Schlagwort-Archive: Facebook

Whatsapp spies on your encrypted messages

Exclusive: Privacy campaigners criticise WhatsApp vulnerability as a ‘huge threat to freedom of speech’ and warn it could be exploited by government agencies

Research shows that the company can read messages due to the way WhatsApp has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.
Research shows that WhatsApp can read messages due to the way the company has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol. Photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/EPA

A security backdoor that can be used to allow Facebook and others to intercept and read encrypted messages has been found within its WhatsApp messaging service.

Facebook claims that no one can intercept WhatsApp messages, not even the company and its staff, ensuring privacy for its billion-plus users. But new research shows that the company could in fact read messages due to the way WhatsApphas implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.

Privacy campaigners said the vulnerability is a “huge threat to freedom of speech” and warned it can be used by government agencies to snoop on users who believe their messages to be secure. WhatsApp has made privacy and security a primary selling point, and has become a go to communications tool of activists, dissidents and diplomats.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption relies on the generation of unique security keys, using the acclaimed Signal protocol, developed by Open Whisper Systems, that are traded and verified between users to guarantee communications are secure and cannot be intercepted by a middleman. However, WhatsApp has the ability to force the generation of new encryption keys for offline users, unbeknown to the sender and recipient of the messages, and to make the sender re-encrypt messages with new keys and send them again for any messages that have not been marked as delivered.

The recipient is not made aware of this change in encryption, while the sender is only notified if they have opted-in to encryption warnings in settings, and only after the messages have been resent. This re-encryption and rebroadcasting effectively allows WhatsApp to intercept and read users’ messages.

The security backdoor was discovered by Tobias Boelter, a cryptography and security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He told the Guardian: “If WhatsApp is asked by a government agency to disclose its messaging records, it can effectively grant access due to the change in keys.”

The backdoor is not inherent to the Signal protocol. Open Whisper Systems’ messaging app, Signal, the app used and recommended by whistleblower Edward Snowden, does not suffer from the same vulnerability. If a recipient changes the security key while offline, for instance, a sent message will fail to be delivered and the sender will be notified of the change in security keys without automatically resending the message.

WhatsApp’s implementation automatically resends an undelivered message with a new key without warning the user in advance or giving them the ability to prevent it.

Boelter reported the backdoor vulnerability to Facebook in April 2016, but was told that Facebook was aware of the issue, that it was “expected behaviour” and wasn’t being actively worked on. The Guardian has verified the backdoor still exists.

The WhatsApp vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes.
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The WhatsApp vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes. Photograph: Marcelo Sayão/EPA

Steffen Tor Jensen, head of information security and digital counter-surveillance at the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, verified Boelter’s findings. He said: “WhatsApp can effectively continue flipping the security keys when devices are offline and re-sending the message, without letting users know of the change till after it has been made, providing an extremely insecure platform.”

Boelter said: “[Some] might say that this vulnerability could only be abused to snoop on ‘single’ targeted messages, not entire conversations. This is not true if you consider that the WhatsApp server can just forward messages without sending the ‘message was received by recipient’ notification (or the double tick), which users might not notice. Using the retransmission vulnerability, the WhatsApp server can then later get a transcript of the whole conversation, not just a single message.”

The vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service, which is used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes.

Professor Kirstie Ball, co-director and founder of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy, called the existence of a backdoor within WhatsApp’s encryption “a gold mine for security agencies” and “a huge betrayal of user trust”. She added: “It is a huge threat to freedom of speech, for it to be able to look at what you’re saying if it wants to. Consumers will say, I’ve got nothing to hide, but you don’t know what information is looked for and what connections are being made.”

In the UK, the recently passed Investigatory Powers Act allows the government to intercept bulk data of users held by private companies, without suspicion of criminal activity, similar to the activity of the US National Security Agency uncovered by the Snowden revelations. The government also has the power to force companies to “maintain technical capabilities” that allow data collection through hacking and interception, and requires companies to remove “electronic protection” from data. Intentional or not, WhatsApp’s backdoor to the end-to-end encryption could be used in such a way to facilitate government interception.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “If companies claim to offer end-to-end encryption, they should come clean if it is found to be compromised – whether through deliberately installed backdoors or security flaws. In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Act means that technical capability notices could be used to compel companies to introduce flaws – which could leave people’s data vulnerable.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Guardian: “Over 1 billion people use WhatsApp today because it is simple, fast, reliable and secure. At WhatsApp, we’ve always believed that people’s conversations should be secure and private. Last year, we gave all our users a better level of security by making every message, photo, video, file and call end-to-end encrypted by default. As we introduce features like end-to-end encryption, we focus on keeping the product simple and take into consideration how it’s used every day around the world.

“In WhatsApp’s implementation of the Signal protocol, we have a “Show Security Notifications” setting (option under Settings > Account > Security) that notifies you when a contact’s security code has changed. We know the most common reasons this happens are because someone has switched phones or reinstalled WhatsApp. This is because in many parts of the world, people frequently change devices and Sim cards. In these situations, we want to make sure people’s messages are delivered, not lost in transit.”

Asked to comment specifically on whether Facebook/WhatApps had accessed users’ messages and whether it had done so at the request of government agencies or other third parties, it directed the Guardian to its site that details aggregate data on government requests by country.

Concerns over the privacy of WhatsApp users has been repeatedly highlighted since Facebook acquired the company for $22bn in 2014. In August 2015, Facebook announced a change to the privacy policy governing WhatsApp that allowed the social network to merge data from WhatsApp users and Facebook, including phone numbers and app usage, for advertising and development purposes.

Facebook halted the use of the shared user data for advertising purposes in November after pressure from the pan-European data protection agency groupArticle 29 Working Party in October. The European commission then filed charges against Facebook for providing “misleading” information in the run-up to the social network’s acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp, following its data-sharing change.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/13/whatsapp-backdoor-allows-snooping-on-encrypted-messages

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How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

The artificial intelligence era… It’s all about embedding human smarts in machines.

Facebook chatbots are one application of this revolution, as they rapidly gain popularity and provide a new tool for marketers to leverage. These chatbots are the incorporation of automatic chatbots within Facebook Messenger.

Chatbots offer flexibility in order to automate tasks, and assist in retrieving data. They are becoming a vital way to enhance the consumer experience for the purpose of better customer service and growing interaction.

In April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced that third parties could use the messenger platform to create their own personal chatbot. Since then, the popularity of chatbots has rapidly grown all over the world.

In social media marketing chatbots have evolved, but their prime functionality remains the same, and that is to improve real-time engagement. Customers are always searching for prompt and ready replies to their comments and queries. The chatbots are designed in such a manner that they are able to answer most of the queries placed by customers, without human intervention. And this helps in bonding a strong relationship with your customers and potential crowds, without paying for high overheads on staff.

Two chatbots that have gained immense popularity in no-time are Apple’s Siri and Chotu Bot.

Chatbots: Why such a buzz at present?

Modern advancement in the field of artificial intelligence, which includes neural networking and deep learning, have permitted chatbots to acquire data sets exactly the way the human brain works. This is revolutionary.

Chatbots are instigating a stir in the present world of consumer services. Facebook created a revolution for technology by launching Facebook messenger chatbots which permit businesses to generate an interactive experience, content, e-commerce guides and automate customer service. Messenger has reached more than 900 million users, plus it offers the most striking platform to implement your desired bots.

Maybe the most renowned example  of a chatbot is Apple’s Siri. Like all chatbots, Siri is a perfect combination of pre-defined scripts and neural systems to anticipate a precise reaction to an offered conversation starter or explanation, permitting clients to skip steps while speaking. Siri is a masterpiece that took years for such a huge organization with loads of assets to develop.

Siri for Facebook chatbots

The second example is a chatbot from an organization that is not as famous as Apple. But still the chatbot is so efficient that it has been able to create a lot of buzz for itself in the market.

The Chotu Bot helps you replace various software and get detailed information on various topics such as wiki search, PNR status, Vehicle registration number etc. inside your messenger. And the developers behind the Chotu Bot are preparing to update it so that it can reply to most of the queries asked from all around the planet.

Chotu Bot for Facebook chatbots

How can a Facebook chatbot assist your marketing?

Facebook allows brands to connect their potential customers independently through these messenger bots which leads to a new era in advertising.

The basic idea behind launching the messenger bots is to connect all the people directly to the business in order to automate customer engagement and interactions. Now there are more than 11,500 bots that have been developed on messenger and nearly 23,500 developers signed up in order to build their own bots using tools offered by Facebook. This means it assists you to automate informal interactions between businesses and users.

Recently Facebook announced new features for bots which can easily respond with video, audio, GIFs, and such files that make you build your own bots with ease.

How do chatbots help e-commerce platforms?

Chatbots assist the e-commerce industry by providing functionality in areas such as security, management, monitoring, and customer engagement which are key elements of e-commerce businesses.

Self-service and automation are the ideal way to go ahead in e-commerce, this the ultimate reason why businesses are using chatbots.

Here are just some ideas for how chatbots can make customer engagement easier:

Convenient, contextual and in control

Facebook messenger for chatbots is focused on generating the greatest customer engagement experience. They offer automated updates about traffic, weather, automated messages and much more.

Easy setup and cost savings

Bots help you save time and reduce the cost of hiring staff.

Unprecedented customer reach

The new receive/send API allows you to connect with more than 950 million people in and around the world. That’s the reason bots are growing as the key tool for businesses to gain wonderful networking and commercial opportunities.

How can you use chatbots?

Chatbots make it possible to offer a more proactive, personal, and efficient consumer experience.

how to use chatbots for Facebook chatbots

  • Chotu, one of the leading chatbot technologies, is an AI robot on Facebook messenger that assists in accelerating customer information acquisition through Facebook messages. It provides all the needed information from your messages itself, rather than relying on several different apps working together. Chotu performs multiple tasks at a single time and offers 24×7 customer service.

chotu for customer experience for Facebook chatbots

  • Pizza Hut announced that Facebook messenger chatbots assist their customers in asking questions, viewing their current deals and much more. This helps Pizza Hut interact with their customers more easily at any time and from any place.

36 love questions for Facebook chatbots

  • 36LoveQuestions is a wonderful Facebook messenger chatbot that asks you 36 exact questions in order to determine whether you are in love with someone or not.

Chatbots: From the “simple” customer to enterprises

At present, chatbots are very prevalent in the customer space. From a business point of view, transportation businesses and e-commerce delivery enhance their chances by allowing their customer to purchase products more efficiently.

customer space for Facebook chatbots

But bots are rapidly moving across to the enterprise space as most companies are now building their own chatbots in order to generate better engagement with their customers and create additional value for their brand.

How chatbots are minimizing the gap between customers and brands

Public vs. Private

One of the major problems that various organizations had to face while promoting on social media was to provide a primary customer service to their potential clients. The best thing about [messaging bot] is that you can have a ‘Message Us’ option and truly use this as a one-on-one, private channel.

Consistency

Messaging is a continuous and real-time process between a customer and a brand. You can have a real-time chat with a specialist from the brand, then you can leave and return a day later and see the history… That is truly energizing since that begins to effect customer behavior.

Accessing an audience of over a billion people

Facebook commenced this entire chatbot furor in April by permitting outside bots on its messenger. So even in the worst case, this is the potential crowd you can reach.

Include different systems (WhatsApp has not joined the chatbot fleeting trend yet) and the aggregate gathering of people on messaging platforms is well in an abundance of 1.2 billion. This is the crowd that you can target directly and provide each one special attention.

Who does not like a personal exclusive service?

Chatbots are poised to reform the customer-brand interaction. Facebook knows the potential of personal messaging and they know this idea can be really useful for brands to retain their audiences for a longer period of time.

Any organization today with a chatbot has the capacity to gain customer insights. The more insights they gain, the better the brand messaging will become, which ultimately indicates better targeting and more sales. The best part is that these chatbots are relatively cheap compared to other applications.

A business which takes time to understand chatbots and execute them have a better chance of offering things to their customer and this will really help them build a nice strong relationship over time.

Chatbots are the perfect fit for the modern e-commerce company looking to ramp up customer service.

Companies which are using chatbots are likely to experience better results and acquire the ability to advertise and market new products which ultimately generate customer engagement.

How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

Facebook Is Not a Technology Company

At the close of trading this Monday, the top five global companies by market capitalization were all U.S. tech companies: Apple, Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

Bloomberg, which reported on the apparent milestone, insisted that this “tech sweep” is unprecedented, even during the dot-com boom. Back in 2011, for example, Exxon and Shell held two of the top spots, and Apple was the only tech company in the top five. In 2006, Microsoft held the only slot—the others were in energy, banking, and manufacture. But things have changed. “Your new tech overlords,” Bloomberg christened the five.

But what makes a company a technology company, anyway? In their discussion of overlords, Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide and Rani Molla explain that “Non-tech titans like Exxon and GE have slipped a bit” in top valuations. Think about that claim for a minute, and reflect on its absurdity: Exxon uses enormous machinery to extract the remains of living creatures from geological antiquity from deep beneath the earth. Then it uses other enormous machinery to refine and distribute that material globally. For its part, GE makes almost everything—from light bulbs to medical imaging devices to wind turbines to locomotives to jet engines.

Isn’t it strange to call Facebook, a company that makes websites and mobile apps a “technology” company, but to deny that moniker to firms that make diesel trains, oil-drilling platforms, and airplane engines?

Part of the problem has to do with the private language of finance. Markets segment companies by industry, and analysts track specific sectors and subsectors. Exxon is an energy industry stock, while GE straddles energy, transportation, public utility, healthcare, and finance. The “technology” in the technology sector is really synecdoche for “computer technology.” Companies in that sector deal in software, semiconductors, hardware manufacturing, peripherals, data processing services, digital advertising, and so forth.

“Technology” has become so overused … that the term has lost all meaning.

For the NASDAQ exchange, where most so-called technology companies are traded, those industries are based on the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB), a classification system developed by the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group. The ICB breaks the market down into 10 industries, each of which is broken down further into supersectors, sectors, and subsectors. The ICB technology industry counts “Internet” as a subsector of “Software & Computer Services,” for example. Companies are assigned to sectors and subsectors based on the (largest) source of their revenue (thus, GE is considered an energy company).

A company like Microsoft fits squarely into Technology, Software & Computer Services, because that’s where the majority of its revenue derives. Likewise, Apple is a traditional ICB “technology” company, in the sense that it makes most of its money from selling computer hardware. But the other companies in Bloomberg’s Monday top five are technology companies in a mostly vestigial way.

Almost all of Google’s and Facebook’s revenue, for example, comes from advertising; by that measure, there’s an argument that those firms are really Media industry companies, with a focus on Broadcasting and Entertainment. Of course, Alphabet is a lot like GE, or at least it aspires to be, with its investments in automotive (Self-Driving Car Project), health care (Calico), consumer goods (Nest), utilities (Fiber). But the vast majority of its revenue comes from Google’s ad business.

Amazon generates a lot of revenue from its Amazon Web Services (AWS) business—perhaps as much as $10 billion this year. It also derives revenue from manufacturing and selling computer hardware, like the Fire and Kindle. But thevast majority of Amazon’s revenue comes from international sales of consumer goods. Amazon is sort of a tech company, but really it’s a retailer.

A day later, at the close of the markets Tuesday, August 2, the tech sweep was already history. Exxon Mobil had pushed Facebook out of position five, topping the, uh, online broadcast media company’s $352 billion market cap by $8 billion, or 2 percent. Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway also closed Tuesday at $354 billion in total value. Among Berkshire Hathaway’s top revenue drivers are insurance, manufacturing, and the obscure but ubiquitous McClane Company, which provides supply-chain management and logistics services for the grocery industry. It brought in $28 billion in revenue last year, or about $10 billion more than Facebook. Johnson & Johnson, which sells consumer and industrial health products from Actifed to Zyrtec, wasn’t far behind, with a $345 billion market capitalization at the close of business Tuesday.

Every industry uses computers, software, and internet services. If that’s what “technology” means, then every company is in the technology business—a useless distinction. But it’s more likely that “technology” has become so overused, and so carelessly associated with Silicon Valley-style computer software and hardware startups, that the term has lost all meaning. Perhaps finance has exacerbated the problem by insisting on the generic industrial term “technology” as a synonym for computing.

There are companies that are firmly planted in the computing sector. Microsoft and Apple are two. Intel is another—it makes computer parts for other computer makers. But it’s also time to recognize that some companies—Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook among them—aren’t primarily in the computing business anyway. And that’s no slight, either. The most interesting thing about companies like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook is that they are not (computing) technology companies. Instead, they are using computing infrastructure to build new—and enormous—businesses in other sectors. If anything, that’s a fair take on what “technology” might mean as a generic term: manipulating one set of basic materials to realize goals that exceed those materials.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/08/facebook-is-not-a-technology-company/494183

Facebook is starting to analyse users‘ posts and messages with sophisticated new artificial intelligence (AI) software

Facebook is starting to analyse users‘ posts and messages with sophisticated new artificial intelligence (AI) software — and that could have worrying implications for Google.

On Wednesday, the social networking giant announced DeepText — „a deep learning-based text understanding engine that can understand with near-human accuracy the textual content of several thousands posts per second, spanning more than 20 languages.“

DeepText is powered by an AI technique called deep learning. Basically, the more input you give it, the better and better it becomes at what it is trained to do — which in this case is parsing human text-based communication.

The aim? Facebook wants its AI to be able to „understand“ your posts and messages to help enrich experiences on the social network. This is everything from recognising from a message that you need to call a cab (rather than just discussing your previous cab ride) and giving you the option to do so, or helping sort comments on popular pages for relevancy. (Both are examples Facebook’s research team provides.)

The blog post doesn’t directly discuss it, but another obvious application for this kind of sophisticated tech is Google’s home turf — search. And engineering director Hussein Mehanna told Quartz that this is definitely an area that Facebook is exploring: „We want Deep Text to be used in categorizing content within Facebook to facilitate searching for it and also surfacing the right content to users.“

Search is notoriously difficult to get right, and is a problem Google has thrown billions at (and made billions off) trying to solve. Is someone searching „trump“ looking for the Presidential candidate or playing cards? Does a search for the word „gift“ want for ideas for gifts, or more information about the history of gifts — or even the German meaning of the word, poison? And how do you handle natural-language queries that may not contain any of the key words the searcher is looking for — for example, „what is this weird thing growing on me?“

By analysing untold trillions of private and public posts and messages, Facebook is going to have an unprecedented window into real-time written communication and all the contexts around it.

Google has nothing directly comparable (on the same scale) it can draw upon as a resource as to train AI. It can crawl the web, but static web pages don’t have that real-time dynamism that reflect how people really speak — and search — in private conversations. The search giant has repeatedly missed the boat on social, and is now trying to get onboard — very late in the game — with its new messaging app Allo. It will mine conversations for its AI tech and use it to provide contextual info to users — but it hasn’t even launched yet.

Facebook has long been working to improve its search capabilities, with tools like Graph Search that let the user enter natural language queries to find people and information more organically: „My friends who went to Stanford University and like rugby and Tame Impala,“ for example. And in October 2015, it announced it had indexed all 2 trillion-plus of its posts, making them accessible via search.

Using AI will help the Menlo Park company not just to index but to understand the largest private database of human interactions ever created — super-charging these efforts.

www.businessinsider.de/facebook-new-ai-deeptext-threatens-google-search-2016-6

The Evolution of Messengers at Google

Google has announced three new communication apps this week: Spaces, Allo and Duo. That’s in addition to the three it already has. To understand why it’s doing this, and why it’ll do it again, we only need to look to its past.

Twelve years ago, Google began its shift from being „just“ the world’s most popular search engine to something much more: It released Gmail. Soon, the company was offering several options for communication. By 2009 Google users had a pretty robust set of tools at their disposal. Gmail for email, Talk for real-time text and voice chats, Voice for VoIP calling, and Android to facilitate everything else. Unfortunately, this simple delineation would quickly disappear as the company launched more and more services.

Google Wave was the first addition. Announced in mid-2009, it mashed together elements of bulletin boards, instant messaging and collaborative editing to pretty awesome effect. It grew a small but fervent community — I was a big fan — until Google halted development.

Then came Buzz. Launched in 2010, it was Google’s first attempt at a bona fide social network. It failed miserably, not least due to complaints about the way Google forced it upon users and some valid privacy concerns. Although neither Wave nor Buzz really competed with what the company was already offering, that would change when Google launched its next attempt at a social network, Google+.

In addition to standard social networking, Google+ also had two features that facilitated direct communication with individuals and groups: Hangouts and Huddles. Not to be mistaken with the current app, Hangouts at the time offered multiuser video chat for people in the same Circle. Huddle, on the other hand, was an instant messaging app for talking with other Google+ users.

Huddle would soon become Google+ Messenger, offering the same functionality as Google Talk, while Hangouts would expand to seriously encroach on Google Voice. Within a year, Google had added the ability to make „audio-only“ calls by inviting users to join Hangouts over a regular phone line.

Google now had two apps for everything, coupled with the problem that many users — even on its Android platform — were still using SMS to communicate on the go. It began work to rectify this and unify its disparate platforms. In 2013 we got an all-new Hangouts, available cross-platform and on the web. It merged the functionality of Hangouts and Messenger, and it also replaced Talk within Gmail if you opted to upgrade. Voice was still out in the cold and SMS wasn’t integrated, but the company was moving in the right direction.

In late 2013, Google added SMS to Hangouts, and in Android 4.4 it replaced Messaging as the OS default for texting. By Oct. 2014 Google had integrated VoIP into Hangouts as well. It finally had one app for everything.

You could assert that Hangouts was a better app because of the confusing mess that preceded it. Google tried lots of things and put the best elements from all of its offerings into a single app.

That arguably should have been the end of the story, but it’s not. For whatever reason — probably because it figured out that a lot of Android users didn’t use Hangouts — Google released another app in Nov. 2014 called Messenger. This Messenger had nothing to do with Google+ but instead was a simple app focused on SMS and MMS. Hangouts could and can still handle your texts, but Messenger is now standard on Nexus phones and can be installed on any Android phone from the Play Store. This confusing muddle means that if you have, say, a new flagship Samsung phone, you’ll have two apps capable of handling your SMS (Samsung’s app and Hangouts), with the possibility of adding a third with Messenger.

Hangouts, for the most part, has been doing a fine job.

Still, SMS isn’t exactly a burning priority for most people, and Hangouts, for the most part, has been doing a fine job. I can’t say I use it that often — my conversations are mostly through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, because that’s where my friends are — but when I do, it’s a pleasant-enough experience. The same can be said for Google+: It’s actually a great social network now, aside from the fact that barely anyone uses it.

That’s the issue that Google faces today and the reason why these new apps exist. More people are using Facebook Messenger than Hangouts. More people are using WhatsApp than Hangouts. More people are using Snapchat than Hangouts. And everyone uses everything other than Google+.

So we now have three new apps from Google, each performing pretty different tasks. The first is Spaces. Think of it as Google+ redux redux redux. It takes the service’s fresh focus on communities and collections and puts it into an app that exists outside the social network. The end result is a mashup of Slack, Pinterest, Facebook Groups and Trello. It’s promising, but, as of writing, it’s very much a work in progress.

Next up is Allo, a reaction to Facebook Messenger and Microsoft’s efforts in the chatbot space. It uses machine learning to streamline conversations with auto replies and also offers a virtual assistant that’ll book restaurants for you, answer questions and do other chatbotty things. Just like Spaces exists outside Google+, Allo exists outside Hangouts. You don’t even need a Google account to sign up, just a phone number — much like how WhatsApp doesn’t require a Facebook account.

Finally we have Duo, which is by far the most focused of the three. It basically duplicates Hangouts‘ original function: video calling. According to the PR, it makes mobile video calls „fast“ and „simple,“ and it’s only going to be available on Android and iOS. Both Duo and Allo also have the distinction of offering end-to-end encryption — although Allo doesn’t do so by default — the absence of which has been something privacy advocates have hated about Hangouts.

This summer, when Duo and Allo become available, Google users will be at another confusing impasse. Want to send a message to a friend? Pick from Hangouts, Allo or Messenger. Want to make a video call? Hangouts or Duo. Group chat? Hangouts, Allo or Spaces. It’s not user-friendly, and it’s not sustainable.

Sure, Facebook sustains two chat services (WhatsApp and its own Messenger) just fine, but it bought WhatsApp as a fully independent, hugely popular app and has barely changed a thing. Google doesn’t have that luxury. Instead, it’ll borrow another Facebook play: Test new features on a small audience and integrate. Over the past couple of years Facebook has released Slingshot, Rooms, Paper, Riff, Strobe, Shout, Selfied and Moments. I’m probably missing a few.

All of these apps were essentially built around a single feature: private chats, ephemeral messaging, a prettier news feed, selfies, etc. The vast majority won’t get traction on their own, but their features might prove useful enough to fold into the main Facebook and Messenger apps. And if one of them takes off, no problem, you’ve got another successful app.

This has to be Google’s strategy for Allo, Duo and Spaces. We don’t know what Google’s communication offerings will look like at the end of this year, let alone 2017. But chances are that Google will continue to float new ideas before eventually merging the best of them into a single, coherent application, as it did with Hangouts. And then it’ll start the process again. In the meantime, Google will spend money developing x number of duplicate apps, and users will have to deal with a confusing mess of applications on their home screens.

 

http://www.engadget.com/2016/05/19/why-google-cant-stop-making-messaging-apps/

Facebook and Google are destined to become Apple and Microsoft

People don’t always remember this, but when Microsoft first started, one of its biggest partners was Apple — manufacturer of the Apple II, the gold standard for early PCs.

That partnership, always tenuous, didn’t last.

Microsoft would go on to partner with IBM, paving the way to the era of Windows dominance on a wide range of cheap computers.

Apple would have its well-documented ups and downs before ultimately locking down the high-end computer market.

Today, Google announced Daydream, a new initiative designed to make virtual reality cheaper and more accessible to everybody, in partnership with vendors  Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, Alcatel, ZTE, Xiaomi and Asus.

And assuming that virtual reality really does take off and become the next great computing paradigm, like the tech industry thinks it will, it looks like history is going to repeat itself — with Google in the role of Microsoft and Facebook playing the part of Apple.

This is not necessarily a good thing.

Early days

The Apple II wasn’t the first computer, by any measure. But when it launched in 1977, the whole idea of personal computing was nothing more than a hobbyist’s pastime. In fact, the Apple I was a do-it-yourself computer kit.

The big breakthrough of the Apple II was taking all of the complicated techie stuff and placing it in one pre-built box so anybody could use it and build software for it. It was so successful and influential that it kicked off a product line that lasted through the Apple IIe in 1993.

Still, Microsoft saw opportunity. While the Apple II and, later, the Apple Macinstosh were popular, they were also prohibitively expensive for most people. With Apple the sole manufacturer of those computers, there was no reason to ever drop the price. So Microsoft performed an end-run and circumvented Apple entirely.

Apple II MacFlickr/gmahenderApple II

Microsoft sold Windows to any and every PC manufacturer, building a thriving ecosystem of computers from different companies that nonetheless offered compatible software. PC prices cratered, PC manufacturers blossomed, Microsoft’s stock went way up, and Apple’s future became far less certain.

It’s basically the same thing that Google would go on to do with Android itself, making the mobile operating system available for free to phone manufacturers. Now, you can get an Android phone that costs less than $100 or more than $700, your choice. Google now wants to repeat the trick, this time with virtual reality.

Virtual insanity

Just like Apple before it, Facebook is maintaining a tight grip over Oculus, and its flagship Oculus Rift VR headset, which it bought for $2 billion in 2014.

Because of that, it carries the same pluses and minuses as the Apple II and Macintosh before it. It’s engineered to Just Work, streamlining away all the things that made virtual reality never catch on before. But it’s also expensive, with $599 for the Oculus Rift headset alone, plus the fact that you’ll need a $1,200-ish PC just to use it.

Google’s vision for the future of virtual reality is a little broader. Its first-ever virtual reality play was the $20-ish Google Cardboard, literally a cardboard box that you can slot just about any smartphone into.

Much like Microsoft with Windows. Google has turned to partners to realize the dream of Daydream. It’s providing a blueprint for a virtual reality headset that anybody can build from, and a specification for building phones that are compatible with it.

Oculus Rift Oculus TouchOculus VROculus Rift

There are some limits — Daydream is only going to work with certain, pre-certified new phones — but the general idea is that it’s always going to be cheaper and more accessible to power virtual reality with a smartphone that you probably already own, than an expensive gaming PC that only true power-users care to maintain.

Facebook, for its part, hasn’t ignored this trend. The Samsung Gear VR, co-developed by Oculus, is a lower-end headset also powered by a phone. Still, it only works with Samsung’s own Galaxy phones, which are always on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Google Daydream is, on paper, more inclusive of lower-end and cheaper smartphones. It may never be as powerful as the Oculus Rift, but if it works, it’ll ignite an explosion of cheap VR from every manufacturer, making it a new standard, at the cost of some overall control.

Just like Windows.

Vision for the future

So you have Facebook’s Oculus at the Apple-esque high end of virtual reality, and Google Daydream at the low-to-middle that’s long been Microsoft’s forte in PCs.

That’s great, except not really. If the long decades of Apple’s history with Microsoft have taught us anything, it’s that consumers suffer the most when tech giants have turf wars. Remember the dark days of the great Windows/Mac divide?

Right now, virtual reality is such a young market that these companies don’t feel the need to compete.

Google Daydream headsetGoogleThe current design for the Google Daydream headset.

But you already can’t legitimately get Google’s YouTube app on Facebook’s Oculus Home virtual reality operating system. If virtual reality takes off, expect to see a lot more territorialism between Facebook’s growing ecosystem of apps and services, and Google’s established base.

Eventually, Apple and Microsoft came to terms. Microsoft builds some of the best iPhone apps around; Apple promotes Office on its iPad Pro tablet.

To get to that happier place, though, it took a strange journey, and a long maturation of the overall technology behind computing and the internet. We’re just at the beginning of even glimpsing the potential of virtual reality. And if Google and Facebook really follow history, we’re in for a long, tough, bitter fight.

http://www.businessinsider.de/facebook-vr-versus-google-vr-2016-5

Facebook introduces Message Requests (and fundamentally changes is paradigm from Trading Privacy By Obscurity For Openness With Control)

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2015/10/27/facebook-message-requests/

Facebook Messenger Wants To BE Your Phone Number With New Message Requests

Phone numbers are dumb. Once someone has yours, you can’t stop them from contacting you.

Someone might want you to call them, but if you don’t have their random string of digits, you can’t. And you could miss something extremely important if a person you’ve never met really needs to reach you.

Facebook Messenger has a plan to fix all that. And it’s born from the ashes of one of the social network’s worst products ever.

No More Missed Connections

Today, Messenger is killing off the dysfunctional “Other Inbox”. It was where Facebook messages went to die if they were sent by someone who wasn’t your friend or friend-of-a-friend. Few people knew it existed. Fewer ever checked it. And it wasn’t even accessible from Messenger’s iOS or Android apps.

A friend of mine once received a Facebook message from his long-lost brother he was separated from at birth 30 years ago in Vietnam. But he didn’t see the message for six months because it went to his Other Inbox. It took a LinkedIn request before he realized what he was missing.

Facebook Other Inbox

Thankfully, that shouldn’t happen anymore. Rolling out globally starting today is Facebook’s replacement for the Other Inbox which it calls “Message Requests”. It means all someone needs in order to contact you is your name, but you have control over whether they can contact you again.

Friend Requests For Chat

Now, any message from a non-friend who doesn’t have your phone number will go into your Message Requests at the top of Messenger on mobile or in the Messages tab on web.

Facebook Message Requests

From there, you can parse who to respond to and who to permanently ignore. You’ll see the sender’s name, a little public info about them like their city, job, or mutual friends, and the message.

But the sender won’t know you looked. Respond and the thread goes to your normal inbox, ignore and it’s hidden in the Filtered Requests folder along with anything that seems like spam.

If you already have a thread open with someone or you have their phone number, your messages will be allowed into their normal inbox. One change to look out for is that messages from friends-of-friends will now be treated as requests. Facebook will no longer bet that having a friend in common means you care to talk to someone.

Essentially, Message Requests are like Friend Requests for chat. Except they create a new kind of relationship on Facebook — non-friends who can message you. And with that distinction, Messenger has unlocked the potential to connect with people you just met, someone you don’t know but need to talk to, and even businesses.

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This Isn’t Email

Tony Leach doesn’t know his parents’ phone number. Messenger’s Product Manager on Message Requests isn’t a terrible son. His family just moves a lot, and they insist on changing their number to the local area code each time. “Phone numbers are kind of a relic of the ’50s” he tells me. “I know [my parents] much better as people. Names are a much better way of contacting people.”

So back in 2010, Facebook tried, and failed, to turn your name into not your phone number, but your email address. The company gave everyone a [username]@facebook.com email address that connected to Messenger, and had the lofty idea that people would route their email newsletters, bills, and more there.

Facebook's Tony Leach

They didn’t. But the Other Inbox where the mediocre stuff you didn’t respond to was supposed to go became a dungeon where critical messages from non-friends languished unread.

It took awhile, including an intrusive partnership with Apple on contact syncing, before Facebook Message Requests’ engineering lead Michael Adkins says “We knew the other folder didn’t work for a mobile to mobile system.” If it was going to evolve beyond the desktop users were ditching, Facebook had to axe the Other Inbox.

“We’ve heard so many stories like estranged parents trying to get back in touch, or you lost your wallet and someone trying to get in touch with you” Leach explains. “That’s why we want to replace that with a system that makes it a lot easier to catch the messages that you want to see.”

It will be good for Facebook’s business too. Mobile is where people spend their time. The more useful Messenger is, the deeper users get locked in to Facebook’s ecosystem where they’ll see News Feed ads and generate data that earns Facebook money.

Trading Privacy By Obscurity For Openness With Control

Now Facebook is making that move, shuttling all Other Inbox messages into the Message Request feature’s hidden Filtered Requests folder. Going forward, it hopes to help you intelligently parse non-friend messages in a way SMS never could.

As long as your message matters, you can now contact any of the 1.5 billion people on Facebook. This achieves what Leach calls “A level of openness where you can get in touch with anyone in the world but still have the control yourself of who contacts you and who can’t.”

That last part is critical. Make no mistake, this is a change in how the concept of privacy works for a massive swath of humanity. Facebook is trading our “privacy by obscurity” for “openness with control”. Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus himself notes that “While this may seem like a small change, it’s actually a foundational development.”

Web-2

Previously, regarding the ability to contact someone, we had privacy by obscurity: someone couldn’t call or text you if they didn’t have your number. But once they did, you had almost no control. Even if you blocked their number, they could always change theirs or use someone else’s phone. “Once you give out your email address you have no idea what they’re going to do with it” Adkins warns. “They could sell it to someone one else. Same thing with phone numbers.”

The result was an initial level of security that if surmounted, opened up opportunities for harassment.

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Now with Facebook, we’ll have openness with control: someone only needs your name to contact you, but you can block them much more effectively. Delete or ignore a Message Request, and you won’t be notified about someone’s messages any more.

And thanks to Facebook’s spam detection systems that flag recently created accounts with few friends, Messenger can keep blocking them automatically even if they create a new account to try to harass you. Messenger also factors in the sender’s previous messaging behavior and whether you typically approve Message Requests to determine what you see.

Now, if someone doesn’t seem like a spammer, Messenger could put that message from a stranger about returning your wallet or meeting at that party where you’ll actually see it. The change might be a little scary at first, and lead to a few more accidental pings about messages you definitely don’t care about. But long-term, openness with control is a more scalable way to handle communication in a globalized society.

Hey, I Just Met You

This shift in how privacy works could fundamentally change how we interact interpersonally.

Typically, meeting someone new means exchanging names and having a conversation. At the end, if one person has the guts to ask to extend the meeting into a friendship or something more, they have to explicitly ask for that person’s phone number.

But often times, that’s either daunting or inconvenient. While it might seem respectful to have to ask in person for permission to contact someone in the future, many will feel too awkward to turn someone down. The result is relationships both people don’t really want, or an uncomfortable situation with fake numbers or dashed hopes.

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Message Requests could also make Facebook a way to communicate with contractors, short-term business colleagues, or anyone else you want to chat with temporarily, but don’t want to friend or give your number.

unnamedBut the even bigger opportunity for Facebook is using Message Requests as the foundation for a WeChat-style way to chat directly with businesses. The News Feed works for non-essential content shared by businesses, but if they need to reach you to work out details or modify your order, messaging works much better.

Facebook is already experimenting with ways to let you receive customer service, attain a quote on home repair, or contact Page admins via Messenger. And there’s already a payment system built into Messenger. Imagine one day getting a Message Request from a business you’ve interacted with, then being able to receive important updates or even buy things from them right from chat.

But for now, maybe Message Request will empower the more shy ones among us. The barrier to a deeper connection has been dismantled. All you need is a name.

Leach concludes, “I can’t help but think of how many dates I missed out on because I was too scared to ask someone’s phone number in the moment.”

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2015/10/27/facebook-message-requests/