Facebook Groups: Now there’s an app for that

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Facebook is breaking out yet another feature into a standalone app.

The social network rolled out Facebook Groups, an app to help users stay in touch with all of their Facebook groups and find new ones.

The app functions as a hub for everything related to groups on Facebook. Upon launching the app, users see a list of the groups they belong to, with the most frequently viewed appearing first.

Though groups already existed within the main Facebook app, they are not featured prominently within the app, unless you get a notification from a group you’re a part of. By breaking out the feature into a separate iOS and Android app, the company is hoping to make it easier for power users to engage with their groups.

And, as with Facebook Messenger, the company says a standalone app will make the service faster on mobile — though unlike Messenger, Facebook Groups is optional… for now.

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For ‘Facebook at Work’ to work, it will need to prove it’s worthy of our trust

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It’s not hard to see that Facebook’s (reported) “Facebook at Work” product could bring something unique and useful to the enterprise space. But regardless of what’s in the product, Facebook may not be able to offer trust.

The social network has so far limited itself to use in people’s personal lives and has stored away petabytes of photos of drunks and people making duck-faces. Of course, it’s also stored away lots of information on demographics, preferences, favorite discussion topics, group likes, etc.

Facebook has said that its business platform would be separate and distinct from the personal platform we all know. It’ll also offer a “groups” feature and messaging.

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The countries where Facebook censors the most content

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As Facebook expands, countries are increasingly interested in making content on the social network disappear.

Censorship on Facebook increased 19% between the first six months of 2014 and the last six months of 2013, the company revealed on Tuesday. But censorship isn’t distributed evenly; some countries are more trigger-happy than others when asking Facebook to remove content.

Facebook only removed some content in 15 of the 83 counties listed on the network’s third transparency report. India leads the list of content removal; Facebook restricted 4,960 “pieces of content” from the country between January and June 2014. Turkey and Pakistan follow closely with 1,893 and 1,773 “pieces of content” removed, respectively.

After India, Turkey and Pakistan, there is a big gap. Facebook only removed 34 pieces of content from the No. 4 country on the list, Germany.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company restricts access to content only when it is “illegal under local law.” Facebook doesn’t release many details on the content it restricts — or what laws the restrictions are based on — but does explain the reasons for removals in each country, in broad strokes.

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Twitter Launches Mobile Payments Before Facebook (but Apple May Have the Last Laugh)

Twitter may be much smaller than Facebook, but its ability to innovate in payments is allowing it to outgun its much larger competitor, at least for the time being.

Both Twitter and Facebook are competing with other tech giants, including Apple, Google, PayPal and the leading credit card companies to own the emerging mobile payment sector, which is immensely popular with consumers and has proven fertile territory for startups. More specifically, the leading technology companies are seeking an advantage in so-called peer-to-peer payments, which are typically smaller payments sent from one person to another. Individuals could use such payments, for example, when they are splitting a bill or to wire money.

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How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’

How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’

The “Like” button on Facebook seems harmless enough: It’s an easy way to express your appreciation of something.

But as some people are discovering, that innocuous little like has some unintended consequences.

Wired writer Mat Honan found out what happens when you like every single thing that shows up in your Facebook feed. The results were dramatic: Instead of his friends’ updates, he saw more and more updates from brands and publishers. And, based on what he had liked most recently, Facebook’s algorithm made striking judgements about his political leanings, giving him huge numbers extremely right-wing or extremely left-wing posts. What’s more, all that liking made Honan’s own posts show up far more in his friends’ feeds — distorting their view of the world, too.

But Medium writer Elan Morgan tried the opposite experiment: Not liking anything on Facebook. Instead of pressing like, she wrote a few thoughtful words whenever she felt the need to express appreciation: “What a gorgeous shock of hair” or “Remember how we hid from your grandmother in the gazebo and smoked cigarettes?” The result, as you might guess, is just the opposite of Honan’s experience: Brand messages dwindled away and Facebook became a more relaxed, conversational place for Morgan.

While far from conclusive, these two personal experiments are highly suggestive. Facebook’s algorithm is tuned in a way that makes it respond to likes by giving you more of what it thinks is related — and those suggestions are usually driven by brand marketing. Stop liking things, and Facebook eases off the marketing messages, letting your friends’ updates come to the fore.

“Once I removed the Like function from my own behavior, I almost started to like using Facebook,” Morgan wrote, concluding:

Give the Like a rest and see what happens. Choose to comment with words. Watch how your feed changes. I haven’t used the Like on Facebook since August 1st, and the changes in my feed have been so notably positive that I won’t be liking anything in the foreseeable future.

Not so secretly, I think the humanity and love, the kinder middle grounds not begging for extremes, that many of us have come to believe are diminishing in the world at large are simply being drowned out by an inhuman algorithm, and I think we can bring those socially vital experiences back out into the light.

Facebook’s VP Of product management Sam Lessin is leaving the company

Facebook’s VP Of product management Sam Lessin is leaving the company

Lessin was considered a very high-profile acquihire by Facebook at the time. In his announcement, Lessin didn’t say what he’d be doing next other than taking some time off and helping his wife, journalist Jessica Lessin, with her tech news site The Information. Here’s Sam Lessin’s full announcement:

Esteemed colleagues, it is with quite mixed emotions that I write to say that August 29th will be my last day at Facebook. I am tempted to stay in character and dash off a cool 10,000 word as a parting salvo, but I will spare you all and keep it to a few relatively short — though not Emoji short — thoughts.

First, thank you. Being part of this community over the last few years has been an unbelievable privilege and honor. I won’t do the traditional parting ‘colleague-tagging’ exercise both because there are far too many people to mention, and because it would be besides the point to call out individuals. But suffice it to say that you collectively as a community have pushed me to my best, and taught me to be better. The fond memories are countless, but I find myself thinking back to the late nights and hard debates as the moments which I most cherish. I am extremely proud and thankful to have had the opportunity to play a small role in a chapter or two of the grand adventure that is Facebook.

Second, keep playing your heart out, as you always do. This company is a very important part of the future. I sincerely believe that it has every ability to be the most important company of our generation and carries with it the power to do unbelievable good in our world. Even today, I am a firm believer that ‘we are 1% done’. That said, Facebook is what it is today only because of a succession of amazing people who have breathed into the company not only amazing intellect and drive, but an amazing amount of heart. The intellect and drive of the Facebook community is unparalleled, but in the end it is the unique spirit of the company that sets it apart and gives it the truly stunning potential to be all that we dream it can be. As the company continues to grow, keep leading heart first.

As for me… My immediate plan is to take some time for kite-surfing, skiing, and general adventuring / possibly some trouble making. This is the first time I can think of since middle school where I didn’t have a very concrete next step to take in life, and I intend to not squander the opportunity. That said, you can only kite-surf when the wind is up, so I hope to also have the chance to pay down some balked at New Year’s resolutions, like learning to play the guitar, and help out Jessica at The Information where I can and when she wants it.

If past performance is any indication, I will be starting something soon enough… What, I don’t know, but generally volume of ideas has never been much of an issue for me. I make the promise to all of you here and now that it will not be boring. With any luck most of you will think whatever I choose to build next is crazy, but maybe not.

In the closing words of Hook “That Was A Great Game”. Hurray!

Facebook Launches Slingshot, Its Snapchat Competitor

Poke, Facebook’s first attempt at building a Snapchat competitor, belly flopped. But that hasn’t stopped the social network from taking another jump.

For some time now, rumors have swirled about Slingshot, Facebook’s sophomore take on the ephemeral messaging app. Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly “personally involved” in its development, and last week the app briefly appeared in some countries’ app stores before disappearing.

Today, all the speculation can be put to rest: Slingshot is here, for real this time.

Unlike Poke, Slingshot is not a direct Snapchat ripoff. “With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the launch.

That’s right – lurkers aren’t welcome on the app.

As with Snapchat, users can send photos or videos — adorned with text or coloring, if desired — that last up to 15 seconds with Slingshot. Each message can be viewed exactly once by the recipient before disappearing for good.

Unlike Snapchat, however, opening a message on Slingshot requires that you send a message of your own back to its sender. “Here’s the deal: friends won’t be able to see your shot until they sling something back to you,” Facebook explained.

While it’s good news that Slingshot isn’t another straight-up Snapchat clone and while the intent is admirable, it’s fair to wonder whether Facebook has overestimated our collective desire to share versus our collective desire to consume. After all, plenty of people use social networks to “lurk,” spending most of their time checking up on other people’s posts instead of posting themselves. For those types, being forced to respond to a message on Slingshot might be a tough sell.

Still, Facebook is determined to try. “[Venture capitalist] Fred Wilson once said that the cardinal rule of social networks is that 1 percent of people create content and 90 percent of people consume it,” Slingshot designer Joey Flynn told the Verge, “and we want to flip that on its head.”

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