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Twitter’s Coming NFT Profile Display Option Moves to Next Stage of Testing



Twitter's Coming NFT Profile Display Option Moves to Next Stage of Testing

Twitter’s new NFT profile image display option is a step closer, with some users now being notified of the option in the app.

As you can see in this screenshot, posted by @flytip, some users are now being prompted to add an NFT as their profile image, which will then be displayed in a new, hexagonal format, and provide a direct link to the NFTs listing on a blockchain as proof of ownership.

As we reported back in November, Twitter’s looking to tap into the rising popularity of NFT profile images by building an official integration process, which will make it easier for NFT owners to display their ownership, with the back-end linkage to each NFT’s official information ensuring that only the actual owner of an image can display it in the new profile image format.

Twitter NFT profiles

Once that linkage is provided, profile visitors will also be able to view more information about each NFT by tapping on it, taking them through to a listing of both the owner and creator, as listed on the chain.

Twitter NFT profiles

That addresses a key criticism of NFTs, that anyone can just right-click and save your image and use it as their profile picture as well. With this new system, only the owner will have access to the official hexagonal format PFP, which will reduce unapproved use, and improve the broader NFT display process.

NFTs have become a key trend over the past few months, with Twitter being a central home for much of the NFT discussion, and for displaying your purchased art. Though despite the hype, there are still challenges and concerns in the space.

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For one, underlying copyright, i.e. total ownership of the original art, doesn’t currently extend to NFTs, which makes actual ownership questionable, as you only really own a record of purchase, not the original art itself. That means that if the original creator wanted to, say, create a line of t-shirts displaying your NFT, you would get nothing for that, and there’s no official legal recourse for controlling re-use in this respect as yet.

Many NFT variations are also auto-generated, which adds more complexity to the ownership question, as the original artist, in some cases, is an AI system, not an actual person or company, while there are also concerns about ‘pump and dump’ schemes in the space, where scammers are looking to cash in on the popularity of these new profile images by artificially inflating the price of their own NFT projects, in order to on-sell them to unwitting investors who think that they’re getting in on the next big thing.

And despite their broader connection to the ‘Web3’ movement, which is focused on facilitating greater economic opportunity for all, current evidence suggests that only a small amount of high volume traders are actually making money off NFTs.

According to recent reports, despite total NFT sales reaching $25 billion in 2021, just 10% of traders accounted for 85% of all NFT transactions. That’s a huge disparity in the market, which also gives these higher-end investors more motivation to promote NFT projects, with a view to boosting the price of each, in order to sell them off at a profit.

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There are many questionable elements within the broader ‘investor’ movement in the space, but as a project, NFTs do enable smaller art buyers and enthusiasts to pay artists for their work – and if you like the art and are keen to build the digital creative ecosystem, then it could be a good way to contribute.

But the longer-term view for NFTs is unclear. As a process, there will clearly be more buying and selling of digital goods in future, and NFTs provide a framework, of sorts, for that. But whether such investment will focus on profile image projects and digital art is not so certain, so while it may be a good starting point, the broader ‘value’ in the space will likely shift, especially as more metaverse-aligned projects come into play.

If all of that sounds confusing, it kind of is, but really, the bottom line is that NFT trading, as a process, is a strong proof-of-concept for the transaction of digital goods, which will become a much bigger deal moving forward. But would I be sinking tens of thousands of dollars into a Bored Apes picture, in the hopes of flipping it in future? No, I would not.

Still, for those that are caught up in the NFT hype, which seems to be focused on community and engagement as much as the projects themselves, then this new Twitter profile display option could be a great tool for showcasing your latest buys to other NFT collectors.

Twitter hasn’t provided any details on a full roll-out or test, but it looks to be coming soon.

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TikTok Looks to Expand Content Horizons with New, Integrated ‘Stories’ Test



TikTok Looks to Expand Content Horizons with New, Integrated 'Stories' Test

As TikTok continues its rapid ascent, with the app now on track to reach 1.5 billion users in 2022, it’s also seeking to expand its content horizons, with a view to increased monetization of that collective attention, and providing more capacity for creators to generate revenue from their clips.

Which is where this latest test comes in. As highlighted by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Kev Adriano), TikTok is making a change to its still experimental Stories feature, which would integrate TikTok Stories into the main ‘For You’ and ‘Following’ feeds in the app, as opposed to keeping its Stories element in its own separate space.

As you can see in this image, TikTok’s looking to integrate Stories creation into the main feed, which would essentially make Stories another content option, enabling users to create multi-frame sequences of clips and still images that users would then be able to view in-stream, just like any other clip.

Which is a big shift from how TikTok Stories were initially presented in August last year, with Stories added to a new left of screen sidebar, giving them a dedicated space, but also shifting users out of the main feed experience.

TikTok Stories

This updated format essentially merges Stories presentation into the focal stream, which seems like a much better way to go, as it doesn’t obscure the main screen with an intrusive side bar, while it would also expand Stories viewing, as they’d be included in your regular display, instead of an alternate element.

Users will also be able to view Stories from their connections and users that they don’t follow, adding a new content consideration in the app.

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You can see in the below example how the new Stories format looks in-stream, with a blue ‘Story’ marker on the first frame, and an indicator at the bottom of the screen as to how many total frames are in the Story.

Users would then tap on the video to move to the next frame, which could take a moment for TikTok users to re-adjust to, with a new UI merged into the experience. But it could be a good way to maximize user engagement, while as noted, it would also add another way to build on TikTok’s content opportunities, with a view to expanded monetization potential in the app.

Stories would also be marked as such on user profiles, with a counter as to the total frames in each.

TikTok Stories

It still seems a little clunky, with the presentation looking more like a placeholder in some respects, but the feature is still in early testing, as TikTok works on integrating these new options with a view to an expanded launch some time in future.

If it makes it that far. It’s hard to say whether the format will work within the TikTok experience, or whether it will just annoy users with an alternative process for viewing content. Which is no doubt what TikTok is working to determine right now, and while it does seem like it could take a moment of adjustment, it may well be a good addition, which, as noted, could help TikTok broaden its content offerings in order to provide more opportunities for creators in the app.

TikTok has also expanded the maximum length for TikTok clips several times, while it’s also developing its live-stream commerce tools, providing more ways to reach its growing audience, and keep them engaged beyond the short clips that dominate the main feed. Which is one of the platform’s key focal points – while short clips are clearly the trend of the moment, if TikTok wants to capitalize on its opportunities, it needs to become more than just Vine 2.0.

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Essentially, TikTok needs to become a fully-fledged social network, catering to a range of users, with a range of content options. That will ensure that can expand its appeal even further, while also increasing its ad surfaces.

Stories is just the latest experiment, but you can bet that TikTok is also testing a range of other content formats and options as it eyes the next phase of its global expansion.

Worth noting – the Chinese version of TikTok, ‘Douyin’, recently began testing ‘paid short dramas, allowing users to pay for individual episodes of longer, in-stream shows, as part of its own content expansion plans.

Maybe that’ll be TikTok’s next step.

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers



Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers

With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps



Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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