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Instagram actively testing Reels to take on TikTok

Short 15-second videos

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Short videos under 15 seconds have gained massive popularity thanks to platforms like TikTok. Facebook-owned Instagram has been eyeing this space for a while and has reportedly expanded testing its Reels feature in India.

According to Business Insider, the Reels feature is being actively tested in India. This only after just a few days after TikTok was banned in the country. Furthermore, Instagram has confirmed it’ll be launching the new feature in more than 50 countries within weeks. Amid TikTok’s uncertainty, Reels has immense potential to be a worthy alternative.

The app will let the user record 15-second videos, add background soundtrack, as well as include a range of effects.

TikTok has come under immense pressure globally due to its poor data collection policies. The app was recently caught snooping around the user’s clipboard after Apple updated iOS’s privacy features. US lawmakers are worried about user data being collected.

However, Facebook itself is no saint when it comes to handling private user data. The company has a history of mishaps and the platform hasn’t learned anything from its mistakes.

The feature is currently active in Brazil and acts as an extension to Stories. You can find it in Instagram’s camera section, just beside the Boomerang and Super Zoom option.

The company had previously launched a separate app called Lasso. However, it was phased out and Reels was integrated into the Instagram app.

The sudden ban of TikTok has created a vacuum in India and it’s obvious Facebook wants to quickly bridge the gap by providing an alternate service.

Facebook and Instagram recently partnered with Saregama music label in India to provide access to a music library. The Indian government has also launched an app challenge that aims to encourage domestic developers and companies to take advantage of the recent ban.

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US wants to secure itself from Chinese companies, apps via a Clean Network

An American internet firewall?

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ByteDance-owned TikTok is the hottest topic in the news right now due to its Chinese roots. The US wants to distance itself from these Chinese companies and apps to ensure there are no data backdoors or infiltrations. It intends to do so with a new concept dubbed Clean Network.

The US wants to establish a clear line that ensures data of American citizens doesn’t land in Chinese hands. President Trump has already threatened to ban TikTok and ByteDance is scrambling to find a taker for its US, New Zealand, Canada, and Australian services.

“With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for the Chinese Communist Party content censorship,” Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said. He added that apps from China threaten privacy and spread malware, propaganda, and disinformation.

The Clean Network will ensure there are no Chinese components or devices in the telecom network. Similarly, the US will try to prevent China from accessing raw data from submarine cables that power the internet. For cloud setups, it’ll ensure that data of American citizens are saved on local infrastructure, avoiding Chinese players like Alibaba Cloud.

Telecom giant Huawei has been under the scanner since last year and the recent developments are definitely not in its favor. The Chinese phone maker is barred from using Google Mobile Services on Android, derailing its dominance on the global stage. With the ongoing hostility, other countries like India have also taken a hard stance against Chinese companies.

The US is also lobbying its strategic allies to ditch Chinese equipment citing security and privacy concerns. Practically, Huawei is the most hit in terms of revenue lost, followed by other companies like ZTE. While ByteDance can save some of its investment in TikTok thanks to a possible takeover by Microsoft, Huawei has no such cushion available.

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Google adds Safe Folder to Files app

For more privacy and security

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Have you ever had to lend your phone to a friend or family member for a quick minute, only to realize that — intentionally or not — they have started browsing on your phone. Smartphones are personal devices, and thus, might contain files that you don’t exactly want other people seeing. This is the situation that Google is trying to address with the Safe Folder.

Safe Folder is a secure 4-digit PIN-encrypted folder. It helps users store important documents, images, videos and audio files securely. This helps in keeping their personal files safe from being accessed by someone else.

The folder won’t allow users to take screenshots or screen recordings of its contents. It’s also locked as soon as users switch away from the app.  This means no content is accessible in the background and the PIN is required upon re-entry to the Files app.

Google didn’t just come up with this out of the blue. They conducted research and found that in certain countries — especially those with limited smartphone access — device sharing is a common occurrence.

Asked if this is a feature that can be extended to apps installed on the phone too, the Google representatives discussing the Safe Folder feature said they understand the need but can’t speak to any implementation or development of such.

That said, this is still a welcome addition for anyone who has ever encountered this scenario.

SEE ALSO: Nearby Share which is ‘Google’s AirDrop’ now rolling out

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Nearby Share which is ‘Google’s AirDrop’ now rolling out

Now supporting Pixel and Samsung phones

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After a long time in development, Google’s Nearby Share feature is now available on some Pixel and Samsung phones. The file-sharing feature enables direct transfer of files locally, improving speed as well as ease-of-use.

Apple’s iOS and macOS have a feature called AirDrop for a very long time now. Using local WiFi protocol, any large file can be swiftly transferred within the ecosystem. Android users have long been asking for a similar feature and it’s now available on a few phones.

If you want to share a file, just tap share, and wait for the nearby device to show-up. Select the device and the file will be off within a few seconds. This eliminates the need to upload the file on a cloud and later download it on another device. Bluetooth connection is radically slower than WiFi protocol and hence cannot be used for larger files.

The concept is on the same lines as third-party apps like Xender or Me Share. But, with a direct app from Google, Nearby Share can become a deeply rooted part of the operating system, much like the Play Store.

The receiving device will always have the option to “accept” or “decline” the file, so files are never transferred without explicit confirmation. However, the best part about Nearby Share is its cross-platform compatibility. It’ll work with Chromebooks, Windows, and Chrome browser. iOS support isn’t mentioned yet.

Nearby Share leverages Bluetooth and location, along with WebRTC, or peer-to-peer WiFi sharing. Lastly, the feature is backed by Google Play Services, so Huawei phones will again miss out on a simple app.

Although, Chinese tech giants like OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, realme, and more have created a consortium that shall support a similar file sharing app seamlessly across all their devices. Google is quite late to the game and these Android phone makers were kind of tired of waiting.

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