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New Official Facebook Poke iOS Application (itunes.apple.com)
67 points by remi on Dec 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

SnapChat cloning aside...

I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I really like Facebook's decision to create multiple apps. We aren't good with thinking of apps as having multiple functionalities. Our thought process is more along the lines of "This app is for this, this app is for this, etc."

Having one app means a lot of features get lost in the app, and people turn to alternative apps (like Foursquare, Batch or WeChat) for functionality.

Edit: To put it another way, what if Google had one app and inside it was GMail, Search, Maps, etc? Facebook sees these as products, not features.

I disagree. I'm don't want to use FourSquare and Instagram and Twitter when Path can do it all in one place. It takes longer to open multiple apps when it comes to social things. I don't want to have to think: I want to share a picture, what is the best app for that? Or I want to share what music I'm listening to... Which app should I go to? I just think I want to catch up on what my friends are doing, or I want to share something I'm soon with my friends... And Path is the one stop solution to my needs.

Just like Yahoo has news, weather, finance, gossip, games, etc.?

I hope you're right. I think so too and I'm building a native check-in experience for Facebook as a side-project. It's almost ready to be launched, but I haven't managed to convince anyone I talked to that they needed a separate native app for check-ins. Lets see I guess.

Agreed! Please launch this! My favorite Foursquare app is called Checkie, it's basically a one-click checkin app. https://github.com/tijoinc/Checkie

Makes me wonder why Facebook haven't done that already.

> what if Google had one app and inside it was GMail, Search, Maps, etc?

Actually, Google does have an app like that. Search, Gmail, Calendar, Google+, etc - everything except for Maps. It's called Google Search, and is a shell of sorts for web versions of many of their apps, but you can also link the apps to it if you so desire. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-search/id284815942?mt...

what if Google had one app and inside it was GMail, Search, Maps, etc?

You'd find that weird, right? Because you are forcing a significant change of behavior. Similarly, facebook breaking their core functionalities into specific apps is a significant change in how we already think about an existing product. To access Facebook Messages on my desktop, I do not visit messages.facebook.com or FMail. To chat, I don't goto chat.facebook.com. If I did, these app break ups could perhaps make more sense.

I consider myself tainted data point because I am a huge user of facebook on both desktop and mobile(app, not browser). I probably do not use facebook in a similar manner as a mobile only facebook user. They seem to be betting the company on mobile-only facebook user. Even then, their present strategy makes little sense to me because even when I am on mobile, the app switch causes friction and makes me use WhatsApp instead of FB Chat app. Why? Because I know WhatsApp has more reliable chat; and if I must switch apps to chat, may as well switch to the better one.

After trying GMail in that app, I think it's proof of why there should be separate apps :)

I'm just another single data-point but I agree, and I really can't think of any good reasons to disagree with the compartmentalization.

Bottom line is that with minimal real-estate, at a certain point there's diminishing returns on packing in more features while sacrificing simplicity.

In my opinion it's the obvious move for FB, and they're executing it well.

While I do agree, the main counterpoint to this logic is that there is a danger of having users put all of the Facebook apps into one Facebook folder, thus hiding Facebook from your home screen. It's important to balance splitting major functionalities with filling people's phones with lots of Facebook icons.

What percentage of all iOS users do you think even use the app folder function? I'd guess it's very, very low.

Not at all scientific, but almost everybody I know uses an iPhone, and they all use the folders functionality, even the least tech savvy ones, mostly for hiding the unused Apple apps that can't be deleted. My guess would be this is very common behavior. Even if folders aren't used, users might move all the Facebook apps to be together on a secondary screen.

I think we can agree that most users won't fill their home screen with multiple Facebook apps. If they are moving the secondary FB apps somewhere else, be it a folder or another screen, there's a chance they might move the main FB app too.

It was an honest question, I have no idea. But of all the users I know, like you do, none of them use it. I don't think any of them even know about it, honestly.

I hope I'm wrong.

You'd be surprised.

most people I know use the app folder function

The level to which this is a clone of Snapchat is kind of astounding. Did FB ever try to buy them, or are they trying to destroy competition before they have to pay big bucks like they did for Instagram?

It's all business, so I suppose all's fair, but it hardly paints Facebook as a hub of innovation. I quit a job a few years ago once they gave me the task of basically cloning a competitor from the ground up. There's no excitement or challenge in that, and I can only imagine some very bored Facebook developers have had a less than notable Holiday season so far.

We're talking about something as obvious as taking a photo and sending it to a friend in a streamlined fashion. If this counts as innovation here, I want no part in it. Taking a huge stream of data and figuring out what to show to who might be called an innovation, but this is not. Building the worlds best mapping service with street view is innovation, this is not.

It's taking a photo, which self-destructs after a certain period. It's not mind-blowingly innovative, but the idea, time periods (max of 10 secs) and even the UI involved are exactly the same as Snapchat.

If the original idea isn't innovative then Facebook's version is orders of magnitude less so.

I rarely defend Facebook, but if you make an app that snaps a photo (which self-destructs) that you can then send to friends, then you knew what you're getting yourself into. The only two options you have is to either make an app that is difficult to copy, or make an easy app but hope for the network effect to work in your favor (i.e. any social media thing out there).

He's not arguing it's not going to be copied - he's arguing Facebook copied it / cloned it. Why afraid to just say that it's true?

>Why afraid to just say that it's true?

On Internet forums accusations of "copying" are generally used the same as "stealing" with a morality payload attached. For example, when something is copied and slightly modified people say "fork" to make sure it is read positively. shrug

Well, I think this is assumed, yes. But Facebook would never admit that "Yes, we liked this idea, so we developed our own" - and because of this it shows a feeling of guilt, or at minimum not being honest. But that fits with Facebook's character, and many who are dishonest in fact.


The UX is identical. Self-destructing, the UI for choosing friends / viewing photos / taking photos is the same. The fact that it notifies the user if a screenshot is taken... it's the same. Facebook added nothing new, only copied.

This is where a reasonable person might argue that snapchat is an "invention" and as such could get a patent for it* and have a protected short-term monopoly on that invention.

*Provided it's non-obvious, no prior art, whatever.

How are they implementing the screenshot detection on iOS?

I searched and found some stack overflow posts, but they all seem stumped (especially for iOS 6)

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/13484516/ios-detection-of... http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2121970/notification-of-o...

I looked into how SnapChat does it, it's pretty simple: http://blog.chpwn.com/post/38491252231

Oooh, thanks for the explanation. I figured it had something to do with touches dropping off (the other posts mentioned it, and it's kind of obvious since they ask you to long press to view). But I thought the touchesCancelled would be too unreliable, with push messages, system notifications, incoming calls, or just dragging the finger out of the screen.

How would you detect the lack of WillEnterBackground/DidResignActive to avoid false positives? Just set a timeout and send a "screenshot!" notification if the timeout expires without going to background?

Yeah, probably. Anything that gets in front of the app should call one of those two, and do so pretty immediately. A timer for a second or so later should be pretty safe.

Elaborate please...screenshot detection?

Haven't had the time to play much with this app, but if it's anything like Snapchat, the idea is to send photos that self-destruct after 5-10 seconds. Since there's absolutely no (known) way to actually prevent taking screenshots on iOS, the next best thing they implemented is "screenshot detection", which notifies the sender that the recipient did take a screenshot.

Nor is there a way to keep people from taking a picture of an iPhone screen with a secondary camera. The promise of "self-destructing" pictures seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

Can someone explain to me the thinking behind the multiple app strategy for facebook? Personally I find it grossly inconvenient to switch apps when going from chatting with a friend to seeing their Timeline. What am I missing?

You're not optimizing for a user session measured in seconds by weakly attached people-who-are-not-technologists. Facebook is.

Slide open phone, one touch to open app, one touch to take picture, as few touches as possible to re-engage 2nd party "user" of app.

One touch to open Camera app. One touch to post pic.

Multiple apps to see what the pic looks like on my wall? Multiple apps to post snarky comment about pic on my friend's timeline? May be you are right that this is a use-case tech people have but from my observation, I see this pattern repeated all the time on facebook activity of non-tech friends.

On more than one occasion I have elected to use WhatsApp over facebook Chat app because of the app switch. My thinking is "hey if I have to switch apps, might as well pick the better chat app of the two". If this was built into the main FB app like it used to be, I'd be less likely to use WhatsApp.

As I see it, two factors combine to make this to optimal strategy:

1. Limitations of Mobile UI

Facebook isn't just one tool, it's dozens of tools combined. On a web interface with PC-browser sized real estate and mouse/keyboard interactions, you can pack a lot more features onto an app and not sacrifice too much in the way of usability and complexity.

With mobile, you have to make sacrifices due to limited screen real estate. As you pack in more features into any single app, you start having diminishing returns due to increased complexity.

2. Desired Tool

So considering the limitations, you have to ask: what function does the user desire in the moment?

Consider some of the FB mobile applications: Pages Manager, Camera, Messenger.

They're all quite unique from one another. On a web interface you might be afforded the luxury of building them all into the same app with a common entry point and framework.

But in mobile, developing all those functions into a single app would be complex due to the 1st point, and unnecessary due to the 2nd.

So considering the limitations, you have to ask: what function does the user desire in the moment?

In the moment, I desire just seeing a friend's timeline while I am chatting with him and being able to go back and forth between the two. Right now I have to switch apps in order to do this. Are you saying that I am in the exception to have this use case or that I am in the exception to find app-switching inconvenient?

You can still use the main Facebook app to message friends. From there, you can view the friend's timeline by clicking the information button in the upper right corner. You don't have to use the stand-alone Messenger app just because it exists.

They want you to replace Camera with Facebook Camera, and Messages with Facebook Messenger, and so on.

Maybe it's because my small social network (my extended family) all have iPhones, but we abandoned Facebook about a year ago in favor of iMessage. Group text, photos, and movies fly back and forth almost every day. And when we want it live, Facetime.

I guess Facebook just further validated this mobile multimedia medium.

Sure, it's like SnapChat, but isn't that always the dynamic in this industry: the Feature Qua Product (simplicity, focus) vs. Feature Qua Feature (integration)? Some folks, like those who use Buffer, for example, simply prefer tightly-focused, standalone apps while others prefer ones that do more, that integrate many features into a (sometimes) cohesive product a la HootSuite.

Personal note: while I'd have been tempted to compare them to Apple or Google in the past, Facebook's turning out to be a lot more like Microsoft for the web, appropriating features or buying companies to Do Everything, even if they're not the best in each vertical.

And just like that, Poke Wars became a real thing!

I'm trying to understand what they're going for here. The interesting part is that the "pokes" are ephemeral. Is that special because every other type of electronic message has permanence?

Nice rip-off of SnapChat functionality.

I don't know much about SnapChat but this is very clearly a feature not a product, and a feature that Facebook's users will probably be happy to get. Trying to build a business around this one idea would be very risky.

Do we really need ANOTHER facebook app? At this rate I'm going to have a dedicated folder of "Facebook crap". It doesn't make life easier to have all these things separate. I understand the camera app, but not things like this app or the messenger app, especially since in the messenger app I end up getting notified of new mail there and in the original facebook app...

Ah, I was worried too but just found that it doesn't automatically force install itself on your phone. So the easy workaround here if you haven't downloaded it is to not download. If already install google around for how to delete apps.

That was very witty. However the point of comments is to have discussions about the posted content whether it be positive or negative. Your comment adds no value.

So has anyone read the TOS yet? Is there a guarantee that the content is deleted from their servers in a reasonable amount of time?

Given their track record, I wouldn't count on it.

I suppose calling it Poke is a clue for intended use. Though they could have gone for SnatchChat and forgone the ambiguity.

Why would you want your message to expire?

Beyond sexting, I don't really know.

All the college aged girls I know love Snapchat. Not sure why, but I guess it's just fun.

Does anyone here know whether sexting is actually a major use for SnapChat? It's often thrown around as the 'obvious' use-case for the service, but having not tried it I'm not sure if there's any curation/content flagging or banning system.

If it is a popular use, does facebook really want that sort of content? Does facebook think that sexting users would trust them with their photos? If I were to send a sext, I'd certainly consider the (even faint) possibility that the pics could get up on facebook somehow...

features aside, it must be pretty satisfying for fb employees to know that internal ideas can become separate apps.

We're saved! This Poke app must be what averted the Mayan disaster.

I hate to be that guy, but we value a pretty high signal to noise ratio here on HN. Comments like this will likely always get you downvoted and for good reason. The guidelines at the top are worth a read from time to time.

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