Facebook Is Testing A Simple App For Low-End Android Phones

Not content with spinning out apps for stickers inside Messenger, Groups and new addition Rooms, Facebook has launched another standalone app. Facebook Lite, which some may recall as a simplified version of its mobile website from 2009-2010, is specifically designed for low-end Android devices in emerging markets.

TechCrunch understands that the app was quietly launched in a handful of countries in Asia and Africa over the weekend — Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe to be precise — where it is being testing with a view to further expansions. That said, a wider launch is not a certainty and Facebook could quietly can the project if it doesn’t believe it is worth pursuing.

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Facebook buys Wit.ai, a speech recognition startup

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Mark Zuckerberg at a Bloomberg TV interview at the company’s headquarters on Dec. 2, 2014. 
Facebook may soon be able to understand you a bit better — or at least your voice.

Facebook has agreed to acquire Wit.ai, a speech recognition and natural language processing service. The deal could help the social networking company develop voice features for Messenger and help the Facebook developer community.

A rep for Facebook confirmed the deal in a statement to Mashable. “Wit.ai has built an incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data. We’re excited to have them onboard,” the Facebook spokesperson said.

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Facebook in 2015: Drones, messaging and virtual reality, oh my!

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As Facebook has matured into a social media platform unrivaled in size and reach in recent years, the persistent question hanging over the company in 2014 has been: what’s next?

To properly answer that question it’s best to look into the company’s recent past to glean a hint at what might be in store for Facebook in 2015.

Messaging

Earlier this year, Facebook recovered from its stinging rebuke from Snapchat by snapping up the messaging app WhatsApp for $16 billion in February. The app, which currently claims to have 600 million active monthly users, added a significant amount of heft to the company’s already massive billion-user base. Nevertheless, the acquisition hasn’t appeared to put a dent in Snapchat’s popularity.

slingshot messages

Slingshot allows you to draw on photos. You can control the size of the brush by moving your finger farther away from the color bar.

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Facebook Dumps Bing, Will Introduce Its Own Search Tool

It seems that Facebook quietly removed Bing as its primary search provider over the weekend, announcing plans to debut its own search tool on Monday, according to Reuters.

The report says that Facebook’s new search tool will give users the ability to filter through old comments and other information from friends.

Facebook has been building out its search products for a long time, using Bing as an extra layer to provide results beyond the Interest Graph in an effort to avoid letting rival Google into the system.

A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters: “We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook. We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft of lots of different areas.”

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Facebook revamps trending news to make it even more like Twitter

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Facebook’s Trending news section, which appears on the righthand side of each user’s news feed, is getting a refresh that will make it easier to find information and see different perspectives of the day’s most popular stories, including a Twitter-like live feed with user mentions.

The section is also coming to mobile devices for the first time, starting on Wednesday.

The social network first introduced Trending in January 2014 to give its users a look at the top stories of the day. Now the handy feature, which calls out about the top 10 most-shared news headlines at a given time, is making its way to mobile devices. By visiting the search bar on Android devices, users will be able to see a drop-down menu of the hot topics and stories circulating the site. (Facebook said it is working on an iOS update, too).

Adding the Trending section to mobile is a pretty big (and logical) move, but the company is also rolling out more ways to stay on top of news.

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Facebook Brings Graph Search To Mobile And Lets You Find Feed Posts By Keyword

Facebook is finally getting serious about search. Today it’s challenging Google for finding answers and Twitter for checking real-time chatter with the launch of keyword search. Two years after debuting semantic “My friends who…” search for people, places, and photos on the web, Graph Search is rolling out on iOS in the US along with a new keyword search option for dredging up old News Feed posts by friends.

Product manager Rousseau Kazi tells me Facebook’s personalized search results are focused first on helping people rediscover thoughts, experiences, and memories they saw in feed. Still, queries for “dentist” or “burrito” could surface recommendations from friends that compete with Google results. Meanwhile, a search for “Michael Brown” or “101 traffic” could surface a feed of recent mentions or news articles by friends, similar to Twitter.

There will be no ads on Facebook’s mobile search or any new keyword ads. But since keywords can carry lucrative purchase intent, I’d bet Facebook experiments with ads here eventually to see if they could become real revenue generators. Businesses would surely be willing to pay to insert themselves into results for “restaurant” or “lawyer”.

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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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