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​New Facebook features channel Google, Snapchat

Facebook is channeling Google and Snapchat in the hopes of luring you away from Google and Snapchat.

Last week, Facebook officially launched a new feature for iPhone that lets people search for and share links from within the app -- that is, without leaving the app to find a link, copy it, then come back to the app to paste and share it. The feature was soft-launched in an iPhone pilot in May.

The Add a Link feature leverages search within Facebook to bring up suggestions of previously shared links that you can then add to your post. That means you don't have to have the url handy -- but it also means that it has to have been shared by someone else on Facebook in order for you to find it.

Facebook wrote about the feature on its engineering blog, painting a dramatic infomercial portrait of the problem Add a Link solves:

"In January, Rousseau Kazi, a product manager who works on search, was frustrated again by how hard it was to share a link on his iPhone. He had to leave Facebook, open a browser, go to a web search engine, enter keywords, scroll to the result, open it, copy the URL, go back to Facebook, paste the URL, and then -- at long last -- post and share the link. It's exhausting just writing that!"

It recalls a tortured black and white video of a woman in a kitchen struggling to open a carton of milk only to spill it all over the counter. But while having to click out of the app to find a link is annoying, the real problem is Facebook's: They're afraid users won't click back in.

Facebook is looking to take over the picture-... 01:01

Add a Link, along with Instant Articles, a new partnership in which media outlets such as The New York Times, National Geographic and BuzzFeed can publish original content right on Facebook, will help keep users on the social network as long as possible.

See also: Facebook's sustained push to improve and expand video -- and combat YouTube. It's been focused on improving the video experience on both mobile and desktop. It's also been reportedly talking to music publishers to secure the rights to host videos containing copyright-protected songs. And it's now taking behavior into account when deciding how to rank videos in the News Feed, bumping up videos if you've previously turned up the volume or enabled HD or full-screen viewing on something similar.

Meanwhile, the site seems to be responding to young defectors who are spending more and more of their time communicating with their friends on Snapchat. After two unsuccessful attempts to buy the photo-focused messaging app for as much as $3 billion, and two unsuccessful attempts at creating a competitor, Facebook appears to have settled on simply borrowing some of its popular features.

TechCrunch's Josh Constine took a little tour through changes to the Facebook photo uploader that let you easily apply filters, add text and plop on stickers and re-sizeable emoji when you post a pic.

Facebook said, "We are rolling out a new place to house all of Facebook's photo-editing tools, making it even easier to add filters, stickers, or text to your photos."

The tools have been rolling out on iOS devices over the past couple months and are available for most iPhone users now via an icon on the lower left corner of a photo. They are still in testing on Android.

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