Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

File Under: Social

Google+ Updates Its User Interface, Refines Navigation and Photos

By Cesar Torres, Ars Technica

Google announced today a major redesign and a set of new features for users of its Google+ service. Navigation and several user interface features on Google+ pages have gotten a design makeover, and several new features aim to attract more users to share photos and promote more interactions with each other.

Google has overhauled navigation by making things simpler than its previous design. Pages now feature a cleaner, more minimalist look to match some of Google’s more recent updates to other applications like Gmail. A new “ribbon” of icons for home, profile, pages, and photos simplifies access to some of its major features. These icons can now be customized to users’ individual preferences. The end result is that now pages have a very clean, streamlined look made up of app-like icons.

Google+’s new look and features also emphasize photos now more than ever before. Photos are now displayed prominently, using more space on the browser’s screen. The new layouts are larger and more elegant, and they resemble the photo displays on sites like Tumblr or Flickr.

Google has made discussions and comments more visible, in an effort to make participation easier and more self-evident. The new “Explore” button highlights activity and posts by Google+ members as a stream of trending activity. This feature is likely an attempt to encourage more users to explore pages and people beyond the privacy of their own circles.

Hangouts have also received their own dedicated page and a design refresh. You can now view your own hangouts and track personal invites to hangouts more easily. Most notably, you can scan for other public hangouts that are available to join or watch in real time.

The new design began rolling out to some users starting today, and some features will be rolling out over the course of this week. In January of this year, Google announced it had 90 million users. Today’s announcement says that more than 170 million have signed up for Google+ service, even if not all of them joined voluntarily. Google+ has positioned itself as an alternative to Facebook, and some of the new features suggest that Google is more aggressively trying to lure users to use the Google+ platform.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Social

ThinkUp Wants to Liberate Your Online Social Life

The corporate social web still sucks

Expert Labs, the non-profit organization behind ThinkUp, a web-based data-liberation and analytics application, is rebooting into a commercial entity.

No need to panic if you use ThinkUp to back up your social network life; the application will remain open source and freely available.

But Expert Labs is going away and ThinkUp is refocusing on a larger goal — liberating your online social life from the clutches of corporate web entities.

In its own words the new ThinkUp wants to build “an information network that connects to today’s social networks, but isn’t centralized and dependent on a company or investors.”

That’s not an entirely new idea. Diaspora and some other projects are trying to do the same thing, but ThinkUp is taking a different approach — it wants to build an app first and focus on the user experience rather than the underlying technology.

In fact ThinkUp already is an app that’s pretty close to what it’s aiming to do. ThinkUp is a web-based app that pulls your data out of social silos like Facebook or Twitter and stores it on your own server. You control your own data, and have a record of your conversations potentially long after Facebook, Twitter and the rest have become mere footnotes in the history of the web.

For more on how ThinkUp works and how you can use it be sure to check out our earlier coverage and then grab the code and try it for yourself.

So what of ThinkUp’s new, loftier goals? Is any attempt to replace Facebook doomed to failure? Of course not. Everything is replaceable, just ask MySpace. And ThinkUp believes its approach is different. “Prior attempts have tried to solve this problem based on the assumption that it is a technical challenge,” says ThinkUp’s Knight News Challenge application. “We believe it to be a social one.” ThinkUp’s focus going forward will be on the social and the interface:

We will draw people in through a compelling media site that encourages participation via our decentralized platform… a peer-to-peer network that powers a great media property with broad appeal — imagine if Digg or Reddit were open, decentralized and powered by a network instead of votes.

If you’re curious to know what that might look like, head on over to the ThinkUp proposal for the Knight News Challenge and click the heart icon to “like” it (incidentally if the Knight New Challenge sounds familiar, that might be because it’s also the birthplace of EveryBlock). In the meantime, work on the ThinkUp app continues with a new release that improves the charts and graphs and paves the way for the coming Foursquare support. Check out the ThinkUp GitHub page for more details.

File Under: Browsers, Identity, Social

Mozilla’s ‘Persona’ Project Wants to Help Manage Your Online Identity

Mozilla has unveiled a new distributed online identity system dubbed Mozilla Persona. The new Persona project is Mozilla’s latest effort to tackle online identity management by shifting the focus from individual websites to the web browser.

Mozilla has been playing with the idea of a browser-based identity manager for quite some time. In 2010 the company launched its Account Manager project, though it failed to gain much traction and was later scrapped.

More recently Mozilla has been working on Browser ID, a similar effort to move the process of managing passwords and online identities to the browser, rather than relying on any particular website’s login process. The Browser ID project offers developers a means of creating a browser-based login system for their sites. The code is available through GitHub and while using it is considerably simpler than similar efforts like OAuth, Browser ID has yet to catch on with many sites.

Mozilla Persona will build on Browser ID’s foundation (Browser ID will continue to be the name of the developer-facing aspect of the protocol), but add in more end user features like “an identity dashboard.” As with Browser ID, Persona will face a chicken and egg problem — why bother supporting Persona when few people are using it, and why bother using it when so few sites support it?

Thus far, aside from the proposed dashboard, Mozilla’s goals for Persona are only vaguely outlined. The closest Mozilla comes to giving it a concrete definition is to say that Persona will consist of “a collection of components and experiences we’re designing to manage the whole of a user’s online identity.”

If you’ve got ideas or opinions about what Persona ought to offer, you can let Mozilla know your thoughts via the mailing list or through Twitter using the #browserid or #mozpersona hash-tags.

For those wondering about the old Personas, the toolbar background images that can be applied to Firefox, fear not, they remain available and Mozilla is already on the hunt for a more fitting name.

File Under: privacy, Security, Social

Worm Steals 45,000 Facebook Login Credentials, Infects Victims’ Friends

A worm previously used to commit financial fraud is now stealing Facebook login credentials, compromising at least 45,000 Facebook accounts with the goals of transmitting malicious links to victims’ friends and gaining remote access to corporate networks.

The security company Seculert has been tracking the progress of Ramnit, a worm first discovered in April 2010, and described by Microsoft as “multi-component malware that infects Windows executable files, Microsoft Office files and HTML files” in order to steal “sensitive information such as saved FTP credentials and browser cookies.” Ramnit has previously been used to “bypass two-factor authentication and transaction signing systems, gain remote access to financial institutions, compromise online banking sessions and penetrate several corporate networks,” Seculert says.

Recently, Seculert set up a sinkhole and discovered that 800,000 machines were infected between September and December. Moreover, Seculert found that more than 45,000 Facebook login credentials, mostly in the UK and France, were stolen by a new variant of the worm.

“We suspect that the attackers behind Ramnit are using the stolen credentials to log-in to victims’ Facebook accounts and to transmit malicious links to their friends, thereby magnifying the malware’s spread even further,” Seculert said. “In addition, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fact that users tend to use the same password in various web-based services (Facebook, Gmail, Corporate SSL VPN, Outlook Web Access, etc.) to gain remote access to corporate networks.”

Facebook fraud, of course, is nothing new. Facebook itself has acknowledged seeing 600,000 compromised logins each day, although that accounts for just 0.06 percent of the one billion Facebook logins each day.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Social, Web Services

Google Adds Google+ Info to Gmail Contacts

Google+ Circles in Gmail

Google now includes Google+ profile information within contacts lists, both in Gmail and in the standalone Google Contacts manager. In addition to Google+ information about your contacts any Google+ circles you’ve set up will now be available inside the contacts manager.

If you’d like to see the new features in action, head over to the Google Contacts page (or click the contacts link in your Gmail account). Note that so far the integrated Google+ contacts don’t appear to be available for Google Apps users.

The move is part of Google’s slow, but steady progress toward its goal of adding Google+ features to all its myriad services.

The new integration with the contacts list means that any Google Profile data your contacts have entered will now show up below any information you’ve added. Alex Chitu, writing at Google Operating System, notes that you can combine the two sets of data — what you’ve entered and what your contacts have entered — by clicking the “more” link on a contact page and selecting the “[Show external data] inline” option.

Chitu also reports that the Google Profile data is “automatically added when you enter an email address associated with a profile.” If you don’t want the added social data you can delete the corresponding email address and it will be removed.