Microsoft has announced that it is planning several new features for Skype, its consumer communications platform. Many reports had earlier suggested that Microsoft had been planning to kill off Skype in lieu of Microsoft Teams for years. But now it says that Skype is “here to stay.”
“Skype has been in our lives for nearly two decades, and we are here to stay,” an unattributed post to the Skype Blogs reads. “We care about all of you, our Skype users, so we … [have] plans for an improved, faster, reliable, and super modern-looking Skype.”
So, here are some of the new features coming to Skype:
Calling stage modernization: Microsoft is adding new layouts, beautiful theming, and other new features to the Skype calling stage, which is its weird name for the interface you see when you’re conversing with one or more other people. You will be able to see yourself on the main view during a call, view multiple people with a more natural grid, disable the video stream, and hide audio-only participants from the calling stage.
Other modern features: The chat header is getting updated with a new layout, a group avatar, and button gradients. The left side panel in the main Skype window is likewise being redesigned with Fluent icons throughout. And Skype will support vibrant new color themes.
Improved Meet Now: This Windows 10-only feature is being redesigned to be even lighter weight, easier to use, and better looking.
Browser support: The web version of Skype will natively support “all browsers,” Microsoft says, alongside icons of Edge, Chrome, Safari, and Opera.
Office Lens on iOS: The iPhone version of Skype is getting camera improvements thanks to Office Lens so you can “capture your memories, create videos or scan documents, whiteboards and business cards in the smartest way.”
TwinCam: This intriguing feature will let Skype users add a second camera—perhaps on their smartphones—to a call so you can show two things at once.
Notification sounds customization: Microsoft will let users choose their own notification sounds.
New reactions chooser: Using a new reactions chooser, you will be able to choose any emotion and react within two seconds. Microsoft claims. It will also support search, reactions organization, and pinned items.
PSTN translation: Skype Universal Translator will be able to translate phone calls on the fly between languages. It supports all languages and works on landlines as well as video calls.
Improved performance: Skype is about to get 30 percent faster on desktop and an incredible 2000 percent faster on Android thanks to modernizing the media stack.
Deezer Now Available on Etisalat Youth Plans
Deezer and Etisalat are teaming up to bring prepaid and postpaid mobile users music without any limits. Deezer is now offered as part of ‘Etisalat Youth’ plans. Customers between 18-29 who choose one of the Etisalat youth plans can enjoy their favourite tunes worry-free. Customers who opt-in will be able to stream music on Deezer without using their mobile data. Additionally, as a launch promo, they get their first month of Deezer Premium free upon subscription, then it’s charged at AED 18 a month.
Premium subscribers can enjoy 73 million local and international tracks as well as a wide range of channels, compilations, and playlists curated by Deezer’s local editors. It’s also the only audio streaming service where you can find exclusive content from Rotana, the largest record company in the Arab world.
Deezer is the only streaming service with Flow, for a mix of old favorites and new tunes. Flow is your never-ending soundtrack of music that’s completely tailored to your personal tastes. And when you’re tired of music, you can easily switch to the Podcast tab in the app and enjoy all of your favourite shows. Here you’ll also find personalised podcast recommendations and 15 different categories to pick from.
Deezer’s premium features and benefits include:
- Downloads, so that you can enjoy your favourite tunes and podcasts even when you have no network coverage
- Lyrics, which lets you look up what a song is saying and sing along wherever you are
- Songcatcher, our in-app feature that identifies unknown tracks and lets you add songs directly to your personal library.
- Dark mode gives our users the freedom to switch from their normal light music player to a dark grey background.
- Curated channels let you explore and discover new music and entertainment content by category and genre. We have over 20 categories of music, news, podcasts, and custom-made content based on location and preference.
- Daily mixes offer 40 song recommendations inspired by your listening throughout the week.
- Discovery updated every week, we bring you new music that you’ve never listened to on Deezer, perfectly tailored to your taste. We recommend the tracks based on music favorited on your phone.
“Everyone should have the freedom to enjoy their favourite music without worrying about their data running out. Our partnership with Etisalat makes that a reality for young people in the United Arab Emirates. Deezer is perfectly positioned to be the best audio streaming partner for leading telcos like Etisalat. We have a state-of-the-art platform that listeners love to use over and over again and an agile team that can provide fast and seamless integration for operators. Working with a streaming service like Deezer can help operators reduce churn and grow network usage, especially with young customers,” said Ralph Pighin, Senior Vice President Europe, Africa & Asia at Deezer.
Etisalat customers can subscribe via the USSD code *101*18#, through the My Etisalat app, or via www.etisalat.ae. SWYP users can subscribe through the SWYP app or via USSD to select and subscribe to add-ons.
Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram Are All Offline
Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp have apparently all gone down in a major outage. The social network and the Facebook-owned platforms all stopped working around 7:30 pm UAE time, today, according to the site Down Detector. The outage affects nearly 7 billion users between the three platforms. Users going to Facebook’s site saw an error page or an onscreen message that said, “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”
Instagram and WhatsApp are not showing new or updated content. On Instagram, messages including “Couldn’t Refresh Feed” or “5xx Server Error” appeared. “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook communications director Andy Stone tweeted today. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
During Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes, former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, who worked on Facebook’s civic integrity team, alleged that the company was aware that its platform was used to spread misinformation and violence and that their inaction may have enabled the planning of the January 6 Capitol riot.
“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money,” Haugen said on 60 Minutes. “I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than anything I’ve seen before.”
In its response to Haugen’s claims, Facebook stated in part, “We’ve invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe and have made fighting misinformation and providing authoritative information a priority. If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments, and society would have solved them a long time ago.”
UAE Entrepreneurs Launch Private Messaging App
UAE-based entrepreneurs have launched a private messaging app, which enables users to send voice and written messages that disappear as soon as they are sent, read, and played. “The application called Oh!Message, brings users back to the classical period of simple communications tools, but by using the best privacy-enhancing features, to be the first chat application with this high privacy developed in the ME region by Arab expertise,” said Mohammed Othman and Haian Nayouf, the makers of the app.
With this free app, the sent message will disappear from the sender’s account after 10 seconds if it is read by the recipient or not, and it will also disappear from the recipient’s account after 10 seconds of opening or playing it. The message will be destroyed completely within the application and will not be stored on the app servers. Each written message is limited to 100 characters while the audio message is 10 seconds.
“Oh!Message is end-to-end encrypted but it has also other features that make it the most private app among messaging apps,” said Engineer Mohammed Othman, Co-Founder and Chief of Technology at Oh!Message. “In this app, which is available in Apple and Android stores, the user doesn’t appear online while using it, and his/her location is not tracked.”
“The first period of the app launch is in the UAE, the Gulf region, and Arab countries,” said Haian Nayouf, Co-Founder and Chief of Communications at Oh!Message. “The UAE is the capital for talent, companies, and investments in the areas of digital and technical excellence globally, and this has greatly motivated us to work on this project in UAE, and the app is the first of its kind in the Arab world with these strong privacy features.”
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