Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Facebook Formalizes Support for OpenID Foundation

By Nicholas Kolakowski

With MySpace and Google releasing similar applications, Facebook has already moved to allow users to port their data around the Web via Facebook Connect. In the next stage of building open distributed-identity frameworks across the Internet, Facebook officially joins the board of the OpenID Foundation.On Feb. 5, Facebook announced that it would join Google, IBM, Microsoft, PayPal, VeriSign and Yahoo as a corporate board member of the OpenID Foundation, an organization formed in June 2007 to promote an open framework for user-centric digital identities on the Web. 

 

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Facebook joins two months after its Facebook Connect, which enables users to sign into other sites using their Facebook user names and passwords, went live. Some 4,000 sites and desktop applications are currently involved in Facebook Connect, and the company claims it has utility for the enterprise.

Facebook Connect offers enterprises “a more robust intranet with social capabilities to interact,” David Swain, manager of platform connections for Facebook, said in an interview. “The enterprise could use their own authentication system and then have their [employees] use Connect from there, or they could use Facebook’s authentication system.” 

Google’s own social networking effort, Google Friend Connect, already uses OpenID as a foundation; the service launched as a beta hours before Facebook Connect on Dec. 4. 

“It is our hope that we can take the success of Facebook Connect and work together with the community to build easy-to-use, safe, open and secure distributed identity frameworks for use across the Web,” Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering for Facebook, said in a statement. “As a next step in that effort, we will be hosting an OpenID Design Summit in two weeks here at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto.” 

In Palo Alto, designers from Facebook, the DiSo Project, Google, JanRain, MySpace, Six Apart and Yahoo will discuss how, according to a news post on the OpenID Web site, “existing OpenID implementations could support an experience similar to Facebook Connect.”

Facebook’s representative on the board will be Luke Shepard, a member of Facebook’s Platform and Connect team.

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Privacy fears over Google tracker

Google has announced a new feature that allows users to share their locations among a chosen network of friends.

See Video

The “opt-in” Latitude service uses data from mobile phone masts, GPS, or wi-fi hardware to update a user’s location automatically.

Users can also manually set their advertised location anywhere they like, or turn the broadcast off altogether.

The service has raised a number of security concerns, as many users may not be aware that it is enabled.

Latitude is based on Google’s My Location feature that has been in place since last year.

The new interface and social networking element makes Latitude similar to a number of websites such as Loopt and Brightkite that make use of the location data of a network of friends.

Users can set the service to update automatically using the best location data it can obtain from the phone’s hardware, set the location to display at city level only, or to not send any location data at all.

Locations are shared only between people who mutually agree to share them, and users can also see their Latitude friends’ locations on a computer.

Privacy concerns

 Google says it has build the service from the ground up with security and privacy issues in mind, and that the service only stores the last known location of a given user.

However, privacy watchdog Privacy International argues that there are opportunities for abuse of the system for those who may not know that their phone is broadcasting its location.

Privacy International director Simon Davies gives the example of employers who might give phones to employees with Latitude enabled.

“With Latitude, Google has taken steps toward privacy that it has hitherto not taken,” Mr Davies told BBC News.

“The problem is that they launched the services without allowing all phones to be notified.”

Google admits that the notification service is currently only available for BlackBerry users.

“We have implemented a feature on the BlackBerry version of the software to display several notifications (i.e. pop-up messages) to a device which informs the user that his or her phone’s location is being shared,” said a Google spokesperson.

“We hope to extend this to other versions of the software soon,” the spokesperson added, noting that all platforms should be supported within a week’s time.

For Mr Davies, the issue is principally a philosophical one about the nature of privacy.

“I have absolutely no doubt, as a tech-lover, about the utility of this as extremely beneficial,” he said.

“But it will be destroyed by privacy if the companies don’t get it right.”

Google Quietly Declares E-Mail War on Yahoo

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Many people have sent an e-mail while angry, exhausted, inebriated or just by mistake that they later regretted. Now, Google has a way to help protect you (and others) from such a faux pas.

As part of its quest to attract users to its Gmail service, the Internet search company has introduced dozens of features, including one that, after a certain time, makes a user solve a math problem before sending an email, giving them time to rethink it.

Because Google makes money every time email users click on ads, it is enhancing its email service to increase advertising and take market share away from Yahoo.

Unique visitors to Google’s sites increased 32 percent worldwide to more than 775 million last year, according to comScore, which tracks such data.

Yahoo had a 16 percent gain to 562.6 million visitors and Microsoft had a 20 percent increase to about 647 million visitors.

Analysts have attributed part of Google’s visitor growth to email features that are being turned out at a dizzying rate by the company’s Gmail Labs.

This month, Google introduced a feature to automatically download mail so users can read Gmail offline in a Web browser. That matches an existing feature in the client version of Microsoft’s Outlook but when Outlook is accessed from the Internet it does not have that feature.

The off-line mail feature was announced in a press statement, but most other features to Gmail have been introduced more quietly. Engineers created and posted 34 experimental features in the seven months since Gmail Labs launched in June.

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“They’re able to improve the products much faster than anyone else,” said Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler.

Google said those features are for adventurous Gmail users because the rapid addition of them means they may not work smoothly or that they will last.

TESTS, REMINDERS

“Mail Goggles” helps users avoid sending regrettable email or Gchat messages, an instant messaging system, by making them pass a simple math test before sending.

Another feature alerts users who forget to upload promised attachments. And another lets users send free SMS (short message service) messages to friends via Gchat.

The new features can be found in “Labs” on the main Gmail account page in the upper right corner under “Settings”.

Google engineer Dave Cohen took half a day to code an experiment that lets users add a photo next to a friend’s conversation in a chat window. It was available for users to try out a few weeks later.

Cohen said it used to be “hard to take an idea you had and get it out there.” Now, he said, Gmail Labs “has increased our freedom and flexibility, and we can do more at a whim when there’s something you really want to add.”

Analysts said the quick roll out of experimental features puts pressure on Yahoo, Time Warner and Microsoft.

Helping to speed development is a “Send Feedback” link in each experimental feature that allows users to make suggestions directly to the developer on how to improve it.

“We didn’t … have that kind of direct feedback between engineers and users,” said Keith Coleman, product manager. “Now, we have engineers looking at the raw feedback that they are getting.”

(Reporting by Jennifer Martinez and David Lawsky; Editing by Edwin Chan)

Some thoughts on FeedBurner Site Stats being replaced by Google Analytics


I’ve been a FeedBurner customer for a couple of years and was initially happy for the company when it was acquired by Google. This soon turned to frustration when I realized that Google had become the company where startups go to die. Since being acquired by Google almost two years ago, the service hasn’t added new features or fixed glaring bugs. If anything, the service has only lost features since it was acquired.
I discovered the most significant feature loss this weekend when I was prompted to migrate my FeedBurner account to using a Google login. I thought this would just be a simple change in login credentials but I got a different version of the service as well. The version of the service for Google accounts does have a new feature, the chart of subscribers is now a chart of subscribers AND “reach”. On the other hand, the website analytics features seemed to be completely missing. So I searched on the Internet and found the following FAQ on the FeedBurner to Google Accounts migration
Are there any features that are not available at feedburner.google.com?
There are two features that we are retiring from all versions of feedburner: Site Stats (visitors) and FeedBurner Networks.
We have decided to retire FeedBurner website visitor tracking, as we feel Google already has a comparable publisher site analytics tool in Google Analytics. If you do not currently use Google Analytics, we recommend signing up for an account. We want to stress that all feed analytics will remain the same or be improved, and they are not going away.
FeedBurner Networks, which were heavily integrated with FeedBurner Ad Network, are no longer being supported. As with many software features, the usage wasn’t at the level we’d hoped, and therefore we are making the decision not to develop it further, but to focus our attention on other feed services that are being used with more frequency. We will continue to look out for more opportunities for publishers to group inventory as part of the AdSense platform.
I guess I should have seen this coming. I know enough about competing projects and acquisitions to realize that there was no way Google would continue to invest in two competing website analytics products. It is unfortunate because there were some nice features in FeedBurner’s Site Stats such as tracking of clicked links and the ability to have requests from a particular machine be ignored which are missing in Google Analytics. I also miss the simplicity of FeedBurner’s product. Google Analytic is a more complex product with lots of bells and whistles, yet it takes two or three times as many clicks to answer straightforward questions like what referrer pages are sending people to our site.
The bigger concern for me is that both Google Analytics and FeedBurner (aka AdSense for Feeds) are really geared around providing a service for people who use Google’s ad system. I keep wondering how much longer Google will be willing to let me mooch off of them by offloading my RSS feed bandwidth costs to them while not serving Google ads in my feed. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google turns FeedBurner into a Freemium business model product where users like me are encouraged to run ads if we want any new features and better service.
Too bad there isn’t any competition in this space.