WhatsApp trials voice calls on Android
WhatsApp is currently testing a voice calling service that lets users make voice calls to contacts. Similar to Facebook Messenger, the feature allows users to make internet-based phone calls without using any valuable carrier minutes. Voice calling has been in the pipeline of impending WhatsApp developments for some time now, with CEO and founder Jam Koum revealing it was in development during last year’s Mobile World Congress. WhatsApp is currently testing voice calling with a small group of Android users. It has not confirmed details of a wider rollout, or when iPhone users will be able to test the service.
Twitter stock up 15% despite disappointing user growth
Last week, Twitter reported that its active user base had increased by just four million from Q3 to Q4 in 2014. The 1.4% increase in users quarter-over-quarter is Twitter’s slowest to date. However, Wall Street didn’t seem overly concerned, sending Twitter’s stock up more than 10% in response.
This lack of concern over a sluggish growth in users is undoubtedly down to Twitter also reporting a staggering $479 million in revenue; more than doubling year-over-year and exceeding any previous estimates.
Of course, Twitter is unlikely to be able to maintain financial momentum if it can’t attract the users advertisers so desperately crave. However, Twitter executives seem confident that user numbers will increase this quarter. Investors and Wall Street will no doubt be looking to Twitter to deliver on such reassurances.
In news that is at least likely to convince businesses to use the micro-blogging service, last week Twitter announced a deal with Google that will provide the search engine giant with immediate to access to user tweets. This means that tweets will start appearing in Google’s search results as soon as they are posted to Twitter.
Twitter already shares its data with Yahoo and Bing and previously had a similar deal with Google which broke down in 2011 with the launch of Google+.
With businesses keen to do everything they can to appear in Google’s search results, even those dismissive of Twitter’s wider business benefits are likely to be tempted to use the platform. And, with more than four billion Google searches made every day, the deal will allow Twitter to expose its content to a massive audience; which could be key to solving its user growth issues.
In further related news, last week Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed that the platform failed to deal with trolls and issues of harassment and abuse. In a leaked email, Costolo said: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day”.
He also pledged to start kicking trolls off the site and took personal responsibility for the issue adding: “I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing. We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.”
Instagram videos to continuously loop
In the latest update to its iPhone app, videos on Instagram will now endlessly loop, instead of playing once and stopping. The new ‘auto-looping’ new feature is similar to the way rival video app Vine replays its videos. Instagram videos watched on the app will not be able to be paused mid-play. However, users will still be able to pause videos when viewed on the web.
The development is set to be welcomed by advertisers whose videos now have a better chance of being seen by Instagram’s 300 million monthly users. According to Instagram, the new looping feature will not affect the app’s data usage. An Android version of the app was also recently updated with the same functionality.
Facebook rolling out ‘DeepFace’ recognition feature
Facebook will soon be able to tag all users in photographs automatically, thanks to DeepFace technology designed by Israeli start-up face.com. Facebook bought face.com in 2013 and has since worked on developing the facial recognition tool at its Artificial Intelligence lab. An algorithm will identify faces ‘as accurately as a human’ and offer tagging suggestions that the user can choose to accept or reject. Creators claim DeepFace can pick a face out of a crowd with 97.25% accuracy.
Facebook has started rolling out the automatic tagging tool to select users in the US. The feature is not currently available to users in the European Union.
In other Facebook news, it was reported this week that Mark Zuckerberg is to build a Californian ‘Facebook-Ville’. Taking his social media ethos into the real world, Zuckerberg is to construct a $400m company town close to Facebook’s Silicon Valley base. The town will incorporate staff housing, shops and a hotel.
Twitter government information requests increased by 40%
According to Twitter’s latest transparency report, it received 2,871 data requests from governments in the second half of 2014, up 40% since the first half of 2014.
- Most requests for information came from the US (1,622), 80% of these requests were granted
- Turkey came in second at 356 requests, none of these requests were granted
- Japan came in third with 288 requests, 36 of these were granted.
- Twitter also published the number of content removal requests received, as well as copyright notices and DMCA takedown requests.
The full report can be accessed here: https://transparency.twitter.com
Commenting on the report a Twitter spokesperson said: “Providing this insight is simply the right thing to do, especially in an age of increasing concerns about government surveillance.”