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Monthly Archives: August 2010

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Navigating maps on computers and mobile devices can still be a clunky experience, especially when you try to search for places on a map. Typically, on Google Maps or Bing Maps, you get a bunch of virtual pushpins for each place which you can click on for more information.

UpNext, a 3D mapping startup based in New York City, brings that information forward in amore fluid way in the latest release of its iPad app. As you push the 3D map around with your fingers, labels for specific searches or your friends’ recent Foursquare checkins pop open as they come into view. UpNext calls this the Fluid Labeling System, and you can see it in action in the video above.

The app, which is also available on the iPhone, now covers eight cities: New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Portland, San Francisco, and Austin. The apps are free, and they’ve been downloaded 170,000 times—not terribly much, but it is a good example of where map apps could be going. It renders each city in full 3D and lets you dive into each building to find the businesses inside.

As far as the Fluid Labeling goes, anything that eliminates an unnecessary tap is good in my book, but this is really just an improvement on the existing map UI that is now commonplace. Is there a better way to display information about places on a map than through pushpins?

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SkyFire. Heard of it? It’s the smartphone browser that was chewing through Flash video and other rich media long before any of the built-in browsers were supporting such things — and on a number of platforms, it’s still the only option.

We’ve known that SkyFire Labs was crackin’ away at an iPhone port for some
time now — the company confirmed it after Opera got a surprise App Store thumbs up. But when would it be done? More importantly, when would it be submitted for that oh-so-important stamp of approval?

Soon, say our sources.

It’s by no means official just yet, but a pair of much-trusted little birdies have just informed me that SkyFire has just entered the final testing phase of what they intend to be the first public iPhone build, with plans to submit to Apple early next week.

SkyFire, of course, wouldn’t confirm or deny these details on the record — there’s still room for last minute bugs to jam a wrench in the gears over the weekend. But until we hear otherwise, expect SkyFire to announce their App Store submission shortly after the weekend.

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Google doesn’t have a native app for Gmail on the iPhone. I know, it sucks. Thankfully, their mobile Safari-optimized version is pretty damn good. But it’s not perfect. And they’re working to make it better.

This morning, I loaded up the mobile version of the site on my iPhone as was greeted by a shiny new version. The entire look and feel has been mildly revamped: everything is a slightly darker blue hue, and the buttons are now more rounded. But more significantly, buttons have been shifted around — and one key one has been removed altogether.

As you can see in the screenshot, the new Gmail header bar now simply has a “Menu” and a larger “Compose” button alongside the unread count. Gone is both the search button and the reload button. This version wasn’t live long enough for me to check where search went, but I do know that it was auto-refreshing so the reload button was no longer necessary.

If added, this will be a very nice addition. Currently, you have hit the reload button to get new messages as they come in to your account on this mobile version. On the regular web version of Safari, obviously, this is not the case.

This alongside the new Push Notification-enabled version of the Google Mobile App for iPhone makes for a much better push experience with Gmail on the device.

Also new in this update to Gmail is a secondary bar below the main bar that contains the “Archive,” “More,” and “Delete” options. In the current version, these only appear as hover items when an individual message is selected.

We’re always experimenting with new products and ways to enhance and improve our current products. We don’t have any specific plans to share at this time,” is all a Google spokesperson will tell us about the changes.

Considering Google just updated the version of Gmail optimized for the iPad (though this is different looking from that), you can probably look for this revamp soon.

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I’d wager that you’d be hard-pressed to find an iPhone user that doesn’t use Gmail on the device. And yet, it’s an awkward relationship. Why? Because Gmail run through the iPhone’s native mail client is a crippled experience. Set aside for a second that you cannot star anything (well, aside from moving an email to the “Starred” folder, which is ridiculous), more importantly, there is no push support. This means you cannot get your email in realtime. Instead, you have to ping Gmail’s servers (either in set intervals or manually). Both Yahoo Mail and MobileMe mail have full push support. It’s ridiculous. Google finally made a move to fix that today. Well, sort of.

With the latest version of their Google Mobile App, you can set up your iPhone to receive Push Notifications each time you get a new Gmail message or when you have a Google Calendar alert. No, Push Notifications on the iPhone aren’t technically the same as full push support for mail, but it will do. Essentially, you’ll now be getting a notification when a new message comes in and this will alert you to open your Mail app and retrieve it. It’s two more steps than regular push would require, but whatever.

What’s interesting is that Google is using Apple’s Push Notifications servers to enable this service. All of these Push Notifications are served up by Apple Push Notification Service (APNS). So yes, Google is using Apple to overcome their own shortcoming (which may or may not be Apple’s fault, who knows what is going on between the two at this point).

Perhaps even stranger is that you can actually set up Gmail to do proper push — but youhave to use Microsoft Exchange to make that happen. Or you’ve been able to use a number of third-party apps like Boxcar for some time now that allow you to get Gmail push notifications — this new Google app simply cuts out this middle man, but works the same way.

There’s something else interesting about this Google Push Notification support as well. When it pops up the notification letting you know that there’s a new message, there’s a “View” button which will open Gmail in the iPhone’s web browser. So not only is Google bypassing Mail’s lack of Gmail push support, they’re feeding you back to their site. While they don’t do it yet on the iPhone experience, they could presumably show you ads here — something they can’t do on the Mail app on the iPhone. I’m fine with that as the iPhone-tailored version of Gmail in Safari is great.

Something else interesting in all of this is that Apple and Google have still presumably been working together to improve the Gmail/iPhone experience. With iOS 4, we finally got the ability to archive (instead of delete) in the Mail app. And you can now sync notes with your Gmail account. Why there still is no real push support is anyone’s guess. I’m sure each side will blame the other one.

Also interesting to think about: will Google start using this same Push Notification feature to make Google Voice easier to use on the iPhone? We’re all still waiting for the App Store approval of that app.

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The title of this post kind of says it all. As pointed out by blockzuck.com, you can block anyone on Facebook except CEO Mark Zuckerberg. If you try to do it (we did), you’ll get a message saying “General Block failed error: Block failed.”

This kind of thing is funny, and adds a little personality to the site. ButFacebook is getting way too big and culturally important for things like this to continue. In 2005 it was cool for Zuckerberg to have a business card that said “I’m CEO…Bitch.” And we can forgive early Facebook engineers from perusing confidential user data in their leisure time. But it’s time for this company to go through puberty and start acting more like a teenager than a fifth grader. If you want to block Zuckerberg, you should be able to block Zuckerberg.

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If you own an iPhone, you’ve undoubtedly used an app that has the “Pull to Refresh” functionality. You know, where you pull a screen down to refresh the contents on the page. That was originally the work of Loren Brichter, now a Twitter employee who built it for his Tweetie 2 iPhone app (now called Twitter for iPhone). Another group of developers, Enormego, rebuilt the functionality and open-sourced it (apparently with Brichter’s blessing) a while back. Which brings us to yesterday, when it landed inFacebook’s new iPhone app.

The fact that Facebook is using it isn’t an issue at all. The problem is that they then wrapped it into their Three20 iOS library (which they also open-source), but did so without proper attribution. The Enormego guys looked at the code and quickly realized it was nearly an exact copy of theirs. They immediately put up a post entitled “What ever happened to common courtesy?” And rightly so.

But not to fear. It appears that this wasn’t a case of Facebook attempting to steal something as their own. Instead, a few Facebook developers have responded to Enormego apologizing for the mistake which they’re calling an oversight.

Specifically, here’s what Facbeook’s Jeff Verkoeyen (who maintains Three20) had to say in a comment:

This is definitely an oversight on my part. I merged the code in from a Three20 fork by another developer in the community. I contacted the developer of that fork and requested permission to use the code, but going forward I need to be more careful about the code we merge into the library. You are completely in the right to be surprised by this situation and I fully intend to rectify it.

Seeing as this code is clearly based on, and likely replicated from, your source, I will be doing a couple of things.

First, I’m going to speak with the developer in question about this. Both of us contributed to this issue, myself specifically by merging code without fully researching the original source. But I also need to be able to trust code from Three20′s forks, and this means I need to be able to trust that attribution is correctly maintained.

Second, I’d love to speak with you about correctly attributing this source to you. Feel free to contact me anytime at XXXXXXX

I sincerely apologize for the attribution fail. Looking forward to chatting with you and discussing what we should do going forward.

Shaun from Enormego responded favorably to that. And then Facebook’s head of open source programs, Dave Recordon, added another comment just for good measure:

Hey Shaun, I’m David Recordon and head up our open source programs at Facebook.

As Jeff said, we clearly didn’t realize that this was actually your open source code when it was submitted via a GitHub pull request back in February. I’m sorry that we messed this one up.

As for fixing this, the code clearly came from EGOTableViewPullRefresh and we’re updating the four file’s within Three20 to directly reflect that and link back to your project. This patch will be pushed to GitHub shortly.

Verkoeyen followed up one more time to let them know he added the attribution to GitHub.

The situation looked like it may spiral out of control there for a second as even Brichter himself started tweeting about it. “Just so there’s no confusion, Facebook should have credited Enormego for their open source pull to refresh implementation, not me,” he tweeted earlier tonight.

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As the world’s largest social network, Facebook is a fascinating place to find out what’s hot, what’s news, and discover the latest meme.

Despite recent improvements, Facebook’s in-site search doesn’t necessarily offer the best way to see such data. However, there are various services that
provide a dedicated way to either search Facebook’s 500 million-strong data stream (at least what’s made public), or see what’s “trending” on the site in a way that’s similar toTwitter.

While we can’t overlook the fact that search engines like Googleand Binghave begun offering “social search,” we think the five services listed below offer a more useful way to find out what people are saying about a particular topic, or even find out what’s being “Liked” in your social circle.


1. Kurrently


Kurrently is a dedicated search engine for both Twitter and Facebook, but you can narrow down the options to see results from one service or the other.

Kurrently’s great selling point is that the search results continue to refresh after you’ve looked up a word or phrase, so you can experience the kind of auto-updating hashtag search we’re already familiar with on Twitter.

Kurrently’s programmer Gilbert Leung said he started the site because he wanted to get a sense of the global sentiment on a certain issue.

“Twitter Search was the obvious tool at the time,” says Leung, “but my immediate question was, ‘What about Facebook?’ Why am I searching through a community of around 60 million when a network of around 500 million exists?’”


2. It’s Trending


Right now It’s Trending offers a non-searchable, real-time feed of the most shared content across Facebook, which is useful for anyone who wants a snapshot glimpse of the social web’s current zeitgeist in an incredibly simple and uncomplicated way.

Giving you a new way to see hot topics across categories (video, news, sports, tech, gaming, comedy, etc) and across popular sites (Cracked, YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, NY Times, CNN and yes, Mashable) it’s a good-looking service that has big plans for the future — so definitely one to watch.


3. Openbook


While many of you may already be familiar with Openbook, it’s worthy of a place on this list for how simple it is to search, or see what others are searching for.

Also worth mentioning for marketeers or researchers is Openbook’s unique ability to see search results from just male or female Facebookers — something that’s an incredibly useful tool if you need to narrow down data on a gender basis.


4. Booshaka


Recent startup Booshaka offers a real-time look at what’s trending on Facebook based on open search keywords, as well as via topic if you’re interested in more a general browse.

Main channel topics include news, music, sports, politics, gossip, TV, fashion, movies, deals, travel, brands and games (with each broken down into further sub-topics). Clicking on one of these will give you a stream of updates from relevant accounts.

Once you’ve carried out a topic search, you can see how many “Likes” and comments a Facebook post has received, and narrow down the results by what’s trending now, what’s most popular, what’s most recent, and what has the biggest “buzz.”

These further options could potentially help identify up-and-coming trends, as well as find out what folks are saying about established ones.


5. Facepinch


Facepinch promises to let you know popular “Likes” (as well as create your own “Like”), view hot trending topics, and see what’s being sought after on Facebook with its top 100 most popular searches list. There is also the option to see recent searches if you’re more interested in what’s happening right now.

While there’s no data to be gleaned from it, you can also browse recently updated profile pics with a gallery of random Facebook users’ names and thumbnails. The site’s default is the U.S., but you can select specific countries if you’ve an interest in a particular geographical area.

The service’s creator, London-based Andrew Webb, states that besides the more obvious voyeuristic uses, he sees value in the site for brands:

“[C]ompanies and marketing professionals [can] see an unfiltered glimpse of how their products are being really perceived by the public.”


BONUS: Like Button


More aimed at finding out what’s hot in your own social circle, Like Button shows you “what people you know like on the Internet right now.”

If you’re signed in via Facebook, you can see what your buddies have “Liked” on popular pre-loaded sites such as YouTube, CNN, The Huffington Post, etc, and via categories including news, social media, tech, Apple, etc. But there is the infinitely useful option to add sites of your choosing too, making the Like Button site a personalized social window on the web.

You can also click to view a brief overview of what’s hot on Facebook with the nine top trends displayed and refreshed every 15 minutes.

In addition, and on the fun side of things, Like Button lets you create your very own “Like” and “Dislike” buttons, the former of which looks like this when posted to your Facebook wall:

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