Day: July 1, 2011

Facebook Will Launch In-Browser Video Chat Next Week In Partnership With Skype

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Earlier this week Facebook while visiting Seattle CEOMark Zuckerberg tipped off Seattle press that the company would be launching an “awesome” new product next week that has been built by Facebook’s Seattle team. The press invitations to that event went out today, saying nothing more than “Please join us for an event at Facebook” on July 6.

So what is the new product? MG Siegler speculates here that it might have a desktop component given all the desktop software hiring going on in Seattle.

And he’s right. This isn’t the main project that team is working on, but next week, says a source with knowledge of the partnership, Facebook will launch a new video chat product, powered by Skype, that works in browser. Suddenly those chat icons in the invitation have a lot more meaning.

The product has been built on Skype and will include a desktop component. It’s not clear to me whether that means it will just work if a user has Skype already installed on the computer, or if additional software will need to be downloaded even if the user already uses Skype. But from the user’s perspective, the product will be an in browser experience.

Facebook and Skype have already been working together, including integration of various Facebook features into the Skype service.

But this is something else entirely. The partnership could substantially increase Skype usage. Facebook has more than 750 million active users. Currently Skype has just 170 million. And it will certainly help Facebook become even stickier for users as they start to have voice and video chat as an option to communicate.

And this also brings Facebook even closer to Microsoft, which is a Facebook shareholder and has a pending acquisition of Skype. The guys in Redmond must be smiling today, something that happens far too infrequently at Microsoft HQ.

The first big Google+ spam campaign blasted out by pill-pushers

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In what may very well be the first major cybercriminal campaign exploiting the Google+ brand, spammers are sending out bogus Google+ invitations that in reality point to online pharmacies.

The messages look similar to the real emails that users may receive from friends who are already members of Google+.

Spam Google Plus email sent by pharmacy spammers

However, clicking on the links will not take you to the new social network, but instead take you to a pharmacy website set up to sell the likes of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra to the unwary. In the case of the site shown below, they even have a special July 4th promotion – just in case you were hoping for additional fireworks on the night.

One of the pharmacy websites promoted by the spam messages

The spammers are no doubt hoping that the email will be too hard to resist for many people eager to see Google’s new social network, although just how many users will be tempted to buy drugs online is a mystery.

Are you on Google+? Why not add Naked Security to the circle of people you’re following?

If you’re on Google+ and want to connect more with Naked Security, you can do a very lot worse than follow us up there. Here’s where you can find us (or just click on the image below):


Naked Security on Google Plus

We’ll be investigating security and privacy on Google+ and reporting back on our findings. Look forward to seeing some of you up there!

Facebook to ‘launch something awesome’ next week

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is promising something big for next week.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today that his company will “launch something awesome” next week, Reuters is reporting.

According to the news service, Zuckerberg told reporters in his company’s Seattle office that the team there had developed the upcoming project. Facebook’s Seattle office played an integral role in the development of the social network’s recently improved mobile site, prompting Reuters to suggest the upcoming launch could be mobile- or tablet-related.

If the launch is tablet-related, it could be Facebook’s long-awaited iPad application. The company currently offers an iPhone app, but iPad owners have so far been forced to use the full site. Earlier this month, The New York Times cited sources who said Facebook was readying an iPad app, and could be launching it in the coming weeks.

Then again, Facebook might unveil a new photo-sharing app for the iPhone. A couple weeks ago, TechCrunch announced that it had acquired a 50MB file containing images and documents on a new Facebook app that would allow users to share photos with others. That program, the blog claimed, wouldn’t be integrated into Facebook’s existing iPhone application, but would take advantage of the service’s social graph.

If Facebook doesn’t offer those platforms, it might just unveil a project TechCrunch spotted earlier this month, called Project Spartan. According to the blog, which cited anonymous sources, Spartan is designed to be an HTML5-based competitor to Apple’s App Store. The service works in mobile Safari.

TechCrunch reported at the time that “80 or so” third-party developers had already signed on with Project Spartan, including FarmVille creator Zynga.

Whether any of these services might be the “something awesome” that launches next week, though, remains to be seen.

Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment.

LiquidText Software Supports Active Reading Through Fingertip Manipulation of Text

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Many reading tasks require individuals to not only read a document, but also to understand, learn from and retain the information in it. For this type of reading, experts recommend a process called active reading, which involves highlighting, outlining and taking notes on the text.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed software that facilitates an innovative approach to active reading. Taking advantage of touch-screen tablet computers, the LiquidText software enables active readers to interact with documents using finger motions. LiquidText can significantly enhance the experiences of active readers, a group that includes students, lawyers, managers, corporate strategists and researchers.

“Most computer-based active reading software seeks to replicate the experience of paper, but paper has limitations, being in many ways inflexible,” said Georgia Tech graduate student Craig Tashman. “LiquidText offers readers a fluid-like representation of text so that users can restructure, revisualize and rearrange content to suit their needs.”

LiquidText was developed by Tashman and Keith Edwards, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing. The software can run on any Windows 7 touchscreen computer.

Details on LiquidText were presented last month at the Association for Computing Machinery’s annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Vancouver, Canada. Development of LiquidText was supported by the National Science Foundation, Steelcase, Samsung and Dell.

Active reading demands more of the reading medium than simply advancing pages, Edwards noted. Active readers may need to create and find a variety of highlights and comments, and move rapidly among multiple sections of a document.

“With paper, it can be difficult to view disconnected parts of a document in parallel, annotation can be constraining, and its linear nature gives readers little flexibility for creating their own navigational structures,” said Edwards.

LiquidText provides flexible control of the visual arrangement of content, including both original text and annotations. To do this, the software uses a number of common fingertip gestures on the touchscreen and introduces several novel gestures. For example, to view two areas of a document at once, the user can pinch an area of text and collapse it.

Active reading involves annotation, content extraction and fast, fluid navigation among multiple portions of a document. To accomplish these tasks, LiquidText integrates a traditional document reading space with a dedicated workspace area where the user can organize excerpts and annotations of a text — without losing the links back to their sources. In these spaces, the user can perform many actions, including:

  • Highlight text
  • Comment about text
  • Extract text
  • Collapse text
  • Bookmark text
  • Magnify text

For commenting, LiquidText breaks away from the traditional one-to-one mapping between content and comments. Comment objects can refer to any number of pieces of content across a document, or even multiple documents. Comments can be pulled off, rearranged and grouped with other items while maintaining a persistent link back to the content they refer to. To add a comment, users simply select the desired text and begin typing.

Content can also be copied and extracted using LiquidText. Once a section of text has been selected, the user creates an excerpt simply by dragging the selection into the workspace until it “snaps off” of the document. The original content remains in the document, although it is tinted slightly to indicate that an excerpt has been made from it. Excerpts can be freely laid out in the workspace area or be attached to one another or to documents to form groups, while each excerpt can also be traced back to its source.

“The problem with paper and some software programs is that the comments must generally fit in the space of a small margin and can only be linked to a single page of text at a time,” said Tashman. “LiquidText’s more flexible notion of comments and large workspace area provide space for organizing and manipulating any comments or document excerpts the user may have created.”

In addition to traditional zooming and panning, the user can create a magnifying glass in the workspace by tapping with three fingers. The magnifying glass zooms in on select areas while allowing the user to maintain an awareness of the workspace as a whole. Users can manipulate the magnifying glass with simple multi-touch gestures, such as pinching or stretching to resize the lens, or rotating to change the zoom level — like the zoom lens of a camera. Users can position, resize and control the zoom level of the magnifying glasses in a continuous motion by movements of the hand alone.

The ability to move within a document, search for text, turn a page, or flip between locations to compare parts of a text is also important for active reading. To complete these actions, LiquidText allows users to collapse text, dog-ear text and create magnified views of text.

“In contrast to traditional document viewing software, in which users must create separate panes and scroll them individually, LiquidText’s functionality lets a user view two or more document areas with just one action, parallelizing an otherwise serial task,” explained Edwards.

Since developing their initial prototype, the researchers have refined the software based on feedback from designers and human factors professionals, and active readers that included managers, lawyers, students and strategists.

Tashman is currently working with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to form a startup company to commercialize the technology. The $15,000 Georgia Tech Edison Prize he won, along with $43,000 in grants from the Georgia Research Alliance, will help launch the new company that plans to introduce LiquidText to the public later this year.

The Georgia Tech Edison Prize was established to encourage formation of startup companies based on technology developed at Georgia Tech, and was made possible by a multi-year grant from the Charles A. Edison Fund, named for the inventor’s son. Presentation of the prize, the second to be awarded from the Fund, was part of the Georgia Tech Graduate Research and Innovation Conference held Feb. 8, 2011.

This project is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Award No. IIS-0705569). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigator and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF

Turn Google+ Into Facebook

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The social networking wars have dialed it up to 11 this week, with Google unleashing its highly anticipated (and highly leaked) Google+ social initiative upon the world on Tuesday — to not a bad response, to be honest. So it’s not that surprising that today Facebook countered the + hubbub with its own “we’ve got something awesome” unveiling planned for next week. You crazy kids!

The resemblance between the two social networks is uncanny — my Tweet-length opinion is that Google+ is like Facebook with a more usable, streamlined Photos and Groups interface (and that might be enough to win). Only time will tell.

In the meantime, for those of you who have the decidedly middle class problem of social network fatigue, there is a solution. Thanks to the unlimited creativity of  humans, you can now actually make your Google+ look like Facebook, with the Google+ : Facebook Stylishextension or this CSS code.

Meet the Top 15 Photographers on Instagram [PICS]

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The nature of most social networks is such that brands and big name celebrities attract the most fans and followers. This is not the case on Instagram, where photographers, designers and artists dominate the charts.

The hot — but still indie — social network for iPhoneographers has never publicly revealed its top 20 users. That changes today, as Instagram has exclusively shared its most-followed users list with Mashable.

Instagram’s top users, as seen below in a photo gallery that highlights their art, are a unique bunch who collectively love to edit their iPhone photos and share them with other photo aficionados. Some have a predilection for the Earlybird filter, most appreciate a smattering of camera effects applications and a few are Instagram-only mobile photographers.

Our gallery excludes MTV (ranked fourth with 52,133 followers), Burberry (ranked eleventh with 45,366 followers), @jack (Jack Dorsey, CEO and founder of Square, ranked twelfth with 44,845 followers) and NPR(ranked thirteenth with 44,242 followers). We decided instead to focus on the everyday Instagram users who have managed to amass impressive followings by the merit of their art alone.

Instagram was not the first iPhone app with camera effects or mobile photo-sharing, nor will it be the last, but it’s certainly representative of a larger iPhoneography movement that is captivating and inspiring mobile users around the world.

Keep reading to learn how Instagram’s most-followed users are using the iPhone application to supplement their work and capture the world in unique ways. We asked each Instagram user to share a favorite shot, and we augment those photos with our own editorial selections.

30 pictures:Have a look,click here

Google+ Invites are Hot Commodity: Watch Out for Scams

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So, you’ve heard all about this brand new social network called Google+. The tech illuminati are all aflutter about it, our own Mark Sullivan and Megan Guess have given it high marks. But there’s one problem: as of Wednesday night, you can no longer get in.

Google has stressed that its nascent social network is just a “field trial” at this stage. Despite the search giant’s warnings that this isn’t ready yet for prime time, people still want in. What we’re beginning to see is a black market develop for that coveted Google+ invite.

As of Thursday afternoon, a search on eBay showed 69 listings for “google+ invites.” selling prices ranged from 99 cents to as high as $27.00, with some even offering to teach you the ins and outs of the new service. A search of my local Craigslist listings also brought up a few listings.

It’s surprising to me that some techies are going as far as to part with actual money for an invite to a social network. But then again to some being first in is more important, no matter what crazy price they may pay.

Along with the obvious ways of making money, the controlled rollout is also opening the door for possible scams. PCWorld has already seen at least one comment (since removed) on a recent Google+ story.

“I have some invites left, request them here: http://wp.me/p1FykR-6,” read the comment. The link leads to a WordPress page with a form asking for the users name and e-mail. I sure as heck wouldn’t fill that form out, or even trust visiting the site for that matter.

Overeager future Google+‘ers are also taking a risk by posting their e-mail addresses in the comments of many stories across the web on the topic, aiming to get that coveted invite. Doing so can open you up to spam — and with the recent spat of hacking, possibly put you at risk of even worse.

So here’s a suggestion. Be patient. Chances are that a friend of yours will soon be allowed in. Get an invite from people you know, not some stranger on the Internet. Beware of any person on the web offering an invite in exchange for personal information or payment. It’s much better to be safe than sorry, don’t you think?

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