Archive for the ‘Web Services’ Category

File Under: Web Services

Google Expands Universal Search to Include Your Calendar

Your calendar, now part of your search results. Image: Google

Google has expanded the personalized search “field trial” it initiated last year, pulling in additional results from Google Calendar. Your Google Calendar appointments join your Gmail and Google Drive documents alongside traditional Google search results for an all-in-one Google search experience.

If you’d like to participate, head on over to the signup page and add your account.

Once that’s done, just log in to your Google account. You’ll then be able to search Gmail, your Google Drive documents and now your Google Calendar appointments directly from the Google search page (or from within Gmail).

The Google Calendar integration doesn’t just add appointments, it also features support for natural language queries. For example, type “what is on my calendar today” and you’ll see the day’s agenda. More specific queries work as well; to find out when you’re meeting someone, just type “when am I meeting” and the person’s name.

Note that the personalized search trial is still only available to U.S. users with @gmail.com addresses (Google Apps accounts are out of luck for now). If you opt in and decide you hate it, you can always go back to the sign up page and turn universal search off.

File Under: Social, Web Services

New ‘Sign-Ins’ Offer Developers a Facebook Connect for Google+

Google+ Sign-In on Fitbit.com. Image: Google.

Google has announced a new feature for Google+ — third-party websites and applications can now offer sign ins through Google+.

The new Google+ Sign-Ins are essentially Facebook Connect for Google+, allowing you to not only sign-in to sites that support it, but also bring your Google+ profile data with you around the web.

The new Google+ Sign-In service will make it easier to share content from third-party sites (and within mobile apps). Exactly who will see the items you share on Google+ depends on the level of access you grant to an app, but in general you can share data with specific people on Google+, certain circles, or no one.

Here’s Google’s description of the actual sign-in process:

If you sign in to Gmail, YouTube or any other Google service, you can now use your existing credentials to sign in to apps outside of Google. Just review the Google+ permissions screen (outlining the data you’re sharing with the app, and the people who can see your activity), and you’re all set.

Google+ Sign-Ins aren’t just for web apps either — Google is pushing them for mobile apps as well. Starting today, when you sign in to a website with Google, you can install its mobile app on your Android device with a single click.

Google is also claiming that, because you can choose who to share things with, that it will mean less “social spam.” The Google+ Developer Blog even calls out Facebook’s “frictionless” sharing by name, saying “Google+ doesn’t let apps spray ‘frictionless’ updates all over the stream, so app activity will only appear when it’s relevant.” Of course one person’s “relevant” content is another’s spam, so take that claim with a bucket or two of salt.

Items you share from sites and apps using Google+ Sign-In show up as a slightly different “interactive” post in your friends’ Google+ stream. Clicking on these items will lead them to the app where they can listen to or buy or review the item you shared.

If you want to add Google+ Sign-In to your site or app, head on over to the new developer site and read through the documentation.

File Under: Social, Web Services

Catch a Nostalgic Glimpse of Geocities on Tumblr

Under Construction. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

The digital remnants of the long since deleted world of Geocities are slowly being reborn, page by page, on Tumblr.

One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age may be the best Tumblr blog we’ve seen, posting screenshots of old Geocities pages for a nostalgic look at the early web, back when everything was “Under Construction.”

For a brief time in the early ’90s Geocities was the web. And, for all its shortcomings, Geocities did nevertheless usher in much of what makes the web great — that anyone can create nearly anything.

The One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Tumblr project is part of a Geocities research blog by Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied. The Tumblr portion consists of automatically generated screenshots from the massive torrent of old Geocities homepages rescued by the Archive Team back in 2009. For posterity’s sake each post also carries the original URL (which obviously goes to a 404 page) and the date the page was last modified.

With Geocities long since deleted from Yahoo’s servers, browsing through One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age is as close as you’re likely to get to a trip down Geocities memory lane.

File Under: Web Services

Docracy Builds a GitHub for Service Agreements

For most of us, terms of service (ToS) are just a speed bump on the way to signing up for internet services. Terms of service agreements are often monumentally long and are almost always written in horrible legalese that even lawyers have trouble parsing. So almost no one reads them; we all just click “agree” and move on. It’s either that or don’t participate.

Further complicating the matter, services routinely, and quietly, update their terms so that even if you did read the ToS that existed when you signed up, you might need to reread it several times over the course of using a service.

But now you can use Docracy’s new Terms of Service Tracker, which does the hard work for you. The service is essentially a GitHub for ToS agreements — a way to see changes over time and keep track of earlier versions. Docracy’s ToS tracker compares versions and highlights the changes so you can quickly see which rights your favorite services have recently subtracted from (or occasionally added to) their ToS agreements.

Whenever Docracy detects a change to a site’s ToS, it’s posted to the site. There’s an RSS feed you can subscribe to, though currently it’s a firehose feed of everything, with no easy way to filter by sites you care about. Docracy also says it will be tweeting changes that are “interesting, scandalous, or just plain funny.”

While ToS agreements may be confusing, users are beginning to take more of an interest, as evidenced by the outrage surrounding Instagram’s ToS changes. Instagram is hardly alone in that regard though. Docracy has a few other highlights, like Squidoo, which removed some comedic language from their policy, but also “removed guarantees that they would never spam their users or disclose personally-identifying information.” And then there’s Geico, which recently decided maybe it will save your data and sell it to third parties. Unfortunately there’s really no shortage of examples. Check out the site for the latest changes.

If your favorite service isn’t in the list, let Docracy know, the site is still expanding its coverage. And for those who would like to know more about what a ToS agreement means, check out ToS;DR, which we covered earlier.

GitHub Personalizes Gists for Easier Code Sharing

This is not an Octocat. Image: GitHub.

GitHub has personalized the code sharing site’s “Gists” feature, changing the URL to include your GitHub username, rather than just a random, anonymous number.

The change means that you can easily get to a list of all your Gists by heading to https://gist.github.com/<username>/.

Gists, which started off as a simple way to dump and share snippets and short pieces of reusable code (something akin to the older Pastebin), were recently upgraded to be full-fledged Git repos behind the scenes. That means Gists are automatically versioned, forkable and usable as Git repos, complete with diffs.

Now that Gists are considerably more than just Pastebin-style code snippets, it makes sense to offer users a quick and easy way to get to their Gists from anywhere thanks to a memorable URL.

The newly personalized Gists come with an automatic URL redirect. So if your Gist used to live at https://gist.github.com/4731290 it will now be redirected to https://gist.github.com/luxagraf/4731290. As some GitHub users point out on Hacker News, there’s a flaw in GitHub’s system that means anyone can register a numeric username and cause a Gist to redirect to the wrong page. Hopefully GitHub will fix that in the near future..