Facebook is testing in-app GIF creator

As first spotted by The Next Web, Facebook is testing an in-app GIF creator with a subset of users of its mainland mobile app for iOS. The feature is available through the app's built-in camera and allows users to quickly create animated GIFs for sharing with friends and family.

You can also post the GIF to a Story or save it to your device.

GIFs can be spiced up using Facebook's range of built-in camera effects. According to the publication, any GIFs created through this feature are short, lasting only a few seconds.

As I mentioned before, the feature is only available to certain users.

We'll let you know when the in-app GIF creator launches for everyone. Until then, let us know in the comments section if you're part of Facebook's limited test of this feature.

Just a month ago, the social network rolled out the ability for users to express themselves better by posting animated GIFs in comments.

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Facebook to respond to Apple’s AR efforts with untethered $200 Oculus VR headset in 2018

Apple's new ARKit framework for building augmented reality experiences for compatible iPhone and iPad devices is off to a great start and already Facebook is taking notice, according to a new report Thursday from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

The author claims that Facebook has been hard at work developing an inexpensive headset, code-named “Pacific”, that is expected to bring virtual reality experiences to the masses without requiring a beefy computer or a compatible smartphone.

“The idea is that someone will be able to pull the headset out of their bag and watch movies on a flight just the way you can now with a phone or tablet,” reads the article.

It should be priced aggressively at $200 and release at some point next year, representing “an entirely new category”. According to people familiar with the plans, the device will provide a similar interface to Samsung’s VR Gear that users could control by a wireless remote.

The headset should be powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon mobile chip that would make it superior to Samsung's Gear VR headset in terms of gaming in virtual reality. Unlike the current Oculus Rift hardware, the upcoming gizmo won't include positional tracking technology.

An excerpt from the article:

This means that the device won’t be able to tell where its user is spatially, which is useful for tasks like virtual rock climbing. A future version of the product will have that technology, according to a person familiar with the plans.

According to sources, the headset will let users play immersive games, watch video, use social networking apps and so forth. It resembles a more compact version of the current Oculus Rift and will be lighter than Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Handset maker Xiaomi and its manufacturers are said to build 2018's Oculus-branded device.

And later this year, Facebook allegedly plans to announce a more affordable wireless headset that it is betting will popularize virtual reality “the way Apple did the smartphone”.

Oculus spokesman Alan Cooper said via email:

We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm we’re making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category.

Facebook's said it’s also working on yet another device, code-named “Santa Cruz” and best described as a wireless Oculus Rift “with the full power of the original device sans PC.“

Facebook acquired Kickstarter-funded Oculus startup in 2014 for about $2 billion.

IDC estimated that Samsung leads the pack in terms of VR device shipments with 22 percent of the global market for VR devices, followed by Sony, HTC and Facebook's Oculus Rift with about five percent of the market, or less than 100,000 units sold.

Facebook could let you subscribe to news publications directly from the app

Facebook is working on a new feature to permit users to subscribe to news publications directly from its mainland mobile app. According to a report this morning from The Wall Street Journal, many details remain up in the air as discussions are currently underway.

The company is allegedly leaning toward a model that would let you read certain articles for free every month, before being prompted to pay. There's a catch: Facebook is said to limit this to the stories published natively through its Instant Articles service.

With that in mind, it may be no coincidence at all that Facebook recently launched new tools to help publishers make their Instant Articles compatible with the Apple News format as well as with Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages system.

This new functionality could roll out by the end of 2017, sources said. People familiar with the matter pointed out that the upcoming feature has long been requested by publishers.

While users currently can follow different news organizations, the rumored feature would permit them to use their credit card information on file with Facebook to directly subscribe to a news publication and have any subscriber-only content delivered to them through the app.

The development, if true, should pose some additional challenges to Google News platform as more and more people turn to Facebook for their daily news.

Image: Facebook's recent redesign of Trending pages.

Facebook signs video deals with Electronic Sports League and Major League Baseball

Facebook has signed major deals with Electronic Sports League (ESL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), bringing fans of eSports and baseball both live and on-demand content in its ongoing streaming video push.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the social network is paying professional video game teams and others in the eSports industry to broadcast on its service.

Earlier this year, Facebook signed contracts with five teams to publish live and on-demand video of players practicing or competing in such games as StarCraft II, Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Overwatch.

ESL said in a blog post announcing the deal that its official Facebook page will soon stream all IEM and ESL One events in up to six different languages along with select national championship and online leagues. Viewers will be able to post comments, highlight up and coming players and more via an exclusive new weekly show on Facebook.

In addition to the 30 hours of weekly Rank S streaming, there'll be a weekly 30-minute hosted by Mark “Boq” Wilson, focused on Rank S and the current happenings in ESEA and CS:GO.

These broadcasts will start next month with Rank S matches.

Down the line, they'll host video interviews with the famous players, competition commentary and more. ESL broadcasts competitions on Twitch and YouTube, too.

You can find the ESEA announcement on their website.

As mentioned earlier, Facebook also cut a major deal with MLB that will result in 20 live-streamed Friday night MLB games via MLB's Facebook page during the 2017 season. US-based Facebook users will be able to stream the games for free. The first game is scheduled to broadcast tonight, Friday, May 19, with the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds facing off.

Facebook Messenger gaining curated Discover tab

Facebook’s annual developers conference, F8, is underway this week and the social networking firm just announced that its mobile Messenger app is gaining a new tab to help users find their recently used bots, nearby places and businesses to message. Titled Discover, the new tab has started to roll out to a few people in the US today ahead of wider availability.

You can now save your Instagram live videos

Facebook-owned Instagram announced Monday that users can now save their own live-streamed Instagram videos to their iPhone. You can now tap Save in the upper-right corner of a finished live video to save the broadcast to the Photos library on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The iPhone photography app will continue to remove live videos from the interface after you've watched them, but you can now hold onto any video to re-watch it later. These updates require Instagram 10.12, available free from App Store.

Facebook in talks to live stream MLB games this season

Facebook is in talks with Major League Baseball to live stream games this season, reports Reuters. The deal would include at least one game per week, which could be accessed for free by users logged into the platform.

The move comes just a week after Facebook announced plans for a video-focused Apple TV app, as part of the social network's efforts to push further into original programming—a strategy shared by several tech firms.

Facebook is about to clone Snapchat again, this time in its mainline mobile app

Facebook didn't stop at ripping off Snapchat's Stories feature with auto-vanishing slideshows on Instagram. According to a Wednesday report from Business Insider, the social network is currently testing a similar feature in its mainline mobile app.

A company spokesperson told the publication that Facebook Stories will soon start appearing at the top of the mobile Facebook app, allowing you to tap each circle to see a friend's story.

Facebook getting ready to ape Snapchat with Messenger Day, a visual storytelling feature

If you live in Poland or Australia, you might have stumbled upon a brand new feature at the top of Facebook's Messenger app, called Messenger Day. As reported by Mashable on Tuesday, Facebook has begun expanding this new feature across the globe following launch of Instagram Stories last month. Available in the mobile Messenger app for iOS and Android, Messenger Day is about sharing what you're up to in the form of auto-dissapearing updates, stickers and sketches.