TIME Social Networking

You Might Actually Like Facebook’s New Changes

Facebook is making changes to your News Feed to make it less annoying

The era of clickbait may be coming to an end. Facebook says it’s taking steps to keep the hyperbolic headlines—about the unbelievable, amazing, overly-sentimental news that will restore your faith in humanity and leave you literally crying—out of your News Feed.

The problem with these kinds of stories is that they work—they tend to draw a lot of clicks and thus appear prominently in users’ News Feeds—but they rarely deliver meaningful content to live up to the headline in the first place, according to a blog post written by Facebook research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang. The social networking giant’s own survey says that 80% of users would prefer to have enough information to decide whether they’d read an article before clicking through.

So to identify and weed out clickbait (and to keep users coming back to the site), Facebook is evaluating News Feed content on two criteria. The first is reading time—if users are all clicking on a link and immediately returning back to Facebook, the story probably didn’t deliver on the promise of its headline. The second metric is engagement—if Facebook users are all clicking on a link without commenting, sharing or liking it, the story probably is low on substance.

The site will also prioritize articles that are shared as links, rather than as photos with with URLS tucked into a caption—a method of sharing that lets users and publications to draw clicks with less information and potentially misleading photos that aren’t actually in the story.

These changes will help Facebook turn its News Feed into a more enriching a experience: a place to catch up on well-reported news stories, expand horizons with insightful op-eds, stalk exes and find out which high school classmate is having a baby.

TIME How-To

5 of the Biggest Facebook Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Facebook
Andrew Harrer -- Bloomberg / Getty Images

The world’s biggest social network turned 10 this year. With 57% of the American population — and 73% of teenagers — among its user base, Facebook has morphed from a way for college undergrads to communicate to a multi-tentacled service that has become an integral part of our everyday lives, from connecting us with long-lost friends to serving as the Internet’s de facto photo-sharing service to doubling as a universal login to thousands of sites and apps across the Internet.

But with regular introductions of privacy-flouting new features and different sets of etiquette for connecting with colleagues, friends and family, it can be all too easy to make a Facebook misstep that sends the wrong message into the world.

Below are five of the most-common Facebook faux pas – and how to avoid them.

1. Not putting a professional face forward

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on your privacy settings, photos and posts intended for friends can end up on your boss’s newsfeed. A CareerBuilder study found that nearly 39% of employers use social media to screen job candidates, and a 2012 report from technology research company Gartner predicted that by 2015, 60% of employers will be monitoring employees on social networks.

If your boss is your Facebook friend, you can prevent them from seeing what you post by going to Settings > Privacy > “Who can see my future posts,” selecting “Custom” from the dropdown menu and adding their names. To keep them from seeing posts and photos you’re tagged in, go to Settings > Timeline and tagging > “Who can see things on my timeline,” select Custom from the dropdown menu and add their names.

If your boss or potential employer isn’t your Facebook friend, simply go to Settings > Privacy then select “Friends only” as the audience for “Who can see my future posts” and “Limit past posts.” On the same page, you can also edit who can look you up — public, friends of friends, or friends only — and disable Google and other search engines from linking to your Facebook profile.

Finally, you can create a Restricted list — anyone on this list can only see the information and posts you make public. This can be an effective way to avoid looking suspiciously absent from Facebook, without giving up too much information. Head to Settings > Blocking, and edit “Restricted List.”

In all cases, if you and your boss have mutual friends, he or she will still be able to view any posts or photos you may be tagged in with those friends.

2. Oversharing, oversharing, oversharing

We’ve all done it, but now there’s proof that oversharing is the easiest way to get unfriended on Facebook. A study by Christopher Sibona at the University of Colorado Denver found that the top four reasons people delete friends are because their posts are frequent or trivial posts, polarizing, inappropriate or too mundane.

“Share things that are meaningful, witty, newsy or interesting — and be discriminating in how often you post on Facebook,” recommends Jessica Kleiman, a communications specialist and co-author of the book Be Your Own Best Publicist.

Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for that polemic on national politics (or what you had for breakfast). If there are particular people you think would appreciate more controversial — or more mundane — statuses, you can customize the audience for individual posts. Below the status box, click the tab next to “Post” and select Custom to bring up options for “Who Should See This?”. You can then select a specific audience such as Close Friends, or a custom list (if you made one), say for your sports league. You can also select Custom and manually enter friends that can or can’t view the post. You can make this setting your default to avoid future oversharing.

However, Kleiman cautions, “Even if you use filters on Facebook to keep your posts only visible by ‘friends,’ one of your 850 closest friends online is probably friends with someone you wouldn’t want to see that post.”

3. Allowing Facebook apps to overshare for you

Along with posts about that ham and cheese toastie you were eating, oversharing may take the form of posts by apps you’ve linked to Facebook.

Privacy protection company Secure.me found that 63% of apps request the ability to post on the user’s behalf. While giving this permission may allow your info to be shared where it shouldn’t, more irking is the fact that, say, Spotify can post what ‘80s pop ballad you’re listening to, or Candy Crush Saga can update all your friends on your progress.

You can allow or disallow third-party apps to post to Facebook when signing up, but if you didn’t do that, you can edit all permissions from a single page. Select Activity Log from the top right dropdown menu on your profile or news feed, then All Apps (on the left) to view posts made by apps.

To prevent individual apps from posting, hit More (under All Apps), scroll to the offending app, then click the top-right arrow to customize where the app can post to on your behalf — certain friends, all friends, or not at all. You can also tweak the audience for each post by clicking its lock icon. Click the neighboring pen icon to remove the post from your Timeline, mark it as spam or delete the app from your Facebook profile entirely.

4. Allowing others to post content about you that you don’t like

A Pew Research Center survey found that one of the aspects users most disliked about Facebook was that friends can post personal content, such as photos, about a user without his or her permission.

If you’ve been tagged in an unflattering photo, you can remove the tag by clicking on the photo, hovering over its base, and selecting Options / Remove Tag, so that the picture will not turn up in “Photos of You.” To stop it from appearing on your profile page, you must separately toggle “Allow on Timeline” to “Hide from Timeline” in the top-right of the window. However, the photo can still be viewed in other people’s News Feeds and the poster’s albums page, so if you abhor the picture, contact your so-called friend and ask them to take it down.

You can also disable certain — or all — people from posting on your Timeline. Go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > “Who can add things to my timeline” and select “Only Me.” *(Friends will still be able to view your Timeline.)

To block particular people, head to Settings > Blocking, and add the names to the Restricted list. Then go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > “Who can add things to my Timeline,” and select “Friends.” Friends on the restricted list won’t be able to post on your Timeline, or view it unless you have set it to be public.

5. Being resigned to a boring news feed

Does it feel like you’re reading more and more posts from friends you don’t really care about? You’re probably not imagining it. In December, Facebook updated its News Feed algorithm to push up posts with links and push down memes. Links with more comments were also favored. Stories that show up are also influenced by which friends you interact with the most.

Meanwhile, a Stanford University study found that user posts that aren’t liked or commented on tend to be viewed by fewer people, so you may find that your college buddy’s engagement announcement floats to the top of your feed, while your best friend’s gripe about the cost of daycare is nowhere to be seen.

To get around this, head to your feed, click on “News Feed” in the top left, and toggle the option to show Most Recent instead of Top Stories. To ensure particular friends’ posts pop up on your feed, add them to your Close Friends list. On your news feed, scroll down the left-hand menu, hover over Friends and click More > Close friends, then add their names in the right-side text bar. Hit Manage List in the top right to select the particular types of updates you get — for example, photos and status updates, but not games or comments.

If someone’s status updates are getting on your nerves but you’re not quite ready to unfriend them, you can unsubscribe from their updates entirely by clicking in the top right of the offending status in your news feed, then selecting “Hide All.”

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME celebrity

WATCH: Hollywood Reacts to Death of Robin Williams

Comedians, actors and entertainers pay tribute to the late star

+ READ ARTICLE

Like the rest of the nation, actors, comedians and entertainers were shocked by the sudden death of superstar talent Robin Williams. Celebrity reactions to his apparent suicide have flooded media both social and traditional, with many paying tribute to their own personal relationships with the late star.

Steve Martin referred to him as a great talent and a genuine soul. Kathy Griffin tweeted of how every moment shared with Williams was a pivotal one, and that it was a comic’s dream to be in his presence. Judd Apatow wrote about the lengths he went to simply be near the legendary comic, saying that he took an internship at Comic Relief at the age of 18 in order to work with Williams.

Billy Crystal wrote poignantly, “No words.”

Other comedians such as Jimmy Kimmel and Chelsea Handler marked the tragedy by attempting to raise awareness of depression, telling those in need of support to not be afraid to reach out for help, and to remain strong.

TIME medecine

The Hot New App That’s Full of Really Gross Photos

Courtesy of Figure 1

It's not what you think...

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

A word of warning: the photographs found on the mobile application Figure 1 may make your stomach turn. They include—and you should skip to the next paragraph if descriptions of medical injuries will nauseate you—a swollen bloody thumb, recently reconstructed after a fireworks injury; a 17 year-old’s foot charred black by an electrical burn; and a worm pulled from a patient’s anus. Yes, really.

This is the stuff that medical professionals don’t see everyday, which is exactly why they’re flocking to this photo-sharing app. Though tiny, it has proven extremely popular since it launched two years ago. The app now counts an audience of 125,000, and its parent company, which shares its name, estimates that 15% of medical students in the United States use it. Which may be one reason why investors are interested: on August 6, the Toronto-based startup will announce that it raised $4 million in funding led by Union Square Ventures.

Figure 1 essentially offers a visual shorthand for healthcare professionals looking to compare notes. In my opening essay for Fortune‘s The Future of the Image series, I made the case for the rise of visual literacy as people increasingly substitute photos for text. This trend will have a huge impact on business. As pictures replace words, tools that allow professionals to take and compare photos have an increasingly important role to play in the enterprise.

Already, a host of software applications are emerging to support this. Architizer invites architects to uplioad and share projects, for example. FoKo offers a secure, private enterprise photo-sharing app designed for companies and counts Whole Foods as a customer.

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook: World Cup Visitors Made 2 New Friends

According to data provided to TIME exclusively from Facebook

World Cup soccer is for making new friends, according to Facebook data, at least.

On average, a visitor who checked into a World Cup stadium on Facebook last month made on average one new Brazilian friend and one friend from another country, according to data provided exclusively by Facebook to TIME and charted in the graphs below.

new_friendships[5]

Americans seem to have been some of the most gregarious World Cup visitors, forming the most new friendships with Brazilians during the games and sparking web-relationships with visitors from Great Britain, Australia, Mexico, Colombia and Canada. Visitors from Australia, Argentina, Mexico and Great Britain rounded out the top five countries whose residents were actively forming friendships with Brazilians during the World Cup.

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An estimated 3.7 million people traveled throughout Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and as visitors from around the world hit the myriad stadiums where countries met their futbol fate, they checked in on Facebook over 1 million times. Arrival check-ins peaked on day one of the tournament, when Brazil toppled Croatia 3-1. World Cup stadium check-ins peaked on the tournament’s final day.

first_checkins[6]

The final match between Germany and Argentina on July 13 had the most overall check-ins, according to the data, though the opening match was a close second. In all, there were about 236,600 check-ins to Rio de Janeiro’s Maranca stadium.

stadium_checkins_viz_final[5]

MONEY Careers

Why You Should Consider Friending Your Boss On Facebook

Christian Hoehn—Getty Images

Q: Should I friend my boss on Facebook? – Jude, Austin, TX

A: While many people assume this is a no-no, there can actually be advantages to including your manager in your social network.

It’s true that Facebook is still more often used to share personal information than professional, and it can be risky to give your boss a window into your out-of-office life. But so long as you manage it correctly, friending your boss on Facebook can help you build closer relationships in the office.

One third of workers who are connected with their supervisor on Facebook say the online relationship enables them to perform more effectively on the job, according to a study by marketing firm Russell Herder called “Making the Connection: How Facebook Is Changing The Supervisory Relationship.

“Connecting with your boss on a social level can improve communication,” says Jodi Glickman-Brown, founder of Great on the Job, a firm that coaches workers on improving at work. Social media gives you opportunities to bond in a way that’s more natural. “If you’re in a situation where you need to make small talk with your boss, you’re going to have a much more meaningful conversation if you can chat about his latest vacation or a fabulous restaurant she enjoyed,” says Glickman-Brown.

Likewise, the connection can enhance how your manager perceives of you. Your posting pictures from a volunteer experience or an athletic event in which you participated in may make your boss see you in a different light, says Glickman-Brown.

Still, you need to be careful. Not all higher ups are open to being friended.

A Robert Half International survey asked executives how comfortable they felt about being friended by people they manage: 57% reported feeling uncomfortable, while 37% were ok with it.

(These feelings can go both ways: A study out of The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school called “OMG, My Boss Just Friend Me found that some employees who’d had a manager reach out to them on a social network felt it was akin to a parent friending them.)

Take a cue from your company culture. If your company bans social media use in the workplace, it probably isn’t a good idea to send a friend request to your boss. But if your company encourages workers to use social media in their jobs and others are Facebook friends with the boss, reaching out to connect won’t be so awkward.

Use privacy settings and different friends lists to control what your boss sees. The settings aren’t fool-proof, though. So you’ll need to police your postings more if you are connected with colleagues and higher-ups. You don’t want drama in your personal life to become fodder for conversations around the water cooler.

Have a workplace etiquette question? Send it to careers@moneymail.com.

TIME Social Networking

Sheryl Sandberg Apologizes for Facebook News Feed Experiment

Sheryl Sandberg Facebook Apology
Facebook chief operating officer (COO), Sheryl Sandberg addresses an interactive session organized by the women's wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in New Delhi on July 2, 2014. Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images

But it was a non-apology, really

After Facebook revealed that it secretly toyed with some users’ emotions for a science experiment, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has offered something of an apology.

“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” Sandberg said during a meeting with potential advertisers in India, according to the Wall Street Journal. “And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.”

Note that Sandberg did not say sorry for the study itself, which involved seeing if users became unhappier when they saw a greater proportion of negative posts, or happier when they saw more positive posts. (They did, in both cases.)

Sandberg didn’t say how Facebook would better do a better job of “communicating” in the future, or what that would look like. (Maybe the solution is not to communicate.) Basically what we have here is a variant on the classic corporate non-apology: Sorry if we upset you.

Note that the study–regardless of the communication around it–was designed to upset people, or at least see if it was possible to do so. And as Sandberg notes, Facebook does this type of research all the time. What the study brings to light is the idea that Facebook has immense power to model peoples’ emotions through algorithms. It’s a frightening notion, and one that not easily dismissed with a halfhearted apology.

Sandberg’s apology comes a few days after a Facebook researcher involved in the study also offered an apology.

[WSJ]

TIME Social Networking

The Author of a Controversial Facebook Study Says He’s ‘Sorry’

But he also defends his research into the transmission of emotional states

One of the authors of a controversial Facebook study into emotional states published this month has apologized for anxiety caused.

Facebook tweaked the News Feeds of nearly 700,000 users by displaying disproportionately positive or negative statuses for one week in January 2012, to help its researchers understand how emotional states are transmitted on social media. More than 3 million posts were analyzed in the experiment.

“My co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety,” wrote Adam Kramer, one of the three authors, in a Facebook post.

But Kramer also defended the social network’s study. “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out,” he wrote.

Controversy swirled around the social media giant’s ethics because users were not explicitly asked or notified that they were part of the experiment. Instead, Facebook relied on its terms of service that all users agree to when signing up and allows them to conduct studies like this.

You can read the full post by Kramer here:

TIME Social Networking

Meet the Brothers Behind the Web’s Most Controversial Social Network

Ask.fm founders and brothers Ilya Terebin and Mark Terebin photographed at the Hotel Alberts top floor terrace and rooftop bar in Riga, Latvia, overlooking the city, May 2014.
Ask.fm founders and brothers Ilya Terebin and Mark Terebin photographed at the Hotel Alberts top floor terrace and rooftop bar in Riga, Latvia, overlooking the city, May 2014. Rafal Milach for TIME

In their first extensive interview, Ask.fm's co-founders talk about the deaths of teenagers who used their site and what they are doing to keep the anonymous social network safe

Ask.fm is one of the Internet’s biggest social networks. It also happens to be one of the least understood. Since its founding in 2010, the site has grown to 120 million registered users around the world, with 15 million in the United States alone. But it is best known for unflattering attention. Its critics call it an incubator for cyberbullying and even suicide.

In this week’s magazine, I wrote about Ask.fm’s founders and the rise of anonymous, mobile-optimized social networking, an innovation that has within the last five years overturned the life of the average American teenager. As part of the reporting for that story, I visited brothers and Ask.fm cofounders Ilja and Mark Terebin in their home city of Riga, Latvia for their first-ever extensive interview. Over the two days we spent together in late April, the brothers talked about life, their business, and their responsibility for the adolescent and teen suicides for which the site is especially well known in Europe.

The site is especially popular with teenagers: 42% of its users are under the age of 17. On the site, you can anonymously ask questions of registered users, shrouding your own identity in hopes of getting the most honest answer with the least judgment. There, millions congregate trading mostly harmless gossip. But on some pages, the site teems with vitriol, as teenagers anonymously harass and insult their classmates and neighbors. Since 2012, press reports have described Ask.fm as a factor in at least 16 adolescent deaths.

In in their interview with TIME, the Terebin brothers pushed back against critics who say their site is dangerous for kids. “I know of no case of suicide because of bullying on Ask.fm,” Ilja said. Instead he blames society. “We teach people to bully. Look at the media. Do you have muscles? You’re a cool guy. Are you fat? You’re a loser. Do you f-ck girls? You’re a cool guy. Do you not f-ck girls? You’re a loser. We can’t do anything about it, if parents are drinking beer, watching TV and reading celebrity magazines.”

“The media takes this story and bullies us,” Ilja says.

The brothers, who are surrounded by a small handful of young executives, run their 58-employee company together. Ilja, 35, is the CEO. Mark, 29, is executive board member and co-founder. They share an office—and most everything else, really. (They both dress like French film students; they both turned vegetarian after watching a documentary together.) It’s been this way since their childhood in Jelgava, a small city 25 miles southwest of Riga. There the boys, their parents, and their grandmother squeezed into a two-room apartment, typical, they say, of the austere Soviet days. Midway through Mark and Ilja’s formative years, the family relocated, with elation, to a two-bedroom apartment. And a clunky PC powered by a Pentium 120 did eventually make its way into their home. But the Terebins weren’t young techies. They were entrepreneurs.

Ask.fm offices in Riga, Latvia. Rafal Milach for TIME

 

Here’s our interview with the Terebins. It has been edited and condensed from multiple conversations.

So how’d you wind up starting Ask.fm?

Ilja: Mark was spending all his time on the Internet. I can’t say the same about myself. When we started Ask.fm, I hadn’t even used a social network. But I was in about it, because it’s the present, and of course the future.

Mark: I’m not a tech guy at all. But in Bulgaria, when the [real-estate] crisis was beginning, we were thinking what’s next? And we thought the Internet was something we could participate in. We didn’t know how to code, but we knew we could find people who think like us.

Ilja: It’s not necessary to be a cook to like food, you know?

Do you feel responsible for the bullying on the site?

Ilja: It’s like with the police. You can’t put a policeman in each apartment. But you need to install police that people can call whenever they have an issue. This is our responsibility, to have this available for our users, if they have bullying issues, if they see someone else being bullied. They can press a button, and we can punish whoever sent the bad comment or question.

What do you make of people who say the site should be shut down?

Ilja: This website, if you close it down, you will not have stopped bullying. It’s everywhere. It’s offline. It’s in schools. The bullying is by SMS, too, other social networks. And of course it happens on Ask.fm as well. But you can’t just close everything. Even if you close everything, you take down the Internet, you take down mobile phones—if the child is going to school, there still will be the problem of bullying.

But there’s a difference, isn’t there, between bullying that ends at the end of the school day and bullying that goes on whenever?

Ilja: So what do you want to do? Close down the Internet? The bullying would still happen. Why would you think the bullying would stop? And people say anonymity is a problem. But don’t forget about the people who need anonymity. Teenagers, especially, are afraid that their opinions will be judged by others. It’s sometimes important that they can ask questions anonymously. So don’t forget about these people as well. They need it.

Mark: Our audience values anonymity a lot.

When you see coverage that says the site contributes to the problem, how do you react?

Ilja: We’re doing our job. We’re making the system more and more safe for the user. We can be unhappy about many things that are written in the press; we disagree with many of them. But for the last year, it’s been our priority No. 1, the thing we’ve spent the most time on. We take it very seriously, safety. But we understand that there will still be problems with Ask.fm or any other social network. The media will always make a lot of noise about it. Very often the things that are written are not really fair or not really true. It’s written that there’s no report button—it’s been there since day one. There’s always been the possibility to switch off anonymity, to block an abusive user.

Do you get tired of what people are writing about Ask.fm?

Ilja: A little tired, of course. They bully Ask.fm. For example, the Malta case. Did anyone read the profile of this girl Ask.fm supposedly killed? There was no bullying on the profile—there was no bullying at all. But the media takes this story and bullies us. We’re an easy target. I know of no case of suicide because of bullying on Ask.fm. The Hannah Smith case, the Izzy Dix case—we gave the inquests all the logs, all the information. And we were not found responsible in either case. Sometimes people just want attention. Some people don’t have enough people caring about them, and so they scream for help. Please help me. People don’t realize, this is good for parents and teachers. When you read the profile of your child or your student, you can find out information that you don’t know. If you take the site down, the child would still be bullied, and no one would be able to know.

You seem to think it’s a societal problem.

Ilja: It is. We teach people to bully. Look at the media. Do you have muscles? You’re a cool guy. Are you fat? You’re a loser. Do you f-ck girls? You’re a cool guy. Do you not f-ck girls? You’re a loser. We can’t do anything about it, if parents are drinking beer, watching TV and reading celebrity magazines.

What would you want to say to parents whose kids have killed themselves?

Ilja: There’s nothing we can say to them; it’s too late to bring their children back. But we cooperate with the police on a regular basis. Do the Internet, cellphones and social media make it easier to bully people? Yes. But the problem is not where it happens. It’s about the people who make it happen.

Do you worry about your reputation?

Ilja: The bad PR has hurt us a little bit. But a lot of it isn’t true. They say we’re like Russian playboys, buying sportscars and yachts. That we’re millionaires. It’s all bullsh-t.

When you have the Prime Minister of England saying something needs to be done about your website, that must make you feel strange.

Ilja: It’s not strange. We understand why it happened. People are looking for someone to blame all the time, and we look like an easy target. We’re in Eastern Europe, without a huge budget or proper lawyers. So why not bully us and get some credit?

Do you wish you had thought about safety more in the early days of the site?

Ilja: This is not a good way of thinking, I-wish-I-had. You should think about the present, not about the past.

So what is the present like?

Ilja: We have many people who enjoy our product. And we do a good job for them. We help them discover themselves—not others, but themselves. I think it’s very, very important.

Are you sure you’re having that impact?

Ilja: It’s Eastern philosophy. The human being has everything inside him. But he should discover himself. Ask.fm helps young people to discover themselves. They will become more open-minded, they will have more freedom in the future. It’s very, very important for the present society. Everything society is trying to do right now is put the person in the box. And this is also the reason society is so much against Ask.fm. Because Ask.fm helps people put their heads out of the box. Young users especially. Older people, they’re f-cked up already. They’re interested only in silly things. Who will be the next president of Russia? Who will be the next president of the U.S.? The discussion is a waste of time. And their opinion doesn’t matter at all. It will happen without them. And it will not change their lives. Most things people spend their time thinking about are like this.

When did you develop this philosophical notion about what the site was?

Ilja: Not from Day One. It came step by step.

Mark: When you see how people interact on the site, you see how they start discovering themselves. Even us. Sometimes you get questions you have never asked yourself before, and you start thinking about these things. You enjoy life more than when you’re watching TV or movies or reading magazines.

But aren’t websites part of the intellectual narrowing you’re talking about?

Ilja: Yes, but not Ask.fm! It’s a very important thing to go deeper inside yourself. Everything around you doesn’t make you think. Most of what’s around you is created to keep you from thinking. Eat chips, buy beer, and watch football! But when you answer a question, you have to think. You have to bring your own thoughts about a topic, not just share something someone else wrote, or a video from YouTube that someone else created. You create your own thoughts about important things. Like, “When was the last time you smiled?” That’s an important thing. It’s way more important than, When will the next iPhone come out? This is crap. That’s a very stupid thing to think about, when the next version of some computer or telephone will come out.

Let’s go back to the beginning, how’d you decide on the concept?

Ilja: There was this website, Formspring. The idea, uh, it was their idea. We just liked the idea. We thought we could do it even better.

Mark: It’s not only because there were a lot of users there. We liked the concept of asking questions. This is how you explore the world.

Did you have a sense of how you were going to grow the site?

Ilja: At the beginning, because we had so little experience, we didn’t think about many things you need to think about before you start an Internet company. But that also makes it easier to start. We had some ideas about what to do.

How much did you guys put into the company?

Ilja: Me, Mark, and our cofounder Oskars Liepins, we put in around half a million dollars. That was all we put in for the first year and a half. Then Rubylight, an investment firm, came in, and invested an amount I cannot disclose. And they helped us with technology, too.

As a business, how are you doing?

Ilja: We became profitable a couple months after Rubylight’s investment, two years after we started. That’s pretty fast when you compare with U.S. companies. But they’re in a different situation–they know that there are funds that will give them money. For us, it was more difficult. There’s not a lot of venture capital coming to Latvia. But we did some valuation with experts, and the company’s worth more than a hundred million dollars.

What do you make of the big valuations for American companies and the market conditions that allow Snapchat to turn down $3 billion from Facebook?

Ilja: The market’s overrated. Of course it’s good for us. But social media has not proven its success yet as a business. It’s too early.

What do you anticipate happening in the sector?

Ilja: There won’t be one all-encompassing social network, like Google is in search. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Ask.fm, we’ll all have places for different types of communication.

How have your lives changed since you started Ask.fm?

Ilja: Not a whole lot. It’s not like we woke up one day and had money; the process is very slow. We didn’t invent an application or anything.

Mark: Yes, It’s not like we created Flappy Bird.

But you do have more money, right? What do you spend it on?

Ilja: Vegetables, fruits. I have a nice apartment, too. The rent is about $2,500 a month.

Mark: I travel more than I used to. I went to Thailand, I go to the U.S. occasionally. It’s nice to escape yourself.

TIME Internet

Study: Teens Aren’t Fleeing Facebook After All

US-FACEBOOK-MENLO PARK
A thumbs up or "Like" icon at the Facebook main campus ROBYN BECK—AFP/Getty Images

Kids are actually using the social network more than they did a year ago

Facebook isn’t dead yet. Far from it, in fact.

In October 2013, Facebook’s CFO admitted that young teens were visiting the social network less frequently. Following that announcement, anecdotal reports and a few different studies suggested that teens—the arbiters of cool—were fleeing Facebook en masse. Even if they kept an account, it wasn’t their primary social network. Teens in the U.S. especially were supposedly opting out of Facebook and into networks like Twitter and Tumblr.

But Facebook is making a comeback. Nearly 80% of U.S. teens still use Facebook and are more active on the social networking site than any other, according to a Forrester Research report. The survey, which polled 4,517 U.S. teens and tweens, found that almost half of the respondents (aged 12 to 17) said they use Facebook more than they did a year ago. And 28% of respondents say they’re on Facebook “all the time” (as opposed to “about once a day” or “at least a few times a day”), a higher percentage than any other service.

The results are actually consistent with a comScore report from earlier this year that found even though there was a three-percentage-point drop in Facebook usage among college-aged adults, 89% of those college kids still use the site. That is, again, better than any other social network is doing in that demographic.

Instagram was runner-up to Facebook in terms of time spent on the network, followed by Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and WhatsApp. That’s great news for Facebook: the company owns Instagram and is in the process of acquiring WhatsApp.

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