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Google+ Re-designed and Re-focused

November 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google  hasn’t given up on running a social network. The company gave Google+ a redesign focused on people getting together around shared interests.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was designed as a competitor to Facebook, focused on connecting people with their friends through a series of “circles.” That proved unsuccessful, but people started using the service to discuss things that they’re passionate about, like books and astronomy. Google has built its new design around promoting both its Community groups and its Collections of user-curated posts about specific interests.

Users can opt into the new design (which appears to be rolling out gradually) by signing into the service on the Web and responding when they get a prompt that offers it. Luke Wroblewski, a product director at Google, said in a post to the social network that Google+ apps for iOS and Android will be out in the near future.

The redesign doesn’t have all the features of the old Google+, so people who rely on things like Events will have to stay on the old design (which they can flip back to with the press of a button). It’s not clear whether Google will bring all of the social network’s functionality forward into the new design, but Wroblewski said the company isn’t done developing the product.

All of this comes as Google has been demoting the social network from its previous place at the center of the company’s products. Earlier this year, it brought cloud-based photo editing and storage capabilities that previously were tied to Google+ into Google Photos, a standalone service. Hangouts, the chat system that used to be tied to Google+, now has its own website.



Amazon, Microsoft Linking Up With Disney’s Cloud Movie Service

September 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Walt Disney Co’s studio unit announced that customers of Inc and Microsoft Corp’s video services will gain access to the collection on its cloud-based movie storage service .

Studios like Disney, which has made blockbuster films like “Frozen” and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” have been attempting to steer movie fans towards digital purchases as sales of DVDs decline.

Walt Disney Studios added that it would launch the app on video streaming-device maker Roku Inc and Google Inc’s Android TV on Sept. 15, coinciding with the DVD release of “Cinderella.”

The collection in Disney Movies Anywhere can be accessed through its new app for theMicrosoft Xbox 360 and for Amazon’s Fire tablets, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.

The media company launched Disney Movies Anywhere in February 2014 with Apple Inc’s iTunes, and in November partnered with the Google Play online store and Walmart Stores Inc’s online store Vudu.

The two new additions come on the same day as its early digital release of Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”


eBay Teams Up With Sotheby’s, Launches New Online Auction Service

March 18, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

eBay has created a new platform that will stream Sotheby’s New York auctions live beginning next month.

The new live auctions platform – – that launched on Tuesday pairs Sotheby’s 270 years of experience selling art and antiques with eBay’s digital expertise and 155 million active users worldwide to meet the demand for online bidding.

The first auctions on the platform will begin on April 1 with photographs and a themed New York sale that will include the 13 letters of the 1970s Yankee Stadium sign that could fetch up to $600,000 from the collection of baseball great Reggie Jackson.

Online art sales are not new. Sotheby’s and its rival Christie’s conduct them. But the platform will bring Sotheby’s vast inventory to a new audience in the hopes of boosting sales and prices.

“What this partnership is about is leveraging eBay’s audience and ability to target that audience and find clients that have the means to participate in a Sotheby’s auction,” Josh Pullan, senior vice president, director of e-commerce at Sotheby’s, said.

Online sales of art and antiques are estimated to have reached 3.3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) or about 6 percent of global sales in 2014, according to a report commissioned by the Netherlands-based European Fine Art Foundation.

The majority of online sales, it added, was in the $1,000 to $50,000 range.

Most of Sotheby’s New York auctions will be streamed on the platform except for high-priced evening sales of contemporary, modern and Impressionist art and other specialist categories.

Sotheby’s has seen a nearly 25 percent rise in online bidding in 2014 over the previous year. In an auction of Picasso Ceramics, 75 percent of the lots offered attracted online bids.

The is designed to emulate the auction catalog in a digital format and to replicate the experience of seeing art in a museum before taking bidders to the live auction where they can bid in real time.

Megan Ford, director, emerging verticals and live auctions at eBay, said technology is changing and people have become more comfortable purchasing high-ticket items online in the past few years.




Google Adds ‘Time Machine’ Feature To Maps

April 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is offering users somewhat of a time machine in a new feature on Maps.

The company is adding past images of places noted in Street View for the desktop version of Google Maps. The goal is to give users the ability to see how places have changed over time.

“We’ve gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world,” wrote Vinay Shet, Google’s Street View product manager, in a blog post. “Now with Street View, you can see a landmark’s growth from the ground up, like the Freedom Tower in New York City or the 2014 World Cup Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.”

Google also says the new feature can serve as a digital timeline of recent history, enabling users to follow the reconstruction underway in Japan after the devastating tsunami and earthquake in 2011.

Users also can use the new feature to see what cities would look like in different seasons. Looking to take a bike tour of the French countryside or the green mountains of Vermont? Now users can get a glimpse of them at different times of the year to help them decide when to go.

The feature is gradually being rolled out to users. Users will know if the feature is available if they see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image. They can click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons, Shet said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Maps’ new feature is “cute” but doesn’t offer much benefit to most users.

“It’s just a gimmick,” Kerravala said. “They’re only going back six years so that’s not a huge amount of time. Real estate firms, law firms, etc. may have some use, but otherwise I don’t believe it’s all that sticky of an application.”




Sirius XM Sued For Underpayment Of Royalties

August 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. nonprofit firm who’s responsibilities include collecting digital royalties for music artists sued satellite radio service provider Sirius XM Radio Inc for at least $50 million for underpaying on recordings, including ones from before 1972.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by SoundExchange Inc, an entity appointed by the Copyright Royalty Board to collect and distribute performance royalties established under federal law.

The lawsuit said from 2007 through 2012, Sirius XM “systematically” underpaid SoundExchange for the statutory license that allows the service to air recordings to its millions of paying subscribers.

The lawsuit said Sirius in particular reduced by 10 percent to 15 percent the gross revenues it reports to calculate the royalties because that corresponded with performances of pre-1972 recordings.

The royalty rate that would be charged against those gross revenues ranged from 6 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2012, according to SoundExchange, which was established by the Recording Industry Association of America.

“We cannot sit by and watch this multi-billion dollar company reap record profits from the creative contributions of artists and labels without paying them everything they deserve,” SoundExchange Chief Executive Michael Huppe said in a statement.

Representatives for Sirius XM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But in the complaint, SoundExchange said Sirius had taken the position that the statutory license established under federal law does not cover pre-1972 recordings.

Sound recordings were not given federal copyright protection until 1972 and instead relied on state law for protection.

The lawsuit also accuses Sirius of, among other things, excluding from its revenue calculations money it earned from customers subscribing to its Sirius XM Premier package and of failing to make timely royalty payments.

The lawsuit seeks $50 million to $100 million or more, along with appropriate late fees and interest.



We Heart It Gaining Users, Sneaking Up On Pinterest

July 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Pinterest should be  looking over its shoulder, keeping an eye on We Heart It, an image-based social networking site that has quietly amassed a user base of 20 million.

We Heart It is a social site focused on photos, much like Pinterest. However, unlike it’s older and bigger rival, We Heart It has that marketer’s dream of a 16- to 24-year-old core base and $8 million in investor funding.

The site says it’s adding a million new users a month.

For a company that was incorporated two years ago and hired its first CEO just two months ago, We Heart It has made a lot of progress.

“We’ve been very quiet. We’ve been focused on the product and our users,” said CEO Ranah Edelin. “Facebook is great. I use it all the time. I have a lot of respect for them but this is about defining who you are and expressing who you are in a visual way. And that can make it easier to understand someone.”

We Heart It is built to enable users to collect and share images, which sounds a lot like Pinterest, a pin-board-style service that also allows users to create and share collections of images.

Pinterest, with about 50 million active users, is known for having its older users who are interested in do-it-yourself projects and images focused on gardening, fashion and crafts.

We Heart It’s younger users are more interested in telling the world about themselves through images of things they’re interested in, says Edelin.

“You can follow people, but it’s not about connecting with your friends,” he said. “Facebook is about connecting with the friends you know. This is more about following people you have shared interests with. If I’m interested in scuba diving or traveling, I’m going to follow people interested in the same thing.”

Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, said younger users especially are increasingly into sharing images, perhaps more than written posts, on social media.

We Heart It is all about what things, interests, causes or hobbies people want to be identified with. It’s kind of like a visual ID, Shimmin added.

“Here you get rid of these contractual social obligations,” said Shimmin. “This is more emotional, I think. It’s more about following images than people.”

We Heart It youthful base, and the fact it’s adding a million new users a month, gives Pinterest something to worry about, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.






National Digital Public Library Debuts

April 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has rolled out a beta of its discovery portal and open platform.

Two years in the making, the DLPA will make available to the public 2.4 million records at its launch, including electronic images, video and audio from America’s libraries, archives and museums. It also makes many scientific records available.

“You will find gems that include daguerreotypes of … former [President] Abraham Lincoln, images of women marching for the vote in Kentucky, news film clips of the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement, The Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript from 1514, Notes on the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, and paintings by Winslow Homer,” Emily Gore, DPLA Director for Content said in a statement.

The portal contains materials found in American archives, libraries, museums and cultural heritage institutions. The portal provides various ways to search and scan through its collection of distributed resources. Special features include a dynamic map, a timeline that allow users to visually browse by year or decade, and an app library that provides access to applications and tools created by external developers using DPLA’s open data.

“The wonder and joy of entering an expansive library for the first time is truly a special feeling. We are delighted to be able to share this unified, open collection with Americans and the world, and can’t wait to see what people discover, and what new applications and knowledge will be created,” Dan Cohen, executive director of the DPLA, said in a statement.

The effort to build the digital library was led by the Library of Congress, the Hathi Trust Digital Library and the The Internet Archive, which provided books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials.

While many universities, public libraries, and other public and private organizations have digitized materials, they are often digital collections that exist in silos.

In December 2010, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, along with the the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, hosted a conference of leading experts in libraries, technology, law and education to begin work on the digital library project.

In October 2011, the Berkman Center hosted hundreds of public and research librarians, technical innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers who formed six work teams to map out the scope, design, and construct the DPLA.

The DPLA portal is powered by a rich repository of information, known as the DPLA platform, and uses an open API that can be used by software developers, researchers and others to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery and engaging apps.



Library Of Congress Now Saving 500M Tweets Daily

January 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The  Library of Congress is now saving 500 million tweets per day as part of its plans to build a Twitter archive, and has added a total of about 170 billion tweets to its collection.

Twitter signed an agreement in April 2010 to provide the library with an archive of every public tweet since the company went live in 2006, and the Library recently provided an update on its progress. The initial stage of the project, which includes a complete copy of all tweets covering that four-year span, will be finished by the end of the month.

The project is now shifting its focus to making the collection accessible to lawmakers and researchers. The library has permission from Twitter to share the tweets with vetted researchers at least six months after they were published, provided they are not used for profit or redistributed.

“It is clear that technology to allow for scholarship access to large data sets is lagging behind technology for creating and distributing such data,” the library noted in a public document about its progress.

The library said the initial four-year archive contained about 21 billion tweets that take up 20 terabytes when uncompressed, including data fields. It continues to receive and process messages from Twitter, which are now organized into files representing hour-long segments by Gnip, a service provider with which Twitter also partnered in 2010 to provide commercial access to the full range of tweets.

The full archive now requires 133.2 terabytes for two compressed copies, which are stored on tape in separate locations for safe keeping.


Is Google Entering The Home Entertainment Business?

February 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google is gearing up to enter the home entertainment arena with a Google-branded wireless device that streams music within a house, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to music, the device may also stream other media, the Journal reported on Thursday, quoting anonymous sources familiar with the company’s plans.

The Google home entertainment system, which could make its debut later this year, would let users download digital content and stream it to other home devices like speakers also made by Google or by other vendors. The product is the brainchild of Google’s Android team, the Journal reported.

Google has a cloud-based online music service called Google Music, which includes song and album sales and is integrated with the company’s Google+ social network. Google Music also lets users store and play back music.

Google Music’s collection of songs and albums is available in the Android Market, which is accessible via Android devices and Web browsers. Google Music is compatible with Android and Apple iOS devices, and can also be accessed from PC browsers.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from IDG News Service. The company declined to comment when reached by the Journal.

Several analysts, however, were skeptical that the rumored device would mark a serious foray by Google into the hardware business. They suggested it is more likely that Google is planning a device to prime the market for other products to support enhanced multimedia offerings.