Google is reportedly in the process of giving its Web-search formula a major makeover in an attempt to fix its shortcomings and maintain its dominance in the search market. In the coming months, the company is looking to use “semantic search” to analyze words and phrases and present more facts and direct answers to questions at the top of each results page. The changes are among the company’s biggest and could affect millions of websites that rely on Google’s current page-ranking results, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. A top Google search executive said that semantic search will allow the company to better match queries from a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities” — such as people, places and things — that the company has quietly built up over the past two years. For example, people who search for “Lake Tahoe” with semantic search will see “attributes” of the lake, such as its location, altitude and average temperature or salt content, while those who searched for it today would only get links. More →
Google took the wraps off of Google Maps 5.7 for Android devices on Wednesday, and the software update adds quite a few new features. The most noteworthy addition is Google’s Transit Navigation beta feature, which provides navigation instructions for public transportation in more than 400 cities around the globe. You don’t have to leave it open, either. Once you’ve started your trip, Transit Navigation will automatically remind you with an alert when your stop is coming up. Google also made it easier to find driving or walking directions in one click, improved search suggestions with category icons, and added a photo viewer to the Places feature of Google Maps. The update is available free from the Android Market for devices running Android 2.1 or newer. Hit the jump for a video of Transit Navigation beta in action. More →
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the social network has plans to “launch something awesome” next week. There’s no official word on what will be announced, but we suspect it’s going to be the new iPhone photo-sharing service that we saw just last week. The service — which looked amazing in the leaked screen shots — will likely compete with other applications such as Instagram and Path. Rumor has it that inside Facebook headquarters, the new photo sharing app has been dubbed either “WithPeople,” or “Hovertown.” It’s entirely possible that Zuckerberg will also take the wraps off of his company’s native Facebook iPad app, since it would likely fit well into the photo-sharing ecosystem. Lastly, it’s possible Facebook will detail the next steps it’s taking with its Facebook Places check-in service, too, but given Zuckerberg’s use of the word “launch,” we’re not so sure. It remains unclear what day the announcement will be made. More →
Google — noting that 40% of its Google Maps users are on mobile devices — updated its Google Maps Web app for iOS and Android today. We’ve been pretty satisfied with the native applications on Android and iOS, but the website allows you to access many of the options that are available from a desktop browser, too. That includes the ability to view your location, search nearby areas with suggestions and auto-complete, get directions for driving, transit, biking, or walking, view different lays, view Place pages, and access your starred locations. We’re particularly excited about the option for accessing our starred locations, a feature that’s not available in the native iOS application. You can access the revamped interface by visiting maps.google.com from your iOS or Android device. More →
In conjunction with its Places service, Google is piloting a new, free feature for business owners. Being called Business Photos, Google is looking to supplement an establishment’s Places page with interior photographs. “Millions of potential customers visit Google every day to learn about places and businesses,” reads the company’s website. “Through scheduled photo shoots, Google is introducing a new way for you to showcase your business to the world.” In a handful of U.S. and international cities, business owners can apply to have a Google “photo shoot.” The search giant notes that demand will help them decide where to send its photographers. There is a video after the break explaining the news service, enjoy. More →
Recently, Google announced an update to its Maps application for Android. Bearing version number 5.3, the update brings new location features that target Latitude an Hotpot users. “If you’ve enabled Location History for Google Latitude, you’ve been able to visualize interesting trends in your location history with a personal dashboard at google.com/latitude on your computer,” writes Google. “Now, you can also see your dashboard on your phone by tapping View location history from your Latitude profile.” The second feature allows Maps users rating locales via Places or Hotpot to input their own, personalized aspects of their location — as opposed to Google doing it automatically. Google Maps 5.3 is in the Android Market and requires software version 1.6 or higher. More →
Earlier today, Facebook released an update to its iOS client bearing version number 3.4. The new bits add a map view to Places check-ins, an improved News Feed, and a more intuitive Notification dashboard. Version 3.4 also allows users to unfriend stalkers, former significant others, or anyone else directly from their iPhone or iPod touch. The update is available immediately in the App Store, enjoy.
It looks like the gang from Mountain View have pushed Google Maps 5.2 to the Android Market. Aside from the standard performance improvements, the update adds the ability to post place-ratings directly to Twitter and “ping” friends to request check-ins. Google reminds you that both parties using Maps must be on version 5.2 to take advantage of the ping feature… so be a friend and remind your amigos to update. More →
Cupertino based Apple, Inc. has filed for a trademark on the word “Places” in both the European Union and China, reports Patently Apple. The original filing was submitted on February 23rd and covers international classes 009, 041, 042, and 045. The first three classes cover a hodgepodge of computer services, software, and hardware. But class 045 pertains specifically to social networking services; “providing a social networking website; assisting in the locating of people using a global positioning system (GPS).” Apple has already dipped its toe in the social networking pool with its Ping music discovery service, which, as far as we can tell, no one uses. For the past few years, the company has used the “places” name in its iPhoto and iOS software, although, that doesn’t seem worthy of a full trademark filing. Any guesses?
Google has announced that its popular Places application — already released for devices running Android 1.6 and higher — is now available for iOS. Google Places with Hotpot allows users to easily locate retail and service locations within their proximity. The Hotpot feature, as Google explains, brings a social component to local search:
If you want to make things even tastier, just visit google.com/hotpot from your desktop computer. Here you can add friends to the mix and quickly rate all the places you already know. Once you’ve added friends, you’ll find your results seasoned not just with reviews from around the web and recommendations based on your own personal taste, but also with your friends’ opinions too.
The initial release is available in English only and is sitting in the App Store as we speak. Enjoy. More →
From Shawn Fanning (creator of Napster) and Dave Morin (ex-Facebook) comes a new social network platform. Launched just last night in Apple’s App Store, Path creates (and limits you) to a social network of 50 close friends. You can share your personal moments in the form of photos, tag places, things and people, and also capture where you were at the time geographically. Since your network is limited to a max of 50 friends, the creators of Path think that you’ll not only share more often, but you’ll share more personal “Paths” that you normally wouldn’t throw up on Facebook or Twitter. The problem with Path, at least in our limited use of the application and network, is that with no external sharing, and a very, very limited group of friends, we’re not sure how useful the application is and will be. For instance, most of the stuff I want to share is public anyway (Twitpics, Facebook uploads), and the private photos I don’t want to share publicly, well, they are private. In theory, it would be great if there was a public by default option in Path, something that would let you use Path in conjunction with Twitter and Facebook, and a private option which would then limit your photo’s exposure to just your internal Path network of friends. In a world where updating Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Instagram, and everything else we’re on constantly, Path at this point seems too limited to be useful. Hopefully that will change, though. Let us know if you have given it a go and what your thoughts are — it’s available now if you want to give a try. More →
Today, at the company’s mobile media event, social networking giant Facebook announced that it has roughly 200 million active users on its Facebook mobile products; up from 65 million last year. Capitalizing on that momentum, Facebook announced several updated mobile offerings for two specific mobile platforms, iOS and Android.
The iOS Facebook application will get Facebook’s new “groups” implementation, easier location tagging of people, and the ability to link and upload photos to a “place.” The Android application, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits has been “a little behind,” will also be getting the “groups” and “places” functionality; Mr. Zuckerberg promised “true parity” between the two applications going forward. No ETA was given for the new applications but the innuendo appears to be “soon.”
UPDATE: It looks like the Android Facebook update, version 1.4.0, has just hit the Market. Enjoy!
UPDATE 2: The iOS update, version 3.3, has just made its way to the App Store.
Location-based social networking site Loopt has just announced a new feature, Facebook Places. As touted in a press release, a newly released iOS application will allow users to “view both Facebook and Loopt check-ins on an interactive map, providing a clear view of friends gathering nearby.” The new code will also allow users to simultaneously check-in to locations on Facebook and Loopt as well as view the history of Facebook and Loopt friends. Your one-stop stalking shop. “We are glad to have access to the Facebook Places API, and we jumped to incorporate it into Loopt,” said the company’s CEO, Sam Altman. “You’ll see even more integration soon.” Hit the jump for the full press release. More →