Thursday, April 12, 2012
Gavin O'Malley, April 12, 2012, 11:53 AM
Google+ Refresh Resembles FacebookeWeek

About a year out of the gate, Google+ just got its first facelift, and, well, it looks a whole lot like Facebook. 

“In an effort to more directly compete with social networking behemoth Facebook, search giant Google unveiled a refresh of Google+, its social networking platform that hasn’t made as big a splash as hoped (despite boasting 170 million members),” eWeek reports. 

“Some of the design elements included in the update echo Facebook Timeline, such as a cover photo that sprawls across the top of the profile and bigger photo and video displays,” Mashable points out. “Others, like a customizable navigation ribbon that now runs along the left side of all pages, are new to mainstream social media.”

“With plushy icons and bigger pictures, the newly redesigned Google+ may look more like your Facebook profile would if it also had YouTube and Hangouts, but the real difference is in the way the social layer merges your public and private lives,” SocialTimes rites.

“A critical piece of this social layer is a design that grows alongside our aspirations,” Google SVP Vic Gundotra wrote in a blog post. “We’re aiming for an experience that fuses utility with beauty—one that inspires you to connect with others, and cherish the conversations that unfold.”

“In a way, this is Google playing a subtle game of one-upsmanship with the world’s largest social network it is trying to dent,” writes Wired. For one, “Facebook, too, has a section devoted to widgets and user apps on the left-hand side of the home screen, where users can organize their apps according to preference.” 

“The reaction to this new interface for the company’s fledgling social network have been generally positive,” according to TechCrunch. “But most users are somewhat confused about why there is suddenly so much white space on the site.”

Moreover, “the update was a necessary one, and we can expect Google+ to continuously be updated in the coming months as its core features are fleshed out and further integrated with Google’s other Apps and services,” SiliconAngle writes.

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  • Gavin O'Malley, April 12, 2012, 12:03 PM
  • Does DOJ Have Weak Case Against Apple? Within the boundaries of U.S. antitrust law, not everyone is buying the Justice Department's legal pursuit of Apple for alleged e-book price fixing. Similar to what happened in 1982 -- when the DOJ admitted its antitrust lawsuit against IBM was "without merit," and abandoned the case -- this latest effort is “likely to end in defeat,” contends CNet. More recently, in 2001, a federal appeals court shot down the Justice Department's attempt to, in CNet’s words, “rewrite antitrust law,” by breaking Microsoft into two separate entities. Apple’s publishing partners, however, might have a harder to avoiding prosecution. "It's a harder case against Apple than the publishers," according to Geoffrey Manne, who teaches antitrust law at the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon. Writes CNet: “One reason lies in the Justice Department's 36-page complaint, which recounts how publishers met over breakfast in a London hotel and dinners at Manhattan's posh Picholine restaurant, which boasts a ‘Best of Award of Excellence’ from Wine Spectator. The key point is that Apple wasn't present.” Adds Dominick Armentano, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Hartford: the DOJ "has a far better case against the publishers than Apple … If the CEOs of the various publishers got together in hotel rooms to discuss prices, they are sunk.”  
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  • Placeme Takes User Tracking To New Level If Placeme is any indication, mobile apps are quickly heading in the most invasive of directions. The free software uses every sensor in a smartphone users’ handset to track his or her activities, location and environment. Unlike Foursquare and other location-based services, there’s no checking in or other user action needed to engage with the app. As such, Placeme “may be both the scariest and amazingly futuristic smartphone app I’ve seen yet,” writes GigaOm’s Kevin Tofel. Built by Alohar Mobile, the service simply records everything in the background. “That creates the fullest set of personalized data I can think of: Placeme is a complete personal tracking solution,” according to Tofel. “Obviously, the scary part is that the app essentially learns everything about you: Where you shop, your route to work, who you visit, etc.” Still, if users can get past the app’s supreme pervasiveness, it could prove very useful to them, Tofel suggests. According to the app’s makers, it can check one’s route home from work in advance to check for traffic, or perhaps alert them to that fact that another gas station nearby has cheaper gas than the station they just pulled into. The possibilities for usefulness -- and insidiousness -- are pretty much without limit. “Will people be willing to give up privacy for this type of help?” Tofel asks. “Over time,” he thinks so. “Especially with the younger generation that is growing up with smartphones.”  
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  • Get Your Domain Name Here! Last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), officially opened the naming convention so that anyone with $180,000 and a dream could buy their own their own top-level domain (TLD). For the foreseeable future, however, today is the deadline to file the application. Top-level domains refer to the very top of the Web’s naming system, and presently include the 22 generic TLDs such as .com, .org and .net., along with the 250 or so country code TLDs (such as .fr for France, .de for Germany or .ru for Russia). Now, however, “the most dramatic shake-up of the internet’s naming system could see the introduction of over 1,000 new ‘top level domains,’” suggests The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. “The plan is to allow the introduction of the so-called ‘.brands’ so that, for example, Apple could purchase .apple (rather than” Also available -- at least at the time of ICANN’s initial announcement -- are more generic extensions, such as .music, .web,  .beer, .pizza and .sport. According to Digits, when new registrations closed late last month, there were already 839 registered users on the system. ICANN, meanwhile, is expected to announce the details of the process in the week beginning April 30.  
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