Twitter hints at new threaded conversations and who’s online features

Twitter head Jack Dorsey sent out a tweet this afternoon hinting the social platform might get a couple of interesting updates to tell us who else is currently online and to help us more easily follow Twitter conversation threads.

“Playing with some new Twitter features: presence (who else is on Twitter right now?) and threading (easier to read convos),” Dorsey tweeted, along with samples.

The “presence” feature would make it easier to engage with those you follow who are online at the moment and the “threading” feature would allow Twitter users to follow a conversation easier than the current embed and click-through method.

However, several responders seemed concerned about followers seeing them online.

Twitter’s head of product Sarah Haider responded to one such tweeted concern at the announcement saying she “would definitely want you to have full control over sharing your presence.” So it seems there would be some sort of way to hide that you are online if you don’t want people to know you are there.

There were also a few design concerns involved in threading conversations together. TC OG reporter turned VC M.G. Siegler wasn’t a fan of the UI’s flat tops. Another user wanted to see something more like iMessage. I personally like the nesting idea. Cleans it up and makes it easier to follow along and I really don’t care how it’s designed (flat tops, round tops) as long as I don’t have to click through a bunch like I do with the @reply.

I also don’t think I’d want others knowing if I’m online and it’s not a feature I need for those I tweet at, either. Conversations happen at a ripping pace on the platform sometimes. You are either there for it or you can read about it later. I get the thinking on letting users know who’s live but it’s not necessary and seems to be something a lot of people don’t want.

Its unclear when either of these features would roll out to the general public, though they’re available to those in a select test group. We’ve asked Twitter and are waiting to hear back for more information. Of course, plenty of users are still wondering when we’re getting that edit button.

from Social – TechCrunch
via Superb Summers

Wish, Netflix, Uber and ~100 others testing WhatsApp’s new Business API

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced the launch of its first revenue-generating enterprise product, the WhatsApp Business API. The API allows businesses to respond to messages from WhatsApp users for free up to 24 hours, then charges for any responses after that point on a per message basis. Though still in a limited preview, the company is now supporting around 100 businesses directly on its API platform, including airlines, e-commerce companies, banks, and others like Uber and Netflix, and plans to onboard many more in the months ahead.

Because businesses have to first apply to gain access the API, there’s some misinformation floating around on backchannels about how to get approved.

For example, some industry sources have been telling partners that no U.S.-based businesses are being onboarded to the API at this point. This is untrue, WhatsApp says. In fact, there’s a public site where U.S. companies Uber and Wish are featured as “customer stories.” We also understand that U.S.-based Netflix is testing the API, though not for use in the U.S. for the time being.

Others listed on WhatsApp’s website include, MakeMyTrip, B2W, iFood, Singapore Airlines, Melia Hotels, KLM, Bank BRI, absa, Coppel, and Sale Stock.

WhatsApp isn’t limiting access to the API based on where companies are located, it says, nor does it have requirements for those businesses  – like how many messages they need to send per month.

The latter is another piece of misinformation out there, as businesses try to decipher who’s getting in. Some have been saying that API customers need to send at least 100,000 messages a month, if they expect WhatsApp to approve them during this preview phase. This is inaccurate, WhatsApp says.

There’s no requirement related to the number of messages being sent. Although the API is intended to be used by larger businesses, some today are using it for customer service which often means they’re receiving more messages than they’re sending, the company noted.

The API is now how WhatsApp generates revenue, as it ditched its subscription fee years ago. That’s why it’s worth tracking its progress. Businesses can also buy Facebook News Feed ads that launch customers into WhatsApp conversations they can respond to.

WhatsApp officially launched its Business app at the beginning of the year, which makes sense for smaller companies, and then rolled out the API this summer for the larger ones.

Bringing businesses into the WhatsApp ecosystem is a significant shift for the Facebook-owned company, as it turns what’s been a place where family and friends communicate into a place of business.

With that delicate balance in mind, WhatsApp says that businesses cannot reach out to customers using the API without the customers’ specific permission.

Instead, the API is designed to allow businesses to respond to customer inquiries, or provide them with other information they’ve requested. For example, an airline may send a boarding pass via the API; an e-commerce business may send a receipt; a bank may send over a bank statement.

Uber is using WhatsApp with its drivers to all them to connect to members of its team about questions and Netflix is sending account messages and suggestions as a part of its test.

Further down the road, the API could enable other types of customer interactions as well, like handling two-factor authentication requests, perhaps, instead of using SMS. But that’s not happening at present.

WhatsApp says there are now around 100 companies globally on the API platform.

The company is also working with a dozen or so solution providers. Businesses like VoiceSageNexmoInfobip, Twilio, MessageBird, Smooch, Zendesk, and others are already advertising their services in this area.

Companies interested in gaining access to the API can work with one of the solution providers or sign up directly via the WhatsApp website.

As WhatsApp brings on more businesses, it’s only vetting requirement of sorts is that it’s looking for those interested in creating quality experiences for customers, the company says.

Of course, even the invited intrusion of businesses into WhatsApp changes the nature of the platform.

As users invite more businesses to communicate with them, WhatsApp may start to feel like more like an email inbox or even a Twitter-like support channel.

Making sure there are easy-to-find settings that let users terminate their connections with businesses will be just as critical as the API becomes more widely adopted going forward.


from Social – TechCrunch
via Superb Summers

Twitter announces new policy and certification process for ‘issue ads’

Twitter continues to roll out new policies aimed at increasing transparency, particularly around political advertising.

Amidst ongoing concerns about Russian election interference and misinformation on social media, the company recently announced political ad guidelines and launched an Ads Transparency Center where you can find more information about advertisers.

Initially, however, Twitter’s stricter standards were limited to ads for U.S. federal election candidates and campaigns. Now it’s announced a policy around the broader category of “issue ads.”

In a blog post, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey and its general manager of revenue product Bruce Falck said the policy affects two categories:

* Ads that refer to an election or a clearly identified candidate, or
* Ads that advocate for legislative issues of national importance

In both cases, advertisers will need to apply for certification, which involves verifying their identity and location in the United States. Like election ads, issue ads will be labeled as such in the Twitter timeline, and they’ll allow users to click through and learn more about the advertiser. They’ll also be included in the Ads Transparency center.

Twitter Issue Ads

As examples of the kinds of issues that would be covered, Harvey and Falck cited “abortion, civil rights, climate change, guns, healthcare, immigration, national security, social security, taxes, and trade,” though they also said that list will likely evolve over time.

News organizations that want to run ads around their political coverage can apply for an exemption. (Since the definition of what is and isn’t a news organization can be blurry, there are specific criteria that they’d need to meet, like providing editorial staff information online and not being “dedicated to advocating on a single issue.”)

“We don’t believe that news organizations running ads on Twitter that report on these issues, rather than advocate for or against them, should be subject to this policy,” Harvey and Falck wrote.

Twitter says it will start enforcing the policy (which, to be clear, is currently U.S.-only) on September 30.

from Social – TechCrunch
via Superb Summers