Comcast's Incompetence, Lack of Broadband May Force Developer To Sell Home

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 8:30pm
BUL2294 writes Consumerist has an article about a homeowner in Kitsap County, Washington who is unable to get broadband service. Due to inaccurate broadband availability websites, Comcast's corporate incompetence, CenturyLink's refusal to add new customers in his area, and Washington state's restrictions on municipal broadband, the owner may be left with no option but to sell his house 2 months after he bought it, since he works from home as a software developer. To add insult to injury, says he has 10 broadband options in his zip code, some of which are not applicable to his address, have exorbitant costs (e.g. wireless), or are for municipal providers that are prevented from doing business with him by state law. Yet, Comcast insists in filings that "the broadband marketplace is more competitive than ever." As someone who had Comcast call to cancel on the day of my closing (two days before my scheduled install) because they didn't offer service to my house after all, I can sympathize.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

NASA’s Plan to Give the Moon a Moon

Wired - Top Stories - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 8:20pm

It sounds almost like a late '90s sci-fi flick: NASA sends a spacecraft to an asteroid, plucks a boulder off its surface with a robotic claw, and brings it back in orbit around the moon.

The post NASA’s Plan to Give the Moon a Moon appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Pilot Was Locked Out of Germanwings Cockpit Before Crash

Wired - Top Stories - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 7:52pm

"You can hear [the pilot] is trying to smash the door down.”

The post Pilot Was Locked Out of Germanwings Cockpit Before Crash appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Makes Messenger a Platform

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 7:46pm
Steven Levy writes At Facebook's F8 developer conference, the ascension of the Messenger app was the major announcement. Messenger is no longer just a part of Facebook, but a standalone platform to conduct a wide variety of instant communications, not only with friends, but with businesses you may deal with as well. It will compete with other messaging services such as Snapchat, Line and even Facebook's own WhatsApp by offering a dizzying array of features, many of them fueled by the imagination and self-interest of thousands of outside software developers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

NASA's ARM Will Take a Boulder From an Asteroid and Put It In Lunar Orbit

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 7:03pm
coondoggie writes NASA officials today said they have picked the specific asteroid mission and offered new details for that mission which could launch in the 2020 timeframe. Specifically, NASA's associate administrator Robert Lightfoot said the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will rendezvous with the target asteroid, land a robotic spacecraft on the surface, grab a 4 meter or so sized boulder and begin a six-year journey to redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Google Sends Reporter a GIF Instead of a ‘No Comment’

Wired - Top Stories - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 6:31pm

The GIF was apparently the official answer Google sent to a reporter in response to his seeming scoop on a new YouTube livestreaming plan.

The post Google Sends Reporter a GIF Instead of a ‘No Comment’ appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Amazon Robot Contest May Accelerate Warehouse Automation

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 6:19pm
moon_unit2 writes Amazon is organizing an event to spur the development of more nimble-fingered product-packing robots. Participating teams will earn points by locating products sitting somewhere on a stack of shelves, retrieving them safely, and then packing them into cardboard shipping boxes. Robots that accidentally crush a cookie or drop a toy will have points deducted. The contest is already driving new research on robot vision and manipulation, and it may offer a way to judge progress made in the past few years in machine intelligence and dexterity. Robots capable of advanced manipulation could eventually take on many simple jobs that are still done by hand.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Is Coming After YouTube With Embeddable Videos

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 5:51pm

If you are interested in sharing a video across the Web, you probably start by uploading it to YouTube or Vimeo. Facebook wants in on that action, and as of today allows videos uploaded to the site to be embedded elsewhere.

During an F8 keynote address Wednesday, product marketing manager Deborah Liu announced anyone can now grab the embed code from their Facebook videos. "This dramatically increases the potential reach of your content," she said.

But not anyone's ability to make money from video. Upload a clip to YouTube and you can get paid based on views if you let YouTube place ads in it. There's no such arrangement on Facebook at the moment, although product management director Fidji Simo said the company is thinking about it.

"We know this is very important," Simo said. "We have started experiments in that space. It's very, very early. This is a space where we are going to have to take it slowly because we have to figure out the best possible user experience."

Facebook is also increasing the size of videos allowed to 1.5 gigabytes and allowing uploads to be resumed after a disruption, such as loss of internet connectivity. Brands can now decide to only show a video to users of a certain age or who live in a specific area, and if they take down a video they can still access its analytics. Videos can be scheduled for posting and takedown with new partners like Socialflow. Other partners allow for direct posting to Facebook or traffic monitoring.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in the morning keynote that video will likely be the most common type of content uploaded to Facebook within five years. The company recently bumped video views with features like auto-play and more prominent video showcases on pages. Simo noted Facebook is already seeing 65 percent of video views come from mobile devices, making them a priority for her team.

Photo by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

Tech Luminaries Tackle Big Questions on Small Napkins

Wired - Top Stories - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 5:41pm

NOKIA AND WIRED took the #maketechhuman conversation to TED, convening an all-star gathering of scientists, technologists, executives and thought leaders to ask: “How can me make sure tech serves humanity and not the other way around?” The evening debate addressed both the promise and peril of AI, as well as how to encode it with […]

The post Tech Luminaries Tackle Big Questions on Small Napkins appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

First Nuclear Power Plant Planned In Jordan

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 5:35pm
jones_supa writes Jordan has signed an agreement with Russia's state-owned nuclear power giant Rosatom, that sets the legal basis for building the kingdom's first nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2,000 MW. The agreement is worth $10 billion and it envisages the construction of a two-unit power plant at Amra in the north of the kingdom by 2022. The deal provides for a feasibility study, site evaluation process and an environmental impact assessment. Currently Jordan imports nearly 98% of its energy from oil products and crude and is struggling to meet electricity demand, which is growing by more than 7% annually due to a rising population and industrial expansion. The kingdom hopes that eventually nuclear power could provide almost 40% of its total electricity generating capacity.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Dueling Home Automation Systems at SXSW (Video)

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:52pm
Austin has a strong western heritage and more country and western music than you can shake a fiddle bow at. So when Timothy came back from SXSW with video clips from two home automation companies with different approaches to this question: "How can you work with a whole bunch of lights and thermostats and other IoT home automation pieces that all have different OSes and control APIs?" we obviously had to call the resulting video 'Dueling Home Automation Systems.' The two companies shown in this video are called WigWag and Yonomi. WigWag sells you a "Relay," which they say "is a powerful mini computer that gives you control of your home's smart devices." The minimum pre-order buy-in for WigWag seems to be a $149 WigWag Relay. Their 'products' page his page shows the Relay -- and many other gadgets and kits that could easily run your total tab up to $1000 or more. Yonomi, on the other hand, "resides on your phone and in the Cloud. No need for a hub, controller box or other additional hardware. Yonomi magically finds and enhances your existing connected devices allowing them to interact with one another in ways never before possible." Yonomi may start with a free Android app (iOS coming soon), but you still need to buy lights, speakers, thermostats, and other things that are Internet-aware, so you're not going to save much (if anything) over buying a WigWag relay and the rest of what you need to create your own, private Internet of Things. And what about good old X10 and other home control systems? They're still out there, still doing their thing in millions of homes even if they aren't getting all the IoT buzz. In any case, it's nice to see new home automation alternatives coming down the pike, even if their cloudness may make them easier to hack than an old-fashioned appliance like this coffeemaker.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Why Drone Regulations Are Taking Forever

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:31pm

Amazon is arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration took so long to approve its test drone, the model in question has become obsolete. It said as much during a Tuesday testimony before a Senate subcommittee.

"While the FAA was considering our applications for testing, we innovated so rapidly that the [drone] approved last week by the FAA has become obsolete,” said Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for Global Public Policy. “We don’t test it anymore. We’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we already are testing abroad."

See also: Amazon's FAA Exemption Doesn't Make Prime Air Any More Real

The FAA took a year and a half to approve Amazon’s particular drone model, which is a lengthy amount of time in the technology world. According to Misener, it’s only the U.S. that has given Amazon this amount of hassle.

“Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing, and permission has been granted for operating a category of UAS [unmanned aircraft system], giving us room to experiment and rapidly perfect designs without being required to continually obtain new approvals for specific UAS vehicles,” he said during the hearing.

See also: Why Commercial Drones Are Stuck In Regulatory Limbo

Commercial drones have been locked up in regulatory limbo in the United States ever since their invention. It’s a far cry from other countries, where drones are being deployed and tested at much faster rates. According to an FAA spokesperson speaking to ReadWrite, this is a response to the especially complicated U.S. aviation market, which includes both commercial carriers and a vast number of private aircraft:

We recognize industry’s urgency and understand the many amazing applications for UAS technology. However, the United States has the largest, most complex airspace in the world with—unlike other countries—a large general aviation fleet that we must consider when planning UAS integration, since those aircraft and small UAS may occupy the same airspace. Also, different laws and regulatory structures in other nations may allow them to act more quickly to approve certain UAS operations.

The spokesperson went on to say it was necessary for the FAA to have knowledge of exact makes and models of commercial drones in order to correctly assess them. That’s why the FAA claims it can’t approve a category of drones, just individual models.

Everything we do is safety-oriented, and we base our approvals for unmanned aircraft operations on an assessment of the risks to other aircraft and to people and property on the ground. To make that risk assessment, we need sufficient information on a company’s planned operations and aircraft, and we have been working diligently with Amazon to get the information we need.

The FAA is fighting against the tide of public opinion to correct “misconceptions and misinformation about unmanned aircraft system (UAS) regulations.” In an article published last year, the organization responds to assertions such as “Myth… The FAA is lagging behind other countries in approving commercial drones.”

Responses from the FAA don’t seem to be placating drone advocates. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is the latest lawmaker to suggest introducing temporary legislation to speed up the commercial use of drones. He aptly calls it the “Commercial UAV Modernization Act.”

Photo via Amazon

Categories: Technology

NSA Doesn’t Need to Spy on Your Calls to Learn Your Secrets

Wired - Top Stories - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:22pm

When you're surveilling one person, the contents of conversations can be more important than metadata. But when you're surveilling an entire population, metadata is far more useful.

The post NSA Doesn’t Need to Spy on Your Calls to Learn Your Secrets appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Is Plotting Its Way Into Your Smart Home

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:12pm

At Facebook’s f8 developer conference Wednesday, the company made its play for the so-called Internet of Things by way of its Parse app development platform. The "back-end as a service” provider just announced new software development kits geared for smart home purveyors.

Parse’s bread and butter has been apps for mobile devices (read: smartphones and tablets), as well as Web and desktop platforms. With the nascent smart home movement, however, the definition of connected gadget has expanded rapidly to include furniture, appliances, locks, lights and other fixed household products and features.

See also: The App Plumber: Parse's Ilya Sukhar

No wonder Parse—and Facebook—want in on that action. Smart homes are one of the hottest and fastest-growing areas of technology right now. The master plan: to make it easier for hardware makers to hook into this Internet of Things movement.

Parsing The Smart Home

Two years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at the Parse Developer Conference to convey a message: Facebook wants to make it easier to build great applications. Now the sentiment seems to have come full circle, with Parse co-founder Ilya Sukhar telling Facebook's F8 conference that he wants to make smart home development easier. 

Facebook acquired Parse in 2013, giving the social network some juice (and cred) among app developers. Now more than 400,000 of them rely on the service for data, cloud, software integration and other services for their apps. Parse supports iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mac OS X and Windows, not to mention Javascript, .NET, Unity, PHP and Xamarin technologies. 

Now, with fridges, TVs, lighting, garage doors and more getting smarter and more connected, Parse is eyeing a potentially huge expansion of its platform. 

Parse's Sukhar made it clear at F8 that he wants to boost security while reducing complexity for developers of all sizes—from companies creating innovative home automation features to tinkerers hacking bespoke smart home solutions on top of their Arduinos. 

Toward that end, Parse is putting out an array of software development kits (SDKs) for various Internet of Things hardware setups. Among them, the company offers an Arduino SDK for the Arduino Yún micro controller board, which supports Wi-Fi, and is working on tools for the upcoming Arduino Zero.

According to Sukhar, the company also has a “reference SDK” up its sleeve to help guide chipset manufacturers as they establish their hardware platforms. The open-source kit, also known as the Embedded C SDK, was designed for Linux and real-time operating systems.

These and other Parse tools, including “start” guides and help docs, are available on GitHub

With these kits, device makers can support push notifications and saved data, and integrate with Parse's cloud back-end. For hardware makers and developers, it clearly looks like an easier way to go than doing it themselves. What seems less clear is whether end users would embrace having Facebook—even by way of Parse—enter their homes. 

Photos by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

RadioShack Puts Customer Data Up For Sale In Bankruptcy Auction

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:05pm
itwbennett writes For years, RadioShack made a habit of collecting customers' contact information at checkout. Now, the bankrupt retailer is putting that data on the auction block. A list of RadioShack assets for sale includes more than 65 million customer names and physical addresses, and 13 million email addresses. Bloomberg reports that the asset sale may include phone numbers and information on shopping habits as well. New York's Attorney General says his office will take 'appropriate action' if the data is handed over.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Say Hello To Hipster Facebook

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 3:57pm

Remember when Facebook-app developers were revolutionaries? It wasn’t that long ago—and yet in the fast-moving world of technology, it seems an entire generation ago.

And like an aging urbanite looking to rediscover his youth, Facebook has entered its hipster era—self-congratulating, self-parodying, and yet archly self-aware of all its internal contradictions.

Less Movement, More Monetization

“Hey everyone,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as he jaunted onto the stage without fanfare Wednesday in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, kicking off the 2015 edition of F8, Facebook’s no-longer-occasionally annual conference for developers. His entrance was so low-key the audience barely had time to hush itself and listen.

These days, Facebook is trying to set expectations low and exceed them. It’s a far cry from the warrior days of the very first F8 in 2007.

“Today, together, we start a movement,” said a younger, less humble, less media-trained-to-within-an-inch-of-his-gray-T-shirt Zuckerberg then. (His bravado disguised the fact that his engineers were still hacking together the code for Facebook Platform.)

At last year’s F8, Zuckerberg preached a new sermon of stable infrastructure—moving fast, maybe, but no more breaking things, at least where developers were concerned! The trouble with stable infrastructure as a rallying cry is that, well, it’s boring.

And with so many shiny objects to hold developers’ attention—so many platforms, so many APIs, so many SDKs—boring is deadly for a company like Facebook that depends on the kindness of others to fill its newsfeed, message threads, and other streams with headlines, photos, videos, and more.

So yes, Facebook had to remind people that it offers “better monetization” than competing ad networks. News flash: No one cares! Or at least no one wakes up in the morning, heart pounding and eyes blazing, looking to build an app on top of better monetization. It’s not a message that inspires anyone to create.

To Code, Perchance To Dream

Hence the offerings for dreamers:

  • You will soon be able to include "spherical videos” in your Facebook feed, allowing friends to click around and explore the world as you see it in a full 360-degree view. (Consider it a precursor to full virtual-reality views courtesy of Oculus VR, another recent Facebook acquisition.)
  • Parse, Facebook’s service that provides a back end on which developers can run their mobile apps, is extending its reach into the Internet of Things, making it simple to build software that connects to wearable devices and smart-home gadgets.
  • Facebook Messenger—increasingly just called “Messenger,” including its own URL—is becoming a platform, where you can inject your own apps to converse in quirky new ways, particularly in the form of short, jokey videos.

In the Wednesday F8 keynote, Parse CEO Ilya Sukhar faux-cheekily called out one app, Stacheify, which runs on his service and plugs into Messenger. It lets you add facial hair to your friends’ photos. Sukhar laid a mustache on Zuckerberg’s normally clean-shaven visage.

Mark Zuckerberg with a mustache. Consider it a metaphor for what Facebook is trying to do to its own image.

Facebook’s youth, so recently lost amid its immensely rapid growth to a billion users, an IPO, and a move to a new, more corporate campus, still lies in recent memory. There’s no more brogrammery breaking of things; that got packed away with other childish preoccupations. So how does this new Facebook, vast, complicated, burdened with the scars of experience, relate to the new generation of coders rising up and looking to build something new?

Like the hipster toying with his own facial hair, Facebook is trying to find some way to tweak its self-image. Sure, put a mustache on it. Whatever it takes to hack—and to persuade developers to hack alongside it.

Photos by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

360 Degree Video Is Coming To Your Facebook Newsfeed

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 3:50pm
Jaunt virtual reality camera

Oculus might not have a release date for its virtual reality headset yet, but its parent company Facebook is already thinking about how to incorporate virtual reality into its lifeblood: the newsfeed.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the f8 developers conference Wednesday that Facebook plans to add newsfeed support for spherical videos—the 360 degree panoramas necessary to make VR an immersive experience. 

Look around where you are right now. Now imagine you're a camera, your surface studded with many different lenses that capture the scene from all angles. Imagine loading that spherical video into a virtual reality headset, where the wearer has the exact same viewpoint. They can see exactly what you see at this moment. Within a VR headset, they can turn their head from side to side and look up or down, and the view changes as if they are looking around the room.

That's spherical video, although it's much cooler to experience than to read about.

Getting Spherical On Facebook

Even outside of a VR headset, Facebook envisions letting newsfeed users pan around in 360 degree videos with a  finger swipe or mouse. It's the same experience, except the user is viewing through a rectangular window on their screen instead of an immersive VR headset. It doesn't inspire the same feeling of real presence, but it still captures more of a scene than a traditional camera.

"I actually think that video is going to be more engaging (than video games for virtual reality) in a lot of ways," Zuckerberg said. "This is a new and much more immersive type of content. You're actually interacting with it and you feel like you're there."

The Newsfeed videos showcased on-stage at F8 were shot with multiple sets of spherical camera arrays, a setup that lets the viewer "jump" from side to side to gain additional perspective in addition to simply panning around. In the demo room, I experienced a live feed of the Facebook campus' Hacker Square. It was shot with six GoPros arrayed in a ball; their video was then stitched together to provide the panorama.

User-created videos, at least in the near term, would be shot from a single location, much like the GoPro ball. That takes away the feeling of being able to step from side to side, but still allows the viewer to look around as if they are standing in place. The camera pictured above, which is built by professional VR camera company Jaunt, is one high-end example of a stationary camera.

DIY Spheres

Consumer spherical cameras, such as the relatively low-quality Ricoh Theta, currently cost as little as $300. That may drop in coming years as a wave of options from crowdfunding-backed startups and large camera companies hit the market. Eventually, 360 degree cameras could even work their way into our phones. Here's an example of an image I captured with a Ricoh Theta (which is also capable of shooting video):

Zuckerberg said photos have replaced text as the most commonly shared medium on Facebook, and predicted that within five years that will shift to video. Beyond that, there's virtual and augmented reality videos.

When Facebook bought Oculus a year ago, Zuckerberg laid out a vision of virtual reality as the ultimate social media tool. That could mean sharing spherical videos and photos with friends across the world, as Facebook revealed today, or creating online worlds and communication apps where people can socialize as if they are in the same room. It more than likely means both.

YouTube began allowing users to upload spherical videos earlier this month—the first example of a major website hosting them. Zuckerberg didn't say when Facebook would add support, but it would make sense to incorporate it into the newsfeed soon to drum up interest in Oculus ahead of its consumer launch.

Photo by Signe Brewster for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 3:42pm
Grymalkin writes A controversial religious freedom bill has passed the Indianapolis Senate and is now awaiting Governor Mike Pence's signature to become law. Supporters claim that this bill will protect business owners from excessive government control while opponents argue it is just a veiled attempt to allow those same business owners to deny services to individuals because of their sexual orientation. Now, Gen Con has released a statement saying this bill will influence their decision to keep the convention in Indiana. This announcement has tourism officials worried as Gen Con brings in roughly 50,000 visitors each year, contributing $50 million to the local economy. So far Gen Con's announcement has not swayed the Governor who says he is looking forward to signing the bill into law. Gen Con currently has a contract with the Indy Convention Center through 2020. No word yet as to exactly when the convention would be moved should the bill become law.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Scientists Create Permanently Slick Surface So Ketchup Won't Stay In Bottle

Slashdot - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 3:22pm writes Much of what we buy never makes it out of the container and is instead thrown away — up to a quarter of skin lotion, 16 percent of laundry detergent and 15 percent of condiments like mustard and ketchup. Now Kenneth Chang reports at the NYT that scientists have just solved one of life's little problems — how to get that last little bit of ketchup (or glue) out of a bottle. Using a coating that makes the inside of the bottle permanently wet and slippery, glue quickly slides to the nozzle or back down to the bottom. The technology could have major environmental payoffs by reducing waste. Superhydrophobic surfaces work similar to air hockey tables. Tiny peaks and valleys on the surface create a thin layer of air between the liquid and the coating. The air decreases friction, so the liquid almost levitates above the surface, just like the hockey puck floats above the table. LiquiGlide's approach is similar, but it uses a liquid lubricant, not a gas. "What could be a solution that provides sort of universal slipperiness?" says Dr. Varanasi. "The idea we had was, Why not think about trapping a liquid in these features?" Dr. Varanasi and Mr. Smith worked out a theory to predict interactions among the surface, the lubricant and air. Essentially, the lubricant binds more strongly to the textured surface than to the liquid, and that allows the liquid to slide on a layer of lubricant instead of being pinned against the surface, and the textured surface keeps the lubricant from slipping out. "We're not defying physics, but effectively, we are," says Smith.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Messenger Wants To Claim E-Commerce ... And Fist Bump GIFs

ReadWriteWeb - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 2:57pm

Facebook's Messenger app has some big ambitions. It not only wants to give users new ways to communicate via goofy photos, GIFs, video and eventually virtual-reality recordings, it's also making a big play for e-commerce.

No wonder Facebook now calls it the Messenger Platform, as it announced at its F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. Now we just have to see who will climb aboard.

Fist Bumps On Messenger

The changes Facebook is making to Messenger are simple in concept, and are aimed squarely at making the service a more fun place to communicate by opening the door to third-party apps of all kinds.

The new Messenger Platform will initially integrate photo and graphics apps like Giphy, FlipLip, Bitmoji and Jib Jab. While the current version of Messenger allows users to send text, video, stickers, location data, and to make voice calls, Messenger Platform will add access to any app that developers decide to bring to the party.

Sending dumb videos to your friends is easier than ever with app integration through Messenger Platform

David Marcus, Facebook's VP of messaging, offered a demonstration of the new forms of creative communication. In response to a Jib Jab video sent by Zuckerberg, he accessed a list of compatible apps and decided to download Giphy. From there, he was whisked to the App Store, downloaded the app, and found the fist-bump GIF of his dreams. Another few taps later, he beamed the GIF to his boss.

While sending gifs via Messenger may not seem like a world shattering innovation, the easy-to-use app integration offers a lot of potential. As it stands, there are no shortage of ways for people to send files or ideas to each other. Facebook, however, would clearly like to establish Messenger as the go-to place for people to exchange important files, music, restaurant recommendations—you name it.

The big hurdle, of course, is for developers to come up with the ideas that will bring users to the party. And, of course, for users to accept the idea of funneling all their interactions through Facebook's app.

That may be a hard sell for younger folks who have gravitated more to up-and-coming social apps like Snapchat.

These are Facebook's Messenger Platform third-party app partners ... so farMessenger Means Business

Then there's Messenger Business, which aims to streamline the way users shop online.

In his F8 demo, Marcus focused on the numerous emails you get whenever you sign up for store accounts, placed orders, track packages or deal with refunds. Messenger Business is designed to let users communicate with participating online retailers one-on-one, creating one thread with all the necessary information.

For example, if consumers buy products via a participating retailer, they’ll have the ability to open a thread in Messenger to stay up to date with their orders’ progress. The Messenger thread will allow for package tracking, providing feedback, and even reordering or returning items. Because Messenger Business is tied to a user’s Facebook account, there’s no need to log in or verify your identity.

Track a package you ordered via Messenger Business.

The key phrase there is "participating retailer." Dealing with retailers by email works because email is universal and easy. Having to take the mental effort to figure out whether the shoe store you're ordering from works with Messenger and then making sure you only manage your order through Messenger could be a lot to ask of users.

It's also not clear how Facebook plans to combat compromised accounts. We’ve all seen posts on our friends’ feeds that say something along the lines of, “I’m stupid for leaving my Facebook account open on my friend’s computer.” As such, it isn’t hard to imagine the kinds of e-commerce shenanigans that can come up through similar carelessness.

Presumably, Facebook will have more details about e-commerce security as Messenger Platform and Messenger Business roll out within the next few weeks. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of ideas developers come up with now that they have a new sandbox to play in.

Images courtesy of Facebook

Categories: Technology