Archive for the 'google' Category

Google Street View Now Lets You Go Back In Time

Wednesday 23 April 2014 @ 5:00 am
Interstate90_Colorado Every day, Google’s Street View cars capture massive amounts of data and the company then publishes them on Google Maps at regular intervals. Until now, the only images you could see on Google Maps were the latest images. Starting today, however, you will also be able to go back in time and see older images. When you’re in the Street View interface, you will now see a small clock icon… Read More

A brief history of encryption at Google

Monday 21 April 2014 @ 2:00 pm
A brief history of encryption at Google
Image Credit: brionv/Flickr

As Google explores new ways to protect its user’s privacy, here’s a look back at the 15-year-old firm’s long-term romance with encryption – pulled from last week’s lengthy report on the matter.

Starting in 2004 with Gmail, look below for everything we know about end-user encryption at Google.


Graphic by VentureBeat’s Eric Blattberg.

Google’s experiments with encryption began early, with a hidden SSL feature in Gmail that debuted in 2004. It required a URL tweak: People needed to add an “s” to the URL bar to trigger a SSL connection.

In 2010, Google made SSL encryption default in Gmail. In 2011, Google began encrypting search for signed-in users. Then in 2012, Google made SSL an automatic feature for those in the U.S. One year later, Google started rolling out SSL encryption globally in search.

By November, Google encrypted its entire internal network. Last month, Google made Gmail HTTPS-only. Most recently, VentureBeat reported that Google is working to make complex encryption tools, such as PGP, easier to use with Gmail.

Meanwhile, the firm clams it has taken numerous additional steps to secure users, according to a person familiar with the matter at Google (we don’t have specific dates for the following initiatives).

  • Google doubled the length of its RSA server keys and changes them every few weeks.
  • Google has deployed Perfect Forward Secrecy based on elliptic curve cryptography.
  • Google started a project, Certificate Transparency, to address structural flaws in the SSL system.

Google has “research underway to improve the usability of PGP with Gmail,” VentureBeat reported this morning. Yet, end-to-end encryption poses incredible usability challenges.

Google is attempting to balance an approachable experience with security. Unsurprisingly, the practical requirements of Google’s mainstream services are holding back the potential level of privacy Google could offer. Cryptographic standards — particularly key-based systems – are historically difficult to use. Standards like PGP have just as good a chance of securing users as they do of confusing users and rendering services like Gmail useless.

This battle is not unique to Google.

As for Google’s challenge, it’s not enviable. It’s clear that the firm is still reacting to the ongoing mass surveillance controversy which came to light last year. For now, this is what we know. As for what else Google should do, it’s worth checking in on the opinions of security experts at firms like Shape SecurityOWASPIonic Security, and AnchorFree.

Google scoops up another high-profile scientist for anti-death project

Sunday 20 April 2014 @ 11:11 am
Google scoops up another high-profile scientist for anti-death project

Above: New Calico recruit Dr. Cynthia Kenyon.

Image Credit: UCSF Kenyon Lab

Google’s secretive Project Calico is aimed at defeating death itself — or at least staving it off far longer than ever before.

To that end, the company has been recruiting some of the top names in anti-aging and genetics research. The latest is Cynthia Kenyon, a high-profile biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

VentureBeat actually reported in November that Kenyon would be joining Calico; she has served as a consultant to the project since then. The Chronicle confirmed that she has finally left her UCSF post to join Calico full-time, although she’ll retain the title of emeritus professor at UCSF.

Kenyon’s UCSF lab has focused its research since the 1990s on a small roundworm, C. elegans. Kenyon’s team found that modifications to a gene called daf-2 resulted in doubling the lifespan of the worms, from two weeks to four; another gene, daf-16, kept them youthful despite their extended ages.

“Seeing them is like being with someone that looks 40 and learning that they are really 80,” the lab notes on its website.

Subsequent research, by other scientists, have shown that similar genes control lifespan and aging in fruit flies, mice, and possibly even humans. Changing the genes slows aging and increases resistance to age-related diseases such as cancer, heart failure, and protein-aggregation disease.

In coming to Calico, Kenyon joins former Genentech chief executive and current Calico CEO Arthur Levinson; former Roche chief medical officer Hal Barron; Robert Cohen, a senior oncologist at Genentech; and David Botstein, the former director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. 

It’s an A-team of genetics researchers that reflects the magnetism that Google’s powerful vision (and cash) exerts. Whether the team will be able to accomplish things where others have failed is still uncertain. Few details on what exactly Calico is doing have emerged, apart from Google founder Larry Page’s initial post on the project and Levinson’s bland “it’s great to be part of the team” note from September.

In December, VentureBeat called Calico “the most interesting startup in Silicon Valley.”

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Gillmor Gang: Action Items

Saturday 19 April 2014 @ 9:00 am
Gillmor Gang Artcard The Gillmor Gang — Dan Farber, Kevin Marks, Semil Shah, Danny Sullivan, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor — played the latest favorite game of the Mobility Addicted. It's called Lock Screen, and some of us think it's where the early adopters meet the great unvarnished Silent Majority. Forget clicks or swipes or doing anything; it's all about glancing. What this means is that social scientists… Read More

Amazon who? Apple & Google’s names tower over online retail giant in emerging markets

Friday 18 April 2014 @ 1:37 pm
Amazon who? Apple & Google’s names tower over online retail giant in emerging markets

Above: Amazon's Jeff Bezos at a 2010 event.

Image Credit: Jurvetson/Flickr

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Amazon has some serious catching up to do.

At least in emerging markets such as China, Brazil, India, and, uh … even Nigeria, that is. The details are included in a yet-to-be released study by London-based mobile marketing outfit Upstream Systems. The study outlines clearly the importance of brand recognition, even in countries with large populations with low literacy rates.

Upstream manager Vasilieios Tziokas has his own thoughts about why Amazon, at least as a brand, is a mystery to millions of consumers in these countries.

“Our experience in emerging markets has shown that consumers there are showing a completely different behavior. It is not possible for the average Nigerian to have exactly the same taste with the average American or French. Amazon is huge in U.S. and Europe for its online store but it is still trying to penetrate LATAM and Africa,” Tziokas emailed VentureBeat late at night from his home in Athens.

The study indicates that Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung far outstrip Amazon’s brand recognition in the markets listed above. This is serious, actually. With North and South America, Europe, and parts of Asia like Japan already saturated with Western tech, companies are looking to move beyond those markets and tap new ones. This includes not only China, Vietnam, and India but also Africa, which has major potential with its growth adoption of mobile tech.

And major potential to scale.

And don’t forget. Flipkart and Alibaba are very strong in South and Southeast Asia, further distracting from the Amazon brand.

According to the report, which VentureBeat obtained this morning, Amazon is poised to make significant strides in the mobile sector. And though the evidence is thin, the online retail giant may also be creating a smartphone:

“Amazon is rumoured to be planning extensions to its existing mobile content offering that could include a music streaming service and even a dedicated ‘Amazon’ smartphone. However, the global online retailer is losing ground to its ‘Big 3’ key competitors Apple, Google and Microsoft in emerging markets, according to new research from Upstream. In fact, the most recognized brand in emerging markets is hardware manufacturer Samsung (88 percent), closely followed by Google (87 precent), Apple (85 percent) and Microsoft (82 percent).”

Only about half of those surveyed in the Upstream Systems report — 4,504 people, actually — say they’ve never heard of Amazon. The survey team spoke to residents in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria and Vietnam.

Over half the respondents said — shocker — they knew who and what Apple was, and they wanted to buy the giant’s hardware and services.

Amazon, on the other hand, was only recognized by around half (56 percent) of those surveyed. This latest data comes from ‘The Next Mobile Frontier’ report, from mobile marketing expert Upstream, which polled the views of a representative sample of 4,504 consumers in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, and Vietnam in conjunction with analyst house Ovum. Over half of those surveyed (52 percent) said that Apple is the brand that they currently spend money or would like to spend more on in the future. Microsoft (48 percent) and Google (43 percent) were not far behind, but Amazon clearly still has much work to do, with only 21 percent of those surveyed wanting to or currently spending money with the brand.

Amazon definitely has work to do, according to Tziokas:

“Moreover, Amazon’s flagship products (Kindle and Fire) never appealed to the average consumers in emerging markets mainly because of the content they provided. Our research shows that ebooks are not the most favorite type of mobile content and services like Amazon Prime and the new video content that Amazon produces cannot attract massive adoption in countries like India.”

For Amazon, whose Q1 results are due out next week, the study portends that its marketing and PR teams have some work to do — and visits to make — in these nations.













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Nest Uses Its Data To Turn Electric Utilities Into Cash Cows

Friday 18 April 2014 @ 3:56 am
nest When Google acquired smart thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion, the startup quickly stated that it wouldn’t ever share its user data with other Google services and outside companies. Yet, according to a recent report by Forbes, the company is taking advantage of its data to create a lucrative revenue stream from electric utilities. “Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of… Read More

That’s no spaceship over Area 51. It’s a Google balloon

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 10:00 pm
That’s no spaceship over Area 51. It’s a Google balloon

Above: What a Google balloon might look like.

Image Credit: Project Loon

Google is quietly testing its “Project Loon” balloons in the skies over Nevada.

Project Loon is the search giant’s somewhat crackpot plan to deliver Internet access to remote parts of the world via high-altitude balloons. Google announced the plan in June, 2013 but has done little visible work since then except publish videos explaining how the plan is actually not so crackpot after all: 15-meter-wide balloons in the stratosphere could stay aloft for 100 days at a time, powering themselves via solar panels and delivering Internet signals to the Earth below at “speeds comparable to 3G.”

Now, according to PC World, the company has begun trials in the Nevada desert. In addition, it filed a request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in September, seeking permission to test its aerial balloons with swathes of radio spectrum usually used for 4G LTE services.

The FCC approved the request in November, PC World reports, giving the company permission to test the system with one ground-based transmitter and one at 65,000 feet, in an area covering a vast part of northern Nevada. The reporter also found public advisories for six high-altitude balloon launches in the area so far this year, most recently on April 7, and talked to a local official who confirmed that Google was testing Loon there.

In related news, Google recently acquired high-altitude drone maker Titan Aerospace to contribute to Project Loon.


Google Glass is now ‘try before you buy’

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 6:20 pm
Google Glass is now ‘try before you buy’
Image Credit: Flickr/Ted Eytan

Google is trying to make “fetch” happen.

And by “fetch,” we mean making Glass appear like a normal fashion accessory. That’s what Google is trying to do with its new “try-on kit” program for potential Glass owners.

Apparently, Google is now allowing potential Glass owners to order a kit containing “all frame styles and four colors” for free before deciding which one (if any) they’d like to order, according to an email posted on Reddit that 9to5Google noticed. It’s free, but you do need to approve a temporary $50 hold on your credit card.

This is like ordering clothes or shoes online, and returning them if they don’t fit properly.

Or like eyeglass company Warby Parker’s business model, which sends customers five pairs of their choice to try on before selecting the one they want.

You can’t actually use these units — these are strictly for checking out whether the fashion fits your face. They are actually real Google Glass devices, but they’ve been disabled so they don’t function. The Reddit community member who posted the email also pointed out that the USB charging ports were destroyed, likely to prevent people from using them during the trial or being tempted to keep them.

That’s a bit like the way Warby Parker does things, too, by sending out its sample frames with non-prescription lenses.

So in short, it looks like Google is attempting to pass Glass off as an absolutely normal fashion item we can all shop for, just as we do for pants, shoes, and glasses.

And with good reason: Google Glass has been at the center of a lot of controversy surrounding the social tensions in San Francisco between the tech community and the rest of the city lately, even resulting in a few recent incidents of aggression toward Glass wearers.

Since Glass is obviously not quite “socially acceptable” yet, this could be yet another small attempt at making it seem … normal.

Back in February, Google posted a friendly list of “dos’ and don’t’s” for Glass Explorers, a first step in combatting the anti-social aura of Glass.

Then Google also opened up the sale of Glass to anyone in the U.S. earlier this week for a single day — normally, one needs to apply first — likely in a further effort to get in the hands of as many kinds of people as possible, although that’s still limiting given the high price tag.

Google is trying so hard to make “Glass” happen.

But whether Glass it will succeed still remains to be seen. “Fetch” couldn’t happen, so Glass might have a steep mountain to “normal” to climb.

Your smartphone becomes the key to your laptop with this tantalizing Chrome OS feature

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 4:50 pm
Your smartphone becomes the key to your laptop with this tantalizing Chrome OS feature

Above: The 'Easy Unlock' dialog discovered in a developer channel of Chrome OS.

Image Credit: Android Police

Soon you might be able to log into a Chromebook just by bringing your Android phone close to it.

That would be a lot easier than typing in a password — as soon as your Chromebook detected that the phone was nearby, it would automatically unlock, using a feature helpfully named “Easy Unlock.” You might not even have to take your phone out of your pocket.

Will this really come to a Chromebook near you? Who knows. There is a tantalizing suggestion in the latest developer version of Chrome OS, according to Android Police, which first reported the “feature.” It’s an option that developers can enable — but once enabled, it doesn’t actually do anything except show a tantalizing first screen.

If it materializes, it won’t be the first time someone has tried to use a phone to unlock a device. A startup called Toopher showed a similar product in 2012. More recently, HP introduced a technology to use NFC-enabled smartphones to unlock office laser printers — just tap your phone to the printer and you can use all the toner you want.

Hat tip: TechCrunch

Don’t panic! Google Analytics trades ‘Visits’ & ‘Visitors’ for ‘Sessions’ & ‘Users’

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 11:28 am
Don’t panic! Google Analytics trades ‘Visits’ & ‘Visitors’ for ‘Sessions’ & ‘Users’
Image Credit: brionv/Flickr

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Google Analytics has modified some key reporting terms, and everyone is trying to figure out what the heck it means.

Without fanfare, the company changed “Visits” to “Sessions.” And the “Visitors” web metric and “Active User” app metric are now “Users.”

In a post yesterday evening on Google+, product manager Nick Mihailovski wrote that “to help you understand what users do in the increasingly diverse digital landscape, we’re enabling you to view web and app data from the same reporting view.”

The changes will roll out over the next week:

“Any data you send to the same property appears in all of the reporting views, regardless of how you collected that data. This means that if you send data from the Web or from a mobile app to one property, both data sets appear in your reports.

“If you want to isolate data from one source, like if you only want to see web data in your reports, you can set up a filter to customize what you see.”

The company added that “if you don’t send Web and app data to the same property in your account, your data stays the same,” although the new terminology will now be in use.

Additionally, app-specific fields have been added to the analytics.js JavaScript web collection library, so that the tracking can better collect web app data through the app tracking framework. These fields include screen name, app name, app version, and exception tracking.

Some speculate that the change was made because the mobile industry doesn’t use terms like “visits” or “unique visitors.”

D.J. Muller, the president and founder of e-commerce platform and services provider Weblink, told VentureBeat that the changes appear to be just one more step by Google “to make its metrics device-independent.”

“If you’re selling widgets,” he said, “here’s how [much traffic] regardless of the platform, and here are some ways to drill down to see device specifics.”

Google’s change could be “nothing more than making it easier for people to understand,” he said, although he added that his “antenna is up to see what will come out” as a followup from the company.

VB's working with marketing expert Scott Brinker to understand the new digital marketing organization. Help us out by answering a few questions, and we'll help you out with the data.

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