Google's Maile Ohye announced at SEJ Summit earlier this month that HTTPS is now required for PWAs and AMP. Until now, having a secure site was recommended; now Google is requiring HTTPS for some functionality.
Google wants to make its machine learning technology easy for anyone to basically rent and use. According to Google Cloud's "Machine Learning Day" event yesterday, covered by MarketingLand's Danny Sullivan, ready-to-use ML models include Cloud Vision API, which offers OCR and recognition of faces, objects and logos; Cloud Speech API; Cloud Translation API, which can smoothly translate between eight pairs of languages so far; Cloud Natural Language API, for sentiment analysis and entity recognition in text; and Cloud Jobs API for job seekers and hiring businesses. Google also offered a way for people to explore machine learning: AI Experiments.
Google's desktop search results no longer include sitelinks that used to appear in a row beneath a listing. Expanded sitelinks with descriptions can still appear though, usually for brand searches. This change brings the desktop SERP in line with mobile results' display of sitelinks.
Bing Ads has rolled out expanded text ads globally, ending a beta period that began in August. Advertisers can create ETAs directly in Bing Ads or import their expanded-format text ads from Google AdWords. In addition, the process of creating a campaign in Bing has been improved. Bing Ads's new campaign creation workflow begins with choosing a marketing goal or importing a campaign, and then gives access to all ad features in a logical step-by-step flow.
Google News added a Fact Check label that can appear in the expanded story box on news.google.com and the Google News & Weather app in the U.S. and U.K. The Fact Check tag adds to the list of other article tags Google News may feature: In-Depth, Opinion, Wikipedia, and Local Source. Publishers who want news content to qualify as a Fact Check should use the Schema.org ClaimReview markup.
Google's Daydream VR headset went on sale last week, at a price of $79. The unit uses Google's Pixel phone for its screen, processing and sensors and boasts a more malleable and comfortable design than competing VR models have.
Microsoft announced Teams, a new chat-based platform for Office 365 that enables teamwork through communication and collaboration in the secure cloud. Commercial customers with Office 365 Enterprise or Business plans globally can preview Teams now, with the product becoming generally available the first quarter of 2017. In response to Microsoft's announcement, competitor Slack took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to "welcome" Microsoft as a newcomer to its product category.
Facebook changed the way its News Feed algorithm ranks news items. Previously, the ranking was done at Facebook's server and then sent to the user, which caused some latency on slow internet connections. To speed things up, the ranking of Facebook News Feed items is now down on the client side, on the fly as a user scrolls down their feed. And since the social network wants to keep things fast for the user, page load speed is an increasingly important ranking factor in the Facebook algorithm.
Facebook has launched Masks, animated overlays similar to Snapchat lenses that can be applied to a Facebook Live video.
Business pages can now set up a Jobs tab on Facebook that features open positions, in direct competition with LinkedIn. The Facebook Jobs tab can include hiring information such as job title, salary, and full-time or part-time; it also becomes a dedicated URL where businesses can send people interested in being hired.
A ProPublica report found that Facebook's "ethnic affinity" filter, which allows advertisers to exclude people based on their "affinity" for a particular race, violates anti-discrimination laws. This prompted the Congressional Black Caucus to write a letter to Facebook demanding they stop offering targeting by race for housing ads, saying that it violates the Fair Housing Act of 1968. (Both Google and Twitter prohibit ad targeting based on race.) In response, Facebook announced that it will stop allowing advertisers to exclude ethnic or racial groups for ads related to employment, housing or credit. Mashable observed this is "the smallest necessary change"; Facebook also plans to move its ethnic affinity filter from the "demographics" section to "behavior."
When Twitter's suitors all stepped away from the table in October, the social media company's market cap fell $3.5 billion lower than it was when acquisition rumors spread and CEO Jack Dorsey said he would accept offers. Disney declined to bid as did Google, Salesforce, and the other potential buyers, due in large part to Twitter's long-standing problem dealing with trolls and abusive commenters.
YouTube's new end screens feature lets video producers overlay up to four elements in the last 5–20 seconds of the video. End screens can point viewers to another video, ask them to subscribe, or promote a product or website. Replacing the previous annotations feature that was available only on desktop, end screens work across all devices.
Snapchat plans to raise up to $4 billion in an initial public offering. The IPO could value the company from $25 billion to as much as $40 billion, according to unnamed sources to Bloomberg Technology news.
Microsoft announced a free Creators Update for Windows 10 coming in spring 2017. It will include futuristic new features focused on 3D creation that are tailored to gamers, according to EVP Terry Myerson. In addition, the hologram and virtual reality capabilities could help businesses enable people to interact with their products in revolutionary ways.
The White House unveiled its plan to hand over the POTUS social media accounts to the next president of the U.S. in January. Whoever wins the election will inherit the POTUS handle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram along with other social media accounts connected with the presidency. Barack Obama, who has the distinction of being the first president to use social media in his official capacity, will be given new accounts as POTUS44.
Instagram announced new features for Stories. Boomerang turns a burst of photos into an animation that plays forward and backward. It's now possible to @ mention another user in a story (as people already can do in captions and comments). Most interesting to marketers may be the ability to add See More links to take users to additional content, though the links feature is launching as a test with only verified accounts.
Snapchat launched world lenses that can overlay augmented reality images onto subjects other than faces, such as rainbow vomit coming from a cloud. Snapchat also added a couple Instagram-like features, the ability to rewind any snap or forward it to another user.