GClient Brings Google+ to Your Desktop


Google+ doesn’t yet offer an API, so creating Twitter-like desktop clients isn’t an option at this point. That isn’t stopping enterprising developers from trying to work around these limitations, though. Indeed, the first Google+ desktop client – GClient – just made its debut. In the end, though, this is really just a wrapper around the mobile Google+ site.

gclient_clientGiven that it is just a window into the mobile site, it has the same limitation as that version of Google+. You can’t really share links well and while you can +1 posts, you can’t +1 comments or easily post + replies. As the mobile site expects to run in a window with a fixed width and length, you also can’t resize the GClient window on the desktop. While testing the app, we also had some issues with crashes.

Just Use Fluid for Now

GClient is an interesting way to keep tabs on what is happening on Google+ without having to have a tab open for it at all times. For now, though, I would rather use an application-specific browser like Fluid on the Mac or Chrome’s application shortcut feature (or Mozilla’s Prism) to let Google+ run in its own window. This solution gives you the full functionality of Google+ without having to make any compromises. Once Google+ gets an API, we will likely see more interesting, Tweetdeck-like re-imaginations of its interface that make more sense on the desktop.

[Source: The Next Web]

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4:18 pm

Why Twitter Should be Very Worried About Google+


When Google unexpectedly launched its new social network Google+ earlier this week, many pundits were skeptical about the company’s latest attempt to enter the social arena. Given Google’s dismal track record when it comes to these kinds of products, that kind of skepticism made sense, but after using it extensively for the last few days, I can’t help but think that it is the single biggest threat Twitter has had to face yet.

Google, being late to the party, had the advantage of being able to learn from Twitter, Facebook and every other social network out there right now.

Note: I’m consciously not saying that it’s a threat to Facebook (at least not for now), as I think the group dynamics and strong network effect that made Facebook what it is today will continue to be relevant and have locked users in for now.


Twitter’s Problem and Google’s Advantage

What Google+ makes abundantly clear is that Twitter’s success was a happy accident. While Google was able to bake all of Twitter’s current core functions (status updates, /replies/retweets/shares/photo sharing etc.) into its service at launch, Twitter grew organically. That, at the time, was to Twitter’s advantage. Now, however, it is holding the company’s growth back, as those conventions that grew out of this are anything but intuitive for newcomers. Indeed, one could argue that everything Twitter has done over the last few months was meant to rein this chaos in.

Why Twitter Should be Concerned

So here is why I think Twitter should be very concerned:

It’s Everywhere Google Is: Google added a Google+ notification icon to the Sandbar (the black bar that sits on top of every Google product now). It’s crack. It keeps drawing you back to Google+. If you regularly use search, Gmail or Google Docs, Google+ will also be just one click away.

Even though Google’s +1 buttons don’t do much yet, those buttons will soon be connected to Google+ in some form as well, giving Google+ an instant presence on virtually every major website.

media-brandsCircles: Google took Twitter’s asymmetric follower model and put some great twists on it. Thanks to this, you can use Google+ just like you would use Twitter: to follow interesting people. When they share something publicly, it will appear in your stream.

While Google is mostly describing circles as a way to share content privately or semi-privately with select groups, it’s also an easy way to create Twitter-like lists with interesting people you would like to follow. Consuming content – whether from your friends or media brands – will become a major part of the Google+ experience.

Comments: Twitter’s @replies are clunky at best and hard to explain to new users. On Google+, you just leave a comment and a real and real-time discussion can form around the content. That is far more compelling and easier to use than using @replies. Google uses +replies in these comment threads to make these discussions even easier to follow and to push out notifications to the Sandbar when somebody mentions you.

fail_whaleGoogle+ Will be a Platform: Currently, there are no APIs for developers to write products that could hook into Google+. That means we can’t have aggregation tools, third-party clients or anything else that has become standard in the Twitter ecosystem right now.

All of that is coming, though, and while Twitter has managed to squander most of its developer community’s trust, Google doesn’t have to worry about that at all. Indeed, Google will likely be able to offer access to the Google+ firehose to anybody who wants it, free of charge.

No artificial character limits: For a long time now, Twitter’s proponents have argued that Twitter’s 140 character limit was an advantage. It keeps posts brief and to the point. Once you use Google+ for a bit, though, you come to realize that those constraints are really just annoying at the end – and likely hard to explain to a mainstream user anyway.

Google Doesn’t Have to Worry About Monetization: After all these years, Twitter still hasn’t figure out how to make money in a way that won’t alienate its users. Google can just stick some AdSense ads into the Google+ sidebar if it really wants to monetize Google+ directly.

Hangouts: Built-in video chats are a killer feature. Nobody else is doing anything this slick right now.

There are lots of other small reasons why I think Google+ could threaten Twitter: built-in photo sharing, for example, the potential for making it a platform for working collaboratively and extending it to every other Google product in some form. Then, there are the mobile apps for the mobile web, Android and iPhone (iPhone is coming soon). Those include a group messaging feature and Foursquare-like check-ins.

What do You Think?

What do you think? I’m I too optimistic about Google+ here and too down on Twitter? Let me know in the comments.

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3:40 pm

Google’s Search Results Now Highlight Content Creators


When it comes to figuring out which search result you want to click on, chances are, you gravitate toward the first three links. These days, however, Google and Microsoft are also adding more social signals to their search results pages to give their searchers a better idea of what their friends may have liked. Today, Google is adding yet another layer to its search results that should help users identify interesting content. Results that feature content from authors at a select number of news sources and blogs will now prominently feature the author’s name and Google Profile image next to the search results (including our own little blog here, which was part of the pilot). This is meant to help Google’s users identify interesting new content from people the company trusts.

How Google Identifies Authors

In order to get this to work, writers will have to ensure that they have a Google Profile that is linked to their sites and that they use Google’s new authorship markup (specifically, the rel=”author” tag) to ensure that Google knows who wrote any given story on your site. A number of large sites, including the New York Times, have already implemented the necessary tags to highlight their authors. Adding the necessary tags to most blogs should be relatively easy for most writers, too, but for the time being, this new feature is just available in a limited pilot, though Google expects to expand this program over time.

Google, of course, has been struggling to prevent the mediocre content that most of today’s content farms push out from polluting its search results. With the recent updates to its search algorithms, it has made some strides in this direction. While it’s not directly linked to weeding out content farms, this new feature is meant to highlight content from people Google trusts. Indeed, Google argues that its users will trust content more when they know the writer and – at the same time – writers will hopefully do a better job at writing when they know their name is prominently linked to their stories.

10:01 pm

Microsoft Brings Order and Higher Resolutions to Bing Maps’ Aerial Images


For consumers, the search rivalry between Microsoft’s Bing and Google has a number of advantages, even outside of the core search features both companies offer. Mapping is one of these areas where the two companies are continuously pushing each other to improve their products. Bing Maps has long been a very good mapping service (arguably better than Google’s offerings in some areas), but just like Google Maps, the quality of the images used in the application was often inconsistent. With its Global Ortho program, which launched in 2010, Microsoft aims to bring more consistency to the user experience when it comes to the resolution and quality of the satellite and aerial images it uses. The first fruits of these efforts are slowly becoming more apparent in Bing Maps now and Microsoft just launched an update to its Bing Maps World Tour to showcase the quality of these new images. (more…)

9:49 pm

Freedom from IE6: Google Launches Non-Admin Version of Chrome Frame


Earlier this year, Google announced that it would soon allow Internet Explorer users to install Chrome Frame – a product that brings the Chrome’s fast rendering engine’s to Microsoft’s legacy browsers – even when their administrators had locked down their systems. Today, Google fulfilled this promise and potential Chrome Frame users can now install Chrome Frame even if they don’t have administrator rights. For now, this non-administrative version is only available in the developer channel, but Google says that it will soon be available in the beta and stable channels as well.

4:37 pm

Live Blog: Google’s Inside Search Event


Google is hosting a small media event in San Francisco this morning. It’s not clear what Google plans to focus on during this event, but the last time the company hosted a similar meeting, it announced Google Instant.

The only thing we know about today’s event is that Google Fellow Amit Singhal will be among the presenters. Singhal’s research interests include speech retrieval, question answering and automatic text summarization. All of these sound like potential candidates for interesting new search products from Google.

To find out more about Google’s announcement, tune in for our live blog at 9:30am PT, 12:30am ET, 18:30 CET or watch the live video stream here. (more…)

3:51 pm

Google Sued Over Chromebook Name – Could Delay Launch


The first batch of Google Chromebooks is scheduled to go on sale next week, but if it’s up to U.S. PC-maker ISYS Technologies, that won’t happen. According to a press release from ISYS, the company wants Google and its partners (including Samsung, Acer, Amazon and Best Buy) to cancel the 15 June launch. According to ISYS, the name ‘Chromebook’ infringes on one of its own trademarks, the “ChromiumPC” it sells under its Xi3 label. (more…)

4:15 pm

Google Gets a Musical Doodle in Honor of Les Paul


Google tends to feature a few different of its trademark doodles on its homepage every week, but every now and then, the company goes all out and does interactive doodles. This week, the honor to be featured in one of these goes to Les Paul, the legendary musician and inventor Les Paul who passed away in 2009. The Les Paul doodle is an interactive guitar that – if you look closely – somewhat resembles the Google logo. What makes today’s doodle special is that it’s not just interactive but that you can also record your own songs with it.


4:28 am

Know When Your Bus is Late: Google Maps Gets Live Transit Updates


Most online mapping products today feature transit directions. Sadly, though, it’s the nature of public transit that things often don’t quite run on schedule. Thankfully, quite a few transit districts have now track their buses and trains with a GPS system so that the public can know exactly when the next bus or train will arrive. For the most part, however, you won’t know this information until you arrive at the station (which is always either far too early or just too late). Starting today, however, there’s a better way to get this information quickly: Google Maps will now feature live transit updates in four U.S. cities (Portland, OR, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco) and two European ones (Madrid and Turin).

Google maps will feature both live departure times and service notices to Maps on the desktop, mobile browser and on Google Maps for mobile (Android 1.6+).

To give this a try on the desktop, just look for a transit icon on the map and click on it. If you’re in a supported city, you will see when the next train or bus will arrive and if there are any alerts that affect traffic to or from this station.

3:13 pm

Chrome 12 Goes Stable: Gains Speed and Security Features, Loses Google Gears


Google’s three release channels for Chrome sometimes make it hard to track what’s new in each of the new releases, but today’s launch of Chrome 12 to the Stable channel brings enough updates to the most widely used channel to warrant some extra attention. With Chrome 12, Google is introducing hardware accelerated 3D CSS and an addition to Google’s Safe Browsing feature that protects users from downloading malicious files. In addition Chrome 12 features the ability to delete Flash cookies from inside Chrome, improved screen reader support and a new (and very useful) warning that double checks that users who press Command-Q on the Mac really want to close all tabs.


4:21 pm

Google, Bing and Yahoo Team Up to Improve Search Listings With More Structured Data


Google, Bing and Yahoo today launched a new initiative that will introduce a common vocabulary for adding additional markup and structured data to websites and – by extension – search engine listings., as this new markup is called, allows website owners to give search engines better ways to understand the content on their sites. With, you can, for example, ensure that a search engine knows that something on your site is a recipe, a movie review with a rating, a listing for a local business or that a specific page is about a product. In total, the hierarchy knows of a few hundred different content types that can be described through its vocabulary.


6:14 pm

Google Wallet: Color Me Skeptical


Google Wallet, which the Mountain View-based search giant introduced earlier today, wants to change the way you pay for products and services, but I’m not sure it will. Google’s contactless near field communication (NFC) payment system currently only works with one phone and only in San Francisco and New York, but the company plans to roll it out wider over the next few months. While I do like the technology behind this system, though, I can’t help but wonder if Google and its partners aren’t just looking for a solution to a nonexistent problem here.


11:14 pm

Gmail Gets a People Widget to Give Your Emails More Context


Among the most useful Gmail extensions today are tools like Rapportive and Xobni that show you more detailed information about your contacts as you read your email. Now, Google apparently wants to get into this market itself (and, after all, those tools replace Google’s text ads with more useful information). The company just announced that a new “people widget” will soon appear next to your emails in Gmail that will show you not just whether your contacts are available for chat in Google Talk, but also additional information like upcoming appointments, documents you may have received from you contacts and recent chat and Buzz messages.


7:33 pm

News Near You: Google News for Mobile Becomes Location-Aware


Google just launched a new feature for Google News for smartphones that can display local news happening around you based on your current location. For a while now, Google has offered local sections on its news aggregator for the desktop, but this is the first time it is adding this section to the mobile version of this product as well.

To make this feature possible, Google News obviously needs to know where you are, so if you open up Google news on your Android smartphone or iPhone today, you will also see a prompt asking you if you want to share your location with Google. If you opt-in to sharing your location, a new “News near me” section will appear at the bottom of the homepage. This feature will only work in the U.S. English edition of Google News for now.

This is obviously not a huge new feature, but it does complete the feature set of Google News for mobile and brings it on par with the desktop version.

10:34 am

Mobile Gmail Gets Undo Feature on iOS and Android


If you use Google’s mobile website for Gmail on your iOS or Android smartphone, Google just launched an update that will make your life a bit easier. You can now undo a number of actions in mobile Gmail, including whenever you archive, move and delete a message or conversation and when you add a label to an email.

Gmail will now show a small yellow bar at the bottom of the screen that will appear every time you take one of the supported actions and ask you if you want to undo that command. One nifty feature here, as Google notes, is the fact that the bar stays in position, “even if you move to another screen (e.g. moving to ‘Menu’ from ‘Inbox’).”


4:58 pm