How Different Internet Platforms Collaborate Using APIs

Ever wonder how it is that you can share photos from Flickr to sites like Facebook? Ever wonder how a Google map can pinpoint your geo coordinates in Yelp? Or that your tweets can be simultaneously published to Facebook? Or, simply, that we’re able to show you YouTube videos on the mental_floss blog?

All these types of collaborations are done through what’s called an API, or application programming interface. It’s sort of like how we humans interact with Web and mobile app, only south (reference? reference?) APIs let different platforms, apps and servers communicate with each other over the Interwebz.

So let’s take an example and see how a simple API works. There’s a cool site called that lets you see what’s hot on Netflix at any given moment. They organize for you the most recent additions to the Netflix library and movies that are getting streamed the most. How do they do it? Simple! Netflix has various APIs that are accessible to application developers. In this case, InstantWatcher is doing a simple call to the Netflix database and querying based on criteria, like, what movie ID numbers have been added in the last 24 hours? What movie ID number are being streamed the most over the last 24 hours? And so forth. All InstantWatcher is really doing is organizing and presenting the information back to you in a way that’s easily consumable.

Now, you might say to yourself: Why doesn’t Netflix provide this service too? Why do they need to develop an API so that someone else can make money from such a service (it’s free to users, but ad supported)? Those are good questions! I wondered the same thing myself! But remember, the API allows developers to interact with Netflix’s data in myriad ways. InstantWatcher is simply calling the API to get the most basic info and ignoring all the other stuff that doesn’t interest them.

Facebook Now Blocks Third-Party Apps From Your Data If You Haven't Opened Them in 90 Days

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal data of 87 million Facebook users was shared inappropriately, details surrounding the social media company's questionable privacy policies have been gaining attention. One such policy was the way Facebook dealt with third-party apps.

If you ever connected to an app with your Facebook login, that app was given indefinite access to your information, even if you only opened it once a decade ago. Now, Facebook is changing that. As Tech Crunch reports, apps that haven't been opened in three months will no longer be able to access your information.

If you log in to a new app through Facebook, whether it's a game, a quiz, dating site, or something else, you're giving it permission to see your private data when you agree to continue. It's something many people do without ever thinking about it again, but selecting that option can have long-term consequences. According to their new announcement, Facebook will now do some of the housekeeping work of blocking old apps for you. After 90 days, access tokens for users who have not logged into an app or given the app permission to see their information will expire.

Addressing developers, Facebook said, "this means that every 90 days you [the app] must send a person through the Facebook Login process, and the person must agree to specific data permissions by tapping the 'continue” button,'" the announcement reads. "We believe this immediate access update helps build trust and leads to stronger connections within our ecosystem."

For people with a more relaxed attitude toward how Facebook is using their data, the new update may be enough: Just grant permission to the app you want to use, play with it until you get bored, and after 90 days of no activity, reassess whether the app is really something that still needs your information. Other users may think that giving an app permissions for 90 days is still too long, or they may have trouble trusting Facebook to stick to this policy given its recent controversies. Fortunately, there is a way to see which third-party apps you've joined through Facebook and delete them for good. 

[h/t Tech Crunch]

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Want to Remember Your Vacation? Take Fewer Photos

Technology isn't always good for your memory. Overusing map apps can alter our navigational skills. Information overload can make us forgetful. Most of us treat Google like an external hard drive for information we might have once committed to memory. And all those selfies and picturesque vistas we photograph on vacation might be affecting how we remember the trip, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology spotted by Vox.

In three different tests, a group of psychologists asked participants to record and/or share media while taking self-guided tours.

In one tour, 132 people were asked to explore a church on Stanford University's campus and either take at least five photos for themselves, take photos to post on Facebook, or take no photos at all. A week or two after they took the self-guided tour using a university brochure as a guide, they took a memory test about the details of what they saw. The researchers found that taking photos impaired how well people remembered the church, whether they were taking photos for themselves or to share on social media.

In another test, 238 participants took the same church tour, but did so in pairs instead of alone. Most didn't know their partners before the study. The pairs weren't allowed to talk to each other, and in each pair, the participants were part of different groups—in some, one participant was supposed to take photos for personal use while the other wasn't supposed to take photos at all; in others, one participant was supposed to share photos to Facebook and one was in the no-photo condition; and in still others, both partners were in the no-photo group. Again, the researchers found that taking photos negatively affected people's memories of the experience in a follow-up survey several days later.

Crucially, in both tests, taking photos didn't alter how much people enjoyed the experience, even if it made them remember less of it. But if the whole point of taking pictures is to remember a moment, it may not be a productive use of your vacation time, even if it does result in a fantastic profile picture.

The researchers conclude that recording an experience "may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve." Their study ends on a dark note: "Ironically, our results suggest that using media to preserve these moments may prevent people from fully experiencing them in the first place." At least you'll still have fun, though.

[h/t Vox]


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