Snapchat introduces a big change with a small tweak

TechCrunch reports on Snapchat’s new feature that allows replays of its disappearing messages.

My least favorite part of Snapchat is mistakenly opening a video Snap when I can’t hear it, like in a noisy public place or when my sound is off. Snapchat tried to address that today with an experimental new Replay feature that lets you rewatch one old Snap per day. But by fixing that problem it created a much bigger one. It killed off some of its ephemerality.

Is Snapchat trying to reposition itself? I would think so. It added its Stories feature back in October to allow users to share posts that disappear after 24 hours. This latest addition is a big bet by Snapchat. Either it will turn out to be a success or it will diminish the appeal of Snapchat, just like how Facebook’s Timeline and News Feed changes caused huge uproars with its users. However, users are more likely to be less invested in Snapchat than Facebook, making it easier to ditch the service.

Google updates Chrome Web Store policy to keep Chrome extensions simple

Google announced an update to the Chrome Web Store policy to only allow single-purpose extensions.

Existing extensions that has multiple functions might have to be split into different extensions.

To keep with our principle of simplicity, we decided to take a different approach. Chrome extensions would be simple and single-purpose in nature, and each would only be allowed a single visible UI “surface” in Chrome, a single browser action or page action button. Toolbars wouldn’t be supported by design, and users would have more control over which features they added to their browser.

This initiative is to combat the clutter that builds up when users install many extensions, leading to a cluttered Chrome toolbar.

I loved browser add-ons back when I was on FireFox. However, those made the browser so bloated that when I switched to Chrome, I made a conscious effort to be selective when it comes to installing extensions.

Now, I use Safari with only three extensions. Pocket, Evernote and Buffer. This is the maximum in my new minimalist approach to browser add-ons.

Facebook Year in Review showcases the top moments from your friends

Mashable reports on Facebook’s Year in Review for your friends.

On top of the Year in Review feature that highlights your top 30 moments, Facebook has introduced the Year in Review for your friends.

Facebook uses a different algorithm than the one that surfaces News Feed content. The Year in Review is made up exclusively of “life events and popular posts,” according to a spokesperson. The “popular posts” are determined based on engagement like comments and Likes.

Another new feature that will soon become a Facebook tradition.

BlackBerry’s $4.4 billion net loss

Mashable reports on BlackBerry’s $4.4 billion net loss in this quarter.

BlackBerry’s revenue in the third quarter fell by more than 50% from the same period a year earlier. The company’s net loss for the quarter topped $4 billion due to restructuring costs and unsold devices. Yes, billion with a “b.” And it barely sold more than 1 million BB10 devices, proving once more that its make-or-break smartphone product line is broken.

BlackBerry has decided to fight smaller battles by focussing on markets where they are strong in, such as in Indonesia. I know many Indonesians who love their BlackBerry devices but if the company does no prove to be an attractive alternative to the iPhones or Android devices, it will be a futile move.

Similarities between the new Mac pro and the Power Mac G4 Cube

When the Mac Pro was unveiled, the first thing I thought about was the Power Mac G4 Cube, which in my personal opinion is one of the most beautiful machines ever designed. I think the Museum of Modern Art agrees with me.

Stephen Hackett has done a brief but good comparison of the technologies and concepts from the Power Mac G4 Cube that were brought over and implemented in the new Mac pro.

On the new Mac Pro and the Power Mac G4 Cube

If I have any gripes, it would be that I prefer a cube to a cylinder, but I do agree that the Mac Pro’s design is superior.

In case you missed it: Target’s 40 million credit cards leak,

A seamless Apple communications system

Cult of Mac writes about how Apple can become the ultimate communications company.

I previously talked about my wish for a seamless experience switching between devices while on FaceTime.

The ultimate future home run, of course, is when Apple does and should auto-select how to make calls. In other words, you call someone by taping a face or phone number and your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop connects the call through FaceTime Voice or the phone system depending on whether the other person has FaceTime Voice and also depending on the speed of the data connection.

Mike Elgan takes it further with this almost futuristic ideal.

And Apple should be able to pull this off better than competitors. Within a couple of years, here’s how Apple’s telephone system should work. You walk in the house and just say to the house: “Siri, call Janet.” Apple should be able to identify that Janet is sitting in front of her iMac, and so while connecting the call, Siri asks: “Would you like to connect through FaceTime Video on iTV?” You say yes as you sit down on the couch. The call is connected, and you chat for awhile. Then you realize that you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning. So you walk out the door. Janet gets a message on-screen saying the call is switching to FaceTime Audio, and your call now happens through the Bluetooth earpiece you’re wearing. Once you get into the car, the call is automatically transferred to the car’s built-in iOS in the Car system, using the car’s speaker and the dashboard microphone. You get your shirts, drive back home and when you plunk down on the couch again, the call returns to video after both parties are notified.

After you say good-bye and hang up, you tell the house again: “Siri, tell Janet it was great catching up,” and Siri sends Janet your message, which she receives on her iWatch.

It is quite possible, especially since Apple is entering micro-location mapping with iBeacons.

Why do people keep giving money to Foursquare?

Matthew Panzarino writes on TechCrunch about why people keep investing in Foursquare.

Previously, we mentioned about how Foursquare is moving away from the check-in game by making check-ins public.

In this piece, Foursquare CEO Crowley wants to get things straight.

“The misunderstanding [in days past] was that Foursquare was about “who’s really going to check into a bar”,” Crowley says. Now, with the passive notifications and the increasing complexity of the signals that Foursquare is able to sift through to provide them, people are beginning to turn the corner on how they perceive it.

When they improve Foursquare, it is not just about making the app or service better. It is about how Foursquare can help other apps more than it already has.

Is there, for instance, a benefit for Instagram to know that you’re taking pictures at a specific restaurant or at Disneyland? Maybe. Could OpenTable’s utility be increased if it had access to a background parsing system like Foursquare’s? Almost definitely.

Foursquare’s current point-of-interest database is good. I speak with a lot of developers and it’s consistently mentioned as the go-to source of location data for apps that need it. Better than Google and certainly better than Apple — which actually uses Foursquare’s database to flesh out some of its place info. But what Crowley is talking about is far more than just a solid API and a big list of locations.

A lot of people seem to believe in the future of Foursquare, judging from its $600 million valuation. Just this week, it raised another $35 million in funding.

Facebook screwed online retailers

Business Insider writes about how online retailers have been hit hard by Facebook’s new News Feed.

It turns out the News Feed tweak did more than just highlight “high quality” news stories. It also totally buried posts from retailers on Facebook.

A source from one retailer told us that her company’s “reach” on Facebook declined 40% to 50% after the change. Another source from a different online retailer said that since Facebook’s change, her company’s posts are getting seen by an 80% smaller audience.

Not that the change in reach affected sales:

All the retailers we spoke to emphasized that their actual sales have not declined since Facebook made the change. But each said they’ve only been able to maintain sales by increasing the amount of money they spend on Facebook ads.

It seems like social media marketers are not the only one affected by Facebook’s new algorithm.

Facebook wants businesses to pay to enjoy the benefits of using it as a marketing and advertising platform. The change won’t hurt big businesses or established brands, but it will make it a lot harder for smaller start-ups to gain a foothold now.

FaceTime Audio to be available on Mac OS X

MacRumors report that the OS X 10.9.2 beta that has been released to developers includes FaceTime Audio.

With Messages, FaceTime, and FaceTime audio on iOS and OS X, Apple will have a complete communication system in place.

With a simple way to answer telephone calls and chat requests from all devices, those in Apple’s ecosystem will have little reason to resort to alternative VoIP apps when communicating with other Apple users. FaceTime audio is also a high-quality VoIP choice, as it uses the AAC-ELD codec for Full-HD Voice. AAC-ELD is designed to provide CD-like audio quality for voice calls, delivering high speech and audio quality at a low coding delay.

I love using iMessage. It allows me to reply messages while working on my Mac, without having to pick up my iPhone. Sure, I can do the same with Facebook messages and Google Hangouts but those require an additional step of firing up the browser. I still prefer to use a native app solution. The only service that comes close is LINE, with its Mac app.

It will be very useful to be able to make FaceTime Audio calls on the Mac. I have a feature request. Let me be able to shift between my iPhone, iPad or Mac during a call and it will be the perfect seamless experience.