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Facebook is changing phone calling again.

A couple of weeks ago Facebook introduced “Hello,” an Android only app that will show users information about who is calling as well as allow users to block calls and search for businesses to call. Here’s a short video about Hello.

One interesting feature of Hello is that it will allow you block a number based on how many others have previously blocked it. This is an incredibly social move, truly using the “wisdom of the crowd” to make sure you don’t get any unwanted calls.

Over three years ago Facebook rolled out Messenger as a standalone app, allowing Facebook users to message each other without having to open the Facebook app. Along the way, Messenger added more social ability by integrating the ability to call other users running Messenger on their smartphone using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). And just yesterday, Facebook added video calling to Messenger also. This could be a serious competitor to Skype, Viber, Google Hangouts, etc.

Which brings me back to Hello. Hello ties into Facebook Messenger and allows you to quickly make calls to other Facebook users using Messenger’s VoIP calling. Hello may be a nice link bringing the social interactivity of Facebook to old fashioned phone calls.


That Darn Dress…

What Color Dress

By now you’ve all seen “that dress” (pictured above). This dress took social media by storm over the last couple of days, with debates raging and technical arguments about what colors the dress really is. I know my Facebook news feed was loaded with it last night. We’ve seen things like this before too… memes or rumors or whatever, that bury our feeds on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media outlet we choose to use.  And we get sick of it, right?  Well, if you can’t trust your friends to stop posting and sharing these things, technology can take over from there.

This post is not intended to teach you all of the ways to block memes or viral videos, etc. For that, you can find plenty of articles on the internet to help you with the “how-to” including this article on LifeHacker. This post is about how social media has impacted technology. This is similar to my post from a couple of weeks ago, where I discussed how many mobile apps have been created to allow users of social network sites to create photo memes so quickly. Although this time, I wanted to mention all of the technology that’s been created to block all of these memes, etc. The primary means to block anything on the internet is with browser extensions. Wikipedia described a browser extension as”a computer program that extends the functionality of a web browser in some way.”  Some browsers might call them add-ins or plug-ins also. These are typically written with HTML, javascript, or CSS code and in some way actually block specific code from being displayed in your web browser.

But what about mobile apps? Well, that’s a different story. Your Facebook or Twitter mobile apps aren’t using a web browser so you can’t install extensions to block content.  Android and iOS allow you to set parental controls, which blocks or restricts content based on ratings in their respective app stores. This isn’t great for blocking a specific viral meme but it at least allows some blocking on a broad scale. Mobile technology still has some more way to go in this realm.

Facebook reinvents targeted advertising

Last week Facebook announced a new advertising unit (platform?) called Product Ads. This new unit promises to make advertising much easier for companies looking to get more conversion out of the users of the #1 social network.  Companies were already able to target specific ads for specific products to specific audiences, but that takes a lot of work and doesn’t always provide the best results. Product Ads will dynamically adjust which ads you see based on a variety of factors including what apps you use and what your activities and interests are.

Advertising obviously isn’t anything new. And targeted advertising is probably as old as the internet, if not older. But until now, the technology available (tracking cookies mostly), only allowed for advertisers to market a specific product to a certain demographic. Facebook has taken the technology one step further. Because the social network knows so much about you (via likes, cookies, other ad clicks, etc.) they say they can allow an advertiser to upload a whole catalog of products and your social activity will allow what products you see advertised to change dynamically.  If there was one company that was going to figure out how to advance advertising technology in the face of social media it would be Facebook.  I’d say the ball is in Google’s court now.

The Explosion of the Meme App Market

I saw this photo, the latest popular meme, posted on Facebook and Twitter right after Super Bowl XLIX. It started to circulate via retweets on Twitter very quickly… “To the tune of nearly 20,000 retweets, nearly instantly,” according to Rob Pegoraro’s article on Yahoo! Tech. I’m an IT guy, but I thought that this meme was created very quick. I remembered that I have some friends that pretty much exclusively use smartphones post their own custom memes on Facebook. I figured there must be a mobile app to do these.

I took a look at the Google Play store and did a quick search for a meme creation app. Holy moley! There were no fewer than 75 different apps that quickly displayed in the search results. Many of them were free, but some of them were paid apps. I know that my personal Facebook news feed is filled with photo memes every day, so much so that I’ve started hiding shares from many Facebook accounts that only post memes.

Back in the days of sharing jokes and photos mainly via email, you would see one or two of these types of things maybe each year. Now, thanks to the easy sharing via social media sites like Facebook, these photo memes are everywhere. And if there’s tons of photo memes, there’s a market for meme creation apps. I haven’t been able to find any figures on the total of how many meme creation apps there are or how much money this market is raking in right now, but it appears it’s big business.