WhatsApp is about to get its first AI trick – and it could be just the start

WhatsApp is taking its first steps into the world of artificial intelligence as a recent Android beta introduced an AI-powered, sticker generation tool

Revealed in a new report from WABetaInfo, a Create button will show up in chats whenever some app testers open the sticker tab in the text box. Tapping Create launches a mini-generative AI engine with a description bar at the top asking you to enter a prompt. Upon inputting said prompt, the tool will create a set of stickers according to your specifications that users can then share in a conversation. As an example, WABetaInfo told WhatsApp to make a sticker featuring a laughing cat sitting on top of a skateboard, and sure enough, it did exactly as instructed. 

WhatsApp sticker generator

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It’s unknown which LLM (large language model) is fueling WhatsApp’s sticker generator. WABetaInfo claims it uses a “secure technology offered by Meta.”  Android Police, on the other hand, states “given its simplicity” it could be “using Dall-E or something similar.” 


You can try out the AI tool yourself by joining the Google Play Beta Program and then installing WhatApp beta version, although it’s also possible to get it through the update. Be aware the sticker generator is only available to a very small group of people. There’s a chance you won’t get it. However, WABetaInfo claims the update will be “rolling out to more users over the coming weeks,” so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. No word on an iOS version. 

Obviously, this is still a work in progress. WABetaInfo says if the AI outputs something that is “inappropriate or harmful, you can report it to Meta.” The report goes on to state that “AI stickers are easily recognizable” explaining recipients “may understand when [a drawing] has been generated”. The wording here is rather confusing. We believe WABetaInfo is saying AI content may have noticeable glitches or anomalies. Unfortunately, since we didn’t get access to the new feature, we can’t say for sure if generated content has any flaws.

Start of an AI future

We do believe this is just the start of Meta implementing AI to its platforms. The company is already working on sticker generators for Instagram and Messenger, but they’re seemingly still under development. So what will the future bring? It’s hard to say. It would, however, be cool to see Meta finally add its Make-A-Scene tool to WhatsApp.

It’s essentially the company’s own take on an image generator, “but with a bigger emphasis on creating artistic pieces.” We could see this being added to WhatsApp as a fun game for friends or family to play. There’s also MusicGen for crafting musical compositions, although that may be better suited for Instagram.

Either way, this WhatsApp beta feels like Meta has pushed the first domino of what could be a string of new AI-powered features coming to its apps.

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Windows 11 third-party apps break the Start Menu and Microsoft refuses to fix it

Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 11 version 22H2 update, which will be introducing several new features to the Start Menu interface, can also break said Start Menu if certain third-party apps are also installed on the OS.

Windows 11 update 22H2, which will most likely be coming out sooner rather than later in 2023 according to a recent report from Windows Latest, would add a feature that if you hover over a recommended file, a preview panel pops up showing relevant details. However, according to PCMag, a preview build of the update that launched ahead of the general release is already breaking the Start Menu.

Microsoft seems to have already narrowed down the cause: third-party user interface modification apps, such as ExplorerPatcher, which “aims to enhance the working environment on Windows.” But instead of planning a patch for the bug, the tech giant is instead suggesting that users uninstall from this list of third-party apps before they install the update.

But what if you already installed the update, and now your Start Menu is bugged? Then Microsoft suggests that you contact the app developer for a solution. This means that those already suffering from the bug could have a broken OS by the time the update officially launches.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft concerning the issue and will update this article with any official statements.

Who’s fault is it? 

On one hand, when a user installs a third-party app on their PC, they’re accepting the risk involved with that app. While Microsoft allows for users to have third-party apps, the developers of said apps are the ones responsible for maintenance and bug fixes, unlike Microsoft and its own first-party apps. So the tech giant refusing to fix this issue in particular is fair game, especially since it has its own list of bugs and issues to patch.

However, considering that it’s several third-party apps tied to a specific type and that Microsoft quickly narrowed down the cause, it’s clearly an issue with the update not playing nice with user interface modification apps. And Microsoft not offering any solutions, especially those with a now suddenly broken OS, is not a great look for an OS that’s constantly and consistently riddled with bugs and issues.

It’s technically not either entity’s fault, third-party app developers wouldn’t have a reason to suspect their apps would bug the Start Menu with this update, and Microsoft has a solid reason for not wanting to get involved with the cleanup.

Hopefully developers have a patch coming in soon to fix this major headache, though the most ideal solution would be for Microsoft to patch it instead.

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Windows 11 update breaks Start menu for some customization apps – and Microsoft isn’t going to help this time

Windows 11 again has a problem with third-party customization apps that are used to modify the operating system’s interface, with one of these applications clashing with the latest update for the OS.

That’d be the new preview (optional) update for Windows 11 22H2 (patch KB5028254), which as XDA Developers spotted has broken the Start menu for some users of the customization app ExplorerPatcher (going by reports online).

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because earlier in the year we witnessed issues with ExplorerPatcher (and StartAllBack) causing trouble with File Explorer (and nasty boot loops). This was with the Moment 2 update, in fact, back in March (when that was released in preview).

With this gremlin rearing its head again – albeit causing a different issue – what is Microsoft doing? Well, not a lot it seems. Let’s dive into why.

Analysis: Not our problem

Back in March, when these third-party apps became problematic for Windows 11, Microsoft said it would investigate the matter (as The Register reported at the time) and provide more info. What happened was that the developers of both ExplorerPatcher and StartAllBack released patches for their clients to solve the bug, and that was that. We didn’t hear anything else from Microsoft.

Now that issues have appeared again, it seems Microsoft has got fed up, and is washing its hands of the matter. As advised in a release health status update for Windows 11, Microsoft says: “We recommend uninstalling any third-party UI customization app before installing KB5028254 to prevent this issue. If your Windows device is already experiencing this issue, you might need to contact customer support for the developer of the app you are using.”

The issue is marked as ‘mitigated external’ which basically means it’s up to the developer (an external party) to fix it for their app (as happened in the past), and Microsoft doesn’t want to know.

In short, affected users only have two options: nag the developer for a fix, or uninstall the customization app in question.

Is that a reasonable response from Microsoft? In fairness to the software giant, it has previously noted that some of these apps use “unsupported methods to achieve their customization” and that this can produce weird side-effects. Given that the methods are ‘unsupported,’ Microsoft’s view is that it doesn’t have to take this software into consideration when updating Windows 11 code (especially if this is going to happen repeatedly, which seems to be the case).

We don’t feel that’s unreasonable of Microsoft in all honesty, but still, the response does feel a little cold and ‘not our problem’ in nature.

Note that KB5028254 is an optional update right now, so there’s no need to install it, and the upgrade is still in testing; you can simply steer clear.

However, this will become a mandatory cumulative update for August, and therein lies the problem – ExplorerPatcher users (and possibly those employing other third-party customization apps) could then have a broken Start menu. Hopefully, though, the developer of this app will have implemented a fix by then (because Microsoft certainly won’t, that’s abundantly clear).

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Microsoft’s Windows 11 Start menu tweak could be a real timesaver

Windows 11 might get a new piece of functionality for the Start menu that could be a very useful addition to this part of the interface.

As highlighted by PhantomOfEarth on Twitter, recent preview builds of Windows 11 (in the Dev channel) have introduced file previews for the Recommended section of the Start menu (the bottom panel).

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This is pretty nifty, as it means that when you hover over any recommended file – one Windows thinks you might want to use – a preview panel pops up showing relevant details.

As Windows Latest, which also spotted this change in testing, reports, in the case of an image file, to take an example, this will produce a small thumbnail of the photo being hovered over. That way, you can see if it’s the image you want before actually going to the trouble of opening it (and getting annoyed if it’s not the one you thought it was, wasting time as it fires up in your image editor).

Other details imparted with a quick hover include the file’s location on your drive, and the last time it was edited (with Microsoft set to add more info, no doubt).

Analysis: Still early days

Remember that this is just a rough version of the feature in Windows 11 right now. Microsoft hasn’t announced it, and these file previews are actually hidden in the OS currently. They’re not fully finished yet, and were only enabled by these leakers using a Windows configuration tool to dig around in the background of the operating system.

In short, it’s still very early days for this functionality, and as ever with features in testing, we may not ever see this in the release version of Windows 11. That said, this seems a likely pick for something Microsoft will push to fruition, given that it’s a pretty neat extra to have for the Start menu (or at least we think so).

Another change to the Start menu recently spotted in testing is Microsoft labeling its default Windows 11 apps, so the user can clearly see which are the applications that come preinstalled with the OS (such as Calculator, the Settings app, and so on).

Again, this is a move we reckon is almost certainly inbound for the final release version of Windows 11, as it’s a further useful addition into the mix for the Start menu (and not a difficult one to implement, of course).

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Hidden change to Windows 11 Start menu uncovered in testing – and we like it

Windows 11 is hopefully set to receive a useful tweak for the Start menu to help users identify which are the core apps for the operating system.

PhantomOfEarth flagged up the change, which is hidden in preview build 23493 and was uncovered using ViVeTool (a Windows configuration utility used for digging into the OS to find incoming features like this).

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So what’s the big idea here? Microsoft is labeling its default apps – the company’s own programs for Windows 11, that come preinstalled with the OS – so the user can clearly see which these are.

Previously, we were told that these were given a ‘Microsoft’ badge to indicate they are first-party apps for Windows 11, but now, that label has been changed to ‘System’, meaning stock apps that come with the system.

These are apps such as Settings, Tips, Windows Security, Xbox Game Bar, Calculator, and so forth.

Analysis: A handy touch for the less tech-savvy

You’ll quite possibly never use some of those apps, but still, it could be useful to have an indication of which apps in the Start menu are first-party efforts Microsoft includes with a Windows 11 installation by default.

People who are familiar with Windows will no doubt in many cases recognize Microsoft’s own bits of software anyway, having used them through the years. But for those newer to the world of computers and Windows 11 novices, it’s handy to have this label, so they know what’s what in the list of apps on the Start menu.

It’s worth noting that this feature is still in the very early stages – hence why it isn’t enabled in the preview build yet – and some system apps aren’t labeled as such (when they should be). That will, of course, change, assuming this tweak makes the cut for inclusion in testing (which seems likely).

Another hidden feature recently discovered in build 23493 is Microsoft’s continued work on snap layouts, making this unloved part of the UI easier and more intuitive to use, which should attract more Windows 11 users to have a dabble with it (or that’s doubtless the idea).

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Remember that Windows 11 Start menu bug that had Microsoft stumped? It’s now fixed

Microsoft has finally fixed a thorny problem with Windows 11 and Windows 10 that messed with the Start menu and search bar (as well as some UWP – Universal Windows Platform – apps).

You may recall that these problems first surfaced back in January (as we reported last month), and they affected devices with certain apps that are integrated with Windows, Microsoft Office, or Outlook.

And while it’s taken some time, Microsoft has managed to untangle this one at last, and the fix is in new updates for both Windows 11 (KB5027303) and Windows 10 (KB5027293).

The bug is marked as resolved in OS dashboard health updates for both of these operating systems. Note that the mentioned updates carrying the resolution are in preview, so you’ll find them as optional updates (in Windows Update).

Installing them might mean you encounter another (different) bug, as with anything still in its preview or testing phase, but at this point, they’re on the last hurdle before release – and any problems may be far more minor than the glitches that they (hopefully) cure.

Analysis: Fix was much-needed given that badly fudged workaround

This rather nasty bug – that affects the operation of core parts of the Windows interface, like the Start menu, and search – has been hanging around for six months now.

So it’s good to see Microsoft put paid to it, even if it has taken a while – but we could guess it would from the software giant’s updates on the matter. Indeed, we expected to be waiting longer, in all honesty.

If you recall, we were previously given a workaround by Microsoft, but it wasn’t much of one. Indeed, it was a far from ideal fudge of the situation whereby Microsoft advised uninstalling the problematic apps – the obvious issue with that being that you can no longer use them (and they might be important pieces of software for you).

Elsewhere, Microsoft has been busy waving its bug fixing wand on the gaming front, banishing a very unpleasant gremlin that was causing some PC games to crash. That fix was piped through in the (preview) Moment 3 update for Windows 11, but sadly, Windows 10 gamers aren’t getting this fix (at least not yet).

Via Neowin

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Microsoft’s mission to make Windows 11 worse continues with ads in the Start menu

Windows 11 has just received an optional update which applies some useful fixes… but also something a bit more controversial for the Start menu.

As spotted by Bleeping Computer, that’d be what Microsoft describes as “notifications for Microsoft accounts” appearing in the Start menu, a feature that some suspect has a hidden agenda.

What do we mean by that? Well, in the support document introducing patch KB5023778 for Windows 11 22H2 PCs, which is still in preview but will be fully rolled out next month, Microsoft gives an example of a notification: a pop-up panel warning the user that they need to back up their files.

Sensible advice, and of course, it's a good idea to back up your main folders (documents, pictures, and so on) to the cloud every now and then as suggested (and locally too, maybe using an external drive for instance).

You can guarantee, though, that starting a backup from this prompt will try to get you to use OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Because as we know, these Start menu prompts are notifications related to Microsoft accounts and connected services like OneDrive.

Past leaks from Albacore (a well-known leaker on Twitter) have also shown Microsoft prodding users (in test builds) to hit up OneDrive in this manner, or to create a Microsoft account (or to complete their Microsoft profile).

Regarding this new feature, Microsoft tells us: “This is only available to a small audience right now. It will deploy more broadly in the coming months. Some devices might notice different visual treatments as we gather feedback.”

The freshly unleashed optional update also provides a bunch of bug fixes, including one for a glitch that affects printers (connected via a USB port) and makes them appear to be multimedia devices.

Analysis: The start of something ominous?

So, this Start menu feature is progressing, clearly. We saw it in the Release Preview channel for Windows Insiders (testers) just a week ago, and now, it’s hitting actual Windows 11 PCs going forward.

Admittedly, it’s still an optional (test) update right now, but it’ll almost certainly be part of April’s cumulative update for Windows 11 deployed in a couple of weeks. Unless Microsoft has a last-minute change of heart and pulls the plug at the precipice of deployment (and at this point, that’s very unlikely).

Of course, it’s only rolling out to a small subset of Windows 11 users initially. Although that in itself is telling – Microsoft is evidently concerned about the response and is still testing the waters in a limited fashion, as it were, with a broader rollout not coming for ‘months’ to boot. The software giant is being careful about this one, and doubtless for good reason.

Maybe we won’t even see these kind of ads – or reminders, as Microsoft couches them – all that often in the Start menu. They could just be very occasional things. We don’t know, and we also don’t know exactly where Microsoft is going to be drawing the line between suggestions or recommendations, and pushing its own services as a form of help to the user which effectively crosses over into the realm of advertising.

Time will tell, but it’s clear enough that suggestions are set to be a big thing in the future for Windows 11 (or indeed Windows 12). Recently we’ve seen further hints of personalized recommendations in the Start menu, including recommended websites to visit (yes, that concept is seemingly back on the table), which again would seem to be ripe territory for what could effectively be advertising.

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Unpopular Windows 11 Start menu change could be back in the cards

Windows 11 speculation has once again turned to the topic of personalized recommendations within the Start menu, and it seems that a feature which Microsoft discarded may be back on the drawing board.

The feature in question is recommended websites, which could pop up alongside other existing recommendations at the bottom of the Start menu (commonly used apps, suggested files and so forth).

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You may recall that recommendations for websites to visit was an idea Microsoft was toying with in past preview builds from November 2022 onwards, but the idea was subsequently abandoned in build 25272, which landed in January 2023.

As PhantomOfEarth pointed out on Twitter, though, there’s evidence that recommended websites are making a return in test builds of Windows 11.

The feature is hidden – and was only unearthed using ViVeTool, a Windows configuration utility – but it’s certainly interesting to see it could potentially be making a comeback. Especially given that a fair few Windows 11 users were happy to see the back of this concept when Microsoft seemingly ditched it at the start of the year.

Analysis: Drawing the line with recommendations

What folks are concerned about with recommended websites is that Microsoft will use this as a vehicle for pushing third-party sites (effectively advertising).

It’s one thing to recommend files or existing apps on your PC that you might want to conveniently and quickly open, but it’s entirely another to start suggesting ‘useful’ websites. (Sites that’ll no doubt be opened in Edge if past Microsoft form is anything to go by – the software giant won’t likely pass up an opportunity to promote its browser).

What’s also noteworthy here is that this ties up with another hidden piece of the puzzle that was discovered in the latest preview version of Windows 11. Namely the ‘Recommended’ part of the Start menu panel being renamed as the ‘For you’ section, which as we mulled previously seems to suggest that further personalization of this element of the interface might be incoming – possibly including recommended website content? Maybe, just maybe…

Yes, we are treading deeper into speculative territory here, but with AI increasingly being pushed by Microsoft, it’s not difficult to believe that suggestions and recommendations are going to be in evidence across Windows 11 before too long.

The worrying bit is exactly where the line will be drawn regarding helping users and helping advertisers, certainly in the case of recommended websites. Fingers crossed that if recommended sites are again inbound, or about to be tested, that Microsoft can strike a well-considered balance.

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Windows 11 hidden feature hints that Microsoft might be messing with the Start menu

Windows 11 just got a new preview build in the Beta channel that brings a bunch of changes with it, some of which are hidden.

As flagged up by @PhantomOfEarth on Twitter, beta build 2262x.1465 introduces a new name for the ‘Recommended’ section at the bottom of the Start menu panel, where recently used apps and files that you might want to quickly access again are flagged up.

It’s called the ‘For you’ section in the beta, but note that this remains hidden in testing, and the leaker only found it by hunting around with a Windows configuration tool (ViVeTool).

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Elsewhere in the beta build, Microsoft has made the new Voice Access commands help page fully accurate and functional, and it now works properly when in Dark Mode. Also hidden away in this preview build are presence sensing privacy settings (to automatically turn your PC off or on when you leave it or come back).

Other bits have been tacked on to File Explorer, too, and @PhantomOfEarth believes these might pertain to the depth effects we’ve recently heard about, using AI to give the desktop background a ‘3D’ kind of effect. That could be pretty cool to see (despite our misgivings about letting AI loose on the desktop in general).

With this fresh beta release, Windows 11 has also got live captions in many more languages, updated touch keyboard settings, and a VPN status icon for the system tray (which will allow you to tell if you’re connected to your VPN at a glance, a nifty touch).

Analysis: More than meets the eye?

It’s interesting to see the ‘For you’ name change is apparently inbound, moving forward to beta testing – albeit still hidden. Given that the new name hints at further personalization for the Start menu, might we see more targeted bits and pieces appear here?

Well, Microsoft has experimented with this idea in previous test builds, showing recommended websites at one point, but that feature was ditched. (Likely in part due to fears against the obvious potential misuse here in terms of this effectively being advertising – for example, recommending the new Bing would surely be a shoo-in, something that’s already happened in the search box on the taskbar).

It doesn’t appear that this will be anything but a name change, at least not for now, although we still get the feeling it’s a sign that more tailored suggestions might be coming down the line. With AI inevitably being brought more into the mix with Windows 11, this will surely be an avenue for future exploration…

What’s also interesting to note is that only a beta build came out this week, with Microsoft not providing Dev or Canary releases. The hope, then, is that some decent changes could be in the pipeline for these earlier test builds when the next preview release rolls around (perhaps next week).

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Netflix Two Thumbs Up is just the start of personalization changes

Most of us bingeing Bridgerton, Inventing Anna, or Is it Cake? on Netflix didn't just like these series, we loved them. Sadly, we could express only mild enthusiasm with a thumbs up. That changed Monday with Netflix's introduction of two thumbs up to signify you “Love this!”

Netflix teased the new feature a few weeks back, but now it's live globally on the web, iOS, Android, and on your streaming devices. Plus we finally have more information about how Netflix is using “Love this!”, how that rating's algorithmic impact might differ from a mere single thumbs-up, and what the future might hold.

In a blog post on the change, Netflix Director of Product Innovation Christine Doig-Cardet explained why the streaming behemoth added another rating tier:

“Our current Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons are a good way for you to tell us how you feel about a series or film, and in return, you get a profile that’s better personalized to your taste. However, we’ve learned over time that these feelings can go beyond a simple like or dislike.  Providing an additional way to tell us when you’re really into something means a profile with recommendations that better reflect what you enjoy.”

A single thumbs-up rating will still help Netflix tailor recommendations but a double thumbs-up will help Netflix refine the recommendations even further. “For example,” wrote Doig-Cardet, “if you loved Bridgerton, you might see even more shows or films starring the cast, or from Shondaland.”

“This feature,” a Netflix spokesperson told TechRadar, “I would liken it to turning up the volume on your dial for a song you really love.”

The “Love this!” rating is not suddenly the predominant viewing preference indicator. It's simply another signal among many to tell Netflix what you really love so they can show you what you really want, noted the spokesperson. So you won't just see the best shows on Netflix but the best for you.

Among the signals Netflix still looks at is how you interact with shows you're watching or not watching. When you use “Play Something,” for instance, hitting “Next” as soon as a show starts to play lets Netflix know that you really don't like that content.

The new rating isn't hard to find. Open any Netflix show and you'll see the original thumbs-up rating option. On the desktop, we could hover over that icon to see thumbs down (“Not for me”), thumbs up (“I like this”), and the new two thumbs up (“Love this!”). 

The rating options are available on all shows and can be changed at any time, which might encourage you to go back and rerate Squid Game.

Netflix Love This

(Image credit: Future)

Won't save a show

No matter how much you love a show, even using the new two-thumbs-up won't save your favorite Netflix shows. 

“No. Ultimately, as you know, our content team is amazing,” Netflix told us. “Much of that decision-making is rooted in art and science and instinct and it will remain that way.”

But there is a chance of tangential impact if Netflix goes ahead with another idea, which is to use the double thumbs up or “Love this!” rating to drive an entire row of “Most Loved Stuff This week.”  After all, if you see what everyone else is really loving, then you might decide to watch that over something people simply “like.” 

If part of Netflix's decision-making is rooted in science and a piece of that science is viewers…well, then it does seem possible that Loving content might someday lead to saving it.

What's next

Netflix's “Love this!' rating option is just the beginning of what could be a year of personalization changes.

“We’re really excited about this,” noted the Netflix spokesperson. It's the “first update in five years to the thumb rating system, [and] the first out the gate this year for us.”

Which means there's more to come. Netflix's goal is to give members more control over their Netflix experience.

“We really want to introduce more personalization features this year,” said the Netflix spokesperson, “You’ll see a lot more from us this year in this space.”

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