Friday Download: Facebook announces new video platform and new facial recognition software, Smile to Pay launches…

Say what you want about Silicon Valley, but it rarely moves slowly. We wrote only at the end of July about how Facebook was looking to monetise WhatsApp’s 1.2bn users, and before the leaves have even started to turn colour, it’s unveiled its plan.

Having recently introduced tools to allow small businesses to send and receive messages from customers, these privileges may soon become chargeable, and set the template for how to crack one of the biggest social challenges – how to make money from messenger platforms. While this has been billed as bringing consumers and organisations closer together (so says WhatsApp COO Matt Idelma), the reality of private messaging platforms becoming another avenue for advertising is clear.

Companies like Air France and KLM are early adopters, and one would expect organisations that include a significant level of customer contact will likely follow suit. With adverts already present on Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s not ruling out expanding this reach to WhatsApp too.

SMILE AT A CAMERA, GET FRIED CHICKEN

We repeat: Smile. At a camera. And receive fried chicken. This is not a drill.

The one catch is that you still have to pay, but this is still remarkable, and very cool (in our humble opinion). Smile to Pay  is a new step in the field of facial recognition software, developed in conjunction with the company so often in the headlines of all things digital, Chinese giant Alibaba. Its payments platform Alipay has broken new ground, with technology now able to identify faces in 2s, under a variety of challenges including wigs, makeup, and crowds.

The implications for digital communications are particularly interesting beyond an at present slightly gimmicky payments solution. Being able to serve personalised advertising to individuals and know their physical location is something towards which Snapchat are already moving, but to be able to identify someone by their face rather than by any particular app or device (pending them being registered of course) could be game-changing direct, targeted communications (not to mention actual sci-fi in our time).

FACEBOOK WATCH

Facebook’s new platform for original video content, Watch, is now open to everyone in the US. It can be accessed via Facebook’s native mobile apps, desktop site and TV apps, and allows users to subscribe to their favourite series instead of just haphazardly stumbling upon one-off videos in the News Feed.

Is it, as some hinted, going to have Netflix and Amazon shaking in their boots? As it stands, it’s unlikely.  As far as we can tell, Watch is – for now – really just a tab featuring clickbait video content created exclusively for the social media site. To really seduce audiences who frequent the most popular video streaming sites, Facebook would need to attract high quality, scripted comedies and dramas.

But then, who said Facebook even wants to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon? If the company’s just looking for ad revenue, it doesn’t necessarily need to expand beyond the lacklustre videos that people will watch when they’re already killing time on the platform.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

–         Tinder hits top grossing app in the App Store – [TECH CRUNCH]

–          Google reveals sites with ‘failing’ ads, including Forbes, LA Times – [DIGIDAY]

–          Instagram test feature lets users share Stories straight to Facebook – [THE VERGE]

–          Facebook is trying to pay off music publishers with copyright concerns – [BUSINESS INSIDER]

–       LinkedIn’s new Audience Network, lets marketers reach professionals on third-party properties – [THE DRUM]

AND FINALLY

Get the bat…

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