Facebook To Pull Plug on Parse

Parse, the cloud application platform acquired by Facebook in April 2013, will cease to exist Jan. 28, 2017.

Parse co-founder Kevin Lacker made the announcement in a blog post, also revealing two tools to help developers migrate their apps to other platforms.

Lacker wrote:

We have a difficult announcement to make. Beginning today, we’re winding down the Parse service, and Parse will be fully retired after a year-long period ending Jan. 28, 2017. We’re proud that we’ve been able to help so many of you build great mobile apps, but we need to focus our resources elsewhere.

We understand that this won’t be an easy transition, and we’re working hard to make this process as easy as possible. We are committed to maintaining the back-end service during the sunset period, and we are providing several tools to help migrate applications to other services.

First, we’re releasing a database migration tool that lets you migrate data from your Parse app to any MongoDB database. During this migration, the Parse application-programming interface will continue to operate as usual based on your new database, so this can happen without downtime. Second, we’re releasing the open source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server. Once you have your data in your own database, Parse Server lets you keep your application running without major changes in the client-side code. For more details, check out our migration guide here.

We know that many of you have come to rely on Parse, and we are striving to make this transition as straightforward as possible. We enjoyed working with each of you, and we have deep admiration for the things you’ve built. Thank you for using Parse.

Facebook spokesman Michael Kirkland told The New York Times’ Bits blog:

Moving forward, we want to dedicate more resources to high-impact products and services in areas like analytics, monetization, discovery and authentication. As a result, we’ve made the difficult decision to wind down support for Parse. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together with the Parse community, and we thank them for their support.

Readers: Are you as surprised as we were?

F8 2016 Set for April 12-13

F8 2016, Facebook’s global developers’ conference, will be held Tuesday, April 12 through Wednesday, April 13 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Facebook also announced seven new partners for its FbStart initiative, which is aimed at giving a boost to mobile application startups, bringing the total to more than 30 partners. The new partners are:

Animoto
Coursera
Dropbox
Reverie
Twilio
Twin Prime
Verbalizeit

Product manager Alyssa Levitz said in a developer blog post that the FbStart community now includes more than 7,200 startups from over 130 countries, with 70 percent of them from outside of the U.S.

And the social network introduced a new version of its share sheet for iOS, with Levitz writing:

Today, we’re starting to roll out a new version of the share sheet to iOS apps that use the iOS share extension. It includes a clearer preview of the content you’re sharing on Facebook, a more prominent way to control who can see your post and new ways to tag friends or add feelings to a post.

Since F8, we’ve been testing versions of the share sheet to incorporate feedback from people and developers. We learned that people want a simple experience that takes them directly to the composer after they click “Share,” shows a clear preview of what they’re sharing and allows them to complete the share quickly in just a few steps.

Readers: Yes, we know, it’s six months away, but what new products do you think Facebook will unveil at F8 2016?

Warning: Facebook Users Should Avoid Unfriend Alert

Facebook users who downloaded an application called Unfriend Alert need to be on the alert, according to Pieter Arntz of Malwarebytes Labs.

Arntz cautioned in a blog post that the app did not do what it promised. What it did do, however, was send victims’ login information to yougotunfriended.com.

Unfriend Alert also does not show up on Facebook users’ lists of apps, Arntz warned, adding:

In general, it is a bad idea to give your Facebook credentials away, especially to a third-party app. The functionality of this app can also be found in Facebook apps like Unfriend Checker, which seems to make a bit more sense to me.

If you came here because you are infected, you can find a removal guide for this adware on our forums.

Readers: Have you ever been burned by surrendering your Facebook login info?

Facebook: Apps Must Support SHA-2 Encryption by Oct. 1

By Wednesday, June 3, 2015 0 Permalink 0

Facebook followed up its test of improved encryption for notification emails with a mandate that developers move to a more secure standard for their applications.

As of Oct. 1, apps that do not support SHA-2 certificate signatures will be unable to connect to the social network, production engineer Adam Gross wrote in a post on the Facebook developer blog.

Gross explained the change as follows:

These changes are part of a broader shift in how browsers and websites encrypt traffic to protect the contents of online communications. Typically, Web browsers use a hash function to create a unique fingerprint for a chunk of data or a message. This fingerprint is then digitally signed to prove that a message has not been altered or tampered with when passing through the various servers and systems between your computer and Facebook’s servers.

For the past two decades, the SHA-1 standard has been the preferred choice across the Internet for calculating message fingerprints. But after identifying security weaknesses in SHA-1, the Certificate Authority and Browser Forum recently published new Baseline Requirements for SSL, recommending that all certificate authorities transition away from SHA-1 based signatures, with a full sunset date of Jan. 1, 2016.

We’ll be updating our servers to stop accepting SHA-1 based connections before this final date, on Oct. 1, 2015. After that date, we’ll require apps and sites that connect to Facebook to support the more secure SHA-2 connections.

Gross suggested that developers check their apps, software-development kits and devices that connect to Facebook in order to determine whether they support SHA-2, adding that more information is available here and here.

Developers: Are you ready?

Facebook Elaborates on Privacy for Atlas, LiveRail, Ad Preferences

Recent changes to Facebook’s ad products resulted in concerns about users’ privacy, and deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman aimed to put users at ease with a detailed note on the Facebook and Privacy page Monday.

Sherman discussed Facebook’s Atlas advertising platform, LiveRail video advertising technology and ad preferences for users.

On Atlas — which Facebook acquired from Microsoft in February 2013 and overhauled and relaunched last September — Sherman described changes to the ad network’s privacy policy, noting that the changes are not operational, but merely offer more details to users.

According to Sherman, the revised privacy policy covers Atlas’ measurement tools for online and offline purchases, as well as ad targeting and optimization, adding:

The updated privacy policy provides more details of how we receive information from third parties to improve the ads people see. For example, an advertiser might want to reach people who have made a purchase on their website in the past with ads served by Atlas that contain a discount code for their next purchase.

As for LiveRail, which the social network acquired last July, information from Facebook will now be included in order to help ensure that the proper ads are served to the most appropriate users, and LiveRail’s privacy policy was updated to reflect the shift from desktop to mobile.

Sherman explained that LiveRail can now limit the number of times a specific user will see the same ad on different applications using LiveRail, and information about an ad that a user interacts with in one app can be used to serve that user related ads in another app. He added:

To help publishers understand what ads are most relevant to their audiences and how their ads are working, we include language that explains how we look at ads served across devices, and how people interact with those ads (such as clicks, or visits to the advertiser’s website or app). While we help publishers measure how their ads perform, we do not tell advertisers or publishers who people are.

Finally, Sherman stressed that Facebook users can opt out of seeing ads from Atlas and LiveRail on off-Facebook apps and sites via the Digital Advertising Alliance or the ad controls in their settings on iOS and Android.

Readers: What did you think of the details offered by Sherman in his note?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Facebook’s new side project, Riff, tries to blueprint the recipe for viral videos

From Instagram and Hyperlapse to, more recently, an embeddable video player, Facebook has slowly woven video sharing into many of its products and services.

But Facebook’s new app called Riff, released for iOS and Android on Wednesday, tackles video with a distinct twist. Normally, when someone shares something on Facebook, someone else might see it, share it and add a short comment of their own. Riff actually goes one step further and lets friends tack on their own video to the original.

See also: Facebook Paper: The Inside Story Is Not What You’d Expect

After users log into the app with their Facebook credentials, creating a video is a four-step deal. You’ll be prompted to enter a topic with a hashtag — #AprilFools, #SundayFunday, that sort of thing — or pick one from a list of suggestions. Then, you record a clip up to 20 seconds long. If you review it and are happy with it, you can share it to your Facebook page. Read more…

More about Video, Facebook, Social Media, Apps Software, and Dev Design

Zynga to Shutter Six More Games – Including CastleVille and ChefVille

By Wednesday, April 1, 2015 0 Permalink 0

Following two major closure announcements earlier this year, for its CityVille and Pioneer Trail Facebook games, Zynga has announced another new set of game closures, all slated for April 30, 2015. This wave of closures will impact both web and mobile titles, including the once popular CastleVille and ChefVille simulation games.

CastleVille launched on Facebook in November 2011, and set records for Facebook game growth, surpassing five million daily active players during its first week on the platform. The medieval kingdom building game took players to a fantasy world where they fought off the “beasties” and villains of the Gloom, completing quests for a series of lovable non-playable characters. The game was so successful, it sparked the release of a spinoff in CastleVille Legends, which will remain available to play on Facebook and mobile devices.

Meanwhile, ChefVille launched on Facebook in August 2012, and was a restaurant management game with a noticeably different style than Zynga’s Cafe World (which itself closed in July 2014). In ChefVille, players focused on the collection of individual ingredients used to cook recipes one at a time on themed appliances. In contrast, Cafe World allowed gamers to cook multiple units of the same dish, with less regard to ingredients, so long as they had free stoves. As was the case with other major Zynga releases, ChefVille was an instant hit, rocketing to over 55 million monthly active users by September 2012. Over time, though, numbers for both games have drastically fallen.

In a recent blog post, Zynga said these closures are “based on the natural evolution of our game storylines and changing consumer preferences.” As traffic has slowed for Facebook games, the developer has shifted its focus to mobile, where it expects to launch “six to ten” new games this year, according to a recent earnings call.

The other games affected by this wave of closures are Bubble Safari Mobile, Bubble Safari Ocean, Puzzle Charms and Skateboard Slam. This takes the total to 13 games being shuttered by the end of April, including CityVille, Zynga Slots, Duck Dynasty Slots, Riches of Olympus, Pioneer Trail, Ayakashi: Ghost Guild and FarmVillage.

Readers: Are you sad to see any of these games close? Are you surprised Zynga is closing this many games?

Facebook’s iOS App Gets Noisy

By Friday, February 13, 2015 0 Permalink 0

Are you hearing strange sounds while navigating the Facebook iOS application? Don’t worry: You’re not going crazy.

Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it is adding sounds to its iOS app, saying:

We are in the process of adding sounds to a variety of common Facebook actions for a more delightful experience.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch reported noticing sounds during actions including navigating via the buttons on the navigation bar, liking, resharing, posting and hitting the back button.

The sounds can be disabled by going to the settings menu within the Facebook app, clocking on sounds, and then turning off in-app sounds.

Constine also pointed out that the team behind audio-production company WaveGroup Sound joined Facebook last August.

Readers: Have you noticed sounds in your Facebook apps? What do you think?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.