President Obama will be hosting his first Google+ hangout tonight at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. In the discussion, the president will be answering questions that were submitted over the past few weeks through YouTube. Google maintains that the White House has had no role in which questions will be selected. Google’s team will instead choose the top-rated questions among those submitted, ensuring there will be several different issues discussed. The event will take place in the Roosevelt Room of the White House and is scheduled to last 45 minutes. The hangout will also be streamed on the White House’s web site, and reporters and press cameras not permitted inside during the event. Obama has previously hosted town hall meetings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all of which received harsh criticism and claims that the President ignored subjects that drew the most questions. More →
Facebook announced on Tuesday that the company’s Timeline feature will be forced on users “over the next few weeks.” Facebook introduced the Timeline feature last year, which transforms a profile page into a timeline of a user’s life, highlighting photos, posts and life events that help tell the user’s story. Once activated, people will have seven days to preview the Timeline content before it goes live on the account. Last week, Facebook added a feature that enabled apps to populate timelines with new information, such as a virtual passport to share a user’s favorite locations. More →
Motorola Mobility announced on Wednesday that its Motorola Mobility Ventures arm has invested in a social networking startup called Shaker. The firm, based in Israel, says its social network is “similar to interacting in the physical world,” and that it “creates a natural setting using your Facebook profile and allows people to meet around mutual friends and shared interests.” Motorola’s MOTOBLUR user interface found on several of its Android smartphones allows users to access multiple social network profiles, but early versions weren’t greeted warmly by users. Motorola may use Shaker to spice things up a bit in future versions of the UI. “Shaker’s innovative platform gives consumers the ability to not only interact with each other, but with brands in groundbreaking ways that could never before have been accomplished on a social network,” Mony Hassid, managing director of Motorola Mobility Ventures, said. It is unclear how much Motorola Mobility Ventures invested in Shaker. A full press release follows after the break. More →
If you turned on your television over the holidays you most likely encountered one of many Google advertisements. The Mountain View company has been pushing brand awareness with commercials highlighting Chrome web browsing, Google Search and social networking on Google+. It would appear the advertising is paying off, as Google+ is reportedly adding new users at a rapid pace. The social networking site has over 62 million users and is adding 625,000 new users each day according to unofficial Google+ statistician Paul Allen. What is astonishing is that nearly a quarter of all Google+ users joined in December alone. If the rate of new sign-ups continues, Allen predicts that Google+ will reach 100 million users on February 25th, 200 million users on August 3rd, and will finish 2012 with 293 million users. However, he also believes that 2012 will be the breakout year for the social networking site, and that it could reach more than 400 million users by the end of the year. Impressive nonetheless, Allen’s numbers only show how many people are signing up for Google + and there is no indication how frequently those users actually make use of their accounts regularly. More →
Microsoft officially took the wraps off of its new social network for students on Thursday. The service is called So.cl and was developed by Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs division. It’s currently in “experimental” stages and is available to students attending the University of Washington, New York University and Syracuse University. So.cl allows users to log-in with their Facebook accounts and offers a similar set of features. In addition to adding status updates, photos and links, users can also join “video parties” to watch movies and chat with a group of friends. “So.cl is not meant to replace existing full-featured search and social networking tools,” Microsoft said on its So.cl FAQ page. “It is an experimental research project using a minimal set of features which help combine search with the social network for the purpose of learning.” More →
Flipboard, the popular magazine-style news application originally made available for the iPad is now available for iPhone as well. Flipboard allows users to flip through a single feed of articles and photos that have been shared across various social networks. It can also display stories from a variety of news categories including technology, design, “Flipboard picks,” photography, business, sports, style, travel, food and more. The user interface is among the best we’ve ever seen on a casual news application. Android and Windows Phone users may want to check out Pulse for a similar experience, though Pulse isn’t quite as impressive and novel as Flipboard. Flipboard for iPhone is free and is available in the App Store now. More →
Gowalla on Monday confirmed it was recently acquired by Facebook. “About two months ago, my co-founder Scott and I attended F8,” Gowalla co-founder and CEO Josh Williams wrote on the company blog Monday. “We were blown away by Facebook’s new developments. A few weeks later Facebook called, and it became clear that the way for our team to have the biggest impact was to work together. So we’re excited to announce that we’ll be making the journey to California to join Facebook.” Gowalla will begin to “wind down” its services in January but will allow users to export their passport and pin data, stamp collections and photos. Williams said Facebook is not acquiring Gowalla’s user data. Neither Facebook nor Gowalla discussed the terms of the acquisition. More →
Facebook settled a privacy lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission on Friday and agreed to submit independent audits for the next 20 years. The FTC had accused the social network of being deceptive in its privacy practices, Reuters explained. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. Facebook will create two positions dedicated to privacy, including a chief privacy officer. In addition, Reuters said the social network must be transparent about what it does with personal user data in the future and it must receive user permission before changing how it shares private user data. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he “is committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy.”
Foursquare announced on Wednesday that it has updated its client to version 4.0 with support for iOS 5. The update will provide users with access to a brand new “Radar” feature that takes advantage of iOS 5’s region monitoring capabilities to automatically alert you of destinations nearby that you might be interested in. If a friend or family member has checked in nearby, it will alert you that he or she is just around the corner. “When you’re in a new city, Radar can let you know about about cool places around you, even though you’ve never been before,” foursquare’s lead iPhone developer Anoop Ranganath told BGR. Foursquare for iPhone 4.0 is available in the iTunes App Store now and the update is free. More →
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and seven other privacy groups have contacted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Facebook for “secretly tracking users after they logged off of Facebook’s webpage.” A 34-page complaint filed by EPIC asks for an injunction, investigation and “other relief” from the social network. EPIC said Facebook is home to more than 60 billion photographs and alleges it developed its “tag suggestions” feature to collect data on Facebook users “without knowledge of consent in order to develop facial recognition technology.” The complaint specifically states:
Given these extraordinary circumstances, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, urge the Commission to investigate Facebook, determine the extent of the harm to consumer privacy and safety, require Facebook to cease collection and use of users’ biometric data without their affirmative opt-in consent, require Facebook to give users meaningful control over their personal information, establish appropriate security safeguards, limit the disclosure of user information to third parties, and seek appropriate injunctive and compensatory relief.
EPIC’s letter also details how the social network violates its own terms of service and shows how hard it is for a user who has been tagged in a photo to delete the original image which, in most cases, is owned by somebody else. EPIC wants Facebook to create a detailed privacy program and to immediately suspend its face-tagging feature. More →
Google recently announced that its Google+ social network is now available to anyone who wants to join. The search engine giant noted that it has added 91 changes during the social network’s beta trial, which lasted just under 90 days, and that it is deploying nine new changes on Tuesday. Among the most notable additions, the Hangouts video chat feature is now available for Android smartphones running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or newer. Here is a list of several other key changes:
- A new “Hangouts on Air” option allows users to live broadcast to up to nine different people.
- Hangouts can now be named.
- A screen sharing function has been added to Hangouts.
- Users can now share and view a sketchpad directly inside Hangouts
- Google Docs can be viewed and shared inside Hangouts.
- Google+ members can now search for other users from the social network directly and Google+ will return results from around the web.
- The Google+ Hangouts API is now available for developers.
Google announced on Thursday that it is following in Facebook’s footsteps yet again by adding games to its Google+ social network. “We want to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to the web,” the company said in a blog post. “That means giving you control over when you see games, how you play them and with whom you share your experiences.” Thankfully we won’t be bombarded with Farmville requests and updates on Mafia Wars: “games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t,” the company said. A new ‘Games’ button will be added to the top of the Google+ stream that will bring users to the gaming page. Launch titles include Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, City of Wonder, Collapse! Blast, Crime City, Diamond Dash, Dragon Age Legends, Dragons of Atlantis, Edge World, Flood-It!, Monster World, Sudoku, Wild Ones, Zombie Lane and Zynga Poker. Google will be rolling out the update to its users gradually and it will be available to all users “soon.” More →
Google updated its Google+ iOS application on Monday with support for the iPod touch and the iPad. The search giant initially launched Google+ on Android and followed-up a few weeks later with an iPhone release, but other iOS users were left out in the cold. Google has added Huddle settings and aggregated circle add notifications to the app. We’re big fans of the Google+ “Circles” feature, which allows you to control who sees what, so if you haven’t given the new social network a try yet, we suggest you do. Read on for the iTunes Store link. More →