Facebook and Instagram Debut Financial Incentives for Influencers

Illustration for article titled Facebook and Instagram Are Rolling Out (More) Financial Incentives for Influencers

Photo: AFP / Stringer (Getty Images)

If you thought the deal couldn’t possibly get sweeter for the influencers that flock to Facebook and Instagram to simultaneously bolster their social media followings and line their pockets, think again: On Tuesday, both platforms announced that they’ll be stepping up their respective games in the coming weeks by rolling out a suite of additional financial incentives aimed at keeping the creator class logged on and streaming.

During Instagram’s first Creator Week event, Mark Zuckerberg — the CEO of Facebook, which owns Instagram — debuted new features that will help influencers rack up “extra cash” in exchange for hitting certain milestones. According to Engadget, examples of goals that will translate to extra cash include selling badges within streams or going live with other accounts on Instagram and participating in “Stars Challenges,” on Facebook, which will reward creators for meeting certain streaming milestones and completing other predetermined tasks.

“We believe that you should be rewarded for the value that you bring to your fans and to the overall community,” Zuckerberg told creators during the event.

In addition to the new milestones, Instagram will also be rolling out an option for creators who sell their own products to link to them in-app, with additional options to earn commission directly from shopping posts.

The cash incentives seem explicitly designed to keep influencers, well influencing, which, in addition to lining creators’ pockets, serves the dual purpose of attracting more users to Instagram and Facebook.

Notably, the bonuses also seem to be explicitly targeted towards mid-range creators, rather than content behemoths with massive online followings. This seems to be in line with Zuckerberg’s recently stated goal of establishing a sort of “creator middle class” — the subset of influencers that, despite having substantial platforms, are not yet big or influence-y enough to merit sponsorship offers from big-name brands.

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Fossil to Launch Premium Watch That Runs on New Wear OS in Fall

Fossil’s first cellular watch, the Gen 5 LTE.

Fossil’s first cellular watch, the Gen 5 LTE.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Fossil, the biggest Wear OS wearables maker, is planning to launch a new, premium Gen 6 smartwatch this fall that will run on Google’s revamped operating system for the devices.

Fossil executives told CNET on Saturday that their upcoming Android smartwatches will be entirely new, featuring chips with faster performance, better battery life, and global LTE cellular options. The company plans to launch a sole premium watch, its most successful category, as its flagship under the new Wear OS. However, other brands in the Fossil Group, which include Diesel and Michael Kors, will likely develop their own watches.

According to CNET, the newest Fossil smartwatch should have features similar to what Google and Samsung offer. In May, the tech behemoths announced that they would be partnering up to create a new smartwatch operating system that aims to be 30% faster at launching apps and allows for features such as continuous heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking.

“All of the software benefits that Google’s talking about and launching with the unified platform is something we’ll be building into that as well,” Fossil chief commercial officer Greg McKelvey told CNET.

As far as hardware goes, Fossil said it has some “pretty major” upgrades planned for its future smartwatches. These could include faster performance, better battery life, and more advanced health features.

For those wondering about the buttons and the screens, Fossil seemed to hint that not much would be changing on that front. Steve Prokup, the company’s senior vice president of connected devices, said Fossil would continue to support multiple configurations of buttons in the market at the same time, but it doesn’t plan on going to extremes.

“I think you’re still going to see a variety of offerings across even our products, as well as manufacturers… not so much that you’re going to have a watch that ends up having four, five, six dedicated buttons or no buttons,” Prokup said.

The watch’s touchscreen would remain the principal way to interact with the device, Prokup explained, while the buttons and crowns would be design flairs and shortcuts.

There is some bad news if you already own a Fossil smartwatch now, though: They won’t be able to upgrade to Google’s new Wear OS.

Although the company was tight-lipped on price, CNET speculated that it could be on par with the newest Apple Watch Series 6, which starts at $400. Fossil claims that a great product that innovates will be worth the price, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Android 12 Feature Will Let You Opt Out of App Tracking

Google will soon let you opt-out of third-party tracking from any app you download from the Play Store.

Google will soon let you opt-out of third-party tracking from any app you download from the Play Store.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

With Apple’s developer conference just around the corner, Google is reportedly planning to follow in its rivals footsteps by letting Android users opt out of being tracked by the apps they download from the Google Play store.

A Google support page detailing how users can opt out of third-party tracking has generated a bit of buzz. Originally surfaced by the Financial Times, Google will introduce a switch for users later this year that turns off sharing the Advertising ID, which is the device identifier that lets marketers see your activity from app to app. (It’s also one of the identifiers that manufacturers had access to during the covid-19 contact tracing privacy snafu.) Android users can already limit system-wide ad-tracking or manually reset their Advertising ID to help throw off being tracked, but this new setting will let users opt out of any alternative device identifiers that developers also use to track your activity across apps.

Google announced a Play Store policy change in an email to developers. Those who try to access advertising IDs from users who have opted out will only see a “string of zeros” rather than the explicit numerical identifier.

From the Google support page:

As part of Google Play services update in late 2021, the advertising ID will be removed when a user opts out of personalization using advertising ID in Android Settings. Any attempts to access the identifier will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier. To help developers and ad/analytics service providers with compliance efforts and respect user choice, they will be able to receive notifications for opt-out preferences. Additionally, apps targeting Android 12 will need to declare a Google Play services normal permission in the manifest file.

Unlike on iOS, it’s unclear if the tracking feature will be on by default or if Google will make this a known feature or something that’s buried deep in the settings panel. But we’ll likely have answers by the time Android 12 rolls out publicly. Google is phasing the rollout to apps running on Android 12 devices starting in late 2021, with expansion for more devices coming in early 2022.

Google has been working overtime to change the narrative on how it approaches privacy. The company has added a bunch of granular privacy controls over the years, dating back to permission-selection features introduced back in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but with Apple using privacy as a key selling point for its devices, there’s a renewed push for Google to answer. The company recently announced a new safety section in the Google Play Store a few weeks back.

Privacy has clearly become a company-wide initiative, considering Google’s move to create a new tracking alternative—one that binds your activity directly to its servers.

And the more features that Google can push out to make its platforms and the services integrated into it seem safer, the more it maintains consumer trust to hold on to that top spot on the market share leaderboard.

Being an Android user has always been about choice. It’s nice that Google is adding an option to make Android users feel better about being on the platform after the security features Apple introduced to iOS. This is certainly the first feature I’m choosing to take advantage of once I update to Android 12.

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The Kid from ‘David After Dentist’ Is Now in College and Selling an NFT of His Viral Video to Pay Tuition

Illustration for article titled The Kid from 'David After Dentist' Is Now in College and Selling an NFT of His Viral Video to Pay Tuition

Image: David DeVore

It seems like every internet meme is getting the NFT treatment these days. The latest is “David After Dentist,” one of YouTube’s earliest viral videos. In 2008, David DeVore recorded his then-seven-year-old son, David Jr., babbling now-iconic lines like “Is this real life?” in a medication-fueled haze after a tooth extraction.

The video has racked up more than 140 million views since it was posted in 2009. And now, 12 years later, the younger DeVore’s moment of viral fame is helping to fund his college education.

The DeVore family is auctioning “David After Dentist” as an NFT, with proceeds going toward college tuition for both David and his brother, according to a press release.

“It kind of feels like 2009 all over again,” the elder DeVore said in an interview with the Verge Thursday. “NFTs are like the wild west right now, it’s like back when we went viral and social media was in its infancy.”

The auction went live on Thursday and is open for 24 hours but could be extended for late bids, DeVore Sr. told the outlet. His son, who is now 20, is studying computer science at the University of Florida and has perfect teeth, he added.

The “David After Dentist” NFT is the first offered by Views, a collective launched by viral video distributor Jukin Media and influencer management firm Night Media to help creators mint their meme-worthy content using NFTs. NFTs of other viral videos, including “Pizza Rat” and the “Ok Boomer” TikTok, will also be going up for auction at a later date, according to Forbes.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital tokens tied to the blockchain that signify ownership of a data asset. The art world became obsessed with them earlier this year, with collectors shelling out millions of dollars to own essentially digital trading cards, and now everyone from toy manufacturers to video game companies and influencers is getting in on the buzz.

Stories like that of David and “Disaster Girl”, who also NFT-ified her meme to help pay for college, have me wondering: Is this the new American dream?

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Google Might Scrap “Hey Google” for Some Voice Assistant Tasks

Illustration for article titled Soon You May Not Have to Say 'Hey Google' to Get Your Phone's Google Assistant to Listen to You

Illustration: Leon Neal (Getty Images)

If you’ve ever wanted your Google Assistant to get moving without having to say, “hey Google,” all the time, you may be getting your wish in the near future.

On Friday, Android Police spotted a new featured dubbed “Guacamole” after updating the Google app on Android. The update introduced a new Guacamole menu in the Google Assistant settings list for some users, the outlet reported, although it’s not functional yet. Nonetheless, according to screenshots of the menu posted by Android Police, Guacamole is apparently a voice shortcuts feature that will allow users to skip saying “hey Google” for help with quick tasks.

In order to enable the feature, users have to click and read, presumably, a set of terms and conditions. We say “presumably” because the link included in the menu doesn’t work yet, so we haven’t been able to confirm this. (We did try, though).

Just what exactly will these quick tasks consist of? 9to5Google reports that these quick tasks include alarms, timers, and calls. As an example, the outlet said that the feature will allow you to say “stop” or “snooze” to stop an alarm. It also stated that users will be able to say, “answer the call,” or “decline the call.”

Now, I don’t use Google Assistant, but I do use an Amazon Echo Dot that always plays a wonderful BTS playlist in the morning to wake me up. I’m a beast in the morning, and when I grumble, “Alexa, stoooooop,” I always feel the thing is paying attention to me. I don’t think I would get that same feeling of sleepy satisfaction if I just said, “stop.” That’s just me though, and this is a very particular situation.

9to5Google notes that Google is only testing the Guacamole feature with employees at the time, which is why it began showing up on some users’ phones. As with other features under development, there’s no guarantee that this one will ever make it to the mainstream. We just have to wait and see.

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Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Execs to Testify at Senate Hearing

Illustration for article titled Policy Executives at Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to Testify at Senate Hearing on Algorithms

Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Next week, policy executives from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will testify at a Senate Judiciary hearing on algorithmic amplification, Politico reports. Social media recommendation algorithms have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and Democratic lawmakers have voiced concerns about how they can fuel extremism and the spread of misinformation online.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law is hosting the hearing, which is scheduled for April 27. It will feature testimony from Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy; Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s head of U.S. public policy; and Alexandra Veitch, YouTube’s director of government affairs and public policy for the Americas and emerging markets. The panel will also hear from two outside experts: Tristan Harris, president of the Center for Humane Technology, and Joan Donovan, research director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy.

Congressional aides that spoke with Politico said the committee may call on big tech CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for future panels. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who chairs the subcommittee, said he was considering that option in an interview with the outlet last month.

However, by first hauling in the platforms’ policy executives instead of their CEOs, the panel aims to focus discussions on structural issues and content moderation and avoid “the typical airing of grievances” about the platforms at large that have dominated previous hearings, according to the congressional aides. They also hope to drum up bipartisan support by focusing on these sorts of systemic issues as opposed to how platforms handle specific content, such as political speech, Politico’s sources said.

Democratic lawmakers have been increasingly pushing to hold social media platforms accountable for how their recommendation algorithms amplify harmful and extremist content. In January, House Representatives Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Anna Eshoo of California sent a series of letters to Big Tech CEOs calling on them to rework their recommendation systems, particularly in the wake of the Capitol Hill attack on January 6. Last month, Malinowski and Eshoo reintroduced legislation to amend Section 230 so that online platforms lose liability immunity if these systems promote content that leads to real-world harms, such as acts of terrorism or civil rights violations.

On Friday, Coon reiterated his concerns about algorithmic amplification and outlined plans to make holding social media companies accountable one of his subcommittee’s top priorities.

“Social media platforms use algorithms that shape what billions of people read, watch and think every day, but we know very little about how these systems operate and how they’re affecting our society,” he told Politico. “Increasingly, we’re hearing that these algorithms are amplifying misinformation, feeding political polarization and making us more distracted and isolated.”

The hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, April 27 and will be livestreamed on the Senate Judiciary’s website here.

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Microsoft Edge Adds a Kids Mode

Illustration for article titled Microsoft Edge Adds a Kids Mode for Parents Worried About Their Shared Devices

Image: Microsoft

In Microsoft’s ongoing endeavor to convert people to its rebooted Edge web browser, it’s launching a new Kids Mode that makes it easy for parents to control how their children surf the web.

Kids Mode is a free option built directly into Microsoft Edge on Windows and macOS. Enabling it is as simple as navigating to the user profile menu in the browser’s upper right corner and selecting “Browse in Kids Mode”. Parents have the choice between two versions, one for ages five to eight years and one for ages nine to 12 years. Both enable the strictest level of tracking prevention in Edge and Bing SafeSearch by default to filter out adult text, images, and videos from search results. The only difference between the two age ranges is that the older one includes a newsfeed with curated articles from MSN for Kids. Don’t worry though: It focuses on more kid-friendly topics like fun science and animal facts rather than breaking news and politics, Microsoft said.

Kids Mode also restricts what sites kids have access to, with roughly 70 popular kids sites allowed from the get-go (any additional allowable sites have to be added to the list individually). If a child tries to view a site that’s not on that list, they’re met with a cutesy block page, pictured below, that prompts them to ask an adult for permission.

Illustration for article titled Microsoft Edge Adds a Kids Mode for Parents Worried About Their Shared Devices

Image: Microsoft

In a blog post announcing the news on Thursday, Microsoft’s corporate VP Liat Ben-Zur called Kids Mode a “game-changer for parents who are juggling all the demands of life today.” Microsoft intentionally designed it to make adding and removing allowed sites as convenient as possible for parents so that they could have peace of mind when using shared devices.

Microsoft also addressed a workaround that kids might use to slip past these measures. Kids Mode restricts popular Windows keyboard shortcuts to keep users from simply exiting out of the browser and opening a new one, the Verge reports.

More than anything else, though, Microsoft designed Kids Mode with its younger users in mind, Ben-Zur said.

“[I]t became clear that the best way to keep kids from trying to leave was to make them want to stay. In other words, we set out to create the most appealing environment a kid could ever want for browsing the web.”

So, as you can see in the screenshot above, Microsoft’s visual designers went with plenty of bright colors and silly characters to make a browsing experience catered to children. It also added the option to customize the browser’s appearance so that kids could get creative and opted for a layout that’s easy to navigate.

To switch the browser back to normal, an adult must enter their Windows or macOS credentials.

Kids Mode is one of several new features it’s rolling out for Edge this month, Microsoft said Thursday. So if you’re already an Edge convert, keep your eye out for future coverage.

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Facebook is Testing a Clubhouse-Inspired Audio Feature Called Hotline

Illustration for article titled Facebook Is Officially Beta Testing Hotline, a Clubhouse-Inspired Audio Q&A Feature

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / Contributor (Getty Images)

Facebook on Wednesday ran its first public beta test of Hotline — a web-based Q&A platform that seems like it was dreamed up as the platform’s answer to the current voice chat app craze.

More specifically, Hotline is designed to function as a sort of love child between Instagram Live and Clubhouse, TechCrunch reports: Creators will address an audience of users, who will then be able to respond by asking questions with either text or audio. Unlike Clubhouse — which is strictly an audio-only platform — Hotline users will have the option to turn their cameras on during events, adding a visual element to an otherwise voice-dominated experience.

Hotline is currently being developed by Facebook’s NPE Team, which handles experimental app development within the company, and is being led by Eric Hazzard, who created the positivity-focused Q&A app tbh that Facebook acquired before pivoting Hotline.

A public livestream of the app’s functionality on Wednesday was led by real estate investor Nick Huber, who spoke about industrial real estate as a second income stream — which should give you a pretty good idea about exactly what type of creators Hotline will be attempting to net once it’s live. Close observers of the stream will have noticed that Hotline’s interface closely resembles Clubhouse’s, in that the speaker’s icon is situated atop or astride an “audience,” which is populated by listeners whose profiles appear below the livestream (on the desktop version, the audience is off to the side).

Where the app differs from Clubhouse is in its functionality for “audience” members, who will see the questions they ask appear in a list at the top of the stream which other users can then choose to upvote or downvote. The creator will also have the option to pull listeners onto the “stage” area to join them in a back and forth, which will be something closer to Zoom in nature than its audio-only forebears.

In a statement on Wednesday, Facebook declined to offer specific details about a launch date for Hotline, but said that developers have been encouraged to see how new multimedia features and formats “continue to help people connect and build community.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

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