature filters for location, price, amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of rental, pet friendliness, and square footage. Landlords renting the locations will be able to add 360-degree photos to each listing so interested renters can get a better view of the inside of each unit.


"Marketplace is a popular place for people to look for a home to rent," said Facebook's Bowen Pan. "Now that we're adding listings from Apartment List and Zumper, people can search even more options in the U.S. to find a place to call home. First with vehicles and now with housing rentals, we're partnering with businesses to bring more ease and convenience for consumers."
Before today's update, house and apartment listings on Marketplace were exclusive to those posted manually by Facebook users, so the partnership with Apartment List and Zumper will allow Marketplace to automatically populate with nearby listings from local real estate agents.

Facebook has been releasing frequent updates to its iOS app that aim to keep users on the social network, most recently adding in mobile food ordering and a "Work Histories" feature to profiles. A few weeks ago the company introduced another Marketplace expansion in the form of vehicle listings through partnerships with automotive dealerships.


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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 Expanding New GIF-Based Polling Feature to More Users on iOS and Web

Facebook is today beginning a wide rollout for a new status update polling feature on iOS, Android, and the web (via The Next Web). There is only room for two response options on Facebook (Twitter has four available), but Facebook's new feature also lets you add in GIFs or pictures as options, which you can caption.


Facebook previously supported polls in brand pages, so the new rollout is the first time a wide group of personal users can poll their friends and family on Facebook. Some brand pages -- including movies -- had the chance to test the GIF-based polls earlier this year.

Twitter first introduced polls to its users back in 2015, and Facebook just added polls to Instagram Stories one month ago. It appears that Facebook's new version is rolling out on the web first, and should be appearing on iOS and Android devices soon.


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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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