Facebook Reader Could Entrench The Social Media Giant in Mobile

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Photo via Flickr / Scott Beale

Since Google said it would shut down its RSS reader, other web and app companies have started jockeying for position within the space. The latest announcement came from Facebook, which believes that a visual feed reader will not only make the company relevant in the consumer mobile market (i.e. comparable to apps like Flipboard) but it will open up more advertising pathways in the process.

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Instagram video a week later: Vine falling fast

vine-instagram-shares

According to MarketingLand using Topsy’s free analytics tool, Twitter users are sharing Vine videos less and less since Instagram introduced video to its app last Thursday. The amount of Vine shares on Twitter took a significant dip after the June 20th announcement and has not recovered since.

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Wrapp secures $15M in Series B round

Stockholm-based social gifting app Wrapp has announced Thursday that it has raised $15 million in series B funding. The company will receive continued support from Series A investors Greylock Partners, Atomico and Creandum. It has also added new investors: American Express, Qualcomm Ventures, and SEB Private Equity.

Wrapp plans to use the new funding to continue expanding by hiring staff in San Francisco. According to its press release, Wrapp currently has 200 national and multinational retailers using its platform in eight different countries.

Since the company first expanded to the U.S. in May 2012, it has said that users have distributed nearly 15 million digital gift cards through its iOS and Android applications. According to AppData, the application currently estimated to have over 821,900 monthly active users and is currently ranked 74 among the lifestyle applications leaderboard on Android.

Wrapp Co-Founder and CEO Hjalmar Winbladh said in the press release, ”Over the coming year we’re confident social shopping will become a highly targeted and personal media channel connecting consumers with brands they love, and we want to become the default destination for that.”

Google closes on deal for Waze

Waze logoGoogle has acquired crowd-sourced mapping application, Waze, as announced from the company’s official blog.

It was long rumored that both Facebook and Apple have shown interest in acquiring the Israel based startup, but have been beat out by Google. While acquisition price is still up in the air, it has been speculated at 1 billion to 1.3 billion dollars.

The Waze product development team will still operate separately in Israel for the time being and plans on using each mapping application complementary to each other. Google also plans on focusing on the Waze community who is seen as the “DNA of [the] app”.

“The Waze community and its dedicated team have created a great source of timely road corrections and updates,” said Google’s Brian McClendon, Vice President of Geo, in a statement. ”We welcome them to Google and look forward to working with them in our ongoing effort to make a comprehensive, accurate and useful map of the world.”

According to AppData, Waze is currently the #2 of top free navigation app for iOS. With Google Maps” at number one of top free navigation apps, Google has taken a significant stronghold of the navigation app landscape.

5th Planet Games launches Dawn of the Dragons for Android

5th Planet Games logoGame developer 5th Planet Games today launched Dawn of the Dragons for Android in North America (and worldwide later this week). The social MMO has come along way for the indie developer who first launched the title on Facebook back in May 2010, and later released for Kongregate and Armor Games.

We first heard about Dawn of Dragons flying its way to mobile for iOS in January, and then the game hit the Apple App Store weeks later in February (review). Chief mobile officer Rob Carroll told us that there’s no differences between the iOS and Android versions, but users can play simultaneously with other players on either platform. As for cross-platform play between the mobile offerings and the web-based versions, 5th Planet Games decided to not let the mobile and web versions talk to each other due to the game being developed in Adobe Air and to allow the mobile version to have its own exclusive content. Carroll also adds the Android port was published in partnership with 5th Planet Games by an unnamed publisher (the studio will announce details about the publisher soon). (more…)

Social Point’s Andrés Bou on Dragon City’s success on mobile, sticking with the Facebook platform and plans for 2013

Social Point founders

Today’s Q&A is with Barcelona-based mobile-social game developer Social Point.

Inside Mobile Apps: Could you talk about the importance of nailing cross-platform gameplay such as allowing users to pick up and play where they left off on either platform?

Andrés Bou, Social Point co-founder and co-CEO (pictured left with co-founder and co-CEO Horacio Martos): Offering a full cross-platform experience has been a core strategy of Social Point this year. With access through both Facebook and mobile, our users are able to play the same game wherever they are, without missing a beat. Dragon City players can now enjoy the game from their phones, when they are commuting to work, at their offices or back home on their tablets, curled up on the sofa.

From a business point of view, giving users the opportunity to play on multiple platforms increases their time spent in the game and the likelihood that they come back every day. Retention (and proportionally monetization) increases significantly.

Additionally, we value the social component that Facebook integration offers because it’s closely linked to our company’s philosophy. (more…)

Facebook releases native share dialog for iOS developers, allows Open Graph sharing without login and permissions

iosFacebook today announced the availability of a new native share dialog for iOS, which will give developers an easy way to incorporate Facebook sharing — including Open Graph actions — in their apps.

The mobile share dialog is a standard tool that enables users to post something back to Facebook. Similar to the Like button, the share dialog can be implemented with a small amount of code across any app and it works even if users haven’t logged into the app using Facebook. The dialog includes support for location tagging, friend tagging, custom privacy settings, deep linking and more.

Previously, mobile developers would have had to program their own sharing mechanism with these features or use the old “feed dialog” or iOS 6 Share Sheet, which are more limited in functionality and can require up to three extra steps for users.

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Unlike Share Sheet, the native share dialog supports Open Graph publishing, as seen in the “read a book” example to the right. This is important because until now, developers had to ask users to log into their app using Facebook and allow various publishing permissions, which some users did not like.

Now, because the share dialog opens up the main Facebook app to complete the action, users don’t need to log into a third-party app with Facebook in order to share back via the Open Graph. As long as users have the Facebook app and are logged into that, they can easily publish to Facebook from any iOS app that uses the share dialog. This could greatly increase the amount of structured sharing through Open Graph verbs and objects.

Facebook first announced the native share dialog, along with other new mobile platform features, in April. However, it was only available in limited beta for iOS until today’s wide release. It is still in development for Android. The company says the share dialog should be used by default in all mobile apps that want to enable users to share something to the social network, even if the apps don’t have deeper Facebook integration, such as login or Open Graph.

Facebook offers a detailed comparison of all of a developer’s options for sharing back to Facebook — including the new share dialog, iOS Share Sheet, web-based feed dialog and Graph API – here. Technical documentation on the native share dialog is available here.

Facebook Home sees 25% more engagement than Facebook app; update available today

homeFacebook today announced an update for its Android homescreen experience Facebook Home to address performance and stability. Facebook also revealed at a press event at its headquarters today that in four weeks since the launch of Home on April 12, Home increased user engagement by more than 25 percent compared to the standard Facebook app.

Facebook measures engagement through two areas — feedback such as commenting and liking, and time spent in the app. Facebook director of mobile engineering Cory Ondrejka adds that Facebook Home, with its Chat Heads feature, has also increased the use of messaging. He says participation, which is how many users are actually using Messenger, saw a 7 percent lift, while the total volume of messages sent was up 10 percent.

Facebook plans to update Home on a monthly basis with the latest update arriving today, and future updates landing on June 9 and July 11.

Ondrejka revealed that Facebook Home has nearly reached the one million downloads mark. He adds that, for the amount of devices Home is compatible for, one million downloads was within Facebook’s expectations for Home in this time frame.

home-navigation Facebook also addressed issues users have experienced with Home, including the lack of folder and doc support as well as a more intuitive way to initiate a discussion with Chat Heads. In a future update within in the next couple of months, users will be able to slide up as they normally would to bring up their apps — as seen to the right — but instead of a small pane with apps, it will be a full screen of apps set in a translucent background with folder support.

For Chat Heads, users will soon be able to drag their profile picture to the left, which will initiate the messenger list to drop down from the left. As for widgets support, Facebook is looking into it, but didn’t reveal any specific plans to integrate it.

Continue reading.

Parse announces new hosting product less than 2 weeks after Facebook acquisition

parseParse, the cloud-based app development platform Facebook agreed to acquire in late April, today announced its latest product: Parse Hosting.

Parse Hosting enables developers to create a web presence for their app without having to manage their own servers or turn to another third party. Previously, Parse offered ways for developers to store their mobile app’s data in the cloud but didn’t host web apps or landing pages on the web for them until now. Parse says developers can deploy their web presence through Parse Hosting with only a single command.

Parse CEO Ilya Sukhar tells us that though the company has been focused on mobile first, many developers have a need for web hosting, and otherwise they have had to use yet another third-party platform.

“It’s a big piece of product infrastructure we’ve had a lot of demand for,” Sukhar says of Cloud Hosting.

The Facebook deal announced April 25 hasn’t closed yet, but the social network says it plans to keep Parse in operation. Sukhar says that the timing of today’s launch wasn’t planned as a follow-up to acquisition announcement, but that it is “symbolic” of the company’s focus on continuing to ship products.

“There are some folks that are a bit worried that the Parse platform will contract rather than expand,” Sukhar says. “I think this [launch] is evidence that Parse isn’t going anywhere.”

He says joining Facebook will allow Parse to grow more quickly in terms of hiring and innovation. Although Parse is a different type of acquisition than most Facebook has made in the past, which are typically for talent and not sustaining standalone products, Sukhar says getting to know the Facebook team and seeing their passion for the product made him confident that Parse would be at home under Facebook.

Currently, Parse has a free model, a $199 model and an enterprise level for its backend services, data storage, social integration tools and other features to make it easier for developers to build and scale apps across different platforms.

To learn more about this topic, join us at Inside Social Apps in San Francisco June 6-7. One of our Vendor Workshops is “Scaling Social Engagement With The Cloud.” SoftLayer Development Community Advocate Phil Jackson will examine what gaming, mobile and social media developers need to consider when building out their infrastructures, including how to deal with massive influxes of users – and what decisions need to be made to make it not only possible, but economical.

Guest Post: What Facebook’s acquisition of Parse means to mobile developers

Ty Amell headshotEditor’s note: On April 25, Facebook announced an agreement to acquire Parse, a cloud-based platform providing tools for mobile app developers. The mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) company could be used by Facebook to make it easy for mobile developers to integrate its SDK and use Facebook login, Open Graph and other components of its platform. And with the recently completed acquisition of advertising platform Atlas, we speculated last week that Parse and Atlas could be made — or some parts of it — free to most advertisers and developers to bring them deeper into Facebook’s ecosystem, ultimately driving ad revenue. Ty Amell, founder and CEO at StackMob, a cloud-based mobile application development platform, explains why Facebook has a big problem on its hands, regarding the steep cost of its platform for developers that’s causing them to leave the platform for mobile. In an effort to stop the exodus, Amell elaborates why Facebook agreed to acquire Parse.

The Facebook acquisition is just the latest move of large public companies taking long hard looks at the MBaaS and API industries. Salesforce recently launched their mobile services platform, Microsoft is in preview with mobile services on Azure and Intel recently bought Mashery for $180 million. Not to mention Layer 7 being acquired by CA Technologies.

With Facebook’s most recent acquisition, does this mean Facebook is moving into the MBaaS space? The short answer: not necessarily. Facebook has a big problem — many of the game publishers that made money for Facebook are starting to leave the platform. While Apple can still get away with charging a 30 percent commission to app developers, Facebook is having a hard time justifying those types of commissions. Apple’s App Store is on rocket ship growth trajectory while Facebook’s platform growth may have plateaued. Without that growth, publishers are having a hard time justifying the steep cost of Facebook’s platform. Public companies like Zynga are having a hard time reaching earnings projections as more and more users move away from Facebook in preference of mobile. (more…)

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