Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

File Under: Social, Web Services

Google’s Election Doodle Tells You Where to Vote

Image:Screenshot/Webmonkey.

It doesn’t have any fancy HTML5 or CSS 3 tricks to show off, but today’s Google doodle is a helpful one if you live in the United States. Click today’s election-themed ballot box doodle, plug in your address and Google will direct you where to vote.

The results page offers up a ballot summary (it won’t be complete in most places, but it highlights the presidential race, as well as local representatives), links to local registrar sites and, in case it can’t find your polling location, will direct you to your state voter information website.

Depending on where you live there are also links to Google Politics & Elections, YouTube Live for voting results and quite a few other bits of election-related info.

File Under: Social, Web Services

New Sharing Tools Show Off Google Drive’s Ubiquitous Future

Image: Google

Google has added a new sharing feature to Google Drive — the company’s cloud storage service — that makes it easy to share your files with friends on Google+.

Now you can quickly share a file from Google Drive to Google+ and people in your Google+ circles will be able to open documents, play videos and view presentations right from your Google+ stream.

Google Drive is a key part of fulfilling the company’s vision for a cloud-centric computing future, but so far Drive remains on the periphery of most Google services. While the new Google+ sharing features may be a small change, it shows where Drive is headed — into all your Google services.

The new sharing features for Drive files are easy to use. When you click the “share” button next to a file in Google Drive (or right-click a file and select “share”) you’ll see a new Google+ icon alongside the familiar Twitter and Facebook options. Note that sharing a Drive file through Google+ will not change the sharing settings of that file. Your friends on Google+ will only be able to view or edit it if you’ve given them permission to do so in Google Drive. If you’d like anyone to be able to access the document, select the “public on the web” visibility option. The Google Drive documentation has full details on sharing.

Once your document is added to Google+ anyone with permission to do so will see thumbnails for your shared documents or music files, and there’s an inline player for videos and presentations.

The sharing features work the other way was well — you can paste a Google Drive URL into a Google+ post and anyone looking at the feed will see the same thumbnails and players.

File Under: Browsers, Social

Socialfox: New Feature Puts Facebook in Your Firefox

Facebook is in your Firefox (but only if you want it). Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.


Mozilla is rolling out a beta version of its new Social API for Firefox. For this release the company worked with Facebook to create Facebook Messenger for Firefox — a Firefox sidebar that brings your Facebook updates with you wherever you go on the web.

If you’d like to test out Firefox’s new Social API features, head over to the beta channel downloads page and grab the latest release. Then point your browser to Facebook, which will prompt you to install the Facebook Messenger for Firefox.

If you don’t visit Facebook you’ll never know the new Social API exists.

That’s exactly as it should be, according to Mozilla’s Johnathan Nightingale, senior director of Firefox engineering. I spoke to Nightingale ahead of the Social API release and he stressed that the Social API is entirely opt-in by design. “Our plan is not to push anyone into something they don’t want, but to make

easier and better for those that already use it.”

The new Social API can be seen as an extension of the App Tabs Mozilla added to Firefox 4. The App Tabs feature recognizes that all tabs are not equal. Some tabs, like e-mail, document editors or news feeds are easier to use when they get a special spot in your browser. The Social API extends that idea even further, bringing social websites out of tabs completely and into a persistent sidebar that you can access without the need to switch tabs or log in.

“Social is not like other things that people do on the internet,” says Nightingale, “it runs as a current through everything they’re doing.” The Social API is designed to make it easier to stay in that current even while you’re visiting other sites. For example, Facebook Messenger for Firefox adds a sidebar that is visible even when you switch tabs. It’s easier to keep up with what’s happening because you see updates rolling in even when you’re browsing other sites. Since constant Facebook updates are annoying when you’re trying to get work done, there’s also a way to hide the sidebar until you want it again.

Facebook’s Social API implementation also adds a “like” button to the address bar, which means you can share a page with your friends on Facebook without leaving that page, which is great for sites that don’t offer their own social sharing buttons.

The Firefox Social API consists of a manifest file and few URLs, but the user interface, the features offered and all the other details are up to the social site itself. For now that’s just Facebook, but Nightingale says Mozilla will add more support for more providers, and eventually even for multiple social sites at once. The idea is to make it easy for any site to build on the Social API, much like the OpenSearch API did for custom search engines.

If you don’t use Facebook there’s nothing to see right now. However, after playing around with the new Facebook Messenger it’s not hard to imagine how other sites might do something similar. Twitter is an obvious example, but the Social API is not limited to just “social networks.” For example, GitHub could create a sidebar with, say, all your project updates and pull requests.

The privacy implications of giving social networks a cozier spot in your browser may make some people nervous, but Tom Lowenthal, of Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy team, assures users that nothing has changed regarding your data. “Once enabled, Firefox loads several pages from your social network over secure connections,” writes Lowenthal, “These pages are treated just as if you’d loaded them in another browser tab.”

That means Facebook can set cookies and collect data just like it would if you were logged into the site, but neither Facebook, nor any other social network that builds something with the Social API, will get any special treatment or additional data from Firefox. In other words, just because Facebook is persistent in the sidebar doesn’t mean it has access to any additional information from your browser.

If you’re always logged into Facebook anyway, the new Facebook Messenger for Firefox makes for a smoother, more compelling social network experience. It’s also easy to back out of should you end up disliking it. Those looking for something similar from another social network will just have to wait for those networks to build out their own Social API offerings.

File Under: Browsers, Social, Web Services

Mozilla Wants to Put Social Networks in the Browser

With Firefox 16 out the door — and yes, it has been updated to fix the security vulnerability we wrote about yesterday — Mozilla has begun turning its attention to Firefox 17, which just arrived in the Beta channel.

If you’d like to test Firefox 17, head over to the Firefox channels page and grab a copy.

Firefox 17 introduces the first bit of Mozilla’s plan to bring the social web into the web browser. Firefox 17 lays the groundwork for Mozilla’s new Social API. There’s nothing to see right now, but under the hood Firefox 17 is getting ready to move your social web interactions from individual websites into a sidebar within Firefox.

Among Mozilla’s plans for the new Social API are a notification system, a way to share or recommend content and a dedicated sidebar for news feeds, chat and other aspects of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its social API:

Much like the OpenSearch standard, the Social API enables developers to integrate social services into the browser in a way that is meaningful and helpful to users. As services integrate with Firefox via the Social API sidebar, it will be easy for you to keep up with friends and family anywhere you go on the Web without having to open a new Web page or switch between tabs. You can stay connected to your favorite social network even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video or playing a game.

If that sounds familiar, well, it should. The “social” web browser Flock offered most of the features Mozilla has planned for the Firefox Social API, but failed to ever find much of an audience and has since been shut down acquired by Zynga and shutdown (while the current Flock website seems to hint that it might return, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath).

Mozilla is planning to start its own social experimentation with Facebook. The two companies are working to bring Facebook Messenger (Facebook’s chat and SMS app) into Firefox via the new Social API. Look for Facebook Messenger to arrive in Firefox 17 as updates roll out in the coming weeks.

If social network integration isn’t your bag, fear not, Firefox does have a few changes aimed at web developers, most notably the new Markup Panel in the developer tools.

Previously the Markup Panel only allowed you to edit HTML attribute values, but now you can double-click pretty much anywhere in the panel and change just about any bit of HTML you’d like. That means it’s possible to edit pages on the fly in the browser and then copy and paste your changes back to your actual HTML files or templates. For more details on the other new developer tools in Firefox 17, see our earlier write-up of the Aurora channel release.

File Under: Social

‘Uncertain Rainbow’: Twitter Sans Ego

Twitter in color. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

What’s social media without names? Turns out, if you strip away the names and replace them with just colors, for example, you end up with a kind of pure egoless information that is, in many ways, more engaging than the original.

Uncertain Rainbow is a project from developer Chris McDowall that reformats your Twitter timeline, replacing everyone’s name and avatar with simple blocks of color. The result is still Twitter, but without any egos.

As McDowall writes: “You might be conversing with … anyone. A pure relationship of thought and humour… No pressure to duty-follow, or send a lame reply in response to a slightly-too-much @message.”

To check out Uncertain Rainbow, just head to the site, grant the app permission to access your Twitter timeline and behold the egoless rainbow.