Google Search starts indexing and letting users stream Android apps without matching Web content


Google’s push to organize the world’s information has recently been focused on figuring out the best way to index mobile apps. Today, the company started indexing Android apps that don’t have matching web content, and started to experiment with letting users stream content from those apps if they don’t have them installed.

Google has been experimenting with various levels of app indexing for years, with features showing up as early as December 2013. The company typically starts with Android, and then considers expanding functionality to iOS. This time is no different: Both these features are only available on Google’s mobile operating system.

Until now, Google has only indexed apps that have matching Web content. Now, the company is going after content that lives primarily in an app. The company is starting with 9 apps: Hotel Tonight, Weather, Chimani, Gormey, My Horoscope, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, Daily Horoscope, and New York Subway.

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Additionally, if you don’t have a given app installed, Google will now let you stream content (as long as you’re on a good Wi-Fi connection). That means you don’t have to install the app to get the information you’re looking for.

In fact, you can even accomplish tasks like booking a room without installing a given app. When these apps show up in search results, they are accompanies with a new Stream button. Tapping it takes you into a streamed version you can interact with as if you had the app on your phone (Android Lollipop is required, and tablets are not yet supported).

Google “wants to make sure users are engaging with this app only content” and that “the streaming experience works well.” “If users enjoy it, and we see they’re using it, we will expand the scope.”

How does this work? “These apps are running on virtual machines on Google Cloud Platform, using the same technology as the Google Cloud Test Lab,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “It’s similar to a streamed video, but interactive, with swipe, tap, etc. signals being sent to the streamed app in essentially real time. We are experimenting with a few apps initially to get the user experience right, but we are looking to scale to more apps soon.”

This could fundamentally change how searching for content in apps works on mobile devices. Right now, Google serves up the app if you have it installed. If not, it gives you the webpage. Going forward, Google will give you the app whether you have it installed (it just launches) or not (it just streams).

Google also shared it now has over 100 billion deep links into apps in its search index. These include popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb, and Pinterest. In fact, over 40 percent of Google searches on Android now surface app content.

Google is well aware that search has evolved from simply entering queries into a desktop browser. “Today, you’re more likely to be searching on your mobile device, and the best answers may be buried in an app … perhaps one that you don’t even have installed yet,” the company acknowledged.

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Microsoft revamps Bing for iPhone, adds a Near Me section and deep links

The new Bing app for iPhone.

Microsoft today is unveiling a redesign of its Bing app for the iPhone for people in the U.S. The new version puts local attractions front and center in a prominent Near Me section, and deep links into content in other apps provide users with a richer experience.

Like the old app, you can use your voice to run searches or even find certain things while using a camera on the iPhone. But more than ever, the app offers many options without requiring users to tap in a lot of information.

“People just don’t like typing that much on their mobile devices,” as Microsoft Bing general manager Ryan Gavin put it in an interview with VentureBeat this week.

From VentureBeat
Customers don’t just get irritated when you screw up cross-channel personalization. They jump ship. Find out how to save your bacon on this free research-based webinar with Insight’s Andrew Jones.

So the new experience is less like the search box where you type in a query with Bing and more like the Knowledge and Action Graph — the information and the buttons bringing you to specific apps — on the right side of search results on desktop.

That’s no coincidence. The new version of Bing on iPhone takes full advantage of the Bing Knowledge and Action Graph, so that you can not only surface information on people, places, and things, but also get things done in other apps. For example, if you search for “alanis ironic” in the app, you can see the lyrics and watch the video for the song on YouTube, but you can also listen to the song with apps that you have installed on your phone. And if you’re looking at restaurants, you can see reviews from apps like Yelp, but you can also make reservations with OpenTable. With movies, you can buy tickets for new ones and watch older ones.

The new Bing app, then, is closer to the action- and information-rich search experience available in a Google search, whether you’re in the Google app or on Google’s website on a mobile device. Earlier this year Google unveiled Google Now on Tap as a core feature in Android Marshmallow, and Microsoft managed to offer similar functionality in the Bing app for Android before Marshmallow became available to the public. That’s impressive. Now Bing on iPhone is getting closer to that experience, while maintaining an a more iOS-friendly look and feel.

Here’s what the Bing on the iPhone looked like yesterday, by the way:

The old Bing app for iPhone.

Above: The old Bing app for iPhone.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat
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Facebook Activates Safety Check In Nigeria Bombings

Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday night that Facebook had activated its Safety Check feature in Nigeria after a market bombing killed dozens. Zuckerberg’s announcement came after the platform faced criticism for turning on the Safety Check feature for the Paris terror attacks, but not for other tragedies like the suicide attacks the day before in Beirut. Facebook said over the weekend… Read More

Microsoft Graph lets developers build apps with data, intelligence, and APIs from Azure and Office 365


In addition to all the Visual Studio news announced at its Connect(); 2015 event, Microsoft today also launched Microsoft Graph, which gives applications access to digital work and digital life data across the Microsoft cloud. Put another way, developers can now leverage data, intelligence, and APIs with a single authorization token.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft has long been talking about an “office graph” that helps developers reach 1.2 billion Office users. Indeed, at its Build 2015 developer conference in April, the company previewed a unified API endpoint for data in Office apps (known as the Office 365 Unified API).

Today’s launch allows any developer capable of making an HTTP request to call the API from any platform. More specifically, here is what is available via Microsoft Graph:

  • General availability (ready for production) — Users, Files, Messages, Groups, Events, Contacts (personal), Mail, Calendar, Devices and other directory objects. Groups, 0-60 experience and docs.
  • Preview (available to explore) – Notification, SDKs, Commercial: People, Organizational contacts, Office Graph, Planner, OneNote, Excel REST. Consumer: Converged Auth. flow support, OneDrive Files, WL profile, Outlook

From VentureBeat
Customers don’t just get irritated when you screw up cross-channel personalization. They jump ship. Find out how to save your bacon on this free research-based webinar with Insight’s Andrew Jones.

Developer access to get started is free. Access to customer data is included in the Office 365 license, which spans all the APIs that Microsoft has released this week. That said, as the company adds more intelligence components to Microsoft Graph, it will decide which are included in the Office 365 license and which it will charge for separately.

Microsoft hopes this will result in people-centric apps that help companies and users “achieve more with contextual insights.” Microsoft Graph was built by the Office Extensibility and Azure Active Directory teams. It therefore should come as no surprise that it lets developers work across Office 365 services and Azure AD.

In fact, Microsoft is going as far as promising a lot less work for developers. “What used to be 50+ lines of code is now cut down to 5,” Microsoft said.

At the same time, Microsot is releasing SDKs, starting with .NET, iOS, and Android and then expanding to other platforms like Node.js, Python, Java, Ruby, and so on. Code samples for a variety of platforms are available on GitHub.

The Microsoft Graph also gives developers access to rich Office 365 data. Microsoft pointed out it has more than 18 million consumer Office 365 subscribers, 60 million commercial Office 365 monthly active users, more than 500 million people managing their documents and photos in OneDrive, and over 200 million downloads of Office mobile apps.

The Microsoft Graph can also be used to address critical work and productivity questions, such as: “Who does the user work closely with?,” “What documents and topics are important to my colleagues right now?,” and “What matters the most to my boss?”

That last one is probably a bit of a stretch, but that’s at least the pitch Microsoft gave its partners., SkyHigh Networks, Smartsheet, OfficeAtWork, TechnologyOne, and CloudLock have already started using the Microsoft Graph to compete in their respective industries.

If you’re a developer, check out the Office Dev center and the Getting Started section.

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Video of father explaining Paris attacks to son goes viral

A father's heartwarming explanation to his son about the Paris terror attacks is electrifying social media, with more than 29 million views on Facebook alone. The video shows an interview conducted Sunday by a reporter for France's Le Petit Journal at Place de La Republique in Paris, where people are laying flowers and lighting candles to honor the 129 victims killed in the attacks.

Microsemi boosts its buyout offer for PMC-Sierra

Microsemi, a maker of semiconductors, boosted its buyout offer for chipmaker PMC-Sierra again, two days after PMC-Sierra said it preferred a deal with rival Skyworks. Microsemi Corp. said Wednesday that it is now offering a mix of cash and stock valued at about $12.05 for each share of PMC-Sierra, up from the $11.88 per share in cash and stock it offered late last month.

Cheetah Mobile says its Yahoo search and advertising partnership shows early promise

Cheetah Mobile

In its third quarter earnings report, Cheetah Mobile announced that it had signed a global strategic partnership with Yahoo. However, not much was disclosed at the time about how the two companies would work together, until now. Today, Cheetah Mobile has revealed how it has incoporated Yahoo’s search and native advertising platforms within its own apps.

For Yahoo, some of its biggest strengths are perhaps its search capability and advertising platform. What Cheetah Mobile has done is incorporate these offerings right into apps like Clean Master, CM Security, CM Browser, and CM Locker. As a result, Cheetah Mobile said that it’s seen revenue generated from Yahoo increase by 30 percent daily in its CM Security app — just in the first two weeks. While this is noteworthy, please take this percentage with a grain of salt as exact figures were not provided.

Cheetah Mobile has incorporated Yahoo’s “Search in Apps” developer SDK that lets you search from within its third-party apps. This includes making search available within the Clean Master security app thanks to “hot corners” on Android devices, a special tie-in as the default search engine on Cheetah Mobile’s CM Browser, and more. The Beijing, China-based company has also incorporated Yahoo’s newly launched Search Buzz tool into many of its apps that’ll deliver the latest trending searches from across the Web.

From VentureBeat
Customers don’t just get irritated when you screw up cross-channel personalization. They jump ship. Find out how to save your bacon on this free research-based webinar with Insight’s Andrew Jones.

Besides adding a search feature, Cheetah Mobile wants to also monetize its apps and it’s doing just that through the use of Yahoo Gemini. This search and native advertising marketplace has already been implemented into CM Security, but will be rolling out to more of the company’s apps in the coming weeks. Cheetah Mobile says “this integration drivers a smart, data-driven, and scalable approach, further increasing monetization while enhancing user experience with beautiful ads.”

The inclusion of native advertising into its suite of products plays right into Cheetah Mobile’s hands. The company believes that ad blocking is a good thing since it’s already ahead of the curve in adopting native ads. “You cannot block native ads,” said Cheetah Mobile’s Senior Vice President Djamel Agaoua during a talk at the M1 conference. With this ad format, publishers can have advertising that looks almost like it fits in with the surrounding content, providing users with what could be a great experience.

Content from Yahoo News, Weather, and others will also be included into these apps to make them more relevant to end users.

Right now, only four apps from Cheetah Mobile’s portfolio have been integrated with Yahoo’s SDK: Clean Master, CM Security, CM Browser, and CM Locker. The company said that it’s going to be working on future inclusions in more of its products in the future.

While this may not appear to be a big deal for Cheetah Mobile, it could be one for Yahoo since it’ll be serving native ads on applications that see heavy traffic and could glean some useful information about its users. As Yahoo seeks to become more dominant in the mobile advertising space, playing nicely with one of the world’s top app developers is a must. And for Cheetah Mobile, the early results show that this partnership appears to be worth it.

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Durex launches a condom emoji so you can Netflix and chill responsibly


We have a slew of emojis for indirectly insinuating fornication46f829ff6c871002f7931b456d876962, so why not have one that conveys safe sex?

That’s the impetus for Durex’s new condom emoji campaign. Today, the condom maker is launching a condom emoji to keep safe sex in the minds of copulating youth.

Part of the reason for Durex’s campaign is due to a study that says 18-25 year olds aren’t concerned with safe sex. According to the study commissioned by Durex, more than a third of sexually active young people think that they will never be affected by HIV and have thus adopted a more lax attitude about having unprotected sex. That behavior has serious consequences, resulting in a rise in the number of HIV cases in certain areas of the United States.

The study also notes that the overwhelming majority of this demographic feels more comfortable talking about sex via emoji. No surprise there.

“Emojis of this sort will enable young people to overcome embarrassment around the discussion of safe sex, encourage conversation and raise awareness of the importance of using condoms in protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and AIDS,” says Durex marketing director Karen Chisholm in a statement.

The company plans to submit the condom emoji to the Unicode Consortium on December 1, which is also World AIDS Day.

Athos Pushes Up To $51 Million In The Bank With Funding From Chamath Palhapitaya’s Social+Capital

Athos Wearable clothing may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a real thing and it’s an expanding category with promise in the fitness industry. Athos, one of a handful of startups building out its wearable clothing brand, recently closed on $35 million in Series C financing from a number of investors, including Social+Capital. The startup faces some nominal competition from wearable… Read More

Top online retailers still failing to ‘get personal’ (report)

personalization report card

A new study out today finds that most of the top online retailers lack personalization capabilities, resulting in unrealized revenue from online and mobile shoppers.

The study by Retail Systems Research, which looks at 100 of the top-selling web-based retailers, summarizes: “As much as the industry buzzes about personalization, retailers’ desires and the reality of their execution still seems far apart.”

What are the findings, exactly?

For starters, 85 percent show the same home page to both new and returning customers — meaning that the retailers are not applying any learning from previous visits to make the customer experience more relevant.

From VentureBeat
Customers don’t just get irritated when you screw up cross-channel personalization. They jump ship. Find out how to save your bacon on this free research-based webinar with Insight’s Andrew Jones.

Furthermore, three-quarters of the sites evaluated do not leverage past browsing behavior in any way when a visitor returns to the site.

The shortcomings are even greater when it comes to mobile, where 83 percent of evaluated sites show no contextually relevant content based on previous shopping behavior.

And when it comes to search — an action with very clear intent — only 7 percent of the retailers studied offer auto-complete in the search bar with specific, relevant products.

In our own research on web personalization, VB Insight found that 87 percent of companies see a lift of at least 5 percent in their most important metrics when employing some form of personalization. Two in five have seen increases of at least 20 percent in their most important metrics.

Primary metrics

Not only is there plenty of evidence that personalization works, but companies know it: 94 percent of businesses say personalization is critical to their success, according to Econsultancy.

That makes the study’s findings all the more surprising.

“We were surprised at how few retailers have narrowed the gap between personalization aspirations and reality,” the study concludes.

As we approach the biggest shopping periods of the year, this gap means top retailers are not only leaving money on the table, but also inviting competition to pick their pockets.

Note: the study was conducted by Retail Systems Research and sponsored by Reflektion, a personalization vendor. For methodology, the full report is available at Retail Systems Research. Below is a related infographic by Reflektion based on the findings.

Personalization Reportcard Infographic


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