The Tech News Blog

January 11, 2015

Facebook Still the King of All Social Media

Facebook Tips

Facebook might be losing some of its cool, but the decade-old site is still riding high as the king of the social media space.

According to new data from the Pew Research Center, Facebook is still "by far" the most popular social media site. In fact, if you don't have a Facebook account, you're actually in the minority at this point. Some 71 percent of Internet users are now on Facebook, including – for the first time ever – more than half (56 percent) of those ages 65 and older, the research firm said Friday.

But on a more concerning note for Zuckerberg and Co., Pew found that Facebook's overall growth has slowed in the past year. The site's membership rates have seen "little change" from 2013 while other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn saw "significant" increases in usership. Facebook-owned Instagram, for instance, increased its overall user figure by nine percentage points between 2013 and 2014, posting "significant growth" in almost every demographic group.

December 9, 2014

World Cup, Ebola Dominate Facebook Chatter in 2014

World Cup FacebookFrom the conflict in Gaza to the Michael Brown case, there was no shortage of topics to discuss — and debate — on Facebook in 2014.

But which event incited the most vigorous discussion on the social network this year? The World Cup.

"The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil drove more conversation than any other event in Facebook history," the company revealed on Tuesday in its annual roundup of the most talked-about topics and people of the year.

Coming in second was the Ebola virus outbreak, followed by the elections in Brazil, the death of Robin Williams, the Ice Bucket challenge, the conflict in Gaza, the Malaysia Airlines disappearance, the Michael Brown/Ferguson case, and the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In the U.S. specifically, Ebola sparked the most chatter on Facebook this year, followed by the Ice Bucket challenge (George W. Bush's video had the most views), and the death of Robin Williams. Other hot topics in the U.S. included The Super Bowl, the U.S. midterm elections, and ISIS.

July 30, 2014

Facebook To Shutter Gifts Feature in August

Facebook Gifts If you're hoping to woo your significant other with a Facebook-purchased present via its Gift feature, act fast—the site's online store will shutter on Aug. 12.

Less than two years after launching a virtual marketplace through which you can send real gifts to family and friends, Facebook announced plans to close down the service.

Specifics have not been revealed, but the social network posted the news to its Facebook Cards and Gift Basics FAQ page.

"Starting August 12, you'll no longer be able to send gifts on Facebook. While we're ending Facebook Gifts, we're constantly exploring new ways for businesses to sell products on Facebook," the company's FAQ site said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to request for further comment.

The Gifts segment launched in late September 2012, allowing users to send real gifts like stuffed animals, cupcakes, and gift cards via the birthday reminders link on the News Feed or a friend's Timeline.

Early last year, the company launched the Facebook Card —a reusable gift card that can be loaded with money for use in multiple retail stores. Recipients are both notified online and sent a physical Facebook Card in the mail. Original partners included Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Target.

In the fall of 2012, Facebook added the ability to send charitable contributions through its Gifts service. Users can pay it forward to the American Red Cross, Blue Star Families, Boys & Girls Club of America,, Girls Inc., Kiva, Livestrong, Oxfam America, RAINN, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and

According to the FAQ, folks who have received a Facebook digital gift, or still carry a Facebook Card balance, have until the store closes on Tuesday, Aug. 12, to redeem them.

The social network first dabbled in gift-giving in 2007, when it launched the Gift Shop, from which users could post virtual gifts onto friends' walls. It lasted until Aug. 1, 2010, when it was shut down so Facebook could focus on "improving other products."

Similarly, it appears the company is shifting its attention toward its new "Buy" button, currently being tested on ads and page posts.

June 19, 2014

Facebook Hit by Brief Morning Outage

Facebook logo

Facebook took a 30-minute nap this morning, much to the dismay of many users, who were unable to access the social network during a brief outage.

Visitors were met with a notice telling them that, "Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can."

According to CNET, the page went dark just before 4 a.m. ET, and was restored to normal around 4:30 a.m. Facebook did not share further details about the disruption.

In a statement released to PCMag, a Facebook spokesman said that late Wednesday night, the company "ran into an issue" while updating the configuration of its software systems.

"Not long after we made the change, some people started to have trouble accessing Facebook," the company said. "We quickly spotted and fixed the problem, and in less than 30 minutes Facebook was back to 100 percent for everyone."

June 17, 2014

Facebook’s Slingshot Arrives in the U.S.

Slingshot iOS

The worst-kept secret in social networking arrives today in the U.S.: Facebook's Slingshot app is now available for iOS and Android owners.

Reports of the Snapchat-like Slingshot first emerged in May, and the actual app accidentally leaked last week before it was yanked offline. Now, Slingshot officially hits smartphones this week, with the promise of "a space [to] share everyday moments with lots of people at once."

Similar to Snapchat, the app allows users to send messages that eventually self-destruct—fostering creativity. But the developer team at Facebook's Creative Labs added a new twist: recipients cannot view your content until they've sent a message in return.

The move could tap into user's curiosity, or just leave tons of unviewed images sitting in your inbox.

And while Slingshot allows the addition of captions and drawings to photos, it also offers a different take on the ephemeral messaging concept. Users can save unlocked "shots" for later; but as soon as the message is swiped away, it is deleted.

June 13, 2014

Facebook Messenger Adds 15-Second Videos

Facebook Messenger video

Facebook's standalone Messenger app is inching closer to a full-service SMS client with today's addition of video messages.

Messenger version 6.0 for iPhone includes Instant Video Sending—the ability to shoot and play 15-second video messages from the in-app camera—as well as "Big Likes," an even bigger thumbs up, for when you really, really like something.

The social network dropped its Messenger service from the main Facebook app in April, launching a separate application that allows users to send messages, stickers, and photos, and even make voice calls over Wi-Fi.

Weeks later, Facebook gave the app a boost with the option to snap and send photos without leaving the application, and attach videos from your camera roll.

But keep in mind: All of these additions come without a preview mode, so anything you click (stickers, photos, voice messages, videos) will be sent immediately.

To share up to 15 seconds of video content, tap the camera icon, then hold the "Send" button while recording. Let go to deliver, or swipe your finger away to delete and start over. 

June 10, 2014

Facebook Accidentally Leaks Snapchat-Like Slingshot App

Facebook Slingshot app

Facebook's Snapchat clone appeared briefly in select app stores on Monday, before being removed from the Web.

The Slingshot app first made headlines in May following the end of Facebook's standalone Poke app.

It allows users to share self-destructing photos and videos with friends, but there's a twist: recipients cannot view your content until they've sent a message in return. The move, as TechCrunch pointed out, aims to tap into users' curiosity, and invites folks to participate, instead of just viewing.

And while Slingshot also allows the addition of captions and drawings to your photos, it offers a different take on the ephemeral messaging concept. Users can save unlocked "shots" for later; but as soon as the message is swiped away, it is deleted.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told TechCrunch that "earlier today [Monday], we accidentally released a version of Slingshot, a new app we're working on.

June 4, 2014

Facebook Acquires Mobile Data Startup Pryte

Facebook logoFacebook is acquiring Finnish mobile data startup Pryte in an effort to expand its global Internet reach.

Pryte was founded last year and sells short-term mobile app passes that allow folks to control their mobile use costs without missing any important tweets.

"Since we launched Pryte we have worked to reimagine the way mobile data works in an app-driven world, by enabling partnerships between app and content providers, and mobile operators," the team wrote in an announcement.

Acquisition details remain scarce, but both companies suggested that this move will benefit the Facebook-backed project.

"The Pryte team will be an exciting addition to Facebook," a spokeswoman for the social network said. "Their deep industry experience working with mobile operators aligns closely with the initiatives we pursue with, to partner with operators to bring affordable Internet access to the next 5 billion people, in a profitable way."

Facebook launched in August, with the help of industry heavyweights Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, and Samsung. The venture will focus on the three key challenges in developing countries: making access affordable, using data more efficiently, and helping businesses drive access.

"We are excited to get started," Pryte said, "and make an even greater impact by advancing the work we are doing in collaboration with Facebook's great team working to further's goal of making affordable Internet access available to everyone in the world."

In March, Facebook acqui-hired U.K.-based Ascenta, whose five-person team worked on early versions of Zephyr, the longest-flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. The team will work with Facebook's new Connectivity Lab, which is looking at drones - not to mention satellites and lasers - to assist in providing Internet access worldwide.

The Pryte purchase, meanwhile, follows some high-profile purchases for Facebook. In February, the social network purchased mobile message app WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion, before snatching up virtual reality firm Oculus VR, which cost $2 billion and some public backlash.

May 27, 2014

Report: Iranian Court Summons Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg at F8

As Facebook works to tighten privacy controls, the social network is facing new scrutiny from officials in Iran over WhatsApp and Instagram.

According to a report from Reuters, which cited state news agency ISNA, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to appear in an Iranian court to respond to complaints that Instagram and WhatsApp violate users' privacy. Facebook, of course, owns both Instagram and WhatsApp.

The conservative Iranian court, located in the southern province of Fars, reportedly opened the cases after citizens complained about privacy leaks.

"According to the court's ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses," Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian internet official, reportedly told the ISNA, in reference to Zuckerberg's Jewish heritage.

May 21, 2014

Facebook Adds Shazam-Like Music, TV Identification

Facebook Song and TV Identification

Facebook today announced a new feature that will identify the song, TV show, or movie that's playing while you're writing a status update.

Similar to Shazam, Facebook's new optional identification feature will listen to your surroundings as you type in a new update, and give you the option to add to your status that you're listening to Beyoncé or watching Game of Thrones, for example.

The feature is still rolling out, so it's not yet available on all devices. But when it's live, you'll see an audio icon moving on the screen as you write a status update. It will use your phone's microphone to see if anything is playing nearby, and will serve up an answer if it makes a match. You can then select to include that info in your status update.