This week, Facebook hosted it's annual F8 conference where it announces and demonstrates its newest and most important (to the company) features. This year, the company talked a total of nothing about Facebook the social network and, instead, talked about Facebook the company. From the most obvious implementation of the Oculus hardware to at attempt to compete with Slack and Microsoft, Facebook was all over the place, and mostly to underwhelming response.
Facebook Spaces is the most predictable product out of Facebook following its
purchase of Oculus: virtual Facebook. From within the virtual world you can use many of the traditional Facebook features, such as Messenger, photos and videos. In fact, while you can interact with 3 other Oculus users concurrently, you can also interact with people over traditional video via Messenger. You can explore 360 videos from the inside and you can, of course, take selfies, which is almost required at this point.
Spaces is not the first virtual social network. Applications like AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, Rec Room and vTime have been around for a little while, but the issue that those platforms have suffered is discoverability. A social network is not nearly as effective when there aren't a lot of people involved, no matter how good the platform might be. Spaces, on the other hand, has the power and scope of Facebook behind it, making it easy to find and already populated even before it launched.
It's interesting to note that, while other devices, such as Samsung Gear VR, are powered by Oculus, only the actual Rift hardware can take advantage of the new application. It is possible that, because Rift is a known piece of hardware from inside the company, it is currently limited while in Beta so that Facebook can test without the difficulty of hardware variation getting in the way.
While Spaces is Facebook's focus on virtual reality, Camera is their take on augmented reality. While the company is very excited about the new features, in reality, it is merely a mix of what Nintendo has on its 3DS portable console and what Snapchat has offered for ages. The upgraded capabilities include frames, like you see on Facebook profiles frequently, filters, integrated from Instagram, and virtual objects, a feature that Snapchat also made popular.
Facebook has had some success with stealing Snapchat features in the past. Instagram Stories, a direct copy of Snapchat Stories, has been such a popular feature that April Fools Day featured other products announcing the feature, obviously as a prank, but still. It is possible that Camera might make some inroads in some of these spaces, but it is difficult for a completely uninspired product to gain too much traction.
With Messenger 2.0, Facebook has taken the Messenger you know and might love and made it easier to not talk to other people. The new version of the platform is all about making it easy for you to find and talk to bots instead. Whether you are looking for support from a company that doesn't involve a person, or want to order food without the inconvenience of a specialized interface designed specifically to accomplish the goal, Messenger can now do that.
Obviously the tone here is meant to emphasize the oddity of a messaging platform not focusing on messaging. That has been obvious for a while, with Messenger adding games, payments and other odd features, but a presentation about messaging that focused more on variable messenger codes and the ability for me chat bot to hand off to another than how it will benefit the end user shows that the platform is no longer about talking to other members.
The space for online collaborative tools has grown this year, with Slack finally adding threaded conversation and Microsoft Teams stealing some of their thunder. Facebook's entry into this space has been less than popular. Workplace has suffered from a number of issues, including a lack of trust in the integrity and safety of the data, but mostly the fact that it is from Facebook. Facebook and office life have never had a great relationship, since Facebook is often a time sink for employees while on the clock. The idea of using a nearly identical version of the platform within the office has raised a lot of flags for companies.
Facebook wants to deal with these issues. To deal with the concerns of data safety, with the help of data providers Disco, Netskope, Smarsh and Skyhigh. These services protect against data loss, making it easier to trust Workspace. To make it feel more like a business product and less like a time waster, Facebook has worked to integrate business essential services, such as Microsoft Office and Salesforce. Adding those features to groups, chat and more, it makes it a more valuable proposition. Workplace still fails to live up to the usefulness of Microsoft Teams or Slack, both of whom already have a hold on the market.
Currently, if you want to make money on Twitch from Twitch, you have to be part of a very select group of partnered streamers. Those streamers are few and far between, leaving most streamers to figure out their own ways to monetize their time. That is all about to change, however, as Amazon is about to add a new tier to their streaming service, allowing more streamers to generate revenue off of their streams.
In addition to the existing Partner tier, a new Affiliate tier will be coming, giving a subset of revenue options to a new collection of streamers. Not everyone will be eligible, but those who are will be able to receive money from Cheers, game sales and ads, while Affiliates will not get other benefits of Partners, such as priority support, extended storage, quicker payouts, etc.
This addition follows a new trend from Amazon, a renewed focus on advertising and revenue sharing. As
Google has struggled with advertising lately, Amazon has stepped in to help those affected. Major advertisiers have pulled out of AdSense, and Amazon extended the commission for websites using Amazon advertising on their websites to encourage sites to switch. If you have seen an influx of Amazon ads online in the past month, that is why.
For a streamer to be considered for Affiliate status, they must meet a few criteria. In a 30 day period, the streamer must have 500 streaming minutes across at least 7 distinct sessions. You will also need at least 50 followers and an average of at least 3 streamers at all times during those 500+ minutes. This requirement is going to ensure that Twitch does not dedicate too much time or resources to streamers who are not driving engagement on the platform, which is what the platform is all about.
If you are interested in becoming a Twitch Affiliate, make sure that your account meets those criteria and look for an email from Twitch in the near future.
One of the more successful preorder products that brought widespread attention to the concept of crowdfunding was Plastc. The company promised a smart credit card, but one that was a lot different. In addition to being able to attach a variety of cards into a single device, Plastic was to have a traditional mag strip, the newer smart chip, NFC, and RFID. But where they really wanted to differentiate themselves was with a touch-capable E-Ink display.
The overarching idea was that all of your cards, from credit and debit, to gift and security, would all be entered into the Plastc card, and with the swipe of your finger on the display, you could select which card Plastc would emulate. Need to use your business card? Swipe to it and go. Entering your office with NFC security? Same deal.
On the surface, this product sounds great, but it never stood a chance in the market. The product was based on the idea that you would still want to carry around a card that links to your phone, rather than simply use your phone. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and more have all talked about the idea of retiring the physical wallet and digitizing it, while Plastc would have required the continued usage of a specialized device for all of these features.
Despite this massive failure in concept, the company received $5 million in pre-orders in the first week, and more from private investment. After all of this money and not a single product shipped, Plastic has let all employees go and shut down operations. This leaves all paid pre-orders out in the cold, receiving nothing for their $155. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right around the corner, and the assets and liabilities of the company could end up in someone else's possession, meaning that there is a very small chance that a product could come to market, but not from this team.
It's been a long road with a lot of obstacles. The support of our amazing backers has been incredible, which makes this announcement even harder. We were so incredibly ready for production in order to hit our deadlines but without capital it is impossible for us to move forward and we will not be able to fulfill any pre-orders.
We are disappointed and emotionally distraught, and while we know this is extremely disappointing for you, we want our backers to know that we did everything we could to make Plastc Card a reality.
With more of these pre-order products failing to deliver lately, such as Lily Robotics and Skully, it should highlight the dangers of giving money to a company that does not yet have a product, but simply an idea. If the company has never successfully brought a product to market, it is very likely that they will underestimate the extreme cost and difficulty of that task. Before you back a project, either on a crowdfunding platform, or a company's website, look into their history to try and minimize your losses.
If you are a fan of Jay Z's music and a subscriber of either Spotify or Apple Music, you might have noticed a lack of his music this weekend. That is because the artist's music was removed from those services at the request of the artist. The move was done without prior communication with either service, but has been confirmed as an active decision. At this point, the only music you will find from Jay Z are singles, mostly collaborations with other artists.
It is interesting to note that, as of this writing, his catalog is still fully available on both Groove Music and Google Play Music. It could be that no request was ever made to these services to remove his content, or that the services have simply not yet responded to the request.
The move comes at an interesting time for Jay Z, as his own music streaming service, TIDAL, has struggled since before
he purchased it. The service has consistently struggled to find an audience, but has continued to stress its two major benefits: FLAC audio and exclusive content. With talk of Spotify implementing FLAC streaming, exclusives will remain as its benefit.
new investor in wireless carrier Sprint, the streaming service needs to demonstrate a confidence in themselves. Part of that outward show of confidence could be emphasizing that Jay Z himself is confident enough in the service to make his catalog exclusive, or even semi-exclusive, to TIDAL.
One of the things that the internet has created is a way for nearly anyone to say anything for very little money and make it look good. A complaint on social media in recent months has been about the "rampant spread of fake news" online. That term means different things to different people, and can range from absurdly inaccurate information to information that disagrees with the reader's preexisting beliefs on the subject.
Somehow, the blame for this "epidemic" has been placed on Facebook and Google's shoulders, despite their complete disinvolvement in the phenomenon. In fact, Google only indexes websites, indiscriminant of their content, and Facebook allows OTHER people to share the content they find. Neither company or service produces and content at all.
For better or worse, both companies have been forced to respond to a situation that could be solved by critical thinking and reading comprehension - something that this has proven most people are incapable of anymore. The two companies have responded to the scenario very differently, with both beginning their strategies this week.
Facebook seems to agree that the solution to the problem is through public education. The company has introduced its new program, the News Integrity Initiative, whose purpose is to help people spot nonsense when they read it online. This $14 million initiative is being backed not only by the social network, but The Ford Foundation, Mozilla Foundation and more.
This joint fund will not be used to create technology to remove the thought process from reading content published online. Instead, it will be used to help people learn how to think for themselves. Facebook and its partners do not want to eliminate the process of critical analysis from people's lives, as that will ultimately make the problem worse. This initiative is designed to enhance that aspect of people's lives. When you read content, you should be capable of drawing educated decisions based on what you have read - it should not be up to someone else to tell you the way it is.
Going the other way, Google has taken a different approach to the legitimacy of online content. The company has begun to label content that another organization has "fact checked" the content. This label is in addition to the existing system of labeling content as "In-Depth," "Opinion." "Blog" and "Local Source."
With this move, Google is placing a lot of trust in third parties. Google is placing the trust of its own brand in the hands of organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact. Both of these organizations have had their own difficult relationships with reality in the past. No one is infallible and everyone looks at the world through tinted glasses. Their view of reality might be tinted by their past experiences, political affiliation or religions beliefs. What is for sure is that no two people live in the same reality.
Following Facebook's path has a lot of potential for failure. People today generally dismiss bettering themselves as beneath them. We all know people who think that they are too good to learn anything new, because they already know what is going on. Having a social network try to teach them something new could come across as lecturing, and the overall goal could be a total loss.
Following Google's path is a dangerous one. Their news content could easily become politicized, rather than indiscriminant, as it is today. An opinion that differs from that of the editors of a fact checking organization could be marked as invalid, or a fact that disproves a held belief could be discounted. All of this could potentially damage the national dialog, as well as the value of Google's search results.