Google I/O Brings Big Announcements

Google’s annual I/O developer conference took place in San Francisco this week and it came with a slew of new announcements. Many of those announcements were related to Google+. They announced 41 new features including auto-generated related hashtags based on social importance and proximity to users, “Awesome” photo options that create animated GIFs out of photos, image analysis that looks at what’s in a photo and displays related photos automatically, streamlined messaging that aggregates all conversations between certain people and a Pinterest-like look with a big emphasis on images organized in one, two or three columns depending on user preference. All of these features are the same on the Web, Android and iOS devices.

They also integrated Google+ Sign-In into Android, making Google+ a major factor on the most prevalent mobile operating system in the world. The feature allows people to sign in with Google+ on the Web, automatically download the corresponding app and then open their Android devices to seamlessly pick up where they left off without re-logging in. Users can also use Google+ Circles in game leader boards and multiplayer experiences.

This positions Google very well.  It’s already taken a 34% share of social log-ins, and it only launched this year. With Google+ sign-in so integrated into Android devices, it will only continue. Now, everyone has a reason to have a Google+ account. This could be a very big deal because it entices people to sign up and then get introduced to features like Hangouts. Google is using their mobile dominance to merge Web, social and mobile to create a unified experience.

Google’s announcements also included an All Access music streaming service that offers customized radio stations, on-demand streaming and a user’s stored music library from one interface. The service costs $9.99 per month, but if you sign up for a free trial before June 30, you’ll get a promotional rate of $7.99 per month. This is only available for Android users.

The Hangouts feature is now also available in a separate app.

Another announcement included live YouTube streaming for more channels that are in good standing and have at least 1,000 subscribers. This works by transcoding in the cloud in real-time. Content creators can add closed captions, ads and even multiple camera angles on the fly.

Google Maps also got a major overhaul with detail-rich maps and the integration of more data, personalization and social. Maps automatically changes based on what you seem to be focusing on, such as driving, locations or recommendations.

Finally, Google made updates to search (no surprises here!). The update leverages Google’s wealth of data to not only answer the question you’ve asked in your search but also predict and try to answer your follow-up question. For example, if you ask for the population of China, you’ll also get the population of the United States and India. It anticipates what you want next and is an extension of Google’s semantic search product, Knowledge Graph. It follows the direction of Google Now, the smart assistant app that’s built to predict and deliver the information you need based on your behavior.

Read more at CNET, VentureBeat, Android Geeks and The New York Times.

Bing Adds Facebook Engagement to Search Results

Bing’s Facebook integration has gotten even deeper. Previously, users could view relevant Facebook posts in a social sidebar. Now, users can interact with them by commenting and liking posts.

Up until this point, Facebook integration was largely superficial, only showing people additional information pulled from Facebook, such as posts and profiles. Bing now allows actual interaction to take place within Bing searches. Bing Program Manager Nektarios Ioannides shares the example, “Let’s say I’m searching for Beyoncé tickets because I know she is coming to town soon. I can see that my friend has recently posted that she has an extra ticket to the show. Now without leaving the Bing results page, I comment directly to her post letting her know that I’d love to join her for the concert. I’ve gone from simply browsing to attending a concert in just a few easy steps – all thanks to Bing.”

Bing hasn’t shared how many users have linked Bing with their Facebook accounts, but it’s clear that Bing sees Facebook as an opportunity to improve its search engine by offering social context. Bing and Facebook have grown very close over the past few years with Bing integrating Facebook and Facebook integrating Bing in its Graph Search feature.

It’s difficult to say how this has led to an increase in users or search volume, but with Google integrating Google+ further and further, Bing is taking the approach of integrating the world’s largest social network instead of creating its own.

Read more at PCMAG.com.

Twitter Acquires Lucky Sort

Twitter acquired Lucky Sort, an analytics startup that specializes in data visualization, this week. The terms were not disclosed.

Lucky Sort gained notoriety with its TopicWatch product, which allows users to look at real-time social and news trends. Lucky Sort will be shutting down with much of its team joining Twitter’s revenue engineering department. This isn’t the first data acquisition made by Twitter as Lucky Sort joins the ranks of Ubalo and Bluefin Labs.

Businesses can already use Twitter to a degree to track conversations about their brands using standard free tools or more advanced social media monitoring software or even third-party data providers like Datasift and Gnip. But all of those require working with a third party, instead of Twitter itself.

This acquisition signals that Twitter may be working to create more data products of its own to integrate in its platform for advertisers. This has potential implications for Twitter’s preferred data partners like Gnip. This acquisition points Twitter in a direction that could make it a competitor with its partners, and we’ve seen Twitter adopt features started by third parties in the past, essentially making them obsolete.

Read more at SocialTimes.

News Quick Hits

·         App.net, the paid members-only Twitter competitor, followed-up on its offer to allow people to join for free when invited by paying members. Now, anyone can join for free and create an App.net Passport account, which doesn’t have all the features of a paid account.. (Read more at Read more at AllTwitter)

·         The first phone to come pre-loaded with Facebook Home, the HTC First, has already dropped its price to $0.99 for customers that sign on for two years, but low sales have led AT&T to make the decision to discontinue the HTC First soon with remaining product returned to HTC. The problem has been attributed to sales representatives not pushing the HTC First or Facebook Home. This might also be because Home is available on most Android devices, so consumers may be choosing different devices and installing Home on their own. (Read more at AllFacebook)

·         Twitter’s continuing to ink deals with media companies. This week ESPN and Twitter announced that ESPN will start sharing a variety of highlight clips in tweets shortly after they take place live. This expands a relationship that already existed with ESPN embedding college football highlights into tweets. Fox also signed on to distribute clips of TV shows, live events and videos of episodes after they’ve aired. (Read more at Wall Street Journal and LostRemote)

·         Pinterest’s iOS and Android apps were updated this week with features, including push notifications, auto-suggestions for search and the ability to send pins to other users. Auto-suggestions for search increase the speed in which users can find pins on mobile devices. Users can use the ‘@’ symbol to mention other Pinterest users and even invite friends to join collaborative boards. (Read more at CNET)

·         Reddit is giving Reddit Gold account holders the ability to turn on a multireddit feature to create a personalized homepage. Typically, the home page features the most popular submissions. Now, users can create their own homepage with subreddits they follow most. The feature is in beta testing. (Read more at VentureBeat)

·         Google Glass is still in beta, but it now features apps for social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, the note-taking service Evernote, and publications like CNN and Elle. Users can now upload photos to Facebook, tweet photos with the hashtag #throughglass, view video clips and headlines from CNN, and send text-based notes to Evernote. The apps join the ranks of the social network Path and The New York Times, which both already had apps. (Read more at The Verge)

·         Yahoo is incorporating Twitter into its “news stream.” The integration will include news articles and content from Twitter displayed on the website. Facebook has already been integrated into the recently relaunched Yahoo news stream. (Read more at The Wall Street Journal)

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