What Do You Think of Auto-Play Ads in Your Facebook News Feed?


Facebook has wrestled with the idea of auto-play video ads in the News Feed for some time. On Tuesday, they became a reality.

The company likes to say it experiments with features on the platform, but reserves the right to pull them if users revolt. Video ads may present the biggest test of that proposition yet. Millions of dollars in ad revenues are at stake; Facebook plans to charge advertisers $1 million to $2.5 million per 15-second ad, according to reports

How do you feel about auto-play ads in your News Feed? Take our poll below and feel free also to add your comments, too. Read more...

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Facebook Tests Auto-Play Video Ads


Facebook's long-awaited and, for many, long-feared auto-play video ads are here.

The company announced Tuesday morning that it's testing such ads in the News Feed with a handful of advertisers. Among those are Summit Entertainment's Divergent, a film set for a March release. The ad for that film, and the other video ads, runs without sound unless you tap it, in which case you can also expand it to full screen. At the end of auto-play video, a carousel appears where you can click on two additional videos

In a blog post, Facebook also notes that videos you see on mobile will have been downloaded in advance via a Wi-Fi connection — when available — so it won't affect your data plans. Just a "small number" of Facebook users will begin seeing the ads this week, according to Facebook Read more...

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The Ruling on NSA’s Data Collection and Other News You Need to Know


Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world.

Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories. Not too long ago, Facebook began rolling out autoplay video to mobile and online News Feeds. Now The Wall Street Journal reports autoplay ads will join the mix later this week. The year is coming to a close, and Nielsen has some fascinating data about online usage. A federal judge ruled against the NSA’s collection of phone records, saying it likely violates the U.S. Constitution.

Check out the video above for more on these stories. Read more...

More about Facebook, Nielsen, First To Know Series, Business, and Advertising

Google’s Top 2013 Search Terms In Asia Hint At Online Trends That Might Go Global

Attack of the Titans

2013 might be remembered as the year Asian companies started making an undeniable impact on consumer Internet habits around the world. For example, just back in January, MG Siegler warned TechCrunch readers that “trying to suggest that Samsung is not one of the most important companies in technology is increasingly folly.” Now it’s the world’s leading mobile maker (though its rapid growth may have finally plateaued). On the software side, elements from Asian messaging apps like Line began making their way onto social media platforms like Facebook and Path, Tencent was cited as a major role model by Snapchat’s founder and China’s Xiaomi hired former Android lead Hugo Barra away from Google.

Tracking tech trends in Asia is a good way of gleaning insight into what might make it big in other markets. Google’s 2013 list of top search results for Asia show what consumers were the most interested in–and is a clue to the types of games, apps and viral weirdness you might see in 2014.

One standout in Google’s list is hit Japanese anime TV series Attack of Titans. In addition to Japan, it was also a top 10 search term in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Combined, the results meant that searches for the show trended higher globally than Mad Men or Homeland combined. A campy take on disaster films with giant skinless humanoid villains, Attack On Titan might appeal to the same people who made “Sharknado” and “Pacific Rim” hits in the U.S.

One of the most popular games in Asia was Puzzle and Dragons, one of Google’s top search terms in Japan, where it was produced, as well as Hong Kong. Puzzle And Dragons’ English version is still relatively under the radar, but its popularity in Asia helped the valuation of its maker, GungHo Online Entertainment, which TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler profiled in June, soar to as much as 1.546 trillion yen, briefly overtaking Nintendo’s market cap. In Taiwan, MMORPG Fantasy Frontier was a major hit. An English-language version called Aura Kingdom will be launched soon.

Gangnam Style, the record-breaking viral hit, started going viral almost 18 months ago, but demand for music from the weirder branch of the Korean pop industry–which is usually known for its manufactured singing groups and cosmetically enhanced performers–continued throughout Asia. Psy’s followup to Gangnam Style, Gentleman, got 600 million views, just a fraction of the 1.9 billion racked up by its predecessor, but still enough to make it YouTube’s most viewed video of 2013.

Intrigued by K-pop but feeling fie on Psy? Singer Hari’s oddly mesmerizing music video Gwiyomi, in which she accompanied her lyrics with a series of cutesy hand gestures, went viral through Asia and inspired a wave of parodies and tributes. Crayon Pop, an all-female quintet that is known for its offbeat image and music, was also one of Korea’s top search terms.

Google’s top search results also give some interesting nuggets of information into smartphone preferences among Asian users. For example, many people speculated before its release that the iPhone 5c was a cheaper model that Apple would use as a weapon to challenge Android’s dominance in emerging markets, despite denials by the company. As it turns out, the iPhone 5c isn’t much cheaper than Apple’s “premium” model, the iPhone 5s. And, either way, consumers in growth markets still prefer the 5s to its more colorful sibling. In the Philippines, the iPhone 5s made it into Google’s top search results, but the 5c didn’t even break the top 10.

On a more serious note, Google’s data showed that people are now more reliant than ever on the Internet for information when natural disasters strike. For example, Typhoon Haiyan resulted in five times the search traffic than Typhoon Bopha did a year earlier. This means it’s imperative that governments and rescue organizations ensure people have access to emergency broadband access networks.

80% of Facebook’s Like and Share Clicks Come From Outside the U.S.


Facebook redesigned its Like and Share buttons last month, and the result has been a slight rise in clicks, all thanks to its international users.

Exclusive data released to Mashable Monday revealed that Facebook has seen a 5% increase in clicks on Like and Share buttons since deploying the new design, according to a company spokesperson. The buttons, which appear on more than 7.5 million third-party websites, are viewed by Internet users more than 22 billion times per day

Facebook did not share details on the specific number of clicks, but did break down some geographic data regarding those who use the buttons online. In fact, 80% of all Like and Share engagement takes place outside of the United States, which makes sense considering 83% of Facebook's monthly active users are outside of the U.S. and Canada Read more...

More about Redesign, Facebook, Facebook Share, Facebook Like, and Social Media

Facebook Adds ‘Donate Now’ Button for Non-Profits


Facebook added a new donation feature on Monday that allows users to contribute cash to non-profits directly through the platform.

Facebook partnered with 18 different non-profits during the initial rollout of the feature, including the Boys & Girls Club of America, Livestrong Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund

Users can donate using an embedded "Donate Now" button on each partnering non-profit's Brand Page. The button allows users to donate in preset amounts of $10, $25, $100 or $250, using a credit card, debit card or PayPal

The donate button on the Water.org Facebook page.

If a user comes across a non-profit's post in his News Feed, he can donate using the same button embedded on the post. This button also gives donors the option to manually enter a preferred donation amount so they are not restricted to the preset amounts listed above Read more...

More about Facebook, Red Cross, Livestrong, Donate, and Non Profits

5 Reasons Millennials Are Quitting Facebook


Facebook is the cigarette of 2013, the "bad habit" many are trying to kick. And the doubts seem to be stemming from Facebook's younger users

Mashable reached out to a few Millennials, in particular, to find out why they left Facebook — and why some returned. While the reasons for cutting the cord ranged from the practical to the existential, many former Facebook users cited the stress of maintaining their online appearances

While half the users we questioned have returned to the site (albeit with a reduced presence), the other half consistently claim they're happy to be "free" of Facebook. They found that once they got used to it, life without social media wasn't as hard as they imagined Read more...

More about Facebook, Social Media, Features, Millenials, and Health Fitness

Impala: Another Google Inspired Platform Enters The Mainstream Data World


Amazon Web Services has added support for Impala, the Google inspired query tool developed by big data startup Cloudera. It provides real-time, parallel processing for large amounts of data. With Impala, a developer can load new or access existing data to run their queries using an SQL-like language on AWS Elastic MapReduce clusters. Its faster, more accessible and shows the increasing use of SQL in Hadoop, the open-source system for distributed computing. In a broader view, Impala reflects how Google deeply influences the market and its inventors to create new data platforms and a potentially richer application ecosystem.

Introduced last year, Impala is based on Google Dremel, the successor to the search company’s pioneering work in the big data analytics space with MapReduce, the technology Google developed to query data stored across its vast cloud universe.  As noted by Google Lead Product Manager William Vambenepe, Dremel is also the foundation for Big Query, Google’s own data analytics platform.  Apache Drill is  based on Google Dremel.  Hortonworks has announced Tez, which is part of its Stinger Initiative, designed to work with Hive, the database for querying Hadoop. Hortonworks says Stinger delivers “100x performance improvements at petabyte scale with familiar SQL semantics.”

Citus Data has its own analytics database based on Google Dremel. Its innovation comes in parallel computing in PostgresSQL core to do its queries. MapR is also supporting Drill to provide its own capabilities. JethroData is an analytics database company based on Hadoop that is leveraging the principles of the Google Dremel project.

Hadapt preceded all of these companies with its “Adaptive Analytical Platform,” which brings a native implementation of SQL to the Apache Hadoop open-source project.

Why Is Dremel The New Inspiration?

Hadoop is an important technology for Internet companies like Twitter that process data by the petabyte. Hadoop is also of increasing importance for more traditional organizations that also now must process unprecedented amounts of information. It’s for this new generation of users that Impala is useful. It gives them a way to query data that had previously required deep technical knowledge.

Hadoop has in the past been a complex undertaking, requiring people with multiple talents to unleash its potential. These people were the original data scientists who had learned the art of programming, the management of “clusters,” and data analytics. They emerged from Internet companies that needed to invent their own ways to process and analyze the vast amounts of data that they served. For example, Jeff Hammerbacher left Facebook to be one of Cloudera’s co-founders. Doug Cutting created Hadoop while at Yahoo! where he used it to help develop  an open-source search engine based on Lucene, which Cutting also originally created. Cutting also now works at Cloudera.

Google led the way with MapReduce, which treats a set of nodes as a cluster that processes data in parallel.  It maps the data across the clusters and then reduces it to answer a problem.

Going beyond MapReduce, Google Dremel represents a pillar for the next-generation of Hadoop technologies, fortified by a growing ecosystem of open-source projects such as Hive and Pig – all designed to abstract the complexity of MapReduce with higher-level languages.

The strength of Dremel is in its instant analysis. But it is primarily meant for querying while its counterpart, Google F1, is a massive relational database, originally designed to manage Google’s online advertising.

 Impala’s value comes with its aptitude for analysis. It is why it is viewed as a natural complement to business intelligence tools such as Tableau, the data visualization technology. Analysts can quickly query data with Impala and then run it in their business intelligence tool of choice.

Hadoop has largely not been viewed as a platform for app development. But that will likely change as Impala becomes more widely used and new pieces get added to the Hadoop environment. That became evident earlier this year with the latest version of Hadoop. In the new version comes Yarn, which abstracts MapReduce into a scheduler and a resource manager. It allows for scaling beyond what was possible with Hadoop before.

The application ecosystem that will come out of Hadoop is evident in both Impala and Yarn. Both simplify Hadoop and provide a deeper capability for the end user. And then there is Cascading, the application framework for Hadoop, which Concurrent has commercialized. It counts Twitter, Etsy and Airbnb as customers.

For a long time, Google has been ahead of the market. But Hadoop and the innovation at the platform layer shows that the difference between Google and its counterparts is starting to shrink.

Feature image courtesy of Electric Sheep via Creative Commons)

Top 25 Digital Media Resources This Week


Too busy deciding where you stand in Obama's Selfie-Gate to stay up-to-date on tech news? Have no fear — we've rounded up a list of this week's top 25 digital media resources, including news about the launch of Instagram Direct, a beginner's guide to all things Vine and seven ways to make the most out of Tumblr. As a bonus, we even threw in this week's most-pressing news stories.

Check out our comprehensive list, below

Editor's Picks

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    Wondering what’s in store for one of the world’s most closely watched companies? Keep an eye on these expert predictions for Apple in 2014. Read more...

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    15 Innovative Redesigns of 2013


    While "flat" was certainly the biggest design buzzword of 2013, perhaps the most important trends of the year came from the mainstreaming of responsive and adaptive design, increasing collaboration between designers and developers.

    Even average web users began to think about their consumption habits, with Harvard Business Review calling user experience "the new black in business." With that in mind, and as innovation in the space continues to expand, we've compiled a list of the best redesigns to come from 2013 in social media, media, retail and tech.

    More about Redesign, Design, Tech, Dev And Design, and Marketing
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