Google Plus now aims its sights at Quora

Google is adamant on accelerating work on its Google+ social network. By doing so, the company has already stepped on people’s toes. An upcoming Q&A feature from Google does not seem to be aimed squarely at Quora, a popular question-and-answer website, but the Quora people understandably cann0t be too happy about this development. See, according to VentureBeat, the search company is trying out a new capability called “Ask on Google+” allowing you to ask friends about the topics you are searching for. It is akin to Facebook Questions, with one huge advantage: One accesses it easily at the bottom of one’s search results:

Click the link to ask your friends any question related to restaurants, movies, how to make friends on Google+, or other topics. Your question will automatically be posted to your Google+ stream for your friends to answer.

Granted, it is nowhere near as complete as Quora and it lacks the basic component, a Q&A engine. In its current implementation, asking stuff on Google+ from your search results simply puts up an overlay window with a pre-populated Google+ post related to your search query. For example, if I were searching for “2012 Android smartphones,” clicking the “Ask on Google+” link would create the “Hi there! I have a question about 2012 Android smartphones…” message. You can edit the message, select your audience, or add a location, photo, video or URL. The folks with whom you shared the message will not be able to select from custom choices like with Facebook Answers. Still, it certainly does not mean crowd-sourcing answers from your Google+ friends will not take some allure off Quora and similar services— quite the contrary.

Read more

Report: FTC includes social network Google+ in antitrust probe; EPIC urges FTC to watch search changes

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is expanding its antitrust probe of Google to include the inspection of social network service Google+, according to Bloomberg.

The publication sourced two people “familiar with the situation,” and cited “competition issues raised by Google+” as the primary aspect of the FTC’s investigation into whether the globally popular search engine gives preference to its own services. The FTC is also inquiring whether such practices violate antitrust laws, according to Bloomberg, who could not identify its sources due to the investigation’s nonpublic status.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company rolled out “Search, Plus Your World” to its search engine Jan. 10 and dubbed the revision a “personal results” feature that displays Google+ photographs, news and comments when user’s conduct Web searches. The Electronic Privacy Information Center promptly called upon the FTC on Jan. 12 to investigate the recent search changes in a letter posted on its website…

Read more

Google revamps Hangouts interface, adds screen sharing feature

The search giant today introduced a couple enhancements to Hangouts, the group video chat feature of the Google+ social service. The new look of the Hangouts interface follows the design language used across Google’s many properties on the web. Thanks to the optimized layout, there is now more real estate for the actual live video feed, leading to a better and more immersive user experience.

Besides the revamped look, Hangouts now support screen sharing, which Google said, “Has graduated from Hangouts with Extras.” Hangouts screen sharing is designed to enable anyone to easily share what is on his or her computer screen with everyone in the hangout. Google noted that many other extras would soon graduate to Hangouts.

Read more

Google Plus amps advertising with Muppets: New commercials spotlight Hangouts feature

Google accelerated advertising for its social network by showcasing Jim Henson’s The Muppets in a new commercial about the Google Plus Hangouts feature.

The Muppets performed an impromptu band session as they rocked out to a cover of  “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie through a Google Plus Hangout. Google explained that Hangouts are the “best way” for users to say: “I’m online and want to hangout!”

A Hangout lets users “chill with friends that are scrolling the web,” “use live video chat,” or “coordinate plans.” In other words, the feature is essentially a hyped-up video conferencing capability through Google Plus. The multi-person video chat tool allows up to 10 participants to hang out for free.

Google recently released a trio of new television commercials that promote its social network by featuring Hangouts with the Muppets, NBA announcers, Steve Kerr, Spero Dedes, Bill Walton, Kenny Smith, and Jon Barry. This is not the first time Google collaborated with the The Muppets to advertise one of its products. There was another Muppets Hangout Nov. 7, and the search engine giant celebrated the 75th birthday of Muppet creator Jim Henson by forming an interactive Muppets’ logo for Google.

Read more

Google and Mozilla Firefox deal is a ‘partnership': Chrome engineer sets the record straight with rant

Google renewed its search bar collaboration last week with Mozilla, effectively keeping Firefox in business, and the transaction has caused a Chrome engineer to come forth and defend the alliance.

According to The Mozilla Blog, Google paid just shy of $300 million per year to be the default choice in Mozilla’s Firefox browser. The total amount is almost $1 billion, a large leap from its previous arrangement, due to competing interest from both Microsoft and Yahoo.

Chrome engineer Peter Kasting spent Christmas Eve posting a Google Plus “rant” to discuss how misunderstood the transaction is amidst a firestorm of media reports that accuse the search engine giant of funding a web competitor.

Referencing MG Siegler’s Google Plus post on the matter, Kasting felt compelled to respond.

“People never seem to understand why Google builds Chrome no matter how many times I try to pound it into their heads,” wrote Kasting. ” It’s very simple: the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible. That’s it.”

Read more

Google Plus implements ‘a few big improvements’ for the New Year

Google Plus announced a “goodie basket” of functional features and big improvements for the upcoming New Year on its Official Google Blog today.

Bradley Horowitz, vice president of Google Plus product, posted the blog and claimed the new features were on everyone’s wish list.

The first feature mentioned is “Pump up (or down) the volume,” and through the addition, Google will enable users to fine-tune their streams.

“When viewing the stream for a particular circle, you’ll now see a slider at the top that lets you adjust how posts from that circle should be blended into the main stream,” wrote Horowitz in the blog post. “That way you’ll never miss a post from that special someone, and you can tweak these settings to form your own ‘perfect stream.’”

The first big improvement discussed in the blog is “More useful and attractive notifications,” and with it, Google offers sneak previews to allow users efficient social content navigation… Read more

Google+ updates: Hangout on any post, initiate Hangouts from your phone (Bonus: Raindeer faces)

Google’s Vic Gundotra just announced on his Google+ page a host of new Hangouts features meant to “go beyond the status update”. In short, you can now hangout on any post (an invitation will be added to the comments), call any phone number in the world and conference in anyone (free outbound calls to US and Canada, international calling rates are “super, super low”) and initiate a hangout session from the official Google+ app for Android or iPhone by tapping the new hangout icon.

The executive also shared an interesting milestone for Hangouts on Air, saying “hundreds of people” whitelisted as part of their trial now have the ability to broadcast their hangouts to the world. “Our goal is to enable this for everyone on the planet”, Gundotra noted. Initiating a Hangout session from your phone requires a new Google+ app, which will be available in Android Market within a few days, Google said (“coming soon” to the App Store).

The official Google blog has more information.

Read more

Google polishes up Google+ advertising for Thanksgiving

Google has posted a nice new promo clip for Google+ to their YouTube channel, just in time for the official start of the holiday shopping season. Surprisingly, it isn’t about discounts or deals as Google opted for a different approach.

It’s entitled “Circles Love Story” and illustrates vividly “new ways of sharing the right things with the right people”. So, a guy meets this girl and puts her in the “Love of my Life” circle on Google+. Ring a bell?. She returns the favor by putting him in the Creepers circle, but soon changes her mind and moves him around a bit until he ends up in…

Just watch the clip above. Google also polished up the original Google+ advert and introduced a new tagline. Both the original and new advert are right after the break. Speaking of holidays, have you seen a Thanksgiving Google Doodle that lets you customize a virtual turkey?

Read more

Games earns a spot on the homepage of Google+

Google+ engineer Vermont Lasmarias revealed today that a new section displaying all of your recently played games has been added to the Google+ homepage. The new section can be found in the bottom left, and allows you to quickly launch into a game where you left off.  Luckily, if you’re not a fan of the new games section, or just want to free up your side bar, you can get rid of the widget right from the homepage too.

 

Google releases new Reader redesign, featuring Google Plus integration

Google announced on their blog last week that they’d be redesigning Google Reader, and today the redesign has hit the interwebs. The redesign takes shape like almost every other Google product in terms of color, shapes, and speed.

Google Reader now also features Google+  functionality built in, after turning off friending and following in Reader. Users will be able to +1 a post and then from there have the ability to share it with their Google+ friends. Check it out after the break.

The redesign will begin rolling out to users in the coming days, so hold tight if you’re not yet seeing it. For me, the new redesign is welcomed, because I thought the last one was just plain bleh. Having the new look around Google is giving the company a cutting edge feel.

Read more

Google Reader to get redesign and Google+ integration next week

Google just announced on their Reader blog this afternoon, that Google Reader will be receiving an updated redesign to match many other products next week. When it comes to social features that Reader already has, Google will be removing friending, following, and shared links and implementing Google+ features instead.

The new redesign will most likely look like the redesign we’ve already seen across Mail, Docs, Maps, and more. Personally, I welcome the new theme, because currently I don’t think Reader looks good. I also like Google’s efforts to make their products look better.