Facebook was behind the Chinese photo-sharing app Colorful Balloons, which was launched anonymously earlier this year, the company confirmed last week. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with many news and business services, have long been blocked by the “Great Firewall” of China, but that hasn’t stopped the social media giant from trying to make inroads in the world’s most populous country. In July, Chinese users of Facebook’s What’sApp messaging service found that they were no longer able to send images using the service unless they used a virtual private network, and China has been cracking down on new tech that helps web users bypass its online censorship.
Facebook’s Marketplace is expanding across Europe to serve 17 more countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The goal of Marketplace is to give Facebook users opportunities to discover, buy and sell goods in their local communities, the company said in a press release. A big part of that is being able to view public profiles of the people they transact with, therefore creating confidence between buyers and sellers.
If the upcoming presidential elections in Kenya turn violent, as many expect, Ushahidi will be there to document it. The Facebook Messenger bot has been monitoring election-related violence since its inception 10 years ago, after 1,500 Kenyans were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in a political, socio-economic and humanitarian crisis. The crisis-mapping platform has since been used around the world, including during last year’s U.S. presidential election, when 300 violent incidents were reported through the bot.
Facebook’s experimental Building 8 lab is mulling a new product line that would include a Facebook smart speaker and a home video chat device. The video chat device prototype is already being tested in homes. The device is powered by artificial intelligence, enabling the wide-angle camera lens to scan the room for people and lock onto them. Facebook is reportedly hiring Apple veterans to build a voice assistant to run on both devices. The smart speaker would retail for around $100 and would compete with the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod.
Facebook launched its new video streaming service Watch this week. The platform, available on mobile, desktop and laptop as well as Facebook’s TV apps, hosts original content that is both live and recorded, created by professionals and by regular Facebook users. Watch is designed for discovery with recommendations based on what users’ friends and communities are watching, but it’s also equipped to make sure each user never misses an episode of their favorite show by queuing up new content on their Watchlist.