Google Maps has a new area where you can search for coupons that stores have made available in Maps. Just go to a page like this one, and enter the area you’d like to search for stores with coupons in by the second search box. For better results, put the type of store’s coupon you’re looking for in the first box, like coupons for “pizza” in “flushing ny”.
I noticed last month that Google registered a bunch of “Google-Coupons.com”-style domains, and it looks like that was a real sign of things to come. I usually post about domain name registrations at InsideMicrosoft, so it’d be worth checking out those posts in detail in case some clue is waiting in there.
(via Blumenthals > Praized)
Nick Starr wanted IMAP in his Gmail account, and when he didn’t get it, he decided he needed to complain to Google in order to get the new feature. Finding no real Google customer service to speak of, he headed down to Google’s offices and posted a letter on their front door, letting them know exactly how he felt. How very Martin Luther.
Google’s SearchMash site, where it runs experiments in search engine design, now has two versions: The regular one we’ve been using for months, and a new Flash-powered version that puts tabs along the top and a preview pane on the right. The pane shows site previews from Snap and a small bit of other information, but it is the approach of using Flash that is questionable.
Google is trying out what others have attempted before, but no Flash search engine has ever taken off, despite the obvious graphical and interface advantages. Flash presents too many difficulties to the user, especially the fact that it breaks the whole “click a result, read result, go back, click another result” habit most searchers use. Hopefully they’ll learn something valuable from this experiment, just not try to use a Flash search engine.
The YouTube blog is talking about a redesign they are working on of the video browsing page, one that you can try out right now by following this link. The design hasn’t changed in any jarring way, unless you count the big red bar (which you won’t see today because of the Halloween logo, but you can see here), but it does feature drop-down menus on all the tabs for fast category switching and a cleaner, better organized grid of video details. Check it out and leave feedback.
Google has decided that when it comes to Facebook, if you can’t beat ‘em, API ‘em. Google’s OpenSocial, which will launch at code.google.com/apis/opensocial tomorrow, will be a set of APIs that developers can use to create applications that work on any participating social network. Google’s goal is to create an open layer that runs atop all social networks, diminishing the power of all the networks in the process.
It’s a smart plan, especially with the “fad” nature of most social networks, giving up on trying to have the most popular social network and instead trying to be the application layer that everyone uses. Google failed to buy Facebook, it’ll never get MySpace, Orkut will never be popular in the U.S., and a year from now, some unpredictable new network could be the new Facebook. Even if Facebook doesn’t use OpenSocial, new startups will use it, ensuring the next Facebook is a Google partner, not a competitor.
OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, handling profile information, friend/social graph data, and activity data (news feeds). All participating networks have to do is agree to accept the API calls and give back the requested data, and all that does is the hugely important step of opening up the data in the networks to be used by external applications, or by other social networks.
At launch, participating social networks are Google’s own Orkut, plus Ning, Plaxo, Friendster, viadeo, Hi5, LinkedIn and Oracle. Application providers already signed up are Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide, already the most popular Facebook developers, making it likely that the most popular third party Facebook features could soon be arriving at its competitors. The presence of Google’s Orkut, hugely popular outside he U.S., will be enough to make OpenSocial important despite lacking Facebook and MySpace.
One thing OpenSocial doesn’t do is let one social network access the data from another network, something Marc Canter has been pushing for lately. While the applications can use profile, friend and activity data, it can’t actually grab it and create a profile on a another network, like taking your LinkedIn data and using it to build a Friendster profile. You’ll still need to sign up with and create a profile on every network seperately.
Also participating are ING, Hyves, Tianji and Salesforce.com. There will be a developer sandbox at sandbox.orkut.com. No word on if Yahoo plans to participate, and you can expect Microsoft to stay out of it (Windows Live Spaces is a major social network, and Microsoft’s Facebook ownership stake will make it want to stay out of this war).
The YouTube blog announced a cool opportunity. YouTube members can submit a video response to this video (embedded above) asking a question about the current NBA season, and Charles Barkley will try to answer it on Thursday during Inside The NBA, the commentary show he shares with Magic Johnson, Reggie Miller and others). Hopefully, the segment will be a success, and Inside The NBA (and maybe other shows too) will make soliciting video questions online a part of their regular programming.
Google’s Blogger is apparently now a little more okay with more risque blogs, enacting a warning before users visit a blog that contains objectionable content. Previously, if users marked a blog as such, Google would disable public access to the blog, but now it puts up a warning, but ultimately lets them visit if they want to. With all the censorship going on, its nice to see little reasonable action to let people view what they want to.
Good news for Google, which is leading the fight for openness in the 700MHz spectrum being auctioned off soon, since Verizon, leading the fight for evil, has decided to back down. Verizon, pretty much the poster boy for closed networks (half the time AT&T looks like Linux next to Verizon), was fighting to have the open networks requirement dropped, but they’ve all of a sudden stopped their efforts. The auction is still on schedule for January 24.
Take a look at that screenshot above. It’s of the “Google Search Results Ultimate Makeover“, a feature rich redesign of the Google search results, complete with Snap Shots website previews, PageRank and favicon images, a quick sidebar for jumping pages in the search results, scanning of sites with McAfee’s SiteAdvisor and more. Check it out.
Search Engine Land discusses plans in Congress to penalize U.S. companies who cooperate with illegal government spying of civilians in other countries or collect information for internet censorship programs. The efforts, if successful, would lead to a $2 million fine, a symbolic but toothless gesture that comes with a lot of controversy.
I’ve always tried to side against companies that do business with the Chinese government and assist in that government’s censorship efforts, but I’ve also largely argued that they are completely allowed to do what they do. I don’t know of any U.S. law that specifically forbids assisting government spying and censorship in other countries, and I suspect such a law could never be both passed and enforced.
Worse off, they specifically would like to fine companies “if they cooperate with the technological surveillance of political dissidents”, something tech companies are being forced to do, in this country, by the United States government! The hypocrisy of a Congress that would fine a company for assisting the Chinese, but turns a blind eye to domestic spying that would break the same law if it were simply applied in the opposite direction!
I wish those lawmakers luck in passing their toothless, hypocritical, unconstitutional, undiplomatic law. They’ll need it.
It’s been well-known for a while that Google is readying a version 2.0 of Gmail, designed to update the four-year old email software that has been looking dated lately. At Google’s recent Analyst Day, they talked about the new version publicly for the first time, and listed some of the upcoming changes. They include:
Email messages will be prefetched, so that when you click on them they will have already been downloaded, and will load instantly. When reading a message, you can click Next, Next, Next, and there’s no lag, speeding through a ton of messages instantly. You can even hold down the key and your mail flies by.
A new contact manager will launch, integrating accross multiple Google products (including Docs and Calendar).
More integration with other Google Products, such as opening email attachments in the appropriate Google Docs application.
Looks exactly like Gmail does today, but under the hood it’s completely different.
The speaker didn’t say when it’ll launch, just that it’ll be “very soon”.
It should really shine “on the new MacBook Pros and the newest version of Safari”, taking advantage of new browser technology. Relevant information for a small market segment, but what about the rest of us?
Uses the same text editor from Page Creator and Google Groups.
Here’s the video where he discusses it (starting around 35 minutes, ending around 41):
The screenshot above is two frames from the video, one showing the new interface is just like the old one, and one showing the new contact manager.
Some people are seeing that new version right now, so check out your Gmail account and let me know if there are any other interesting changes.
First, your introductory experience with the application: As expected, a page with two blank text fields, one for your Gmail address, one for your password. Only, they aren’t text fields! They’re links to this wonderful page:
Yes, a page that looks like something broke! Instead of letting you enter text into a simple, standard text field the application takes you to a seperate page with a big blank text box where you are supposed to enter the information requested on the previous page. With text input fields being a basic, brain-dead element of UI design, why did Google decide to go this route? God only knows.
Worse, because of the poor performance of everything Java (and yes, regrettably, this is still a Java app, not a native Windows Mobile app), even entering text in this page is a chore. It doesn’t recognize my backspace key or my arrow keys, text selected becomes immediately unselected, the occasional keystroke is completely ignored or dropped, and caps lock turns on and off at will. We’re talking text input, not rocket surgery, people!
For some reason, the text input page doesn’t even start off letting you type in the text input box. You have to click/tap/select it first, even though there’s literally nothing else on the page. Why not start with a blinking cursor? So, it’s click, click, type (if you make a mistake, cancel and start again because backspace doesn’t work), click Done, click, click, type, click Done, click Sign In. Talk about making things easy for the user.
Why am I going crazy about this? Because the rest of the application is pretty good, but the first screen you see is such a chore, you might give up without even trying. Google needs to get it right at the first user experience, otherwise there won’t be a second.
Naturally, I try to sign in, and my connection was dropped throughout all the clicking and backing up, so Java asks me for permission, not once, but twice, and instead of taking me back to the application and signing me in, it takes me back to the MIDlet Manager page. Gotta love Java. Really, a great choice for an application platform.
Anyway, here’s the inbox view:
The scroll bar is too small for anything but a tiny fingernail to grab, which is fine, since it doesn’t scroll, it paginates. And if you miss it, you get to read an email! Scroll with the arrow keys, and save yourself the tsuris.
There are a good number of hotkeys, so you can archive, mark as read, star, report spam, delete email, go back to the inbox, search, and compose just by hitting the appropriate number (or the asterisk key). However, they are bound to the keys on a traditional phone’s keypad, with no shortcuts for letters on a keyboard, like my PDA has, so I need to hold down a modifier key, or just give up on shortcuts at all (which is exactly what I do). How about shortcuts for keyboard folk?
ARGHH!!! I just discovered another annoyance! If you press Menu to close the menu, it doesn’t close the menu! Instead, it selects the item highlighted in the menu, and asks you to confirm if you really want to perform that action on that email, and the same Menu button is now the confirm button, compounding the likelihood you’ll screw up!. Really, I clicked menu to use the menu, not to leave it? Who thought that was good UI design? I lost two emails, maybe three, because of that.
When you try to send an email, you get this page:
Good and simple, especially the “Sent from Gmail for mobile” signature (by the way, when I clicked to close that menu, it tried to send my message. Brilliant). Click on the To field, and you get a page with your most popular contacts, and check boxes so you can select multiples (you can use the menu to get at the complete list of contacts.
By the way, the Subject and message body areas just take you to that empty page for text entry. Gotta hate it.
So, the good things about this application is that it lets you browse your email without reloading webpages and wasting bandwidth, it’s fast and convenient as an application, instead of a website. You can now click to have your phone call phone numbers that are listed in emails. The bad is that the UI design still makes a lot of mistakes, stupid little mistakes that should be easily avoided.
Google wants to have a smash hit in the mobile space, designing some sort of Google mobile software system and dropping hints of a GPhone, but the live applications they’ve released so far show a severe disconnect with proper UI design. If the iPhone is a fashion model, Google mobile has the same sense of style as… a typical Google engineer. If Google can learn from these mistakes, there’s hope, but for now I’m just frustrated and annoyed.
Go to Gmail.com/app if I haven’t scared you off. It’s worth downloading, since it is a much better way to access Gmail, but be prepared to be annoyed until you get used to its quirks.
When commenting on a Blogger blog, you don’t want to have to leave the page open in your browser, refreshing until someone replies to your comment. Instead, subscribing to those comments will let you leave and get a notification when someone talks back, but until now, Blogger only offered Atom feed subscriptions, which are a bit much for a one-time thing.
Now, you can tell Blogger to send you comment replies via email, thanks to a feature added late last week. You’ll need to leave your comments via a Google Account (no help for anonymous cowardly commenters) and you’ll get a notification whenever someone leaves a new comment after yours, so no worries about keeping track of your latest flame war.
(via Jordan McCollum)
Yahoo has announced it is shutting down Yahoo 360, its never-popular social networking service. 360, which launched on March 29, 2005 (apparently the last time I was ever hopeful about Yahoo), never caught on the way Microsoft’s Spaces did, having a less-appealing interface, and bad decision to start as invite-only, and a lack of promotion and integration from its host company.
Yahoo will be folding 360 into a “more integrated” Yahoo profile experience while concentrating more on Mash, which it isn’t promoting any better. While you consider the likelihood of them screwing this up, again, lets reminisce: