F8 2015: Facebook Messenger will soon let you chat with stores, 360-degree videos and more

Facebook’s Messenger won’t just be for chatting with family and friends in the near future. The social network has unveiled a business feature for Messenger that lets you talk to a store about your orders. The option not only spares you from a flurry of email for receipts and shipping, but gives you an easy way to ask questions — if you want to change your order or add something new, you just open up the existing conversation. In theory, you don’t have to go through the hassles of calling or emailing customer service to solve a simple problem. The business effort will only start out with a handful of partners that includes Everlane, Zendesk and Zulily, but a sign-up program suggests that you’ll see Messenger used at more online shops before long.

In an effort to bring even more content to Oculus, Facebook has announced at its developer conference that it plans to bring spherical video content to its VR headset. There really isn’t a whole lot more information aside from that — how will people load these 360-degree videos? — but it’s an important step forward in enhancing the nascent VR platform. Additionally, Facebook also announced that it’ll begin to support these 360-degree videos embedded right in the News Feed, so you won’t need a headset to check them out if you don’t mind not having that whole VR thing.

In the past few months, Facebook has really ramped up the Messenger experience — you can add your location, apply stickers on photos and even use it for payments. Now, Facebook will let you customize your messages even further. That’s because Facebook has evolved Messenger into its own platform, which essentially means you can now integrate third-party apps into Messenger. Want to add GIFs from Giphy? Simply install the add-on, find the GIF you want and away you go. You’ll find many of these apps — there are apparently already 40 on board — in the compose window. And if a friend sends an image or video from one of these third-party apps and you don’t already have them installed, you’ll see an “Install” link on them so you can download them right then and there.

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Every Month 1.39 Billion People connect on Facebook, 700M on WhatsApp and 300M on Instagram!

Facebook’s efforts on smaller screens are paying off big.

More than half a billion Facebook users access the site only from mobile devices, Facebook revealed as part of an earnings presentation Wednesday. The social network has 1.19 billion total mobile monthly active users, as of the end of 2014, up 26% year-over-year.

All that mobile traffic has meant a big advertising windfall for Facebook. The company made $3.59 billion from advertising overall in the fourth quarter of 2014, and 69% of that came from mobile ads rather than their desktop cousins. That means Facebook made nearly $2.5 billion on mobile ads in three months—a 53% improvement year-over-year. It was also the first quarter Facebook’s mobile ad revenue beat the $2 billion mark.

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Strong mobile numbers like these are vital for Facebook and other companies with ad-based business models. Internet users are increasingly flocking from browsing on PCs, where banner ads have long reigned, to using mobile browsers and apps, where traditional online ads haven’t worked as well.

Facebook and companies like it have been working hard to figure out how to adjust and make mobile ads that will actually click. The latest of Facebook’s mobile experiments is a platform launched in October that lets brands tap into the social giant’s vast troves of user data to advertise to Facebook users while they’re in other apps.

As an example, a Facebook user playing Candy Crush might get served up an in-game ad for toothpaste based on the user’s Facebook activity. Advertisers benefit from getting access to Facebook’s data, while Facebook increases its ad revenue without putting more ads on its own products. While Facebook’s fourth-quarter numbers are clearly evidence the company’s own mobile app is doing just fine, they’re also a sign this new network is off to a speedy start.

WhatsApp reaches 700 million Active Monthly Users!

Whatsapp

WhatsApp, an internet based messaging service, has just announced that over 700 million users actively use its service each month. This makes the company the most popular mobile messaging service around the world, and is even more popular than Facebook Messenger. This surge in popularity comes as WhatsApp continues to dominate the Indian messaging market.

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Back in August, WhatsApp claimed 600 million active users and has gained around 300 million users over the past year. The mobile messaging service was acquired by Facebook for $22 billion last year, but the social networking giant has seen losses on its investment so far, as WhatsApp’s 99-cent subscription model does not generate a large amount of revenue. WhatsApp saw losses of approximately $230 million in the first half of last year and generated revenue of only $15 million.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, expects that WhatApps will end up whatsapp-iconcontributing to Facebook’s profits, eventually. However, he does not expect this to happen until the app’s regular user base reaches the one billion mark. Based on this recent rate of growth, WhatApp could reach this milestone before the end of 2015.

WhatsApp still has plenty of room for growth in markets where it currently isn’t a major player, such as the US or China. However, temping customers away from their current services may prove more difficult.

Facebook Issues Apology After ‘Year In Review’ Feature Turns Tragic For Some Users!

Facebook seems to have made a mistake in implementing their “Year In Review” feature this week, one that’s left a lot of users feeling tragic rather than cheerful.

The feature uses the tagline “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.” This is a rather far-reaching blanket statement, though—some people did not have a great year, and would prefer not to be reminded of it.

Such is the case of web designer Eric Meyer, reports the Washington Post. Earlier this year his daughter passed away from brain cancer on her sixth birthday. Eric didn’t want to relive his paiful memories, but was forced to when Facebook automatically positioned the “Year In Review” banner at the top of his newsfeed. The algorithm for choosing which images appear in the banner depends on how many “likes” they’ve received.

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In a blog post, Eric criticized the social network for its callousness:

“This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years… But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones…we might not want another look at this past year.”

Jonathan Gheller, Facebook’s project manager for “Year in Review,” apologized to Meyer and released a statement to the Post addressing the issue:

“[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy,” he said. “We can do better — I’m very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post.”

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