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Flash app: Did Facebook just try to clone Snapchat again? Yet again?

(TECH NEWS) Facebook has yet again cloned Snapchat, but this time they may have a better reason than Snapchat envy…

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facebook flash app

Get a room already.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Facebook and Snapchat have both been trying to imitate each other for a while. Snapchat released the timeline-like Memories feature. Facebook has been featuring their live video feature complete with filters, added snappy story things to Instagram AND they have already attempted a Snapchat-ish app, Slingshot, which is now dead.

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These attempts have all come after Snapchat refused Facebook’s offer to buy them for a cool $3 billion. They also have been testing-self destructing, secret messages in Messenger with the addition of, you guessed it, Snapchatty photo filters.

What makes Flash different?

The newest app is called Flash and has already been launched in Brazil, which makes sense because it is specifically targeting emerging markets where reliable WiFi may not be very accessible. So we joke (especially about the fact that the app shares a name with one of the most hated features of the internet that crashes every browser), but this is an attempt to grab a market and get them in the Facebook family before they even have the chance to be lured away by the sultry Snapchat.

Emerging markets usually have devices that are limited on data and storage. Flash takes up less than 25 megabytes, compared to Snapchat’s 70MB. It has data-saving features like loading media only if the user indicates they are interested in it and caching over wifi when possible and allowing offline operation where “Flashes” will be saved and then sent when connectivity is restored.

“We specifically built Flash to bring a great experience to Android users regardless of their data connection or phone mode,” Facebook said.

Why is Brazil first?

Launching in Brazil was a key point of success for WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014. Currently only nine percent of the population uses Snapchat in Brazil, so maybe this is a way that Facebook can finally find a remedy to their Snap-envy.

#FBflash

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

Tech News

Clubhouse finally made it to Android, but has its time passed?

(TECH NEWS) Social media felt the impact of Clubhouse, but the internet moves fast, and even though it is finally on Android, it’s time may be waning.

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Woman holding book and a phone, with headphones, participating in Clubhouse.

Clubhouse finally got an Android release, and while many people clamored for such a thing months ago, others argue that it’s too little, too late.

If you aren’t familiar with Clubhouse, it’s an audio-only “social platform” that encourages discussions through live chat rooms. Users can drop into various rooms and listen to people talk, request the option to chime in, and follow a variety of rooms (or “topics”) to stay engaged over time. Users can even create their own rooms that feature them as speakers.

Clubhouse also has a certain allure to it in that the app requires new users to put their names on a waitlist that creates an “invite-only” culture of exclusivity.

But while iPhone users have had access to Clubhouse since its inception, Android users have been not-so-patiently waiting for their own release—and, now that Clubhouse for Android is available, it may have outstayed its welcome.

Part of the problem is the launch itself. The Android Clubhouse app launched with limited functionality; Android users weren’t able to follow the topics they like, change their account information, and so on. This made the release feel underwhelming, further highlighting Clubhouse’s affinity for Apple users.

A more complicated problem is the prevalence of audio options in other social media services. Slack, for example, recently released their audio-only rooms, and services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have placed a spotlight on voice-only mediums of expression.

Initially, Clubhouse was the only app to incorporate audio as a strong central focus, but the ubiquitous fascination with voice-posting has expanded to comprise most major communication platforms. As such, Clubhouse’s sought-after exclusivity is no more—something that was also arguably damaged by expanding to Android.

It should be noted that interest in the app itself is decreasing, and not just on Android. Social Media Today reported that, in March of 2021, Clubhouse downloads were down 72 percent from February’s 9.6 million downloads. The publication also pointed out that difficulty finding rooms was a substantial issue that is unlikely to do anything but worsen with a surge of Android users, necessitating some back-end fixes from the owners.

As it sits, Clubhouse is still very much in use, and Android users are poised to reignite interest as iOS users stagnate. Whether or not that interest will persevere in the current social media ecosystem remains to be seen.

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Tech News

Foster communication from the search bar with Google business messaging

(TECH NEWS) Google added business messaging options on Google Maps and Google Search to make it easier for businesses and customers to have communication.

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Google search bar open to communication with businesses.

Connecting with and understanding your customers is important in keeping your business thriving. So, to help streamline that communication, Google is adding business messaging options to the Google Maps app and Google Search.

To start using this, your business will first need to be verified by Google. If you haven’t verified your business yet, you can get more information on how to do so here. If you’re already verified, you simply need to turn messaging on from your Business Profile.

Once it’s on, customers will see a “Message” button on your Business Profile, and they will be able to message you at any time. From the business messages section in the “Updates” tab on Google Maps, you can start replying to customers. Also, via the Customers menu on your Business Profile, you’ll soon be able to see your messages straight from Google Search.

Google said, “When people look for information online, they want to find the answers to their questions quickly. This is especially true for people browsing nearby businesses. Business Profiles help merchants share information like how late you’re open and what safety measures are in place. But sometimes people are looking for answers to more niche questions such as: ‘Do you make gluten-free cakes?’ or ‘Is there covered parking?’”

To help make it easier for customers to ask their questions, Google isn’t making customers head back to your Business Profile to click the “Message” button every time they have a question. In addition to that button, customers can initiate a conversation with your business on any post you’ve created. Also, when a customer’s call goes unanswered, they will be prompted to send you a message.

And, besides making communication easier, Google will soon be “rolling out more metrics to give you a deeper understanding of how customers discover your Business Profile.” You’ll be able to see Insights on what queries customers used to find your business. You’ll be able to tell whether they saw your business on Google Maps or Search, and if it was on a computer or mobile device.

“We’ve continued to invest in new ways to make it easier for you to bolster your presence on Google. With these updated features, we hope you have more of the tools and information you need to connect with customers and grow your business in today’s ever-changing environment,“ Google said.

Easing the pain between business and customer is always a plus. What do you think about Google’s new messaging options?

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Tech News

Tired of transcribing screenshots? Put this Chrome extension to work

(TECH NEWS) This new Chrome extension takes out the tedium of transcribing all your necessary screenshots into your writing and does it for you.

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Logo for Docsumo, a transcribing Google Chrome extension

My favorite part of being a writer is getting to interview people from various walks of life. My least favorite part of being a writer is transcribing those interviews.

Slightly easier, but still annoying, is transcribing information from a screenshot, photo file or PDF. Sometimes you have to get this information in a rush and retyping all of it slows you down.

Docsumo is making that process into a breeze. The tool allows for users to grab text from a screenshot for easy copy and paste.

So how does it work? First, it has to be downloaded as a Google Chrome extension. Once it’s part of the browser’s extension, it can be put to work.

A video on Docsumo’s website demonstrates the easy transcribing process. The developer does a Google image search for a shipping label as they need to quickly copy and paste an address. When the necessary label pops up, they click the Docsumo tool that allows them to drag and select the part of the label they want to transcribe (the movement of the mouse is similar to taking a screenshot on a Mac computer).

Then, the text that they’ve highlighted is transcribed into a box where it can be copied and pasted. Simple!

In addition to copy and paste, users can extract, edit, and share data. After that, all of the related information is removed from Docsumo’s server. Examples of when this tool is useful include: Invoices, bank statements, insurance documents, bills, and tax forms.

The tool is made possible through Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) which, according to Ducsumo’s developers, is something that comes in handy in many situations.

“Organizations often receive crucial information and data in image form of documents. These images can be a photo of a document, scanned document, a scene-photo, or subtitle text superimposed on an image. The real challenge for the operation team is to be able to extract information and data from these photos. It can take hours to manually pull out this data and assemble it in a structured way for record-keeping and processing. This process is hugely error-prone too.

OCR technology comes to rescue in this situation.

Optical character recognition or optical character reader (OCR) is the electronic or mechanical conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. This technology is suitable for photos of text-heavy documents and printed paper data records such as passports, invoices, bank statements, receipts, business cards, and identity verification documents. OCR technology is the way of digitizing printed texts so that they can be electronically edited, searched, and stored more compactly.”

In a world where pen-to-paper has slowly been fading away, Docsumo is here to give it another push further away.

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