Path 2.1 Launches With Smarter Camera, Shazam-Like Music Match & Support for Nike+


Path, the up-and-coming private social network, had a couple of rough days last month because it uploaded its users' address books to its servers without their explicit permission. Today, however, the company is focusing squarely on its product again with the release of version 2.1 of its iOS app. This isn't a major overhaul of the service, as the version number already indicates, but the company made some pretty significant updates to the product that its users will surely appreciate.

Path now, for example, features support for Nike+, so your runs now automatically appear in Path. For those of us who aren't runners, the new version now also features a Shazam-like Music Match feature that is powered by Gracenote and a smarter camera that you adjust focus and exposure manually.

The Nike+ integration in Path is driven by the company's new API. It's worth noting, though, that Path isn't rolling this API out widely and is taking a very deliberate approach to opening its platform up to third parties. To sync the two apps, users have to very explicitly tell Path to pull the data from the Nike app by pulling a little Nike icon onto the Path icon. This ensures that you don't share this information without giving the app the permission to do so.

The Music Match feature works just like you would expect. You just click on the microphone icon and let the app listen to the music that's playing in the background for a while. You can then easily share this song with your friends on the service (though it will only play a 30-second sample, as far as I can see).

Overall, then, this isn't a revolutionary update, but it puts Path back on track after the privacy discussions of the last few weeks. It'll be interesting to see when and how the company will open its API to other developers. There is definitely a lot of potential here.

12:24 pm

Pioneer’s Ambitious Zypr Wants to be the One API to Rule Them All


The consumer electronics giant Pioneer launched its Zypr platform today. With Zypr, the company wants to offer hardware manufacturers and software developers a single, simplified way to access Internet services like Slacker, Yelp, Facebook or Accuweather. The idea behind this project is that connected devices like phones, laptops, cars and TVs take some lead time to develop, but that there is no way to predict which service users will want to use in a year or two (or which ones will still be around). With Zypr, Pioneer wants to allow developers to create “future-proof mashups.” As an additional twist, Zypr mostly focuses on voice navigation to access these services.

Why Zypr Matters

In practice, this means that a car-based interface could talk to Yelp, Google Places and OpenTable to find restaurant reviews without the user having to point the system to a specific service. Drivers could speak a command that asks for nearby restaurants with good reviews and the developers can then mash up the information they get from these services and integrate them into their devices. The users don’t need to know where exactly the information comes from (though developers could obviously expose this data if they want to) and the developers can mix and match services as they see fit. Thanks to this approach, if better services come online or one of them goes out of business, developers can seamlessly switch between providers behind the scenes without having to upgrade the firmware in a car or home audio system.

As Pioneer’s David Frerichs’ explained it to me last week, users really want a seamless experience as they switch from device to device and location to location without being locked in by a single vendor. In addition, they want their devices to still work 10 years from now, when most the current web services are likely to be quite different from today’s crop of music and social networking startups.

Zypr currently works with a limited set of third-party services, but the team aims to add more partners over time.

The voice recognition system aims to provide users a system with a very flat command structure – though it also provides developers with a built-in conversation engine for follow-up questions. In the age of Siri, it’s worth noting that this is not an artificial intelligence-based system, though, but instead uses a set of about 200 preset commands.

For Developers: Normalized API for Accessing Multiple Services and Revenue Share

Zypr offers developers a unified RESTful API that is organized by content service categories (think music, navigation, social etc.) that provides a layer between the device or app and the actual service.

The content used by the system is licensed by Zypr and developers won’t have to talk to the providers’ APIs directly. Obviously, this is not a charity project, but Zypr and Pioneer aim to share revenue with the developers. The idea here is to generate revenue through advertising from paid search, media ads, coupons and subscription services.

While the Zypr team is currently mostly working on creating a developer ecosystem around the service, the team also plans to release iOS and Android clients in the future.

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2:01 pm

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

Has Google Given Up On PowerMeter?


It’s in Google’s DNA to try a lot of things. Some work out great, some fail. Among those that are looking like a failure is Google’s experiment in power metering. Yesterday. the company announced that it would deprecate and shut down quite a few of its APIs yesterday and among those is the PowerMeter API. Google won’t shut this API down right away, but it’s also no longer developing and experimenting with it and it looks like the whole project is dead at this point. Another sign of PowerMeter’s demise is the fact that the product’s blog hasn’t been updated since August 2010. (more…)

7:30 pm

Twitter Launches New Permissions Screen, Vows to Keep Your Direct Messages Safe


Twitter just announced that it is launching a redesigned permissions screen today that will make it easier for users to understand which data they are sending to third-party services. In addition, Twitter also announced that apps that “do not need access to your direct messages will no longer have it” by the end of the month. Over the next few days, you will likely see quite a few pop-ups in your third-party Twitter apps that will ask you to confirm that you still want them to be able to access your direct messages.

Keeping your DMs Safe

How exactly Twitter will determine that an app doesn’t need access to your direct messages isn’t clear, but it’s good to see that the company is closing this major security and privacy loophole. Until now, your direct messages were accessible to any third-party app that asked for it as Twitter’s API only supported two types of account authorization: read-only and read-write. There was no way to block third-party apps from accessing your direct messages.

New Permissions Screen

The new permissions screen will also help to explain to users what data you are sharing with a third-party service. To see which apps currently have access to your Twitter data, just head over to the “applications” page for your Twitter account.


10:14 am

Death by Zillow? Google Retires Google Maps Real Estate Listings


In 2009, Google launched real estate listings as one of the search options in Google Maps. Apparently, this was not a major hit, as the company today announced that it is retiring this feature because of “low usage” and “the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites.”

Google also plans to shut down the Google Base API, which listing providers used to submit their listing to Google Maps. According to the company, this posed major “infrastructure challenges.” Given the low usage of the service, it probably didn’t make sense for Google to re-engineer this API just for real estate listings as the new API is focused on inventory data for stores.

Killed by Zillow?

It’s worth noting that Google never really gave its real estate listings first billing in Google Maps. Unless you knew that feature was there, you would have only really stumbled upon it by accident. Now that sites like Zillow, Estately and others have cornered the market for these listings already, it probably makes more business sense to focus on helping real estate agents market their businesses to potential customers than on spending its engineers’ time on building a better real estate search experience (though if there is one market I can think of that could use even more disruption from the Internet, it’s real estate).

real estate portland Google Maps.jpg

12:59 pm