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Google has been extremely active over the past few weeks launching update after update. Today, the latest update is for Google+, more specifically Google+ Hangouts On Air. Since its inception, bands have used Google+ Hangouts On Air to "perform live for global audiences, and jam with fans face-to-face."
Right now, Hangouts On Air has pretty bad sound quality that is optimized for speed and voice, not high-quality live music. However, Studio Mode aims to turn the sound feed into a seemingly CD-quality stream that has full stereo and a higher bit-rate. As of right now, the update has only been pushed out to 25% of users.
Google has produced a YouTube video demonstrating the difference between the audio. Take a listen for yourself, using a pair of high quality headphones for the best effect. With the new audio quality, it's hard to go back to the original. But don't take my word for it--watch the video below:
Google's search results now take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices received
It would appear that Google has partially caved to the music and movie industry. An update to the way search results are ranked will see pirate sites and other illegitimate content sources showing up lower in the results. As you may or may not know, Google looks at around 200 different signals to rank pages and the newest one is directly tied to piracy.
The latest signal to be used in ranking pages will be directly related to "the number of valid copyright removal notices" received for a given site. This means that sites which receive a large number of valid removal notices may appear lower in Google's search results. Google explains why this is a good thing:
This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily-whether it's a song previewed on NPR's music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify.
As Google points out, only copyright holders know whether or not something is authorized and only the courts are capable of deciding whether it infringes a copyright. This means that they will not be removing links unless a valid removal notice is received; instead, they will just appear lower in the results.
Google has promised to continue to be transparent about removal requests and to provide "counter-notice" tools that will aid people to reinstate their content if it has been wrongly removed.
Facebook is trying out a new feature that allows users to send a postcard with one of your pictures on it to a friend. The new feature is powered by Sincerely and allows you to mail a physical postcard to a friend. You can even add a message that will be sent to the friend with the card or send prints of their pictures.
Of course, Facebook isn't doing this for free. The sender is charged a fee, right now at varying price points for the people who have access to the trial, and the card goes out in the mail through Sincerely's service. Sincerely is the company behind Postagram, the service that does basically the same thing for Instagram pictures.
This feature came about from a Hackathon project. If successful, and instituted, the new service could garner Facebook some more earnings through increased interaction with pictures (higher advertising value) and through a possible small profit from the selling of the postcards and prints.
If you're in the limited group trial, under the photo you are viewing you will see a "Mail Postcard" button. Clicking this opens a screen, seen above, that you can enter your message and the recipient's address on. Click send and off the order goes to production and mailing. Simple, and likely effective.
Google needs your help so that they can better help you. Earlier this year, Google launched a stock image library as part of its Google Drive product. Thanks to lots of positive feedback, they are now planning on expanding that library with images that are selected by the people who use the product. That's why they've enlisted your help.
Want to help decide what goes in? It's a simple task, really. Just head over to ThinkStock.com, select up to 10 images to nominate, and fill out Google's nomination form with the information they require. Easy, and you have helped make Google, and the Internet, a better place. Not to mention you should then be able to use these photos in your Google Drive docs.
Google explains the process in a bit more detail:
Go to http://www.thinkstock.com and search for images, or browse through them by category. Using the form below, submit the item numbers (linked underneath each image) for up to 10 images you'd like to nominate for use in your documents, presentations, spreadsheets. We'll use your ideas to create and curate the next generation of our stock image library.
Head on over to Google's nomination site to fill out the form.
Today, Google has been doing a lot of talking. They debuted their exclusive field trial of integrating Gmail emails with searches and they've been talking about the future of search. But, how can you look towards the future without knowing the present? You can't and that's why Google has provided us with some incredible numbers about the current state of search.
To make an average day, Google crawls an incredible 20 billion pages. However, to put that number in perspective, there are about 30 trillion URLs on the Internet. An average month is made up of serving 100 billion searches. Google's current Knowledge Graph is composed of 500 million items and that is just a baby step towards the future of search.
Google's vision of the future of search:
Everyone who asks that question, knows the answer deep inside their heart. They've actually dreamt the search engine of the future already.
Or, in other words, search will be an "assistant", somewhat similar to Siri. There are many large hurdles, none insurmountable, that stand in the way of this vision. "If we are going to build the search of the future, we will have to solve difficult technology issues like speech recognition and natural language."
The future of search will be context based rather than query based and this is where the natural language processing comes in, along with the Knowledge Graph product.
Google is continuing to push the search engine forward and, as a result, the unification of its products. The latest mating sees Google searches including results from a user's Gmail e-mail. However, not everyone will get these results right now as it is only being offered as an exclusive "field trial."
Users can request to be in the field trial on Google's website, although participation is not guaranteed. This change is almost a natural extension for Google. "Gmail is almost larger than our web corpus and it continues to grow." says Kamdar. The change is part of Google's on-going mission to build the search engine of the future.
The Gmail results won't be listed like the rest of the results. Instead, they will appear on the right-hand side like the new knowledge graph results do. Google will be able to parse out what an e-mail is, be it a shipping order, flight confirmation, or something else altogether, and this will help it provide better results.
Google is incredible in the wide array of services that it offers for free. Google has just increased the number of cities where real-time traffic data is provided by adding Bogotá, Panama City and San Jose (Costa Rica) to the list. They have also included 130 new United States cities in this increased offering.
The cool part about how all this works is that it relies on people using Google Maps. Google Maps then reports back anonymous speed and location data to Google where it is combined into traffic data and sent back for free. The issue is that this crowdsourcing needs lots of users to provide reliable data. Thanks to the widespread adoption of Android, this has become easier and Google can provide information for more locations.
Google Maps will now be able to show data for side roads and arterial roads that don't get as much traffic as the main highways. In addition to the 130 new US cities that Google has added, they have also added support around the world in countries including "Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom."
Microsoft have announced their proposal to bring realtime communication in browsers, all without plug-ins. The W3C WebRTC working group received "Customizable, Ubiquitous Real Time Communications over the Web" (CU-RTC-Web) proposal from Microsoft, which is the first step toward creating a standard that would be key in creating a browser-based version of Microsoft's expensive acquisition, Skype.
Other companies have already laid out their plans for HTML5-based communications, with Google and Mozilla already doing so. Microsoft, on the other hand, are waiting to make it publicly available until it's a fully formalized standard. Stopping the software giant right now is the choice of codecs being used, with Google and Mozilla wanting to use the open sources VP8 as default, with Microsoft wanting to be more flexible.
Outlook.com is getting eyed at by Microsoft to get some Skype integration, which is something the company has been planning for quite a while now. This would require a plug-in and would not use WebRTC, but it could change somewhere down the line when the standard is complete. The WebRTC standard would allow cross-platform audio- and video-based communications, potentially allowing services such as Google Talk and Skype to work together.
The outage you may have seen on Wikipedia earlier this morning was not another SOPA-style blackout, nor was it any sort of foul play by upset teachers. The cause was a simple networking glitch with servers in Tampa. As of now, the site should be back up to its fully functioning and fully informative state.
The outage started around 6:30 a.m. PT with a simple error message that the "servers are currently experiencing a technical problem." The site was somewhat navigable, with pages only partly loading and much of the content style and layout being stripped out. Just about an hour later, the site was back to normal.
The Wikipedia status page was aglow with orange and red which notated warnings and service disruptions. As of now, almost every single one is back to green or orange, showing that the site has recovered. The outage is said to be "due to networking issues with servers in Tampa, Florida," but no further information is available.
"We certainly haven't been hit by a denial of service attack." Further contributing to the story of networking issues rather than a bunch of angry teachers teaming up.
Google launched their PageSpeed Service last year with the aim of improving the experience of web surfing, without making them a dime. The idea sounded great, as it worked like similar services such as Akamai, where it would boost web browsing speeds by caching pages in the same way, but as always, there's always improvements that can be made.
Also, for pages that include HTML that isn't cacheable, such as personalized info, is returned, standard portions of the side and cache are displayed immediately, whilst other content loads in its normal fashion. This new tool isn't the best for every website on the web, but it's great to see these changes, all for free.