6 Social Media Platforms That Aren’t Facebook

6 Social Media Platforms That Aren’t Facebook

In recent weeks, some people have begun to question how much they use Facebook. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many have felt a little uneasy about how much information Facebook obtains.

It’s important to note, though, that many (probably most) other social media platforms are gathering a fair amount of your data. They may handle it differently, but there is likely quite a bit of your information stored when you use any social media platforms at all.

Still, you might be wondering if there are other ways to enjoy using social media without actually using Facebook. Facebook is one of the most popular, active, and widely used social media sites out there, and it might seem like your only option. But there are other platforms that you might like just as much (or more).
If you’re thinking about leaving Facebook, or if you enjoy Facebook but want even more ways to stay connected, here are just some of the other social media platforms you can give a try!

Instagram

Instagram is, of course, a hugely popular app that focuses on images. You can use it to keep up with your friends’ lives through photos and videos. It also has built-in messaging, so you can share things directly with other people and discuss them privately. You won’t necessarily be getting the same insight into your friends’ thoughts, and it currently doesn’t let you share other peoples’ content, but it’s still a good way to keep in contact with your favorite people.

Pinterest

Pinterest is still typically for inspiration and DIY ideas. But you and your friends can share content together and keep in touch through your different boards. This platform is certainly less focused on updates about peoples’ daily lives, so don’t rely on it for that. But you can at least see what your friends are interested in.

Reddit

Reddit isn’t really a social media platform. But you can follow friends on the service, and if you actually are looking to drop Facebook, Reddit can help replace your need for a stream of interesting content and news shared by groups and people you subscribe to.

Snapchat

Snapchat is another photo- and image-based way to keep connected to friends and family. It’s likely that most of the people you’re close with already use Snapchat. You can follow them through their Stories, have private chats with them, communicate through short video clips, and more. You can’t easily share other peoples’ content or write medium to long text images, but you can still communicate pretty well with this app.

Tumblr

Tumblr lets you set up your own blog and then create your own posts or share posts from others. You can add others and gain subscribers. Tumblr is often seen as being primarily used by a younger crowd, but there’s certainly a space for everyone. It’s also pretty hugely driven by fandoms (many people on Tumblr use their accounts to post primarily about shows, movies, and other things they’re fans of). It’s not quite as focused on simply keeping up with a friend’s daily life. But if you want to keep up with your friends’ interests and make new friends based on things you both enjoy, Tumblr might be for you.

Twitter

Twitter is a nice way to keep up with others using smaller text snippets. Though it’s grown most popular for its use in getting news out quickly, you can also form your circle of friends and keep up with each other via tweets. You can retweet, which adds another level of personality to someone’s feed, and now that tweets can be longer than before, it’s easier to write more detailed, lengthy updates.

Instagram Adds New Features & Will Let You Download Data

Instagram Adds New Features & Will Let You Download Data

Instagram has been in the news very recently for their newest updates and for a recent announcement. Instagram users will now be able to use some new features, and they’ll also soon be able to download copies of their entire data history.

Reuters reports that Instagram, which is part of Facebook Inc, will soon let its users download their data. This announcement comes while Facebook is dealing with the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (which you can learn more about in my recent articles “Third-Party Data on Social Media” and “Facebook and Its Data Scandal”). Because of the mishandling of their data, Facebook users (and users of many different social media platforms) have become much more concerned with how their data is being used. This has led to many updates from Facebook on how third-party apps and user data will be handled. And now Instagram has joined in with their plans.

Reuters reports that Instagram users will be able to download data like photos, videos, and messages. There’s currently no word on when this tool will be made available.

Meanwhile, Instagram has added some new features. According to TechCrunch, Instagram’s new update includes a new filter called Focus. Focus is a portrait mode that can be used in Instagram’s camera to take both photos and videos. It blurs the background of a portrait photo, making the subject of the photo stand out more sharply. This style was previously available in other apps and on certain phones. With Instagram’s Focus feature, though, more people will be able to take portrait photos.

They’ve also added stickers for mentions, says TechCrunch. This feature is currently rolling out for people using iOS. Instead of simply tagging someone using text, you’ll now be able to tag them using a sticker. This makes Instagram posts a little more customizable and fun. It’s not clear when everyone will gain access to these stickers.

Facebook Using AR On Some Movie Posters

Facebook Using AR On Some Movie Posters

Facebook is using their updated AR to make movie promotions a little more futuristic. In a recent announcement, they explained their use of augmented reality with posters for the films Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time.

According to their detailed post, all of the posters for the recent films work in conjunction with Facebook’s new augmented reality target tracking. They describe being able to simply open the Facebook camera, point your phone at one of the posters, and then see a specifically designed AR experience. The camera will be able to recognize certain images, including, Facebook says, things like logos and pictures.

They’re calling their new target tracking feature “persistent AR,” meaning the augmented reality experience is specifically connected to something in actual reality. They’ve also worked to make the AR particularly stable, designing it to keep working even if the image is blocked from view by the camera briefly—so someone getting in the way while you’re looking at one of the posters wouldn’t interrupt the AR experience. And the augmented reality experience can also be enabled through the use of things like QR codes, not just by pointing Facebook’s camera at the image.

According to Facebook, this new augmented reality feature is in closed beta right now. Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time are part of the closed beta. But their plan is to make this AR feature enjoyable and useful for everyone on both ends—companies and viewers alike. They believe companies can gain a lot from this different type of promotion. And the AR experiences will, they say, end up being able to be used by a lot of different phones, not just brand new pricey models. In fact, they say they’ve been focusing on making it workable with “older, lower end phones” so fewer people are left out of the fun.

Facebook says the developer toolkit for this feature will become available “later this spring.”

Smart Assistant Updates

Smart Assistant Updates

A number of different updates about smart assistants and smart speakers have been announced recently (including current and upcoming updates). Google, Amazon, and Facebook have all provided updates on their smart assistant plans. Here’s some of what you might have missed this week!

Google Home now lets you play through Bluetooth speakers

When comparing smart speakers (as I did recently; read about it in my article from last month), people typically take a closer look at the smaller, less expensive versions of the products. For instance, the Amazon Echo has the Echo Dot and the Google Home has the Google Home Mini. One of the things that set the Echo Dot apart from the Home Mini was that the Echo Dot could connect to other Bluetooth speakers. This meant that the less amazing speakers in the Echo Dot weren’t a deal-breaker, because the Dot could be connected to a better Bluetooth sound system.

Now the Home Mini can also improve its sound. The Verge is reporting that the smaller version of Google’s smart speaker can now connect to Bluetooth speakers. Previously, the Home Mini had a lot of great features but had the drawback of featuring unimpressive sound. Now that it can do what the Dot was already able to do, it’s even more of a competitor. If you already have a nice Bluetooth speaker, you no longer need to worry about the Google Home Mini’s sound quality.

Amazon’s Alexa plans to integrate more with your home products

Amazon has now announced their plans for more upcoming devices with Alexa built in. In their post this past week, Amazon detailed three upcoming products that will have Alexa enabled. These “white-box solutions” are part of Amazon’s plan to be more fully integrated into homes.

One product stands out in particular. The Lamp Speaker from Adition mostly looks like the typical smart speaker from Amazon: it’s a tall cylinder. However, it’s also a lamp. This means even typical household devices, like light sources, will soon be able to respond to voice commands and perform the Alexa capabilities we’re used to.

Facebook’s upcoming smart speaker announcement pushed back

You may remember the news at the beginning of this year about Facebook’s planned smart speaker. As I wrote in my article, Facebook has been planning to release a smart speaker currently referred to as ‘Portal.’ The smart system is supposed to include cameras and a screen for video chatting, and the focus is on social connection.

However, The Verge has reported that Facebook’s planned announcement about the smart device has been stalled. According to most reports on this postponement, it’s likely due to Facebook’s current data scandal fallout and its negative connection to user data and privacy.

Third-Party Data on Social Media

Third-Party Data on Social Media

With all the discussion of Facebook’s recent data scandal, third-party data is a major topic of discussion among social media services. (Find out more about Facebook’s difficulties, referred to as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in my article from last week.) Facebook is bringing a number of changes due to the scandal, most of which will restrict access to users’ data. Meanwhile, another social media giant is in the news for a somewhat puzzling reason, as it may soon be making third party access possible.

Here’s a rundown of just some of Facebook’s updates, as well as Snapchat’s recent news.

Facebook is ending their Partner Categories

Facebook is now ending their Partner Categories. According to TechCrunch, Facebook is going to stop using third-party data in its targeted advertising. With targeted ads, a number of different tools are used. Until now, Facebook had used data collected from third parties as one way to accurately target ads toward users. After the recent data scandal, though, Facebook is ending the practice. According to Entrepreneur, companies like Axciom and Experian were part of Facebook’s Partner Categories. TechCrunch notes that Facebook has said the decision is in place permanently, not just while they try to work their way through their current issues.

Facebook wants your help spotting data mining apps

Facebook is focusing heavily on finding apps that could misuse data gathered from their users. In fact, according to CNET, they will now pay users who find “data mining” apps. Facebook already had a program in place that rewarded people for finding other issues on the site. With this program, people could get paid for reporting apps that are using data in a way that breaks Facebook’s policies. CNET also notes that some “bug bounty programs” can offer rewards of up to $100,000.

Snapchat may let third party apps connect to your account

With the flurry of news around Facebook’s handling of third party data, news has come out that Snapchat may be planning to let third party apps connect to users’ accounts. Mashable has reported that the current beta version of Snapchat has a new feature called “Connected Apps.” Bitmoji and Shazam have already been able to connect to Snapchat accounts. But if this setting in Snapchat’s beta is any indication, more apps will soon be able to connect. Of course, just because it’s in beta doesn’t mean it will actually be released in full. Whatever happens, news of its inclusion in the beta app has come at a strange and unfortunate time.

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook has been in the news quite a lot recently, and not necessarily for good reasons.

The social media service appears in the news on a regular basis any given week, but for the past week, a lot of focus has been on their data scandal and what will come of it. During that news, Facebook has announced some upcoming changes to its service.

Here’s what you might have missed over the past week or so, including a brief recap of Facebook’s data issues!

Some of Facebook’s newest announcements have come now that Zuckerberg has apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg issued an apology for what happened with their recent data scandal. According to CNN Money, Zuckerberg issued the apology during a TV interview on CNN. In his interview, he mentions the policy changes that have been put in place since the incident and notes that these policies should have been in place sooner. He also spoke about his regret that people weren’t informed about the issue sooner.

Facebook’s data scandal revolves around how some Facebook user data was accessed by an app (which is typical) and then, against Facebook policy, shared with a third party.

According Zuckerberg in his CNN interview, users will be notified if their information was shared during the incident. And The Verge writes that Facebook will be changing how developers can access Facebook users’ data.

Amid all of this negative press, one WhatsApp founder has said to delete Facebook. One of the founders of the popular messaging app has called out Facebook during their scandal concerning user data.

Brian Acton, who helped create WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, is now warning people that they should leave Facebook. The Independent reports that Acton tweeted that it was “time” to stop using the social media giant. He doesn’t specifically discuss the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the timing of his tweet suggests his tweet was referencing Facebook’s current data issues.

You may remember that earlier this year Acton gave Signal (a secure messaging service) millions of dollars, which I wrote about back in February.

With Zuckerberg’s recent apology, it’s clear that Facebook is making a point to address this data issue and reassure users. Whether current users will jump ship due to the scandal and Acton’s call to leave Facebook remains to be seen.

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal seems to be doing well at the moment, as it’s now being reported that they’ve received $50 million from the co-founder of WhatsApp.

Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp and who previously worked for Facebook, is now aligned with Signal and providing them with millions of dollars. Acton is no longer with Facebook or WhatsApp, and he will be the executive chairman for the Signal Foundation, a new organization.

According to a blog on Signal’s website, the Signal Foundation is a just-launched 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that will further Signal’s mission. Acton also provides a message on Signal’s blog, explaining Signal’s mission, which is “to develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication.” Signal (and Acton) believe it’s important to offer secure communication to everyone across the world, and they hope to do this with the Foundation.

Signal has become fairly popular with their Signal Messenger, a service that encrypts messages (offering end to end encryption) and provides more security than typical messaging services. It’s meant to make people feel more certain that their messages aren’t being compromised. It offers security for those who might be concerned about government spying or their texts being intercepted for nefarious purposes.

The Signal Protocol, which is from Open Whisper Systems and used for Signal Messenger, is also used in services like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Specifically, Facebook Messenger uses Signal to offer Secret Conversations. These locked-down messages can be sent by opening a conversation with someone, clicking the information button in the corner of the conversation, and choosing to “Go to Secret Conversation.” The conversation will then use Signal Protocol to encrypt the messages sent and received.

While Signal has been frowned upon by some government agencies like the FBI (according to Newsweek), for many it’s simply a way to feel more secure and private. With the money the Signal Foundation has received, Signal will be able to increase the size of its staff and do more with their service.

(Featured image: Signal website)

Facebook News Survey Raises Eyebrows

Facebook News Survey Raises Eyebrows

Facebook has put out a news survey, and many are questioning its effectiveness. The news survey, meant to learn which news publishers Facebook users trust, only includes two questions. Because of this, some wonder how accurate it will be and how much use it can really be for Facebook.

The two questions, according to the BBC, ask users about specific websites. Users are first asked if they recognize the chosen websites. Then they’re asked to use a scale to represent how much they trust those websites. The scale has five options, starting with “not at all” and ending with “entirely.”

Facebook has taken many different steps in recent months to specifically try to combat false news stories taking hold on their platform. For instance, in November they announced a tool that would let users see if they’d interacted with Russian propaganda sites. This tool went live soon after, and it can be found by visiting the Facebook Help Center.

They’ve also tried various different ways of letting users spot fake news. For a while, Facebook used Disputed Flags to show users that other sources had disputed certain content. Then Facebook switched to using Related Articles to help identify false news stories. The Related Articles that show up underneath content can help offer different views on the story, including showing third-party fact-checking articles.

Though people are questioning the value of a survey with only two questions, Facebook has said there’s a reason for its simplicity. They’ve said surveys can sometimes be confusing and “bias signal,” and they’ve mentioned the information gathered is only applied to “publishers for which we have enough data.” Naturally, Facebook will not be basing their decisions solely on this news survey, instead working with various other data, as well.

Facebook’s news trust survey may be cause for concern for some users who see it as too simple, but Facebook seems to feel it will be a useful way to help prioritize news articles from sources that can be trusted. As it’s implemented, we’ll see how useful it really might be while working alongside Facebook’s other features and updates that are meant to stop the spread of false news.

Facebook Offers New ‘Watch Party’ Feature

Facebook Offers New ‘Watch Party’ Feature

Facebook is once again adding a new feature to improve the watching experience. Facebook’s new ‘Watch Party’ feature brings users a way to watch videos with other people.

As CNET reports, Facebook is testing a new feature that lets people come together to watch videos. The feature works with Live videos currently being broadcast, as well as videos that have already been posted. In its current state, it’s being tested by groups on Facebook. Groups are communities formed of people with a shared interest. Admins of the groups can choose a public video and let the group members watch it together while they comment and react to it.

Fidji Simo, the Video director for Facebook, wrote a post about the new feature being tested. In it, she notes that it’s being tested with a “handful of Groups.” This is just the beginning of the Watch Party feature. The test is small at the moment, but Simo mentions they “hope to expand Watch Party in the future.”

This emphasis on bringing groups closer together appears to be part of Facebook’s focus on “meaningful social interactions,” which Mark Zuckerberg wrote about in a recent post. Zuckerberg addressed concerns with Facebook updates that focused more on impersonal ads and branded content instead of content from friends. The post makes it clear that Facebook will now be making a point to make their platform feel more personal again.

Facebook has also been working hard to be at the top of the game when it comes to watching videos on their platform. Over the past months, they’ve added features that improve the video experience for creators and for viewers. In September, Facebook added their Facebook Watch section, which lets viewers keep up with channels and series. It also lets creators draw in more viewers. In October, the platform updated their Facebook Live feature to let users stream their screens. And in November, they released Facebook Creator, an app that helps video makers produce even better content.

Facebook’s Watch Party feature is just the newest in a long line of improvements to Facebook’s watching experience. It’s also a step towards a more personal experience on the social media platform. As it’s rolled out, hopefully users will have more opportunities to enjoy content together and feel more connected.