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WebXR: A Contributor’s Story with Soham Parekh

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The “Contributor’s Story” series is intended to provide a face and voice to our major open source contributors and community members, an overview of the projects they are working on, and the successes and challenges contributors face when developing.

In this blog post, we will be talking to Soham, a WebXR contributor working on creating immersive AR/VR examples using WebXR media layers through the Major League Hacking (MLH) Fellowship.

“I have discovered that the best way to get better at software development is to not only practice it but to use it to solve real world problems.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current experience in the MLH Fellowship.

I am a software developer, currently in my final year, creating open source projects and writing about software development, competitive coding, machine learning, cybersecurity and information security awareness. I am also the founder of and lead maintainer at Devstation, a not-for-profit organisation with an aim to encourage startups and organisations to adopt open source tech.

I spent most of my day turning coffee to code primarily written in Golang, Rust, Python or JavaScript. My life goal is to make the web a better, safer place for humans. For this, I am actively involved in Natural Language Processing, particularly in the applications of social graphs and graph neural networks to problems in social computing like web ethics, identification of hate speech, etc. I also am of the opinion that the most disastrous invention of the human-kind is pineapple as a pizza topping.

The first time I got to know about the MLH Fellowship was through a previous fellow who worked with Jest as a part of his fellowship. A few months back, I had created a feature request for a Jest-plugin for Puppeteer for introducing a video recording for the tests. Knowing that I can contribute to the fellowship in exciting frameworks like Jest that solve real-world problems is something that really caught my attention.

Where did you first learn about open source? How did you get started using/contributing?

I came into contact with open source through the speech-to-code engine called Dragonfly. Since then, I have been an active contributor to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation since the past few years. However, my first formal introduction to open-source was in a program similar to MLH Fellowship called Google Summer of Code. There I worked with Wikimedia Foundation as a part of the Release Engineering Team and absolutely fell in love with the open source community.

Describe the project you are currently working on.

For the fellowship, I am working with Zhixiang Teoh on creating immersive AR, VR examples on the web that incorporate the WebXR layers specification, particularly with the WebXR media layers. The WebXR media layers specification makes creating and interacting with the video layers in a virtual environment not only performant but also crisper, reducing the dependence on CPU and leveraging the GPU in a rather efficient fashion.

We have particularly focused our attention on achieving these implementations through an existing library like Three.js that makes interfacing with the browser’s WebGL and WebXR API relatively simple by abstracting it away through helper classes and functions. Our goals for the fellowship particularly were to create examples that indicate how multiple media layers with different 3D characteristics (equi-rectangular, quad or cylindrical) can be created and attach controller interactions with them such as fluid resizing, a toolbar for video play/pause and playback as well as moving the layers in the virtual 3D space.

How did you initially go about tackling the issue?

We were lucky to have some reference implementations that the previous fellows had worked on, but the existing code wasn’t really the best way to do it. The code examples were in the form of a single file that made traversing to the code rather convoluted.

Our first step was to migrate the existing code examples to be modular and use as many abstractions provided by Three.js as possible so that the future viewers of the code have an easier time following it. We also made the code well-commented and added support for “snowpack” to leverage support for ES Modules.

What roadblocks or problems have you faced thus far in your contribution?

One of the major roadblocks we’ve had so far in our contribution is that the WebXR Layers are a relatively new feature recently added to the WebXR world. WebXR itself is particularly new in its field and while browser-support for immersive experiences on the Web has been on a steady rise, a lot of the things required a thorough understanding on our part on other areas of the WebXR API spec itself. This was rather challenging since the spec was intended to serve as a reference to the browser implementers. The process, however, was very exciting since it got as familiar with a lot of the things that work under the hood of a browser that make an immersive experience on the web achievable.

What is the current status of development?

As the fellowship nears its close, we have achieved most of the deliverables with a well-commented code. Currently we are working to make the existing code more refined, filtering out potential bugs, adding documentation for caveats and work around that we have incorporated and making the code more performant in places where we can.

What have you learned about the project, development, or open source thus far?

The last time I worked with Three.js was two years ago with a primary aim to learn it while constructing my personal website. Since peeking into Three.js implementation of native WebGL and WebXR APIs became a recurring trend, working with WebXR as a part of the fellowship gave me a chance to explore Three.js a lot more in depth. I now feel confident to contribute to Three.js and the Immersive Web community and feel ready to dive deep into complicated codebases.

There is one key experience that I particularly value a lot as the fellowship comes to a close and that is getting to know and work with Teoh. I have a tendency to over engineer, and Teoh was always helpful in keeping me track without spending too much time on refining a feature and taking breaks when necessary. I’ve learnt that quick pair programming sessions are a great way to work on complicated tasks and a great way to get to know your fellow developers.

Overall, contributing to open source and knowing that our examples will serve as a reference for future implementations of the layer specification fills me with a sense of satisfaction.

What advice would you give future contributors to the open source project?

WebXR looks quite more intimidating than it actually is. I think the best way to approach it is to first read the MDN Web Docs on the WebXR specification and then read the official WebXR API spec. The official WebXR specification is meant for browser tormentors. This makes it easy to get lost. The idea is to use this specification only to understand the corresponding documentation on MDN in more detail.

Three.js does a wonderful job of working with WebGL. Using the abstractions provided by Three.js has really helped us to work with WebGL and WebXR APIs with relative ease. 1

We discovered another such framework called A-frame halfway into the fellowship. A-frame makes working with immersive experiences on the web simpler and I highly recommend future contributors take a look at it.

We’d like to thank Soham for their continuous contributions to the Facebook Open Source ecosystem. You can follow Soham’s work through his Website, GitHub, and LinkedIn.

If you’d like to learn more about Facebook Open Source, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for relevant updates, and check out the WebXR website for how to get started. Also, we recently sponsored Open Web Docs, where we hope to do our part to continue the MDN tradition of providing quality web documentation on a variety of technologies, including XR.

Facebook Developers

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How To Lock Facebook Profile Via Desktop PC or Mobile App

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Facebook, one of the most popular social media apps, has recently launched a new safety feature for Indian users which allows them to lock their profile completely. The new feature allows users to keep a check on who is viewing their profile and make sure that only their friends can view their photos and posts. This new feature gives users more control over their Facebook experience. The feature has been launched in select countries only including India. 

Once the new feature is enabled then no one except your friends can zoom into, share or download your full-size profile picture or your cover photo. It restricts others from seeing posts on your timeline. Any posts that a user has shared publicly will change to friends. Only a small portion of the ‘About info’ will be visible to everyone on the profile.

To lock Facebook profile here is a step-by-step guide

1. First, you will need to update your Facebook app by heading over to the Google Play Store or Apple App store.


2. Go to your profile page. 


3. Next, go to ‘More’ under your profile name.


4. Click on the drop-down menu and look for the ‘Lock Profile’ option. Next, click it.


5. Next, you will receive a confirmation message on your screen.


6. Then click on ‘Lock Your Profile’ to lock your profile.

What happens once your Facebook profile is locked

Once your profile is locked, only limited details will be visible to people who are not your friends. Your friends will still be able to view the following.

– Any Pictures and posts on your profile.


– They will be able to view the cover photo or full profile picture.


– Stories will be visible to friends.


– Any new posts and pictures will be visible.

Apart from this, any posts users have shared in the past publicly will change to ‘Friends Only’ automatically. The Profile review and tag review will be turned on for users who lock their profile. Only a small portion of their About info will be visible to everyone on their profile.

How to Lock Facebook profile via mobile app

To lock your Facebook profile via the Android mobile app, follow the below-mentioned steps.

1. First, you need to go to your profile on the Facebook app


2. Next Tap the three-dot menu icon next to ‘Add to Story’ You will be able to see a Lock Profile option, tap on it.


3. The next page will give you a brief on how it works with an option to Lock Your Profile at the bottom, tap on it.


4. You should see a pop-up that says ‘You Locked Your Profile’, tap on OK

Here’s how to Lock Facebook profile via desktop

1. To lock your Facebook profile via desktop, head to https://www.facebook.com/


2. Open the profile icon in the URL, and replace ‘www’ with ‘m’ so it says ‘m.facebook.com/yourprofilename’


3. This takes you to the mobile version of Facebook on your desktop browser.


4. Next you will be able to see a three-dot menu next to the Edit Profile option.


5. In the three-dot menu, click on the Lock Profile option.


6. The next page shows how the locking works, and users get an option to Lock Your Profile at the bottom. Simply click on it.


Your profile is now locked.

How to disable posting on Facebook timeline

Only you and your friends can post on your Facebook profile. To stop your friends from posting on your Facebook profile follow the below-mentioned steps.

1. Click on the top right of Facebook


2. Choose Settings & Privacy, then click Settings.


3. Next In the left column, click Profile and Tagging.


4. Check for the setting ‘Who can post on your profile?


5. Then click the Edit option on the right corner.


6. Next from the dropdown menu choose the ‘Only Me’ option.

However, your friends will still be able to post comments on any post they can see on your profile like images that they are tagged in.

How to unlock your Facebook profile

To unlock your Facebook profile, the steps are the same for both the mobile app and desktop.

1. Where users could see the Lock Profile option earlier, they can now see an Unlock Profile option.

2. Now click on it and hit Unlock profile on the next screen.

3. You will be able to see information on how unlocking your profile works. There is an option to Unlock Your Profile at the bottom, simply click on it and your profile will be unlocked.

Unlocking the Facebook profile will allow all users to see your posts, pictures, etc. To maintain privacy users also have an option to control privacy through the Privacy settings. Here are some of the thing’s users can do to control who views your profile and other information.

1. They can use the Privacy check-up tool to ensure complete privacy of their profile.


2. Select who they share posts, pictures, as well as other information with.


3. Edit basic information and choose who can see it.


4. Users also have an option to change story privacy settings.


5. They can turn on Profile Review to control privacy.


6. Turn on the tag review option.


7. They have an option to Turn on Profile Picture Guard.


8. They can also use Control Who Can Friend and Follow You.


9. Keep a check and don’t make your email or mobile phone number public.

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Nine strikes deals with Facebook, Google

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Nine has struck deals with tech giants Google and Facebook that will mean it gets paid for its news content. The media company announced the deals in a statement to the ASX on Tuesday. Facebook will pay Nine for news video clips and access to digital news articles on Facebook news products. The deal will initially last for up to three years. The parties have agreed on a minimum amount to be paid under the deal. Nine was reported to have inked a letter of intent with Facebook in March. Nine will supply news content to Google for its News Showcase and other news products. Under the five-year deal, Google will do more marketing across Nine’s platforms. Nine says the amount payable is a fixed annual fee with modest growth in the early years. Nine’s own newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are reporting that the deals are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The deals will help Nine’s publishing division boost its net income by $30 to $40 million in the coming financial year, the ASX statement says. The growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation is also aided by ongoing growth in subscriptions revenues for Nine’s mastheads. The deal comes after the News Media Bargaining Code came into effect in March. The code forced Facebook and Google to negotiate with news publishers to pay them for their journalism. Google remains in talks with a range of regional and smaller publishers. It signed a letter of intent with the ABC last week. More than 100 publications are already featured on its Showcase product. Facebook is still in negotiations with a range of other publishers. Australian Associated Press

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Nine has struck deals with tech giants Google and Facebook that will mean it gets paid for its news content.

The media company announced the deals in a statement to the ASX on Tuesday.

Facebook will pay Nine for news video clips and access to digital news articles on Facebook news products. The deal will initially last for up to three years.

The parties have agreed on a minimum amount to be paid under the deal.

Nine was reported to have inked a letter of intent with Facebook in March.

Nine will supply news content to Google for its News Showcase and other news products.

Under the five-year deal, Google will do more marketing across Nine’s platforms.

Nine says the amount payable is a fixed annual fee with modest growth in the early years.

Nine’s own newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are reporting that the deals are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The deals will help Nine’s publishing division boost its net income by $30 to $40 million in the coming financial year, the ASX statement says.

The growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation is also aided by ongoing growth in subscriptions revenues for Nine’s mastheads.

The deal comes after the News Media Bargaining Code came into effect in March. The code forced Facebook and Google to negotiate with news publishers to pay them for their journalism.

Google remains in talks with a range of regional and smaller publishers.

It signed a letter of intent with the ABC last week.

More than 100 publications are already featured on its Showcase product.

Facebook is still in negotiations with a range of other publishers.

Australian Associated Press

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Australia’s drug regulator may refer anti-vaccination Facebook posts to federal police

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Australia’s drug regulator is considering referring Covid vaccine misinformation posts to the federal police, after anti-vaccine campaigners targeted a Labor MP who posted about getting the jab.

In response to a viral post of Labor backbencher Julian Hill receiving his vaccine, numerous users posted false material purportedly from the Therapeutic Goods Administration wrongly claiming Covid-19 vaccines have caused more than 200 deaths.

The figure they used was in fact the number of people who have died after receiving the vaccine, but apart from one case, none have been linked by the TGA to the vaccine.

The TGA told Guardian Australia the alleged posting of the death counter was “particularly concerning” and it would consider referring it to the federal police.

Hill, who holds the outer Melbourne suburban seat of Bruce, has complained to the health minister, Greg Hunt, that the “serious misinformation” is spreading online “in the absence of a proper national public health campaign to combat misinformation”.

Hill posted a photo of himself being vaccinated on Saturday, reaching 500,000 users, and garnering 23,000 comments, 298 shares and more than 13,000 reactions.

According to the Auspol Posts Twitter account, which uses public data collated with online tool CrowdTangle, the photo had the most engagement of any Australian politician’s post on Facebook on 29 May.

In addition to replies wishing him well and expressing support for vaccination, many responded with an image citing the TGA’s weekly vaccine safety report for the incorrect claim there had been 210 “Covid-19 vaccine deaths” from 1 January to 23 May without mentioning most of these deaths were not caused by the vaccine.

“Apart from the single Australian case in which death was linked to [blood clots], Covid-19 vaccines have not been found to cause death,” the TGA safety report said.

More than three-quarters of the 210 deaths were in those aged over 75. “To date, the observed number of deaths reported after vaccination is actually less than the expected number of deaths,” it said.

The TGA said: “The alleged posting particularly of the false information of the death counter from ‘Covid-19 vaccines’ with the department’s and TGA’s apparent endorsement is particularly concerning.”

The TGA noted it is a criminal offence, punishable by two years in prison, to represent oneself as a commonwealth body or acting on behalf of one.

“The TGA will assess the information provided in the enquiry and refer the matter to the Australian federal police as an offence under the criminal code as appropriate.

“If evidence of a Facebook post is provided or found the TGA will also engage with Facebook.”

Several users also posted a letter from the TGA to a request for a document that provides “scientific factual evidence of the testing procedure being used in Australia that 100% positively identifies Covid-19 … in a living human, beyond any reasonable doubt”.

The letter states that no such documents exist, although point-of-care test kits for identifying Covid-19 were approved by the TGA.

Hill told Hunt he was “especially concerned about the large number of people purporting to share official information from the Australian government”.

“The lack of a national public health campaign to combat misinformation is extremely concerning.

“When the national government vacates the field, it leaves room for misinformation and conspiracy theories to flourish, especially online.”

Hill called for a “proactive effort to crowd out and call out the frankly batshit crazy stuff that is being spread”.

“Australians will continue to be exposed to restrictions and lockdowns … until enough of the population is fully vaccinated.”

In February, more than one-fifth of Australians said they “probably” or “definitely” won’t be vaccinated against coronavirus, with more recent polling putting the figure at one third, leading to concerns Australia will struggle to achieve herd immunity.

The federal government has set up a “myth-busting unit” to address what Hunt has called “plainly ridiculous” misinformation surrounding the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Australia.

Hunt’s spokesman referred Guardian Australia to the “Is it true?” section of the health department’s website, and noted that Hill himself had provided links to it to debunk claims made about his vaccination photograph.

“As always, we suggest Australians get medical advice from medical experts, not Facebook,” he said.

The national Covid-19 vaccines campaign budget has a total budget of $40m over two years. Hunt’s spokesman cited ads running in all media since May, many containing “leading medical authorities” such as the TGA’s professor John Skerritt, chief nurse Alison McMillan and former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth.

The government is planning a major advertising push to begin in July, to run on social media and traditional media, which is set to include celebrities, jokes and songs to entice younger Australians to get a jab.

The government has struggled with misinformation since newly independent MP Craig Kelly spruiked unproven Covid treatments while still a Liberal member of the government. Scott Morrison eventually distanced himself from Kelly’s comments after weeks of simply advising Australians not to get information from social media.

Kelly’s claims saw his popularity on Facebook soar, before the social media giant stepped in and deleted his page.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook had come under fire for refusing to take down fake news about the “death tax” circulating during the May 2019 election.

Hill told Guardian Australia he hadn’t reported the issue of his vaccination photo to Facebook as he feared it would be “self-defeating” and result in the original photo being deleted, despite the fact it has “served a positive purpose in that numerous people have messaged seeking proper information and help”.

“I have reported or blocked some of the comments which hopefully Facebook will deal with, but it’s impossible to deal with a deluge of 14,000+ comments.”

Guardian Australia contacted Facebook for comment.

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