Yesterday was a big day for Google. The company launched a wave of new and updated products, but the focus was clearly on the (unexpected) launch of Google+. Until now, Google forays into social networking were generally lackluster (except for in Brazil, where Orkut continues to be popular). After the failure of Buzz, Google+ is the company’s most ambitious social networking play yet. After spending a day with the product, it’s clear that Google’s teams learned from the mistakes they made with Buzz and finally put together a social networking service that can compete.
YouTube just announced to interesting new features for those of us who regularly embed YouTube videos. Starting today, the preview images that you see before a video starts will be displayed in a higher resolution that makes them look less grainy than the current embeds. In addition, Google is also launching the option to see embeds without the YouTube logo in the bottom right corner.
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 district 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 just acquired PostRank, the Canadian social media monitoring and analytics company that allows publishers to see how their content is shared on the social Web. PostRank launched in 2007 (and was still called AidRSS at that time) and currently offers to main products: PostRank Connect and Analytics. Google was most likely more interested in PostRanks' Analytics package, which would make a nice addition to Google's own Analytics service.
Google today launched it’s +1 button for third-party sites. Until now, these buttons were only available on Google’s own search results page, but now, website owners will be able to integrate +1 into their own sites as well. Among today’s launch partners are major tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, as well as Best Buy, The Washington Post, Reuters and Bloomberg. The question, though, is if users will actually want to press these buttons.
It’s a big day for buttons today. Twitter just introduced its new Follow button and thanks to an unfortunate leak, we also know that Google is planning to launch it’s +1 button for third-party sites tomorrow. Twitter’s Follow button has long been overdue. It allows site owners to give their visitors a chance to follow their accounts with just a few click. Google’s +1 button is part of the company’s efforts to add more social signals to its search results. Whenever somebody +1s a story on a third-party site, this information will appear in their friends’ search results if that page appears (and can also push sites up on their friends’ search results pages).
Google now allows you to search for flight schedules. After a long delay, the company’s acquisition of airline logistics company ITA closed last month and it looks like Google is now free to add more travel-related feature to its search engine. While Google stresses that “this flight schedule feature does not currently use ITA’s search technology,” chances are that this is just a first glimpse at what Google can do now that it has all of this rich travel information at its fingertips.
For a while now, Google has offered consumers the ability to compare mortgage rates and other financial products. For the most part, though, these products flew under the radar, even as Google continued to add new products like CDs, checking and savings accounts and credit cards to its comparison tool. This changes today, though, as Google just rolled out its new Google Advisor tool. With Google Advisor, users can compare mortgage rates, find the best credit cards (do prefer cash back? a low APR? no annual fee?) and other bank products like CDs, checking and savings accounts. For the time being, this new tool will only be available in the U.s.
Chances are that if you want to rate a local business, you will first go to Yelp and similar services. Google, however, has been steadily working on adding its own ratings services to its portfolio. The oddly named Google Hotpot – which is now deeply integrated into Google Places – is Google’s most direct Yelp competitor. Starting today, Google Places users will get better access to their rating there, as well as the ability to import any GeoRSS feed from other services like Foursquare to their Hotpot/Google Places profile. In addition, users can also grab a feed of their Google Places rating and import it elsewhere.
I'm a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft's HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.