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Megan Thee Stallion's favorite app is Pinterest, obviously | TechCrunch

It’s official — the hot girls are using Pinterest.

Megan Thee Stallion sat down for a panel during Social Media Week and revealed that the image curation site is actually one of her favorite apps. She said she decided to delete Twitter (now called X) and Instagram from her phone, leaving Pinterest and TikTok as two of her favorite social apps.

This news isn’t surprising when you consider that Pinterest is having a moment. The social app had almost 500 million monthly active users as of Q4 2023, an 11% year-over-year increase, with total revenue hitting $3 billion, according to its latest quarterly earnings report. Pinterest is also making strides to stay relevant with Generation Z — it has the Creator Inclusion Fund and has implemented new technology to help with inclusive search on the site. As of last summer, around 40% of Pinterest’s global monthly active users are part of Generation Z, the company told us.

On the panel, Megan Thee Stallion said she loved the app because it allows her to curate exactly what she wants to see and listed topics ranging from puppies to makeup and workout videos. Almost 11,000 people liked the video, with users flooding the comments saying that Pinterest is also their favorite app.

Megan thee Stallion did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.

It’s interesting to see because Pinterest can feel underrated or underspoken about.

That’s mainly because the conversation around social media apps often focuses on doom and gloom, while Pinterest has managed to mostly escape those mainstream discussions. When tech CEOs were hauled in to testify before Congress, Pinterest was absent. Despite a high-profile controversy around the app’s lack of teen safety features, the company addressed it with new controls and the news cycle moved on to other topics.

To some extent, Pinterest’s draw may be from how users can curate their own experiences. They don’t have to interact with random strangers, as on Twitter/X, and can avoid contact with communities they do not want to interact with. There is also a feeling of having more control in teaching the algorithm to show exactly what is wanted by activities like pinning and creating boards.

“We think it’s possible to have a social platform that enhances your life — instead of distracting you from it. That brings out your best instincts — instead of preying on your worst,” Pinterest’s chief content officer, Malik Ducard, told us. “Pinterest is designed to be a positive place where people can figure out who they actually are — away from the everyday stress of news and online comparison and commentary.”

Pinterest told us it had seen a 40% year-over-year increase in Gen Zers using the site to search for celebs, which lends itself to the theory that young people are using alternatives to Google platforms for the content they are looking for. Gen Zers are also more likely to use TikTok for search inquiries rather than a traditional search engine.

Megan Thee Stallion has a vested interest in Pinterest, having previously worked with the company. She participated in the Pinterest Creators Festival in 2021 and had a Pinterest board with singer Reneé Rapp to promote their latest song together, which, unsurprisingly, name-dropped Pinterest. Pinterest has been using board drops to work more with creatives and give users a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires many of their favorite artists. Big names also use it in a personal capacity, too.

Rapper 50 Cent revealed that he’s on Pinterest to find inspiration, while actress Rachel Zegler recently spoke about her love of the social platform, and Sofia Richie Grainge spoke to Vogue about launching private boards to help plan her wedding. For the most part, though, even celebrities, many of whom are loud on X and Instagram, are usually quiet about their lives on Pinterest. It’s true many of them have brand profiles, but it’s likely they also have their own private accounts, like Megan Thee Stallion insinuated during her panel.

As it stands, the site remains one of the last remaining quiet places on the internet — somewhere to have aspirational mood boards without pressure to prove anything to anyone. It makes sense that in an era of online hate and oversaturation, people would escape to a more peaceful corner of the internet to dream once more.

While Megan’s comments didn’t quite move the markets like other celebs’ comments about social apps have in the past, Pinterest’s stock was indeed up this morning. It seems all the hot girls are trading Pinterest, too.

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Lyrak to take on X by combining the best of Twitter with fediverse integration | TechCrunch

Threads. Mastodon. Bluesky. Substack Notes. Post. Nostr. Spoutible. There’s no shortage of X competitors in the months following the acquisition of the text-based social network formerly known as Twitter by Elon Musk. Now you can add one more startup to that lineup: Lyrak, a new X rival that aims to differentiate itself by focusing on real-time news and monetization options for creators, as on X, but with fediverse integrations, similar to Instagram’s Threads.

The fediverse refers to the open source social network of interconnected servers powered by the social networking protocol ActivityPub. Mastodon is the most well-known among the federated social apps, but even Meta has sensed a shift in the direction of the web and built its latest social network, Threads, with an eye toward ActivityPub integrations.

With Lyrak, the plan is to take the best of what Twitter has to offer and combine it with ActiviyPub integration, allowing users to interact with a wider audience on other federated social networks, like Mastodon and others.

That integration isn’t yet live, but the team says it’ll begin the work in a few months. Once live, Lyrak users will be able to see posts from Mastodon users and vice versa.

Image Credits: Lyrak

Founded by London-based web designer and marketer Rishi Siva, Lyrak is named for a lead character in the TV show “His Dark Materials,” Lyra. Siva says Lyra discovers new worlds, and because Lyrak is also striving to build something better, it seemed like a good source of inspiration.

The founder came up with the idea after spending time helping small businesses set up websites so they could make money on the web and attract customers. At one point, Siva also created a Thumbtack-like app, but the COVID-19 pandemic impacted its ability to grow as many local tradespeople were unable to work at the time.

Still, he expresses a desire to help users to better monetize their content and skills online.

“Our lower fees and sharing 50% ad revenue with creators further support this goal,” Siva notes.

By comparison, X doesn’t publicly share its percentage, which can vary based on the type of post, demographics, geography and other factors. Plus, revenue is only earned for ads shown to Verified users (paid subscribers).

Siva is also unhappy with the direction X is going and how it affects creators.

“After Musk took over Twitter, I saw a significant change in the way the platform behaved and the types of accounts it promoted. It’s disappointing to see that all the tech leaders I admire ignored this and still use Twitter [X],” he noted, pointing to the issues around far-right groups and antisemitic content on X’s platform.

However, he admits that Twitter/X still remains the best place for real-time news, which is why it remains sticky with users, despite the changes. Threads, meanwhile, isn’t prioritizing real-time news outside of sports; Siva dubs it “basically a text version of Instagram.”

He thinks Mastodon and Bluesky will ultimately be too complicated for regular users, but Lyrak could benefit from their networks through fediverse integrations. (Technically, Bluesky is not federated with Mastodon because it uses a different protocol, but work is being done to build bridges between the two.)

Image Credits: Lyrak

Lyrak says it will focus initially on getting journalists to join the network, to help it with becoming a real-time social app. To attract them, Lyrak will allow Verified journalists to share content to users’ home feeds based on their interests and offer tools to send them notifications to people who regularly click their links. (The latter is similar to Artifact — RIP — which would alert users to new articles from reporters and writers they followed.)

The startup will also try to attract people who sell digital products, with specific tools launching for this crowd later in May. Creators will be able to offer subscriptions to their followers as well as collect tips.

Another coming feature will involve AI tools, like an answer engine and user-generated AI characters, also planned for May.

The company plans to generate revenue through ads, like X, but also by taking a 10% cut from paid posts, subscriptions, tips, digital products and other AI features, in time.

To route around app store fees, Lyrak’s website will allow users to deposit funds to the app, which they can use to pay creators. (Funds added through in-app purchases will require paying Apple its 30% fee, however.)

Another idea, borrowed from sites like Reddit, is a reputation score that will reflect the value a user brings to the community through their comments, reposts, likes and inviting others to the platform. This will be combined with AI moderation efforts and human moderators to keep the app safe, the team promises.

Image Credits: Lyrak

“After our initial launch and a couple of weeks of bug fixes, we plan to regularly release new features,” Siva said. “The advantage of being a startup building a social app is that we have a fresh perspective on things. We’re not stuck in the old ways of thinking, which allows us to innovate and create features that truly benefit our users.”

Lyrak is being built by a team of five, most of whom are based in London. (The fifth person is soon moving to London, too.) The startup is currently bootstrapped and available for download on iOS.

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Flipboard deepens its ties to the open source social web (aka the fediverse) | TechCrunch

Flipboard, a Web 2.0-era social magazine app that is reinventing itself to capitalize on the renewed push toward an open social web, is deepening its ties to the fediverse, the social network of interconnected servers that includes apps like Mastodon, Pixelfed, PeerTube and, in time, Instagram Threads, among others. On Thursday, the company announced it’s expanding its fediverse integrations to 400 more Flipboard creators and introducing fediverse notifications in the Flipboard app itself.

The latter will allow Flipboard users to see their new followers and other activity around the content they share in the fediverse directly in the Flipboard app. This follows last year’s introduction of a Mastodon integration in the app, replacing Twitter, and the introduction of support for ActivityPub, the social networking protocol that powers the open source, decentralized social networks that include Mastodon and others.

In February, Flipboard announced it would begin to add its creators and their social magazines to the fediverse as well, meaning that the curated magazines of links and other social posts that its creators typically share within the Flipboard app could now find a broader audience. By sharing creators’ posts and links with the wider fediverse, Flipboard’s publishing partners gained their own native ActivityPub feeds so they could be discovered by Mastodon users and those on other federated social apps. That initial push toward federation was started with 1,000 Flipboard magazines and today adds 400 more. In total, Flipboard says there are now over 11,000 curated Flipboard magazines available to federated social networking users.

“This is a major step toward fully federating our platform,” noted Flipboard CEO Mike McCue in an announcement. “We’re not just making curated content on Flipboard viewable, but enabling two-way communication so users can see activity and engage with fediverse communities. Personally, it has made my curation even more exciting as I know it’s reaching new people who may share my interests.”

The expanded set of accounts includes public accounts with one or two public magazines that have activity curated in the past 30 days and don’t have any trust and safety violations. They’ve also participated in Flipboard community programs. Accounts will be alerted to their federated status via email.

While Flipboard is working toward federating its users’ accounts by default, people will be able to “unfederate” by toggling off the “Federate” button in their Flipboard settings.

In addition to the newly federated magazines, Flipboard is also bringing a more integrated fediverse experience to its own app. With the version arriving Thursday (ver. 4.3.25), Flipboard users will be able to see their new followers from the fediverse in their Flipboard profile, while their Flipboard notifications will now include fediverse reactions and conversations.

This notification window will now contain three sections: Replies, Activity and News. In Replies, users will be able to see and reply to posts from people both on Flipboard and in the fediverse, as well as any other fediverse @mentions. When they respond, their reply is also sent back to the fediverse, making Flipboard more of a fediverse client app than before. The Activity tab, meanwhile, will show users the likes, follows and boosts (the fediverse’s take on the retweet), along with other Flipboard activity. The News section (previously called Content) will now showcase breaking news and other stories recommended by Flipboard’s editorial team.

The company had already begun curating content for fediverse users across a handful of “news desks” (dedicated fediverse accounts) that directed users to interesting articles and links across topics. There is a broader news desk, plus those dedicated to TechCulture and Science. This existing curation can help fuel the newly rebranded News section in the Flipboard app.

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Meta's X competitor Threads invites developers to sign up for API access, publishes docs | TechCrunch

After opening its developer API to select companies for testing in March, Meta’s Twitter/X competitor Threads is now introducing developer documentation and a sign-up sheet for interested parties ahead of the API’s public launch, planned for June.

The new documentation details the API’s current limitations and its endpoints, among other things, which could help developers get started on their Threads-connected apps and any other projects that integrate with the new social network.

For instance, those who want to track analytics around Threads’ posts can use an Insights API to retrieve things like views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes. There are also details on how to publish posts and media via the API, retrieve replies, and a series of troubleshooting tips.

The documentation indicates that Threads accounts are limited to 250 API-published posts within a 24-hour period and 1,000 replies — a measure to counteract spam or other excessive use. It also offers the image and video specifications for media uploaded with users’ posts and notes that Threads’ text post character counts have a hard limit of 500 characters — longer than old Twitter’s 280 characters, but far less than the 25,000 characters X offers to paid subscribers or the now 100,000 characters it permits in articles posted directly to its platform.

Whether or not Meta will ultimately favor certain kinds of apps over others remains to be seen.

So far, Threads API beta testers have included social tool makers like Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Social News Desk, Hootsuite, and tech news board Techmeme.

Although Threads has begun its integration with the wider fediverse — the network of interconnected social networking services that includes Mastodon and others — it doesn’t appear that fediverse sharing can be enabled or disabled through the API itself. Instead, users still have to visit their settings in the Threads app to publish to the fediverse.

Meta says the new documentation will be updated over time as it gathers feedback from developers. In addition, anyone interested in building with the new API and providing feedback can now request access via a sign-up page — something that could also help Meta track the apps that are preparing to go live alongside the API’s public launch.

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Snapchat turns off controversial 'Solar System' feature by default after bad press | TechCrunch

Less than a week after The Wall St. Journal reported on how a Snapchat feature dubbed “solar system” was adding to teens’ anxiety, the company has responded by adjusting how the feature works. The ranking system for paid subscribers today shows you how close you are to your Snapchat friends by displaying your position in their solar system. For example, a friend in the “Mercury” position would be someone you communicate with a lot, while “Uranus” would be someone not as close.

Of course, online chatting doesn’t necessarily correlate to real-world relationships, and such a feature can lead to hurt feelings when someone realizes that they’re not as close to a friend as they thought.

Snap says it has received feedback that it can feel good to know you’re close to someone but it can also feel bad to know you aren’t as close as you’d like to be.

“We’ve heard and understand that the Solar System can make that feeling worse, and we want to avoid that,” the company announced in a post on Friday.

However, instead of removing the feature, as it did with the dangerous and controversial speed filter, which it was sued over for “negligent design,” Snap is simply turning the Solar System feature off by default. Snapchat+ subscribers will still be able to turn the option on if they choose.

“We hope this strikes the right balance between providing a feature that is desired by many who use it while avoiding upsetting those who don’t want to use it,” the company explains.

Turning it off by default may provide some friction, but if the feature is already in demand among teens, then they’ll simply dig around to find the setting to turn it back on.

Snap argues that Solar System is not that popular, noting that less than 0.25% of the community uses the option. But since it’s only available to paid subscribers, the small percentage is not surprising. A more relevant stat would be how many Snapchat+ users have used Solar System or viewed the feature.

Although users can’t see who’s closer or farther away from the friend as they are, finding out they’re not number one has led to some tough conversations, The WSJ reported, even breakups.

Snap defends the feature by saying that people wanted to know more about their friendships, and features like Solar System provide “additional awareness and context.” But in reality, it’s a way to keep young people — a demographic where social hierarchy is key — addicted to using Snapchat.

The Solar System feature was only one of Snapchat’s friend ranking systems. It also offers a private feature called “Best Friends” that puts the people with whom you communicate most at the top of your contact list, along with a heart or smiley emoji, The WSJ pointed out.

Another much-debated feature called “Streaks” is a tool that Snapchat uses to encourage repeated use of its app by offering a visual representation of how many consecutive days users have stayed in touch with one another on the app. After much backlash from parents and families, lawmakers, and regulators alike over the feature’s addictive nature and psychological harms, Snap last year introduced a way to pause your streaks. It also added a way for users to restore a lost Streak.

While Snap promises in its blog post that it’s “committed to mitigating the potential downsides of online communication wherever possible,” it has intentionally built features and tools that have at least left it open to lawsuits and Congressional inquiry, if not worse.

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Is it just me, or was that an earthquake? | TechCrunch

For just a brief moment, this was the internet at its best. I stared at a vase of dried out Trader Joe’s flowers, rumbling on my table for maybe 30 seconds, but I was too shocked to even process what was happening. Then I saw the tweets (which, in this moment of shock, I refuse to call X posts).


“was that an earthquake??????”

“did everyone just feel that?”


“So excited that us east coasters can finally get earthquake Twitter”

People on microblogging sites (it wasn’t just X — I see you, Bluesky) had already determined the scope of the earthquake, confirmed it was, in fact, an earthquake, and began posting jokes about the situation before the less chronically online people even realized what happened.

It’s rare that something happens so suddenly that it unifies an entire geographic region — people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City and Massachusetts chimed in on my timeline, each unabashedly sharing our experiences. It’s like the old school Twitter, where you could post “eating a ham and cheese sandwich” and it wasn’t ironic. You were invited to say exactly how you felt, and everyone else was doing it too. It’s like old LiveJournal or Facebook statuses, where you could post “is feeling sleepy” and never consider that no one really cares.

It’s like a middle school cafeteria, hours after an unplanned fire alarm goes off. We’re all still buzzing with a certain naive excitement and awe, bouncing off of each other’s surprise and exaggerating our memory of what happened, like it was some legendary event. Everyone has lost focus at work. On Slack, Ron says he thought it was a train, and his chair shook a little. Matt says that in California, it usually feels like a car crash. Dom says she used to live in LA, and this was definitely an earthquake. Brian said, as a Californian on the East Coast, he didn’t even feel it. Then I share my own riveting account of this brief moment we all just experienced: I thought it was my neighbor’s washing machine.

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, and critics embarked on a mass exodus to platforms like Bluesky, Mastodon, Tumblr, and even ones that no longer exist, like Pebble, we mourned the end of an era. There used to be just one option for microblogging, and it was Twitter, unless you were really into open source federated software before 2022. Moments like these show that there really is value in the “public town square” — it’s a way for us to know that we aren’t crazy, or our boiler isn’t exploding, before anyone even knows what’s going on.

But when the most populous town square is becoming actively more hostile to people who aren’t crypto bros or Tesla stockholders, we get a sense of what we’re missing. On Threads, people are talking about cherry blossoms. On Facebook, I am delighted to learn there is a new grocery store coming to my neighborhood, but no one is talking about the earthquake.

As a lifelong East Coaster, I experienced something I’ve never felt before as the ground shook beneath me. And immediately, scrolling through my Twitter feed, I felt nostalgic for what the internet gives us at its best: a sense of calm, comfort, camaraderie and reassurance that I wasn’t alone.

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X warns that you might lose followers as it does another bot sweep | TechCrunch

X is warning users they may see a reduction in their follower counts as the company attempts to clear the network of some spammers and bots in a large sweep. Via an announcement published by X’s Safety account, the company on Thursday will begin a “significant, proactive initiative” to eliminate accounts that violate X’s rules about platform manipulation and spam.

The move comes shortly after X announced the appointment of two new leaders to its safety team: Kylie McRoberts, an existing X employee who’s now head of Safety, and Yale Cohen, previously of Publicis Media, who is joining as the head of Brand Safety and Advertiser solutions.

Spam has been an area that Elon Musk has longed to tackle at X, telling employees in November 2022 that he aimed to make fighting spam a priority going forward.

However, spam has proved more difficult to combat than he likely hoped, especially after extensive job cuts left Twitter’s Trust & Safety team short-staffed, while the role of head of Safety sat vacant for 10 months after the earlier departures of Ella Irwin and Yoel Roth under Musk’s tenure.

Advancements in AI have also made it more difficult to reign in the spam.

Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that Musk’s plan to require users to pay for Verification did not seem to have stopped spammers from participating on the platform. A number of bots with Verified blue checks were found to be replying to posts on X with a variation of the phrase, “I’m sorry, I cannot provide a response as it goes against OpenAI’s use case policy” — an indication that they were not people, but bots.

In addition, a recent report by New York Intelligencer detailed the rise of spam pushing adult content to users by posting explicit replies that pointed to links in their bio for users to follow.

The scale of spam on the network was one of the sticking points for Musk when he originally tried to back out of the $44 billion Twitter deal, saying that the company had not been honest about the number of bots. But these days, Musk is touting how X is seeing record traffic, without clarifying if his own numbers include bots and spam.

According to the X Safety team’s announcement, the company will be “casting a wide net” in its attempt to remove spam and bots from the platform, which may result in follower count reductions. This is par for the course for bot sweeps on its platform. 

X also shared a link to a form where users inadvertently affected by the bot sweep could appeal.

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Hoping to stall a ban, TikTok says it generated $14.7B for US small businesses last year | TechCrunch

As U.S. lawmakers weigh a possible TikTok ban, the ByteDance-owned short-form video app released an economic impact report on Thursday. In it, the company touts the platform generated $14.7 billion for small- to mid-size businesses (SMBs) last year, and a further $24.2 billion in total economic activity, supported through small business’s use of TikTok.

In addition, it says that over 7 million U.S. businesses rely on TikTok and that 224,000 jobs were supported by small business activity on the platform in 2023. Of those, 98,000 jobs were supported directly within SMBs on TikTok. The states with the largest impacts included California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

The study was performed by the economics forecasting group, Oxford Economics. It measured SMB activity on TikTok, along with ad spend and ROI, and leveraged census data and other measurements to come to its conclusions.

While a report of this size and scope couldn’t be thrown together overnight, the timing of its release is likely not coincidental.

In March, a bill that could ban TikTok passed in the House of Representatives. President Biden said he would sign it into law if it also passes in the Senate. Of concern to TikTok, is that the bill gained bipartisan support, passing the House with a 362-65 vote, despite former President Trump’s change of position on the matter. The Trump administration had previously sought to ban TikTok, calling it a national security risk, but Trump now opposes a ban, saying that Meta would benefit.

Meta is clearly preparing for a possible future where TikTok could be banned, if not spun out from ByteDance. On Wednesday, Facebook was updated to support a new video player across its social network;  it will recommend Reels, long-form and Live videos, but default to showing them in vertical format, as on TikTok.

YouTube and other short-form video platforms could also gain increased exposure if TikTok were to be banned, and could pave the way for startups competing in the space, as well.

TikTok’s economic report is a clear attempt to make a case for why the app should be allowed to continue to operate, noting that $5.3 billion in tax revenue last year was supported by small business activity on TikTok, including as a marketing and advertising platform.

The company also presented a variety of case studies where business owners claim that TikTok helped to drive sales, website traffic, and other forms of additional revenue.

Tying the ban to the app’s economic impact is a solid PR strategy — especially since a group of TikTok creators got a judge to successfully block Trump’s TikTok ban in 2020 by saying it would affect their professional opportunities, like brand sponsorships, and ability to make an income.

Though TikTok has been urging users via in-app messages to call Congress to protest a ban, the bill still faces a more difficult path to pass in the Senate — and more so now that the Republican party’s leader has reversed his position on the ban.

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Facebook takes on TikTok with a new, vertical-first video player | TechCrunch

Facebook is introducing a new, full-screen video player on Wednesday, which offers a more consistent design and experience for all types of video lengths, including short-form Reels, long-form videos and even Live content. The upgraded player, which will first launch in the U.S. and Canada, aims to streamline the experience for both watching and sharing video content. But more importantly, it will default to showing videos in vertical mode and will also allow Facebook to recommend the most relevant video to watch next, no matter what type of video that may be: long, short or live.

The latter change could potentially affect key factors that creators and advertisers care about, like watch time, number of views, reach and more. For Facebook, meanwhile, more people watching videos on the platform could allow it to increase time onsite, plus advertising views and clicks, among other things. It also gives Facebook a way to better compete against other popular video platforms that rely on algorithmic recommendations, like YouTube and TikTok, as it broadens the pool of possible recommendations to include more video formats.

Image Credits: Meta

These improved recommendations will also appear outside the player, on the Facebook Feed and Video tab. In addition, Facebook said it will show users more Reels going forward, given the demand for short-form video.

Facebook says its upgraded player will also offer new controls like a full-screen mode for horizontal videos and a slider to skip around in longer videos. Plus, users will be able to tap on the video to bring up more options to do things, like pause and jump back or forward 10 seconds.

Image Credits: Meta

Notably, the player will default to showing videos in vertical mode, like TikTok, though users will be able to access a full-screen option for horizontal videos that allows them to flip to watch in landscape mode. TikTok, by comparison, has also tested horizontal videos and long-form content of 30 minutes as it looks to compete with YouTube and other sites.

Facebook says the decision to prioritize the smartphone-driven vertical video format came about because it’s seen a shift in video consumption, where much of the viewing now takes place on mobile.

Facebook’s player will first roll out to iOS and Android devices in the U.S. and Canada before expanding globally in the months ahead.

An improved video-playing experience could potentially help Facebook capture the attention of a younger audience, too.

Image Credits: Meta

Although Facebook has declined in popularity with Gen Z over the past decade, The New York Times recently reported that many young people are now turning to the site for its Marketplace. That offers Facebook the opportunity to try to capture their attention in other ways, while on the site, including through Gen Z’s preferred social format, video.

There are other hints that young people are starting to rediscover Facebook, too. A report by NBC News indicated that Gen Z was boosting the “Facebook poke” — a long-forgotten gesture that was a simple way of saying hi. In March, Facebook announced that it had seen a 13x spike in pokes over the past month, for example.

The timing of the video player change also comes at a time when U.S. lawmakers are weighing a possible TikTok ban, which, if enacted, could increase video consumption on other social platforms.

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TikTok is bringing its dedicated STEM feed to Europe | TechCrunch

As TikTok continues to face increased pressure in the U.S. and the U.K., the company is signaling its commitment to fostering educational content on its app. The company announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its dedicated STEM feed across Europe, starting in the U.K. and Ireland, after first launching it in the U.S. last year.

The STEM feed will begin to automatically appear alongside the “For You” and “Following” feeds for users under the age of 18. Users above the age of 18 can enable the STEM feed via the app’s “content preferences” settings. The feed includes English-speaking content with auto-translate subtitles.

TikTok says that since launching the feed in the U.S. last year, 33% of users have the STEM feed enabled and a third of teens go to the STEM feed every week. The app has seen a 24% growth in STEM-related content in the U.S. since the feed launched. Over the past three years, almost 15 million STEM-related videos have been published on the app globally.

The company is expanding its partnerships with Common Sense Networks and Poynter to assess all of the content appearing on the STEM feed. Common Sense Networks will examine the content to ensure it’s appropriate for the STEM feed, while Poynter will assess the reliability of the information. Content that doesn’t pass both of these checkpoints will not be eligible for the STEM feed.

The launch of the STEM feed comes as TikTok has been criticized for showing harmful content to kids and teens, with rights groups alleging that the app uses addictive design practices to keep users engaged for as long as possible.

In February, the European Union said it was investigating whether TikTok has breached the Digital Services Act, which includes rules for keeping users safe online. The commission is investigating whether the app is doing enough to stop minors from finding inappropriate content and determining whether its design choices stimulate addictive behavior.

With today’s announcement, TikTok is seeking to further present itself as an educational hub for the millions of young users on its app as a way to counter criticisms from lawmakers around the world. The company has already used the STEM feed to counter claims that it’s harmful for young users, as TikTok CEO Shou Chew touted the feed while testifying in two separate U.S. congressional hearings, one in March 2023 and one in January 2024.

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