Google just released a massive redesign for its Google+ social network, the majority of which you can check out in the walkthrough video above. Our thoughts? Lots of whitespace, but we'll play with it for a bit before final judgment.
Google on Tuesday took another leap into the social space with Google+, which aims to connect people via specific friendship circles, interests, location, and more.
Google+, which is currently operating via a "field trial," has four main components: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile.
"We'd like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project," Google said in a blog post.
Google+ begins with Circles, which helps compartmentalize all the people in your life. Google took a swipe at Facebook, arguing that putting everyone under the "friends" label hurts the ability to share. It becomes sloppy, scary, and insensitive, the search giant said.
"From close family to foodies, we found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So we did the only thing that made sense: we brought Circles to software," Google said. "Just make a circle, add your people, and share what's new—just like any other day."
Google took aim at Foursquare on Thursday with the addition of checkin rewards for its Latitude app for Google Maps, while replacing 'mayors' with "gurus" and "VIPs".
Google's location class warfare didn't stop there: there are a poor, middle, and elite class under Google's hierarchy, known as "Regulars," "VIPs," and "Gurus," respectively. Users who check in for the first time might not receive any special designation.
Users will need to update to Google Maps 5.2 via the Android Market, join Latitude, then tap "check in here" from the menu. Google said a version for the iPhone would be coming soon.
The new rewards will be rolled out - where else? - at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) show in Austin, Texas this weekend, where discounts will be offered at restaurants, bars, and other venues around the downtown area.
The new checkins scheme provides a sort of game-like approach to rewards, with additional checkins propelling users to new social rankings - and new discounts, to boot. "Footprint" icons let users track their progress. As an example, a restaurant could offer a free drink to a regular, free breadsticks to a VIP, and possibly a free dessert to a "guru".
Google began offering checkins on Latitude in February.
On Wednesday Google opened a forum where site owners could solicit feedback on the changes. In less than 24 hours it has received 131 complaints, mostly from mom and pop websites whose traffic and search ranks plummeted as a result of the algorithm change.
Last Friday, Google altered its search algorithm to demote "low-quality" sites in its search results. The change was widely dubbed a "farmer update" because it targeted content-farming websites that aggregate unoriginal content.
At the time Google warned that around 12 percent of its search results would change following the "farmer update" last week. Google has previously said that it changes its algorithm 500 times a year, but rarely makes an announcement.
In a connected world such as the one we live in today, we are constantly bombarded with news non-stop. This is why we sometimes need a way to distinguish what's important and current from the rest of the fluff. Newsmaps helps us visualize the world of news in a easy to understand format. This tool visualizes Google News results using a treemap visualization algorithm that helps display all the information in a user friendly way. Bigger font? Popular story. Colors? Categorize the topic of the story. Color intensity? How fresh or old the story is. We can customize our news by interest and even location. Although the colors and fonts can seem a little harsh on the eyes, it gets our attention to what is important.
Do you use a similar tool such as this? Feel free to share it with us in the comments.
Google published a pretty impressive page with all of their developer products in a table of the elements-style arrangement. It fills the whole screen and shows off the sheer amount of products the company is working on. Some are well known like Gmail and Picasa. Others, like Google Secure Data and BigQuery, are pretty obscure. Check it out if you're interested in the inner workings of the biggest search engine out there.
Read More | Google
As the last decade ends and a new one begins, it may be interesting to look at what has happened so far on the web, and what it means for the next 10 years. In a time when Facebook is everywhere, now reported to be valued at $50 billion, having raised $500 million recently and being expected to raise another $1.5 billion in the coming months, it's hard to remember what it was like in the year 2000. The tech bubble had just burst, a lot of web sites had gone down in flames, the Y2K bug proved to be nothing, and Windows 98 was still the dominant operating system. Google was something few people knew about, using instead Altavista and Yahoo. Social media was a mostly unknown concept. Just think of what the world was without smartphones and connectivity everywhere. In just 10 years, technology changed so fast, especially online, that it's hard to wrap our heads around it. Let's take it one domain at a time.
Following a week of rumors about a Groupon buyout, it seems now that Google could be buying the small company for $2.5 billion, according to internal sources. While neither company will comment on rumors, VatorNews quotes an internal source that confirmed the news to them. This would be a big deal for the small company since it could then use Google's intensive data on maps, locations and userbase, which could allow them to expand past the current select list of cities that they cover. Also, the acquisition makes sense for Google as they've been trying to grow Google Places, and compete with the likes of Facebook.
Read More | VatorNews
Facebook sent an invitation recently to news agencies for another announcement coming this Monday. While there is no direct mention as to what that announcement is, TechCrunch believes that this may be a major play on a new email service, aimed at competing with Google's Gmail service. Based on the invitation image, it seems likely that the announcement has to do with messaging, since that's what the graphic shows. Then, references to a secret project called Project Titan came up again recently. Finally, just this week, we reported on how Google and Facebook have started an all-out war concerning the exporting of contacts and friends information. It's all still rumors for now, but it will be very interesting to see if a Facebook based email service would take a big chunk out of services like Gmail. Since Facebook has done everything it can to become your primary contacts platform, it would sure make a lot of sense.
Read More | TechCrunch
Looks like Google agrees with the vast majority of us as it pertains to Facebook's insane policy where they will allow you to import the data of your contacts, but refuse to let you get that data back out of the service. When you attempt to export your contact data from Google to Facebook, you get the warning above, where Google lets you know that once you export your data to Facebook, it is stuck there, and that they "strongly disagree" with the practice. They don't stop you, of course, but they do make it known what's going on, while Facebook tries to hide it.
Read More | Google Contacts Export
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