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Facebook's Star Manager Peter Deng Becomes Instagram Director Of Product To “Do Fewer Things Better”

Wed, 14/08/2013 - 7:30pm

Peter Deng built Facebook Chat, Groups and Messenger as its product management director for the last six years. Now he’s going to execute the vision of Instagram’s founders as its . “I’m not trying to come in and make changes,” Deng tells me. “Kevin and Mike have a great thing going. How can we move faster and build more beautiful products? That’s what I’m coming here to do.”

Deng doesn’t get up on stage as much as Zuck, Sheryl, and Chris Cox do, but he’s responsible for much of what we know as Facebook today. He previously interned at Microsoft and later worked on product at Google before joining Facebook in 2007.

Here’s a quick run-down of what Peter’s worked on since then:

  • The first version of Facebook Chat
  • Early updates to Events
  • “Brought a voice to Pages”, giving them the ability to post to the News Feed
  • Led the News Feed and homepage team for two years, redesigning it to update in real time
  • The profile redesign that focused on collecting structured data about users — the fuel for Facebook’s ads engine
  • Transformed Groups from bumper stickers on your profile into collaborative communication spaces
  • Founded the mobile messaging team after pushing Facebook to acquire Beluga

After all that, he still wasn’t sick of the Facebook ecosystem, telling me he never planned to leave the company. Instead, Deng wants to bring the insights from building these products to Instagram as he reports to its CEO Kevin Systrom. That’s great news for Facebook, which has seen a lot of talented veterans move on to launch their own startups after doing their “duty” to the social network. Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s longest-running employee other than Mark Zuckerberg, will now be leading the messaging team Peter previously managed.

Moving to Instagram will give Deng a fresh set of puzzles to solve while still going to work at 1 Hacker Way. He explains:

“I see a lot of the same challenges that Facebook faced in getting to where it is today. How do you build a product organization, how do you understand how people use the product? how do you make the product relevant internationally.  Fo me it was an exciting time to come to a team that’s probably going to face a lot of these challenges, and make it less painful to go through some of these things.”

said about Deng:

“Peter joins in good company too, as we’ve built out our Instagram leadership team to take on the challenges of building a world-class product and company. Through our many discussions, it’s clear his unique skills in building out product management teams, creating scalable structures for building new products, and his experience building out Facebook News Feed and Messenger make him the perfect fit for our company. Ever since we worked at Google together many years ago, I’ve been able to call Peter a good friend – and now years later, I’m thrilled we get to work together again on the Instagram that we all know and love.”

Compassion Through Sharing

Instagram’s potential to transport us and offer new perspectives endeared it to Deng. “There are these guys in Russia and Indiana that I follow. I don’t know them, they’re not my friends, but that I get to see the world through their lens is truly amazing,” he tells me.

And Instagram’s ability to preserve our memories took on new meaning for Deng this morning, as he had his phone stolen. He recounts, “At first I was kind of pissed for 30 seconds. But then I thought ‘Hey, it’s just a tool to make my life better. I can get another tool and my life stays the same. All my moments are already on Instagram and Facebook. We have photo sync. Nothing is actually on the phone. It’s just the window.”

While Deng has great product vision himself, he tells me his job isn’t to meddle with Instagram’s focus on simplicity, embodied in its design philosophy “Do Fewer Things Better.” The team is 50 people now, up from 13 when it was bought by Facebook in April 2012. It’s not a startup scrambling to define itself. It’s a tool used by hundreds of millions of people, where a little more efficiency makes a huge difference.

Deng concludes, “I want to fulfill the vision of the path it’s already on. One of the biggest things I can do is try to hire the product team to fulfill the vision. Mark wanted to make the world more open and connected. We want to capture and share the world’s moments. It’s a beautiful mission. We make the world just a little more compassionate with each other and understanding of each other’s points of view.”

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Reveals 78% Of US Users Are Mobile As It Starts Sharing User Counts By Country

Tue, 13/08/2013 - 10:35pm

A new level of transparency from Facebook will help the world see whether its mobile growth is entirely propped up by international users that don’t earn the company as much money. Today Facebook announced it will start sharing country-by-country web and mobile monthly and daily user counts. Facebook’s 101 million US daily mobile users make up a whopping 78% of its 128 million daily US users.

Facebook’s global mobile daily active user count increased 10.3% from 425 million to 469 million from Q1 to Q2 2013. But how much of that growth was in its high-monetizing first-world markets? And how much was in its emerging international markets where more people are on feature phones and it earns less per user? Before we couldn’t tell. Soon we’ll be able to.

In a statement, Facebook said:

“We are doing this because we believe brands and businesses should think differently about how people engage with Facebook, especially on mobile. A lot of people focus on monthly active users or even registered users to demonstrate their size and scale. We think this is becoming on old way of looking at the media world. In this world, understanding who comes back at least once a month is only part of the picture. Instead, businesses should focus on people who come back online every single day.”

Facebook tells me it will soon start revealing user counts for other countries beyond the US and UK (whose full data is below) once teams in each country are ready. To be clear, total stats count each individual user as 1 regardless of whether they accessed from desktop, mobile, or both. Mobile stats count each user who accessed via mobile, whether or not they also accessed via desktop.

The data will certainly be helpful for advertisers trying to figure out which international markets they should be focusing their efforts on. Salesforce CMO and Buddy Media CEO until it was acquired) Michael Lazerow says “What we’re seeing in these numbers is Facebook’s ‘mobile first’ strategy has really paid dividends. This is an important update that should help advertisers to plan and target their campaigns more effectively.”

But for the rest of the world, this transparency provides a much better understanding of where Facebook’s business is headed.

How International Is Facebook?

Previously, Facebook had only shared its combined web and mobile user counts by region, and its mobile user counts as global totals. This made it tough to tell where exactly its mobile growth was coming from. Here you’ll see the Facebook Q2 2013 total user counts at the top, which offered breakdowns by region but not by country. Below that you’ll see the daily mobile user counts, which aren’t broken down by geography at all.

The reason that’s a problem is that all users are not created equal when it comes to Facebook’s business. In Q2 2013, Facebook said it made $1.60 in average revenue per user (ARPU) per year as a global average. But in the Rest Of World region that includes its fast-growing developing markets like India and Brazil, it only makes $0.63 per user while it earns $4.32 ARPU per year in the US & Canada region. That means every user it added in the Rest Of World market was worth less than 1/6th of what it makes per North American user.

That’s why back in May during Q1 2013 earnings coverage and again last month I requested that Facebook provide mobile user counts by geography. Soon we’ll have the data, and the little released today is already enlightening. For example, 78.9% of Facebook’s daily American users are on mobile, and in the UK 83% of daily users are on mobile. We can also tell that 71.5% of monthly US Facebook users come back every day, while in the UK Facebook has a “stickiness” of 72.7%.

The real juicy insights will come once we’ve had this data for a few quarters. In the short term, stats on Facebook’s fastest growing international markets and most critical first-world markets will be eye-openers. They’ll reveal whether Facebook is still growing its mobile presence in developed countries, or if it’s reached saturation there.

If Facebook has run out of rich first-world people to sign up, it may need to concentrate more on squeezing dimes out of the developing world by increasing ad salesperson presence and getting more local game companies onboard.

For now, though, the social network should be proud that it’s surviving the shift to mobile that many thought would be its demise. The company swallowed its pride, admitted it had made mistakes designing for desktop first and building apps on HTML5, and righted the course. Now it’s not only surviving, but thriving on mobile. With 41% of ad revenue coming from small screens and more than 3/4ths of daily users in it homeland visiting via phones and tablets, Facebook’s “mobile-first” strategy seems to be a success.

Facebook is starting the increased transparency with more detailed data on the US and UK. Here’s the full list of new stats:


*As of June 2013


  •          US MAU Total: 179M
  •          US DAU Total: 128M
  •          US MAU Mobile: 142M
  •          US DAU Mobile: 101M


  •          UK MAU Total: 33M
  •          UK DAU Total: 24M
  •          UK MAU Mobile: 26M
  •          UK DAU Mobile: 20M

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Tests Celebrities-Only App For Checking And Replying To Fan Chatter

Tue, 13/08/2013 - 7:58pm

Is Facebook going to be divided along class lines, like everything else in the world? A new report from AllThingsD’s MIke Isaac makes that a distinct possibility. The social network is testing a VIP-only mobile app that lets the famous and celebrated monitor Facebook activity and conversations around them, and gives them the opportunity to respond immediately.

Facebook’s VIP app isn’t really about stratifying its users into the haves and the have-nots – it’s more about encouraging high-profile members to be more active and engaged on the site. In other words, Facebook is yet again saying “I’ll have what she’s having” to Twitter, which enjoys a very active celebrity user community and sees user engagement benefits as a result. Increased activity from celebs could theoretically be very helpful in terms of drawing in younger audiences, too, which would help Facebook with its perceived teen user problem.

Facebook has also released a Page Manager app for mobile devices in the past, which has a similar motivating principle, as it provides ways for brands to manage their Facebook presences and interact with their communities while on the go. Other businesses have been built entirely around the concept of helping brands and celebrities manage and engage with their social media followers, including Hootsuite and Troy Carter’s Backplane, which is essentially a way for brands and artists to roll up their online identities into consolidating communities.

As Isaac notes, Facebook has recently debuted pilot projects or new functionality for a number of features “borrowed” from Twitter, including hashtags, trending topics and more. It’s part of a larger effort the company is making to shift into being more about public sharing, which also included the launch of followers who can view public updates but don’t have to have friendship reciprocated by the other party.

A Facebook spokesperson has provided us with their official statement on the matter:

We are currently testing some mobile features designed to help public figures interact with their fans. We are testing these features with a small group of partners and will share more details should we roll it out more widely.
Categories: Facebook

The Mobile Tipping Point And Why Yahoo Must Mimic Groupon And Facebook

Tue, 13/08/2013 - 1:04am

When Facebook announced in its second-quarter earnings report that 41 percent of its advertising revenue was generated by mobile usage, it was a watershed moment: The social company proved that it could monetize its increasingly on-the-go user base.

Key to the 41 percent figure is that it was up 11 percent as a percentage of total revenue in a single quarter; the first quarter’s mobile share percentage was a now-modest 30 percent. The figure is important for Facebook as it indicates that as smartphones and tablets take increasing stature over the desktop Internet, Facebook as a business won’t be left behind.

That shift threw Zynga into a downward spiral, for example. I ran the math and, given past average growth rates, Facebook could generate more advertising income on mobile than desktop inside of 2013. But growth could, of course, slow.

There is a shift worth noting that is emerging in technology companies — born in the age of the desktop web — that are working to harness mobile usage to generate revenue: Reaching the tipping point of bringing in half their top line or more in mobile-derived incomes.

To say that you are a “mobile-first” company is all well and good, but you become one when your dollar flow is more mobile than not.

Facebook, presuming another banner quarter, could cross that line soon in terms of its advertising revenues, but let’s not split hairs. Who else is edging close? Two firms that are form something of a cadre with Facebook: Groupon and Yelp.

Facebook went public in mid 2012, Yelp in early 2012, and Groupon in late 2011. The companies are essentially IPO siblings. That fact gives us journalistic license to write a trend piece. You are welcome.

Mobile Dollars

Facebook brings in 41 percent of its ad dollars from mobile users. Yelp generates 40 percent of its advertising revenue from mobile usage. Groupon, it was revealed during a recent earnings call, derives almost half of its revenue from mobile usage.

The Groupon number is the largest, and the broadest, encompassing all revenue, not merely advertising top line, making it the most interesting. As a public company, Groupon has been on a tear in the past few months. Since it fired its founder and CEO Andrew Mason, its stock . Since March.

Some of that increase is certainly due to the executive shakeup, but its second-quarter earnings contain a separate narrative. Allow me a short self quote for the sake of brevity:

Groupon today reported the appointment of Eric Lefkofsky as its CEO, Ted Leonsis as the Chairman of its board, revenue of $609 million in the second quarter, operating income of $59 million excluding stock compensation expenses, and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.02.

So, sans a few items, Groupon managed to eke out a per-share profit of a few pennies, and operating income worth around 10 percent of its total revenue, again in a non-GAAP sense. What’s interesting is how those numbers came about. Yes, Groupon generated half of that revenue from mobile usage (smartphones, essentially), but what does that mean for other Groupon revenue sources? MediaPost has this nugget: “Direct email is now responsible for less than 40 percent of transactions in North America, the company says.”

Direct email incomes are in decline — presumably revenue from direct email is correlated to transaction volume, which is heading down — and revenue is all but flat year over year? What plugs the hole? Mobile income, naturally.

So, Groupon’s modest earnings beat is constructed firmly on the back of its growing mobile revenue. The same is true for Facebook, as you already know:

Facebook’s mobile revenue grew by a quarter billion dollars in the second quarter. Not bad, given that as a percentage gain it works out to around 75 percent. And, perhaps more importantly, the $282 million figure is more than four times our previous $69 million sum [Note: That is the dollar figure for Facebook's desktop advertising revenue growth during the second quarter]. Therefore, mobile ad revenues on a dollar basis grew four times as fast as desktop advertising incomes in the most recent quarter.

These companies are finding material revenue support from mobile usage, as the desktop side of their business either slows, or in fact shrinks. Facebook, like Groupon, has been rewarded by investors with a buoyant stock.

I’d posit that for modern Internet companies, the percentage of their total revenue that comes from mobile usage, and the rate by which that figure increases, are the two most important financial indicators that you can report (apart from profits and the like). They are not, in my view, to be dismissed as vanity metrics.

And that brings us to Yahoo.

Mobile First, And The Yahoo Question

Yahoo has very publicly plotted a course towards mobile. It is aggressively buying small firms comprised of mobile engineers, closeting their products, and plugging that talent into its own organization. Talent acquisition through corporate war. And it’s working, in case you hadn’t noticed.

The company is coy, however, about how much money it brings in from mobile advertising; that revenue is the result of its mobile focus. Yahoo did not provide that metric in its most recent quarterly report, and declined to disclose it to TechCrunch via email.

The question is a fun one: Like Facebook, Groupon, and other companies, is Yahoo seeing large new doses of income from its mobile efforts? As I wrote recently, if Yahoo’s talent spree doesn’t drive revenue growth, the company is perhaps deploying funds that could be returned to shareholders, in one fashion or another, in perhaps not the most effective fashion.

There’s a rule about financial metrics: If a company doesn’t disclose a figure, it’s because they either don’t want their competitors to know how big that number is, or they don’t want the press to know how small it is. In this case, I doubt the former is at play. That leaves the latter.

I’m not picking on Yahoo. Instead, the company has enjoyed a simple fawning treatment in the media in its last year — more than partially deserved, I’d say — that should be tested and pushed back against at least lightly.

Yahoo has managed to greatly expand its mobile usage. That is plain. The company, proud of those figures, trumpeted them: 340 million active mobile users at the end of the most recent quarter, 300 million the quarter before, and 200 million monthly mobile actives at the end of calendar 2012.

So, that’s 70 percent growth in a half year. Impressive. That said, either Yahoo mobile usage isn’t monetizing incredibly fast, or it is not growing quickly enough to plug declining desktop advertising revenue.

As part of its “Global Display” revenue, Yahoo counts mobile income. Or, as the company phrases it: “Display metrics include data for graphical and sponsorship units on Yahoo! Properties (including mobile).” That figure was down 2 percent in the most recent quarter, and has declined in each of the past eight quarters. However, there is a possibly green lining to those two facts: Advertising revenue decline is in decline itself. So the amount of money that Yahoo generates less per quarter is going down. It has all but stabilized.

If that is true, and Yahoo’s now much larger mobile userbase hasn’t contributed, or not much, that’s a shame. But I don’t think that is the case. I suspect that Yahoo’s mobile strategy has in fact helped staunch declining advertising revenue. But not enough to shout about, it would seem, given the company’s reticence.

It’s interesting to watch companies older than say three or four years tack mobile. It’s not a simple maneuver, as Yahoo is demonstrating. However, to avoid pulling a Zynga, it isn’t much of an option, expect perhaps for companies that service enterprise activity that is inherently non-mobile. And that is a shrinking bucket.

All told, Facebook, Groupon, and Yelp are blazing a trail for Yahoo. The question is now whether what Yahoo is (no, we’re not getting into that now) can be translated as well as those other firms into the language of mobile. That’s Mayer’s bet. We’ll know in a few quarters in which direction things are moving.

Top Image Credit: 

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Acquires “Mobile Technologies”, Developer Of Speech Translation App Jibbigo

Mon, 12/08/2013 - 10:22pm

Facebook’s latest acquisition could help it connect users across language barriers. It has just announced that the team and technology of Pittsburgh’s Mobile Technologies, a speech recognition and machine translation startup that developed the app . From voice search to translated News Feed posts, Facebook could to a lot with this technology.

Facebook tells me “We’ll continue to support the [Jibbigo] app for the time being.” Jibbigo launched in 2009, and allows you to select from over 25 languages, record a voice snippet in that language or type in some text, and then get a translation displayed on screen and read aloud to you in a language of your choosing.

This made  and  useful companions for travelers and international health care workers. Why fumble with a phrase book when you could just bring an app with you? Through purchasable offline translator packs, Jibbigo made money by letting users understand foreign speech without the need for a data or wifi connection.

“Members of the MT team will join our engineering teams here in Menlo Park” Facebook tells me, implying some might not be joining the social network’s ranks. Facebook refused to specify exactly how many people were joining it from Mobile Technologies which was founded in 2001, or the terms of the deal. Considering it had never raised outside funding, the acquisition is likely a sizable financial win for Mobile Technology’s founders.

Facebook’s Tom Stocky wrote in a “I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Mobile Technologies, a company with an amazing team that’s behind some of the world’s leading speech recognition and machine translation technology.”

The Jibbigo team writes “Facebook, with its mission to make the world more open and connected, provides the perfect platform to apply our technology at a truly global scale.”

Facebook could do big things with this new tech. It could one day power cross-language chat, voice translation for traveling Facebook users, or help it take News Feed posts written in one language and display them in another. Another possibility is that Facebook wants to offer voice Graph Search, considering Stocky recently headed up Facebook’s search efforts. Facebook is currently trying to expand the feature beyond English, and could probably use a little help.

Facebook previously worked on translating News Feed posts and comments thanks to help from , which also powers translation for Twitter. Bringing translation technology in-house could give it the control needed to make translation a more core part of the Facebook experience.

Part of Facebook’s mission has long been making the world more connected. A huge obstacle to that connection is the diversity of languages we speak and type. If Facebook can find a way to surmount this hurdle and allow us to communicate despite our different tongues, it could promote greater racial and international tolerance. It could also help advertisers reach a much wider audience without doing extra work.

Doctor Who author Andrew Smith once said “People fear what they don’t understand.” Thanks to Mobile Technologies, Facebook could be one step closer to turning science fiction into a reality while helping us grow closer as a species.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Makes Mobile Pages More Functional With OpenTable Reservations And Rovi TV Guide Info

Mon, 12/08/2013 - 7:00pm

Facebook’s on a mission to make mobile Pages more functional. Following a Yelp-ish redesign in April, iOS, Android, and mobile site updates coming later today add an integration with OpenTable to let you book reservations from 20,000 North American restaurants’ Facebook Pages, Rovi is also adding TV guides to Pages. Facebook is looking to grow traffic and make Pages more important to businesses.

[Update: The is now rolling out to the App Store. Along with the OpenTable and Rovi integrations, it lets you click through or search for hashtags to see post by friends, Pages, and public updates that include them. These options came to the mobile site in late June.

If Facebook can make its mobile Pages truly useful, it could outcompete more focused local information and discovery sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google search results. Giving people one more reason to open their Facebook app increases the chances they’ll end up checking their notifications, sending messages, and browsing the news feed where it sees ads.

By equipping the Pages with information and interactivity that move the needle for businesses, Facebook could also encourage them to advertise for their Pages. Businesses already spend a ton on Google Search, Yelp, and other ad platforms where they can reach people with purchase intent.

Most people don’t browse Facebook business Pages for fun. They’re there to get some crucial information. Facebook spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt tells me ”if you’re looking at a Page on a mobile device, it’s probably because you want to see if they’re open, or to call to make a reservation.” Facebook mobile Page browsers have the intent advertisers are looking for, so the social network is doing whatever it can to get more people visiting.

Useful, Not Just Social

“We want to be where diners are”  Jocelyn Mangan, OpenTable’s VP of consumer products, tells me about the integration. Facebook is the latest of over 600 partner sites and services that funnel people looking for dining reservations through OpenTable. These referrals generate 5%-10% of OpenTable’s 12 million seats booked each month. The two companies already worked together on the Facebook desktop app OpenTable launched in February.

Similar to Yelp’s OpenTable integration, Facebook mobile Pages for restaurants don’t require you to visit OpenTable’s site, use its apps, or even have an account. Thanks to its API, the process of selecting your party size and preferred time to book a table happen entirely within Facebook.

To book, you just visit restaurant’s Page, and below its address and open hours (highlighted in the April redesign) you’ll see a panel alerting you “Reservations for two people available around 7:00pm”. Facebook automatically pre-fills the reservation form with your name, email, and phone number if you have one on file. Press the “Reserve” button and you get both on-screen and email confirmations, plus an option to cancel inside the Facebook Page.

If you’re looking for “Dinner and a show”, Facebook Pages can help you find some entertainment too. A new integration with digital entertainment information provider Rovi lets adds local networks, airtimes, and episode information to Facebook Pages for television shows and movies. That means you could go to the Breaking Bad Page and see it airs on the west coast at 9pm PST Sundays on AMC, and the next episode is called ;Buried’ and deals with Walt covering his tracks as Jesse deals with guilt.

These kinds of integrations make Facebook Pages more than just a social hub or extra vanity presence on the web. They could actually make businesses, and Facebook, money.

OpenTable charges restaurants $1 for each diner it delivers through its site or its partners, but those patrons spend an average of $43. If restaurants attribute that spending to Facebook, they might be more willing to buy Likes for their Page, Promoted Posts to boost their news feed presence, or other ads that drive people to Facebook Pages where they can make reservations. Meanwhile, if television shows see increased Facebook Page engagement correlating with ratings boosts, they might promote their Pages more during broadcasts.

Don’t expect these to be the last integrations Facebook does to boost the functionality of Pages. It doesn’t have an exclusive deal with OpenTable, so it could also work with services like to aid diners. Eventually, I’d expect Facebook Pages to provide options for just about anything that requires a reservation or appointment.

Still, Facebook has to figure out to change our behavior pattern when it comes to seeking this kind of information or assistance. Most of us are trained to Google for these kinds of things, or hit up Yelp for dining help. When I think of Facebook Pages, I think of feed posts, news, and photos — content, not functionality. Getting us to go into the app, reveal the search box, an successfully navigate to a Page is a fair amount of work, as is digging up Facebook’s heavily buried “Nearby Places” local discovery feature. All the functionality in the world won’t help if we never get to the Page.

But if my suspicions are correct, these Pages might get a lot easier to find soon. I think the focus on revamping restaurant, TV, and movie mobile Pages may be the buildup to the long-delayed launch of Graph Search for mobile.

Categories: Facebook

MessageMe Introduces Stickers To Keep Pace With Competition

Thu, 08/08/2013 - 11:03am

Carrying the weight of expectation attached to securing $11.9 million funding in its first few months of operation, MessageMe has switched on the ability to send and receive stickers — an increasingly popular medium which has sparked a multi-million dollar gold rush for messaging app developers.

MessageMe switched on the functionality overnight in the iOS App Store, allowing users to send detailed cartoons when they chat with their friends, in addition to the ability to seamlessly send rich media such as photos, music, and doodles.

The start-up, which was co-founded by LOLapps founder Arjun Sethi in March, and within months raised $11.9 million from a series of high-profile investors, is the latest messaging app to jump on the sticker bandwagon.

Japan’s Line booked $27.4 million in sticker sales in Q2 results announced today, almost double the previous quarter; and it sold almost as much in sponsored sticker packs. And in the first 24 hours after its sticker launch, Path made more money than it had in its entire lifetime as a company. Meanwhile, Facebook — who blocked MessageMe days after launch because it too closely resembled its own Messenger App — launched branded stickers in late June. The social networking giant doesn’t charge for stickers, and recently offered a Despicable Me image pack to coincide with the film’s release.

The new sticker pack comes installed with Dex the Corgi, an amber canine demonstrating in 32 poses including boxing, yoga, and even spinning plates while balancing on a ball.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Fights Snapchat By Letting You Send Instagrams With Messenger

Thu, 08/08/2013 - 2:45am

Snapchat sends 200 million private photo messages a day. WhatsApp sends 325 million. These are scary numbers for Facebook that prove the visual communication is on the rise, so it’s just begun allowing  for iOS users to  and photos from other non-Camera Roll albums. It shows that while Poke failed, Facebook is serious about getting in on the visual communication trend.

You’ve been able to send photo messages from any album for a while with Messenger for Android, but the  version previously only let you choose from your Camera Roll. The problem is that when you post to Instagram it saves a copy of your creation to a separate in-device “Instagram” album.

Now by hitting the paperclip icon when composing a message and then Add Photos, there’s now a drop-down at the top to pull photos from your other albums. This isn’t exactly direct Instegration (sorry), though it certainly brings the photo sharing app closer to its parent company. Facebook has been remarkably hands off since acquiring Instagram, living up to its promise.

[Update: At first glance, this is a very small update. There's not even any API or other direct connection between Messenger and Instagram. What matters is what it signals about Facebook's intentions with visual communication. ]

But in the 16 months since the billion* dollar deal, there’s been a huge shift in how people use photos. For years they were shot with care and shared with many people — similar to what we did in the analog film era. But Snapchat and the international chat apps changed that. Suddenly photos were brazenly shot off the cuff, and shared privately not for their artistic value, but to get a message across.

This has become the year of visual communication.

The ephemerality of Snapchat’s self-destructing photos comes in handy for the most goofy, embarrassing, or scandalous. And it does add a sense of urgency. Yet an equal contributor to its rapid rise in popularity is that it forces you to communicate visually. You can’t send text alone. Instead, you use photos and videos to deliver a complex idea or emotion quickly and vividly.

In that way, photo messaging has a lot in common with stickers, the little pre-made illustrations and animations you can send in many chat apps. I get sent a lot of them and hear they’ve been a big success for Facebook. Both are a stand-in for boring text.

Photo messages are more personalized, though. Where are you? What are you doing? How do you feel? You can answer all these questions with a quick pic. It’s not annoying like typing long messages or generic like texting back “home”, “chillin” “alright”. Each location, activity, and facial expression is unique with visual communication. That’s what makes it addictive yet satisfying.

Those two words could be Facebook’s hyphenated middle name**. Its first attempt at serious visual communication, the Snapchat clone Poke, fell fast from the charts and I haven’t received a Poke in months. But why force people to download something new when your social network runs some of the most widely used mobile apps in the world?

And so here we are, Instagram messaging in Facebook Messenger. Expect it to get added to Facebook’s main apps soon. It could get users repurposing their favorite Instagrams to convey emotions. What are you doing? Latte art. How are you feeling? Portrait of laughter. And if enough users find the drop-down option and use it, they might even start to take Instagrams with the purpose of sharing them. It could also be a great way to make sure a specific friend sees your masterpiece if you know they don’t frequent the Instagram feed.

The question now is, will Instagram add private photo and video messaging?

*The final cash and stock acquisition price was in the seven hundred millions

**The Addictive-Satisfying Facebook

Categories: Facebook

Continuing The Twitter-Jacking, Facebook Begins Trending Topics Test For Some U.S. Mobile Web Users

Wed, 07/08/2013 - 5:56pm

Facebook just recently introduced hashtags to its social network, and emphasized real-time content repeatedly in a press event about its News feed yesterday, and now it’s testing another feature seemingly inspired by Twitter: trending topics. The social network confirmed to TechCrunch via email that it has indeed begun rolling out the trending topics feature AllThingsD first reported earlier today.

Here’s the statement in full direct from Facebook about the new feature:

Today we started running a small test that displays topics trending on Facebook. It is currently only available to a small percentage of U.S. users who use Facebook’s mobile web site () and is still in very early stages of development. We will share more details down the line if we decide to roll it out more widely.

The company is clearly quick to point out that this is an extremely limited beta of a feature that won’t necessarily make it to wide release, but for those curious the way it works is by popping up a specific topic that’s being discussed a lot at the moment, and tapping that will bring them to posts and comments related to the subject by both their network and from people they aren’t necessarily connected to who have public sharing options turned on.

Trending topics have been a part of Twitter since summer of 2008, and introduced Promoted Trends as a source of revenue back in 2010. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Twitter now charges around $200,000 per day for promoted trends, making it a not-so-insignificant source of income from brands and sponsors. Facebook is emphasizing more public sharing, and attempting to become a better source of real-time information, and the addition of trends would enable it to monetize that down the road as part of increasing efforts to make money from a growing mobile user base, as well as on the web.

Trending topics is more noise for the news feed, of course, which is already broken up on mobile by promoted posts and ads in addition to stuff surfaced from your friends and network. That’s likely why it’s being tested with such a small group first, as Facebook gauges how to strike the right balance between friends and family content, and real-time news and entertainment sharing. But if it does eventually roll out to all, it begs the question of what Facebook can poach next from Twitter in pursuit of its evolving identity.

Screens above via AllThingsD

Categories: Facebook

Asana Integrates With Timesheet App Harvest To Track Time And Measure Productivity

Wed, 07/08/2013 - 4:00pm

Productivity startup Asana has integrated its task-management software with timesheet app Harvest, allowing workers to be more accountable to their team, their customers and themselves.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the ticking clock has measured a worker’s worth, whether it’s the billable value of your efforts or the time you’re wasting at a desk when you should be almost anywhere else. This symbol now looms, not-so-large, in Asana, an app attempting to position tasks at the centre of the workplace environment.

Users can start tracking time on a task by simply clicking the timer icon in the Asana toolbar, which appears after enabling Harvest integration. Once activated, a glowing green stopwatch indicates that all your time is being logged in the linked Harvest account.

It’s a relatively introspective move compared to its previous major update, which added a number of features and tools that cater to enterprise organisations, with hundreds or thousands of employees.

To date, the tens of thousands of teams using Asana have created 40 million tasks. The startup, cofounded by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, has raised $38 million and is facing increasing competition from startups and established players alike, including Wrike, Deltek’s Kona, Salesforce’s and

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Graph Search Out For All U.S. English Users, Hiding Timeline Search By Name Setting Dies Today

Wed, 07/08/2013 - 1:06pm

Facebook’s Graph Search, the tool that lets you search in plain language across information shared by friends and anyone on Facebook to find stuff like “People who live in my city from my hometown,” or “Friends of friends who like Paula Dean,” or whatever other weird and terrible combination you can dream up, is now  set as their default language.

Graph search, for those who don’t have it yet, is a pretty fun diversion and an admittedly useful tool in certain contexts (like looking up people you might want to connect with when visiting a new place for the first time, and who might be connected to you in some meaningful way), but it’s also the perfect opportunity for everyone to revisit their privacy settings, especially as Graph Search improvements on the roadmap for future introduction include even more granular capabilities, like parsing individual posts and comments, and becoming available on mobile.

As Facebook itself notes, that means this is when you should be looking at who has access to what in your FB privacy settings, to insure that the unprecedented scope of the new Graph Search tools don’t encroach on territory you’d rather keep private… but the full roll-out of Graph Search also comes alongside the death of one of the features that might be most sorely missed by Facebook users who also happen to be privacy enthusiasts.

Facebook announced back in December that it would be retiring the “who can look up my timeline by name?” setting in the “coming months,” citing very limited use anyway, and the fact that it actually didn’t prevent discovery from other means anyway. What it did was prevent people from seeing you in results if they searched for your name directly in the Facebook Search bar – which, despite their attempt to minimize its importance, was probably something people who didn’t like it very much appreciated being able to turn off.

The official line from Facebook is that “[n]ow that people have had an opportunity to explore [its new privacy controls introduced back in December,] we are starting to retire this setting for the small percentage of people that use it.” But that’s likely to do much to reassure users who aren’t thrilled about Graph Search’s advanced discovery powers to begin with. Still, Facebook has been very upfront about its goals: you don’t build a knowledge graph by defaulting to making your social network as private as possible.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Toys With Twitter-Style Feed Order For Posts About Real-Time Events

Tue, 06/08/2013 - 10:11pm

Facebook could soon look a little more like Twitter. It’s internally testing “Chronological By Actor,” a new way to display updates about live events so they appear in order from most recent to oldest, surrounded by feed posts ranked by its traditional relevance-sorting. It’s not ready yet, but the algorithm test denotes Facebook’s keen interest in stealing Twitter’s real-time social media crown.

Chronological By Actor sorting was announced today at a press event at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. The goal of the “Whiteboard Session” was to help reporters and the world understand how it sorts the News Feed. It revealed it would start publicizing News Feed algorithm changes in blog posts, as well as two changes that have already been rolled out: “Story Bumping,” which bumps stories you haven’t seen yet to the top of the feed, and “Last Actor,” which shows you more feed stories about the people you’ve recently interacted with or viewed the profile of.

But what was most surprising was Chronological By Actor.

Facebook’s strategy with displaying content has been to show you a feed of only the most relevant stories out of everything published by your friends, as opposed to showing a river or firehose of everything your friends post, as on Twitter.

The relevancy-sorted feed lets it adapt as people share twice as much each year — Zuckerberg’s Law. But its deficiency is in real-time events. If you want up-to-the-second information about what’s transpiring in a sports event or breaking news story, Twitter wins. You look at the top of Twitter and you see what just occurred. Tweets don’t get hidden because they didn’t receive enough favorites or @ replies. You can watch things happen as they unfold. Twitter works best when you’re glued to it in the moment, whereas Facebook excels at giving you the most interesting retrospective of what happened while you were gone.

But Facebook is realizing that real-time events create a huge, emotional response that resonates across the whole world. They inspire a ton of social media activity, and advertisers are eager to join in.

So over the last few months, Facebook has been exploring how it can better host these moments. It launched hashtags, which Twitter pioneered, so that people could tag their posts to make them more discoverable by other people looking for information about a specific topic that their friends and the world were talking about.

But hashtags require users to change their behavior. So does Facebook’s Most Recent tab for the News Feed. For years the feature has let users switch from the default Top Stories relevancy-sorted feed to a Most Recent feed with the latest updates at the top. But most users never bother to switch to it, and its not the best format for most content. That’s Facebook came up with the idea for Chronological By Actor — a way to create a hybrid feed that integrates both relevance and real-time sorting.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say your friend Paul posts a bunch of times about the World Cup finals. Normally these updates would be scattered across your News Feed regardless of the chronological order, with the posts that received the most Likes and comments closer to the top, and the ones that didn’t farther below the fold. Facebook realized this made it tough to follow the action. You might see Paul’s heavily Liked post “Neymar on a breakaway, dodges the last defender, and scores on in the first minute!” from the beginning of the game at the top. After three posts from other friends you’d see Paul say “BRAZIL WINS 2-1!!! WOOO!!!!” from the end of the game. Then four posts down you’d see Paul’s less-Liked post, “Jefferson with an incredible save to shut out Italy in the first half.”

All these posts are out of order, so it’s difficult to keep the timeline straight. Facebook suspected there could be a better way to order these posts, which led to internal testing of Chronological By Actor. It determines which posts by a specific person are about a certain real-time event, and then sequences them in chronological order with the most recent at the top like Twitter, but leaves the rest of the feed as is.

In the version currently being tested, you’d see ”BRAZIL WINS 2-1!!! WOOO!!!!” ”Neymar scores on a breakaway in the first minute!” at the top of your feed, “Jefferson with an incredible save to shut out Italy in the first half,” as the fourth post in your feed, and “BRAZIL WINS 2-1!!! WOOO!!!!” after another four stories by other friends. Paul still fills up the same numbered slots in the feed, but his content is swapped around to flow as if you were reading them in real time.

The only problem is that Facebook said its tests of Chronological By Actor actually reduced Likes, comments, and other signals it uses to gauge News Feed success. That’s why the algorithm change hasn’t been rolled out like Story Bumping and Last Actor. It still needs some tweaks.

When asked by AllThingsD’s if this test showed Facebook was becoming more like Twitter, Facebook’s VP of Product Chris Cox explained that this was more of an isolated tweak than a broad shift in strategy. ”Philosophically, Twitter and Facebook are still quite different in their product assumption and product promise. We’ve always been committed to ranking, just given the core demand of ‘I don’t want to miss stuff.’ Twitter has built a whole ecosystem around not ranking and showing things in real time. I wouldn’t over-pivot on this feature. We’re not changing the core philosophy.”

That makes sense for Facebook. It’s not just tweet-like status updates and photos. Facebook’s feed can show off-site Open Graph app activity, new friendships, Event RSVPs, Likes of Pages and much more. Most of that stuff is only interesting if it’s about your closest friends, so if Facebook were a firehose, you’d probably find very little of it interesting. Real time is great for events and breaking news, but not day-to-day life.

Still, at the end of the day, Facebook is about connecting people, and real-time events make the whole world feel like they’re experiencing something together. Facebook can’t just adapt the feed to handle more content. It needs to learn to treat different types of content as special and unique snowflakes.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook To Publicize News Feed Algorithm Changes, Starting With New “Story Bumping”

Tue, 06/08/2013 - 6:35pm

700 million people use the Facebook News Feed every day but many don’t understand how it decides what appears, so Facebook announced today it will start on how the feed algorithm is changing similar to how Google does. Facebook’s first post will be about “Story Bumping”, which pushes stories you haven’t seen above ones you have.

The News Feed team’s Lars Backstrom says that “News feed is one of only places where Facebook is doing things on the scale of complexity of what Google is doing or Bing is doing in search.” But in some ways its a harder problem because relevance is subjective. Google can show a bunch of people a set of ranked search results and ask if they’re accurate, but the only person who can tell if your feed is relevant is you.

In its early days, the News Feed “algorithm” was really just VP of Product Chris Cox and Director of Engineering Boz “twiddling knobs” says Cox. They’d take a ton of anecdotal feedback because Facebook hadn’t built out a better A/B testing system or way to measure impact. Cox says “You didn’t need to be super sophisticated. There wasn’t that much content” because people didn’t share as much or have as many friends.

Facebook’s Lars Backstrom and a photo of the News Feed team

Mishaps did occasionally occur from this informal process, says Cox. “There were funny moments like when feeds were flooded with basketballs when we did an integration with ESPN for March Madness.”

But since then, “content production has exploded. The average person today has about 1500 stories they could see, ranging from one of your good friends getting married to bottom of the barrel updates like your friend from high school who you haven’t heard from in years became friends with someone you’ve never heard of.”

The goal of the Facebook News Feed team and algorithm is to figure out what stories out of those 1500 will delight and fascinate you. Luckily, the team now has dashboards to look at big data about exactly how people are responding the latest News Feed tweaks. Cox says “I’m proud we were able to make it as far as we did as long as we did but I’m really exited that we’ve been able to mature and professionalize, and the ranking has gotten way better than anything we possibly could have done.”

When the News Feed team succeeds, you see things you care about, have a good time on Facebook, and use it more. When it doesn’t, Facebook seems like a boring waste of time. This team makes or breaks Facebook’s engagement level.

What’s New In The Feed

Before recently, the News Feed would rate all the stories published since you last logged on and show you the best ones. But if one wasn’t quite interesting enough to be right at the top, you might never see it. Then if you came back a few hours later, additional stories would have been piled on top and it was unlikely that you’d ever see it.

With Story Bumping, Facebook doesn’t just look at what stories have been published since you last looked at the feed, but at all the recent stories you hadn’t seen — not just “new” but “new to you”. This way you see more relevant stories, even if they’re a little bit older.

Facebook has rolled Story Bumping out on the web and is starting to push it to mobile. Initial tests showed the Story Bumping led to 5% more likes, comments, and shares on stories from friends, an 8% boost in interactions for stories from Pages and public figures, and an increase from 57% of potentially visible stories read to 70%. People are reading a larger fraction of their stories thanks to this algorithm change.

Facebook’s Lars Backstrom also announced two more News Feed changes.

“Last Actor” looks at the 50 people you most recently interacted on Facebook such as viewing someone’s profile or photos, and liking their feed stories. Facebook then shows you more of them in your feed in the short-term. Say you browse through 100 photos of a girl you have a crush on, you’ll see more of her in your feed later that day. Note that this doesn’t mean anyone knows about your private Facebook browsing habits. This feature only affects what you see. The Last Actor algorithm change has been rolled out and is now impacting the web and mobile News Feed.

“Chronological By Actor” is Facebook’s attempt to make real-time content more comprehensible. Say a friend is posting rapid updates about a football game. Showing them in ranked order regardless of their chronological order would be confusing, as you might see the game’s final score first, then a photo from half-time, then a touchdown in the third quarter, and then your friend’s excitement about the game starting. So Facebook will soon start to show these rapid real-time updates in chronological order so you see the most recent update first and the oldest one last.

Facebook is still trying to figure exactly which stories to show chronologically and which with the normal relevance ranking, so this will be coming out sometime in the future. When asked if this meant Facebook was drifting closer to Twitter’s real-time focus, Cox said that wasn’t really the case, explaining that “Philosophically, Twitter and Facebook are still quite different in their product assumption and product promise. We’ve always been committed to ranking, just given the core demand of “I don’t want to miss stuff”. Twitter has built a whole ecosystem around not ranking and showing things in real-time. I wouldn’t over-pivot on this feature. We’re not changing the core philosophy.”

Demystifying News Feed

These changes and more will be described in to increase transparency about News Feed. VP of Product Chris Cox explained that “We’re going to post more frequently on a blog about changes you’ll seeing in the News Feed. This will give a sense of… what we’re optimizing for.”

As I wrote last week, Facebook could help people to refine their own feeds if they improved education about how News Feed works and the tools available to filter, hide, and promote certain stories. Today’s “Whiteboard Session” has given possibly the deepest look into how the feed works yet. It hasn’t discussed much about the tools users can employ to customize their feed, but hopefully we’ll hear more about that in future.

For more on today’s event, read our follow up Facebook Toys With Twitter-Style Feed Order For Posts About Real-Time Events

Categories: Facebook

Taking A Roundtrip With Facebook

Mon, 05/08/2013 - 12:30am

is a Partner with GGV Capital. Some of his recent investments include Pandora, Successfactors, Isilon, Domo, Square, Zendesk, Quinstreet and Nimble Storage. His personal blog, focused on growth stage entrepreneurs who are thinking big; can be found at here.

It’s finally happened. Some fourteen and a half months after its IPO, Facebook shares closed on Friday above its IPO price of $38/share for the first time since the date of its IPO. Investors who bought shares in Facebook’s IPO and held until now are a whopping 5 cents in the money, with Friday’s $38.05 closing price.

The challenges of the Facebook IPO, primarily the company’s lowering of revenue guidance while marketing the deal and the NASDAQ trading glitches, are well chronicled. The IPO was clearly not executed well. Now that the company is back to the $38/share starting line, however, it’s a good time to take a step back and distill lessons from the IPO and Facebook’s last 14 months as a public company.

The Journey Influences the Destination. I believe Facebook shares would be much higher today, probably closer to $45/share, had the company priced its IPO lower, at $20-25/share, and started with lower revenue guidance. While I can’t prove this, I’ve spoken to several public investors and other buy & sell side experts, and most agree. Had Facebook priced its IPO lower, it would have signaled powerfully to the largest and most long-term oriented institutional investors that the company was seeking to attract and retain these investors by allowing them to initiate positions in the stock at an attractive entry point. Similarly, had Facebook kept financial guidance more conservative, potential IPO buyers would have gained comfort that Facebook was leaving plenty of slack, allowing for future earnings outperformance and guidance raises, despite future environmental uncertainties such as mobile. The net result of this approach would have been an initial book of IPO buyers more concentrated among the largest and best (ie, most long-term oriented) institutional investors.

The likely rush of retail buyers into the stock would have undoubtedly ensued, but the notorious fickleness of retail buyers would have been much less tested had the IPO price been lower, despite whatever uncertainties were cast over the market by the NASDAQ trading glitches. A better book of institutional investors and less jittery retail investors, all of whom would have had lower average costs to their Facebook positions, would have led to less initial tumult and shareholder turnover. Additionally, starting from a lower level of financial guidance, would have given Facebook more room to delight shareholders with outperformance, solidifying the shareholder base rather than prompting huge investor turnover.

Facebook is a once-in-a-generation company. Add the story line of an attractively priced IPO, a strong and loyal shareholder base from day one and a company that weathered the early mobile uncertainty well because expectations were set lower, and the net result points to a much higher stock price today.

Predictability Trumps All Else. Facebook is a remarkable company that would be nearly impossible to replicate. The revenue and profit growth the company has achieved have been matched by few other companies in technology over the years. Despite these unique qualities, Wall Street seeks predictability above all else. The life of a fund manager is complex. Large cap growth fund managers have a few hundred companies they can trade. At any one time, the typically manager will only follow closely about 30-40 companies in her universe and own 10-20 of them in size.

In short, there is a lot of competition for her time and attention. The easiest way to turn a fund manager off is by missing numbers and not raising guidance. Once she has lost faith in a company’s ability to clearly predict its future and guide accordingly, her attention will be very difficult to regain. Although Facebook has had many strong quarters since going public, particularly lately, the company started public life on rockier footing. The strong emergence of Facebook’s mobile usage had a negative connotation initially because investors were concerned with mobile monetization and, hence, Facebook’s ability to keep up with financial projections. The narrative would likely have been much more positive had Facebook kept more slack in the system, giving investors more confidence that core web Facebook usage would cover revenue and profit estimates for some time, while mobile growth and mobile monetization remained as looming upside to the story, not a requirement to hit forecasts.

The Perils of the Silicon Valley to Wall Street Hand-off. Facebook’s utter dominance of the social networking arena and its growing importance in the internet advertising market, leading to jaw-dropping revenue and profits, drove private market sales in Facebook up ever higher in the years and months leading up the company’s IPO. What tends to excited Silicon valley venture and cross-over investors – rapid growth, very large market opportunities, great teams and competitive advantage – typically underpin the investments made by public institutional investors as well.

Public market investors can trade in an and out of stocks every day, however, enabling for constant comparisons of one company’s stock versus another. As a result, Wall Street public investors tend to focus on price as another variable much more intensely than Silicon Valley investors. The signal coming from the pricing of private market trades of Facebook’s stock leading up to its IPO, many of which were done at very high prices, was of limited value when predicting what public investors were willing to pay for Facebook early on. Everyone knew (and still knows) that Facebook is a remarkably attractive company, but valuation was the key component missing from the Silicon valley analysis relative to Wall Street.

Entrepreneurs running private companies face challenges similar to public companies like Facebook. Each successive financing round represents a chance to recruit new investors. Deciding who is the right fit is key. The best investor relationships are long term in nature. Entrepreneurs need to listen to the market, but taking top dollar isn’t always the best answer. As Facebook has shown us, sometimes pricing a financing at or near the top of what the market will bear, can have near calamitous implications.

Still, one of the best elements of the 14 month roundtrip Facebook has taken with its IPO investors is a reminder that Silicon valley is full of comeback stories. Facebook is undeniably a remarkable company. While its management team may have made some mistakes navigating its IPO, this same team has remained incredibly focused on building Facebook into something even more special. Perhaps the next 14 months will reward IPO shareholders for their patience.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook News Feed Event Aug 6 Will Give Much-Needed Rankings Explanation And Reveal What's Next

Fri, 02/08/2013 - 12:49am

Facebook plans to clear up confusion about what appears in the News Feed, announce a ranking algorithm change, and preview the future of the feed at a press event on August 6. The Menlo Park HQ session will be live-streamed to Facebook’s London offices to keep European reporters in the loop. Hopefully users will gain better understanding of how to banish boring and distant acquaintances.

In an invite to American reporters for the event at 10 a.m. PST Tuesday, Facebook said that it will “be talking about News Feed, and taking a deeper look at the ranking algorithms that determine which stories appear at the top of your feed. We’ll be discussing a specific update to organic ranking that’s coming up.” And the European invite notes “We’ll also be talking about what’s coming next for News Feed.” Though not as hyped or secretive as some other Facebook press events, the fact that it’s being live-streamed to Europe denotes greater importance than Facebook’s other “whiteboard” press meetings.

The “Friend” Problem

Now 9.5 years old, Facebook has run into a problem. As we accumulate more “friends” and the definition of the word expands to include family, co-workers, and people we’ve met once, our feeds are getting cluttered. We’re fascinated by the daily lives and photos of people we know and love. But pics of the kids spawned by that guy from accounting and the relationship drama of a high school classmate make Facebook’s News Feed feel like a waste of time.

Most people don’t understand the way Facebook chooses what to show you. TheNews Feed ranking algorithm, unofficially known as “EdgeRank,” uses how close you are to someone, how popular a post is with others, how recently it was published, and many other signals to decide which of the huge numbers of posts and actions that your friends generate appear and how prominently. Articles by The New York Times’ and BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel have brought up how opaque and sometimes unpredictable EdgeRank can be.

Without EdgeRank understanding, most people don’t get the importance of using the tools to refine and customize their feed — that is if they can find them. There’s the readily available feedback buttons, such as Like, comment, and share, that tell EdgeRank you’re interested in someone. But the options to “hide post”, “do not show in news feed”, “show only important posts”, and hide specific story types are hidden within drop-downs, hover cards, and the “Friend” button on people’s profiles. They require multiple clicks to use, making it a huge chore to modify the feed presence of multiple people. Yet these options are critical to quieting or muting annoying people without having to defriend them or never accept their request in the first place.

Meanwhile Facebook has struggled for years to get users to build Friend Lists of their closest chums and people with traits in common, which are now easily viewed as custom News Feeds thanks to the feed selector launched at a glitzier press bonanza in March. Lists could help people keep track of their favorite friends despite the noise if only people would use them.

And then there are businesses. Many still don’t understand which of their fans see their News Feed posts, and why they’re being asked to buy “Promoted Posts” to reach fans they already earned or paid for.

EdgeRank Enlightenment

Facebook has a ton to gain from this event. Proper education could finally get everyone to explicitly help the social network to refine their News Feeds. It could boost confidence of Page admins and advertisers, as well.

Facebook did out the ability to say why you were hiding someone’s News Feed post, which could give it insight into whether to hide that post from other people too, or review it for terms of service violations. I’ve got no idea exactly what will be revealed at the event, but hopefully this and more efficient feed presence options will appear eventually. At the very least it should look to make the desktop feed tools more accessible on mobile where users are increasingly accessing the service.

The News Feed is Facebook’s lifeblood. Its ambient intimacy keeps us coming back day after day, and it’s where Facebook shows its most lucrative ads. The social network is now competing for our attention, as a parade of other mobile apps try to entertain us. To stay center stage, Facebook will need to lift the curtain on EdgeRank, give us an acting class, and let us play a role in choosing what we see.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Brings Home's Lockscreen Replacement To Their Main Android App - A Bad Sign For Home?

Thu, 01/08/2013 - 8:14pm

Four months after the launch of Facebook Home, which aimed to turn every Android phone into the long-rumored Facebook Phone, the company is starting to bring certain Home features into their primary app with an update today. In other words, bits and pieces of Home are coming to the main app… without requiring anyone to actually download Home.

The first feature to make the jump to the main app is Home’s Cover Feed, which lets you replace Android’s default lockscreen with one that brings in photos and posts from your Facebook news feed.

While it’s always been possible to use Cover Feed while disabling other aspects of Home, you still had to at least download Home to do it. Not anymore.

Not crossing over to the main app just yet is the namesake Home launcher (a Facebook-centric overhaul to Android’s core interface, its homescreen) and their platform-wide floaty-head messenger notifications system, Chat Heads. With that said, you can get Chat Heads without downloading Home — it’s built into the Android port of Facebook’s Messenger app.

So the only thing that’s really left to Home as a standalone app is the launcher, which has never really seemed to prove all that popular. For those who do dig the Home launcher, though, three new devices are getting supported as of today: the HTC One, the Nexus 4, and the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Facebook has long used standalone apps as test beds for features, letting the early-adopter audience deal with all the kinks before throwing it at the millions of users who’d never care to go beyond the main Facebook app. In the test case of Home, it would seem that the only thing not making the cut so far is… well, Home.

The update will start rolling out to Android users today.

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Shares Open At $38.22, Finally Return To IPO Price After A Year Of Turmoil

Wed, 31/07/2013 - 2:33pm

Facebook shares () finally broke the psychological glass ceiling of $38 a share, Facebook’s IPO price. Currently trading at $38.22 a share, the stock is slightly up 1.52 percent compared to yesterday’s closing price — it opened at $37.98 but popped above $38 in seconds. It has been a tumultuous year for the stock, but investors now seem to be satisfied with Facebook’s solid growth and its revenue on mobile.

Today marks the end of Facebook’s hesitant steps to become a mature public company. At first, CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t communicate a lot and the company was mostly focused on building a better product. While it was important to bring more users on board, it wasn’t enough to convince investors about long-term revenue. Building a public company demands a lot of communication efforts.

Many were concerned that Facebook wouldn’t be able to become a mobile-first company, but Zuckerberg insisted that it was his primary concern at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012. It drove the stock up that day.

But more importantly, the company managed to bring more revenue and shift to mobile at the same time. It reported impressive Q2 earnings, with mobile ad revenue now representing 41 percent of the total ad revenue.

Facebook’s IPO price was $38 a share when the company started trading in May 2012. But in August 2012, the stock fell to its lowest price for now, $19.69, as the initial lockup expiration of 271 million shares kicked in. Early investors Accel Partners, Meritech Capital Partners and Greylock Partners all cashed in. Andreessen Horowitz, Microsoft and Kleiner Perkins chose to stay on board.

Zuckerberg had to reassure investors by saying that he wouldn’t cash in on his shares and the stock wouldn’t drop below those levels.

Yet, other lockup expirations were more favorable for the company. The first employee lockup expiration led to a smaller 5 percent hit, followed by a few days of downturn for Facebook shares.

On November 14, the biggest lockup expiration occurred and shares popped more than 10 percent, marking the end of the hectic days of Facebook stock price. After that, shares were much less volatile and subject to irrational changes. Short selling Facebook shares wasn’t as popular as well.

Since then, shares have been trading slightly above $30 or slightly below $30, still very far from the $38 IPO price. Shares have been up only very recently, after Facebook’s earnings call and great mobile numbers. Now, the stock could stabilize at this level (around $38), because shares were already up more than 6 percent yesterday. But the current trend is encouraging.

(Image credit: )

Categories: Facebook

Memes Give Facebook Fans A Voice Amidst Comment Chaos

Wed, 31/07/2013 - 2:04am

Whispering in a riot is how I would describe commenting on a Facebook Page’s feed posts. No matter how thoughtful they are, your words get drowned out. But a combo of new features is fulfilling Facebook’s promise of two-way conversation.

Devise a comment that resonates with others, make it a catchy image macro meme, score enough Likes, and your message gets hoisted to the top of the thread.

For years, comments on Page posts were utter chaos. A churning sea of disjointed nonsense and inanity. There was no threading. No ranking. Comments just flooded in reverse-chronologically. On popular Pages, comments would come so fast that there was no chance for meaningful discourse, and anything smart you said got buried immediately. I basically never commented on Page posts because there was no point.

Finally over the last few months, Facebook wised up. In March it began rolling out comment threading so you could actually reply to specific other comments, . Still there was no way to find the best comments beyond sifting through the haystack. And trust, a good share of admins weren’t putzing around reading their comment reels either. Too much time for too little insight. That means they weren’t hearing the consensus of their fans, or feedback about whether their posts were on the money, erroneous, or in bad taste. They mostly just went by Like count.

But then in June Facebook began letting Page admins . Reels defaulted to showing “Top Comments” at the top, with admins allowed to switch them back to “Recent Activity” first as before. Suddenly, smart, poignant, or funny comments could rise above the din. Click on the comments section of a news feed post and you’ll see those top comments first. Visit a Page’s Timeline and they’re shown below each post automatically.

Still, you needed to have a way with words to get enough Likes for your comment to get bumped to the top. At least until July 18th when Facebook rolled out the option to . Suddenly, a new call and response communication style came to the social network.

The fact is that image memes are punchy and eye-catching. They can rack up Likes a lot faster than text and therefore are more likely to become Top Comments. And while only the Internet savvy will know how to slap an LolCats-style image macro together with tools like Quick Meme, at least some fans’ opinions will be heard. In my favorite format, when you look at a Page’s photo post in the full-screen theater mode, you see the comments prominently splayed out on the right sidebar. It feels like the proper balance of original to response content, and enables some hilarious sight gags.

What’s important is that this is a step for Facebook away from being a broadcast medium and toward fostering discussion. Sometimes that discussion is an argument, with fans calling out the admins for posting something false or insensitive. Sometimes it’s a chorus, where a top photo comment reinforces or enhances the original content. And yes, sometimes totally unrelated memes will filter into places of prominence, detracting from the conversation. But hopefully as the novelty of photo comments wanes, they’ll let fans actually reach each other and the Pages they follow. If you’re witty and can wield a meme, your voice on Facebook just got a lot louder.

Now for some examples:

Criticizing the admin for posting something that had already been posted.

Getting the message across: This Page is for funny, and this post wasn’t

Photo commenter tells the other half of the story

Commenter says “Oh, let me help your imagination”

Sight-gag gold

Pikachu trolling

And this could be just the beginning

Categories: Facebook

Facebook All But Kisses Its IPO Price After Investors Embrace Its New Mobile Gaming Push

Tue, 30/07/2013 - 7:20pm

Fourteen months later, Facebook today came within a kiss of its $38 IPO price, spiking to as high as $37.66 before easing slightly. It was the highest peak for Facebook since its first week as a public company.

Facebook hit a rough stock price trough alongside the stumbling launch of both Facebook Home and the HTC First. But now Facebook has found its momentum again. Following a simply stellar second-quarter earnings report, Facebook today announced a new mobile gaming push that will help small and medium scale game publishers “.”

Facebook will pick up a cut of the revenues from those titles. The effort, if successful, could give the company a way to continue growing its revenue and, more specifically, the slice of its top line that doesn’t come from advertising — diversifying its larger business. One source in the gaming industry told us Facebook could eventually make a significant portion of its total revenue from game publishing.

The new effort’s focus on mobile isn’t to be dismissed as incidental: Facebook is working to grow the mobile side of its business as quickly as possible, essentially chasing a market shift toward mobile usage of social properties and services that has caught some companies, Zynga most especially, in the crosswind.

Facebook, currently trading at $36.89, is up around 4 percent on the day.

Reaching its IPO price would be a psychological victory for Facebook, and vindication for its investors and bankers that took it public at that price; Facebook had what was at the time the third-largest IPO in American history. The rapid deterioration of its stock price that followed left many poorer, fuming, and looking to sue. However, a return to form would erase some of those complaints, though will do little to assuage those who were caught in the crossfire of its first-day technical trading woes.

What a rising stock price could help with are hiring and employee retention. Facebook needs to be competitive in both, perhaps even more now, especially given the rising profile of Yahoo. Hiring in the Bay Area remains blood sport.

This last year it’s seen a seemingly constant exodus of critical veteran employees in product ads and design. While many likely felt they’d done their duty and were ready for a new challenge, the ailing stock price surely didn’t persuade them to stay. A climbing stock price could convince young guns that there’s still a big financial upside to working at Facebook, along with the potential to build products that impact more than 1 billion people.

A final thought, and one that I’ve made before in some form: Facebook is currently a far stronger company than its former self that went public in terms of usership, revenue and so forth. And the market is still not quite comfortable valuing it at the price it initially bore at its IPO. That indicates that we as a market have become more conservative in the past year. Or perhaps simply more sensible.

Top Image Credit:  Additional reporting by Josh Constine

Categories: Facebook

Facebook Announces New Mobile Game Publishing Effort

Tue, 30/07/2013 - 4:00pm

A few weeks ago, we reported that Facebook was experimenting with becoming a mobile games publisher by offering distribution to studios in exchange for a cut of revenue.

Today, Facebook is in San Francisco, and they’re putting a call out for developers that are looking to participate. They didn’t disclose the revenue share they’re asking for.

The company says its publishing experiment is “a new pilot program to help small and medium-sized developers take their mobile games global.” The thinking is that it’s become prohibitively expensive for new mobile developers to find an audience, as the top grossing charts have become a lot more stable over the last year. With more than 800 million mobile users every month and more than 260 million people playing games on Facebook, the company says it’s in a unique position to help developers target high-quality gamers.

Already, they’ve racked up about 10 developers, including educational game maker Brainbow, Kiwi (which said it just raised $9 million led by Sequoia Capital yesterday) and the U.K.’s Space Ape, which is run by veterans of social game maker Playfish, which sold to EA for at least $275 million in cash.

While sources hinted to us that the program was really for indie developers who have fewer resources to compete with the multi-million-dollar marketing budgets of big studios, there are a few larger ones in the program. Gameloft, which is a publicly traded French gaming company worth $652 million, was also in the program with a game called Kingdom & Lords.

Facebook is embarking on mobile app publishing at a time when it is trying to figure out how much revenue it can wrest from the app ecosystem it supports with access to the social graph and ads. The company said in the most recent quarter came from mobile platforms — or about $656 million. This is up from virtually nothing in the same quarter a year ago, when Facebook only started to turn on sponsored stories in the mobile news feed. If you annualized that, Facebook’s mobile ad business is now worth at least $2.6 billion per year.

Yet, the company hasn’t been able to tap into the rich in-app purchase revenue that game developers generate on Android and iOS. That’s because Apple and Google both control the world’s two major smartphone app stores and already take a 30 percent cut on digital transactions. So asking for a revenue share up-front in exchange for distribution through ads is a way of indirectly tapping into this.

Facebook’s thinking is that publishing is a very, very old model that goes back to the world of console gaming, so it’s a structure that is already familiar for gaming studios. In the console era, a big gaming company would market, distribute (and often edit) games from smaller studios that lacked the resources to promote their work. Facebook isn’t going to be hands-on with the content of the games, but it will help with ads and analytics.

Categories: Facebook
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