December 29, 2016 2:54:26 pm
2016 is coming to an end and social media is more powerful than ever, but it is also facing a lot more scrutiny. Snapchat has emerged out of the shadows and everyone wants to copy this app; suddenly filters and ‘Stories’ are the rage. Facebook is bigger, more powerful but also under criticism over its handling of fake news. Twitter is struggling and has failed to make a turnaround. We recap the most important social media trends of 2016.
For Snapchat, 2016 has been a big year; the app has over 150 million daily active users, which is more than Twitter. Its popularity won’t be fading anytime soon; this also explains why rivals like Instagram and Facebook are copying its features. According to SurveyMonkey Intelligence, Snapchat was the second most downloaded app in the first six months of 2016 in the US. This is huge given the fact Snapchat is comparatively new in the category.
Snap Inc, Snapchat’s parent company, recently filed for an initial public offering (IPO) and the company could go public by March 2017. Snap Inc. also introduced its first hardware called the Spectacles, which are a more fun take on smart glasses, and these limited edition toys have proved to be very popular.
Snapchat added new features in 2016, including masks for rear camera, a new Scissors feature, introduced ads between Stories, along with the ability to do Group Chats. There’s no doubt that for Snapchat, 2017 will be a big year, and it will be one of the most watched apps.
Facebook’s 2016 wasn’t all good news. The social media website remains the world’s largest with 1.5 billion plus users across the world. Facebook’s plans to launch ‘Free Basics’ in India didn’t go to plan and it faced scathing criticism from net neutrality activists in India. In February 2016, India’s regulator TRAI banned Free Basics.
Then in August 2016, a Gizmodo report accused Facebook of editorial bias against US conservative news organisations in its Trending Section. Facebook denied the charges, and later removed human editors and switched to a more algorithm-driven system for deciding ‘Trending’ topics.
Facebook also introduced Live video more widely and gave more users across the world the ability to go live with their smartphones. The power of Facebook Live was made apparent when a woman named Diamond Reynolds from Minnesota, US broadcast a live video of her boyfriend Philando Castile being shot by a police officer, while she and her four-year-old daughter were also present in the car.
The Castile video went viral and sparked a wave of protests in the US against police brutality against Africa-Americans. Facebook later issues guidelines for Live video streaming as well.
After the US presidential election results, Facebook came under severe criticism for allowing fake news to spread on the website. Critics said the proliferation of fake news helped swing voter preference in the US Presidential elections and led to Donald Trump’s victory. It was argued Facebook didn’t do enough to suppress fake pro-Trump stories, that were re-shared a number of times on the social media platform.
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially denied the charges, he later on announced a slew of measures to tackle the problem on the site.
WhatsApp is arguably the most used messaging app in the world with over 1 billion monthly active users (MAU), and over 160 million MAUs in India alone. 2016 was the year we saw WhatsApp revamping and rolling out new features constantly.
The biggest update was the addition of video-calling, which went live on Android and iOS. It also added end-to-end encryption across the app, which was a big deal given the one billion plus users. WhatsApp added GIF support, a video-streaming option, the ability to share documents from services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud Drive, a new call back feature, the ability to format text and more.
For 2017, WhatsApp is expected to get more features like the ability to revoke and edit messages, a new ‘Status’ tab, which will be similar to Snapchat’s Stories.
For Twitter, 2016 failed to bring any major turnaround. Simply put, Twitter’s future is in serious trouble. Twitter’s user base failed to cross 350 million MAU mark; it has been surpassed by Instagram, WhatsApp, etc long back. Twitter currently has 317 million monthly users, (based on Q3 results) but this is only a 3 per cent growth from last year, which does not look good. The company has killed Vine as a platform, but is re-branding the app as Vine Camera.
Twitter did add new features like the ability to retweet one’s self, direct reply count, conversation ranking and more. It waived off the 140-character word limit for media such as pictures and videos, making it simpler for users to express themselves. But that hasn’t boosted user base.
According to reports, Twitter is exploring options to sell itself; the list of interested buyers include Salesforce.com Inc, Alphabet Inc, and Walt Disney Co. Will 2017 proved to be different for the micro-blogging website? We’ll have to wait and see.
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