Facebook sets its sights on augmented reality
AR and VR features will soon be headed to your Facebook and Messenger apps. Mark Zuckerberg kicked off this year’s F8 conference by announcing Facebook’s bold ambitions to bring AR to the masses. Facebook’s new augmented reality platform, Camera Effects has already launched as an open beta, and Zuckerberg showed off a number of examples of what will be possible in the future, including commerce applications that would allow you to tag real world objects and perhaps even sell them. He also used Nike as an example of how you might integrate your workout information with AR overlays. R you ready for this?

Snapchat adds ‘World Lenses’ to its AR armoury
Not to be outdone by Facebook, Snapchat has taken its biggest steps yet into the world of Augmented Reality by rolling out World Lenses, a twist on its hugely popular face filters. Users are now able to turn the lens on the outside world and add 3D text, see flowers sprout up or any other number of effects, including clouds, a rainbow, and an obligatory floating “OMG”.  After selecting the lens, you can move it around the screen before taking your photo or video. Once you’ve placed it, the app behaves as if the object exists in the real world: walk closer to it and it gets bigger.

Facebook Messenger soars to 1.2 billion monthly users

Up 200 million users in just eight months, most platforms would expect to see a decrease in engagement but not Facebook Messenger, who have reportedly “increased engagement massively in terms of number of messages sent per active user”. This success has been put down to the introduction of things such as Messenger Day (a similar service to Instagram Stories) which has seen good uptake with teens. Users have also been glued to the platform following its launch of split-screen group video group chat, games and Snapchat-esque animated selfie masks and illustrated filters.

Facebook Messenger now supports group payments

Although it has been possible to make payments via Messenger since early 2015, Facebook has now announced that this feature will also be supported in groups. Perfect for splitting a dinner bill, or perhaps even sharing a $1000 lost deposit after a booze-fuelled easter weekend, involving forbidden breakages in the hot tub. Either/or!

Instagram Stories overtakes Snapchat

Instagram stories has more than 200 million users per day, making the singular feature of Instagram more popular than all of Snapchat – ouch. Snapchat meanwhile saw numbers hanging around the 150 million mark in Q4, with not all of those users using Snapchat’s own story feature. As well as publishing its impressive figures, Instagram has also launched two new features: the first is a selfie sticker – where you can turn a selfie into an emoji and stick it to stories. The second is the capability to pin stickers to moving video, so they move seamlessly with it. Seem familiar? That’s because it is already a feature on Snapchat but that’s not holding them back. ​

Instagram updates Instagram Direct for its 375 million users

Instagram has revamped its Instagram Direct messaging feature so now as well as seeing private messages and reshares here, you can also exchange disappearing messages and videos in the same place. They must be doing something right as Instagram also announced that Instagram Direct has added 75 million users since November of last year, now reaching 375 million monthly users.

Snapchat faces internet backlash following “rich people” comment
Snapchat has faced the wrath of internet users following the revelation that CEO Evan Spiegel said the app was for “rich people” and that he didn’t want to expand to poor countries like “India and Spain”. Snapchat has denied the allegation with a spokesperson claiming the comments were “ridiculous” and highlighting the fact that Snapchat is free to download worldwide. On the Sunday following the comments, the app received 1,631 negative comments in the Apple App Store.

Snapchat to introduce self-serve option for Snap ads
After sponsored geofilters, Snapchat is now working towards creating a self-serve model for its Snap ads (vertical videos that brands can run on Snapchat between users’ curated stories or on the Discover section). This means that advertisers will be able to launch ads more efficiently, without incurring fees from Snapchat’s API partners.

Snapchat to offer more of users’ location data to advertisers

In an attempt to make Snapchat look like a more effective revenue driver to advertisers, it is now offering (in beta) “Snap To Store”, which reports data on where users are using Snapchat. This means that brands can get an idea of the amount of people who see an ad and then go to the location of a store for instance. Snap will also break down the data by gender, age, state and what product they used (lens or geofilter) but unlike apps like Facebook and Uber, users location will not be tracked when the app is closed.