SiliconFilter

Hello Moto: Everything You Need to Know About the Google-Motorola Deal

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Google today announced that it plans to acquire Motorola Mobility – the Motorola’s cellphone and set-top box division – for about $12.5 billion. This is obviously a major deal and suddenly turns Google from a company mostly focused on software into a hardware manufacturer as well. While Google aims to run both businesses separately – and stressed that even Motorola will have to compete for Google’s business – the fact that Google’s headcount just grew by about 60% shows that this acquisition will have a massive impact on the company in the long run.

The deal, it should be noted, still has to receive regulatory approval from the appropriate agencies in the U.S., Europe and other countries, so it could take a while before this deal goes into effect and the full ramifications of it become clear.

What Did Google Just Buy?

Motorola Mobility: the focus of Motorola’s Mobility unit is the mobile phone business. Until January 2011, this unit was known as Motorola’s Mobile Devices division, but at that point, it was split off from the parent company and became its own business. Once upon a time (in the 1990s), Motorola was among the top manufacturers in the mobile phone business. Since then, though, its competitors like Nokia and Samsung leaped ahead – both with regards to technology as well as sales. Motorola is now the seventh largest handset manufacturer and focuses exclusively on Android-based devices.

With regards to financials, Motorola Mobility’s revenue for 2010 was $11.4 billion with an operating income of $76 million. The company has 19,000 employees (Google itself had about 29,000 until now).

Why?

The obvious question to ask here is why Google would be interested in this deal. Motorola itself decided to split its mobility unit from the rest of its business so it could shop it around. This sale itself then doesn’t come as a real surprise – the surprise is that Google bought it.

  • Patents: the current state of the patent system keeps big companies in a constant cold war-like state where the mutual threat of patent litigation keeps all sides from attacking each other. Google, however, doesn’t have many mobile-related patents, so it’s hard for the company to defend Android from attacks (specifically from Microsoft and Apple). Google CEO Larry Page: “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
    Interestingly, Motorola itself was also planning to sue a few of the other Android manufacturers before this acquisition. In a way, Google is protecting its own ecosystem from Motorola by this acquisition, too.
  • Integrating hardware and software to rival Apple: Apple’s success in controlling both the hardware and software side of its business has shown that this is really the way for the mobile industry and that customers – for the most part – prefer this model. While Google regularly releases its “Nexus” reference phones to show vendors what it expects an Android phone to look like, the Android market has suffered badly from the fragmentation of the market – especially when it comes to providing software updates. By controlling both sides of the business, Google can force the other manufacturers to keep up.
  • A foothold in the living room: this has gone relatively under-reported, but as Larry Dignan rightly notes, Motorola Mobility is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of cable boxes. This isn’t a business that moves very fast (how often does your provider update your cable box?), but in the long run, this could allow Google to bring its technology into more living rooms (the GoogleTV project, after all, wasn’t exactly a huge success).

Potential Problems

  • Motorola is no Apple: while integrating the software and hardware business makes for larger margins and hopefully for better products, Motorola hasn’t exactly shown the kind of design finesse we’ve come to expect from Apple. It’ll be interesting to see if Google can turn this around.
  • What will the other Android smartphone makers say? Henry Blodget rightly asks how HTC, LG, Samsung and the other handset makers will react to this. Officially, they all say that they love this deal, but there is surely an undercurrent of anxiety there as well. Are these companies going to feel as if Google is “stabbing them in the back,” as Blodget says?
  • Google is not a hardware company: The hardware business is fiercely competitive and includes far more moving parts than any other business Google has ever entered. Despite its size, Google has never been very good at marketing – something that is essential in the consumer electronics business.
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4:25 pm


Mustachio: The One Chrome Extension You Need to Install Today

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It’s Friday, a traditionally slow day for tech news, so here is something fun to do while you are waiting for the next Apple rumor to appear (and be promptly debunked): install the Mustachio Chrome extension. Once installed, this plugin will use face recognition software to overlay a mustache onto any face it detects. What more do you need to make your Friday afternoon go by faster?

mel-Gibson_mustache

Mel Gibson - Mustatchiofied

It looks like the mustachio servers are getting slammed right now, so it sometimes takes a bit for the mustaches to show up, but that’s a small price to pay for a fully mustachiofied website. The face recognition software, by the way, is powered by Face.com and the extension was developed by U.K. media technology company Forward. If you are interested in seeing the source code, you can find it here on Github.



9:03 pm


Boot to Gecko: Mozilla Plans a ChromeOS Rival for Mobile Devices

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Mozilla today announced Boot to Gecko, a very ambitious project that aims to create a “complete, standalone operating system for the open web.” This project’s goal is to develop what seems like a ChromeOS-like operating system where all the apps are based on HTML5. This system will use Google’s own open-source Android platform as its basis. The focus, Mozilla’s VP or Technical Strategy Mike Shaver noted in a Google discussion forum today, will be on the “handheld/tablet/mobile experience.” According to Shaver, we may see some PC-based prototypes, but Mozilla is more interested in the “device space.”

Android: Just for Booting and Drivers

The Android connection here is that Boot to Gecko will use the Android kernel and drivers to boot the device. Indeed, Shaver also notes that Mozilla aims to “use as little of Android as possible.” Given that quite a few device makers are already producing drivers for Android (and not necessarily for straightforward Linux implementations), using the lower-level Android layers makes sense for Mozilla.

Break “The Stranglehold of Proprietary Technologies Over the Mobile Device World”

The ultimate ideological goal behind the project, says Mozilla’s Andreas Gal, is to break “the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world.” That does seem like a mobile idea indeed.

Challenges

Here are some of the areas where Mozilla thinks extra work for getting this project going is still needed: [list]

  • New web APIs: build prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content (Telephony, SMS, Camera, USB, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.)
  • Privilege model: making sure that these new capabilities are safely exposed to pages and applications
  • Booting: prototype a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device;
  • Applications: choose and port or build apps to prove out and prioritize the power of the system.[/list]

It will be interesting to see how developers will react to such a system, a ChromeOS-like “GeckoOS” that is actually popular could mean that developers could focus their energy on building just one application in HTML5 that would run on a large number of devices. As usual, though, this is an uphill fight, as device manufacturers would have to support this system to bring it into mainstream users’ hands.

Mozilla, as a non-profit organization, does have the ability to give these kinds of ideas a try to learn from them, whether they succeed or not.



7:11 pm


Google Announces Google+: Its Most Ambitious Social Networking Project Yet

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It’s easy to feel a bit cynical when Google announces a new social networking project and my first thoughts when I heard about Google+ were probably similar to those of many others: “Haven’t we seen this (fail) before?” There more I look into Google+, though, the more I wonder if the company isn’t finally on the right track.

So what is Google+ anyway? It’s not just a basic Facebook clone but  a new Google-powered social network that focuses on sharing content with the right people. To do so, you can organize your friends into groups (or +Circles as Google calls it). By doing this, you can then choose who you want to share content with and keep this information as private and public as you would like it to be.

For the time being, Google is calling this project a “field test” and not a beta. It’s by invitation only. You can get on the invitation list here.

Circles and Sparks: The Friends and Content You Care About

While +Circles is definitely the core feature of the service, Google wisely went beyond this and added plenty of other features to the service. +Sparks, for example, lets you discover new content on the Web based on your interests and then share those stories and sites with your friends on Google+.

Video and Mobile

A few other tools that Google has also included in its new social network show how ambitious this project really is. The company, for example, included a group video chat feature called Hangouts, where you can chat with up to 10 of your friends.

On the Mobile side, Google is focusing on instant photo uploads, location sharing and a group texting service called +Huddle (the Android app is out now and an iPhone app is coming soon).

Google+ is clearly Google’s most ambitious project in the social space yet. I’m still waiting for my invitation to give it a try myself, though, and as with so many other previous Google projects (I’m looking at you, Buzz), the details of how exactly it works and how easy to use it is could make or brake Google+ as well.

We’ll have a lot more about Google+ in the next few days. Until then, take the interactive tour here to learn more about the service and also take a look at Wired’s in-depth story about the people and philosophy behind the project.



6:02 pm


Has Lulzsec Leaked Your Data Online? Here’s a Simple Tool to Check

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Over the last few months, we witnessed the rise of a new hacker group that works under the name Lulzsec. So far, they have hacked into networks from organizations that range from Sony BMG to Nintendo, Pron.com and PBS. In doing so, they have retrieved thousands of names, passwords and other personal data from unsuspecting users. While most of these organizations then go on and sell this information on the black market, Lulzsec regularly releases all of the data it collects online (they are, after all, just doing it for the ‘lulz’). Now, a new tool helps you to find out if any of your own personal data was made public in one of these leaks.

The above widget allows you to just type in your email address and see if any of your data is available in one of Lulzsec’s releases. It’s hosted by cloud hosting company cloudControl, but the author apparently wants to remain anonymous. Our friends from The Next Web assure us that there is no email harvesting or other shenanigans involved here, though. Update: For those worried about this widget harvesting emails, I have confirmed the identity of the developer and it does indeed do what it promises to do. The group behind this tool wants to remain anonymous to ensure they don’t get hacked by Lulzsec themselves.

We can safely assume that Lulzsec hasn’t released all of the data it has amassed yet. Just today, the group released another file with more than 60,000 email addresses and passwords. Chances are that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

[via: The Next Web]

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6:50 pm


All of Apple’s WWDC Announcements: iCloud, iOS 5 and OS X Lion

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Apple today announced iCloud, iOS5 and OS X Lion at its annual WWDC developer conference in San Francisco this morning. The event lasted for two hours and was packed with major announcements, including iTunes in the cloud, new features for iOS (including over-the-air updates) and a recap of what’s new in the forthcoming OS X Lion release, which will retail in Apple’s Mac App Store for just $29.

iCloud

Just as Apple announced last week, a large part of today’s presentation focused on the iCloud. Steve Jobs himself explained how this new feature will work. At its core, iCloud will take care of syncing data between all your iOS devices. iCloud, said Apple, “stores your content, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. It just all works.”

iCloud replaces all of the current MobileMe apps (Mail, Calendar (with shared calendars) and Contacts). Jobs specifically stressed how iCloud ensures easy syncing between all your devices. iCloud will include 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup.

Pricing: MobileMe/iCloud is now available for free.

iTunes in the Cloud: This was probably the most anticipated part of iCloud. With iTunes in the cloud, you can download all the songs you already bought on iTunes to your iOS devices with just one click and all the songs you buy in the future will be automatically synced to up to 10 devices as well. iTunes syncing will be available for iOS 4.3 users today.

iTunes Match: Apple now lets users sync all their ripped songs for $25 per year by matching songs to its existing library and allowing users to redownload songs to your iOS device. 

Documents in the Cloud: This feature ensures document syncing between all your devices. Developers will be able to include these features in their own apps through a new API. The syncing features will work on iOS devices, Macs and PCs.

Photo Stream: This feature allows users to sync photos between apps wirelessly. It will be build into the Photo apps on iOS and iPhoto on the desktop. On PCs, photos will be synced to the Pictures folder. Apple TV users will also get access to their pictures as well.

As photos take up a lot of space, only the latest 1,000 pictures will be synced to iOS devices.

Apple will store these photos on its servers for 30 days. This, according to Jobs, is more than enough time to ensure that user have synced their photos to other devices.

Also in iCloud: App Store and iBookstore Syncing, Backup

iCloud now also syncs all your app purchases and books between devices. As for the backup feature, Apple will now automatically back up all your information to the cloud once per day.


iOS 5

According to Apple’s own data, it has now sold over 200 million iOS devices. Today, Apple demoed the next version of iOS, but also provided some updates around iTunes and the iBookstore. Apple has now sold over 40 billion apps, as well as 15 billion songs and 130 million books. In total, Apple has paid out more than $2.5 billion to developers.

 

A developer version of iOS 5 is launching today. For the rest of us, Apple plans to launch iOS 5 in the Fall, but didn’t announce a specific date yet.

The next version of iOS 5 will include 1,500 new APIs for developers and over 200 new features for tools. Here are the ones Apple highlighted today:

PC-Free: This is likely the biggest announcement on the iOS front today: iOS users will now be able to use their devices without every connecting them to a PC. Activation can happen on the device itself. Software updates are now delivered over the air, too. For those who use a desktop, iOS will now also sync with iTunes over WiFi.

Notifications: “We heard from our users that they want a new UI to get to their notifications. And we heard them.” iOS 5 will include a Notifications Center – a single place that brings together all the notifications that come to your phone. In addition, Apple is also updating the lock screen and adding a better overview of the notifications you may have missed there.

Newsstand: Apple is bringing a central hub for magazine and newspaper content to iOS. Among the launch partners are National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, the New Yorker, Golf Digest and more. New content will be downloaded in the background. It’s not clear how this will work together with existing news apps.

iMessage:  With iOS 5, Apple will launch its own messaging app that allows iOS users to basically bypass SMS to send messages to other iOS users. Users can send text, photos, videos and contact information. You can also optionally get read receipts and, just like in a chat app, see if your contact is currently typing.

Twitter Integration: iOS now includes a single sign-on for Twitter. Apple has also integrated Twitter into some of its own apps, including the photo app and Safari.

Safari: According to Apple, about 2/3rd of all mobile browsing is now done through Safari.

The mobile version now includes a Safari Reader feature that is basically Readability for the mobile browser. This will be available on both the iPhone and iPad. In addition, Apple is also bringing a reading list feature to iOS that will compete directly with Instapaper and sync between Macs and iOS devices.

The next version of Safari will also feature tabs – just like the desktop browser.

Reminders: This looks like a very simple list app for grocery lists, but it does have some nifty features, including location support and integration with iCal.

Camera: The new Camera app is a lot faster than the previews version. In addition, there is now an icon on the lockscreen that immediately takes you to the Camera app and Apple finally allows you to set the volume button to take pictures. The app now also lets you pinch to zoom and includes some basic editing features (cropping, red-eye reduction and rotating).

Mail: Mail now allows for rich-text editing and the ability to control indentations.

Game Center: Apple announced that Game Center now has 50 million users (more than Xbox Live). New features for Game Center include support for turn-base games and the ability to get friend and game recommendations.

New Keyboard for thumb-typers

OS X Lion

os x lion logoApple’s Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi demoed the new version of Apple’s desktop operating system OS X during today’s keynote today.Lion will be distributed through the Mac App store. Users who buy the upgrade will be able to use it on all the authorized machines that they have linked to their accounts. The price will be $29 and it will be available in July.

Most of today’s announcement was a recap of what we already knew about Lion, but here are the new features Apple focused on today:

Fullscreen applications: Schiller specifically demoed Safari, iCal and other apps developed by Apple itself.

Mission Control: This is basically Apple’s new version of Expose. Schiller described it as a “bird-eye view of everything that is running on your system.” Mission Control brings together features of Expose and Spaces, which should make handling multiple apps and windows a lot easier for OS X users.

Built-in Multitouch: The fact that Lion has built-in support for multitouch isn’t a secret. What’s nice (but not surprising either) is that Apple also demoed how this works in in the company’s own apps like Safari and iPhoto.

App Store: Schiller described it as the “best way to buy software.” Indeed, according to Apple, the Mac Apps Store is now the #1 channel for buying desktop software across all platforms (ahead of Best Buy, Walmart and Office Depot). As we already knew, the App Store will be deeply integrated into OS X Lion.

Launchpad: Launchpad is basically an iOS homescreen for your Mac. You manage icons just like on OS X (including support for folders). You can launch the Launchpad screen both through clicking on an icon or by using a four-finger pinch gesture.

Resume: This feature, once supported by developers, will bring all your apps back into the state they were before you shut down your computer.

Auto-Save and Versions: The idea here is similar to the new resume feature. Auto-save regularly ensures that the documents you are working on are saved in the background and Versions allows you to go back to earlier versions of your documents. Apple demoed this feature with its own Pages text editor, but it’s not quite clear what developers will have to do to enable this for their own apps.

AirDrop: See other OS X users around you and send them files with just one click.

Mail: The new version of mail looks a lot like the iOS email client. I wrote up a more detailed early look at the application here. The two most important new features here, besides the new look, are better and faster search features and a “conversation view.”

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4:42 pm


Why is Apple Trying to Crush All the Rumors Around its WWDC Keynote?

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In what is an unprecedented move for Apple, the company this morning announced what it plans to announce during its keynote at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. Typically, these events are shrouded in mystery and the days ahead of the conference are ripe with rumors and speculations as to what will be announced and who will announce it. Not so this year. Apple didn’t just announce the obvious – that we will see a preview of iOS5 and OS X Lion, but also that it will indeed launch a new suite of cloud-based services under the rumored iCloud name. While the Apple Kremlinologists will continue to speculate whether the fact that  Apple announced that its “CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off” the event means that Steve Jobs is coming back from his medical leave or not, the fact that Apple pre-announced Jobs’ presence at the event is also unprecedented.

Setting Expectations

Apple today confirmed that Steve Jobs will keynote the WWDC keynote

So why did Apple announce all of this? My personal feeling is that it’s all about setting expectations. Those who don’t follow tech news closely are likely still expecting to see the iPhone 5 (as the WWDC has traditionally been where Apple announced its newest generation of phones). Today’s announcement makes it clear (by omitting any reference to hardware in general), that we won’t be seeing a new iPhone at WWDC. In the past, speculations around new devices often got so far out of hand that the actual product had to be a letdown (what? no solar-powered iPhone?). Apple has been getting better at setting expectations lower through planned leaks, but it looks like the company is now also ready to be a bit more open about its plans for the immediate future.

Now that Amazon and Google are offering music lockers, it’s also likely that Apple wants to keep the buzz around its iCloud offering going for another week (Amazon stole some of that with its $0.99 Lady Gaga promotion). Apple’s offering will likely be more comprehensive than this, but a music locker will likely be the key feature of its new iCloud service.

Or: Setting up a Bigger Surprise?

On the other hand, this is still Apple. Maybe this press release is just misdirection and the company does have “one more thing” ready to go at WWDC (iPhone 4S? new Apple TV with apps?).

There are, of course, still lots of questions about what iCloud is really about (will it be integrated with iWork, for example?), what’s in iOS 5 and what unannounced features Lion still has in store for us. At least, however, the speculation will focus on this and not on new hardware.



3:57 pm


Google and Ford Team Up to Make Your Next Car Smarter

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At Google’s I/O developer conference today, Ford announced a new research project that will use Google’s prediction API to help drivers save gas and drive more efficiently. Ford plans to use Google’s service to analyze data it has collected about drivers’ habits to “predict driving patterns and adjust automobile controls to optimize fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency.” For drivers, this could mean that their next car could automatically optimize its route and performance settings depending on information Ford has learned by analyzing this data in Google’s cloud.

With the help of Google’s API, Ford says, researchers will be able to design systems that can use historical data – where and when a driver has traveled and at what speeds, for example – and turn this into actionable real-time prediction by mashing them up with other realtime data.

How This Could Work

In Ford’s vision, a driver would opt into this system and allow Ford to build an anonymous profile based on the data it gathers from a given car’s telematics system. Based on this data, the system would then be able to predict where you are going depending on the time of day, for example, and optimize your car’s performance settings accordingly. The car could also ask a driver for confirmation as well (“Are you going to work?”).

According to Ford’s Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation, “Anticipating the driver’s destination is just one way that Ford is investigating predicting driver behavior. This information can ultimately be used to optimize vehicle performance attributes such as fuel efficiency and driveability.”

All of this obviously takes a lot of computing power (especially when combined with additional realtime data about traffic jams etc.). Because if this, says Ford, the company decided to use Google’s cloud-based platform for this project.

As of now, of course, this is only a research project, but given that Ford and other car manufacturers are already adding Internet connectivity to their cars, this is a natural extension of this concept and show the innovation we can expect to see around connected cars in the future.

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5:02 pm


Hands-On With Google Music Beta on the Web

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Google Music, Google’s new music service just launched as an invite-only beta at Google I/O today and we just got a chance to take it for a test drive on the Web (look for our review of how it works on mobile devices later). After testing it for a little bit, it quickly becomes clear that this could be a major hit for Google. Indeed, among today’s music locker services like Amazon’s Cloud Drive and MP3tunes, Google’s efforts come the closest to recreating the convenience of Lala, the service that Apple bought last year and promptly shut down.

Install

After you download the installer, Google Music will ask you if you want to automatically sync your library whenever you add new songs to it. This should make it easy for Android users who are deeply invested into their iTunes library and playlists to keep using it on their desktops. Google, of course, doesn’t make a Google Music desktop app, so for the time being, you will have to use another desktop jukebox anyway.

As part of the install process, Google also lets you select a few music categories that you enjoy and will pre-populate your music locker with a few free songs (I’m not sure how Google actually licensed those, by the way).

Depending on the size of your playlist, uploading songs can obviously take a while, so having some free songs to play around with at the beginning is a nice bonus.

Playlists

Thanks to its ability to sync with iTunes, Google Music also syncs your playlists. You can, of course, also start a new one at any time. The service also creates some automatic playlists for you based on your likes (thumbs up, in Google Music parlance), as well as list of your recently added songs.

Instant Mixes

One of the niftiest features of the service is the ability to create “Instant Mixes.” During today’s keynote, Google stressed that its algorithms don’t just compare users’ playlists the way Apple does, but actually looks at the music in your collection and finds songs that actually go well together. To start an instant mix, you just click on a song, select “Instant Mix” and assuming you have a few matching songs in your collection, Google Music will create a new playlist for you and start playing it.

Verdict

Except for the fact that you can’t buy music and that the service doesn’t feature any social layer yet, Google Music is probably the best online music locker service yet. As Google builds out partnerships and adds features, it will hopefully be able to offer features like playlist sharing (which works great for Spotify) and the ability to buy music on the Web and your mobile devices as well.



1:48 pm


How a Fake MLK Jr. Quote Took the Internet by Storm

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“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” Chances are, you’ve seen this quote, attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., at least once on Twitter or Facebook. Perfectly capturing the feelings of many who felt somewhat conflicted about the images of Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, this quote sadly doesn’t appear anywhere in the works of Martin Luther King Jr. – it did, however, quickly make the rounds on virtually every social media service, starting, it seems, on Facebook and quickly spreading to Twitter, Tumblr and other sites.

On Twitter, you will only find the first sentence as quoted above. On sites that allow longer texts, this version appears:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everything but the first sentence is indeed by King and can be found in Strength to Love. That first sentence, though, is a complete fake.

It first appeared on Twitter early this morning and thanks to prominent retweets from Penn Jillette (since retracted), the band Sonic Youth and many others, quickly became one of the most often retweeted quotes of the day (this is the earliest appearance on Twitter I was able to track down).

Are Real-Time Corrections Impossible?

Retractions and corrections on real-time social services like Twitter are nearly impossible. As is so often the case, the great Internet fact-checking machine is already in full swing, with discussions on Reddit and numerous blogs. That, however, will do little to reach all of those who retweeted this fake quote today. Indeed, this fake quote will likely become part of the MLK Jr. canon soon. While many will post about how this quote is fake, these stories will only reach a minority of those who read it today. Instead, it’s still being retweeted a few times per minute and continues to appear on new blog posts and Facebook status updates. On Twitter and similar social sites, the fact that something has been retweeted a few times already lends credence to a story – sadly, the Internet hive mind isn’t quite as connected as it often appears.

In this case, it’s quite harmless – in other cases, however, a story like this (maybe with a more malicious tone) could seriously damage somebody’s reputation.

[via: Atlantic Online]



9:26 pm


Delicious Finds a New Home at AVOS, YouTube Founders’ New Company

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Yahoo today announced that it has sold the bookmarking service Delicious to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen. According to Yahoo, the plan is to continue the service and “make the site even easier and more fun to save, share and discover the web’s “tastiest” content. Yahoo will continue to manage the service for the next few months until the transition to Hurley’s and Chen’s newly launched AVOS company is complete. Delicious expect the transition period to last until July 2011. Financial details about the transition were not released.

According to an FAQ posted on AVOS’ site, the first priority for the new owners is to launch a Firefox 4 extension (AVOS’s website is currently down, likely due to the high interest in this story).

Yahoo acquired Delicious in 2005 and the service has lingered in limbo ever since. While Yahoo kept the lights at Delicious on, it did not do much to introduce new features to it over the years. According to an internal memo that was leaked to the press in December 2010, Yahoo planned to “sunset” Delicious if it didn’t find a buyer for it soon.


Here is the full text of AVOS’ press release:

YOUTUBE FOUNDERS ACQUIRE DELICIOUS FROM YAHOO!

Promise Users the Same Great Service And Even Easier & More Fun Ways To Save, Share, and Discover the Web’s “Tastiest” Content.

San Francisco, CA., – April 26, 2011 – Delicious.com, the leading social bookmarking service, has been acquired by the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. As creators of the largest online video platform, they have firsthand experience enabling millions of users to share their experiences with the world. Their vision for Delicious is to continue to provide the same great service users love and to make the site even easier and more fun to save, share, and discover the web’s “tastiest” content. Delicious will become part of AVOS, a new Internet company.

“We’re excited to work with this fantastic community and take Delicious to the next level,” said Chad Hurley, CEO of AVOS. “We see a tremendous opportunity to simplify the way users save and share content they discover anywhere on the web.”

“We spoke with numerous parties interested in acquiring the site, and chose Chad and Steve based on their passion and unique vision for Delicious,” said John Matheny, SVP of Communications and Communities at Yahoo!

The YouTube founders plan to work closely with the community over the next few months to develop innovative features to help solve the problem of information overload. “We see this problem not just in the world of video, but also cutting across every information-intensive media type,” said Chen.

Going back to their roots, Hurley and Chen located Delicious in downtown San Mateo, California, blocks away from where they started YouTube. They’re aggressively hiring to build a world-class team to take on the challenge of building the best information discovery service on the web.



10:26 am


News.meh

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News.me, an iPad-only news aggregator that was developed by Bit.ly developers Betaworks (in collaboration with the New York Times) made its debut in Apple’s app store today (iTunes link). The app presents you with a list of stories your friends on Twitter and select influencers chosen by the News.me editorial staff are reading. With the help of the data collected by Bit.ly, the feed is filtered according to how many times an article has been shared and clicked on. To use the app beyond the one-week trial period, users will have to pay $0.99 per week or $34.99 for a one-year subscription.

Among media pundits, News.me’s business model of redistributing the money it makes from subscriptions to the news outlets it has partnered with has been the main focus of attention. The majority of users couldn’t care less about this, though, and the app will have to justify its existence by offering an experience that users will actually want to pay for. As it stands right now, I don’t think I’ll pay for the service – especially given that Zite and Flipboard currently offer a superior experience for free.

newsmeh_large

Less About News.me – More About News.what-others-are-reading

In theory, the idea behind News.me is quite interesting. It allows you to see what others on Twitter are reading and highlights the best of these stories by using a PageRank-like algorithm based on Bit.ly’s massive trove of data. Because of this, though, News.me feels like it’s less about giving you a great personalized reading experience as it is about giving you a semi-voyeuristic view into the stories that stream through other users’ Twitter streams.

Sadly, you can only follow those Twitter users who are also subscribed to the service – making it substantially less useful than an app like Zite and Flipboard where no such restrictions exist. You also can’t vote content up or down – meaning that the personalization doesn’t extent much beyond looking at the “best” stuff that’s streaming through a given users’ Twitter channels. While apps like Zite or the Google Reader-based My6Sense iPhone app, News.me doesn’t learn anything from my reading behavior.

The reason News.me just isn’t that useful to me, even though the design is nice and I like the business model, is that when I’m browsing news, I want to browse by categories and topics. I don’t want to have to wade through a semi-random list of stories – many of which show up in multiple streams and hence make this service even less interesting.

Verdict

As it stands now, I don’t see a good reason for paying for News.me. The experience isn’t up to par with what other services offer for free and I’m not sold on the concept behind it. Want a personalized news experience on the iPad? Download Zite and Flipboard instead. Or, on the web, try Trove, which looks at stories shared by your Facebook friends.



1:06 pm


Your iPhone Keeps a Secret Log of Your Every Move

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This is going to be a major PR nightmare for Apple. Security researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allen today announced that they have discovered that all iPhones and 3G-enabled iPads keep a log of your every move in an unencrypted file that is hidden inside the iOS filesystem. The files are backed up and restored every time you sync your phone with a desktop computer. According to the researchers, no other phone currently does this and keeping this data on the phone has wide-reaching security and privacy implications. The researchers also believe that this is an intentional move on Apple’s behalf and not just the result of a temporary log file not being deleted properly.

If you have an iPhone and a Mac, you can download Pete Warden’s iPhoneTracker application to see what data your phone has gathered.

What’s the Problem?

There is something rather interesting about seeing this data, but it is also rather creepy at the same time. Currently, the mobile phone carriers do keep a log of your location data. This data, however, is kept (relatively) safe and it takes a court order to get it. Indeed, as the data is backed up on your computer, whoever wants to know where you’ve been since you bought your iPhone 4 or iPad 3G can easily do so with Warden’s tool.

As the data is stored outside of Apple’s sandbox for regular applications that run on your iOS device, regular apps can’t access it, unless you have jailbroken your device.

It’s worth noting that none of your data is being transmitted to other devices or Apple’s servers.

How Good is the Data?

Looking at my own data, I noticed that Apple only seems to record your location when your cell phone connection is working. It did not record any data for trips through mountain passes without cell connections, for example. Sometimes the data is also a bit off, as it seems to be geared more towards the location of cell towers than data gathered from the phone’s built-in GPS.

On the device, the data is second-by-second. The iPhoneTracker tools deliberately obscures the exact location, too, and only shows it on a grid-like view. If you access the raw files, though, you will see that exact location and time stamps. Given that the code for the iPhoneTracker tools is open source, though, it’s only a matter of time before somebody will write an application that gives you easy access to the more granular data.

In the video below, Warden and Allen discuss how they found this data:



7:45 am


Twitter Launches New Homepage That Emphasizes Following Others, Deemphasizes Sharing

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Twitter’s new homepage is all about following others, but doesn’t even mention the fact that you can post status updates yourself.

It’s always been hard to explain to new users what Twitter is all about and the company itself never did a very good job at this either. Now Twitter is making a new attempt at explaining itself. The company just launched a new homepage that explains the service to new users as a place to find “instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.” The previous iteration of the homepage told users that Twitter was a place to “discover what’s new in your world” and promised “easy, free, and instant updates.” Given Twitter’s drive to make the service more mainstream, it makes sense that the new homepage doesn’t make any mention of Twitter as a place where you can post updates yourself.

The new homepage features a map in the background, sign-up and sign-in forms, as well as a search box. It’s clear that Twitter wants to appeal to mainstream users here and while some early adopters will greet this new emphasis on celebrities and industry experts with the appropriate amount of snark, it is likely the right way to go for Twitter. Most people don’t want to share their own thoughts publicly after all, but are more than happy to hear the latest news from Justin Bieber, Oprah and Kanye West.

twitter_new_homepage



11:27 am


Firefox 4 has Arrived: 5 Reasons Why You Should Install it Now

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Mozilla just released Firefox 4, the next generation of its popular Internet browser. This new version is not just significantly faster than Firefox 3, but it also features a new, highly streamlined interface and a number of new tools that should make Firefox 4 even more popular among power users.

There are lots of new features in the new version of Mozilla’s browser (plugin isolation on all platforms, support for modern web standards like HTML5, new security and privacy features, etc.), but here are the key new features of Firefox 4:

Streamlined Interface:

Interface ff4

In Firefox 4, Mozilla’s designers worked to keep distractions to a minimum and reduce the interface clutter in favor of providing more screen estate for the Web itself.

Gone, for example, is the menu bar in the Windows version. Instead, similar to Chrome and Internet Explorer, all the options are now available in one menu and the tabs have moved up to the top of the window. Bookmarking, too, has become easier and faster and just takes one click now.

This doesn’t mean that Firefox 4 was dumbed down, though. A lot of cool functionality for power users is just a bit hidden but easily available. You can use the URL bar to switch between tabs, for example.

Speed:

According to Mozilla, Firefox 4 is six times faster than version 3. To a large degree, this is due to JaegerMonkey, the optimized JavaScript engine that allows web apps like Gmail to run much faster than ever before.

As Mozilla’s director of Firefox Jonathan Nightingale told me last week, the traditional SunSpider benchmark, which was long the gold standard for measuring JavaScript performance, is slowly coming to the end of its usefulness. The difference between browsers in this benchmark is now often measured in milliseconds and, as Nightingale put it, “to do better, you now have to play to the test.” Other benchmarks like Mozilla’s own Kraken project or Facebook’s JSGameBench now provide better real-world guidance for how well browsers are performing.

That said, though, I ran both the SunSpider and Kraken benchmark on Firefox 4 and compared it to the latest developer version of Chrome (11.0.696.16). On average (after three test runs on a Mac) Firefox 4 easily beat Chrome. (Kraken: 4211.7ms vs. 4963.5ms; SunSpider: 189.2ms vs. 212.5ms).

Benchmarks can only convey so much about how fast the browser feels, and most users won’t notice any significant differences between most modern browsers. Firefox 4 does feel significantly faster than any earlier version, though, and I can’t help but think that it also feels faster than Chrome now.

Firefox Sync:

Most of us now work on multiple computers and Internet-connected devices every day, but it’s still surprisingly hard to keep bookmarks between these machines in sync. With Firefox Sync (formerly known as Weave), you can now easily keep all these machines in sync. All you have to do is type in your password (generated by Firefox) and Mozilla will keep your bookmarks in sync. Syncing to mobile versions of Firefox is coming soon, too.

It’s worth noting that Google Chrome offers a similar feature, too.

App Tabs:

App tabs ff4

App tabs allow you to, as Mozilla puts it, “give a permanent home to frequently visited sites like Web mail, Twitter, Pandora or Flickr.” Your apps then live in small tabs on the left side of your tab bar.

These app tabs will also alert you when something has changed in the web app (like a newly arrived email). This doesn’t work perfectly for all apps, though. Firefox watched for the site’s title to change, which most web mail providers do, but most other sites don’t.

I prefer Mozilla’s implementation of this feature over Chrome’s, because it defaults to loading all the links you click on in the app tab in a new tab.

If you become a regular user of app tabs, also consider installing the Easy App Tabs plugin, which allows you to turn a regular tab into an app tab by simply double-clicking on any tab.

Installing Plugins Without Restart

Yes, other browser developers already offer this (and didn’t spend close to two years developing their software), but for Firefox’s power users, this is a major update. Developers have to support this feature, so not every add-on will install without restarts just yet, but there are already quite a few out there that do.

As Nightingale told me, 40% of Firefox users today have installed add-ons. Today, close to 80% of these add-ons are compatible with Firefox 4 and more compatible versions are coming online every day. The new built-in add-on manager also makes finding and installing interesting extensions a lot faster and easier.

Bonus: Panorama

Ff4 panorama

Here is another feature mainly geared towards power users that stays out of the way if you don’t want to use it. Panorama allows you to visually organize your tabs into groups. You can, for example, open up a new group for the research you are doing and another one for your web mail. The two stay separate from each other. I know many people who love this feature, which made me include it here, but it’s not ideal for how I use the browser. Give it a try, though – it might just save you a lot of trouble and enhance your browsing experience.



9:25 am