My take on the Google-eBay deal: Google Talk isn't interested ... (Russell Shaw/IP Telephony, VoIP ...)

My take on the Google-eBay deal: Google Talk isn't interested in Internet telephony's full potential  —  While I believe it is a smart move for Google to work with Skype-owner eBay for click-to-call functionality within ads that run on Google, there's another side to this deal that I'm wondering …

Source:   IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband
Author:   Russell Shaw
Link:   http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=1218

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Great shot - where'd you take that? (Stewart Butterfield/FlickrBlog)

Great shot - where'd you take that?  —  Flickr's great for exploring photos by photographer, tag, time, text and group, and now it's also great for exploring photos by place.  There are a couple of short video tutorials (or "screencasts") which give the 90 second overview on how to geotag …

Source:   FlickrBlog
Author:   Stewart Butterfield
Link:   http://blog.flickr.com/flickrblog/2006/08…

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Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last (Virginia Heffernan/New York Times)

Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last  —  Left, Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times; right, Seokyong Lee for The New York Times  —  EIGHT months ago a mysterious image showed up on YouTube, the video-sharing site that now shows more than 100 million videos a day.

Source:   New York Times
Author:   Virginia Heffernan
Link:   http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/27/arts/television…

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Undiscovered Events, Flickr Integration, and More (Waxpancake/upcoming.org)

Undiscovered Events, Flickr Integration, and More  —  Yeah, we've been busy.  What's new?  Undiscovered events, Flickr photos for events, buddy icons, new event pages, and more than we can remember.  —  Undiscovered Events  —  Since we launched almost three years ago …

Source:   upcoming.org
Author:   Waxpancake
Link:   http://upcoming.org/news/archives/2006/08/28/undiscov/

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Free Streaming Quotes On Yahoo Finance


Free streaming stock quotes have made an appearance on Yahoo! Finance with little to no fanfare. Above the charts on the individual stock pages and on Yahoo Finance's front page you will see . Click the "On" button provides a drop down display of streaming stock price information. Click on the "?" and learn that you can leave this open for up to 25 minutes and although these are streaming, they are not "real-time". They are delayed 15 minutes.

Streaming quotes has only been offered with real-time information as part of a Yahoo Finance premium service package.

Google announces office suite

google apps for your domainToday Google announced Google Apps for Your Domain. Through this new service, Google is offering free private label email, instant messaging and calendar tools.

The web-based applications are built on the same free Google applications you are used to like Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator, but with the addition of your unique branding and interface design. Users have the ability to totally switch up the colors and logos used in the page layout.

Google originally launched the Gmail for your domain in February 2006 for select users to test out. In the main administration account, users can manage and set up email addresses and distribution lists through an easy to use control panel. With the Google Apps for your Domain service, it makes it extremely easy for smaller businesses to manage their information more efficiently, without costly additions to email software, upgrades, and IT staffing.

The free, ad-supported service that is launching today is still in a beta form, and consists of 2 gigabytes of email storage for each user in the system that is currently built for US-English only. (Google is currently working to develop the service in other languages) Google is working on a premium version of Google Apps for your Domain for more advanced users, and will release more details and pricing soon.

eBay to display Google Ads

ebay to display google adseBay is set to display Google Ads, in a deal that will specifically utilize Google's "click-to-call" ads linking up shoppers with merchants.

eBay and Google made the announcements Monday, with both companies aiming at complementing each others strengths. Google will be the sole provider of text-based ads found on eBay. In the deal, eBay will be working closer with Google to optimize its online ads. In an effort to streamline the process of connecting shoppers with auction listings. The click-to-call ads that Google has developed, leveraging both Google and Skype's functionality in auctions to bring buyers and merchants or advertisers in touch directly.

The Google, eBay deal will start testing in early 2007. On a side note, I have personally noticed quite a bit more eBay results in Google search queries within the past month. I'm not sure if there has been some early testing going on, but it looks like eBay, and eBay auctioneers are working on some better Search Engine Optimization techniques.

Edit web pages in real time in Opera

opera reload from cache webmaster toolOpera 9 has a neat little feature that lets users, specifically webmasters, play with live website code, and then run it in the cache. This Opera browser option allows users to load a webpage, view and edit the source code, and click the "Reload from cache" button to check out the changes made to the site. The site then runs from the user's cache, playing back any changes made in the code. This is a nice little option if you like tinkering with code to try and find out techniques, tips and tricks of other developers.

[via GoogleSystem]

Windows Live Hotspot Locator

windows live hotspot locatorMicrosoft is working hard at beefing up its "Live" service offering. Right now it seems like they have everything under the sun listed in Windows Live. Current offerings include Mail, Messenger, Gallery, Mail Desktop, Q & A, Product Search, and now the Windows Live Hotspot Locator.

The Windows Live Hotspot Locator is actually a nice way to check for WiFi access, both free and paid. Simply visit the site, enter your country, state/ province, zip code, city, a distance radius, and whether you are on the hunt for paid, free, or both types of WiFi access. Windows Live generates a list, complete with address, location name, and who the Hotspot providers are. You can select a location from the list, and get to page dedicated to them showing a Microsoft Virtual Earth map, with pinpointed location. Now if they can only make that list accessible when you arent connected and looking for a connection!

Flickr adds mapping, geotagging

Flickr map
Today Flickr seriously pumped up its geotagging support and added Yahoo! Maps integration. The announcement in the Flickr blog links to a few screencast tutorials that make geotagging, i.e. associating photos with particular locations on the map, look pretty easy. It's done through the Flash Ajax-based Organizr tool, and basically you select a bunch of your photos and then drag them to the location you want to tag them with on the map. Similarly, you can explore other people's photos with a new map interface. You can go to flickr.com/map to see everybody's photos and search by location and/or tag. Naturally, it's all done through the Yahoo! Maps API, which means you can zoom and pan around as well as see a satellite photo or hybrid view of the map. The Flickr update also includes integration with Upcoming.org: you can now tag your photos with a special tag for an Upcoming.org event and they'll be displayed on the Upcoming page for that event. Neat.

[Via Waxy.org]

Google announces Webmaster Central

Google announces Webmaster CentralAnyone eager to climb Google's pagerankings - listen up, as Google has just introduced a slew of tools specifically designed to allow webmasters to learn more about and interact with Google's crawling and indexing systems. Complete with a topic-specific blog, this new Webmaster Central service offers tools like a site status wizard (I thought we were getting away from 'wizards' in the industry), statistics, diagnostics and sitemap submission tools, as well as a discussion group and a webmaster help center for good measure.

I took a quick breeze through the offerings in Webmaster Central, and it looks like a fairly comprehensive set of tools. Of course, with Google's typical track record for pricing with similar services, everything under the Webmaster Central umbrella is free, so what are you waiting for?

Survey Of Client Apps Using The Web Platform

Written by Alex Iskold and edited by Richard MacManus.

In this post, we survey a range of client applications which utilize the new web platform. This is a follow-up to our Web Platform Primer post a few days ago, in which we explained the building blocks of the new Web infrastructure: 

web computing platform
The Web Computing Platform

Essentially the building blocks are foundational services from Internet companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft - which combine to form a Web development platform. Indeed a couple of days we saw Amazon add to the platform with a limited beta 'Compute' service, called Elastic Compute Cloud. All of these services facilitate a new breed of software: smart desktop and browser applications that use the Web Platform as their backbone. 

Storage Services

Storage Services

In this category there is Amazon S3 and openomy. Amazon S3 has a wide variety of clients using it. Firstly, there are personal backup applications like Jungle Disk and Elephant Drive. Another common use case for S3 is storing large media files - the Amazon S3 success stories page features MediaSilo video storage and SmugMug on-line photo sharing. A webtop application called YouOS is also using Amazon S3 to store user information. Finally, there are two other applications listed in the success stories section: MyOwnDB, which allows users to define and store their personal information in the form database tables; and the blueorganizer smart browser extension for Firefox, developed by my [Alex's] company adaptiveblue.

The only example app using the openomy site is a very basic RSS application, built using Ruby on Rails. 

Continue reading "Survey Of Client Apps Using The Web Platform"

Web Office update - Google and Zoho make moves

Lately there's been an increasing buzz about Web Office, something which I've been writing about for some time now. Red Herring magazine wrote an article with the provocative headline 17 MS Office Killers. While it would be quite a story if Microsoft did get usurped by a Web-based Office, the reality is that Microsoft will - over time - move their Office suite online. Or at the least end up with a hybrid desktop/Web suite.

office liveAs Don Dodge noted, Microsoft has already made a start with Office Live. So nothing is going to 'kill' Microsoft Office, at least not in the next 5-10 years.

There are however viable alternatives to Microsoft Office springing up. Red Herring identified ThinkFree, Zoho and gOffice (not affiliated with Google) as 3 likely candidates to create a Web Office suite. Personally I think you can add Zimbra, JotSpot, Goowy and Google itself to that list - even though each of them has work to do yet to get to a full suite. However Aaron Ricadela from InformationWeek makes a good case for Google Office - he says it's on the way.

I'll be profiling all of them on Read/WriteWeb over the next couple of months. In the meantime here's a quick overview of some of the leading Web Office contenders right now...

Google

You can't go past the Mountain View upstarts as the most likely to challenge Microsoft. Already they have Writely, a spreadsheet, Calendar, email and a few other Suite products under their wing. There are signs that Google is bringing it all together - the latest being the release of Google Apps for Your Domain (another poorly named Google product!). This offers private-labeled email, IM and calendar tools to small businesses. Om Malik is unimpressed, noting the potential privacy implications.

I liked Om's summary of the Web Office in a previous post: "Web Office should not be about replacing the old, but inventing the new web apps that solve some specific problems." Exactly! Dan Farber also has some interesting views on a Google office.

For my own views on what should make up a Web Office, check out Analysis: Google Spreadsheet and Web Office and Why you need a Web Office. Heck you may as well browse through my Web Office category on ZDNet! ;-)

Zoho

zoho projectsZoho is certainly building up its suite of products quite nicely. Recently it released Zoho Projects, an online project management tool. But rather than being directly competitive with Microsoft, if anything Zoho Project is taking aim at 37Signals. When I wrote a post entitled Web Office Suite: best of breed products in February, I identified Basecamp as the best-of-breed online project management tool. I said at the time that Basecamp "continues to set the pace. It features message boards, to-do lists, simple scheduling, collaborative writing, and file sharing."

Marshall at TechCrunch did a good review of Zoho Projects and this quote sums up the main differentiator: "The Zoho team told me that if Basecamp targets “the less is more crowd,” ZohoProjects will be feature rich."

Zoho will also soon release a single sign-on feature, so that the full range of Zoho products can be used more like a Web Office suite. Currently they're separate, although Zoho does have a product called Zoho Virtual Office, which is described as "groupware" and has things like email, IM and calendar.

See also my coverage of ZohoShow and ZohoWriter. I certainly think Zoho has all the pieces now, so it's just a matter of hooking them all together and continuing to improve each product offering.

ThinkFree

thinkfreeThinkFree is a Korean company which has also an impressive web-based Suite of products. ThinkFree bills itself as the "World's Best Web Based Office Suite". When I interviewed ThinkFree CEO TJ Kang in early May, he compared ThinkFree favorably with Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice (a desktop product). TJ Kang said they were more compatible with MS Office than OpenOffice - "especially with the spreadsheet and presentation". See also my follow-up post. In summary, I think ThinkFree is a solid Web Office suite offering - and like Zoho will continue to improve in functionality over time.

Zimbra

zimbraI recently wrote about Zimbra in my web mail overview. Currently they have a mini-suite of Web Office products. The Zimbra Collaboration Suite has email, contacts, group calendaring, word processing and spreadsheets. The latter two were added recently, as part of the launch of Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) 4.0. So Zimbra is continuing to bulk up their Web Office Suite credentials.

In my full review of Zimbra back in April, I was impressed that Zimbra is packed full of features. They have mashups and things like "Search Builder" and an RSS reader.

Summary

There is much more to explore on this topic, and more companies to mention, so over time I'll be investigating Web Office further on R/WW. For now it seems like Google is the one to watch, plus the reactions of Microsoft to that threat. But don't discount the small players, like Zoho and ThinkFree. There is a lot of innovation happening in this space, so it's not all about the big companies battling it out for dominance.

Flickr Adds Geotagging

Thanks to new integration with Yahoo Maps, the popular photo-sharing site now lets users add location data to their photos. In Monkey Bites.

Google Makes Its Move: Office 2.0

Google has deployed the first pieces of its upcoming Office suite. They’ve launched Google Apps for your Domain, a set of Google services targeted to small and mid sized companies. With the new service, companies can use Gmail, Talk, Calendar and Page Creator under a single control panel. Applications and data will be hosted by [...]

Google scores eBay international advertising deal

One more giant advertising partnership was announced today, and this could be one of the biggest yet. EBay has announced that Google will serve up text ads on its sites outside the US. The sum was undisclosed, but must be gargantuan. Half of eBay buyers are reported to live outside the US [...]

Flickr Geo Tagging Now Live

Flickr added geo tagging functionality and search to its service earlier today. Adding location information on Flickr is done through the Organizr, under the Organize tab. In addition to the “Your Sets” and “Your Groups” tabs in that area, they will add a Maps tab where you can drag photos into a Yahoo Map area. [...]

Announcing Yahoo (Open) Developer Hack Day

A few months ago I was able to hang out at Yahoo Hack Day, and see first hand the energy that developers are willing to put in to their own projects and ideas. Yahoo is now taking the Hack Day idea one step further. On Friday, September 29, 2006, Yahoo will open up its Sunnyvale [...]

U. of California Will Provide Up to 3,000 Books a Day to Google ... (Scott Carlson/Chronicle of Higher ...)

U. of California Will Provide Up to 3,000 Books a Day to Google for Scanning, Contract States  —  A mere two months after the University of California begins its book-digitization project with Google, the university may provide the search company with a whopping 3,000 books a day for scanning.

Source:   Chronicle of Higher Education
Author:   Scott Carlson
Link:   http://chronicle.com/free/2006/08/2006082501t.htm

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Google's geeky queen of the search-o-sphere (Jane Martinson/Guardian)

Google's geeky queen of the search-o-sphere  —  The internet executive is on a constant search for the 'next big thing' - just now she has TV stations worried  —  Marissa Mayer should be spending today programming some LED light strings for an art installation in her home.

Source:   Guardian
Author:   Jane Martinson
Link:   http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0…

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Google fixes Calendar and Notifier for Mac users

Filed under: , , ,

google calendar and notifier for macGoogle has always been a little slow at developing its applications for Mac users. Google Calendar and Gmail Notifier for the Mac platform have always had performance issues, especially in Safari. But not anymore.

The Google Blog has just informed us that the Mac Team has been working on creating better user experiences for Mac users, and have just released better Safari support for Google Calendar, and a Mac upgrade for the Gmail Notifier. Calendar now works perfectly with Safari, and Notifier now has notifications for upcoming events and unread mail, as well as new icons and custom sounds.

The new Ruby web site

Filed under: ,

The new ruby-lang.orgI'm a big fan of the Ruby programming language, as won't surprise long-time readers, so I'm excited to report that Ruby's progenitors are getting ready to launch the new ruby-lang.org. The new site, which is residing at new.ruby-lang.org while the final bugs are ironed out, has a brand new design which, in my opinion, is a huge step forward. It seems intended to give those who are new to the language a very quick overview of what it looks like and then let them dive straight in. At the top of the front page is a short description of the language's main selling points alongside a short code sample. There's a "Get Started" box to the right that links to _why's superb Try Ruby, the Ruby download page, a 20-minute tutorial, and guides for those coming from other languages. The front page also includes a blog with recent Ruby news, natch.

[Via RedHanded]

Flickr uploading on Linux, pt. 3: F-Spot

Filed under: , , , , ,

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on uploading photos to Flickr from your Linux box (part 1 looked at jUploadr, & part 2 touched on Digikam). I'm assuming you already know what Flickr is and you have a Flickr account, and now you want to bulk upload photos to Flickr from your Linux box. In my case, I'm using Kubuntu, but the software I cover should work for you regardless of distro.

Our software for today is the quickly-increasing-in-popularity F-Spot. Of course, it's also a bit controversial, seeing as it's built with Mono, but we can ignore that today. I wrote a column for Linux Magazine about F-Spot a while ago, while it was still pretty immature, but it's gotten better. If you use GNOME, then you're probably using F-Spot; if you use KDE, you're probably using Digikam, which we covered yesterday, as both programs are the premier photo management apps for their respective desktop environments (each will run, however, in the other's desktop environment, so you can use F-Spot on KDE, for instance).

Once F-Spot is open, select the pix you want to publish to the Web, and then go to File > Export > Export to Flickr.

F-Spot export

As with the other proggies, you have to authorize the app with Flickr. Beyond that, you can set permissions for viewing, resize the images, remove metadata (though why you'd want to do that is beyond me), and - finally! - export your tags from F-Spot to Flickr. This is great, because tagging is key to Flickr's awesomeness, and F-Spot's ability to manage tags is MUCH MUCH MUCH improved from where it used to be, to the point that it's actually pretty easy to tag pix in F-Spot. Just make sure that the tags you're using in F-Spot are in fact the tags you want to use on Flickr!

F-Spot is another photo management tool, so it may be overkill for those interested in a simple, does-one-thing-only tool to upload pix to Flickr. But it's a very good photo management tool - in many ways better than Digikam - so it might be a better choice for many folks.

Tune in tomorrow for our last app!

Richard Bangs Adventure Ends for Yahoo!

Filed under: ,

Yahoo!'s Richard Bangs Adventures
After a year's presence on Yahoo!, the Richard Bangs Adventures travelogue couldn't locate the minimum million followers it needed to continue. As a result, Yahoo! is pulling the plug on it.

Bangs and Kevin Sites were the poster children for Yahoo!'s exclusive content campaign last year. The Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone war zone commentary was able to garner the minimum traffic needed to continue on.

So far no other Yahoo! exclusive content contributors are reported to be discontinued.

Googleholic for August 25th, 2006

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googleholic
In this issue of Googleholic we cover:
  • Google vs Brazil
  • Dutch farmer's vs Google
  • Google Base API
  • Drive a Ferrari 275 GTB through the streets of Paris
  • Google Maps Creation Tools and Resources
  • Salesforce.com released a Google Marketing tool
  • Google Japan
  • Google iPod
Welcome to Friday's Googleholic...

Google vs. Brazil
Brazil wants Google to hand over information about some accounts from Google's social network Orkut. Brazil is threatening to shut down Google's Brazil operations if they don't comply with their demands.

Dutch farmers vs. Google
A dating site built specifically for Dutch farmers just lost a court case against Google. The site farmdate.nl demanded that Google stop publishing sponsored links to sex sites for query results for "farm date".

Google Base API
Google just announced a release of the API that allows developers to write applications that dynamically interact with Google Base.

Drive a Ferrari 275 GTB through the streets of Paris
A French filmmaker tied a camera onto his friend's Ferrari, and now you can watch the movie, and follow the route live with Google Maps.
[Via Google Maps Mania]

Google Maps Creation Tools and Resources
Google Maps Mania has a giant list of tools and resources for creating and enhancing Google Maps mashups.

Salesforce.com released a Google Marketing tool
This new tool will help customers manage ads, and measure their success. The new service is said to cost $300 per month. There is also a free 30 day trial.

Google Japan
A film crew stopped by to shoot some footage of the Google Japan office, here are the results.
[Via Philipp Lenssen]

Google iPod wrap
Just in case you need to see the Google logo wherever you go.

The past week in Google News
Keep up on your Google news by staying tuned in for Tuesday's Googleholic edition!

If you have any tips, tricks, or anything Google, you can always drop us a line!

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) from Amazon

Filed under: ,

Amazon Elastic Compute CloudAmazon has just launched Elastic Compute Cloud (or EC2), a "Tier 0" service in the same vein as S3 (Simple Storage Service, launched earlier this year), but for processing power instead of storage. Amazon describes EC2 as "a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud ... designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers." Developers can run anything they want on EC2--web servers, database servers, game servers, 3D renderers--though currently only Linux is supported. The way it works is this: You create an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) which contains your environment, programs, data, and so on and upload it to EC2 (or choose one of Amazon's "pre-configured, templated images), then use the EC2 web service to configure its security and network access. Then you can programatically "start, terminate, and monitor as many instances of your AMI as needed" on the fly. According to Amazon, each instance "predictably provides the equivalent of a system with a 1.7Ghz Xeon CPU, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth," which is, well, a whole lot of power.

For what you get, EC2 is fairly inexpensive, though that's to be expected having seen the pricing for S3. Here's the rundown:
  • Pay only for what you use.
  • $0.10 per instance-hour consumed (or part of an hour consumed).
  • $0.20 per GB of data transferred outside of Amazon (i.e., Internet traffic).
  • $0.15 per GB-Month of Amazon S3 storage used for your images (charged by Amazon S3).
If you're using it 24/7, that comes out to about $74 per month per instance, which isn't bad when compared to a dedicated server with similar specs. And if you're not using it constantly, the deal is even sweeter. The biggest advantage, though, is that you can start and stop new instances on the fly: Whereas setting up an additional dedicated server can take days, with EC2 it takes minutes, and since it can be controlled programmatically, you can set you programs up to automatically start or stop instances without your interaction.

Windows Live Search for video launched

Windows Live.com Video Search

Yesterday Microsoft announced the addition of video search to Windows Live.com Search, the currently-in-beta successor to MSN Search. The results are clean and uncluttered and the index seems to be pretty robust. Each result shows a thumbnail image and the video's title, length, and a short description where available. It pulls results from many sites, including big-media sites like ABC and Comedy Central as well as the new generation of social sites like YouTube and Grouper. Beyond that, there's little to report, but it does serve as a nice complement to Live.com's existing web and image search offerings.

[Via Don Dodge]

Blogs missing from Yahoo! News search results

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Yahoo! NewsIt was almost a year ago when Yahoo! began including blogs as a subset of it's Y! News search results pages. Tonight I have notice that they are missing. There was a struggle as whether to include them within the News Search results or segregate them as was finally decided. I wonder if the battle with this decision is continuing.

No clues anywhere about not including them in search results anymore. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Interview with George Moore, GM Windows Live

george mooreAt the Microsoft TechEd conference in Auckland on Monday, I got a chance to sit down with George Moore - GM for the Windows Live Developer Platform. He is of course based in Redmond, but was over in NZ for TechEd.

I started off by asking George about the "largest blogging service on the planet" quote from his presentation that morning, in reference to Live Spaces. Ex-Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble had taken issue with it and the story ended up number 1 on Techmeme. George said it was a "tempest in a teapot" and that the more important point is the relative amount of growth of photos on Spaces - 5 million photos being added each day. I prodded a little to see if he knew Google's blogger.com numbers, but he didn't. In any case, if you want to see George's quote in full context at TechEd in Auckland, it's available on video.

Here is an edited transcript of the rest of the interview...

RICHARD: Talking about general stats, this morning you gave some very impressive numbers about Windows Live. They indicate that the Live platform has already gained a significant user base (much of it from previous MSN-branded services). A lot of the Live products are still in beta though (e.g. Mail, Shopping, live.com itself). So where would you say Windows Live is at currently in terms of product rollouts - will things start to come out of beta when Vista is launched, for example?

GEORGE: Well actually you're starting to see a number of the websites losing the beta designation and the trend looks alright. I can't say the specific date when everything's going to be out of beta, but certainly it's going to be this year - ahead of Vista.

RICHARD: Gadgets, or mini applications, are becoming increasingly important on the Web - they can be added to personalized start pages (like live.com), to social networks (MySpace is a popular platform for mini-apps), and even in normal blogs/webpages. You also showed one today that was integrated with Windows Live Mail...

GEORGE: The Live Mail example was to illustrate the gadget architecture. In fact Windows Live Mail is built on the same gadget architecture, as is Spaces. So the basic kernal pieces are identical and used and reused across the Windows Live services. The important point is not that we're asking developers to go out and build gadgets because we think it's a good idea. We're self-hosting them ourselves - actually building our own services out of that same architecture. We're dog-fooding those pieces and we're achieving fairly massive amounts of scale using the same architecture.

RICHARD: Perhaps the most exiting part about gadgets is when future technologies start hosting gadgets - Xbox, mobile phones, television/Media Center. Can you tell us a bit more about the larger, future, vision for gadgets for MS?

GEORGE: It really depends upon the capabilities of the browser. I mean obviously you're not going to run gadgets as they exist today with Ajax inside. In mobile alone that's going to lack a significant Javascript interpreter and the xhtml request pieces and all those components. So in many cases it's dependent more on the capabilities in the underlying browser. In the case of Windows Media Center, you're running IE at that point - so there's no reason why you couldn't run a gadget in that case anyway. It'd be a ten foot UI experience as opposed to a two foot experience. But architecturally there's nothing different because you're just running on top of IE.

RICHARD: So that's part of your vision, to have gadgets running on all sorts of devices - not just the PC...

GEORGE: Well certainly having the user have access to their content from any number of different devices, is certainly part of the vision. We've been talking about that for almost a year now. The technological means of how that data is rendered will be dependent on the underlying capabilities of the device and where the device is predominantly used - and ten foot vs two foot UIs in mobiles and intermittedly connected vs always connected... that sort of thing. And that goes hand in hand anyway with the Live Anywhere vision around the gaming - and all those pieces as well. 

RICHARD: Is a lot of that outside Microsoft's control - in that it needs other parts of the infrastructure to come together. For example with mobile phones, the platform isn't quite ready yet.

GEORGE: For traditional mobile phones, yes. I mean you have fairly anemic browsers in those mobile phones today, but for Windows Mobile phones increasingly you'll see more capabilities being added into the browser. But that's just the normal evolution of things, that devices get smarter, more transisters, making use of the transisters, that sort of thing. 

RICHARD: The Vista Sidebar is an interesting development. As Vista hasn't yet been released, most people probably don't fully understand how Windows Live and gadgets will interact with Vista and the sidebar. I wonder if you could walk us through the high level of how that Web/desktop integration will work once Vista is released? 

GEORGE: The gadget architecture can actually render to any number of different technologies. It can render to DHTML, to Avalon, etc. So it would be up to the gadget author to detect if they're running on a Vista machine, if they choose. They could just write a standard straight-up vanilla gadget that renders to dhtml - and it would work on live.com and Vista sidebar. However they could detect the fact it's running on Vista and say: I'm on a more capable machine, I want to do something fancy with Avalon, some translucent GUI effects or whatever it is - or I'd like to be smart about being intermittedly connected... so it's really up to the imagination of the gadget author as to how far they want to push the boundaries, of leveraging the underlying hardware on the platform.

RICHARD: So the sidebar is quite a key element of vista - it seems like it's being positioned as a crucial intermediary between the Web and the desktop. Is that correct?

GEORGE: Well it's a handy docking space for people to be able to have ready access to bite-sized bits of information. That's the whole vision around the gadgets anyway. 

RICHARD: What are the most innovative Windows Live products in your opinion currently? I know it's early days, but are there one or two products that you think point to the future and are really innovative in nature. E.g. you mentioned Messenger Bots this morning, which are like automated agents. That seems pretty innovative to me, but I wanted to get your pointers on other interesting Live products/apps worth keeping an eye on. 

GEORGE: Well certainly the increased capabilities of running gadgets in Spaces, as Spaces continues to evolve and grow in that sense. It's interesting to think about Messenger and being able to de-compose parts of the Messenger experience. So things like the chat window itself is logically separate from presence, which is logically separate from the contacts, and things like that. So I think you're starting to see a generalised trend that this componentization metaphor is essentially de-composition of things like Messenger into its component hostable parts. 

The first example of this is the Contacts gadget, where we're essentially taking out the contacts information on Messenger and enabling it to be hosted standalone on a site. So when you say innovative features, you really have to differentiate between the finished services that we provide - Mail, Messenger and Spaces - and what capabilities we can provide for APIs inside vs the infrastructure pieces. The underlying pieces around why the Contacts gadget, for example, runs independent of Messenger and doesn't require the Messenger client to be installed on the user's machine. 

We want to provide this a la carte, you choose whatever APIs you want and push together - that's just how Windows itself bootstrapped. Because we can never predict [what people want] in various geographies worldwide - given users tastes, demographics. And the inventiveness of developers worldwide is astounding. We can't predict this, we don't want to be in the business of writing every single application. You will see us writing [apps/services], just as in the case of Office (which is a very horizontally available, broad set of applications). We do the same thing for Messenger and Mail, but there's lots of opportunities to do all sorts of innovative things using the base infrastructure.

RICHARD: Darryl Burling (a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft NZ) mentioned today at TechEd about being able to create "your own gadget-enabled website" using Atlas - which will enables developers to create rich interactive web pages. Can you explain a bit more about this? What kind of websites do you envisage people making?

GEORGE: If you go to atlas.asp.net, you can download the Atlas SDK. It works if your site is hosting ASP.Net, and there's a PHP version as well, and you just basically install this on your site and then users who visit your site essentially download the necessary client-side components - in order to do effective rendering of whatever you scripted/wrote.

So there's technically and legally - technically the bits are on atlas.asp.net for you to download. Legally there is a Go Live license that lets you  legally start to build businesses upon that if you so choose. Even ahead of a formal release, at which time it will become a supported Microsoft product.

RICHARD: Finally, is the Windows Live rollout closely aligned to the Vista rollout?

GEORGE: Logically they're disconnected. If you followed the re-org mails from a couple of months ago, there is alignment now in the management team. Steve Sinofsky's group is responsible for both the Windows Vista user experience piece as well as the Windows Live user experience piece - so there's unification from the organisational perspective, but not from a scheduling perspective.

Summary

To conclude the interview, George said they are very interested in feedback regarding things like the Contacts gadget - they routinely read the forums and blogs for feedback. He also noted that they can't predict every scenario that matters to people - so if you have ideas or specific scenarios for the Windows Live platform, you should contact the Windows Live team and let them know.

Photo: mobileme

Amazon Launches Elastic Compute Cloud

amazon wsAmazon has just released a companion product to its online storage solution S3. With a name almost as surreal as Mechanical Turk (which is Amazon's collective intelligence service), the new 'compute' service is called Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. It all sounds like a Terry Gilliam movie, but it is Amazon at its innovative best once again. Here's the official blurb:

"Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers.

Just as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) enables storage in the cloud, Amazon EC2 enables "compute" in the cloud."

For the tech skinny, check out Sergey Schetinin's write-up.

Interestingly Alex Iskold predicted a compute service from Amazon in a R/WW post just a couple of days ago!! If you haven't yet read Alex's Web Platform Primer - what's available via API?, then I thoroughly recommend it. He really captures the high level of why products like Amazon EC2 are increasingly important in today's Web landscape.

Note that Amazon EC2 is currently "a limited beta", available only to "a select group of developers [...] who have been making Amazon Web Services requests in the past month." Thanks Sergey and Alex for the heads-up (they both got the email announcement).

Windows Live breaks into Alexa Top 10

liveDespite all the broohaha over whether Spaces is the biggest blog service on the planet, it's apparent that Windows Live is making an impact on the Web. After being around for less than a year, Alexa now ranks Live.com (and all its sub-domains) as the 10th biggest property on the Web. And yet it doesn't seem to be affecting MSN.com's traffic that much. MSN is still the 2nd ranked property on the Web, behind Yahoo.com and ahead of Google.

Here is the relative ranking for the live.com sub-domains:

- login.live.com 59%
- mail.live.com 20%
- spaces.live.com 15%
- get.live.com 2%
- live.com 1%
- ideas.live.com 1%
- help.live.com 1%
- Other websites 1%

The login.live.com domain is essentially Microsoft Passport - and note that when you sign into certain MSN properties, it'll re-direct through the login.live.com domain. That goes some way to explain why live.com is doing so well, but not at the expense of msn.com.

Here is the Alexa comparison chart between MSN and Live.com:

The gap is closing, but more due to Live.com's growth rather than MSN losing traffic. However as George Moore, GM for the Windows Live Developer Platform, told me earlier this week - Windows Live rollout is due for completion at the end of this year:

"Well actually you're starting to see a number of the websites losing the beta designation and the trend looks alright. I can't say the specific date when everything's going to be out of beta, but certainly it's going to be this year - ahead of Vista."

So Live.com is well and truly on track to become Microsoft's main Web property. While MSN isn't losing much ground currently, once all the current Live products go out of beta and replace the MSN versions (e.g. Live Mail for Hotmail) - expect Windows Live to take MSN's place at number 2.

Almost Exclusive: Amazon Readies Utility Computing Service

Amazon Web Services are readying their latest service called EC2 which will allow users to setup and run servers and computing capacity in the cloud. Users of the service can setup a server instance which is hosted with Amazon, and then access and use the servers they setup just like any other. With EC2 there [...]

Yahoo! inches Flickr into search

Apparently for the first time, limited photos from Flickr are now appearing in Yahoo! Search results. User driven indexing for search is part of what made Flickr exciting all along, I know it’s the first place I go to find images of plants (try searching by Latin names), places and events. Lingxian Ding wrote on the [...]

Windows Live testing video search

Windows Live.com is working on some interesting new features in their beta search service, most notably video search. It’s not on the front page yet, but on the section of the site ironically missing the word beta on its logo: beta.search.live.com. Video search is hot right now: Google gave its video search a [...]

Ottawa lawyer asks CRTC to block access to US-based hate websites (Sean Patrick Sullivan/Yahoo! News)

Ottawa lawyer asks CRTC to block access to US-based hate websites  —  TORONTO (CP) - One of two U.S.-based hate websites was taken offline Wednesday as an Ottawa lawyer and a Jewish lobby group asked Canada's telecommunications regulator to take the unprecedented step of blocking access to the sites from north of the border.

Source:   Yahoo! News
Author:   Sean Patrick Sullivan
Link:   http://news.yahoo.com/s/cpress/20060823/ca_pr_on_na…

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Exclusive: Amazon Readies Utility Computing Service (Nik Cubrilovic/TechCrunch)

Exclusive: Amazon Readies Utility Computing Service — Amazon Web Services are readying their latest service called EC2 which will allow users to setup and run servers and computing capacity in the cloud. Users of the service can setup a server instance which is hosted with Amazon …

Source: TechCrunch
Author: Nik Cubrilovic
Link: http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/08/24/exclusive-amazon…

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It's a Flickr Moment! (Yahoo! Search blog)

It's a Flickr Moment!  —  We've all had moments in our lives when we wished we had our cameras around to capture a perfect sunset, an amusing cloud shape in the sky, or a candid shot of our friends, family or pets.  That's why Flickr is so great.  It is full of these moments - as seen through the eyes of the world.

Source:   Yahoo! Search blog
Link:   http://www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000350.html

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MySpace: The Magazine - Social-Networking Site in Talks With 'Nylon' to Create Title (AdAge)

MySpace: The Magazine  —  Social-Networking Site in Talks With 'Nylon' to Create Title  —  NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Hey MySpace kids: Want to read a magazine?  If you answered yes, you may be in luck.  MySpace is actively considering whether to launch an ink-on-paper magazine to complement …

Source:   AdAge
Link:   http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=111469

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Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate Now Available (IEBlog)

Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate Now Available  —  This morning we released our first public release candidate, IE7 RC1, for Windows XP.  You can download it at http://www.microsoft.com/ie.  —  The RC1 build includes improvements in performance, stability, security, and application compatibility.

Source:   IEBlog
Author:   Ieblog
Link:   http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/08/24/715752…

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Flickr uploading on Linux, pt. 2: Digikam

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This is part 2 of a 4-part series on uploading photos to Flickr from your Linux box (see part 1, which covered jUploadr). I'm assuming you already know what Flickr is and you have a Flickr account, and now you want to bulk upload photos to Flickr from your Linux box. In my case, I'm using Kubuntu, but the software I cover should work for you regardless of distro.

Today let's take a look at Digikam, a popular KDE photo management tool that also uploads your pix to Flickr. I'm not gonna cover Digikam itself, as there are plenty of reviews of that program available on the InterWeb; instead, I'm just going to focus on Digikam's ability to interact with Flickr.

Open up Digikam, and then go to Album > Export to Flickr.

Export to Flickr from Digikam

(The first time you try to Export to Flickr, you have to authorize with Flickr, just like all the other apps we're looking at here. Do that & then come back here.) Immediately after selecting Export, you're presented with the Flickr Export window, which gives you a couple of options for the photos you've selected.

Digikam export options

First of all, press the Add Photos button & then select the images you want to upload. You can add tags to the pix you're uploading, & set the privacy options, & resize the pix to a maximum dimension. That's about it. Make yer choices, & then press OK. Your pictures start to upload, & you're finished.

If you use Digikam anyway, this is a good way to upload your pix to Flickr. If you don't use Digikam, I wouldn't start using it just to get images into Flickr, as it's too heavy of an app for a small purpose. There's overhead to Digikam that ain't worth it if all you want is a Flickr tool.

Tune in tomorrow for our next app!

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Google opens up Gmail to Japan

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google open gmail in japanGoogle has reportedly opened up access to Gmail for users in Japan, after a successful launch of open access for Australia and New Zealand users. Google is trying to raise its presence in the mobile phone capital of the world, where more people access the internet from mobile phones than from personal computers.

[via Reuters]
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Google fixes Calendar and Notifier for Mac users

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google calendar and notifier for macGoogle has always been a little slow at developing its applications for Mac users. Google Calendar and Gmail Notifier for the Mac platform have always had performance issues, especially in Safari. But not anymore.

The Google Blog has just informed us that the Mac Team has been working on creating better user experiences for Mac users, and have just released better Safari support for Google Calendar, and a Mac upgrade for the Gmail Notifier. Calendar now works perfectly with Safari, and Notifier now has notifications for upcoming events and unread mail, as well as new icons and custom sounds.

Top Web Apps in China

China flagChina is next in my series on top international Web apps. If you haven't been following, the other countries I've profiled so far have been Germany, Holland, Poland, Korea, United Kingdom, Russia and Spain. As this series has gone on, the comments have become as important as the posts - perhaps moreso. I'm hoping this post about China's Web application market is no exception, because China is (obviously) a huge country and one blog post can't hope to cover it all. So I encourage people from China who may read this, or people who are familiar with the Chinese Web, to contribute your thoughts in the comments here - and add web apps to the list. 

I have to thank several people for the information in this post: In particular Tangos Chan, who runs the excellent China Web 2.0 Review blog, and Benjamin Joffe - CEO of Asian Internet consultancy Plus Eight Star Ltd and co-founder of Mobile Monday Beijing. Also thanks to Chang W. Kim, who introduced me to Tangos and Benjamin! Sam Flemming of Chinese research company CIC Data and Micah Sittig from Shanghai also contacted me with their thoughts.

Overview of China market

Let's start with an overview of Chinese web apps. Benjamin Joffe said "there is basically at least one Chinese equivalent for every single US web2.0 service that is more than 2 months old." Here are some other characteristics of the China web scene, suggested by Tangos Chan and with further comments from Benjamin...

Big companies still dominate the market

Tangos says that so far there are no outstanding small startups that have successfully gained the attention of ordinary internet users. For example, in the blog hosting market Blogcn, Bokee and Blogbus were among the first movers. But after big companies Sina, Sohu and Baidu entered the scene, they won market share quickly [see short profiles of these companies below]

Benjamin adds that no Chinese startup that stays a startup for long - "basically they grow to over 100 staff and get their first million $ round of financing fairly quickly, or disappear." 

Chinese startups often copy the Silicon Valley model

Tangos: "Sometimes, just a copycat even without any change."

Continue reading "Top Web Apps in China"

The new Ruby web site

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The new ruby-lang.orgI'm a big fan of the Ruby programming language, as won't surprise long-time readers, so I'm excited to report that Ruby's progenitors are getting ready to launch the new ruby-lang.org. The new site, which is residing at new.ruby-lang.org while the final bugs are ironed out, has a brand new design which, in my opinion, is a huge step forward. It seems intended to give those who are new to the language a very quick overview of what it looks like and then let them dive straight in. At the top of the front page is a short description of the language's main selling points alongside a short code sample. There's a "Get Started" box to the right that links to _why's superb Try Ruby, the Ruby download page, a 20-minute tutorial, and guides for those coming from other languages. The front page also includes a blog with recent Ruby news, natch.

[Via RedHanded]
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