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RumorTT: Facebook looking into monthly subscription service, would add extra profile features, remove ads
Patents are often a double edged sword that can lend an interesting look into the way a company thinks. It's something we see and speculate on all the time, and this morning is nothing different. Facebook has filed a patent that could drastically change the social network's business model.
US Patent 20130030987 A1 was filed in 2011 and was granted in January of this year. It's titled "Paid Profile Personalization" and describes a method that would allow Facebook to remove ads, and implement "premium" features to the profiles of users who subscribe to a monthly service.
Does this mean that Facebook could be investigating a paid subscription service that would let you spice up your profile and remove those annoying tiny ads? Truthfully, I have no idea. The fact is that most patents remain unused and in recent times, they are used more as a blocking agent than a true "innovative idea."
The one thing I do know is that with 1+ billion users, if Facebook was able to get just 30% to subscribe to a $9.99 monthly service, then Facebook could be well on its way to becoming the most profitable company in the world. I seriously doubt I would opt in to another monthly subscription, but on the other hand, I know many people who would.
This Thursday Facebook will be holding a big press event where it is expected to announce the first major change to its Timeline feature since release in 2006. We are hearing speculation that the news feed may be broken down into multiple categories and would be configurable.
TechCrunch is reporting that in addition to the multiple news feeds, we will also see large timeline photos, and image based ads adorning the service. When tech news site Mashable reached out to Facebook and asked for a comment, they replied "We don't comment on rumor and speculation".
If the rumors are true, then we will see the new multiple feed feature somewhere at the top near the search bar as well as a new photo feed that would exclusively feature images uploaded through the Facebook and Instagram apps. My only worry is that the rollout of Facebook's last big announcement, Graph Search, has not even began to get started, so how long would it be before everyone had access to these new features?
Google released two new accessibility features this week to its social network Google+ as part of its ongoing effort to allow disabled users more usability of its Hang Out feature.
The new Sign Language Interpreter app allows deaf or hard of hearing users to include their own interpreter inside a hangout. The interpreter's image will be shown in the top right corner of a Hangout window, and will automatically become the main image in the hangout whenever he or she speaks for a deaf user.
Also released is an updated set of keyboard shortcuts for better accessibility for those who might not be able to use the mouse during a hangout. Disabled users can mute their microphones by typing the Ctrl+D command on PC or Command+D on a Mac. To begin a chat, they can type Ctrl+B on PC or Command+B for Mac. A full list of shortcuts is accessible by typing "?" during a hangout in the chat window.
Image storage is becoming a major issue for social networking giant Facebook. The service sees over 300 million photos uploaded every single day, which equates to over 109 billion photos uploaded to the social network annually. Naturally, not all of these photos are viewed every single day - some of them go months without being viewed.
Facebook says that 82-percent of all traffic that the service sees is made up of only eight percent of the images stored on the company's servers. This equates to a very large amount of energy inefficient storage for files that are rarely accessed. Facebook has come up with a plan to solve this issue, though.
The company is planning a new "cold storage" facility that will house the old photos and store them for future retrieval. The facility will be located in Prineville, Oregon, and will have three 16,000 square-foot data hubs. The servers will lay in hibernation until data is requested from them. This will increase the amount of time it takes for an old photo to be served to the end-user, but most will never notice it. The delay will be "a matter of seconds, or milliseconds", said Facebook communication manager, Michael Kirkland.
Most of you will be familiar with Burger King's Twitter account being hacked yesterday, our own Trace Hagan covered it here. While funny and serious at the same time, the hack may have actually helped the company more than it hurt it.
Burger King officials once again have control of the hacked account and it seems that everything is back to normal for the most part, but one major change has taken place, BK's followers are up by more than 30,000 than it had this time yesterday. The account now sits with over 100,000 followers.
Upon regaining control of the account the company acknowledged the event by tweeting: "Interesting day here at Burger King, but we're back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!" With an increase in marketable audience this big, I really hope we do not see companies begin to "fake" hacks just to gain larger followings.
Last week we reported that Google were dishing out users' data to developers when they download apps from the Play store, but now it's being reported that Facebook takes data from users even when they're logged out of the social network.
Facebook have confirmed this, but have insisted that the information collected is only for security purposes or to aggregate statistics. Facebook's data collection is from the cookies on your computer when you visit the social network, with the cookies shifting the information over to Facebook from any site that you visit that contains a link to Facebook - such as the "like button".
With this information in-hand, Facebook can map out your web usage. Director of Engineering for Facebook, Arturo Bejar, has said that the data is used to combat spam and phishing attacks by detecting suspicious logins. Not only that, but cookies can use the data to keep users from having to complete extra authentication steps each time they log-in. Because, you know, everyone logs out of Facebook when they're finished with it.
Last year I reported on the German Data Protection Body, Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz ULD, ruling that Facebook's Real Name policy violated German data protection laws. This was a major blow to Facebook's long standing policy of users only being able to create profiles with their real name.
Today a German court ruled that the data protection laws aren't applicable as Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland. The court said that only Irish data protection laws could apply. Not one to back down, the ULD says that it is planning an appeal, and still believes that the method of forcing users to use their real name breaks privacy laws.
The head of the ULD, Thilo Weichert, said that the ruling was "more than amazing," and "contradictory". Personally I have no issues with Facebook requiring me to use my real name. If I do not want my real name used, I do not have to use the social network.
In what seems to be a trend as of late, some Facebook users across the web are having issues reaching the site this morning. Venture Beat is reporting that a large number of users are unable to reach the social network this morning.
The website "Down for Everyone or Just Me" is confirming that Facebook is not behaving nicely this morning and that some users are experiencing total outages to the service.
Most of the morning TweakTown staff were able to login and use Facebook normally, so we are betting that this is further networking issues like we saw last week.
You might have read a story I did a few days ago on a class action lawsuit settlement in which Facebook admitted to using its users images in "Sponsored Posts". The settlement was agreed upon with $20 million being set aside to compensate affected parties.
This morning I received my settlement notice even though I had no idea that I was one of the affected parties. The notice does say that I could be entitled to up to $10, but if the number of claims exceeded a financially feasible number, then all the money will be donated to charity. Other than that, it is full of legalese, but it does state a few interesting things which I have quoted below.
This Notice relates to a proposed settlement ("Settlement") of a class action lawsuit ("Action") filed against Facebook relating to a particular Facebook feature called "Sponsored Stories." According to available records, you may be a "Class Member."
The Super Bowl is over for another year, with the Baltimore Ravens beating the San Francisco 49ers, but Twitter are the champions of social networking for Super Bowl XLVII.
According to Marketing Land, Twitter was mentioned in 26 of 52 national TV commercials, taking 50% of the spots that aired during CBS' coverage. Facebook only took four mentions and Google+? None. YouTube and Instagram were mentioned once each, with Hyundai and Oreo, respectively. Last year's Super Bowl was a totally different story, which saw Facebook and Twitter even with eight mentions out of 59 commercials.
Last year saw Google+ not being mentioned either, and for Google+ reportedly being the second largest social network, that's weird. It all comes down to how people use social networks. Twitter, in my opinion, more of an instant tied-to-your-smartphone-and-event kind of thing, and Facebook is more of a 'everything else I do' social network. I don't know where Google+ fits in (personally), and Instagram is purely pictures - mostly of food.