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.

Ruined a Photo By Blinking? Facebook Can Fix It With AI

Next time you blink in an otherwise flawless photo, don't be so quick to hit the "delete" button on your phone. As The Verge reports, Facebook is testing a new feature that uses artificial intelligence to make closed eyes look naturally open.

Facebook engineers Brian Dolhansky and Cristian Canton Ferrer described the technology behind the AI in a paper published June 18. They used a type of machine learning called generative adversarial network or GAN. It works by looking at a database of pictures and using that information to generate new imagery where there wasn't any before.

This type of AI has been used to design clothing and video game levels in the past. To get it to work with faces, Facebook engineers showed the system photos taken of people when their eyes were open. After "learning" the subject's eye shape, size, and color, the AI used that data to superimpose a new set of eyes over the blinking lids. The feature still has some trouble working with glasses, long bangs, and pictures taken at an angle, but when it does what it's supposed to, it's hard to tell the photo was ever retouched.

Faces with blinking and open eyes.

Facebook isn't the first company to use AI to salvage photographs with closed eyes. In 2017, Adobe added an "Open Closed Eyes" feature to Photoshop Elements that also uses AI to generate a pair of eyes that match those of the blinking subject. For it to work, users first have to show the system several photos of the subject with their eyes open.

Facebook, which already holds a database of pictures of many of its users, seems like a perfect fit for this type of technology. The social media site is still testing it out, but based on the success of early experiments, they may consider making it available to users in the not-too-distant future. And because Facebook owns Instagram, it's possible that the eye-opening feature will eventually be applied to Instagram posts and Stories as well.

[h/t The Verge]

You Can Finally Mute Users on Instagram

Since launching as a photo editing and sharing app in 2010, Instagram has grown into the third most popular social media platform behind YouTube and Facebook. That means the list of people you follow likely includes friends you like as well as exes, distant family members, and former high school classmates whose constant updates you could do without. Now BuzzFeed reports that Instagram just made it a lot easier to trim your feed of unwanted content without the user’s knowledge.

To mute someone without unfollowing them altogether, tap the ellipsis to the right of their username next time you see one their posts. Next, select “Mute” from the list of options that pops up. From there you can choose to just mute their regular posts or block their posts and Instagram Stories from showing up on your end. There’s no way for the user to know you muted them (at least not yet), and you can visit their profile to unmute them any time.

Instagram had already made it possible to mute someone’s Stories by tapping and holding their profile icon, but this is the first time users have the option to hide all posts from a person as well. Prior to the update, users either had to put up with obnoxious oversharing or hit the unfollow button and risk their friend (or acquaintance, family member, etc.) noticing their follower count dropped.

Interested in curating your other online feeds? If politics is your biggest social media peeve, here are some ways to see less of it.

[h/t BuzzFeed]


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