Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work.

Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being protected by data lock-in that traps users because it’s tough to switch services. The DTP could potentially offer a solution to a major problem with social networks I detailed in April: you can’t find your friends from one app on another. We’ve asked Facebook for details on if and how you’ll be able to transfer your social connections and friends’ contact info which it’s historically hoarded.

From porting playlists in music streaming services to health data from fitness trackers to our reams of photos and videos, the DTP could be a boon for startups. Incumbent tech giants maintain a huge advantage in popularizing new functionality because they instantly interoperate with a user’s existing data rather than making them start from scratch. Even if a social networking startup builds a better location sharing feature, personalized avatar, or payment system, it might be a lot easier to use Facebook’s clone of it because that’s where your profile, friends, and photos live.

If the DTP gains industry-wide momentum and its founding partners cooperate in good faith rather than at some bare minimum level of involvement, it could lower the barrier for people to experiment with new apps. Meanwhile, the tech giants could argue that the government shouldn’t step in to regulate them or break them up because DTP means users are free to choose whichever app best competes for their data and attention.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

WhatsApp limits message forwarding in bid to reduce spam and misinformation

WhatsApp limits message forwarding in bid to reduce spam and misinformation

In a bid to cut down on the spread of false information and spam, WhatsApp recently added labels that indicate when a message has been forwarded. Now the company is sharpening that strategy by imposing limits on how many groups a message can be sent on to.

Originally, users could forward messages on to multiple groups, but a new trial will see that forwarding limited to 20 groups worldwide. In India, however, which is WhatsApp’s largest market with 200 million users, the limit will be just five. In addition, a ‘quick forward’ option that allowed users to pass on images and videos to others rapidly is being removed from India.

“We believe that these changes — which we’ll continue to evaluate — will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” the company said in a blog post.

The changes are designed to help reduce the amount of information that goes viral on the service, although clearly this isn’t a move that will end the problem altogether.

The change is in direct response to a series of incidents in India. The BBC recently wrote about an incident which saw one man dead and two others severely beaten after rumors of their efforts to abduct children from a village spread on WhatsApp. Reportedly 17 other people have been killed in the past year under similar circumstances, with police saying false rumors had spread via WhatsApp.

In response, WhatsApp — which is of course owned by Facebook has bought full-page newspaper ads to warn about false information on its service.

Beyond concern about firing up vigilantes, the saga may also spill into India’s upcoming national general election next year. Times Internet today reports that Facebook and WhatsApp plan to introduce a fake news verification system that it used recently in Mexico to help combat spam messages and the spreading of incorrect news and information. The paper said that the companies have already held talks with India’s Election Commission.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook was never ephemeral, and now its Stories won’t have to be

Facebook was never ephemeral, and now its Stories won’t have to be

Before Snapchat made social media about just today, Facebook made it about forever. The 2011 “Timeline” redesign of the profile and keyword search unlocked your past, encouraging you to curate colorful posts about your life’s top moments. That was actually an inspiration for Snapchat, as its CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in its IPO announcement that “We learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence.”

Now Facebook is finding a middle ground by optionally unlocking the history of your Stories that otherwise disappear after 24 hours. Facebook will soon begin testing Stories Highlights, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Similar to Instagram Stories Highlights, it will let you pick your favorite expired photos and videos, compile them into themed collections with titles and cover images and display them on your profile.

The change further differentiates Facebook Stories from the Snapchat Stories feature it copied. It’s smart for Facebook, because highly compelling content was disintegrating each day, dragging potential ad views to the grave with it. And for its 150 million daily users, it could make the time we spend obsessing over social media Stories a wiser investment. If you’re going to interrupt special moments to capture them with your phone, the best ones should still pay dividends of self-expression and community connection beyond a day later.

Facebook Stories Highlights was first spotted by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong, who specializes in generating screenshots of unreleased features out of the APK files of Android apps. TechCrunch inquired about the feature, and a Facebook spokesperson provided this statement: “People have told us they want a way to highlight and save the Stories that matter most to them. We’ll soon start testing highlights on Facebook – a way to choose Stories to stay on your profile, making it easier to express who you are through memories.”

These Highlights will appear on a horizontal scroll bar on your profile, and you’ll be able to see how many people viewed them just like with your Stories. They’ll default to being viewable by all your friends, but you can also restrict Highlights to certain people or make them public. The latter could be useful for public figures trying to build an audience, or anyone who thinks their identity is better revealed through their commentary on the world that Stories’ creative tools offer, opposed to some canned selfies and profile pics.

Facebook paved the way for Highlights by launching the Stories Archive in May. This automatically backs up your Stories privately to your profile so you don’t have to keep the saved versions on your phone, wasting storage space. That Archive is the basis for being able to choose dead Stories to show off in your Highlights. Together, they’ll encourage users to shoot silly, off-the-cuff content without that “fear of permanence,” but instead with the opportunity. If you want to spend a half hour decorating a Facebook Story with stickers and drawing and captions and augmented reality, you know it won’t be in vain.

Facebook Stories constantly adds new features, like this Blur effect I spotted today

While many relentlessly criticize Facebook for stealing the Stories from Snapchat, its rapid iteration and innovation on the format means the two companies’ versions are sharply diverging. Snapchat still lacks a Highlights-esque feature despite launching its Archive-style Memories back in July 2016. Instead of enhancing the core Stories product that made the app a teen phenomenon, it’s concentrated on Maps, gaming, Search, professional Discover content, and a disastrously needless redesign.

Facebook’s family of apps seized on the stagnation of Snapchat Stories and its neglect of the international market. It copied whatever was working while developing new features like Instagram’s Superzoom and Focus portrait mode, the ability to reshare public feed posts as quote tweet-style Stories and the addition of licensed music soundtracks. While writing this article, I even discovered a new Facebook Stories option called Blur that lets you shroud a moving subject with a dream-like haze, as demonstrated with my dumb face here.

The relentless drive to add new options and smooth out performance has paid off. Now Instagram has 400 million daily Stories users, WhatsApp has 450 million and Facebook has 150 million, while Snapchat’s whole app has just 191 million. As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom admitted about Snapchat, “They deserve all the credit.” Still, it hasn’t had a megahit since Stories and AR puppy masks. The company’s zeal for inventing new ways to socialize is admirable, though not always a sound business strategy.

At first, the Stories war was a race, to copy functionality and invade new markets. Instagram and now Facebook making ephemerality optional for their Stories signals a second phase of the war. The core idea of broadcasting content that disappears after a day has become commoditized and institutionalized. Now the winner will be declared not as who invented Stories, but who perfected them.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Instagram’s Do Not Disturb and ‘Caught Up’ deter overgramming

Instagram’s Do Not Disturb and ‘Caught Up’ deter overgramming

Instagram is turning the Time Well Spent philosophy into features to help users avoid endless scrolling and distraction by notifications. Today, Instagram is rolling out its “You’re All Caught Up – You’ve seen all new posts from the past 2 days” warning in the feed, which TechCrunch broke the news about in May. Past that notice will only be posts that iOS and Android users have already seen or that were posted more than 48 hours ago. This will help Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users stop fiendishly scrolling in search of new posts scattered by the algorithm. While sorting the feed has made it much better at displaying the most interesting posts, it also can make people worry they’ve missed something. This warning should give them peace of mind.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch has learned that both Facebook and Instagram are prototyping Do Not Disturb features that let users shut off notifications from the apps for 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, eight hours, one day or until they’re turned back on manually. WhatsApp Beta and Matt Navarra spotted the Instagram and Facebook Do Not Disturb features. Facebook is also considering allowing users to turn off sound or vibration on its notifications. Both apps have these Do Not Disturb features buried in their code and may have begun testing them.

Both Facebook and Instagram declined to comment on building new Do Not Disturb features. “You’re All Caught Up” could prevent extra scrolling that doesn’t provide much value that could make Instagram show up atop your list of biggest time sinks. And an in-app Do Not Disturb mode with multiple temporary options could keep you from permanently disabling Instagram or Facebook.

 

We referenced Instagram Do Not Disturb in our scoop about Instagram building a Usage Insights dashboard detailing how much time you spent on the app. Both Facebook and Instagram are preparing these screens that show you how much time you’ve spent on their apps per day, in average over the past week and that let you set a daily limit after which you’ll get a notification reminding you to look up from your screen.

When we first reported on Usage Insights, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tweeted a link to the article, confirming that Instagram was getting behind the Time Well Spent movement. “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”

Now we’re seeing this perspective manifest itself in Instagram’s product. Instagram’s interest conveniently comes just as Apple and Google are releasing screen time and digital well-being tools as part of the next versions of their mobile operating systems. These will show you which apps you’re spending the most time in, and set limits on their use. By self-policing now, Instagram and Facebook could avoid being outed by iOS and Android as the enemies of your attention.

In other recent Instagram news:

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook makes Stories another Like contest with emoji reactions

Facebook makes Stories another Like contest with emoji reactions

Ready to scrounge for Likes on your Stories too? Facebook Stories can feel like a ghost town even though it has 150 million daily users. So Facebook is trying to get more people who view your ephemeral content on its Snapchat clone to speak up so you keep posting. Today Facebook is bringing its Like, Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry and Love “Reactions” from News Feed to Stories, replacing the generic emoji quick replies it previously offered. It’s also adding two “interactive stickers” — a flame and a laughing smile — you can add to your own Stories that when tapped by a friend, shimmer and notify you. 

To the same effect, Facebook is letting people start a group reply to your Story with multiple friends that launches a group thread on Messenger. And when you tap to see who’s viewed your Facebook Story, the viewer list will highlight people who sent reactions or Messenger replies.

Combined, these four new ways to give feedback on Stories should make it feel less like you’re posting into a black hole. Facebook has found great success with its Like button and other Reactions for News Feed posts and Instagram’s Heart button. They both trigger a dopamine hit of self-satisfaction that encourages you to continue sharing that’s more visceral than just knowing someone watched your Story.

I wonder if a Like button will come to Instagram Stories, especially after former Facebook VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri was recently named VP of product for Instagram.

Oh, and just in case Stories wasn’t turning into a vanity contest already, according to Mari Smith via Matt Navarra, Facebook is now testing a Selfie mode in the Stories camera with a Soft Focus option similar to the recent Instagram Focus launch.

 

When Snapchat invented the Stories format, it purposefully left out a Like button because it would make sharing into a competition where users craved the binary feedback and posted whatever was most popular.

In fact, when I interviewed Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in 2016 around the launch of Instagram Stories he told me, “We definitely asked ourselves what if we removed Likes from Instagram? What would happen? … If you have Likes … you get certain behaviors, and the behavior we wanted was for you to be able to share as much as you wanted. And the lack of Likes in this space lets you let down your guard.”

Now Facebook is changing that fundamental principle of Stories, which could give us a whole new quantified measure of our worth to turn into an addiction and coerce us to share not what’s authentic but what’s Likeable.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook tests 30-day keyword snoozing to fight spoilers, triggers

Facebook tests 30-day keyword snoozing to fight spoilers, triggers

Don’t want to know the ending to a World Cup game or Avengers movie until you’ve watched it, or just need to quiet an exhausting political topic like “Trump”? Facebook is now testing the option to “snooze” specific keywords so you won’t see them for 30 days in News Feed or Groups. The feature is rolling out to a small percentage of users today. It could make people both more comfortable browsing the social network when they’re trying to avoid something, and not feel guilty posting about sensitive topics.

The feature was first spotted in the Facebook app’s code by Chris Messina on Sunday, who told TechCrunch he found a string for “snooze keywords for 30 days.” We reached out to Facebook on Monday, which didn’t initially respond, but last night provided details we could publish at 5am this morning ahead of an official announcement later today. The test follows the rollout of snoozing people, Pages and Groups from last December.

To snooze a keyword, you first have to find a post that includes it. That kind of defeats the whole purpose, as you might run into the spoiler you didn’t want to see. But when asked about that problem, a Facebook spokesperson told me the company is looking into adding a preemptive snooze option in the next few weeks, potentially in News Feed Preferences. It’s also considering a recurring snooze list so you could easily re-enable hiding your favorite sports team before any game you’ll have to watch on delay.

For now, though, when you see the word, you can hit the drop-down arrow on the post, which will reveal an option to “snooze keywords in this post.” Tapping that reveals a list of nouns from the post you might want to nix, without common words like “the” in the way. So if you used the feature on a post that said “England won its World Cup game against Tunisia! Yes!” the feature would pull out “World Cup,” “England,” and “Tunisia.” Select all that you want to snooze, and posts containing them will be hidden for a month. Currently, the feature only works on text, not images, and won’t suggest synonyms you might want to snooze as well.

The spokesperson says the feature “was something that kept coming up” in Facebook interviews with users. The option applies to any organic content, but you can’t block ads with it, so if you snoozed “Deadpool” you wouldn’t see posts from friends about the movie but still might see ads to buy tickets. Facebook’s excuse for this is that ads belong to “a separate team, separate algorithm,” but surely it just doesn’t want to open itself up to users mass-blocking its revenue driver. The spokesperson also said that snoozing isn’t currently being used for other content and ad targeting purposes.

We asked why users can’t permanently mute keywords like Twitter launched in November 2016, or the way Instagram launched keyword blocking for your posts’ comments in September 2016. Facebook says, “If we’re hearing from people that they want more or less time,” that might get added as the feature rolls out beyond a test. There is some sense to defaulting to only temporary muting, as users might simply forget they blocked their favorite sports team before a big game, and then wouldn’t see it mentioned forever after.

But when it comes to abuse, permanent muting is something Facebook really should offer. Instead, it’s relied on users flagging abuse like racial slurs, and it recently revealed its content moderation guidelines. Some topics that are fine for others could be tough for certain people to see, though, and helping users prevent trauma probably deserves to be prioritized above stopping reality TV spoilers.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook permanently grounds its Aquila solar-powered internet plane

Facebook permanently grounds its Aquila solar-powered internet plane
Facebook has announced that it will no longer pursue its dream of building a gigantic, solar-powered plane to blast internet to underserved communities via laser. Surprisingly, it’s just not practical.
In a news post on the company’s coding sub-site, Facebook’s Yael Maguire announced that “we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgewater.” Closing the facility comes with the loss of 16 jobs specific to the development and maintenance of the aircraft, the company confirmed to TechCrunch, though plenty relating to other aspects of the project were unaffected.
The company will continue its work with partners, such as Airbus, to help advance “high altitude platform stations” (HAPS) like the Aquila.
The program has been underway since 2014 (the acquisition of Ascenta seems to have been its real start) and public since 2015, and had its first test flight in 2016 — resulting in a “structural failure,” hard landing and subsequent NTSB investigation. The second test flight was better, but far from perfect.
The craft itself, an enormous flying V that stayed aloft at extremely low power draw replenished by solar cells, seems to have worked quite well, actually, despite a few hiccups. But Facebook isn’t the only company looking to get into low-power, high-altitude communications craft.
“As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” wrote Maguire.
Considering the considerable scale of investment required to build a craft like this from scratch, and the vast gap in expertise and core competencies between a social network and a veteran aerospace company, it’s not surprising that Facebook decided to cut its losses.
The decision was preceded by a report from Business Insider that the project had more or less stalled: its head and chief engineer left last month after, from reading between the lines, efforts to double down on the project with a redesign and private hangar were rejected.
The Aquila plan, like other ambitious connectivity ideas, some still in the offing, was conceived in a period one might call “peak Facebook,” when it was at the height of its growth, before it attracted nearly the level of criticism it faces today, and when its goals were lofty in several ways.
No doubt the company plans to pursue “the next billion” in a way that isn’t quite so costly or unprecedented. Maguire does indicate that work will continue, just not in such a direct way:
Going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus on HAPS connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries. On the policy front, we’ll be working on a proposal for 2019 World Radio Conference to get more spectrum for HAPS, and we’ll be actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the US and internationally.
It’s hard to fault Facebook for its ambition, though even at the time there were plenty who objected to this extremely techno-utopian idea of how internet could be delivered to isolated communities. Surely, they said, and will continue to say, that money would be better spent laying fiber or establishing basic infrastructure. We’ll see.
I asked Facebook for more information, such as what projects specifically it will be backing, and what will happen to the IP and hardware the Aquila program comprised.
Although a Facebook representative declined to answer my specific questions, they emphasized the fact that the Aquila project was both successful and wide-ranging; although an actual aircraft will no longer be part of it (that duty falls to actual aerospace companies), there were many other advances in transmission, propulsion and so on that are still very much in active development. What exactly the company plans to do with those is still unclear, but we can probably expect news on that front over the next few months as the program adjusts focus.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Facebook mistakenly leaked developer analytics reports to testers

Facebook mistakenly leaked developer analytics reports to testers

Set the “days without a Facebook privacy problem” counter to zero. This week, an alarmed developer contacted TechCrunch, informing us that their Facebook App Analytics weekly summary email had been delivered to someone outside their company. It contains sensitive business information, including weekly average users, page views and new users.

Forty-three hours after we contacted Facebook about the issue, the social network now confirms to TechCrunch that 3 percent of apps using Facebook Analytics had their weekly summary reports sent to their app’s testers, instead of only the app’s developers, admins and analysts.

Testers are often people outside of a developer’s company. If the leaked info got to an app’s competitors, it could provide them an advantage. At least they weren’t allowed to click through to view more extensive historical analytics data on Facebook’s site.

Facebook tells us it has fixed the problem and no personally identifiable information or contact info was improperly disclosed. It plans to notify all impacted developers about the leak today and has already begun.

Update: 1pm Pacific: TechCrunch was provided with this statement from a Facebook spokesperson:

“Due to an error in our email delivery system, weekly business performance summaries we send to developers about their account were also sent to a small group of those developer’s app testers. No personal information about people on Facebook was shared. We’re sorry for the error and have updated our system to prevent it from happening again.”

Below you can find the email the company is sending:

Subject line: We recently resolved an error with your weekly summary email

We wanted to let you know about a recent error where a summary e-mail from Facebook Analytics about your app was sent to testers of your app ‘[APP NAME WILL BE DYNAMICALLY INSERTED HERE]’. As you know, we send weekly summary emails to keep you up to date with some of your top-level metrics — these emails go to people you’ve identified as Admins, Analysts and Developers. You can also add Testers to your account, people designated by you to help test your apps when they’re in development.

We mistakenly sent the last weekly email summary to your Testers, in addition to the usual group of Admins, Analysts and Developers who get updates. Testers were only able to see the high-level summary information in the email, and were not able to access any other account information; if they clicked “View Dashboard” they did not have access to any of your Facebook Analytics information.

We apologize for the error and have made updates to prevent this from happening again.

One affected developer told TechCrunch “Not sure why it would ever be appropriate to send business metrics to an app user. When I created my app (in beta) I added dozens of people as testers as it only meant they could login to the app…not access info!” They’re still waiting for the disclosure from Facebook.

Facebook wouldn’t disclose a ballpark number of apps impacted by the error. Last year it announced 1 million apps, sites and bots were on Facebook Analytics. However, this issue only affected apps, and only 3 percent of them.

The mistake comes just weeks after a bug caused 14 million users’ Facebook status update composers to change their default privacy setting to public. And Facebook has had problems with misdelivering business information before. In 2014, Facebook accidentally sent advertisers receipts for other business’ ad campaigns, causing significant confusion. The company has also misreported metrics about Page reach and more on several occasions. Though user data didn’t leak and today’s issue isn’t as severe as others Facebook has dealt with, developers still consider their business metrics to be private, making this a breach of that privacy.

While Facebook has been working diligently to patch app platform privacy holes since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, removing access to many APIs and strengthening human reviews of apps, issues like today’s make it hard to believe Facebook has a proper handle on the data of its 2 billion users.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook prototypes tool to show how many minutes you spend on it

Facebook prototypes tool to show how many minutes you spend on it

Are you ready for some scary numbers? After months of Mark Zuckerberg talking about how “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits,” Facebook is preparing to turn that commitment into a Time Well Spent product.

Buried in Facebook’s Android app is an unreleased “Your Time on Facebook” feature. It shows the tally of how much time you spent on the Facebook app on your phone on each of the last seven days, and your average time spent per day. It lets you set a daily reminder that alerts you when you’ve reached your self-imposed limit, plus a shortcut to change your Facebook notification settings.

Facebook confirmed the feature development to TechCrunch, with a spokesperson telling us, “We’re always working on new ways to help make sure people’s time on Facebook is time well spent.”

The feature could help Facebook users stay mindful of how long they’re staring at the social network. This self-policing could be important since both iOS and Android are launching their own screen time monitoring dashboards that reveal which apps are dominating your attention and can alert you or lock you out of apps when you hit your time limit. When Apple demoed the feature at WWDC, it used Facebook as an example of an app you might use too much.

Images of Facebook’s digital wellbeing tool come courtesy of our favorite tipster and app investigator Jane Manchun Wong. She previously helped TechCrunch scoop the development of features like Facebook Avatars, Twitter encrypted DMs and Instagram Usage Insights — a Time Well Spent feature that looks very similar to this one on Facebook.

Our report on Instagram Usage Insights led the sub-company’s CEO Kevin Systrom to confirm the upcoming feature, saying “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.”

Facebook has already made changes to its News Feed algorithm designed to reduce the presence of low-quality but eye-catching viral videos. That led to Facebook’s first-ever usage decline in North America in Q4 2017, with a loss of 700,000 daily active users in the region. Zuckerberg said on an earnings call that this change “reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.”

Zuckerberg has been adamant that all time spent on Facebook isn’t bad. Instead, as we argued in our piece “The difference between good and bad Facebooking,” its asocial, zombie-like passive browsing and video watching that’s harmful to people’s wellbeing, while active sharing, commenting and chatting can make users feel more connected and supported.

But that distinction isn’t visible in this prototype of the “Your Time on Facebook” tool, which appears to treat all time spent the same. If Facebook was able to measure our active versus passive time on its app and impress the health difference, it could start to encourage us to either put down the app or use it to communicate directly with friends when we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling the feed or enviously viewing people’s photos.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

FB Messenger auto-translation chips at US/Mexico language wall

FB Messenger auto-translation chips at US/Mexico language wall

Facebook’s been criticized for tearing America apart, but now it will try to help us forge bonds with our neighbors to the south. Facebook Messenger will now offer optional auto-translation of English to Spanish and vice-versa for all users in the United States and Mexico. It’s a timely launch given the family separation troubles at the nation’s border.

The feature could facilitate cross-border and cross-language friendships, business and discussion that might show people in the two countries that deep down we’re all just human. It could be especially powerful for U.S. companies looking to use Messenger for conversational commerce without having to self-translate everything.

Facebook tells me “we were pleased with the results” following a test using AI to translate the language pair in Messenger for U.S. Facebook Marketplace users in April.

Now when users receive a message that is different from their default language, Messenger’s AI assistant M will ask if they want it translated. All future messages in that thread will be auto-translated unless a user turns it off. Facebook plans to bring the feature to more language pairs and countries soon.

A Facebook spokesperson tells me, “The goal with this launch is really to enable people to communicate with people they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, in a way that is natural and seamless.”

Starting in 2011, Facebook began offering translation technology for News Feed posts and comments. For years it relied on Microsoft Bing’s translation technology, but Facebook switched to its own stack in mid-2016. By then it was translating 2 billion pieces of text a day for 800 million users.

Conversational translation is a lot tougher than social media posts, though. When we chat with friends, it’s more colloquial and full of slang. We’re also usually typing in more of a hurry and can be less accurate. But if Facebook can reliably figure out what we’re saying, Messenger could become the modern-day Babel Fish. At 2016’s F8, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg threw shade on Donald Trump saying, “instead of building walls, we can build bridges.” Trump still doesn’t have that wall, and now Zuck is building a bridge with technology.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch