Tag Archives: WhatsApp
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services and incorporate end-to-end encryption into these apps, the New York Times reported on Friday.
WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone in Manchester , Britain March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble
The three services will, however, continue as stand-alone apps, the report said, citing four people involved in the effort.
Facebook said it is working on adding end-to-end encryption, which protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in a conversation, to more of its messaging products, and considering ways to make it easier for users to connect across networks.
“There is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work,” a spokesperson said.
After the changes, a Facebook user, for instance, will be able send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, according to the New York Times report.
Integrating the messaging services could make it harder for antitrust regulators to break up Facebook by undoing its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, said Sam Weinstein, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
“If Facebook is worried about that then one way it can defend itself is to integrate those services,” Weinstein said.
But Weinstein said breaking up Facebook is viewed as an “extreme remedy” by regulators, particularly in the United States, so concerns over antitrust scrutiny may not have been a factor behind the integration.
Some former Facebook security engineers and an outside encryption expert said the plan could be good news for user privacy, in particular by extending end-to-end encryption.
“I’m cautiously optimistic it’s a good thing,” said former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now teaches at Stanford University. “My fear was that they were going to drop end-to-end encryption.”
However, the technology does not always conceal metadata – information about who is talking to whom – sparking concern among some researchers that the data might be shared.
Any metadata integration likely will let Facebook learn more about users, linking identifiers such as phone numbers and email addresses for those using the services independently of each other.
Facebook could use that data to charge more for advertising and targeted services, although it also would have to forgo ads based on message content in Messenger and Instagram.
Other major tradeoffs will have to be made too, Stamos and others said.
Messenger allows strangers to contact people without knowing their phone numbers, for example, increasing the risk of stalking and approaches to children.
Systems based on phone numbers have additional privacy concerns, because governments and other entities can easily extract location information from them.
Stamos said he hoped Facebook would get public input from terrorism experts, child safety officers, privacy advocates and others and be transparent in its reasoning when it makes decisions on the details.
“It should be an open process, because you can’t have it all,” Stamos said.
Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru, Jan Wolfe in Washington and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Writing by Katie Paul; Editing by Tom Brown
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Monday said a technical problem prevented some users from accessing and posting on the social network as well as messaging app Whatsapp and Instagram, and it had mostly fixed the issue.
FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
“Earlier today, a networking issue caused some people to have trouble accessing or posting to various Facebook services. We quickly investigated and started restoring access, and we have nearly fixed the issue for everyone. We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said.
Most affected users experienced problems for less than 90 minutes and the problem was not specific to a particular region.
Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
(This is a guest post from Appilco Head of Platform and Modern Monopolies co-author Nicholas Johnson.)
This week, the dream for what WhatsApp could have been was officially pronounced dead. What happened? Facebook announced a host of new business-oriented features that are coming to WhatsApp in a push to finally have its biggest acquisition generate meaningful revenue. Ads are included, contrary to the original vision for WhatsApp, whose founders once called advertising an “insult to your intelligence.”
As I’ve written previously, WhatsApp’s original direction presented an opportunity for a true Facebook competitor to emerge. But since Facebook’s $ 19 billion acquisition, it’s become increasingly clear that WhatsApp will inevitably end up looking like yet-another Facebook platform. That is to say, it will be driven by ads and the mass collection of user data, as required by Facebook’s main revenue model.
With the WhatsApp Business API, this transition has kicked into high gear.
Show Me the Money
WhatsApp’s business API will enable businesses to establish an official presence on WhatsApp, similar to how they exist on Facebook today. However, this doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to start getting spammed by messages from companies, as customers still have to contact a business on WhatsApp first before the business can send them messages.
After that, using the API, businesses can respond to messages from customers. They can also send them updates such as order confirmations, delivery notices, appointment reminders and more. Many businesses will also use it for customer support, and the API will likely enable WhatsApp to plug into existing CRM solutions that businesses use for that purpose.
As for cost, the API will let businesses respond to customer inquiries for free within 24 hours. After that they will pay a fee per message sent of between half a penny to 9 cents, depending on the country. This framework will encourage businesses to respond to customer messages quickly. It also helps eliminate the incentive for businesses to spam customers after the initial outreach, as each message will cost them money. If that message doesn’t create real value for the customer, you won’t want to send it.
Additionally, WhatsApp will also be introducing ads, not all of which will appear within the WhatsApp app itself. How does that work? Business accounts on WhatsApp will soon be able to place ads on Facebook (and likely Instagram too) that let customers click to open up a WhatsApp message with that business. Additionally, WhatsApp will be adding advertisements to its Status platform, which is its version of Facebook’s many Snapchat Stories clones. Facebook has been testing these ads already with Instagram Stories, and WhatsApp Status ads will tie into the same Facebook ad system as Stories.
Facebook’s Stalling Revenue Engine
Taken together, these moves remove much of what made WhatsApp stand out from the rest of the Facebook ecosystem. Following the departure of WhatsApp’s founders, every new change makes WhatsApp more and more like Facebook.
At its core, Facebook, much like Google, is driven by a giant money-making advertising engine. Eventually, everything that Facebook touches gets pulled into its vortex. Now WhatsApp, despite promises to the contrary to both users and regulators, will be no different.
For Facebook, the shift comes on the back of a poor showing in its latest quarterly earnings and as increasing investments in safety and community monitoring are likely to compress its profit margins in the years ahead. Facebook appears to be moving decidedly out of growth mode and into profit-taking mode with all of its platforms. Now that WhatsApp is one of the largest messaging platforms in the world, it’s well positioned to turn into the monetization engine Facebook likely envisioned when it shelled out $ 19 billion.
(Reuters) – Messaging service WhatsApp rolled out new group-chat features on Tuesday, including more controls for administrators as well as regular group members.
Users can now leave a group permanently to avoid being repeatedly added back after they have left, Facebook Inc-owned WhatsApp said in a blog post.
Administrators can no longer be removed from a group they created and users can now quickly locate messages that mention them in a group conversation.
Groups on WhatsApp have taken a central role in the messaging service that has more than 1 billion users, helping connect people with similar interests across the globe.
Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru
LONDON (Reuters) – WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), is raising its minimum age from 13 to 16 in Europe to help it comply with new data privacy rules coming into force next month.
It is not clear how or if the age limit will be checked given the limited data requested and held by the service.
Facebook, which has a separate data policy, is taking a different approach to teens aged between 13 and 15 in order to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law.
It is asking them to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform, otherwise they will not see a fully personalized version of the social media platform.
But WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January according to Facebook, said in a blog post it was not asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union.
“Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you,” it said.
WhatsApp, founded in 2009, has come under pressure from some European governments in recent years because of its end-to-end encrypted messaging system and its plan to share more data with its parent, Facebook.
Facebook itself is under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world since disclosing last month that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, setting off wider concerns about how it handles user data.
WhatsApp’s minimum age of use will remain 13 years in the rest of the world, in line with its parent.
GDPR is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and some other tech firms have said they plan to give people in the United States and elsewhere the same protections and rights that Europeans will gain.
European regulators have already disrupted a move by WhatsApp to change its policies to allow it to share users’ phone numbers and other information with Facebook to help improve the product and more effectively target ads.
WhatsApp suspended the change in Europe after widespread regulatory scrutiny. It said on Tuesday it still wanted to share the data at some point.
“As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans,” it said.
Other changes announced by WhatsApp on Tuesday include allowing users to download a report detailing the data it holds on them, such as the make and model of the device they used, their contacts and groups and any blocked numbers.
“This feature will be rolling out to all users around the world on the newest version of the app,” it said.
The blog post also points to safety tips on the service, such as the ability to block unwanted users, and delete and report spam.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Adrian Croft
When Google launched its Pixel 2 flagship smartphone last year, it included something of a surprise: A co-processor called Pixel Visual Core, the company’s first homegrown, consumer-facing piece of silicon. And while that feels like a momentous foray, the co-processor has lain dormant for months. Monday, Pixel Visual Core goes to work.
As it turns out—and as Google had nodded at previously—the hidden chip inside every Pixel serves a narrow but critical purpose. It will use its eight custom cores, its ability to crunch 3 trillion operations per second, all in the service of making your photos look better. Specifically, the photos you take through third-party apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.
Those are the three partners at the Pixel Visual Core switch-flipping; since it’s open to all developers, more will presumably follow. They’ll all gain the powers to produce Google’s HDR+ images, photos that rely on a series of post-processing tricks to make images shot with the Pixel appear more balanced and lifelike. Photos taken with the Pixel Camera app have already benefited from HDR+ powers since launch—that’s one reason Pixel 2 earned the highest marks yet given to a smartphone by industry-standard photo-rater DxOMark. But Pixel Visual Core will extend the feature to the streams, feeds, and snaps of Pixel owners as well, after an update that will roll out early this week.
To understand why Google would devote its first homemade smartphone processor to a relatively narrow function—not just photography, but HDR+ specifically—it helps to understand the importance of HDR+ to the Pixel’s photo prowess. For starters, it’s not the HDR you’re used to.
“HDR+ actually works shockingly differently,” says Isaac Reynolds, project manager for Pixel Camera. Where HDR essentially tries to combine three or so simultaneous exposures for the best result, HDR+ takes up to 10 identical underexposed shots. “We take them all and chop them into little bits, and line them on top of one another, and average the image together,” says Reynolds, who ticks off the reduction in noise and color quality as just two of the benefits.
That’s not just hype, or at least not entirely. HDR+ really does have tangible benefits—especially in Google’s implementation.
“HDR+ technology is a very good technology for noise and data preservation. This removes the noise in the picture,” says Hervé Macudzinski, manager of DxOMark.com. “That enables Google to provide a nice picture with low level noise high level detail.”
You can see an example of what that means in the below before-and-after shots, with the usual caveat that Google provided them, and your own experience may vary.
The various benefits of HDR+ are also more or less pronounced depending on the conditions of the shot you’re taking. It helps especially bringing clarity to low-light images, or to give an assist if you for some reason take a portrait with the sun at someone’s back.
Google’s not the only company capable of this particular trick, but its execution clearly stands apart.
“The HDR+ is very impressive because they did something very efficient,” says Macudzinski. “If you want to do that, it’s going to be optimized and very powerful.”
Pixel Visual Core will also power two related photographic enhancements; RAISR, a technique to sharpen zoomed-in shots, and Zero Shutter Lag, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Until now, these optimizations have been off limits for third-party developers. Photos taken within the Instagram app, for instance, look a bit muddled compared to those taken with the Pixel’s native camera app. Which is where Pixel Visual Core comes in.
Sharing the Wealth
The primary benefit of the Pixel Visual Core, now that it’s on? You still won’t even notice it, says Ofer Shacham, the chip’s engineering manager.
“If we look at HDR+ as a key benchmark for us, it gives us the ability to run five times faster than anything else in existence, while consuming about 1/10th of the energy of the battery. We can put it under the hood,” says Schacham. “We basically hide it. That’s what enables every developer to use it, while not consuming energy from the battery, and even better, reducing the energy consumption from the battery while those applications take pictures.”
That also hints at why Google decided to go it alone with Pixel Visual Core, rather than rely on the powerful Snapdragon 835 processor that handles the bulk of the Pixel 2’s computational needs. The Pixel Visual Core offers not just customization, but flexibility.
“Google in a sense is a software and algorithm company,” says Schacham. “We want something that allows us to rapidly innovate, rapidly change the algorithm, rapidly improve it.”
To that end, the Pixel Visual Core is also programmable. That means while it works primarily in service of HDR+ today, it could go toward making other applications zip in the future, a possibility that Schacham acknowledges, while declining to go into detail on what sorts of use cases Google envisions.
More broadly, though, the Pixel Visual Core represents Google’s first foray into an increasingly common trend of smartphone manufacturers rolling their own silicon, giving itself tighter control over its product and weaning itself off of chip giant Qualcomm.
“I think it’s significant in that, first off, Google is an advertising company, who is also an operating system provider, and they are going more deeply vertical in what they’re doing by adding semiconductor features to enhance the experience,” says Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategies. “Any time somebody in software gets into hardware, interesting things happen—as in interesting really good, or interesting really bad.”
It would also make sense, Moorhead says, for Google to extend its processor plans beyond Pixel Visual Core. Microsoft uses a custom system-on-a-chip for the Xbox. Apple’s A series SoC has contributed greatly to the iPhone’s dominance. And with Google having poached a key Apple chip designer last summer, it seems unlikely that an HDR+ coprocessor is the end of the line.
For now, though, Pixel 2 owners can look forward to adding an HDR+ veneer to their social media pics—while waiting Google’s broader ambitions to come more fully into focus.
(Reuters) – WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc, suffered a global outage for about an hour on Sunday before the problem was fixed.
“WhatsApp users around the world experienced a brief outage today that has now been resolved”, a WhatsApp spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. The cause of the outage, about an hour long, was not immediately known.
In India, its biggest market with about 200 million of its billion-plus users, the app was down just a few minutes past midnight into the new year.
Users in other countries also complained of outages on social media.
Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe