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The Last Week In Digital - 27th June 2016

Instagram turns video-focused, Uber drops irritating feature

27Jun

Instagram push video content

Going down the same road as parent company Facebook, picture sharing app and millennial favourite Instagram is pushing more video content to its users. The company is adding 23 channels to their ‘Explore’ section to target users with content they want to see. No details of the algorithmic set up have been released but presumably the content will be curated based on the users likes and follows.

Users spent 150% more time streaming videos in the six months after it introduced 60-second videos and the new channels will only see this figure increase. I’d like to see slightly less video content on social media, with Facebook now little more than a curator of auto-playing video content. The social media giant’s message is clear, though, and it seems the obsession with video is to permeate Facebook Inc.’s second most popular product.

Facebook Live to get Snapchat-like filters

Continuing its love affair with video, Facebook has been giving live video content algorithmic preference and is encouraging its users ever-more enthusiastically to share themselves. And Facebook Live’s capabilities are set to be diversified, with users soon able to stream from the MSQRD app - which Facebook acquired earlier this year. The Snapchat-like filters and masks are just one of multiple new features being added as Facebook looks to bring live streaming to all news feeds.

The new features include pre-scheduled broadcasting - the ability to set a time slot and have friends and followers notified prior to the beginning of the stream, waiting rooms - a way for streamers to build an audience before going live, ads - and inevitability given Facebook’s monetization strategy, and two-person streaming - the ability for two users to broadcast together, being rolled out first to verified users then to the general public.

Uber to drop price surge system

For all Uber’s merits, one of the ride hailing apps most unpopular features is its price surges, which can increase a fare significantly during peak hours. The app has users agree to a, for example, ’2.1x’ hike and the user is left to do the math themselves as to the expected fee.

Uber is doing away with this feature, though, now pledging to tell users the price of their journey up front. Pricing will still fluctuate, with Friday night at 1am still far more expensive than, say, Wednesday at 3pm, but will cater far better to those users that want to know the price before committing. The success of uberPOOL seems to have had a lot to do with the decision - users are more comfortable when the fee is fixed or at least closely estimated. The changes will be rolled out globally within the next few months.

Twitter launches location feeds

In what seems a very much overdue move, Twitter has been quietly introducing a location feature to its iOS users, with other platforms to follow. Users will now be encouraged to Tweet more when at live events, or when in a specific location, to be part of the location’s feed.

Powered by Foursquare, the location feature could be integral to the social media giant’s future revenue, with Twitter’s ad targeting now able to include more than just tweets, likes and follows. The feature may not seem revolutionary, but it’s about time Twitter explored the possibilities of proper location services.

Facebook and Google step up anti-extremism measures

Both Google and Facebook - two of the internet’s biggest video hosts - have introduced ‘automated processes in a bid to eradicate extremist content from their platforms,’ according to Tech Times. The systems are designed to prevent the likes of Islamic State uploading videos to Facebook and Youtube, by applying ‘hashes’ to the original video, which then means all replica videos can also be removed. The system is the same as that which is used to weed out copyright-protected videos.

How, exactly, the companies plan to define what is ‘extremist’ content hasn’t been revealed - for some displays of extremist ideas are more explicit than others. Twitter recently launched an ‘all-out war’ against the likes of ISIS, though, and it’s positive to see social media’s other major incumbents following suit. 

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