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Facebook & Co.

Facebook relaxed its ban on some cryptocurrency adverts. The company will now allow some preapproved advertisers to promote crypto businesses and services, like exchanges, but ads for Initial Coin Offerings(ICO) and binary options are still banned. The ads were banned in January to prevent people from promoting “financial products and services frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices.” Crypto still has a lot of believers, and it easy to see why Facebook wants to sell crypto ads: It’s a growing, exciting industry with a lot of potential advertisers. So long as Facebook’s users aren’t getting scammed, the company would certainly love to take on the extra ad revenue. Plus, Facebook seems to think the crypto craze is at least somewhat legit. [Read More]

Ready to scrounge for Likes on your Stories too? Facebook has updated Stories with Like, Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry, and Love emoji reactions and two interactive stickers, offers group replies via Messenger thread. Facebook Stories can feel like a ghost town even though it has 150 million daily users. So Facebook is trying to get more people who view your ephemeral content on its Snapchat clone to speak up so you keep posting. When Snapchat invented the Stories format, it purposefully left out a Like button because it would make sharing into a competition where users craved the binary feedback and posted whatever was most popular. [Read More]

The right music can make a boring photo or video epic so Instagram is adding the ability to add licenced songs as background music for Stories starting today in 7 countries, this comes after Facebook’s recent deals with record labels. Users will be able to choose from thousands of songs from artists including Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris and Guns N’ Roses. The launch could make Instagram Stories more fun to post and watch in a way that copyrights won’t allow on Snapchat, while giving the app a way to compete with teen favorite Musical.ly. Even though Snapchat first created the Stories feature in 2014, Instagram Stories usage has now doubled Snapchat’s user base. Instagram announced Thursday that it reached 400 million active users of its “Stories” product, while Snapchat has roughly 191 million daily active users. [Read More]

Instagram Stories is growing at about six times faster than Snapchat’s whole app.

People spend almost as much time on Instagram as they do on Facebook. Snapchat isn’t far behind. On average, Instagram users spent 53 minutes per day with the Android app in June — just five minutes less than Facebook users spent with their app. Snapchat users spent 49.5 minutes in the Snap app, on average. Time spent matters because more time in the app means people probably see more advertisements, which is how all these apps make money. The big war on mobile devices right now is for user attention. [Read More]

IGTV has not yet explained how creators will be paid, but likely options include mid-roll or pre-roll ads with revenue splits, or paying creators outright. Instagram doesn’t have a business for IGTV, but it’ll need to make money quickly, the success of IGTV is dependent on that happening. People who create good content online go where they can make a living. Facebook is a good cautionary tale for its corporate cousins at Instagram: It has giant reach, but most creators don’t spend much time there, because there’s no money there. [Read More]

Facebook is set to launch Messenger Kids app in Canada and Peru, the first markets outside the US, and makes the app available in Spanish and French. With well over 1 billion users, Messenger is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. And one way Facebook has sought to increase its stickiness further is by opening the platform to kids via their own standalone app. With the widespread concerns that digital devices and social media can have a detrimental impact on children’s emotional and cognitive development, Facebook has developed the Messenger Kids Pledge, which is a set of “guiding principles” aimed at parents and kids that “encourage the responsible use of Messenger Kids.” [Read More]

Instagram is estimated to be worth more than $100B if it were a stand-alone company, marking a 100-fold return for the app purchased in 2012 and is on track to cross 2B users within the next five years,  according to Waral, meaning the photo-sharing app is growing its user base at a much faster rate than the original Facebook platform. Instagram could account for about 16 percent of Facebook’s revenue over the next year, up from 10.6 percent last year. When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion back in 2012, its goal was to ensure that it was the social network of choice for another generation and that bet is starting to pay off. Instagram is surging as growth at the core network is tapering off making the once-hefty price tag seem like a steal. [Read More]

Instagram is testing a persistent Stories bar that follows you down the feed. Instagram Stories are fun to upload and watch but between the neo-orange IGTV notifications on the main app and now this, there’s no escape anymore. [Read More]

Is Facebook’s latest patent about to start listening on your phone’s mic? Well, that’s according to several tech websites. One thing they didn’t do though, they didn’t read the claims. The Verge‘s Nilay wrote a very good explainer.  Facebook did not apply for a patent on turning your phone microphone on when a hidden signal plays on a TV. The patent claims do not have the word “phone” or “microphone” in them at all. And the claims are the only part that truly matter. [Read More]

Reddit

Reddit is upgrading the News tab and according to their blog announcement, it will surface content from subreddits frequently engaging with news, from alpha to beta and makes it available to most iOS users. This new effort could be an attempt by Reddit to capitalize on the areas where Facebook is floundering, that platform having been embroiled in a heated debate over the merits of its news. Indeed, it almost looks like Facebook’s now-defunct news-based News Feed, “Explore,” has been transposed into Reddit.

The Reddit community isn’t happy though— official responses to their inquiries are getting hundreds or even thousands of downvotes. One concern that stands out is that Reddit will become yet another social platform through which fake news can be generated and distributed. Considering Facebook and Twitter have both had to deal with this, it’s not an unreasonable fear. [Read More]

Microsoft

Microsoft is integrating Adblock Plus into its Edge browser on iOS and Android, letting users enable it in settings, rolling out to beta testers now. The feature will be rolled out more broadly to all Edge for iOS and Android users soon. The adblocker can be enabled in the Microsoft Edge settings, and doesn’t require a separate add-in to download and install. Microsoft’s step is significant, as the company has partnered with Adblock Plus to build this functionality straight into the browser. Edge for Android stiil has to play catch up since it  has 5 million downloads while Firefox has 100 million while Chrome has more than 1 billion on the Google Play Store. [Read More]

Microsoft is working on a pocketable Surface device, codenamed Andromeda, with a wraparound display that bridges the gap of the hinge when fully opened. The new and disruptive dual-screen device is expected to blur the lines between mobile and PC. [Read More]

Meet the future phones that fold up, have 9 cameras and charge over thin air.

Lately, our smartphones all look alike. So Geoffrey, a Washington Post tech columnist hunted in labs, start-ups and China’s thriving phone scene to find what’s next for our favorite gadget. [Read More]

Apple-Samsung Patent Fight

Apple and Samsung settled a seven-year patent fight over allegations that Samsung violated Apple’s patents by copying the iPhone design. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, although Samsung previously paid Apple $399 million to compensate for patent infringement. [Read More]

Apple

Apple Inc. is about to pump up the volume on its audio-device strategy, planning higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones for as early as next year. Some of the new AirPod features are said to be water resistance, noise cancellation, new charging case & better wireless range. [Read More]

Apple is considering a single subscription offering that would encompass its original TV shows, music service, and magazine articles. Such an ambitious offering would bear some similarity to Amazon’s Prime service, which spans video, music and some news. Depending on the price charged, it could give Apple a boost in its efforts to develop subscription revenue, reducing its reliance on sales of iPhone and other hardware. [Read More]

Eddy Cue and Apple Maps team members describe how they are rebuilding the product from the ground up to eventually own the entire map stack, like Google does. [Read More]

Google

Google says its Duplex AI system isn’t trying to trick anyone and will be disclosing the fact that it’s a robot when it makes calls and it is ready for everyday use. I think it’s going to change how we work. Now, as Google begins to test Duplex with limited number of businesses this summer, the company says the AI will disclose itself as such at the start of every call.

YouTube has started removing some creators’ custom-made thumbnail images in the platform’s latest experiment. YouTube is testing out a feature that it hopes will improve auto-generated thumbnails — a move that has some creators on edge.

Many say they’re frustrated with the lack of transparency about the experiment; others point out how much time they put into their thumbnail images, or even the money they spend paying others to do the same. [Read More]

Xiaomi IPO

Xiaomi, the smartphone and electronics company once referred to as the “Apple of China,” priced its IPO in Hong Kong at a roughly $54 billion valuation — about half its initial goal.

Samsung Unpacked 2018

Samsung has already started sending out media invites for their Unpacked event on August 9 in New York City where it is expected to announce the Galaxy Note 9. Unofficial Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on confirms Note 8-like design, horizontal dual cameras, long rumored specs like a 4000 mAh battery.

Parting shot

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