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Yesterday, when changes to Google Reader were rolled out to all users, there was a lot of talk about the Gmail revamp too and today the long awaited revamp of Google's popular email service is available to everyone, simply click "switch to the new look", which should be in the bottom right hand corner of the main screen.

There have been rumours of a Gmail makeover for months now and Google gave everyone a sneak peek at the new design back in the summer, but it's finally here and you know what, we like what we see so far. We know everyone's meant to hate change and join together to protest, but most of the tweaks seem to make sense after a quick play around with the new version.

Here's a quick rundown of a few of the new changes we like, but to see them all visit the Official Gmail Blog's introductory video:

When it comes to design, the new look has got that cleaner, sparser look we've become accustomed to with Google's other properties and it's also been specially designed to fully adapt to any screen you're using, so you always have the best possible user experience.

If you're a fan of the chat functionality you can now change the size of boxes, but if you rarely use the service then you can just hide it too.

There are also ten new HD themes to play around with and some of our old favourites have had a fresh lick of paint.

Finally, we love the fact that there's a better search tool too, making it much easier to sift through emails and find exactly what it is you're looking for.

If you're one of those moany people who just doesn't like change then you can stick with the old look. For now that is.

[Image via Official Gmail Blog]

google-reader-shot.pngThis week Google has changed the way its popular RSS reader product works, making it much more integrated into the Google+ experience and giving it a clean new redesign too.

Google has stopped the native social sharing features that used to be available to Reader users, such as "Like", "Share" and "Share with note". Instead you can now "+1" a feed item and then specify which circles you want to share it with and whether you want to add a comment too.

The Reader interface has also had a new lick of paint, with a cleaner and simpler design that's much more akin to the way Google Mail and Google+ now looks.

In our opinion this isn't a big deal for those who already have a Google+ account and probably won't change the way you use the service too much. In many ways it's a very understandable move from Google, as we can imagine those who set up a Google+ account but haven't been paying it enough attention to be much more likely to share interesting stories now the functionality is built-in.

The only people that might be a little bit angry by the changes are those that have been avoiding Google+, as you'll now need an account to access Reader. Those who use a pseudonym for Google Reader may also face problems as Google is still standing by its decision to only allow "real names" on the social network. There's been a lot of controversy around Google's decision to ban pseudonyms and although it's hinted that they'll be allowed at some point, we're still not sure when just yet.

As usual people have taken to Twitter to talk about the updates and so far there have been many mixed reactions, with some agreeing with us that it won't really change anything and others feeling frustrated that they're being forced into the world of Google+ kicking and screaming. Google obviously expected some negative comments, so in the blog post about the changes justified the decision:

"We hope you'll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader's sharing features wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google."

This is just the latest example of Google making changes to the way some of its products work, like Blogger and Picasa and introducing more ways to make your online experience as Google+ centric as possible.

[Image via Google Reader Blog]

google-plus-one.jpgGoogle is set to launch a new music store in the coming months (or even weeks), which will allegedly play a key role in the brand's social network, Google+, making it very similar to the most recent Facebook integration with the likes of Spotify and Deezer.

There have been rumours of a new music offering alongside Google Music (which is currently in beta in the US), for some time now, but according to The Wall Street Journal this morning, the launch of a new service which allows you to share tunes with friends could be with us very soon and most importantly could be very heavily integrated with Google+.

There's a lot of speculation about how the service will work, but we imagine it'll be about recommending tracks to friends who can then stream music directly through Google+, or buy it for a competitive price.

It comes as no surprise that Google would want to integrate a music offering into Google+ and provide users with a vehicle for recommendations and music streaming, which is already proving successful with Spotify's recent Facebook integration.

We're SO sick of Facebook versus Google+ speculations, but it'll be interesting to see whether Google can bring anything different to the table and if this kind of music offering will drive more people to the network in the long run or just look too much like Facebook's most recent efforts.

[Via The Wall Street Journal. Image via Magnet 4 Marketing's Flickr]

googlepropeller.jpgIf you have an iPad you'll know that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to RSS and social curation apps. In fact we did a round up just the other day.

You'll also know that the app that has been blazing the trail, Flipboard, has been a huge hit and can boast over 3.5 million downloads. And maybe that the highly regarded Zite (terrible name) recently got snapped uyp by CNN. There's even one integrated into the new (for the iPad anyhow) Dolphin browser.

Now it seems that Flipboard is going to have a rival and not just from a start up. According to uber Geek Robert Scoble Google is working on a news sharing app that turns social media and news content into magazine-like articles. Word is it is called Google Propeller.

"Google is working on a Flipboard competitor for both Android and iPad. My source says that the versions he's seen so far are mind-blowing good."

What I'd love is an RSS reader a bit like Pulse that intelligently harvests suggested links from your social media sources. Now that would be impressive.

Blogger screenshot

As if Google hasn't launched, changed and tweaked enough stuff over the past few months, its blogging platform, Blogger, has now had a shiny new revamp.

Everything looks much more neat and sparse than before and luckily that gross grey/brown sludge colour, which looks a bit like wallpaper from the 70s is long gone, replaced with lots of white space and simple typography.

The whole layout just seems more user friendly too, with plenty more room to edit your posts and buttons in all the right places.

Interestingly there's also more analytics information (Google is the king of analytics after all) and a new, constant feed of Blogger updates to introduce you to some exciting new people.

However, Google is insisting its platform hasn't just had a new lick of paint, according to the Official Google Blog, the team has been busy behind-the-scenes too, "we've rewritten the entire editing and management experience from scratch so it's faster and more efficient for you--and easier for us to update and improve over time."

If you're a dedicated user of Blogger, then you can opt in or out of the changes - for now that is - but I really can't see why you'd want to stick to the old design.

The changes have sparked a lot of online debate about Google's blogging platform, with many suggesting the revamp is an attempt to gain more of the CMS market share from the likes of Wordpress and Joomla (the two key contenders according to W3Tech statistics). I'm not sure whether a new design will drive people away from Wordpress and over to Blogger, but it will certainly help as so many people now expect a slick, good-looking, streamlined experience.

In a surprise move, Google have forked out $12.5 for American phone-maker Motorola.

Massive. And very unexpected. So we guessing it's because Google want to start making phone hardware as well as the Android software that goes inside them. We imagine they've noticed Apple's enormous profit margins - $7billion out of $28billion earnings last quarter and decided to wiggle a little further into the exploding mobile market.

Currently Google barely make money out of Android: though they have been very successful in getting it out there - taking about 50% of the US market. Android helps Google protect its search operation - see our story here: Why it doesn't matter to Google if the Android appstore make less money than Blackberry's

It marks a radical shift for Google's business model: away from the pure software side of things that they've always dealt in and towards plastic and metal hardware. Almost an unforseeable shift.

Sure they've commissioned the Nexus One Google phone before - but that was just a demo piece for the fan boys and girls and never a mass-market device.

What does this mean?
Will it knock out 3rd party Android phones? Companies like HTC have built hugely successful businesses making the hardware for the Android OS. Will Google continue to sell Android to them?

Will it finally challenge the iPhone's hegemony by letting Google do an Apple and making the complete package in-house? We'll be thrilled to find out.

Motorola have struggled to come up with hit phones since the clamshell Razr came and went in 2004-5. A success they have failed to replicate as Nokia and Samsung surged ahead in 2007-2009.


23-googthumb.jpgWe've joined Google + in our millions - with a reported 20mill signing up to the service. Despite a blip last week when Google started deleting anonymous accounts, the reviews have been positive and techies have effusive.

But, news this week has been a little chiller with the service reporting a 3% fall in usage. It's not much, but at this stage you'd expect traffic to be only increasing.

No-one's writing it off, and of course, the site is still in beta, but we're interested to hear what you think about it..

Google+ Coverage:
Where Google+ beats Facebook: Friend sorting
How Google+ will change news and content on the web

Get it! It makes Google + much more exciting. It's been on Android since launch but has taken a while to get through the approval processes at Apple. Looks like it's finally there - there's a preview up in the iTunes store, see the screengrab.

It does have the automatic picture upload feature that the Android does, but seems to have other good features. Here's their write-up:

* Circles let you share the right things with just the right people.
* Stream is where you can get updates from your circles or see what people are saying about things nearby.
* Huddle is super-fast group messaging for everyone in your circles.

Google + in iTunes Preview


I know - five days ago I was writing about how the ability to sort your friends into Circles was a massive winner for Google+. But now, after a few days of sorting my friends into circles I've decided it's Not Such An Incredible Thing After All.

The ability to group friends has been sold as a big advantage of the network by Google itself - Circles is the first feature mentioned on the introductory page and the facility was bigged up by the Google execs interviewed about it in this Wired article. But in practice.... I don't feel it.

After trying it out a bit, I'm not sure I either need - or want - to group my friends.

To be fair I only have five friends on there right now and they could all be put in one circle: "Nerdy People Who Bagged Google+ Invites Early Because They Go Crazy For That Kind of Thing".

But it got me thinking. The suggested categories are Friends / Family / Colleagues. You can create new groups yourself of course, but as it sits, I think the groups overlap too much to be particularly useful. I mean, my sister would go in both Friends and Family, Gerald at TechDigest would be in Colleagues and Friends and well, the rest are friends too so they'd all go in Friends. The day my mum gets on Google+ I'll put her in the Family Circle, but I don't think she ever will.

I can't think of many more meaningful distinctions here with the people I know.

I think Facebook have got it right in realising that there's only one circle that really matters - the people I'm actually interested in. Then there's a broader group of people who I feel warmly towards and will click on from time to time. But I don't have to go through dragging and dropping them into groups. Because for starters, I can't really think what groups I'd put them in. And maybe I'm interested in some of their stuff - that picture that got 10 comments, but not all of their stuff - a music video I've already seen.

Facebook works it out for me with their news feed filter and - yes - they do a pretty good job.

And I also think that - like it or not - Facebook has changed the definition of "friend". It's flattened it out into "a general bunch of people you met and liked at some point". I don't mind if any of my random friends sees that hamster video I just shared. But then I sincerely doubt all of my 500 friends would see it anyway.

Let's consider this properly: the numbers on Facebook get misused a lot. Though I may have 500 friends on there, I'll only see the updates of 30 at most, and will only go out of my way to check the profiles of 15 or so. I imagine only about 30 people will get my updates, so only about 30/500 will see that hamster video from my wall. And that's probably optimistic.

Most people know this and update Facebook accordingly. I write for the people I know might read it. I just assume people who don't care won't see it. Unless you're a celebrity of some kind, people don't usually go out of their way to check up on all your latest news.

But I don't know. Maybe it's just not working for me because I haven't got enough friends on there yet.

Sparks and the +1 button do interest me though. I think that for me Google+ will be best as a links stream and a place to store and share interesting stories. I like it and I want to use it, but the friends grouping just isn't a winner.

What do you guys think? Any reflections on Circles?

Related: What Pulp Fiction would look like if it happened on Google Wave: Amazing

47-google-plus.jpgIt's a common complaint against Facebook that it mushes all your friends in together. The guy you met on holiday, your mum, that girl from school. "How do you know they're your real friends?" is a question that people not on Facebook always ask about Facebook.

But though I'm so used to brushing that argument off- "it doesn't matter"/"it doesn't stop your real friends being your friends" there is some point to it. Facebook makes no distinction between your best friends and that randomer from school. Okay, you can have friend lists - same way you can have lists in Twitter, but they're not very intuitive to use and are kind of fiddly. They're not built into the core of the network and - correct me - but I think most people don't use them.

The Circles feature in Google Plus fixes this and might just be where Google Plus can trump Facebook. And maybe even Twitter..

Google explain "Circles":

"You share different things with different people. So sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn't be a hassle. Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself - just like real life."

The boss is always in a circle by himself.


The other features:

Hangouts is Google Plus's version of Facbook Places and take the location and serendipity element and tries to encourage serendipitous meet-ups.

The Instant Upload feature is well, about instantly uploading photos and media.

Sparks is kind of content pusher - cherrypicking stuff from the web and sending it to you depending on your interests.

Huddle is an instant group chat service

See more on Google Plus

Been wondering about this hot new Facebook rival from software giant Google? The appeal of Google Plus summed up:


thank you xkcd

39-court.jpgA French search engine have taken on Google - but in the courts rather than on the internet. Good luck to them.

1PlusV are claiming that Google is using their market dominance to stifle competition. The niche search engine is suing for €295 million (£265million) on basis that Google has both hindered the company in making niche search engines (such as for legal documents) and that Google has blacklisted dozens of the vertical search engines they have created.

It could be first in a series of cases where Google comes under fire for its ranking system. A recent overhaul of how sites are ranked has hit some sites hard and the search engine could be liable for their losses.



Relations between Google and China have seen better days. Now the technology group has been accused of acting with a political agenda, as Google had dared suggest the Chinese government may have had something to do with a recent hacker attack on Gmail.

The attack on Gmail meant data belonging to hundreds of users were put at risk, and Google said this was the work of a phishing group it believed to be based in China's Shandong province.

Google then suggested the attackers may have had connections to the Chinese government. This then resulted in Google facing accusations of it having acting as a "political tool" to make the Chinese government look bad.

"Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives," said Chinese government spokesman Hong Lei in a statement.

It is clear not all is well in the land of Chinese-American cyber relations. A stronger statement can be found in the People's Daily, the main Communist Party newspaper. It wrote in its editorial that Google was "deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China", and that "Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention".

We have been warned.


PayPal claims Google played dirty in developing Google Wallet, its new electronic payment system. The payments group has now filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the tech giant poached key PayPal staff in order to get access to PayPal's business secrets.

PayPal executive Osama Bedier jumped ship earlier this year after nine years at PayPal, and is now working at Google as vice president of payments. In the lawsuit, PayPal claims Bedier "misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers".

PayPal and Google had been working closely with each other for the past three years, however Bedier is accused of having secretly interviewed for a job at Google while at the same time being in negotiations for PayPal to handle sales Google app sales on Android phones. This could have been a conflict of interest.

Google has yet to respond to the claims.

The Google Wallet, which has just launched in New York, operates on NCF (near field technology) to allow users to pay for goods by swiping their handsets across shop payment terminals. Users can access the wallet app free of charge, and the system uses a PIN code for security. Details of the payment will remain within the handset, where it will be encrypted, but all details pertaining to payments can be erased if the handset is stolen. Google also assures that customers will not be held liable for losses in case of theft.

You know the way when you type a search term into Google it comes up with relevant search results?
does the opposite - it comes up with irrelevant search results.

Errr. So it's the brainchild of Loyaltynet Ltd, a company which specialises in "devising novel web sites". However the results aren't purely random - they're drawn from a list of "fun" sites that they thinks that the average web browser will enjoy discovering. That seems to include - for some reason - a site that collects American driver license pictures and graphjam (which is, we admit, fun.)

Philip Thomson Managing Director at Loyaltynet says, "Internet search engines attempt to guide us with laser accuracy to specific subjects. Wacko Search turns the idea of accurate searches on its head."

It's a one-trick pony. And not, I have to say, something that you'd go back to more than once. It's the search engine equivalent of those "joke" lighters that give you electric shocks or spoons that bend when you try to put them in the sugar bowl.

24-google-adwords.jpgGoogle predicts a tenfold up-swing in online advertising over the next few years, the VP of Google Advertising told the Financial Times today.

Google expects online display advertising will zoom up from being a $24bn industry currently to a $200bn+ industry by 2015, said the Google VP Neal Mohan.

Note - it's far from just display ads though - another area expected to boom is video advertisements pasted in before editorial video - especially as internet and TV converge - and mobile advertising is expected to grow significantly as well.

One Google tool that could revolutionize online advertising is the automated ad-buying machine they have been demo-ing out. Called Double Click Ad Exchange, it's like a stock market for advertising and allows publishers to sell ads to publishers at super-short notice. Using an algorithm to factor in prices and budgets it matches adverts to publishers depending on the time of day and the content being viewed.

It cuts the cost of ad selling significantly - from 28 cents in each dollar spent to 2 cents, said Neal Mohan. That, in theory leaves more for the publishers - Google said they saw a 188 per cent lift in revenue as a result of participating in its ad exchange.

Obviously it's a very different model to traditional media ad-buying - and could have a serious impact on the model of how publishers make money in the next five years.


Related: Why it doesn't matter to Google if the Android appstore make less money than Blackberry's

Three simple reasons.

1) Competition for Adverting Dollars
First things first - money. Google makes its money off Google Ads - advertisers buy space on its search results pages. So a certain brand of hairdryer will turn up in the sponsored box when you search for "hairdryer".

So far, fine but - Facebook makes money out of ads too. And it's trying to suck the online advertising dollar away from Google. It has one trump card to offer to advertisers - very deep information about their consumers. What age they are, where they live, what other stuff they like. That's very valuable.

Advertisers could spend on both of course, but more money spent on Facebook means less for Google and Facebook is more suited to big dollar branding campaigns than Google is.

2) They operate on different conceptions of the web
-Google supports an open web - with Google at the heart of it, indexing it.
-Facebook works on a private web basis - where what you can see is limited.
Facebook won't let Google index their private pages. That takes away from Google's reach over the internet.

3) Both want to be news power-brokers and your portal to the internet
Google wants to stay at the heart of the internet. It wants to be the first place you go when a news story breaks or if you want to find out about a certain area. Facebook is challenging its centrality. It's dangerous for Google.
Facebook increasingly wants to be the centre of your internet experience. With the new Pages function and the wooing of media organisations, it's no longer just about where you see stuff about your friends - it's where you see posts from your favourite news sites and blogs - and shopping brands. It's personalised to you because you've chosen what will feature in your news feed.
That's a problem for Google.


So Facebook hired a major PR firm to smear Google with rumours about its privacy failures.

Burston-Mueller were hired by Facebook to approach journalists and bloggers with information about how Google infringed on privacy of users. Dirty huh?

Are you surprised though?


Have just been alerted to a new little hack called, a search engine that takes over your browser - Chrome or Firefox and replaces your settings making itself your default search engine.

Anecdotal evidence and a rash of forum postings suggest that the hack is quite recent: there's a Google Chrome post and a Firefox help question from the end of April, and a Yahoo question from 3rd May..

A quick WhoIs search reveals the site is registered by and was created on 22 Sep 2009, and updated on 16 March 2011. Quarkbase says it is hosted on (they rent out server space to small companies). Judging by some text that comes up, it's probably Russian, otherwise there's not much info about it, just a lot of complaints.

What does it do?
It seems to insinuate itself into your browser and replaces your default settings - particularly your search engine with itself and it's tricky to get it out of your system.
Deleting and reinstalling your browser doesn't seem to work for example.

How do I get rid of it?
Check out these links below for help relevant to your browser:
Firefox help with Plasmoo
Chrome help with Plasmoo

How harmful is it?
We don't know for sure. That Russian text doesn't look good. It could be that it just gets money by diverting you through its site and gaining page impressions off your captive browser, or it could be something more sinister about collecting private browsing information.

The name isn't a good sign either. Looks like the name Plasmoo is related some kind of tentacle porn name/character/scenario - which I guess would fit with the way it tangles itself up with your browser.

Doesn't sound very nice whatever else is going on.

Give your computer a quick scan with your virus software after getting it out of your browser.


Google is throwing its hat in the ring on the music streaming front, with today's launch of Music Beta by Google. Users will now be able to upload their music to a web server, and listen to it using Android phones, tablets and computers.

Amazon did something similar back in March, but Google will as usual differentiate itself by doing it bigger - users get lots more space to store music. Google doesn't have permission from music groups to sell songs or let users share music though, so in that respect the service is the same as from Amazon. It had been expected Google would try and remedy this before the launch, but it seems the task proved harder than expected and the service was launched without this addition.

This is all well and good, but still it's not ideal - what we really want is to be able to access any music at any time, using any device. We expect this will come in time, but this requires permissions so it's still one for the legal teams. Google and Amazon claim the act of uploading your own music means they don't need permissions - a technicality maybe, but it seems to be holding water for now.

The Google service won't be available from places without internet connection, but the device will keep a buffer of recently played tracks to tide you over.

Music Beta by Google is available by invitation only at first - once everything's up and running go to The service will let you store 20,000 songs without charge.

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