30 July, 2015

Facebook now lets you restrict who views videos by age and gender

As Facebook takes aim at YouTube with a growing video platform, the social network is giving advertisers and publishers more say in who sees their videos.

The company said  that video creators will now be able to restrict their audience by age and gender, in addition to the location and language options it already offered.

It's also rolling out a new "secret" mode, which makes videos playable only to those with a direct link, much like YouTube's "unlisted" function. Video publishers can now opt to turn off third-party embedding, or house videos only under a "videos" tab separate from the News Feed.

The company's video business has exploded in the past year, quadrupling its traffic. In total, Facebook videos accrue more than 4 billion views a day — though it's important to note that Facebook counts one view if you watch three seconds of a video, which is a much more lenient standard than YouTube's roughly 30 seconds.

Facebook is trying to squeeze more money out of those videos by launching new types of ads. It also wants to give advertisers targeting options that other video platforms can't offer.

Earlier this month, Facebook began testing commercial break-like ads that appear between a series of videos watched consecutively. The company is banking on users watching a string of videos in one sitting, which seems to suggest that Facebook is looking to cordon off a fully-fledged video platform rather than only letting videos float freely through user News Feeds.

The new video features seem to further this mission by creating an optional wall to separate videos from the rest of Facebook, and a labelling mechanism to group videos into categories like "entertainment" and "news."

The ability to home in on an audience is another key tenet. The masses of personal data Facebook has on its 1.44 billion users give it a leg up over the Google-owned video giant when it comes to targeting ads.

29 July, 2015

New York is now the world’s number 2 startup ecosystem

Startup data benchmarking company Compass has released its second Startup Ecosystem Report. In the three years since the previous report, New York City has overtaken Tel Aviv in the rankings to become the second most significant startup ecosystem in the world, behind (of course) Silicon Valley.

Austin, Bangalore, Singapore, and Chicago all saw gains in the new ranking table, while Vancouver, Toronto, Sydney, Tel Aviv and Seattle fell. Santiago, Melbourne and Waterloo, meanwhile, dropped out of the top 20 completely.

While the pride of more than a few local ecosystem cheerleaders in cities around the world may be hurt by seeing their city drop, the data collection this time around is much more comprehensive than 2012’s report, meaning the findings aren’t directly comparable but should be paid attention to.

Compass worked with Deloitte, Crunchbase, Orb Intelligence, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Dealroom, and 60 local partners to perform research that included conducted 200 interviews with entrepreneurs and local experts from 25 countries and data from 11,000 surveys completed by startups, investors and other stakeholders in the last five months. The work had support from Ron Berman at Wharton Business School, Dr. Thomas Funke from the German Federal Ministry for Economics and startup theorist Steve Blank.

Ecosystems were ranked by performance, funding, talent, market reach, and ‘startup experience’ (which Compass describes as “first-party survey data that is linked to success of startups, such as having veteran startup mentors or founders with previous startup experience “).
Interconnected ecosystems

The report finds that ecosystems are more interconnected than you may assume. International second offices are on the rise, and on average, 29 percent of employees across the top 20 ecosystems are foreign. Meanwhile, 37 percent of all funding rounds in the top 20 ecosystems have at least one investor from another ecosystem and 27 percent of funding rounds involve at least one foreign investor.
Gender imbalance

It’s no secret that startups founders are predominantly male, and this report finds that across the top 20 ecosystems, only 18 percent of founders are female. Chicago comes out on top in the progressiveness stakes here, with women making up 30 percent of founders.

There’s a lot more to get your teeth into in the full report, and it’s worth a read if you want to understand what the top performing ecosystems are doing right.

You can download the complete report here - Compass Startup Ecosystem Report 2015

28 July, 2015

Google bids adieu to Google+

The American search engine is finally bidding good bye to Google Plus. Yes, you read it right.

Google has spent the last several months chopping up Google Plus's most useful pieces and making them separate services as it moves away from making Google Plus the central hub for all Google-related activity.

On Monday, the company announced its most drastic step for breaking up Google Plus.

Google has announced more sweeping changes for Google Plus over the next few months as it re-structures network into two distinctly separate products – streams and photos.

Previously, many tasks within Google products (such as, say, commenting on a YouTube video) required a Google Plus profile, but that won't be the case moving forward.

"People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier," Google's Vice-President of photos and sharing, Bradley Horowitz, wrote in a company blog.

Google now says that in the coming months, you'll only need to create a Google account to do things such as creating a YouTube channel, communicating with contacts and other key functionalities.

Google also announced it's adding a new feature to the social network called Google Plus Collections, which lets users share and read posts sorted by existing topics like sneakers, gluten-free recipes and Ireland or all-new user-generated topics.

Meanwhile, the social network's location sharing ability will be moved over to Hangouts and other unspecified apps, "where it really belongs."

"We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google Plus," Horowitz wrote.

The changes also mark a symbolic end of Google Plus as a social network meant to rival Facebook.

Forcing Google users to sign up for a Google Plus account in order to the use some of the company's other products and services was a clear bid to generate interest in its social network, but it backfired with many users.

Google Plus claimed 300 million monthly active users in late 2013, although Stone Temple Consulting, a third-party digital marketing agency, pegged that figure at a far lower 111 million this past April.

"For our part, the biggest issue with Google's social network is that it just wasn't social enough - the layout of the site wasn't as inviting or friendly as Facebook's traditional layout has been and we still haven't seen any indication that Google really gets how the social web works," Google explained on its official blog.

23 July, 2015

Soon you'll be able to buy products directly from Google Search results

Soon you'll be able to buy products directly from Google Search results

Google wants to make it much easier to shop from your phone. In the next few weeks, the company is rolling out a new feature that lets you make purchases directly through Google Search results.

When an advertisement for a product appears in search results, you'll be able to click on that product and select the checkout option if you want to buy it. Here's what it will look like:
The company is also going to deep link apps from shopping ads. This means that if you have the eBay app installed on your phone, you'll be directed to the eBay app if a product from eBay appears in your search results.

Another way the company is making it easier to shop online is by rolling out a new feature called conversational voice search. This means you can ask Google Now a shopping-related query in natural language, and it will pull up an answer. For example, you can ask for the resolution of a specific camera model, and Google will pull it up.

Google is also adding a few new cards to Google Now that make it easier to shop. A new product reviews card will show you reviews for a certain product when you ask. A new price drop card will show you when a particular item is on sale, too.

21 July, 2015

Facebook will soon add a 'buy' button so you can shop from Facebook

Facebook is rolling out a new way to sell things.It's letting certain stores sell their products directly through the social network via a "buy" button on their Pages, BuzzFeed's Alex Katrowitz reports.

Although Facebook's just testing its so-called "shop section," the move makes sense, given its recent introduction of peer-to-peer payments capabilities, new ways to let stores communicate with people via messages, and its increasing dedication to keeping people within the Facebook ecosystem as much as possible.

This isn't the first time Facebook has taken a stab at ecommerce. Back in 2011, Facebook allowed a bunch of different brands like Gamestop, Gap, JC Penney, and Nordstrom to open stores on the site.
They all closed within a year.

At the time, several merchants said that they decided to close their shops because consumers preferred shopping on their regular sites, so there wasn't a big enough return on investment.
Of course, ecommerce has swelled hugely since then and its become much more normalized for people to buy things on their phones. Google, Pinterest, and Twitter now all have their own buy buttons too.

It would be interesting to see if FB takes a cut from the same sales done on their platform, which would imply a new stream of revenue.

20 July, 2015

Facebook acquires Pebbles Interfaces to help track your hands in virtual reality

Facebook has acquired Pebbles Interfaces, an Israel-based startup that specializes in gesture control, in an effort to expand its virtual reality platform.
Pebbles Interfaces has been researching computer vision and depth-sensing technology for the last five years, and will be joining the Oculus virtual reality team in a $60 million deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion last year, a technology company which created the highly anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
Pebbles' gesture-control technology can detect the hands and skin of a user who is wearing a virtual reality headset like the Rift, according to the WSJ, enabling its users to see their hands and arms in VR using light sensoring technology. The technology can also recognize and track a user's clothing, items in one's hand, and scars while using a virtual reality headset in the VR display - a feature that competing companies have yet to develop. 
"Through micro-optics and computer vision, we hope to improve the information that can be extracted from optical sensors, which will help take virtual reality to the next level," Nadav Grossinger, CTO of Pebbles Interfaces, wrote on the Oculus blog

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer previously said, "everyone is going to have to be a little patient" with Facebook and its futuristic VR platform roll-out. Even though the public market is currently awaiting the consumer release of the Oculus Rift, scheduled to launch in Q1 2016, Facebook is already preparing for the second and third generation versions of the headset. 

18 July, 2015

Apple's biggest rival in China says it plans to start selling phones in the US

Xiaomi, the startup that makes wildly popular Android phones in China, has plans to start selling its devices in the US, company vice president Hugo Barra told.

But it won't happen anytime soon. Barra said it would take at least a year for the company to build out the necessary distribution and customer support to start selling phones in the US.
Xiaomi is Apple's biggest rival in China. It sells phones with specs that are just as good as high-end iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones but that typically cost half as much.

Apple and Xiaomi consistently sell more phones in China than any other manufacturer, with Apple on top in recent quarters since the launch of the iPhone 6.

The company is often criticized for borrowing heavily from Apple's designs. The critics say Xiaomi gets away with copying Apple because China has looser restrictions on patents. But if Xiaomi does come to the US, it risks lawsuits, as in the high-profile Apple-versus-Samsung case from a few years ago.

Barra told Chang that Xiaomi was building up the protections it needed to battle any such lawsuits.
Xiaomi phones are pretty good too, and if they do come to the US, they'll give you a premium experience at a fraction of the cost of the iPhone.

Xiaomi would most likely be a bigger threat to companies like Samsung, however, because Xiaomi phones also use Android. Samsung has seen smartphone sales rapidly decline over the past two years, mostly because people are buying cheaper premium phones such as those made by Xiaomi. IPhone sales continue to grow despite the phone's higher price.

In the meantime, Xiaomi will continue to focus on selling its phones in emerging markets where most people don't already have smartphones.

China is still the company's biggest market, and the company has recently made a big push in India.

17 July, 2015

Amazon Prime Day sales beat Black Friday

Amazon's 24-hour summer sale for Prime members, called Prime Day, appears to have been a major success for the online retailer. Product orders exceeded that of last year's Black Friday sale which was open to all Amazon customers (not just Prime members), reports the company. But the purpose of Prime Day wasn't so much about generating a large influx of revenue in the short term as it was about generating awareness about its members-only shopping program Prime. Shoppers were able to participate in Prime Day without a subscription by signing up for a free trial, which allowed them to experience all of the shipping perks and discounts that members experience on a daily basis.

In fact, Amazon likely lost money on Prime Day because of the steep discounts, but that risk could pay off in the long run by converting more shoppers to Prime memberships. Members of Prime who spend more money on Amazon on average than non-Prime members, according to a report from Millward Brown.

Prime members spend about $1,500 with Amazon each year, while non-Prime members spend about $625 with the retailer annually.Prime members are also much less likely to shop at other retail websites in a single shopping session than non-members.

Would be interesting to see the number if Alibaba in China or Flipkart in India does such campaign

08 July, 2015

Google Maps iOS update now lets you share locations on Facebook and Messenger

Owners of iOS devices, rejoice: Sharing pins with your friends will now get a little easier. An update from Google Maps now allows you to share your location to more apps, including Facebook and its spun-off communications app Messenger.

The new feature, part of Google Maps version 4.8.0, will now make it much easier to send a pin to someone who is on their desktop computer, or who is just too lazy to switch between apps (we all know that person). Users can also broadcast their location to their friends, or target it to a specific group. It does not allow you to post pins directly in events, though, so you’ll still have to play the text game if your party has to switch locations.

The app update also includes improved transit directions, offering more route choices and real-time arrival information in certain areas to help commuters get to where they need to be on time. There is also a new image gallery for places — tap on a photo to get a grid view of all of the images helpful Googlers have posted to Maps.

Whether or not sharing your pins is a thing that you like to do, it’s cool to see how much Google is thinking about deep-linking within the iPhone. You now have another reason to never switch back to Apple Maps again. And this is a class case of usability versus scalability when it comes to Google, they want people to use it rather than have it, hence this move doesn't surprise me, interesting to know how FB agreed for this when they have a check in feature

02 July, 2015

Wireless charging will soon be as powerful as plugging in

Wireless charging is handy, but slow. To help change that fact, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) has announced the latest Qi specifications, allowing wireless charging pads to deliver more power to your handset.

The WPC wants your wireless charge to be just as fast as a wired quick-charge, much like the technology Qualcomm pioneered.

In the announcement, WPC says “several manufacturers already offer wired fast charging for their devices, providing as much as 60 percent charge in as little as 30 minutes. The latest Qi specification empowers them to extend this speed to wireless charging as well.”

This new standard also gives approval for new test procedures and tools to verify fast wireless charging, and verifies the specification is backwards compatible to existing chargers.

01 July, 2015

Facebook changed its logo yesterday, did you notice?

Facebook quietly changed its logo yesterday for the first time since 2005 and you probably didn’t even notice.The update is only a refresh of the company’s wordmark, which is the text-only version of its logo used for identifying its brand.

Josh Higgins, Facebook’s Creative Director told Brand New that the company “set out to modernize the logo to make it feel more friendly and approachable” and settled on an update instead of a full redesign.

Facebook asked Eric Olson, the designer of Klavika, the font used for the original wordmark, to design a new typeface.

Ben Barry, a former designer at Facebook, had also proposed tweaks to the Facebook wordmark in 2012 which were approved by the company but never implemented.

The actual Facebook ‘F’ logo isn’t being changed. You’ll only notice the difference where the full name is used.

Personally , I think the old one was much better kerned that the latest variation where the "face" section seems tighter than the "book" section.