Posts tagged wants
SearchCap: Germany Wants Google’s Algorithm, Google My Maps Back & Bing Predicts Scottish Referendum
Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: German Official: Google Should Reveal Its Ranking Algorithm One of the unanswered questions in the ongoing European-Google antitrust saga is what concrete changes…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said Google needs observing and noted anything that does not feature in its top search results might as well not exist.
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Mark Cuban doesn’t like the trolls on Twitter. According to the startup investor, star of Shark Tank and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, he has to think twice before tweeting anything, because there are hoards of jerks on the social network who want to pick him apart.
That’s why his application Cyber Dust makes everything disappear.
Cyber Dust is “very much like Twitter,” Cuban said on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt event on Monday. “But the difference is, the only people who see it are the people who follow me, and because it’s inline instead of timeline, everyone sees it.”
Cyber Dust also is a bit like Snapchat, though instead of photos and videos, the app centers around texts which disappear 24 seconds after they’re opened. The application is built on the follower model, so you’ll see updates from anyone you follow which won’t get lost in an ever-changing timeline. But as soon as you read a post, it will disappear.
Cuban thinks disappearing messages might make people more honest about what they share, because there is little fear of Internet bullies going through your timeline history and finding something to call out and tweet.
“So many people [on Twitter] are trolls that are just looking for things to say, so no one speaks openly,” he said.
The app is clearly targeted to younger consumers, similar to Snapchat, another teen favorite. Cuban used his own pre-teen daughter as an example as a potential user who will, like many other teenagers, eventually send a text she didn’t mean.
“That message is … not something that can be repurposed,” he said. “If someone tries to screenshot it, you’ll know it, and we can deal with them.”
In his talk, Cuban inadvertently made an argument an algorithm-based Twitter timeline, which may start having features like the Facebook timeline—popular content up top—and less like a real-time stream of information. Cuban said that tweets are often lost in the timeline, and people are never sure how many users actually see what they’re saying. With Cyber Dust, you can be sure anyone who follows you and actively uses the application will see your posts before they disappear.
Lead image by Owen Thomas
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Next week will be all about the new Apple iPhone. This week, however, is more of a free-for-all among manufacturers determined to garner as much attention for their new smartphones as possible.
Maybe some of these companies want to beat Apple out the door; others may have simply set their launch dates long ago to coincide with the IFA Show in Berlin. Either way, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, and others have their own moments in the spotlight right now.
Here’s what’s hot in the world of smartphones and tablet releases so far:
Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia 830
Dubbed by Microsoft as “the affordable flagship,” the Lumia 830 invokes Nokia’s premium PureView photo lineage, but for a middle-of-the-road price compared to the Lumia 930 or 1020. With a 5-inch, 720p display, a 10-megapixel rear camera and Zeiss optics, this Nokia Lumia is a picture-taking machine first, a phone second.
As a budget camera phone, its quality may not be quite as good as its higher-end siblings, but Engadget pointed out a noteworthy feature: The 830 is capable of taking two photos at the same time, one with flash, one without. The Lumia 830 has a polycarbonate shell and aluminum frame, and will ship with the Lumia Denim update, a specialized version of Windows Phone 8.1.1 (Update 1), globally this month, priced at €330 (roughly $430 USD).
HTC Desire 820
This colorful “midrange flagship,” there’s quite a bit that the Desire 820 and the Lumia 830 have in common. What sets the Desire apart is its 64-bit support for Android L, the next generation of Google’s mobile operating system.
For Desire users, that means increased performance while playing games or using processor-heavy applications, and even less battery drain—but only after Google releases Android L this fall. The Desire 820 features a 13-megapixel rear camera. It will be here in late September, but there’s no price yet.
Sony’s Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, and Z3 Tablet Compact
Sony unveiled a trio of Xperia devices to give gamers a reason to take notice. The 5.2-inch Z3 smartphone with 20 megapixel camera and 1080p screen, the Z3 Compact with a 4.6-inch 720p display, and the super-light 8-inch Z3 Tablet Compact.
Sony says the Z3’s 1080p screen is the brightest of the leading smartphones, which is all the better for use as a gaming platform—both the Z3 and the Z3 Compact can serve as Playstation 4 controllers. Meanwhile, the Tablet Compact can Remote Play stream PS4 games over a local Wi-Fi network.
Don’t worry about dropping it in the bathtub either. All three devices can survive in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes, and take pictures down there while they’re at it, which might The Z3 is the only one confirmed to be making it to the U.S. so far, but no price has been announced.
Lenovo’s Vibe Z2 and Vibe X2
Lenovo is calling the Vibe Z2 its “selfie phone.” While the 13-megapixel rear camera is comparable with the competition, the company also put an 8-megapixel camera in front. The Z2 will retail at $429 in China this October, with plans to expand to Europe and Asia. There’s no mention yet of a launch in the U.S.
Alongside the Z2, the company also announced its Vibe X2 smartphone, which will be available in two variations, one with a dual-SIM (to work with more cellular networks internationally) and a single SIM version.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge
Samsung released its latest phablets in the Note series on Wednesday in conjunction with the IFA show in Berlin. The Note 4 is a stronger, thinner version of the Note 3 with the bulk of the changes made to its battery life—Samsung claims it has a 7.5% longer battery life, and only takes 30 minutes instead of an hour to charge to 50% power. Meanwhile, the Note Edge provides extra screen real estate that serves as a secondary display for users.
Motorola is also expected to unveil updates to its Moto X and Moto G smartphones, alongside the much-anticipated Moto 360 smartwatch on Thursday. Altogether, it looks like the smartphone makers are doing their best to make this pre-Apple week an exciting one.
Lead image via HTC; Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact image via Sony; Samsung screenshot via Adriana Lee for ReadWrite
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Some people watch TV in their spare time. Others play basketball. Mitchell Hashimoto, overachiever that he is, started an open-source project.
And not just any project. In 2010, Hashimoto used his spare time to turn his college dorm room into Vagrant, a popular developer tool that makes it easy to build complete development environments. With a marketing plan straight out of Open Source 101 (“open source the code, blog and tweet about it and wait for word of mouth to take over”), Vagrant now generates millions of downloads, inspires a small army of contributors and boasts a bevy of big-name users, including the BBC, Nokia, Expedia and ngmoco.
See also: DevOps—The Future Of DIY IT?
Hashimoto, however, isn’t done.
Two years ago he formed a company, HashiCorp, to give him the funding and freedom to build a suite of services to manage the full lifecycle of application development, delivery and management. Not content to be popular with the developer crowd, in other words, Hashimoto is also currying favor with operations engineers.
This places Hashicorp right at the nexus of so-called DevOps, in which developers take on more responsibility for managing the infrastructure that hosts their applications and puts them in the hands of users. Some people view DevOps as heralding the eventual extinction of IT operations as a specialized function; Hashimoto isn’t one of them, although he does think IT suffers from a fatal lack of automation. And that’s a problem he’s trying to fix.
I sat down with Hashimoto to discuss DevOps, IT automation and how producing new tools for both developers and operations has turned into an open-source success story.
Special Delivery (For Applications)
ReadWrite: Hashicorp offers a number of different applications, from Vagrant to Consul. What’s the common thread between these seemingly disparate applications?
Mitchell Hashimoto: The common thread is application delivery in a modern datacenter.
Taking an application (or service—whichever vocabulary you choose is equivalent in this case) from development into production and iterating it is a overly complicated task right now. There are a lot of moving pieces and a lack of clarity of the capabilities of each piece.
With our tools, we’re trying to solve the common datacenter problems: development environments, service discovery, resource provisioning, etc. These are problems that anyone with a datacenter—cloud or physical—has, and it’s silly that there isn’t a common solution to these problems.
Well, that isn’t entirely true. There are technology-specific solutions in some cases. For example, VMware claims to solve all these problems, but with a VMware-heavy skew.
We want to build tools that are agnostic to these sorts of decisions: whether you’re using OpenStack or AWS, physical or virtual, we want our tools to apply to you to solve the common problems stated earlier.
We Serve Both Kinds—Dev And Ops
RW: Tell me a bit about the tools you provide. Who uses them and why? What do they replace, if anything?
Vagrant manages work environments; Packer builds machine images and/or containers; Serf does cluster membership; Consul is a solution for service discovery and configuration; and Terraform builds infrastructure. That is the elevator pitch for all of them. Of course, none of these “elevator pitches” really does them justice, but they’re a start.
Our primary users are developers and operations engineers. The percentage of each group varies from tool to tool (i.e. Vagrant is developer-heavy, but Consul is operations-heavy), but as a company we build solutions to problems in the DevOps space, which by its very name affects developers and operations! Our tools primarily replace non-automation-friendly predecessors, or less flexible predecessors.
Since we’re coming at this problem space from the point of view of DevOps, our tools work well with others in that space and our tools focus on automation.
Compared to predecessors in some categories, we focus on having a better user and operator experience, as well as bringing more flexibility where possible. For example, with Terraform, it can be compared to something like AWS CloudFormation, but Terraform supports any cloud, not just AWS. But Vagrant, for example, doesn’t replace any specific existing tool, it just makes it easier to do what was a primarily manual task before.
RW: What are the biggest inhibitors to developer productivity today?
MH: A lack of agility brought about by a lack of automation.
There are a number of aspects of a developer’s workflow that can be improved: we can make building developer resources faster, we can improve the delivery pipeline and we can increase the mean-time-to-feedback for deploys. But I posit that each of these improvements requires better automation and tooling to safely manage this automation.
The Relevance Of IT Operations
RW: In the DevOps debate, where do you fall? Are IT operations increasingly irrelevant?
MH: I believe IT operations will always have a place, but some job functions are shifting. Developers are increasingly taking control of their pieces of infrastructure, a realm where IT previously ruled supreme. In the future, I believe we’ll see IT teams shrunk down—but still extremely important—and we’ll see developers—or call them “operations engineers”, meaning less IT, more dev-like—having a lot of control over the datacenter.
Our technology is built for this future. We have some pieces that are more relevant to developers (Vagrant, Packer), and we have some pieces that are more relevant to IT or more sysadmin folks (Terraform, Consul). There is overlap in there, but in a traditional IT world, we see a scenario where our tools are really bridging a gap to allow them to work together more effectively.
RW: Who is your target user/customer? Do “Microsoft developers” want these tools, too, or is it the AWS crowd that primarily finds your stuff interesting?
MH: Our target user/customer is anyone deploying applications.
I’m glad you brought up Microsoft developers. I actually switched to using Windows full time earlier this year so I can better understand a certain problem space for Windows developers, and to make sure our tools worked well for them.
There is a huge interest in our tools from the Microsoft community, and we treat them as first-class citizens in our target user base. All our tools from Vagrant to Terraform are built to support the Microsoft ecosystem, and we think its going to be a big market for us as our business grows.
I think its fair to say the “AWS crowd” found our stuff first, but as time has gone on (remember: we’ve been building these tools for five years now!), we’re relevant in the Microsoft world now, too.
Lead image by Stefan Goethals; other images courtesy of Hashicorp
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Imagine a typeface that unites all the world’s languages. A publisher could print a book in Arabic, Cherokee, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and more—all without swapping out fonts.
That’s what Google is attempting to accomplish with Google Noto, a free font family that currently supports 96 languages, and aspires to support them all. Noto stands for “no tofu,” where tofu are what font professionals call those empty white boxes that appear when a character isn’t supported in a typeface.
Started in 2012, the Noto font family now spans 100,000 characters. This month, Google partnered with Adobe to release a new collection of fonts—Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean—which can be used separately or bundled together in one file so a writer can switch between languages without switching to another font.
This isn’t the first time a technology organization has made an effort to universalize the world’s fonts. In 1987, the Unicode Consortium began developing a way to make computer type compliant with global languages. The result was the Unicode Standard, a system of character codes designed to eventually represent every character in every language on Earth.
Unicode Standard wasn’t really adopted by Web browsers until 2008, and still isn’t a complete solution for capturing all the nuances of global languages in a culturally sensitive way. It was designed with character universality in mind, not particular languages. So the playing field is still ripe for a new global typeface. Whether Google is the right team to take the field, however, is debatable.
Pakistani-American writer Ali Eteraz told NPR that he isn’t sure a massive software company like Google is the right steward for the project: “I tend to go back and forth. Is it sort of a benign—possibly even helpful—universalism that Google is bringing to the table? Or is it something like technological imperialism?”
In other words, when Google is the only entity making decisions, critics fear that the actual language speakers left out of the process are the ones who suffer. Critics already have found issues with Noto’s handling of Urdu, which they say incorrectly adopts Arabic characters.
Google has already taken on an enormous effort, but one way it could attempt to improve cultural sensitivity toward global languages would be to support languages that even Unicode has overlooked. NPR used the example of Nastaʿlīq Urdu, a type of calligraphic script used in famous Urdu poetry. Right now, the only way to share it online is through image files.
Google Noto has already made strides toward not only supporting common modern languages, but minority and historical ones too. While supporting such languages will require extensive research and development, it’s the only way to truly achieve Noto’s ultimate goal of “visual harmonization across languages.”
Photo courtesy of NASA
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A year ago, Bill Ready was gunning for PayPal, bragging about how his company, Braintree Payments, was winning customers like TaskRabbit away from the eBay-owned payments giant.
Though Braintree was small, it was popular with mobile-app developers like Uber and HotelTonight—and he was using his edge with them to cook up a plan for a mobile wallet that could squeeze PayPal out of the world of mobile commerce.
Now Ready is working for PayPal, which bought his company last year for $800 million—and he’s putting his PayPal-killer plan to work making PayPal a killer product.
One Touch Payments: The Cure For “Mobile Flu”?
On Wednesday, Braintree announced the arrival of One Touch Payments, a service that lets any Braintree-powered app tap into credit cards a user has already stored with another app in the Braintree family.
Crucially, the family of One Touch-enabled apps include PayPal’s own mobile app, used by millions of users, most of whom have a credit or debit card stored with the service.
It will allow for swift mobile purchases without requiring users to create an account on an e-commerce site and enter credit-card details every time they want to buy something.
That cumbersome process is holding mobile commerce back, Ready believes. As usage shifts from desktop to mobile, e-commerce companies are experiencing what he calls “mobile flu.”
“More than half of the shopping is going on mobile, but it’s shopping not buying,” Ready says. “We think there’s a better authentication model than username and password.”
Here are some screenshots that show how One Touch works:
The program is starting out in beta testing now, but will be widely available in a month, Ready says.
Why Braintree Needed PayPal, Too
The inclusion of PayPal’s app will provide the critical mass for One Touch to have a chance for success—a problem which stymied Ready when Braintree was independent.
One Touch Payments began life as Venmo Touch, named after the person-to-person payment service Braintree bought in 2012. At the time, Ready’s strategy was to combine Venmo’s reach with consumers, who used its cash-sending features to split restaurant bills and chip in for gifts, with Braintree’s reach among developers.
Venmo would serve as the wallet that stored payment accounts and shared them from app to app, while Braintree’s software would let merchants tap into that wallet. Or one Braintree-powered app could just share a stored card with another app, with the user’s permission.
Ready faced a chicken-and-egg problem, though: Until enough consumers had Venmo or another Braintree app, developers wouldn’t be interested in playing along with the wallet scheme. And until enough apps worked with Venmo Touch, consumers wouldn’t see the point in allowing Braintree to store and share their cards from app to app. Ready’s one-touch payment dreams was stalled.
Along came PayPal, which was interested in Braintree for a host of reasons, particularly its reach among mobile developers.
After PayPal bought Braintree, Ready had the Venmo Touch retool the software to use either the PayPal or Venmo app as a wallet—and add PayPal itself, with its stored balance and PayPal Credit loans, as payment options.
Braintree also came up with new software for developers, the V.zero SDK, which supports One Touch Payments with minimal work by app builders. (If One Touch Payments is meant to simplify entering payment information for consumers, think of V.zero as doing something similar for developers adding payment features to their apps.)
One feature Ready’s particularly excited about is Braintree’s fraud detection, which he thinks will eliminate a lot of frustration with blocked payments. The current fraud model involves card networks declining a transaction, leaving both customer and merchant frustrated. Braintree’s software, when it detects strange activity, will quiz a user on his or her mobile device before the transaction is finished.
“Stealing Fire From The Mountain”
Even though Ready is part of a big company now, his heart is still with small software developers who wouldn’t be able to build features like fraud detection on their own.
“It wasn’t long ago that we were having conversations with Uber’s first engineer,” says Ready. (The on-demand transportation company is a longtime Braintree customer.) The ease of storing a credit card with Uber, and then being able to walk out of a car and have the ride paid for automatically, is a key part of the service’s success—and that’s part of the “magic” Ready wants to replicate with other mobile apps that sign up with Braintree.
Selling to PayPal was a key part of making his plan happen, he said, because he saw a narrow window of opportunity to seize the mobile market.
“I did look at this as stealing fire from on top the mountain to give it to the masses,” Ready says. “This moment in time is fleeting. Either we’re going to give power to the masses, or people are going to concentrate purchases with a few large retailers.”
There’s an irony there, of course: At eBay, Ready is now working for one of those large retailers.
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ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series in which ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.
My Nike+ Running app is free, like most of the running apps I’ve tried. So how does Nike make money off of it?
It’s all in the shoes. Nike’s app asked me which shoes I run with, and when I’ve logged enough miles to run my soles into the ground, it gently suggests I get myself down to Niketown to replace them.
MapMyFitness, another big running-app maker, has now copied Nike’s moves with a new feature called Gear Tracker that it unveiled Thursday. You can now track the mileage you’ve logged on a particular set of kicks, and get reminders to replace them. MapMyFitness has partnered with Zappos.com, the Amazon.com-owned apparel store, to sell shoes.
If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit
This isn’t a shoe-selling gimmick, by the way: Runner’s World recommends replacing running shoes after 300 to 500 miles, something I didn’t realize as a novice runner. I found Nike’s nudge helpful rather than annoying.
And MapMyFitness isn’t doing this for the money—at least not the easy kind. While Zappos has a program to share a percentage of revenues with sites and apps that direct customers to it, MapMyFitness spokesperson Allison Glass tells me her company isn’t participating and that Zappos is keeping all the revenue.
A few years ago, most of the big running apps introduced premium subscription options, offering more advanced run-tracking features like live run broadcasts or more detailed analysis for a monthly or annual fee. Strava has done particularly well with its subscription offering, and MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, and Runtastic all have them as well.
But selling gear may be the real secret to making money in fitness. MapMyFitness and Runtastic have the most advanced strategies here.
MapMyFitness’s success at pushing fitness apparel and hardware is a big reason why Under Armour paid $150 million to buy the Austin, Texas-based company last year. Shortly before Under Armour announced the deal, MapMyFitness had struck a partnership with Brooks Running.
Under Armour is making a big move to sell more than just athletic clothing, including wearables like its Armour39 activity tracker and shoes, a market where it hopes to go toe to toe with Nike.
Unlike Nike+, MapMyFitness’s Gear Tracker will track any kind of shoe—which is a sensible strategy for an upstart like Under Armour. Gear Tracker’s openness mirrors MapMyFitness’s digital strategy: Its application programming interface connects to a wide array of other fitness apps and devices—including Nike’s.
In contrast, there’s Runtastic, a fitness app maker which has put its brand on a number of devices it sells, from heart-rate monitors to apparel to bike cadence sensors to wireless scales. Some are just generic devices with the Runtastic name attached, while others, like the Libra scale and the Orbit activity tracker, are deftly integrated into Runtastic’s mobile apps and website. (The only thing Runtastic isn’t selling, it seems, is shoes.)
Collecting The Data, Sale Or No
The underlying thread here is that the savviest fitness-app developers are finding ways to link free software with paid hardware. Rather than slap tiny mobile banners on their apps, they’re getting directly involved in the sale, by tying shopping to specific moments in an active person’s life. Your shoes are worn out? Buy some new ones. Not making progress on your bike rides? Try a heart-rate monitor or cadence sensor to analyze your performance.
And ultimately it may not matter if MapMyFitness sells a lot of shoes, or gets a cut of the proceeds. Just knowing what its users are wearing could be invaluable market research for Under Armour as it tries to gain share of feet in the shoe market.
Nike’s running-app strategy, which assumes people live in a Nike universe, works well for retaining current customers and prompting them to buy new shoes. But it closes it off to what’s happening in the world outside. Once people stop buying Nike shoes, Nike stops gathering data. And in a digital world, without data, you might as well close up shop.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
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Well, that’s one way to bend the Internet to your will. Google on Thursday applied its not-inconsiderable leverage as Search King of the Universe to “encourage” websites to encrypt their traffic, thus protecting themselves and their users from hackers and other spies (hello, NSA!)
What Google is doing here is an unquestionably good thing. The decentralized Web has been remarkably lax in adopting simple security measures that safeguard your email, conversations, reading habits, and all other manner of personal details you’d rather not share with strangers.
Still, given the flexing involved, you could be forgiven for having a qualm or two about Google’s power.
An Offer You Can Refuse, If You’re Not Fond Of Breathing
What Google announced, specifically, is that it will begin favoring sites that encrypt their traffic in its search results. As offers go, this seems eminently reasonable and optional. Adopting Web encryption—technically, the HTTPS standard, also known as HTTP over TLS—is pretty straightforward; lots of sites (banks, many email services, Facebook, etc.) use it already. (ReadWrite, alas, does not.)
And no site really needs to be ranked highly in Google search results, right?
OK, scratch that. Google’s offer here is perhaps more akin to telling the folks running websites that they can continue breathing oxygen so long as they adopt the encryption standards that Google favors. Because, of course, sites that don’t adopt HTTPS will, over time, lose traffic to those that do.
And Yet, It’s An Offer You Really Shouldn’t Refuse
I’ll stress again that this is a fine and proper thing for Google to do in this case. Web traffic is really only protected when all intended parties to a communication are encrypting it, so there’s a collective benefit to expanding the use of encryption. Yet there’s a collective-action problem in getting everyone to act together—which is why Google is applying the arm here.
See also: Understanding Encryption—Here’s The Key
Email is a classic example. You may think it’s great that Gmail uses HTTPS to protect your connection when you log in to read your email. But if you send a message to your friend whose account is on the unencrypted service BrandXmail, your message won’t be encrypted in transit. And thus it’s fair game for anyone who happens to be spying—or even who’s just scooping up large amounts of passing data for later analysis.
(A technical aside: HTTPS only protects the security of messages as they transit the Internet. It has nothing to do with whether data stored on cloud servers is locked up against snoops. That’s an entirely different use of encryption, and how that’s enabled is solely up to whoever is storing your data—unless, of course, you’ve encrypted it yourself before storing it.)
Here’s how Google explains what it’s up to:
For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
You can read this as Google starting off with a few light taps on the kneecap before breaking out the lead pipes. Just remember: It’s for our own good.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock
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