I will be taking next week off for the Christmas holiday, so this is my last weekly update for 2022. I’ll be back in the first week of January.
Note that if you are receiving this by email, the newsletter will be moving from the Revue platform (which is shutting down) to Beehiiv. Your subscription will be moved automatically. Please unsubscribe or let me know directly if you no longer wish to receive this subscription.
This week Amazon is shutting down their Kindle Subscription platform, hurting small magazines; the new Flickr Foundation was formed to help keep historical photos accessible for the next century, Google Meet helps celebrate the holidays, and there are updates for YouTubers, web publishers and more.
And Twitter drama, of course. I’ve saved that for the end so you can more easily skip it entirely.
Holiday fun in Google Meet
Last week I noted that there were new Meet meeting backgrounds for the holidays. This week they added a Santa and dreidel AR filters. I think I look good with the beard!
Meet is also rolling out automated live meeting captions in more languages. In addition to English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, Meet on Android and computers will also caption in Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian.
Some Google Workspace customers will also be able to get translations from French, German, Spanish and Portuguese calls into English (and vice versa), and English to Japanese, Mandarin and Swedish.
And while you are in a video call with friends and family, maybe read one of the Christmas or Hanukkah public-domain books available in Google Play Books.
Amazon is killing Kindle magazine subscriptions
Amazon has notified magazine publishers that they will be ending the Kindle Subscription program in 2023. This is bad news for small magazines and their Kindle subscribers.
Some apparently have been told they can switch to Kindle Unlimited. But that is an entirely different kind of platform, and does not have any subscriber revenue guarantees.
Magazines don’t make huge profits to begin with, so this is going to be a difficult change.
The new nonprofit Flickr Foundation (Flickr.org) is a new organization to help support and sustain the Flickr Commons photo collection.
Ryan Merkley, new Chairman of the Board, and formerly of the Wikimedia Foundation and CEO Creative Commons, has a Twitter thread reviewing Flickr’s “bumpy ride”. And Ben MacAskill, President of SmugMug and Flickr, explains how the Foundation is set up to both preserve and expand access to historical photographs, not just now, but 100 years from now.
This sounds like a worthy project!
YouTube launched several updates help improve comments:
- Improved automated spam detection
- Improved spambot detection in live chat
- Warnings to users when their comments are removed for violating Community Guidelines. Some may be temporarily prevented from commenting for 24 hours. This is currently only for English comments. If you believe YouTube got this wrong, you can send feedback.
Now when you upload a video to YouTube you will see an estimate for how long it will take to process.
If you offer Channel Memberships, gifting is now easier. You can create a link to allow your viewers to opt in to receiving gifts, and YouTube is starting to test gifting for non-members. And coming soon, purchasing gift memberships will be available on mobile devices.
If you watch YouTube on TV, in recent months YouTube has made it easier to sign in (including with Brand Account channels), switch accounts, and find content.
Does your site demonstrate E-E-A-T? Google’s search ranking systems try to provide helpful, relevant search results by making sure sites demonstrate E-A-T or Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. And now there is a second E, for Experience. An example of “Experience” is a software review from someone who has actually used the software.
Google Search is fighting link spam with SpamBrain, their AI-based spam-prevention system.
If you use Google My Maps to create custom maps to embed on your website (or share), there are new features to help you update your datasets, import and export in more formats, see when the map was created and customize the embedded map header.
For local businesses with a Google Business Profile, there is now an “add a map to your website” option in your account.
Nilay Patel @ The Verge interviewed Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg about Tumblr. It’s an interesting discussion about supporting the open web (which Automattic does with both Tumblr and WordPress), bringing the fun back to blogging, turning around Tumblr after purchasing it from Verizon, content moderation and more.
Instagram is adding support for recovery of hijacked accounts. You will be able to choose two of your Instagram friends to verify your identity to help you regain access to your account.
Instagram is rolling out new features that are meant to “help you feel closer to the people you care about”. Notably these are private interactions, rather than public posts.
- Notes: up to 60 character text posts (status updates?) you can share with mutual follows. They appear at the top of your friend’s inbox.
- Group Profiles: Posts shared with Group Profiles are only visible to other members of the group. They are also testing collaborative collections within a group.
- Candid Stories: Candid photos are captured with the stories camera showing both you, the photo-taker along with a photo of what is happening when you received the Candid prompt. This is being tested on both Instagram and Facebook.
Meta’s creator event platform Super is shutting down on February 15, 2023. It launched in 2020 as a platform for virtual meet-and-greet events, and apparently was testing a pivot to live streaming earlier this year. This was a project from Meta’s New Project Experimentation team, and may only have been used by 100 or so creators.
So what’s happening on Twitter?
This week Twitter re-launched Twitter Blue subscriptions,with a new requirement that your account needs to be at least 90 days old, no recent changes to your name, and have a verified phone number to get the blue checkmark (so still no identity verification). Features include the ability to edit Tweets, 1080p video uploads, and reader mode. Soon subscribers will also get “priority ranking in search, mentions, and replies”, which may convince folks using Twitter for marketing and self-promotion to sign up. I don’t personally find it compelling.
Twitter’s Revue newsletter platform announced they would shut down January 18. This is not a surprise, as it had been rumored to be shut down ever since Musk’s takeover of Twitter. As I mentioned above, I’ll be moving this newsletter to the Beehiiv platform in the next week or so.
But that isn’t the drama (so much drama). I am going to link to coverage by The Verge, which I recommend reading if you want all of the details. But here is what happened over the past couple of days:
- Twitter suspended the @ElonJet profile, which tracks the location of Elon Musk’s private jet (which is public information). Twitter also suspended the owner of that account, Jack Sweeney and the other accounts he operates.
- Twitter updated their Private Information and Media Policy to prohibit
- “live location information, including information shared on Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes, actual physical location, or other identifying information that would reveal a person’s location, regardless if this information is publicly available”, but noted that “sharing publicly available location information” is allowed “after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm”.
- Twitter reinstated the @ElonJet profile, then suspended it again.
- A number of reporters for major news outlets (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, The Intercept, Mashable) were banned from Twitter after reporting on the @ElonJet situation. Musk says the reporters were providing “assassination coordinates”, despite their not sharing his jet’s location, but rather reporting on the situation.
- Buzzfeed reporter Katie Notopoulos hosted a Twitter Space (audio chat room) to discuss this, and Musk joined. After questions from the attending reporters, Musk abruptly left the Space and Spaces were offline.
- As of Friday evening, some, but not all, of the suspended reporters have had their accounts restored. At least one of the still-suspended reporters, Business Insider’s Linette Lopez, has long been critical of Musk’s running of Tesla, and has been attacked for her reporting.
- Spaces are back online, but Katie Notopoulos is banned from using Spaces.
That’s where things stand as I write this.
Not surprisingly, the mass banning of reports has sparked another exodus, particularly to Mastodon and Post.news.
In another twist, Twitter is now blocking all Mastodon links. That prevents Tweets linking to any Mastodon server from being posted. Existing links to Mastodon servers now show a “malware” or “malicious link” warning interstitial if you click them. There are also reports that links to social media site CounterSocial are blocked.
I think all of this does not bode well for Twitter. Policy seems to be based on who upsets the boss, along with a lack of transparency.
What I’m really missing right now is the lack of local news and reporters. That is a big part of what I use Twitter for (this is my East Bay Twitter list).
You can archive all your Tweets in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. I’m trying it and it is very slow, so you may want to start soon if you are thinking of leaving Twitter.
Mike Masnick @Techdirt: “Twitter’s big ad plan: Violate FTC consent decree, California privacy law and EU privacy laws to force users to hand over info for ad targeting” (this sounds like a really terrible idea)
Former Twitter engineer Amir Shevat @ TechCrunch: Developer platforms are all about trust, and Twitter lost it.
Casey Newton: “How Elon botched his war on bots”. It turns out blocking all traffic from certain carriers not only blocks spam, but prevents legitimate users from receiving SMS 2-factor-authentication messages
(There are a lot more small things going on, but it makes me tired just reading through them. I’m only including the more notable information)
If you use Skype, it’s been redesigned to be “more delightful and fun”.
Melissa Heikkilä @Technology Review reports that the AI avatar app Lensa “cartoonishly pornified” her avatars while her “male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.”
To end the year on a positive note, Future Crunch has 99 good news stories you probably didn’t hear about in 2022.
Header image background: Photo by me, all rights reserved.