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Facebook to open Messenger to third party apps

Facebook is to allow third-party apps to access its stand-alone Messenger service. The announcement was made during its F8 Developer conference in San Francisco this week.

The deal will see 20 different third party apps work on top of Messenger when the integration begins. It is also expected that Facebook will extend access to more developers following the initial rollout. The move is the latest in a series of developments intended to expand the reach of Messenger as it develops into a standalone platform as opposed to a Facebook bolt-on.

In other Facebook news, following last week’s announcement that it is launching a peer-to-peer money transfer service in the US, it seems the platform is also testing a standalone app for phone calls. According to reports, the new voice-calling app will display information about callers and automatically block calls from numbers previously identified as spam. Facebook has declined to comment on the app which is believed to be in the early test stages. It is not yet clear how the Phone app will integrate (if at all) with Facebook’s current voice calling capabilities.

Instagram introduces ‘Layout’ collage app 

Instagram is rolling out a free, standalone app that combines multiple photographs into one, collage style image.

Providing a number of pre-existing templates to help the design process, users can select any image from their camera roll to add to ‘Layout’, whether taken via Instagram or not. Layout also includes a ‘Faces’ option to make it easier to find images of people and a ‘Photo Booth’ feature for more spontaneous moments.

Once a collage has been created; users can share their designs on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Flipboard, etc. Twitter integration is, however, conspicuously missing.

According to Instagram, 60 million users currently use third-party apps to make collages. The new app, therefore, keeps people engaged on the Instagram platform; reducing the chance of defections to competitor photo apps.

Layout is currently available on iOS with an Android version expected in the next few months.

Twitter faces gender discrimination claim

As Twitter celebrates its ninth birthday, the company faces a class action lawsuit after a former employee has claimed its promotion process unlawfully favours men.

The lawsuit, which was filed by a female software engineer, argues that promotion opportunities were made via a “shoulder tap” rather than formal job posting. In addition, she claims that the predominantly male upper management team created an environment that favoured men.

While Twitter asserts that the woman left the company on her own terms, the claimant states that she was overlooked for promotion and fired for voicing concerns over gender discrimination.

Reddit introduces embeddable comments 

Entertainment, social networking and news website Reddit has officially launched embeddable comments to make it easier to highlight remarks from its platform on other social channels.

To highlight a comment, users just need to click its permalink and access its embed code before posting this on the desired platform. It is hoped the move will help Reddit to generate a more mainstream profile, and in turn, attract revenue from advertisers.

While the site currently boasts 150 million unique users per month (7.5% of who come from the UK), it hasn’t yet been able to successfully monetise. Profile boosting is no doubt part of a longer-term business strategy to achieve this aim.

The embeddable comment feature is only available on public subreddits.

WhatsApp voice calling feature banned in the UAE

WhatsApp’s free calling service has been blocked in the United Arab Emirates by telecoms provider Etisalat according to reports.

While the feature hasn’t been fully launched yet, it seems that the mobile operator does not want people making calls for free over its network.

The country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has stated that: “VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. Companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE.”

The move has not come as a complete surprise, with other global operators having already raised concerns over VoIP services.

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