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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 InstantWatcher.com 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.

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Facebook Just Made It Easier to Tell the Difference Between Fake News and Real Reporting
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On Facebook, fake news stories "reporting" international conflicts over Toblerones can appear alongside fact-checked journalism from trustworthy outlets. This leads to some bogus stories racking up thousands of shares while real news stories are deemed "fake" by those who disagree with them. With its latest news feature, Facebook aims to make the distinction between factual and fictional posts clearer.

As The Verge reports, articles shared on Facebook will now display a "trust indicator" icon. Clicking on it reveals information about the publisher of the piece, including their ethics statement, corrections policy, fact-checking process, ownership structures, and masthead. By providing that context, Facebook hopes that more users will make better decisions about which news outlets to trust and which to disregard.

The social media network is launching the feature with a handful of publishers and plans to open it up to more down the road. But unless it becomes mandatory for all media pages, it won't be the end of Facebook's fake news problem: Phony sites and real publishers that leave this information blank will still look the same in the eyes of some readers. Additionally, the feature only works when people go out of their way to check it, so it requires users to be skeptical in the first place.

If you want to avoid the fake news in your feed, looking for trust indicators is a good place to start. To further sharpen your BS-detecting skills, try adopting the CRAAP system: The American Library Association has been using it to spot sketchy sources since before the Facebook era.

[h/t The Verge]

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How to Stop Instagram Photos From Automatically Posting to Facebook
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If you have Instagram photos you don’t mind sharing with your aunts, exes, and former high school classmates, Facebook is the perfect place to post them. But some pictures are better suited to more intimate audiences: For those scenarios, you’ll want to unlink your Facebook from your Instagram account. The Daily Dot put together a simple how-to guide.

To keep your Instagram photos from automatically showing up on your Facebook profile, head to the Instagram app. Go to your profile, tap the gear icon next to Edit Profile, and then scroll down to the Linked Accounts option under Settings. If every photo you share through Instagram is published on Facebook, you should see Facebook highlighted in blue with a checkmark next to it under Linked Accounts. After tapping this, hit the Unlink Facebook button and Unlink a second time when the app asks you to confirm your decision.

Once that’s taken care of, any new posts you share through Instagram will only be seen by your Instagram followers (unless your account is linked to Twitter or some other social media site, in which case you can follow the same steps above). To undo this action, just return to Linked Accounts and tap Facebook to join the two accounts again.

This is a smart way to limit your social media presence or curb potential damage if hackers ever access your Instagram. But if you’re looking to distance yourself from Facebook because of issues you have with the site itself, simply unlinking it from Instagram won’t cut it. Facebook owns Instagram, so any information you post to either profile goes to the same place. There are better ways to control how Facebook handles your personal data. Read this to learn more about the social media giant’s ad targeting practices and what you can do about them.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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