SiliconFilter

Google Voice Gets the Google+ Circles Treatment

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I have my doubts about Google's drive to add Google+ features to each and every one of its apps and services, but here is a new Google+-related feature that actually makes perfect sense: starting today, Google Voice – the company's VoIP telephony service – will integrate with your Google+ circles.

Here is how Google describes this feature: "Circles give you more control over how you manage your callers; for example, calls from your “Creepers” circle can be sent straight to Voicemail, only your “College Buddies” circle will hear you rap your voicemail greeting, or you can set your “Family” circle to only ring your mobile phone."

Depending on how you use Google+, this is indeed a really useful new feature, especially given that Google makes it very easy to set rules and even different voicemail greetings for every different caller.

Sadly, No Circles Interface in Google Voice

It's worth noting that this doesn't mean you can now drag and drop your contacts into different circles, though. Instead, this feature is actually a bit hidden in the Google Voice contacts settings (click on Contacts, then select a group, then click on Edit Google Voice Settings.

Chances are, if you follow a lot of people on Google+, just a few of these are likely to ever call you. This feature, then, is probably more interesting for those who are either very meticulous about how they organize their Google+ circles and those who use it as a very personal social network and less like Twitter or Facebook.

 



10:55 am


Google Docs for Android Now Lets you Collaborate On the Go

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Google Docs may not be as fully featured as a full-blown productivity suite like Microsoft Office, but its collaboration features are something many of its users can’t live without anymore. Until now, though, you couldn’t edit documents collaboratively when you were on your phone. That’s changing today. Android users can now install the latest version of Google Apps for Android and start using Google Apps’ real-time collaborative editing features on the go.

In addition to this new feature, Google also updated the overall interface of the app a bit. You can now, for example, pinch to zoom and focus on a paragraph (or zoom out, of course, to see the whole document). More importantly, though, Google also added rich-text formatting so you can now bold words, add color or write a bullet list.

As usual, Google also produced a nice little video that shows off the power of being able to edit and collaborate on your documents on your phone.

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If you are a big Google Apps user, by the way, you will also appreciate the fact that Google presentations that now features a new editor and the ability to have discussions about presentations.



11:28 am


Google’s Flight Search Goes Mobile

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Google today launched its flight search feature for mobile browsers. Since it acquired travel software provider ITA Software in 2011, Google has been very deliberate about rolling travel search into its main search engine. It first launched relatively limited version of its ITA-based stand-alone flight search feature in September 2011 and then integrated this tool deeper into its regular search results in December. Now, whenever you feel like taking a trip, you can also use Google to search for flights on your Android and iOS phones as well.

Mobile, But Still Limited

This means, you can now use the regular search feature in the browser on your phone to look for something like [flights from New York to Washington] and bring up the mobile flight search feature.

This new feature brings most of the desktop version's tools to the mobile version as well, including the ability to discover places on a map and the ability to find the cheapest dates to travel.

Even on mobile, Google's travel search tools is still the fastest in the business, but at the same time, though, it also suffers from the same limitations as the desktop version. You can't use a search query to specify specific dates, for example. If you do so, flight search won't even kick in. Flight search also still doesn't work for international destinations.

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3:20 pm


Google Public DNS Now Handles 70 Billion Requests Per Day, 70% From Outside U.S.

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Google just announced that its public DNS service now handles an average of more than 70 million requests per day. While Google doesn’t often talk about its public DNS service, this is clearly a success story for the company. In comparison, OpenDNS, which is likely Google’s closest competitor in this market handled about 32 billion requests per day last October. Google claims its public DNS service is now the largest in the world.

Using Google’s Public DNS service, OpenDNS or a similar service can help you speed up your browsing experience by a little bit. It also offers some security benefits over using your ISP’s default DNS server. 

Launched in December 2009, the service has apparently become especially popular outside of the U.S. According to Google, about 70% of its traffic now come from outside of the U.S. and the company has added new access points in Australia, India, Japan and Nigeria recently.

Google is also working with a number of standards bodies to improve how public DNS services can work together with content distribution networks as part of the Global Internet Speedup campaign.

Getting Started with Public DNS

If you want to give Google’s Public DNS service a try, here are the step-by-step instructions for setting it up on your computers and/or routers. Interestingly, Google also offers phone support for Public DNS (877-590-4367 in the U.S. and 770-200-1201 outside the U.S.).



10:18 am


Google Docs Gets Customizable Styles, Sparklines and Google+ Sharing for Forms

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Google just announced some welcome new features for Google Docs. Maybe the most important of these updates is Google Doc's new-found ability to apply changes to a document's style and formatting across the document with just a few clicks. This means that if you want to change how subtitles look, for example, you don't have to go through the whole document anymore and change them one by one. Instead, you just change the style of your subtitles once and then apply it to the whole document. If you use Microsoft Word or Apple's Pages, for example, you know that this isn't a revolutionary new feature, but it can definitely save you quite a bit of time.

Sparklines google docs

Sparklines in Google Docs

In addition to the new customizable styles, the spreadsheet application now also features support for sparklines, an increasingly popular way of presenting data in a glanceable visual format. Other new options for spreadsheets in Google Docs include the ability to create more sophisticated charts "including different Y-axes on either side of the chart, formatting options for the axis and title text, and all sorts of other customization for how your lines, bars, or pies are displayed."

Sharing Forms

Google already featured Google+ sharing in Google Docs, but with today's update, it also lets you share right from the form editor.

But there's more…

In an interesting move that becoming more common among Google products, the Google Docs team has also decided to bundle new feature announcements instead of writing a new blog post and announcement for each small update. Here then are the other updates Google made to Docs over the last month:[list]

  • Adding images to your docs from a high quality stock photo gallery. Simply go to Insert > Image, select Stock photos, and then search for the images that you want.
  • A more streamlined format for document discussion notifications that batches multiple discussions into a single email.
  • Quickly opening and selecting items from specific menus with keyboard accelerators. For example, when using Google Chrome, Ctrl+Option+E on a Mac and Alt+E on Windows or Linux will open the Edit menu.
  • Copying and pasting via the context (right click) menu in documents when you have the Chrome App installed.
  • Easily adding Google drawings or Google Groups discussions to a Google Site from the Insert menu.[/list]

 


11:29 am


Google Offers Wants to be a Platform, Expands its Partnership Program to 5 New Cities

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Last year, Google Offers, the company's Groupon clone, launched a program in New York City and San Francisco that brought deals from third-party daily-deals services like Gilt City, Dealster, Eversave and others to the service. Today, Google is expanding this program to Boston, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Washington, D.C. and Groupon's hometown of Chicago. To enable this expanded deal aggregation, Google is partnering with three new deal providers as well. Google will now feature deals from CrowdSavings, SpaRahRah! and LocalWineEvents.com in its daily emails and on its site.

Given that the company now offers a wider range of deals in these cities, it will also allow its users there to take its personalization quiz. This ensures that those who can't get enough deals on massages can continue to get those offers and those who prefer not to get yet another offer for an aromatherapy session can make sure they get other offers instead.

Google is clearly positioning Google Offers as more of a platform for third-party services and using its personalization service as a way to increase the conversion rates for these deals. The service is currently available in 38 cities and chances are that Google will continue to add more cities to its deal aggregation service over time.

 

 



9:41 am


Google+ Now Has More than 90 Million Users, 60% Sign in Daily (Updated)

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In its earnings release and, of course, on Google+, Google just announced that its social network now has more than 90 million users. That's obviously a large number for a network that isn't even a year old at this point (even for one with Google's backing) and higher than most pundits expected them to be at this point. Maybe the more even interesting numbers were shared by Google+'s spiritual father Vic Gundotra, though: according to Google, 60% of all users sign in daily and 80% sign in at least weekly. That's some very high engagement.

Update: Reading over Google's numbers again, I don't think they actually mean that 60% of Google+ users engage with the service daily. Here is my follow-up.

In comparison, Facebook, which has about 800 million users, says 50% of its users come back every day.

Vic Gundotra  Google+

Those numbers are surely also driven by the fact that any Google user who signs in to any of the company's services sees those large red numbers with new notifications in the black navigation bar.

In addition, Gundotra also noted that there are now over 1 million business pages on Google+.

Google, of course, isn't resting on its laurels. The Google+ has, according to Gundotra, shipped one new feature every single day since the launch of the service.



1:52 pm


Google+ Now Lets You Record Video Status Updates

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The Google+ team just announced that it has launched the ability for Google+ users to record video status updates. The service, of course, already allowed users to upload videos from their cell phones and to share videos from a variety of services like YouTube and Vimeo. Now, however, you can just record your own video right on the site and share it with the world (or just a few of your friends, if you prefer).

According to Google engineer Shana Gitnick, this feature is meant to make "video a bit more fun." All you have to do to get started is to authorize the Flash plugin to access your webcam and you're good to go. There are no editing features as of now, though. It's also not clear how long these videos are allowed to be. The 

Shana Gitnick google video record 1

The Very Short History of Video Status Update Services

Video-based status update services are nothing new, of course, and Facebook, too, lets you record updates right from your webcam. Seesmic, in its first incarnation, was fully focused on video status updates before it pivoted. Others, including 12seconds.tv, for example, also didn't survive for long.

The reason for this? Even today, though, most people don't feel fully comfortable in front of a camera (as Seesmic, for example, quickly realized before it pivoted). Because of this, I assume that this will remain a niche feature for the time being.



4:03 pm


Google’s Gospel of Speed: “We Don’t Plan on Stopping Until the Web is Instant”

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Google loves speed. From Instant Search to SPDY, its nascent replacement for the ubiquitous TCP protocol, quite a bit of what the company does these days has to do with speed. Google does this for good reasons. As Urs Hoelzle, the senior VP for infrastructure at Google notes in the latest edition of the company's decidedly slow quarterly magazine "Think Quarterly," just a 400ms delay in delivering search results leads to a 0.44% drop in search volume. The average web page today takes 4.9 seconds to load according to Hoelzle – that's a lot of time for people to move on before the page has ever loaded. For Google's engineers, then, the "Gospel of Speed" is supported by one simple rule: never to launch a feature that slows things down.

The latest beta version of Chrome now features pre-rendering of some web pages while you type the URL, for example. As Hoelzle rightly notes, all of Google's efforts won't matter much, after all, if you are taken right back into the "slow lane" when you click on a link on a search results page.

Google's final goal, according to Hoelzle: "We don’t plan on stopping until the web is instant, so that when you click on a link the site loads immediately, and when you play a video it starts without delay."

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1:26 pm


YouTube in 2011: Over 1,000,000,000,000 Playbacks, 140 Views for Every Person on Earth

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We'll leave it up to the cultural anthropologists of the future to unravel the significance of the fact that Rebecca Black's "Friday" was the most watched video on YouTube in 2011. Just a brief look at the basic statistics of YouTube's viewership this year, however, clearly shows how much of a force Google's video sharing site has become. According to YouTube's own data, the site saw more than one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) playbacks this year. That's an astonishing 140 views for every person on earth, or, as Google puts it, "more than twice as many stars as in the Milky Way."

Last year, the "Bed Intruder Song" took the top billing in YouTube's annual top 10 list. This year, it was Rebecca Black's "Friday." While there wasn't a single cat video in last year's top 10, this year saw two of them make the list ("Nyan Cat" and "cat mom hugs baby kitten"). Sadly, my favorite cat video of the year didn't make the list, though.

Here is the complete top 10:

 



2:04 pm


Google News Now Features Limited Social Recommendations Based on +1s

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Google today announced a small but important new Google+-powered feature for Google News. While there are currently a plethora of startups that are trying to provide their users with personalized news experience based on what their friends are sharing and liking on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Google itself hasn’t made any real forays into this market. Now, however, Google News is making some tepid first steps in this direction by featuring “articles that your Gmail contacts and people in your Google+ circles have publicly +1’d” in Google’ News’ Spotlight section.

imageIt’s important to note that these social signals from your friends don’t currently influence the main news section on Google News. There, Google’s news algorithms provide the personalization features based on your web history and which articles you click on.

Google is only making baby steps toward social recommendations here, though. As Google software engineer Erich Schmidt points out, the Spotlight section will only “sometimes” features stories that were +1’d by your friends or people in your circles.

I gather this is just a way for Google to test its social recommendation algorithms for Google News, though, and that we will soon see more of this kind of personalization across the service. With Google+, after all,  the company now has its own data source for social recommendations.



5:23 pm


Google Music Launches: Purchase Songs from Android Market, Share on Google+, Music Locker Remains Free

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Google today unveiled its long-awaited music store at an even in Los Angeles today. Google Music is now available to all users in the U.S. without a need to get an invite. According to Google, millions of songs will now be available for purchase in the Android Market. Users will also be able to upload up to 20,000 songs to Google Music and store them in the cloud for free. Partners include EMI, Universal and Sony, as well as numerous smaller labels. In total, the store currently feature 8 million tracks but will soon have about 13 million in its library as Google adds more tracks.

Google launched a limited beta of its music services at its annual developer conference Google IO earlier this year. There was no music-matching, similar to what Apple is doing with iTunes Match, though, and no music store, as Google wasn’t able to secure licenses from the major music industry players. Because of this, users had to upload their own songs to the service, which could often take hours or days for large music libraries.

google_music_store

google_music_in_androidAt Google IO, the company’s executives stressed that they had really wanted to open the service with support from the music industry, Google found their demands “unreasonable and unsustainable.” Clearly, the relationship between Google and the labels has changed now.

Indeed, Google managed to get a number of exclusives from the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Busta Ryhmes and others.

As Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s director of digital content for Android noted during the event, consumers now expect that their music services are connected to the cloud and available on all devices instantly. 

On Google Music, all songs will be encoded at 320kbps. Users can buy songs from their Android devices and from the web. The music store required Android 2.2 or higher. The new versions of the Google Music app will be available in the next few days.

T-Mobile users will get carrier billing for music purchases in the near future.

Sharing

google_music_sharingGoogle is also putting a strong emphasis on sharing songs. Users can tell their friends that they have bought a song on Google+, but more importantly, your friends will also get one free stream of the song or album as well.

An Artist Hub for Independent Musicians

Google is also working with independent musicians and will make it easier for them to set up their own shops on Google Music. They will be able to create an artist page for a one-time $25 fee, upload their own songs and set their own prices.



9:56 pm


Report: The Rumors of Google+’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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It seems, the rumors of Google+’s death have been greatly exaggerated. According to new data from Hitwise, Google just recorded its 3rd biggest week since launch. Traffic is up 25% from last month and 5% from last week. Unsurprisingly, Google+’s best weeks with regard to overall visits came right after the site opened up its door to all users at the end of September.

image

The growth in traffic over the last week is likely due to the launch of the Google+ Pages for brands and publishers. This clearly drove renewed interest in the service. Maybe even more importantly, though, Hitwise also found that Google+ users are now sticking around, as the number of returning visitors increased by 18% in the first two weeks of November compared to the same timeframe in October. Indeed, Hitwise found that almost three quarters (74%) of all traffic to Google+ came from returning visitors.

image

Hitwise also found that Google+ profits greatly from being promoted on other Google properties. Gmail and YouTube, for example, account for 16% and 5.5% of all referral traffic to the site, while Google itself accounts for a bit more than 45.5%.

That’s Not What a Dying Service Looks Like

Ever since its launch, the Google+ team had to deal with numerous reports that traffic to the site was slowing down and that the service was basically dead already (something I never saw on my own stream, which seems to be active 24×7 and which gets more reactions than anything I post on Twitter). While Google would probably like to see a faster influx of new users to the service, this new data from Hitwise clearly shows that things are actually looking up for Google+ right now.



9:37 pm


Microsoft Beats Google in Schools, Is Now the Most Popular Cloud Productivity Service for Education

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When it comes to cloud productivity services and education, it’s easy to think that Google is the only game in town. Google, after all, seems to make an announcement every time a new school signs up for Google Apps for Education. Microsoft, however, has been quietly expanding its reach in the education market with [email protected] over the last few years. Today the company announced that its cloud-based service for schools is now “the most widely used cloud productivity service for education.” [email protected] grew 100% year-over-year compared to last year and now has 22 million users.  Google, in comparison, has signed up 15 million students, faculty and staff for Google Apps for Education.

live_at_edu_hat_logo[email protected] is actually currently in the process of transitioning to becoming Office 365 for Education to keep it on par with Microsoft’s other cloud-based productivity offerings. Office 365 for Education includes support for all the regular Office Web Apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), as well as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Microsoft also stressed that school can use its tools to do more than just manage documents and email online. With Lync, Office 365 for Education also includes tools for holding virtual classes and online meetings, for example.

Microsoft offers 5 different plans that schools can offer their students, ranging from basic free accounts for students and school, to more fully-featured suites that start at $6/month.



7:06 pm


Google+ Gets an API for Photos and Videos (Updated: Not Quite Ready Yet)

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Google just announced that Google+ now offers developers a way to get photos and videos out of Google+ and into their apps. As Google is slowly opening up the APIs for its new social network, it makes sense for the company to tackle photos and videos first. These, after all, are one of the backbones of Google+ (though I could do without the support for animated GIFs). Not only do its users get virtually unlimited space for their photos, but a number of professional photographers like Trey Radcliff and Thomas Hawk are using the new network to their fullest advantage.

Update: Looks like somebody at Google posted this update before it was supposed to go live. The original post has now been taken down. I’ve copied it at the bottom of this post.

For now, this new API will be read-only, which means developers can get data out of Google+, but they won’t be able to send photos there themselves. Access, of course, is limited to public albums, photos and videos. Google will also support Creative Commons licensing and this information will be exposed in the API, so that developers can make sure that they respect the copyright information the photographers on Google+ have set for their images.

Developers will be able to get access to a user’s album lists, a list of all photos and the individual photos themselves, of course. The methods for accessing videos are virtually the same.

What does this mean for users? Soon, you will be able to see images in third-party clients that support Google+. Developers can now also import your Google+ photos into their apps, if they choose to do so. Or, as Google’s Yangzhu Li points out in the announcement today, somebody can now create a Google+ screen saver to “crowdsource great images, or a live photo wall for a party.”

Here is the full post:

Bring your apps to Life with Photos and Videos from Google+

Photo sharing is one of my favorite features of Google+. As a new dad, it’s been a joy to take photos of my baby girl and share them just moments later! 

Beyond baby photos, Google+ hosts all sorts of photographs — and all sorts of photographers. Many talented pros have found a home sharing and publishing their work in Google+, such as Trey Ratcliff, Thomas Hawk, and Colby Brown. Today, we’re making it easier to leverage the power of personal and professional images by releasing our first Google+ API for photos and videos.

Google+ gives users full control of their information, and we’re starting with read-only access to public albums, photos, and videos. Google also supports Creative Commons licensing, which we expose so developers can easily respect copyrights.

Using the new API, developers can get a list of public albums from a Google+ user, and list the photos and videos within each album. Combined with our existing public data and search APIs, I’m hoping to see new services such as a family-focused ‘screen saver’, a new way to crowdsource great images, or a live photo wall for a party.

You can start experimenting by listing users’ public albums with the albums.list method. If you already know an album id, you can directly fetch it with the albums.get method. You can list all photos from an album with the photos.listByAlbum method, or fetch any individual photo with the photos.get method:

GET https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/photos/{photoId}?key=[yourAppKey]

which returns:

{
“kind”: “plus#photo”,
“id”: “_iZQhpeOJlWzCqLggyWXsO4-Af160osO”,
“published”: “2011-10-16T23:59:36.000Z”,
“updated”: “2011-11-05T08:29:28.000Z”,
“displayName”: “DSC_5575.JPG”,
“summary”: “”,
“author”: {
“id”: “103168604032363426774”,
“displayName”: “Yongzhu Li”,
“url”: “https://plus.google.com/103168604032363426774“,
“image”: {
“url”: “https://googleusercontent.com/…/photo.jpg?sz=50
}

   },
“url”: “https://plus.google.com/photos/…“,
“thumbnail”: {
“url”: “https://googleusercontent.com/…/s64/DSC_5575.JPG“,
“type”: “image/jpeg”,
“height”: 64,
“width”: 43
},

   “image”: {
“url”: “https://googleusercontent.com/…/s1600/DSC_5575.JPG“,
“type”: “image/jpeg”,
“height”: 1600,
“width”: 1071
},

   “album”: {
“id”: “CTWbarJIotAZBfJLEeUxDe4-Af160osO”
},

   “creativeCommonsLicense”: {
“term”: “Some rights reserved.”,
“allowReuse”: true,
“allowCommercialReuse”: false,
“allowRemixing”: false
}
}

 Prefer videos? A quick hop over to the API reference manual explains how to use the similar methods videos.listByAlbum and videos.get. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback during our next Google+ platform office hours, helping you build your first photo-powered Google+ app on our Discussion Board, and continuing the conversation on Google+.

Posted by Yongzhu Li, Google+ Software Engineer

 



11:32 pm