WhatsApp hits 1.5 billion monthly users. $19B? Not so bad.

Facebook’s $ 19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp voices smarter and smarter. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on the Q4 2017 earnings call today that WhatsApp now has 1.5 billion users and considers 60 billion messages sent per day. That’s compared to 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily active users in July.

The massive growth builds Facebook’s choice to pay more than $ 19 billion to acquire WhatsApp look prescient. At the time in 2014, WhatsApp had just 450 million monthly active users and 315 million daily active users.

In a slight to Snapchat, Zuckerberg also noted that Instagram and WhatsApp are the No. 1 and No. 2 most popular Story-sharing products, referring to those apps’ clones of Snapchat Stories. Each now each has 300 million daily active users, compared to 178 million on Snapchat as a whole. He also mentions that Facebook’s research been shown that across apps, total social media posting to Stories will soon outstrip that of feed posting.

People thought Facebook was crazy to pay such a high cost. But messaging is the most critical and time-consuming activity on mobile. And if Facebook didn’t buy WhatsApp, Google probably would have, and messaging would be a two-horse race. Instead, Facebook is massively dominant everywhere but China, between the 1.3 billion-user Messenger and 1.5 billion-user WhatsApp.

Now Facebook is ultimately getting serious about monetizing WhatsApp with the recent launch of the WhatsApp for Business app. Facebook plans to charge business owners for additional commerce, customer service or broadcasting tools. And with such a massive audience, merchants will be clamoring for them.

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Airbnb brings on American Express CEO to board of directors

Airbnb has appointed Kenneth I. Chenault, the outgoing CEO of American Express, to its board of directors. The announcement comes one week after Facebook appointed Chenault to its board of directors.

“As the CEO of American Express, Ken has built one of the most successful trust-based companies in the world, ” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote in an open letter today. “It is a company that has suffered and innovated for nearly 168 years. Ken and I expended day talking about the 21 st-century model and including with regard to the role of trust as the infrastructure for such a model. Ken also believes profoundly that , now more than ever, companies need to stand for values, character, and competence.”

Chenault will be the first non-affiliated independent members of the security council at Airbnb and the first black board member at Airbnb. He also is the first and only black members of the security council for Facebook.

Chesky added, “As[ Chenault] says,’ I guess corporations exist because society allows us to exist. Corporations are not entitled to exist. So I think we have a responsibility and an obligation to help improve society.’ ”

Airbnb seems to be gearing up for an IPO. On February 22, Chesky said Airbnb will announce its next chapter “to empower a host-led world with some substantial improvements to our service that set us up for an infinite hour horizon.”

As part of Chesky’s vision for Airbnb to be a company that survives “to see the next century, ” Chesky said Airbnb will release its first annual stakeholder report in March.

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Facebook lets you tip game live streamers $3+

Facebook Live is launching monetization for video gameplay streamers, allowing users to tip inventors a minimum of$ 3 via the desktop site. Right now, the contributor of the tips-off doesn’t get any special call-out or privileges, though Facebook tells me it’s considering different options for creators and gamers. For instance, it could have a special emoji Reaction float across the creek as a route to thank the fan who dedicated money.

The amount Facebook will keep from these tips that it calls “fan support” isn’t clear yet, but the company tells me that it’s safe to assume there will be a revenue share. Apparently it’s too early to lock any percentage in, though Facebook has taken a 30 percent cut from game developers in the past, and currently takes a 45 percentage share of ad revenue from people who place ad breakings in the videos, so it could be in that ballpark.

Instagram now allows businesses to schedule their posts

Instagram today made a long overdue change to its product that social media managers have wanted for some time- it will allow industries on Instagram to schedule their posts. Before, there were unofficial means to aid with this- like tools that would send out a move notification to remind you to publish a post at a given time, for example. But no functionality was available in Instagram itself.

The closest Instagram get was the added is supportive of Drafts, which let social media managers and other users to prep a post and save it for later publication.

Unfortunately, the official is supportive of post scheduling doesn’t extend to ads , nor is it immediately available with the product itself.

Instead, the support is being added to Instagram’s API- means that social media software applications like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or SocialFlow now have access to the functionality, which they can then add to their own products. Instagram says the API is available to all of Facebook’s Marketing Partnersand Instagram Partners.

Hootsuite is one of the first partners to implement the API.

“The scheduling and publishing of Instagram content has been the number 1 request for our 16 million customers, ” said Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, in a statement. “Now, they can manage large volumes of content, multiple team members and multiple Instagram accounts with ease and security. Hootsuite is excited to partner with Instagram to make this happen.”

“It’s always been very time-consuming to create Instagram posts, ” SocialFlow CEO Jim Anderson told TechCrunch. “That’s not inevitably a problem for individual consumers, but when you’re a media company that creates more than 100,000 posts a month, it’s simply impossible to do everything manually.”

However, this API update means that- for now, at least- post scheduling is something only larger organizations will be able to take advantage of, as many smaller businesses don’t inevitably use a third-party software program for working with Instagram.

The change was introduced today as part of a larger revamp of Instagram’s API platform that also included a plan to deprecate the older Instagram API Platform over the next two years beginning on July 31, 2018. The old API is being replaced by the newer Instagram Graph API, which also includes the ability to analyze metrics and insights about the business’s performance on Instagram, moderate remarks, and now, access the business’s mentions and add responses to those.

Another new feature involves business discovery, which offers the ability to opinion other business profile information and media.

These features won’t be limited to business in the future, the company notes.

Instagram says that support for non-business profiles is in the works for an early 2019 release.

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Facebooks least favorite Austrian can now press privacy suit in Vienna

A big blow for Facebook today after Europe’s top tribunal delivered a verdict in a long-running legal challenge that opens the door for plaintiff and privacy campaigner, Max Schrems, to sue Facebook in his home city of Vienna.

The company had sought to argue that Schrems’ does not have consumers rights on account of his privacy campaigning activities. But in its judgement today the CJEU repudiates that debate, saying Schrems’ campaigning activities do not cancel out his status as a consumer with a private Facebook account.

“After throwing clay at me for three years and circulating that I would try to make a profit from my political activities, it’s perhaps the time now for Facebook to apologize, ” said Schrems in a statement on the judgement.

Facebook has now been tried to argue that Austrian tribunals do not have international jurisdiction over its business, which has its European HQ in Ireland. But in 2015 a local appeals court ruled Schrems can file personal asserts in his local court in Vienna.

The company’s tactics have stalled the substance of the lawsuit from being heard for more than three years.

Now, with the CJEU ruling, Schrems can bring a model suit against Facebook on his home turf — challenging the company over a suite of awkward privacy issues.

Such as American government surveillance program access to Facebook user data; how the company pervasively tracks its users around the rest of the web; and the intricacy and opacity of its privacy policies — and whether Facebook is hence obtaining legal permission from users to process their personal data.

Truly this will be a* get popcorn* lawsuit.

“There’s a lot of stuff that Facebook will have to deal with, ” said a jubilant Schrems in a video answer to the judgement posted to Twitter.

Facebook does have one reason to be cheerful, though.

Being as, back in 2014 when Schrems filed the original suit, he had tried to structure it as a privacy class action — meeting thousands of other Facebook users to join the cause and designate their claims to him.( As an attempt to workaround Austria’s lack of class action law for consumers .)

However today’s CJEU ruling closes off such a possibility — with the judges concluding 😛 TAGEND

Article 16( 1) of Regulation No 44/2001 must be interpreted as meaning that it does not apply to the proceedings brought by a consumer for the purpose of asserting, in the courts of the place where he is domiciled , not only his own asserts, but also asserts assigned by other customers domiciled in the same Member State, in other Member States or in non-member countries.

In its response statement to the ruling, Facebook’s spokesperson merely flagged up the court’s second opinion, writing: “Today’s decision by the European Court of Justice supports the previous decisions of two courts that Mr. Schrems’s claims cannot proceed in Austrian courts as’ class action’ on behalf of other consumers. We were pleased to have been able to present our occurrence to the European Court of Justice and now look forward to resolving this matter.”

Under the EU’s incoming data protection framework GDPR, which will apply from May 25, there is a provision for customer organizations to pursue collective redress on behalf of individual consumers.

And Schrems is currently crowdfunding to get an not-for-profit off the ground for exactly that purpose — saying the aim of the organization will include bringing “privacy class actions” under a different legal regime( i.e. Article 80 of the GDPR ).

So he’s clearly not going to abandon his fight for consumer class actions in the EU.

Though he also calls out the CJEU’s judgement as problematic, saying it connotes a consumer only has rights against a company if they themselves entered into the original contract — so, for example, someone buying a secondhand Volkswagen wouldn’t have consumer rights against the company.

“Unfortunately the CJEU has massively restriction consumer rights in this case and missed a golden opportunity to finally permit collective redress in Europe, ” he said in a statement on that. “This will reach consumers in many cases where they have not signed the original contract with a company.”

“We now have the absurd situation that 71 companies that were harmed by a cartel could bring their claims collectively, only customers cannot join forces. Equally you can sue’ into’ a country that has a class action but not’ out’ of such a country. As the Advocate General has already said in its alternative: There is now an urgent need to get a European solution for collective redress, “ he added.

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Facebook acquires biometric ID verification startup Confirm.io

Facebook has confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s acquired … Confirm.io. The startup offered an API that let other companies speedily confirm someone’s government-issued identification card, like a driver’s license, was authentic. The Boston-based startup will shut down as both its team and technology are rolled into Facebook, where it could help users who are locked out of their accounts.

Confirm.io had raised at least$ 4 million from investors, including Cava Capital, since launching 3 years ago. The 2015 seed round funded advanced forensics used to pull information from an ID card, as well as mobile biometrics and facial recognition to confirm a person’s identity before the startup deleted the personal data.

Clients could quickly integrate the tech, which expedited on-demand startup staff onboarding. Food delivery service Doordash use Confirm.io to substantiate its drivers, while Notarize used it to authenticate the identity of clients looking to file documents.

The startup writes, “When we launched Confirm, our mission was to become the market’s trusted identity origination platform for which other multifactor verification services can build upon. Now, we’re ready to take the next step on our journey with Facebook. However, in the meantime this means all of our current digital ID authentication software offerings will be wound down.”

Confirm.io’s ID authentication feature

Facebook tells TechCrunch, “We are aroused to welcome the Confirm team to Facebook. Their technology and expertise will support our ongoing efforts to keep our community safe.”

Facebook tests selfie-to-unlock feature

Facebook could potentially use the technology to have people corroborate their identities if they’re locked out of their accounts after being hacked or losing their password. Back in September we spotted Facebook testing specific features that let you unlock your account using a selfie. And since at the least 2013, Facebook has let people mail in a copy of their photo ID or other identity verification materials in order to regain access to their account.

Because this is a full acquisition , not just an acqui-hire, Confirm.io’s team and tech could help Facebook strengthen and streamline these options. And one day, perhaps Facebook could even serve as your ID card in some situations. Face ID on the iPhone X could eventually be opened to third parties to power more biometric security across apps. With our keys and payment cards becoming digitized and part of our telephone, the ID card is truly the last reason you have to carry an old-school wallet.

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Facebook invented a new time unit called the flick and its truly amazing

I was all set to dislike the “flick, ” a period unit just recently devised by Facebook( technically the Oculus squad ), because I thought it was going to be something worthless like “the average time someone looks at a post.” In fact it’s a very clever route of dividing period that theoretically could attain video and audio production much more harmonious.

So what is a flick? A flick is one seven hundred and five million six hundred thousandth of a second — 1/705, 600,000 if you prefer the digits, or 1.4172335600 90703 e-9 if you prefer decimals.

And why is that useful?

As a clue, here’s a listing of numbers into which 1/706, 600,000 divides evenly: 8, 16, 22.05, 24, 25, 30, 32, 44.1, 48, 50, 60, 90, 100, 120. Notice a pattern?

Even if you don’t work in media production, some of those numbers likely look familiar. That’s because they’re all framerates or frequencies used in encoding or showing things like cinemas and music. 24 frames per second, 120 hertz TVs, 44.1 KHz sample rate audio.

Many of these fractions resolve into inconvenient decimal series, necessitating shorthand or estimations. For instance, the 1/24 th of a second around which the entire film industry is based on is equal to 0.0416666666 666666… on and on eternally( even attempting to use nanoseconds to represent these durations ends up generating fractions of nanoseconds ). So it may be abbreviated for convenience to 0.04167. Easier to remember, but not numerically exact, and who knows when that “extra” value might transgress something?

On the other hand, using flicks almost all these important fractional frequencies turn into a nice exact round numbers , no bars or estimation needed: 1/24 th of a second, for example, is 29, 400,000 flicks. 1/120 th is 5, 880,000 flicks. 1/44, 100 th is 16,000 flicks.

Those numbers may not be easier for you to recollect, but it makes them a heck of a lot simpler for systems to match with each other without making some kind of inter-format fraction that has to be resolved with yet another adjusting frequency. Computers love whole numbers, and so do I.

Even the weird NTSC numbers in use due to certain technical constraints divide nicely. 23.976( technically 24*( 1,000/ 1,001 )= 23.976023976230 with the last 6 digits recurring) becomes precisely 29,429, 400 flicks. It’s the same for 29.97, 59.94, and any others like them. No more fractions or decimals required whatsoever! How great is that ?!

I don’t know why this is so immensely fulfilling for me, in a “things fitting perfectly into other things” route. Probably because having dabbled in video and audio editing and effects, timing and frame rate stuff was always a ache( though thankfully we’ve largely left behind interlacing and other legacy cruft) and I would welcome harmonization genuinely of any sort. I congratulate this squad of genius self-starters for detecting this amazing number and creating this potentially super-useful time unit.

You can download, fork, or otherwise investigate the flicks format and code over at GitHub.

( Apology for the meme lead image but it’s hard to illustrate divisions of hour .)

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Rupert Murdoch wants Facebook to pay for the news

Rupert Murdoch, the executive heads chairman of News Corporation, today issued a statement calling for Facebook and Google to subsidize the news traveling through their platforms.

In the statement, Murdoch calls on Facebook to pay a carriage fee, as cable companies do with pay TV, to trusted publishers that are posting their content on the social media platform 😛 TAGEND

I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognizes the investment in and the social value of professional journalism.

The time has come to consider a different road. If Facebook wants to recognize’ trusted’ publishers then it is appropriate to pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model will be approved by cable companies. The publishers are plainly enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not to be properly rewarded for those services.

This comes fresh on the heels of a change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, which prioritizes posts from friends and family over those from publishers and content providers. Facebook said that the change was meant to increase well-being among users, offering a more proactive route to build a community and positive sentiment across the network.

But Wall Street didn’t react well to the change, which Facebook predicted would decrease time spent on the network, which ultimately will decrease the time users expend looking at advertisements.

As part of the announcement, Facebook’s News Feed chief Adam Mosseri didn’t have many concrete suggestions for publishers worried about decreased visibility on the world’s biggest social media platform, simply saying publishers should try “experimenting … and ensure … what content gets more remarks, more likes, more reshares.”

This also follows an ongoing situation around news credibility on social networks like Facebook. The spread of fake news across the internet, most noticeably on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, may very well have changed the course of the 2016 election. Whether it was triggered and spread by foreign performers like Russia or domestic political groups, it has forced Facebook to try to remedy the situation over the past year.

Facebook’s original entry into the world of media, the launch of Instant Articles in 2015, has spurred voracious intake of news on the platform. Pew says that around two-thirds of U.S. adults get their news from social media sites, with 20 percentage saying they do so often.

This has disenfranchised many publishers who require a direct connection with readers to preserve credibility. If all articles appear the same, and many “readers” are looking at an entirely different “front page” on Facebook, establishing the one and only truth of any matter becomes more difficult.

And let’s not forget that the media industry is in its own, continued transformation as century-old print publishings try to move digital.

Murdoch, one of the most successful people in news media, doesn’t ensure much progress with new business models such as subscriptions and pay walls, but does see an opportunity in making the tubes pay.

An unrealistic proposal

However, on closer inspection his suggestion is disingenuous. To publicly issue a carefully scripted statement with questionable insinuations( Facebook is equated to a cable provider) and very few details is more mud-slinging than muckraking. We’re not saying Facebook shouldn’t be paying somebody something, but this isn’t a realistic answer and I don’t believe Murdoch really believes it is either.

Carriage fees are pretty simple. Your cable provider pays a fee per subscriber to networks like ESPN and AMC in order to carry their programming; these fees differ from under a dollar for specialty or less popular networks( AMC, FX) to more than$ 6( ESPN, by far the most expensive ). The notion is that you as a subscriber are paying for access to these channels, and then paying for the convenience of having them delivered to your Tv by the cable company. The $40 -5 0 is truly only routed through the cable companies for convenience( yours and theirs ).

But while that stimulates sense for a cable provider with millions of subscribers in a single region of the U.S ., all paying $50 or more for the privilege of watching live Tv, it’s a poor match for the likes of Facebook.

Facebook’s “viewers, ” only off the top of my head 😛 TAGEND

are all over the world in different regions and jurisdictions

don’t opt what they assure( nor does Facebook, arguably)

pay nothing

are already monetized indirectly by both Facebook and publishers

As David Lettermans first Netflix guest, Barack Obama warns against the bubble of social media

David Letterman seems to be taking the title of his new Netflix present very seriously: On the very first episode of My Next Guest Requires No Introduction With David Letterman , he’s joined by former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The episode has plenty of funny moments, like Obama ribbing Letterman about his nearly Biblical beard. But they cover substantive political topics, too — not only during the course of its onstage interview, but also in Letterman’s stroll across Selma’s famous Edmund Pettus Bridge with Congressman John Lewis.

In fact, Letterman seems to be treating the new display as an opportunity to move a little bit away from his usual sardonic style and offer more depth and seriousness. He aimed the interview by telling Obama, “Without a question of a doubt, you are the first chairman I really and truly respect.”

On the tech front, Obama repeated some of the points he made in a recent BBC interview with the U.K.’s Prince Harry. After being asked about threats to our republic, Obama warned against “getting all your information off algorithm being sent through a phone.”

He noted that he owes much of his own political success to social media, which helped him build “what objective up being the best available political campaign, probably in modern political history.” So he initially had “a very optimistic feeling” about the technology, but he said, “I is considered that what we missed was the degree to which people who are in power … special interest, foreign governments, etc ., can in fact manipulate that and propagandize.”

Obama then recounted a science experimentation( “not a big scientific experiment, but only an experiment that somebody did during the revolution that was taking place in Egypt”) where a liberal, a conservative and a “quote-unquote moderate” were asked to search for “Egypt, ” and Google presented each of them with very different results.

“Whatever your biases were, that’s where you were being sent, and that get more strengthened over hour, ” he said. “That’s what’s happening with these Facebook pages where more and more people are getting their news from. At a certain phase you merely live in a bubble, and that’s part of why our politics is so polarized right now.”

Appropriately for a legislator who was so closely associated with hope, Obama also offered some optimism: “I think it is a solvable problem, but I think it’s one that we have to expend a lot of day thinking about.”

It seems that Facebook and the other big platforms are at least trying to address the issue. Yesterday, for example, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network is likely to be prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” over news and publisher content.

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Instagram tests letting users post Stories directly to WhatsApp

Last October, Facebook widened the usage( and flexibility) of Instagram Stories — the Snapchat-like feature that lets you patch together photographs and videos into a slide depict — by making it easy to directly post a Story to Facebook. Now Facebook is looking at how to bring WhatsApp into the fold.

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the company is now operating a test to let users post their Instagram Stories immediately to WhatsApp, as a WhatsApp Status, a corresponding Snapchat-like feature in the latter messaging app where decorated photos, videos and GIFs can be posted with encryption, disappearing after 24 hours. An Instagram Story posted as a WhatsApp Status also becomes encrypted like the rest of WhatsApp.

“We are always testing opportunities to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you, ” a spokesperson said.

From what we understand, the feature is currently being tested with a small number of users.

It’s based on publicly available code that WhatsApp makes available to integrate WhatsApp messaging with third-party apps on the web or on Android. Users get an option to tap to share to WhatsApp from the Instagram sharing screen, but they still have to press “send” in WhatsApp to post the story.

The reader who tipped us off on it is based in Brazil, where a local blog has also been reporting several sightings in the wild, one of which( on Android) is pictured here, with the Instagram Story on the left, and the WhatsApp Status cross-posted on the right( note the Instagram icon in the corner ).

( Coincidentally, the Instagram-Stories-posted-to-Facebook feature was originally tested in Portugal, another Portuguese-speaking country .)

There are a few reasons why Facebook may be interested in inducing Instagram Stories more shareable, and specifically on WhatsApp.

The first of these seems simple enough: it’s to give one more bit of functionality and therefore usage to Instagram Stories, which are already very popular and as of last June were outstripping usage of the Snapchat product the latter are designed to clone.

Facebook tells me that as of last November there were more than 300 million daily active users of Instagram Stories. Adding the ability to share to WhatsApp will give those Narratives even more ways of producing traffic, especially in countries where WhatsApp is already tremendously popular and outstripping usage of Facebook or its Messenger app.

The second reason could be to help spur more utilization of WhatsApp Status. This was ostensibly the reason of the reasons why Facebook enabled Instagram Story sharing to Facebook, whose own Stories feature I personally never see gets used that much and has been described by my colleague Josh as a ghost town. The same isn’t the case for Status, though, which Facebook tells me is seeing similar high levels of usage to Instagram Stories, also with more than 300 million DAUs as of November.

( The relative popularity of all these apps and features is also one drawback to the cross-posting feature: inevitably, there will be people who use them all, which might lead to people getting borne and annoyed at assuring the same content everywhere they look. Ideally Facebook is also working on a way of calibrating Stories, so that if you’ve already seen one in one app, like Instagram, the same exact thing won’t be popping up for you again in a Facebook Story and then a WhatsApp Status .)

The third( and maybe most interesting) reason for testing this feature is that Facebook has been steadily working on ways of not only extending the time spent in specific apps, but also how to better usher people from one Facebook-owned app to another, encouraging usage even when the apps are not open.

This has taken some different forms so far. Last May, the company started testing cross-app notifications between Facebook, Messenger and Instagram to alert people to when they had mentions or messages in any of them. Then last month, Facebook launched a click-to-WhatsApp messaging button in Facebook ads, monetizing WhatsApp but not on WhatsApp itself. And there have also various other “regramming” tests on iOS.

Encouraging Story posting between Instagram and WhatsApp Status is notable because it gives a bit more social media spin to WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for $19 billion with the explicit promise that it would stay independent of Facebook. As it happens, the new feature that’s being tested does bypass Facebook’s flagship apps completely.

Together, this could all help Facebook grow its overall engagement and traffic footprint. Conversely, it also could spell one more style to destabilize Snapchat and potentially any other app that has any lesser infrastructure to keep your content get considered by the people you know, whatever app they happen to be using.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

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