Posts with «author_name|karissa bell» label

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman defends API changes in AMA

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has finally spoken publicly about the company’s deeply unpopular API changes that have resulted in some of the most-used third-party reddit apps saying they will be forced to shut down. In an AMA (Ask Me Anything) discussion, Huffman promised improvements to Reddit’s own app, but seemed unwilling to make concessions on pricing and other issues that have rankled the community.

“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” he wrote in his AMA post. “Some apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync have decided this pricing doesn’t work for their businesses and will close before pricing goes into effect.”

In a series of mostly 1-2 sentence responses to detailed, multi-part questions, Huffman acknowledged some missteps in the company’s API rollout, but largely declined to tackle thornier questions about the company’s handling of its relationship with third-party developers. In one response, he conceded that the 30-day window given to developers for the new API was a “tight timeline” and said the company was “continuing to chat with many of the developers who still want to work with us.”

But other developers soon weighed in, noting that they had never heard back from the company, despite reaching out through the channels promoted by Reddit. “I have been trying to contact Reddit over the last 3 months and have been completely ignored,” one developer wrote. “I feel completely powerless to do anything right now and I want to try and save the app I've been working on for the last 10 years.” Huffman apologized and said the company would respond.

When asked about why the company accused Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, of threatening the company — a claim Selig denied and promptly debunked with an audio clip of a phone call with a Reddit rep — Huffman doubled down on the criticism. “His ‘joke’ is the least of our issues,” he said. “His behavior and communications with us has been all over the place—saying one thing to us while saying something completely different. I don’t know how we could do business with him.” (Huffman didn’t respond to a followup question from Selig asking for examples of such behavior.)

Huffman, who goes by spez on the platform, also promised that Reddit was working on improvements to its own app, including its moderation tools and accessibility features. Both areas are often cited by Redditors who prefer third-party apps to the company’s native app. He also said that the reason why third-party apps would no longer be able to show sexually explicit content was due to a changing “regulatory environment” and legal concerns. “It’s a constant fight to keep this content at all,” he said. “We have to be strict / conservative about where it shows up.”

One of his most telling answers came in response to a question about the perception that “Reddit has become increasingly profit-driven and less focused on community engagement” than it has in the past. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” Huffman responded. “Unlike some of the 3P [third-party] apps, we are not profitable.”

Notably, there were a number of topics Huffman didn't address, including why the company priced its API at a rate that developers say is prohibitively expensive. Huffman also didn’t address the upcoming blackout from thousands of subreddits protesting the API changes. More than 3,000 subreddits have pledged to “go dark” for two days beginning June 12th to protest the changes.

By the end of the AMA, Huffman had responded to 14 questions, while a few other executives answered a handful of their own. In perhaps the most telling sign that their answers were not well-received, every answer from the reddit team was downvoted so heavily they were almost impossible to view within the AMA thread itself. A moderator later linked all of their answers at the top of the thread. “We know answers are tough to find,” they said.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Mark Zuckerberg says generative AI is coming to ‘every single one of our products’

Meta’s generative AI plans are starting to come into focus. Though the company hasn’t adopted much in the way of generative AI features yet, Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear he wants Meta to be viewed as one of the leaders in the field.

Now, Axios reports that at a companywide all-hands meeting this week, Zuckerberg laid out some of Meta’s plans in more detail. The CEO reportedly briefed employees on some of the ways Meta plans to put generative AI “into every single one of our products.”

The planned features include AI “agents” for WhatsApp and Messenger, something that Zuckerberg has discussed in the past. And while Axios reports that WhatsApp and Messenger may be first to get the feature, an early version of an AI chatbot was spotted in the Instagram app this week by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi. Screenshots he shared indicated the app could have as many as 30 different “personalities” to choose from.

Also in the works, according to Axios: generative AI photo editing in Instagram. The feature would apparently allow users to edit their photos via text prompts and then share the images back to their Story. Zuckerberg has also recently discussed — during the company's most recent earnings call — post creation tools for Facebook, as well as for the platform’s advertisers.

It’s still unclear just how soon some of these features may launch, but it sounds like Zuckerberg is hoping to see them sooner than later. The company is also hoping employees will come up with some ideas for new generative AI features of their own and is reportedly hosting an internal hackathon to inspire potential new ideas.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Reddit CEO will host an AMA on API changes as thousands of subreddits plan to 'go dark'

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman will publicly address the community for the first time over the company’s planned API changes that have sparked mass outrage on the platform. “Reddit CEO, u/spez, will be here tomorrow to host an AMA about the latest API updates, including accessibility, mod bots, and third-party mod tools,” the company shared in a brief update.

A Reddit spokesperson said the AMA would likely kick off around 10:30 AM PT on Friday, June 9th. News of the AMA comes just after the developers of Apollo and RIF, two of the most popular third-party reddit clients, said they would be shutting down their apps at the end of the month due to the company’s new API pricing.

The AMA will take place just three days before a mass protest among much of the Reddit community over the controversial changes. More than 3,000subreddits, including several with more than 1 million subscribers, have said they plan to “go dark” for 48 hours beginning June 12th.

With the upcoming protests, and the closure of two beloved apps, tensions are likely to run high during the AMA. Notably, Reddit’s post about the upcoming Q&A doesn’t directly refer to third-party clients, though they will likely feature prominently in users’ questions. Instead, the company highlighted accessibility features and moderation tools, both of which stand to be impacted by the API changes as well, though the company has made some concessions in those areas.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Reddit says some accessibility apps won’t have to pay for its API

Reddit is changing its controversial new API policy for the makers of some apps that are focused on accessibility, provided they don’t monetize their services. As The Vergereports, Reddit has decided to offer the developers of select “non-commercial” apps that emphasize accessibility features an exemption from its controversial new pricing structure.

“We’ve connected with select developers of non-commercial apps that address accessibility needs and offered them exemptions from our large-scale pricing terms,” Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said in a statement. He declined to name any specific services or share how many apps might be covered by the new exemption, citing ongoing conversations with developers.

The concession comes amid growing anger with Reddit over the planned changes, which many developers say will put them out of business. Last week, Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, said the new pricing would cost him $20 million a year to keep the app running in its current state. Other developers have voiced similar concerns about the changes, currently slated to take effect July 1st.

As The Verge points out, the API changes have also sparked widespread concern among Reddit users who depend on services that make it easier to use the site with screen readers and other accessibility aids. Earlier this week, the moderators of r/Blind said they were planning to join the upcoming Reddit blackout in protest of the changes. The effort, which more than 1,000 subreddits have signed onto, will see participatingcommunities “go dark” for 48 hours.

While the latest change from Reddit could bring some relief to the members of r/Blind and others who depend on apps specifically tailored to their needs, the rule change won’t help the majority of third-party app developers. Apps like Apollo, RIF and BaconReader are monetized and thus don’t qualify for an exemption even though some also offer robust accessibility features. Unless Reddit makes further concessions, those developers are still facing the possibility that they will be forced to shut down, or drastically alter, their services.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Meta’s Oversight Board says the company’s rules are (slowly) changing for the better

More than two years after it formed, the Oversight Board says that its recommendations have helped make Meta’s rules more transparent to its users, though the company still needs to improve in some key areas. The board, which is made up of nearly two dozen experts in human rights and free speech, published its annual report covering its work and interactions with Meta over the last year.

While last year’s report sharply criticized Meta for not being transparent enough, the latest report highlights the impact the board’s recommendations are starting to have on the company. “In 2022, it was encouraging to see that, for the first time, Meta made systemic changes to its rules and how they are enforced, including on user notifications and its rules on dangerous organizations,” the board wrote in a statement.

The report also highlights areas where its members believe Meta can improve. According to the report, Meta reversed its initial moderation decision in almost two-thirds of cases they were picked for the Oversight Board’s shortlist, which “raises wider questions both about the accuracy of Meta's content moderation and the appeals process.”

The board also points out that it’s been more than two years since it first recommended the company better align its policies between Instagram and Facebook, but that the company has “repeatedly pushed back the deadline” for doing so. The group also takes issue with Meta’s refusal to translate internal guidelines for its content moderators into their native languages. Meta has contended that all its moderators are fluent in English so the step is unnecessary. But the board says “English-only guidance may cause reviewers to miss context and nuance across languages and dialects,” which can cause errors in enforcement.

The report also describes a lack of transparency over some aspects of Meta’s “newsworthiness” exception, which allows for some rule-breaking posts to remain online if the company determines there is a “public interest value” in the content. The Oversight Board says there is still “little is known about the process it [Meta] uses to decide whether content is newsworthy” and that the company’s responses to questions about the policy side-stepped direct answers.

The board’s report suggests there are other frustrating moments in its interactions with Meta. At one point, the board notes that it took eight months for its members to gain access to the company’s analytics tool CrowdTangle. The board also notes that many of its decisions over the last year were published after the 90-day timeframe set out in its rules. The board cites a few reasons for these delays but says that in some cases delays were due to “negotiations with Meta about how much information, which was originally provided by the company on a confidential basis, we could include in our final decision” that took “longer than anticipated.”

It’s also notable just how few cases the Oversight Board ends up weighing in on. In the report, the board says that in 2022 it published 12 decisions — a tiny fraction of the nearly 1.3 million requests it received from users hoping to overturn one of Meta’s moderation decisions. The board notes that it purposely chooses cases its members believe will have a large impact on Meta’s user base. Even so, numbers underscore the fact that that board will never be able to address the vast majority of requests it receives, despite more than $280 million in funding from Meta. That said, the Oversight Board has said that it intends to move faster on some cases, and that it will issue fast-tracked “summary decisions” in some cases beginning this year.

Interestingly, the report also touches on Meta’s suggestion that other social media companies should consider using the Oversight Board. “We are interested in working with companies that share our belief that transparent and accountable content governance, overseen by independent bodies, is an essential part of creating an online environment that respects freedom of expression and other human rights,” the report says.

It’s still unclear how Meta’s peers would start working with the group — or if they have any desire to do so — but the board clearly thinks it has learnings other companies could benefit from. “We’re not seeking to be the board for the whole industry,” Oversight Board Director Thomas Hughes says in the report. “But we are seeking to share what we’ve learned, and work with companies interested in setting up different bodies to set standards and oversee content governance.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple’s new ‘Journal’ app will help you kickstart a daily diary habit

Apple has a new diary app landing on iOS devices. Simply called “Journal,” the app is meant to help you keep tabs on daily moments you might want to remember or otherwise reflect on. The app is set to debut later this year following the rollout of iOS 17.

The app’s existence was reported in April by The Wall Street Journal, which compared it to Day One, a journaling app that’s been popular for more than a decade. But Apple’s Journal app could also be much more powerful than the offerings from third-party developers.

In addition to offering a diary-like interface where users can record notes about their day, the app will also allow people to easily keep tabs on their daily activities. Because the app can pull details from other apps, like Messages and Podcasts, it can automatically suggest moments you may want to reflect on.

For example, if you completed a workout using the Fitness app, or listened to a new podcast episode, Journal could remind you of these activities in its “intelligently curated” writing prompts and suggestions. Or if you took a trip to the beach, Journal could automatically pull in any related photos similar to the “memory” collages created in the Photos app.

The company also plans to offer an API for developers who want to tie their apps into Journal’s curated suggestions. Those kinds of integrations between apps could prompt privacy concerns, but the company said it created the app with users’ privacy in mind. The app is end-to-end encrypted, with all information stored locally on users’ devices. Users can also control which apps will have details appear in Journal’s suggestions.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Follow all of the news from Apple's WWDC 2023 right here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Instagram explains its recommendations and 'shadowbanning'

Instagram is, once again, trying to explain how its recommendations work in an attempt to dispel “misconceptions” about how the app’s algorithm works and whether or not the company engages in “shadowbanning” of certain creators. In a new blog post from Instagram’s top exec Adam Mosseri, he offers one of the most detailed explanations to date on how the app ranks content in various parts of the app.

“Instagram doesn’t have a singular algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app,” Mosseri explains. Instead, he says, there are multiple algorithms and ranking systems underpinning different aspects of the app, like Explore, Reels, Stories and search. Each of these uses a variety of signals to determine how content is ranked for each user.

For example, the order of posts in your main feed is determined by your past activity, as well as previous interactions with the person who made each post. Likewise, Stories posts take into account viewing history as well as “closeness,” or “how likely you are to be connected as friends or family.” On the other hand, recommendations in Explore are largely based “posts you’ve liked, saved, shared and commented on in the past,” but are more likely to come from accounts you’ve never interacted with.

One of the more interesting sections of Mosseri's blog post is titled “addressing shadowbanning.” Mosseri notes that there isn’t a universal definition for the word, but acknowledges that many creators “use the term to imply that a user’s account or content is limited or hidden without a clear explanation or justification.” And he says that the company is working to increase transparency around when creators’ content or accounts are blocked from the app’s recommendations.

Specifically, he calls out the app’s “account status” feature, which can alert users if one of their posts or their account is considered “ineligible” for recommendations. The feature also offers an appeals process. While it’s not the first time Instagram has addressed the issue, which has been the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theories over the years, there has been a notable shift in the way the company is talking about “shadowbanning.”

In a similar post from two years ago, Mosseri wrote that “the truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share, because most look at less than half of their Feed.” Now, he says Instagram is working on increasing transparency in cases when a creator’s content isn’t widely distributed due to a policy violation. “If anything makes your content less visible, you should know about it and be able to appeal,” he wrote.

He added that Instagram is testing “new notifications to help creators understand when the reach of their reel may be limited due to a watermark” (the company has tried to discourage users from posting recycled TikToks to Reels for years).

While some creators may still find these explanations unsatisfying — and there are more than a few who fall into that camp, judging by the comments on Mosseri’s own Instagram post — the new details underscore just how central algorithmic recommendations are becoming to Instagram. While the app re-introduced an optional chronological feed, Mark Zuckerberg has said his goal is to transform Instagram and Facebook into a “discovery engine” more focused on recommendations than posts from friends.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Reddit app developer says the site’s new API rules will cost him $20 million a year

Reddit’s recently-announced plan to charge for API access could price out the developer of one of the most popular third-party Reddit apps. The developer of Reddit client Apollo is raising the alarm on the new API pricing, saying the changes would require him to spend millions of dollars to keep his app going in its current form.

Reddit announced sweeping changes to its API rules last month, citing the rise of AI companies using their platform to train large language models. “The Reddit corpus of data is really valuable,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told The New York Times. “But we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free.”

But it now seems that independent app makers will also be subject to the pricier new plans, which are set to take effect June 19th. While Reddit hasn’t officially disclosed its API pricing, Christian Selig, Apollo’s sole developer, says he would have to pay $20 million to keep his app going “as-is” under the new policies.

“50 million requests costs $12,000, a figure far more than I ever could have imagined,” he wrote in a post on Reddit, citing multiple conversations he’s had with Reddit representatives about the upcoming API changes. “Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year.”

That pricing leaves Selig and Apollo, which has been widely praised for its design details and for providing functionality beyond Reddit’s native app, in a tough position. While the app does offer subscriptions, its current revenue isn’t enough to cover the steep API cost. He says that the average user makes about 344 API calls a day, which would require him to raise subscription prices to at least $2.50 a month (currently, he says, most subscribers pay $0.99 a month). Furthermore, that wouldn’t account for Apollo’s power users, who use the app at much higher rates, or the app’s free users. “Even keeping the existing, subscription only users I would be SUBSTANTIALLY in the red each month,” Selig tells Engadget.

In a statement, a Reddit spokesperson said that Selig was provided “pricing per 1,000 API calls, not a monthly bill,” but declined to share details. “Our pricing is based on usage levels that we measure to be as equitable as possible,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve been, and will continue, to work with third-party apps to help them improve efficiency, which can significantly impact overall cost.”

If all of this sounds oddly familiar, there are striking similarities between Reddit’s new developer rules and the drastic changes Twitter has made to its API policies under Elon Musk. In Twitter’s case, the company decided to ban third-party client apps while simultaneously making its API extraordinarily expensive for the researchers and businesses that previously depended on higher levels of access to Twitter data.

Of note, Reddit hasn’t been as outwardly hostile to developers. Selig notes that he’s had multiple calls with Reddit and that reps he’s spoken to have been “communicative and civil” about the changes. And a Reddit spokesperson suggested the company wants to keep third-party apps around.

“We’re committed to fostering a developer ecosystem around Reddit – developers and third-party apps can make Reddit better,” the spokesperson said. “Our Data API has powered thousands of applications, such as tools to make moderation easier, and utilities that help users stay up to date on their favorite topics, and games. Developers are incredibly valuable to the Reddit ecosystem, so much so that we recently updated our Developer Platform.”

Still, Selig said he’s uncertain about how he will handle the changes. “I hope it goes without saying that I don't have that kind of money,” he shared on Reddit. “This is going to require some thinking.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Twitter is testing Community Notes for images

As AI-generated images and video become more prominent on Twitter, the company is testing out a new feature that could make it easier for people to identify potentially “misleading media.” The company is experimenting with Community Notes for media, which will apply the site’s crowd-sourced fact checks to specific photos and video clips.

The feature allows for Community Notes contributors who have high enough ratings to apply notes to images shared within tweets. Like notes on tweets, the labels could add additional "context" to images, like indicating if a photo was created using generative AI or is otherwise manipulated.

From AI-generated images to manipulated videos, it’s common to come across misleading media. Today we’re piloting a feature that puts a superpower into contributors’ hands: Notes on Media

Notes attached to an image will automatically appear on recent & future matching images.

— Community Notes (@CommunityNotes) May 30, 2023

The feature could also address the viral spread of such photos. According to Twitter, the goal is for notes to automatically appear on “recent and future” copies of the same image even if they are shared by separate users in new tweets. However, Twitter notes that it will take some time to perfect its image matching. “It’s currently intended to err on the side of precision when matching images, which means it likely won’t match every image that looks like a match to you,” the company shared. “We will work to tune this to expand coverage while avoiding erroneous matches.”

It’s also worth pointing out that Community Notes’ track record is far from perfect. While the feature can sometimes result in nuanced fact checks or debunks of false claims, Community Note contributors themselves have pointed out that the feature “is not impervious to errors or perpetuating common misconceptions.”

For now, Twitter is testing out notes for media for tweets with a single image only, but the company says it plans to expand the feature to tweets with multiple images and videos in the future. Twitter isn’t the only platform grappling with how the rise of generative and AI and the spread of misinformation. Google also recently introduced features that will help users track an image’s history in search, which could help searchers intuit whether or not a photo was faked.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Bluesky now lets you choose your own algorithm

Bluesky, the Jack Dorsey-backed decentralized Twitter alternative, has released one of its most significant updates to date: the ability for users to choose their own algorithms. The service, which is still in a closed beta, released its “custom feeds” feature, which allows people to subscribe to a range of different algorithms and make their own for others to follow.

In practice, the feature works a bit like pinning different lists to your home timeline on Twitter in that users can subscribe to multiple feeds and easily swipe between them in the app. But custom feeds, because they’re algorithmic, are also more powerful than simple account lists.

For example, there’s a feed dedicated to posts from your mutuals —people you follow who also follow you back. That may sound like a list, but unlike a Twitter list, the feed should change as you gain more mutual followers. And while Bluesky’s app stills defaults to the chronological “following” timeline, most custom feeds are not chronological.


The feeds also provide a window into the different communities forming on Bluesky, as well as what’s trending on the platform. There are already custom feeds devoted to furries, cat photos, queer shitposters, positive thoughts and the hellthread. Early adopters have been able to experiment with the feature for awhile thanks to third-party apps, like SkyFeed and Flipboard, which added the feature before BlueSky’s official app.

For now, creating a feed for Bluesky is open to anyone, though it’s “currently a technical process,” Bluesky’s protocol engineer Paul Frazee said in a post. “In future updates we'll make it easy for users to create custom feeds in-app.”

The update could end up being a defining feature of Bluesky. Jay Graber, CEO of Bluesky, has said that algorithmic choice could address “backlash against the perceived algorithmic manipulation of people’s timelines.” It also offers a hint of what’s to come for the early-stage platform. Graber has outlined a similar vision for content moderation with users in control of the level of moderation and filtering they want.

“Our goal is to assemble a social media architecture that composes third-party services into a seamless user experience, because an open ecosystem is likely to evolve more quickly than a single approach to curation or moderation developed within one company,” Graber wrote. “By creating the interfaces for innovation in these areas, we hope to provide a dynamic and user-driven social experience.”

The idea of custom algorithms is one that’s long been embraced by Jack Dorsey, who floated the idea of allowing users to choose their own algorithms multiple times while he was still running Twitter. It also comes as there is industry-wide scrutiny on how social media algorithms impact users and whether the companies running major platforms are, even inadvertently, putting their thumb on the scale for one group of users. The appeal of custom algorithms is that users know upfront what each feed is prioritizing and can easily move between different experiences, most of which are not controlled by the platform.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at