Tech Roundup: Everything Facebook Announced in July '18

Facebook, in addition to battling a barrage of screwups about its privacy policies and its role in facilitating the spread of fake news, is also staring at something that could hurt the social network where it matters: user growth. The company, for the latest quarter ending July, not only found its growth stalled in United States and Canada, it only added a measly 22 million daily active users worldwide, its lowest quarter-over-quarter jump since at least early 2011. Despite impressive ad revenues, the reasons for Facebook finally hitting the wall is a combination of market saturation (a critical factor that's affecting Netflix, Twitter and Snapchat as well) and younger demographic losing interest in the platform, who are turning to YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat for keeping up with friends and engage in other forms of content. The good thing for Facebook is that it also happens to own Instagram. So what's Facebook's loss and Instagram's gain may eventually turn out to be a good strategy after all. In other Facebook/ Instagram/ WhatsApp news -
  • Confirms it tracks mouse movements to help its algorithm distinguish between humans and bots.
  • Reportedly purchased viral teen polling app tbh for its "psychological tricks" to lure teens to sign up for its service, according to an internal document leaked to Buzzfeed.
  • Trials new notifications on Instagram that prompts users to check out their friends' new photo on… Facebook; tests new feature that allows public accounts to remove followers.
  • Finds evidence of Russia-linked influence campaigns targeting U.S. midterms; says it has removed 32 pages and accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour by carefully covering their tracks by using VPNs and commissioning other third-parties to run ads on their behalf.
  • Rolls out new Messenger feature that allows users to play augmented reality games with up to six friends and pulls contacts from Instagram; adds status indicators in Instagram to show when friends are online.
  • Becomes a major mobile browser in the U.S., accounting for 10% of all traffic.
  • Faces backlash after a Wall Street Journal (paywall) report details its aspirations in financial services by asking for customers' credit card transaction data, but is eventually revealed to be a partnership with banks to let users connect their accounts using chatbots in Messenger to check their account balances and receive fraud alerts.
  • Brings group audio and video calls in WhatsApp; makes first step towards monetising the chat app with APIs that allow businesses respond to messages from users for free for up to 24 hours, but charge them a fixed rate by country per message sent after that.
  • Cuts off access to about thousands of inactive apps at the end of its third party app audit that was carried out in the wake of Cambridge Analytica data scandal; suspends analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over improper handling of public user data to gauge public opinions (about issues and politicians) for clients across the world, including U.S., U.K., Russia and Turkey.
  • Adds new digital wellness features that track the amount of time spent within Facebook and Instagram apps.
  • Redesigns Facebook's navigation bar in Android and iOS to show personalised options depending on frequent usage. (How about give users a setting to decide what they want?)
  • Begins labelling message forwards in WhatsApp as "Forwarded" and introduces message forward limits of up to 20 globally (and just 5 in India) in an attempt to curb the spread of spam and misinformation; researchers from CheckPoint uncover a new security flaw (which WhatsApp has downplayed) that allows cybercriminals to intercept the messages in chats and alter them.
  • Partners with Google, Microsoft and Twitter for a Data Transfer Project to let users of these platforms seamlessly transfer data between them.
  • Shuts down drone-powerered internet project Aquila to work on its own internet satellite to provide internet access to "unserved and underserved areas throughout the world."
  • Kills Friend List Feeds (curated feeds from friends, family etc.) to focus on improving the main News Feed experience.
  • Opens its first subsidiary in China called Facebook Technology to run a startup incubator that will make small investments and give advice to local businesses.
  • Makes it possible for users to find mentors and mentees in Facebook groups to "make it easier for people who want help achieving their goals to connect with others in their community who have the experience or expertise to help."
  • Faces delay in launching WhatsApp-based payments service in India over concerns about how users' data will be stored, reports Bloomberg.