Kik’s new hashtags reveal the potential of a chat network

Kik continues to ship new features for its chatting application. Following on the heels of Promoted Chats and its in-app browser comes the hashtag. It’s an easy way to create a group chat and invite people to join it within the Kik app. You send them the hashtag name (like #SFSoccerMoms or #CollegeDebateFriends). When they click it they’re taken to a group chatting page, which allows up to 50 participants.

“It’s a way to let you be whoever you want to be, with whoever wants to talk to you,” Kik CEO Ted Livingston wrote in a blog post announcing it. “It’s a social network on your terms.”

Kik’s group hashtag isn’t news that will particularly excite many people over the age of 25 (Kik’s prime demographic is under that age). But it’s a compelling feature, if only because of what it represents.

Group hashtags offer a rudimentary look of what could constitute a social network focused on “chatting.”

It’s almost a Path-like feature, recreating the intimacy of the Facebook of yore. With a chat cap of 50 people, it keeps conversations to smaller, more contextual groups. You don’t have to worry about sharing the details of your weekend with the world, trying to whitewash it for grandma, while simultaneously entertaining your friends. Instead, you can embody your particular sense of self with each individual group.

Group chatting is nothing new of course, and as a standalone feature, it’s not a company. But in conjunction with Kik’s other features, like individual messaging, promoted chats, and an in-app browser, the group hashtag element has great promise. It allows users to communicate easily, without the hassle of an administrator having to invite select members. It provides the same kind of thematic discovery and social organization that hashtags do on Twitter, for tracking news events, or on Instagram, for exploring similar images.

This is what a social network with a core of texting, instead of a newsfeed, could look like.

Animated Gif showing how Kik's hashtags feature works

Animated Gif showing how Kik’s hashtags feature works

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook is considering adding a type of “dislike” button

On Thursday, Facebook held its second ever public Town Hall (here’s our coverage of the first). It’s a chance for Facebook users to ask CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the product, the company and his vision. Here are the highlights:

The dislike button

Facebook is thinking about introducing a type of “dislike” button, but it’s not sold on the idea. Zuckerberg said the company has been considering new variations on the like button for some time.

“There are more sentiments people want to express than just positivity,” Zuckerberg said. When people share moments that are sad or controversial, there isn’t a quick, easy way to empathize with them. “People tell us they aren’t comfortable pressing ‘like’ when someone lost a loved one,” Zuckerberg offered as an example.

However, don’t expect the company to roll out a “dislike” button right away. Some people have asked Facebook for a dislike button so they can express negativity. “We don’t think that’s good for the world,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re not going to build that.”

Instead, Facebook is going to figure out ways to express other sentiments besides just positivity.

Getting silly with it

The rest of the Q & A carried on with a mix of quirky and compelling questions.

Several got big laughs from the audience. One woman wanted to know Zuckerberg’s favorite pizza toppings. (“If you’re going to be eating pizza you might as well have fried chicken on top.”) Another asked him, “If we were married, how would you handle Facebook with our daughter?” (Leniently.) A third thanked him for driving up the price of her home with the Facebook campus. (“That’s the first time anyone has ever thanked me for having Facebook raise housing prices!”)

Was Zuckerberg not told about the emotions study?

On a more serious note, Zuckerberg addressed the emotions testing study that garnered Facebook a lot of criticism earlier this year. He implied, but didn’t outright state, that he wasn’t told about the experiment beforehand. “Anything that might affect how you share stuff, that’s something I should know about,” Zuckerberg said. “The way we did it, I think we could have done it a lot better.” He went on to explain that in the future Facebook will have systems to ensure “the right people within the company know about it” and “can decide whether it’s an appropriate or right thing to be testing.”

Graph search

The last piece of product news Zuckerberg shared was around Graph Search. The company wants to roll it out in different languages and other parts of the world, but it has struggled in developing the product. “It’s a lot of work — there are so many different posts on Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “I think there’s a trillion posts.” Since Graph Search must comb them all to serve relevant answers, it’s a huge undertaking. Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook hasn’t made it easy for the community to tap into its network’s knowledge, whether around places, restaurants, movies or more.

“I’m an impatient person so it’s taking longer than I want to roll out search in other parts of the world,” he said. “We hope to deliver this sometime soon.”

This post was updated with more details as the Q & A unfolded.

Twitter’s former head of product has left the company

After losing his role as head of Twitter’s Product team, Daniel Graf has officially left the company. In a tweet Friday afternoon, Graf thanked Twitter and wished the team good luck. The new head of product, Kevin Weil, tweeted some return appreciation, confirming the news.

Graf was the company’s head of product for the past six months until CEO Dick Costolo demoted him to a strategic initiatives role (although he kept the VP title) and promoted Twitter’s head of revenue products, Kevin Weil, to running the product team. When that announcement was made, Twitter said that Graf would be staying on, albeit with a different focus. A Wall Street Journal source told the publication he would run projects like geolocation services. Given that Graf led Google’s efforts with its Maps product, that fit his expertise.

It’s not clear what changed. Given that Twitter previewed a major product feature involving location-based tweets on its Analyst Call, its geolocation product is still in development. Graf’s experience would’ve been a major asset on the project.

Twitter declined to comment on Graf’s tweet.

Vine update shows you how many times your video has been looped

Vine (s twtr) has become a popular medium for users to share six-second videos, but until now there hasn’t been a way to know how popular individual Vines are. On Tuesday, the company introduced “loop counts,” which are available now in the Vine update for iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog). Loop counts are exactly that — a number in the corner of a Vine that shows how many times a video has been “looped” — or played end-to-end and restarted — since April 3. The update, which includes a redesign, also offers richer analytics for Vines, including milestones like reaching 100 “likes.”

Twitter now supports GIFs on the web, iPhone and Android

After years of not supporting GIFs within the stream, Twitter (s twtr) has finally had a change of heart. On Wednesday, the company announced that users will now be able to share GIFs in the stream on the web platform as well as iPhone (s aapl) and Android (s goog). It’s important to note that GIFs won’t play live in the stream — users will be able to access the animation by pressing a “play” button. In any case, be prepared for a boatload more of animated cats.