Apps

Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter announce major updates

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It’s a big day for smartphone users as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter roll out major updates to their iOS and Android apps.

60-second videos on Instagram will be available on iOS starting today, the photo-sharing app said in its blog post. This comes more than a month after it announced the expansion of video ads from 30 seconds to a full minute, giving advertisers more flexibility in time for Super Bowl 50.

Instagram first introduced videos in June 2013, which have only been limited to 15 seconds until today. The amount of time people spend watching videos on the app increased by more than 40% in the last 6 months, says the announcement.

Roll out for Android will be available in the coming months.

Snapchat expands Chat with features that best emulate face-to-face conversations like video and audio calls.

Previously, users can only video chat when both parties have each other’s Chat page open. With Chat 2.0, you can start a video chat with any of your friends, whether they are online or offline. Your friend can choose to ignore your video chat, watch, or join you the same way a video call works. You can also now send messages simultaneously during video chats.

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If video calling is not for you, audio calls are also now available and will work the same way as video chatting. Chat 2.0 also added GIF-like video notes that appear as round thumbnails and audio notes, much like voice messages, that you can leave for your friend to see or listen to when he comes online.

Or maybe stickers can say it best for you? Snapchat also introduces virtual stickers to its chat just like the ones offered by messaging apps LINE, Viber, and Messenger. Typing keywords like ‘love’ will search the Snapchat trove for matching stickers you can use. While searching is more convenient, switching from one sticker pack to another needs more effort – you’ll have to scroll down endlessly to find the sticker you’re looking for.

Snapchat also introduces Auto-Advance Stories. Watching your friends stories is now made easier, with each one loading automatically right after the other. This eliminates having to swipe down to exit and selecting another story to watch.

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Twitter makes images more accessible for the visually impaired by adding alternative text or alt text.

An add description button will appear on each photo you add to a tweet, allowing for up to 420 characters that should help describe and convey the same information as the image.

Adding alt text for images is the first principle of web accessibility according to WebAIM. It essentially replaces images for people with visual disabilities, so they can have access to them through screen readers or braille displays.

To enable this feature, go to your iOS or Android app’s accessibility settings.

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[irp posts=”10832″ name=”WhatsApp copies Snapchat”]

Apps

TikTok officially launches a dislike button

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Months ago, TikTok started experimenting with a dislike button for the platform’s comments. Much like other platforms, the company is creating a way to promote healthier discourse. However, the experiment never had a launch date all those months ago. Finally, after months in development, TikTok is finally ready to launch the dislike button.

Through the platform’s official Twitter account, TikTok is releasing the dislike button. This time, the platform has explained how the feature will work.

As detailed before, users will not see how many dislikes a comment has. Users will only have access to the button itself to dislike and retract dislikes. Only TikTok itself can see the number of dislikes. The platform will then use the information to filer through potential hate speech and harassment that they might have missed the first go-around.

By hiding the number of dislikes, TikTok hopes that users will not be tempted to abuse the dislike button to brigade against just simply unpopular opinions.

While moderation will help the platform with a persistent problem in social media, the company does have other issues. One current problem — that has plagued the platform for years now — is the issue of China’s potential access to data from users in other countries.

SEE ALSO: TikTok is experimenting with a dislike button for comments

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Instagram can soon detect nude photos in your DMs

Currently testing

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One of the constant risks of online communication is the unexpected and unsolicited appearance of an unsightly growth emanating from a stranger’s pants. Unfortunately, not a lot of platforms offer anything preventative, outside of just blocking the offender. Testing a new tool, Instagram is finally implementing a way to automatically detect and block nudity from your DMs.

The upcoming feature was first spotted by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi on Twitter. According to early screenshots, Instagram will hide any suspected nude photos behind a prompt. Users can then choose to access the photo despite the warning. Notably, users can turn this feature off entirely.

Shortly after the leak, Meta confirmed the feature’s development through a statement issued to The Verge. While the feature is still in development, Instagram is still working on ways to protect both the sender’s identity and the recipient’s privacy.

Though the screenshots look conclusive, the feature has yet to reveal how the app can detect genitalia. A portion of the warning says that “technology on your device” is responsible. If the feature is indeed using native technology, Instagram has some work to do to assure users that it can’t store or see anyone’s nude photos.

SEE ALSO: Instagram bans Pornhub

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Spotify adds over 300,000 audiobooks to library

Available for purchase and offline listening

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After a massive push into the world of podcasts, it’s only natural that Spotify would soon look at audiobooks with a hungry eye. In the United States, the streaming platform has added a huge helping of audiobooks available for purchase.

It’s been a long time coming, too. Last year, the platform added a variety of books from the public domain for free. Narrated by famous actors like Forest Whitaker and Hilary Swank, the content came to every user, free or paying.

Now, Spotify is adding over 300,000 titles to its library. Starting today, users in the United States will have access to a dedicated section for the format. Interested users will then be led to an external link where they can purchase the book for themselves.

For consumption, Spotify will enable users to save their audiobook for offline listening. It will also allow users to control the speed of the book’s playback.

Prior to the addition, Spotify already had a niche community for audiobook lovers. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find readings of popular titles outside of the platform’s public domain offerings. You might find them lurking as albums or as podcasts. Now, however, it’s official. If you want an actual audiobook to listen to, you can choose to skip over a subscription to other audiobook platforms like Audible.

Besides audiobooks, the platform has also expanded into other services related to audio entertainment. One recent example sees Spotify selling tickets to live events directly from the service.

SEE ALSO: Spotify is now adding free audiobooks

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