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What Facebook Will Look Like by 2024




Online empires come and go. At one time, Alta Vista was the top search engine and Netscape was the only web browser. Both are now gone. Will the same happen to Facebook?

It’s unlikely the company could completely exit the stage. However, the Facebook of 2024 will look very different from today’s version. Primarily, the company will continue to morph from a social network to a more traditional media company.

Several macro trends will likely drive that transformation, including the ascendance of smaller private networks, emerging platforms and growth in developing countries.

Adapting to Mobile

The switch from desktop to mobile appears to have changed how people behave on social media, or at least, how they define it.

A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that young people were exhibitionists at heart who had no reservations about sharing their data with the world. Mobile changed that. When you sit down at your computer to write, you might expect your words and actions to be seen by the world. On mobile, though, we’re used to sending messages only to our closest friends and family. Snapchat’s success bolstered that view.

In 2014, the narrative has evolved. Teens/mobile users are now perceived as fiercely protective of their privacy.

Facebook has become a teen’s version of LinkedIn — a network you have to join to participate in the wider world, but a space that commands little attention. As research has shown, twenty-somethings use Facebook a lot more than teens, and younger teens use it less than older teens.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged, Snapchat has addressed a previously unstated need in the marketplace for more private social media interactions. Zuckerberg reportedly made a $3 billion unsuccessful bid for Snapchat after Facebook’s would-be Snapchat killer, Poke, failed to gain traction.

Facebook, which was caught flat-footed by the mobile revolution, has been proactively avoided falling behind again. Step one: Messenger, a mobile app released in August 2011. From the start, Messenger was too clunky to be considered a substitute for texting. And if someone wasn’t your Facebook friend, you couldn’t message him or her. Facebook listened and adapted, though. The company addressed this issue late last year, raising the question: What is Facebook if not a means to connect you to your Facebook friends?

Expect the question of “What is Facebook?” to linger. Once, the site stood for permanence and authenticity. Now the company is ready to let users go anonymous on some new Facebook-branded apps. As Zuckerberg noted on his fourth quarter earnings call, the strategy for 2014 is more apps, a kind of divide-and-conquer strategy for mobile that will provide disparate experiences, all brought you by Facebook.

The first new step in this direction is Paper, a news aggregation app that the company introduced Monday, a day before its 10-year anniversary.

The Next 10 Years

Looking ahead over the next few years, most envision a continued migration from desktop to phones and tablets. eMarketer predicts that, by 2017, some 2.5 billion people will have smartphones, versus 1.75 billion today.

Facebook will behave like a media company, releasing apps with the Facebook imprimatur to address new needs in the market.

Such needs will likely spread beyond phones and tablets and into wearable computing. Facebook is already on Google Glass. If smartwatches catch on, Facebook will want to be a forerunner as well.

Facebook is a global company, though, and can’t just cater its services to the rich. In June, I spoke with Facebook VP of Global Marketing Solutions, who told me the company was putting a lot of focus on “the next billion,” customers who still use feature phones and live in developing countries.

Last July, Facebook announced its Facebook For Every Phone app had hit 100 million users. To reach the other 2.5 billion consumers around the world who will have feature phones in 2017, the company will continue to offer that stripped-down experience.

In other words, because of the growth of new mobile platforms and its growing presence in the developing world, Facebook will package in many different forms.

A Media Company

In its first 10 years, Facebook’s primary appeal was its user base. There was really no other reason to go on Facebook except to see your friends. Over the next decade, as it competes with Twitter, Google+ and a host of up-and-coming apps, Facebook will have to offer something more.

One possibility is content creation. While the idea of Facebook-produced TV shows may seem far-fetched, who would have guessed Amazon would be doing the same? That’s why, although Facebook denies it, the company’s move into news aggregation has made such a scenario more plausible.

After all, now that Facebook has hired editors, why not writers and, eventually, actors? The company is already indirectly subsidizing actors and public figures who use the social network to reach out to their fans.

If such content creation seems familiar, look no further than Yahoo. With an aging demo but huge reach, Facebook could easily become the Yahoo of the late teens/early 20s set. Maybe sooner than that. Facebook wouldn’t love the comparison, of course, but things could be worse. Despite its troubles, Yahoo is still powerful and viable.

On the other hand, Facebook could do everything right and add another billion or so customers, making it more of a counterbalance against Apple, Google and Amazon. In such a scenario, Facebook probably wouldn’t have any choice but to expand into hardware and content to make its ecosystem viable. Since consumer electronics ecosystems aren’t mutually exclusive — most people participate in Google’s and Apple’s to some degree these days — it will be harder to differentiate oneself.

For the average user, then, Facebook wouldn’t have much different to offer, except maybe for its content. Meanwhile its huge user base will be both a selling point and an obstacle.

Much will be gained in such a scenario, but something will be lost, too. Just as Google — another company that makes most of its money from advertising — is becoming less synonymous with “search engine” and more with “huge and scary media company,” Facebook will shed its identity as a social network. That’s a contrast from how many see Facebook today, but not longer hugely off base.


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Samsung has created smart TV software you can control with your brainwaves.

The research, called Project Pontis, aims to make Samsung’s televisions more accessible for people with physical disabilities like quadriplegia. The company wants to enable “users with physical limitations to change channels and adjust sound volume with their brains.”

Samsung’s Swiss operations started the project three months ago in partnership with the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. The company demoed its second prototype TV on Thursday at its developer conference in San Francisco.

“How can we provide accessibility to people who cannot move or who have extreme limitations on their movements,” Ricardo Chavarriaga, a senior scientist at EPFL who’s working on the project with Samsung, said during a panel at Samsung Developer Conference.

“We’re making tech that is more complex, that is more intelligent, but we should not forget this tech is being made to interface with humans,” he added.

The first step in making the brainwave-controlled TV software is to collect a sample of how the brain behaves when the user wants to do something like select a movie. Samsung and EPFL combine indicators from both the environment and brain scans to build a model and apply machine learning to let the user select shows using eye movements and brainwaves.

To collect the brainwaves in the prototype, a user wears a headset covered with 64 sensors while looking at an eye tracker. The headset is connected to a computer that’s mirrored to the TV.

The current prototype uses eye tracking to determine when a user has selected a particular movie. The system then builds a profile of videos the user gravitates toward, making it easier to provide lists of content in the future. The user ultimately makes a selection using eye tracking.

Ricardo Chavarriaga (left), a senior researcher at the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and Martin Kathriner, head of public Affairs, Samsung Electronics Switzerland GmbH, have been working on controlling a TV using brainwaves.

Shara Tibken/CNET

Samsung and EPFL are also working on a system that goes further and relies on brain signals alone for users who aren’t able to control their eyes or other muscles reliably, Chavarriaga said.

“One thing we have to take in account is everybody is different,” he said. Currently, the technology has to be tailored to each person because of variations in brains. “We believe we have to do the best for the person, so we have to personalize,” Chavarriaga told CNET.

Samsung this week has been hosting its annual developer conference in San Francisco. SDC reflects Samsung’s big push to get developers to make software specifically for its devices. In the past, that’s meant making apps that work on the edge of Samsung’s curved smartphone displays or take advantage of its S Pen stylus. This year, that focus has turned to Bixby and artificial intelligence. But Samsung also has pushed developers to make apps for its other products, like its TVs and home appliances.

Brain power

While developers aren’t yet making apps that can be controlled with the brain, Samsung’s doing research into the area. And it’s not the only company trying to use brainwaves to control devices. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in March 2017 launched Neuralink, a company dedicated to creating “neural lace,” which involves installing tiny electrodes in the brain to transmit thoughts.

Samsung’s Project Pontis collects brainwaves to decide if the user wants to select a particular movie.

Angela Lang/CNET

And neuroscientists around the globe have been researching ways to make a digital interface for the brain. The technology is still early days, but it could one day replace touch screens and voice assistants in devices. Currently, most brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are currently being created only for people who have suffered debilitating injuries that left them partially or completely paralyzed.

While Samsung’s first prototype also is targeted at accessibility, it’s too soon to say whether we’ll all one day be controlling our devices with our brainwaves, said Martin Kathriner, head of public affairs for Samsung Electronics Switzerland GmbH. There are limitations with the current hardware. The sensor helmet requires a layer of gel applied to the head, something consumers likely aren’t going to do at home.

“To us it’s an accessibility idea,” he told CNET after Samsung’s SDC panel. “If it’s applicable to us one day as pro couch potatoes, I have no idea.”

Samsung initially considered building the technology into a smartphone but opted for the TV in part because of its bigger screen and because most homes have a TV, Kathriner said. He added that TVs also can be used as smart home hubs, which could be attractive for the brainwave technology.

Samsung plans to work on its second prototype through the first quarter of 2019 and then start tests in Swiss hospitals “where we start to explore how this situation, currently a prototype, … is perceived by patients,” Kathriner said.

Originally published at 3:05 p.m. PT
Update at 4:30 p.m. PT with additional details and executive comments.

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Facebook says it’s been trying to do a better job of finding and pulling down terrorist content, and on Thursday the world’s largest social network said it’s seen signs of success.

Facebook said that in the third quarter, it pulled down 3 million posts related to terrorism, a drop from the 9.4 million posts Facebook removed in the second quarter. The median amount of time terrorist content stayed on the platform after users reported it also dropped, from 43 hours in the first quarter to 18 hours in the third quarter, the company said.

Social networks are under pressure to remove terrorist content before violence spills into the real world. As they increase their efforts, though, bad actors are constantly changing strategy to evade detection, the companies say. Some terrorists try to create new accounts or break up their messages, Facebook said.

“We can reduce the presence of terrorism on mainstream social platforms, but eliminating it completely requires addressing the people and organizations that generate this material in the real world,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s global head of policy management, and Brian Fishman, the company’s head of counterterrorism policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook relies on machine learning to detect terrorist content its reviewers should prioritize. Sometimes the company will automatically pull down posts, if the system determines there’s “high confidence” the post contains support for terrorism. The company has also been expanding some of its tools to more languages.

In the third quarter, about 99 percent of content related to ISIS and al-Qaeda was pulled down by the tech firm before a user reported it, Facebook said.

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Facebook is banning individual accounts, pages and groups linked to far-right extremists the Proud Boys.

People started reporting the takedown on Twitter on Tuesday, according to Business Insider, in the wake of Proud Boys members’ arrests following a brawl on Manhattan’s Upper East Side earlier this month.

The group and its founder Gavin McInnes were removed from Facebook and Instagram, the social network confirmed, highlighting its policies on hate groups.

“Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it. We will continue to review content, Pages, and people that violate our policies, take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe.”

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The Proud Boys’ main US page and McInnes’ personal page are offline, but some smaller pages linked to the group are still up at time of writing.

McInnes, who co-founded Vice Media and left in 2008, created Proud Boys during the 2016 presidential election, and was suspended from Twitter in August. The self-described “western chauvinist” group was designated as a hate group by extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center.

These bans come months after far right commentator and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was kicked off multiple online platforms for hate speech.

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