Facebook’s Messenger Platform Gets Its First Game

Facebook’s newest product is featured in its messenger platform that was revealed earlier this year.

Doodle Draw is a game that allows Facebook users to  draw and send images to their friends. And their friends get to guess what they drew.

According to Josh Constine for Techcrunch, “Doodle Draw for iOS and Android will be familiar to anyone who played Draw Something… because it’s a blatant copy of the 2012 flash in the pan mobile game that got acquired by Zynga for an exorbitant price. Don’t feel too bad for the fallen games giant, though, as Draw Something was just a mobile version of the classic party game Pictionary. You can download app developer Clay‘s Doodle Draw here, by tapping the “•••” button in a Messenger chat thread to open the platform app list.”

Since the introduction of the platform, Facebook has tried to get users to use it more. The game is just one attempt to build interest. For those who are not fond of Facebook games, Doodle Draw will not do anything to spark your interest.

It is highly likely that this is just the first round of promotional gimmicks the company will launch.

Facebook Drops Another Microsoft Service, Proving It May Have Outgrown the Relationship

As Facebook continues to roll out new features and make slight adjustments to its social media behemoth, it’s clearly placing a higher priority on in-house services. While this is allowing Facebook to gain more independence, it’s also forcing it to sever ties with some of the tech giants that helped it become the unstoppable force it seems to be today.

Facebook users probably didn’t notice any major changes when they logged on to chat with their friends or scroll through cat photos, but the site had just ended its relationship with Microsoft’s Skype service.

It’s been roughly four years since Microsoft and Facebook announced that they would be partnering on bringing video calling to Facebook Messenger.

Throughout the time there never seemed to be any real signs that the relationship wasn’t going well and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that he and then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer were “really aligned on this.”

Things have changed since then, and it all centers around a key question in the world of business — why pay someone else to do what you can do yourself?

Facebook unveiled video calling in Facebook Messenger via its iPhone and Android apps, a sign that Facebook will stick with in-house development for its new technology rather than relying on third parties like Microsoft.

That was all but confirmed after Facebook discreetly stopped using Skype technology for their video call service on desktops, according to Business Insider.

“This change was made because Skype-powered video calls required users to install a browser plug-in, while the technology Facebook whipped up works without one — important for call performance, video quality and letting Facebook more quickly make changes and upgrades to video chat,” Business Insider reported.

While Microsoft and Facebook have typically always had a positive relationship, this actually isn’t the first time Facebook severed ties with Microsoft.

Back in December, Facebook decided to stop relying on Microsoft’s Bing for Web search results on the platform.

It essentially seems like a tale of the baby bird outgrowing the need to remain in the mother’s nest. Microsoft invested $240 million into Facebook back in 2007 before it was the giant it is today.

Now Facebook has no need to rely on Microsoft for funding or services.

While the change doesn’t mean much for Facebook users, it was far from unnoticed for Skype users.

A plethora of features on Skype that incorporated integration with Facebook will no longer be available such as being able to message Facebook friends within the Skype app.

America’s Intense Focus on Boosting STEM Education Could Be Detrimental to Innovation

Is it possible to create the world’s next great social media site without understanding people’s digital behaviors? Would anyone be downloading books and magazines to tablets if there wasn’t first a community of amazing authors who made desirable, timeless content? Can anyone understand where technological advances are needed if there is not first a broader understanding of the humanities and liberal arts?

These are the types of questions that some experts are asking as the United States becomes obsessed with boosting educational efforts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and proposing serious budget cuts and eventual elimination of more liberal subjects.

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott once questioned. “I don’t think so.”

But the push to eliminate liberal programs and focus solely on STEM subjects could be extremely counterproductive and work to eliminate the years of innovation that have made America a powerhouse when it comes to technological advancements.

What many of these liberal-arts-opposing politicians fail to realize is that advances in technology do not happen in an exclusive world from the humanities and liberal arts.

While STEM subjects often lead to innovation, they are not synonymous with such.

“Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want,” “In Defense of a Liberal Education” author Fareed Zakaria explained in a column for The Washington Post. “America will not dominate the 21st century by making cheaper computer chips but instead by constantly reimagining how computers and other new technologies interact with human beings.”

Some of the greatest STEM success stories come from entrepreneurs who understood this definition of innovation.

From Apple’s Steve Jobs to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s many leaders in STEM understand that while an education in the sciences and a background in technology is important, it is not the only piece to the puzzle.

“Facebook’s innovations have a lot to do with psychology,” Zakaria explained. “Zuckerberg often pointed out that before Facebook was created, most people shielded their identities on the Internet …Facebook’s insight was that it could create a culture of real identifies, where people would voluntarily expose themselves to their friends, and this would become a transformative platform.”

It’s that sense of wondering “what if” and an imaginative mind that was able to create the vision for an online social media platform that was revolutionary in design and concept.

Zakaria also notes that while politicians may be quivering in fear about low test scores when compared to other countries, the U.S. is still a leader in innovation and that’s because it’s a leader in creative thinking.

Many countries that root educational efforts in technical studies and memorization excel on standardized tests but fall short when it comes to creating real-world innovations.

It’s because memorizing facts and theories doesn’t translate to creating new technologies, exploring scientific possibilities, imagining new ways to build and construct and unlocking the true message behind a wall of numbers and statistics.

“The dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future,” Zakaria adds. “The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity.”

That kind of critical thinking and creativity is what allows STEM leaders to find the truly innovative purposes for STEM efforts, such as finding the connection between 3-D printing, iconic superheroes and children’s prosthetics.

So while the nation may not be leading the way in international standardized test scores, America’s future when it comes to innovation is not nearly as bleak as the scores suggest.

In fact, it may very well be brighter than the countries that have grounded their educational achievements in such tests.

Zakaria pointed out that two other highly innovative countries, Sweden and Israel, rarely have impressive rankings when it comes to test scores.

They are both, much like the U.S., leaders in boosting real-world innovations that have revolutionized their economies.

The STEM field is a vital one and indeed many more Black children need the opportunity to get involved in such subjects. As we enter the digital age, more people will need to garner a firm foundation in STEM, but the elimination of a liberal education in the midst of this new era will only rid STEM careers of their creative, innovative potential.

Facebook’s Acquisition of WhatsApp Will Not Force the App to Sell Out on Its Ad-Free Promise

In a not-so-shocking announcement that will likely cause user delight and developer dismay, it has been confirmed that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp will not snatch the messenger away from its ad-free roots.

Instead, however, Facebook’s Messenger app will open its doors to developers who wish to deeplink their apps into Facebook’s original messaging platform.

It’s a strategy that certainly isn’t new and was expected by many tech lovers after TechCrunch busted the myth that WhatsApp would soon be filled with annoying game invitations and third-party advertisements.

Not to mention the fact that David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s Messenger, hinted during an interview last year that WhatsApp users had nothing to worry about.

Rather than transform WhatsApp into something new, Facebook is merely adding the lovably simplistic app to its repertoire of communication tools.

This allows users to still have access to a simple, ad-free messaging option while Facebook holds on to its newest brand motto of “too much is never enough.”

So it will be Facebook’s Messenger Platform that gives developers the link to the platform’s millions of users that they’ve been looking for, not WhatsApp.

In the grander scheme of things, it seems like a fair deal.

Developers get to use Facebook’s Messenger to sink their teeth into roughly 700 million monthly users while WhatsApp remains true to the mantra that helped launch it to success in the first place.

“No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!”

In fact, it was back in 2012 when WhatsApp posted a detailed blog about why it refuses to sell ads even though that decision has left many developers with their arms folded in the corner or simply walking out in the middle of the WhatsApp co-founder’s presentation.

The latter is not playful banter or a hypothetical situation.

It’s the reality that WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton was met with Wednesday during a panel discussion at Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco.

Acton was joined by other executives on the panel, but he was clearly one subject that the group of developers had a particular interest in.

Why? Because this was the man who became a wealthy entrepreneur by putting consumer experience over developers’ desires.

During the discussion, one developer publicly pleaded with Acton to shift gears and allow his app to “connect with its large user base overseas,” CNET reported. It was a plea that was met with a roar of applause.

Acton’s answer, however, would soon spark the sound of groans, shuffles and heavy footsteps.

“It’s a very careful and difficult thing for me to say here,” Acton said. “No, we don’t have any plans right now at this time.”

Acton added that while he understood what the developers wanted and was “empathetic” to their cause to extend certain tools and services to users across the globe, he also wasn’t willing to sell out on WhatsApp’s classic mantra.

“I receive emails from people on a routine basis that want to either run their business or want to run something using WhatsApp as a backbone of their communication, but we’re balancing that with the user experience,” he said. “User experience is something we have to hold sacred … we want messages to be wanted, not solicited.”

The panel discussion had not come to a close, but Acton’s response single-handedly brought an early end for some attendees who decided to leave the room after his refusal to budge, CNET reported.

It’s unclear if developer access to Facebook’s Messenger app will be enough to ease tensions and calm the waters, but for the users who have been loyally turning to WhatsApp for all their communication needs, it was certainly the right call.

9 Major Changes You Should Know About That Transformed Social Media This Year

twitterlogoandbirdTwitter and Tumblr’s social impact in topics ranging from Ferguson, Missouri, to immigration reform has revolutionized and revitalized social activism in the United States.



New App: Twitter Small Business Planner.



Apple iCloud was shown not to be a very safe way to store photos and other personal items. Celebrity nude photos that were leaked earlier this year may lead to changes that can help to improve the security of the product.

Search Algorithms Don’t Just Know You, They’re Judging You, Too

For avid technology users, the online experience has become an extremely personalized one. But the same algorithms that are responsible for recommending new products and completing search terms are not as objective as many users assume.

These algorithms can also be used to shape public opinion, support racial bias and even influence voting behaviors.

Tech giants like Facebook and Google are often conducting experiments on their users in order to learn more about their behaviors and how those behaviors can be influenced.

Back in June, Facebook was the target of online backlash after it was revealed that the social media giant conducted a research experiment by manipulating users’ news feeds.

The study was an attempt to see how the alteration of the news feeds would manipulate user emotions.

While Facebook did apologize for “any anxiety” the experiment may have caused, the test did not violate any of the social media site’s terms and conditions that users agree to before setting up their profiles.

Even more upsetting for some users was a study that attempted to see how Facebook could impact users’ willingness to vote.

The experiment proved successful, and the tech giant announced that it saw a drastic increase in civic engagement and voter turnout by incorporating an “I voted” badge on certain user’s profiles.

For some people it begged the question, if social media sites can influence some users to vote, could it also influence some users not to?

This is the same type of testing used by Google that tries to determine what types of color combinations and content placement will garner more attention from people online.

That ability to track behavior has also led to something called the “filter bubble,” which is the idea that the same search will produce very different results based on what type of person the search engine assumes you to be.

For example, the search for “wagner” on Google will likely produce sites about the composer Richard Wagner for women while men will see results about Wagner USA, which is a paint supply company.

Then there was the story of African-American Harvard University Ph.D., Latanya Sweeney.

Sweeney realized that her Google search results were often displaying advertisements asking if she had ever been to jail.

The same advertisements weren’t appearing for her white colleagues.

After conducting a study of the advertisements on different people’s Google results, it turned out that the algorithms behind the ad placements were likely to draw a connection between names commonly given to Black people and ads related to arrest records.

For once, Sweeney was confronted with the fact that some of these so-called objective algorithms are making connections based on stereotypes and racial bias.

The real concerns come from the fact that social media sites and search engines are not the only ones using such tools.

Earlier this year, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm tasked an algorithm with making crucial decisions about which companies to invest in.

If such algorithms are continuously used to make investment decisions, is it possible that the same results that suggested Black people would want to know about arrest records will recommend wealthy investors avoid putting money into companies with Black CEOs or a certain percentage of Black employees?

While the algorithms don’t cause much harm when it comes to placing advertisements on Facebook pages, the implications of what these algorithms have the ability to do on a broader scale are enough to call for marginalized groups to keep a closer eye on what decisions these automated systems are allowed to make.


Are Some White People’s Fear of Discussing Race Holding Back Diversity Progress in Silicon Valley?

Facebook’s global head of diversity, Maxine Williams, is taking a different approach to addressing the discussion of race in Silicon Valley, and, according to her, there’s no room for people to be sensitive about the subject.

It’s been a year since Williams was given the task of improving diversity within Facebook and creating a space that welcomed employees from a variety of different backgrounds.

Needless to say, the task certainly wasn’t going to be an easy one.

While the company still isn’t anywhere near as diverse as it has the potential to be, Williams may have unlocked the secret to really getting things moving forward – stop being so sensitive.

Williams sat down with Forbes and explained that many of the white people in the office were uncomfortable about discussing race.

At one point, she recalled that one white employee asked her if it was OK for them to even use the word “Black.”

“I would literally have conversations with people where they would say to me, ‘Can I say the word Black?’” Williams recalled. “And I was like, ‘Wow, these were the conversations we’re having?’”

Williams said years of sensitivity training and lawyers ready to pounce at the sign of any relatively offensive remark has white people terrified of even bringing up diversity and race in the workplace.

The idea of talking to a Black person in the office becomes a game of social Mine Sweeper where any wrong move can end in absolute disaster.

Williams says that to a certain extent that idea needs to be pushed out of the workplace.

“This needs to be a space where people can ask stupid questions and then be forgiven,” Williams said. “In the typical workplace that has employment lawyers, nobody wants you asking stupid questions because they could be offensive. You won’t want to ask that Black person, ‘Do you wash your hair?’ You just don’t. It raises risk … so we become hesitant to engage.”

Williams has flipped that philosophy on its head at Facebook.

“We’ve flipped that around,” she continued. “I’ve said to people: It’s OK to ask those things, but then I want you to forgive people when they ask stupid questions. What I came to see is the hesitation came because I’m operating in a country that has a heightened sensitivity around race, where, quite frankly, white people are afraid to engage. They’re afraid of stepping in the wrong place.”

According to Williams, the push for diversity in the tech sphere will fall short if people continue to be too sensitive about the subject.

“I think sensitivity was holding us back from being bold on diversity,” Williams said about Facebook. “We were bold on products, right? We would achieve things that you never thought were achievable. But on these issues of identity, there was hesitation and sensitivity.”

Williams explained that many times white people were “well intentioned” because they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make a remark that could be perceived as racist.

In the end, all that really did was hinder progress.

Williams continues to push employees to be open and honest and ask those “stupid questions.”

That, she says, is the only way to truly get everyone engaged in a much-needed conversation about race.