Skype upgrades its messaging feature with drafts, bookmarks and more – gpgmail


Skype is best known for being a video calling app and, to some extent, that’s because its messaging feature set has been a bit underdeveloped. Today, the company is working to change that image with a series of improvements to Skype’s chatting features aimed at further differentiating it from rival apps.

One of the most useful of the new features is support for Message Drafts.

Similar to email, any message you type up in Skype but don’t yet send is saved within the conversation with a “draft” tag attached. That way you can return to the message to finish it and send it later on.

It’s a feature it would be great to see other messaging clients adopt, as well, given how much of modern business and personal communication takes place outside of email.

People have wanted the ability to draft and schedule iMessage texts for years — so much so that clever developers invented app-based workarounds to meet consumers’ needs. Some people even type up their texts in Notepad, while waiting for the right time to send them.

In another email-inspired addition, Skype is also introducing the ability to bookmark important messages. To access this option, you just have to long-press a message (on mobile) or right-click (on desktop), then tap or click “Add Bookmark.” This will add the message to your Bookmarks screen for easy retrieval.

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You’ll also now be able to preview photos, videos, and files before you send them through messages — a worthwhile improvement, but one that’s more about playing catch-up to other communication apps than being particularly innovative.

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And if you’re sharing a bunch of photos or videos all at once, Skype will now organize them neatly. Instead of overwhelming recipients with a large set of photos, the photos are grouped in a way that’s more common to what you’d see on social media. That is, only a few are display while the rest hide behind a “+” button you have to click in order to see more.

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Unrelated to the messaging improvements, Skype also rolled out split window support for all versions of Windows, Mac, and Linux. (Windows 10 support was already available).

As one of the older messaging apps still in use, Skype is no longer the largest or most popular, claiming only 300 million monthly active users compared to WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion, for example.

However, it’s good to see its team getting back to solving real consumer pain points rather than trying to clone Snapchat as it mistakenly tried to do not too long ago. (Thankfully, those changes were rolled back.) What Skype remaining users appreciate is the app’s ease-of-use and its productivity focus, and these changes are focused on that direction.

Outside of the expanded access to split view, noted above, all the other new features are rolling out across all Skype platforms, the company says.

 

 


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Facebook rolls out new business tools for Messenger, kills the ‘Discover’ tab – gpgmail


Facebook today is formally rolling out a new suite of tools for its 40 million active businesses on Messenger, including appointment booking, lead generation, and others announced earlier this year at its F8 developer conference. As a part of these changes, Facebook will also begin to phase out the Discover tab in Messenger — a feature that became home to both games and businesses following last fall’s redesign.

Today, Facebook says the Discover tab will be pulled from the Messenger app over the next several months. Instead, it will invest in making sure Facebook users are directed to interact with businesses via Messenger in other ways.

“We want to make it more seamless for people to reach out to businesses on Messenger in places where they’re already looking to connect,” explains Facebook, of its decision to kill off the Discover feature. “We will put more investment into tools to connect people and businesses – including updates to m.me links, web plugins, various entry points across our family of apps, as well as ad products – that lead to Messenger,” the company says.

In terms of its new business tools, the lead generation product will launch as a Messenger template within Facebook Ads Manager this week. The template lets businesses create automated experiences to help qualify their leads in Messenger, then continue conversations in the app or integrate with existing CRM tools to track the leads further.

The feature has been in beta following F8, but will now be publicly available.

Appointment booking was announced at F8, too, but is only now launching into beta with select developers and businesses. This feature allows businesses to accept appointment requests and make bookings in real-time through Messenger. It also integrates with existing calendar booking software, and can help Messenger conversations be turned into in-store traffic, as well as online and phone appointments, the company says.

The feature will be launched globally to all developers later in the year.

Another update mentioned today involves plans to launch improved event reporting in Messenger later this year, which will allow businesses to report and track their Messenger conversations.

Plus, Facebook says it’s updating the Standard Messaging window for businesses to 24 hours (which is how long they have to respond to inquiries from customers.) This brings it in-line with WhatsApp’s window.

After 24 hours, businesses can still use sponsored messages to re-engage customers, and message tags (e.g. updates on purchases, event reminders, changes to their account, and now in closed beta, “human agent,” which will let agents respond to issues that need resolution after the standard messaging window closes.)

Messenger’s Subscription Messaging beta program, meanwhile, is changing today as well.

It’s now going to be limited to “vetted news organizations.” This came about because some businesses were using the feature in violation of Facebook’s guidelines, the company admitted. The feature is designed to send regular news updates to subscribers. The timing of this change is somewhat interesting, as Facebook is preparing to relaunch efforts to feature top news stories on its social network, this time vetted by journalists and featuring content Facebook pays for. There’s room for some interoperability here between the news product and subscriptions/updates, but it’s not clear if or how that will come to pass.

Of course, the biggest Messenger consumer news from F8 — a desktop app for Mac and PC — hasn’t yet come to pass, but is expected sometime this year.

 

 


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Google Delays Hangouts Shutdown Until June 2020


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Even the most successful companies in the world make occasional business blunders. Remember Apple Ping? Microsoft Bob? Well, those are nothing compared with the mess Google has made of its messaging ecosystem. Google announced major changes to its popular Hangouts messaging platform in 2017, but Hangouts is still chugging along more than two years later. Now, Google has been forced to delay the Hangouts migration until at least June 2020. 

Google has traditionally had trouble picking a messaging strategy and sticking with it. Groups within Google would launch a new messaging app every year or two until Hangouts, which grew out of Google Talk, attempted to unify everyone. And for a while, it did. Hangouts was integrated with Gmail, putting it front and center for many users. However, Google wanted to emulate the success of mobile-first messengers like WhatsApp, so it launched Allo in 2016. In 2017, it announced plans to shut down the “classic” Hangouts. Google ended up killing Allo before it even finished shutting down Hangouts, which really puts the whole thing in perspective. 

Google’s plan is to migrate G Suite users from Hangouts Classic to two new apps: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. The former is for video conferencing and the latter is group chat. So far, the move to Chat and Meet has been optional, but Google intended to close the old Hangouts for G Suite users in October 2019. Google says it’s heard a lot of feedback from customers that they wanted more time, so it now says the transition won’t happen until June 2020 at the earliest. Hangouts will continue getting maintenance updates until then, but it won’t get any new features. 

Allo was supposed to become the new home for personal messaging after Hangouts, but it was a massive flop.

Plenty of non-business customers still use Hangouts, too. Google has said that the consumer shutdown would come after G Suite, so this delay indirectly affects people who use Hangouts on their personal accounts. You’ll probably be able to keep using Hangouts Classic for another year or so. After that, you’ll be able to give Hangouts Chat a shot. Although, it’s more like Slack than it is like Hangouts Classic, and the death of Allo means there’s no direct successor. 

After pulling back on Allo, Google has put all its eggs in the RCS basket. However, that means working with carriers, and progress has been extremely slow. Hey, maybe RCS will actually work by the time Google gets around to killing Hangouts Classic.

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