Thursday, 31 March 2011

HTC Droid Incredible Reaches End of Life, Brings Tears to Our Eyes


Thinking of all the good times we have had with the HTC Droid Incredible it’s almost unbearable to think the phone would ever reach its end of life at Verizon, but sure enough that is the case. The phone is no longer being offered via Verizon’s site and retail stores are said to be selling out their remaining stock with no plans to replenish.
Launching last Spring, the Droid Incredible gave us a solid year of joy, but all is not for weeping. Remember the HTC Droid Incredible 2 is coming up soon enough. Our most recent information points to an April 28th release for that device, though with this news perhaps that date will be bumped up a bit sooner.

Samsung Galaxy S Plus Will Feature Gingerbread, 1.4GHz Processor


Ok, Samsung, how many different Galaxy S variants can you REALLY make? Not enough, apparently, as the folks at Samsung Hub have learned that the Korean manufacturer is set to introduce a Samsung Galaxy S Plus. It’s said that this device’s design will be similar to that of the original Galaxy S but will have a metallic back plate instead of a plastic one. (Yes, I wish their earlier models would have gotten that kind of love, too.)
Other details include a 1.4GHz processor (no word on which chipset exactly), Android 2.3 (we’ll assume TouchWiz 4.0 will sit on top of that), 8GB of internal memory, a 1650mAh battery and a 4-inch super AMOLED display. This one will only be headed to Russia for now where it’ll cost you 23,990 rubles to walk home with it. (That’s around $840 in US dollars.) Expect it to launch at the end of April.

Google Introduces +1 Button on Desktop Search Engine [Video]


Google’s continuing to make their search engine – and other tools – more social and personal to you by introducing a simple “+1 button”. The premise is very simple: if you find something you like while searching, hit the button and your friends will know that it’s something cool or something that you like and is worth taking a look at if they end up searching for something similar.
Simple enough, right? And yes we know this is only for the desktop version of Google Search for now but we’ll assume Android will be getting some +1 love in the future. (They did it for something as complex and cool as Instant, so why not?) Check out a quick demonstration video above.

Android To Dominate Google IO: Google TV, Chrome Fans Cry


With only 1.5 months left until Google IO I’ve curiously been gathering my thoughts and predictions about what Google will announce. But articles on ChromeSpot and GTVsourcesuggest the writing may already be on the wall: out of 52 listed session titles, 15 contain “Android”, 2 contain “Chrome” and only 1 contains “Google TV”.
Some might find this incredibly surprising, especially considering Chrome OS and Google TV are considered two hot up-and-coming products. While Chrome Browser has enjoyed growth and success, we’re also eagerly anticipating the first publicly available Chrome Netbooks. The CR-48 Chrome Notebook is out there but only as a beta to a select test group. Meanwhile Google TV is in the marketplace and I’ve maintained it will take off once it gets a little Android Market loving.
The sessions are the sessions, there is no denying that, but Google will almost CERTAINLY have a few tricks up their sleeves come May 10th and 11th. We’ve already got word of one of those potential surprises courtesy of GTVsource and – unless we receive the red light – we’ll be sharing it with you tomorrow.
Until then… let’s hear some of your Google IO predictions for Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Google TV and anything else you have a hunch about such as the long-rumored Google Music service. And fret not GTV and Chrome Fans… great things await you.

PSX4Droid PlayStation Emulator Pulled from Android Market, Dev Blames Upcoming Xperia Play


The PSX4Droid PlayStation Emulator was recently pulled from the Android Market, and its developer suspects only one thing could be to blame: the upcoming launch of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. The creator of the app, zodttd, says the software was pulled without any warning (as seems to be the case with most downed apps).
For now it is really only speculation, as no official response has flat out pointed to the Xperia Play as the reasoning for the removal of PSX4Droid. Another PS emulator, fpse, remains live for download.

Wait, Did Steve Jobs Give Android Too Much Credit?


You may recall the iPad 2 launch event where Apple CEO Steve Jobs bashed Android for its limited number of applications. More specifically, Jobs claimed that Android had no more than 100 applications designed specifically for Honeycomb tablets. Now a report out of AppleInsideris claiming Jobs may have been a bit generous with the quoted figure. According to their numbers, there currently exist only 17 Honeycomb-specific applications.
The same reports uses the Featured Tablet Applications tab on the Android Market web portal as a gauge for how many tablet applications actually exist for Android. They number them at 50. Did anyone bother to read the part of the heading that said ‘Featured’? If this list was all tablet apps for Android, wouldn’t they just call it Tablet Applications? What would the point of featuring anything be?
Semantics aside, we find the figures these Apple folks working with to be sketchy at best. Even if an application isn’t built specifically for Honeycomb, developers have been hard at work building Honeycomb support into their applications in ways that include more than just scaling for device screen size. Each day that passes it seems we add another major app to the stack of those ranking among the Honeycomb crowd. For someone to claim only 50 apps function to a point that you could stand using them on a tablet, and of those only 17 are designed for Honeycomb, seems a bit outrageous.
The Android Market currently stocks about 200,000 applications, and even if a small fraction of those take full advantage of the tablet’s larger size, the majority work just fine with the hardware. The same goes for Apple. They may have a larger selection of tablet-optimized applications, but the bulk of their software is geared towards the smaller iPhone. It hasn’t stopped anyone from using these apps on the larger screens of their iPad, however. The fact is Android will catch up to Apple, and quickly. Android has been growing by leaps and bounds, and in terms of market share has paced and beaten Apple in a very short period of time. Analysts predict total apps for Android will surpass Apple within the next few months, and no doubt those for tablets will, too.

Fruit Ninja Is Today’s Free App from the Amazon Appstore


Amazon’s free daily app from their Android Appstore is an obvious marketing gimmick, and it’s obviously working. Every day brings yet another app that is easily worth double its price tag. Today we have Fruit Ninja up for grabs, a much cheaper, safer, and less messy alternative to dicing actual fruits with a Samurai sword in your own home.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Launch Further Delayed in UK as Vodafone and Three Push Back Launch Dates


Earlier in the week we heard news that O2 had uncovered some issues in testing that had forced the company to delay the release of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. You can add Vodafone and Three to the list, as both carriers have pushed back the launch of the gaming handset.
Three still hopes they can launch the device next week, but Vodafone is leaving the less optimistic release date of “as soon as possible.” Orange remains the only carrier committed to their original launch date, and T-Mobile UK stands by its non-committal “mid-April” launch window.

Samsung Gem Announced for April 1st Release at US Cellular


US Cellular has just announced the availability of the Samsung Gem for their network. It will be available in stores and online beginning tomorrow, April 1st. The Android 2.2 phone isn’t much to get excited about in light of the many options available on networks across the nation, but if you are on US Cellular and looking for a cheaper Android alternative, this might be worth a look.


Facebook games developer MegaZebra closes ‘multi-million’ euro funding round


Exclusive - Munich, Germany-based social games developer and publisher MegaZebra has secured ‘multiple millions of euros’ in its latest round of financing led by Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures. Previous backer Kizoo Technology Ventures also participated, alongside private investor Markus Stolz.
Founded in 2008 and originally supporting a variety of social networks, MegaZebra in the course of last year shifted its focus squarely on developing and publishing games for theFacebook platform only.
MegaZebra will use the additional capital to hire more people and get more social games out there. Its most popular game to date is Mahjong Trails, followed by Jewels Rock andCrazyBunnies. The full catalog can be found here.
Sitar Teli from Doughty Hanson has joined MegaZebra’s board together with Matthias Hornberger of Kizoo.
MegaZebra rivals social game developers like Playfish and Wooga here in Europe – the latter has raised over $7.5 million in financing from investors like Balderton Capital and Holtzbrinck Ventures, while the former was acquired by Electronic Arts back in November 2009.

GameSalad Raises $6.1 Million For iPhone And iPad Game Creation Tool


GameSalad, formerly Gendai Games, has raised $6.1 million in funding, led by Steamboat Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Partners, DFJ Mercury, DFJ Frontier and ff Asset Management.
GameSalad’s game creation tool allows non-programmers to build, develop and publish 2D casual games games for the iPhone and iPad. The benefit of using the platform is that developers can design, publish and distribute original games for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Web without needing to write a line of code. To date, GameSalad has been used to create powered over 8,500 titles in the iTunes App Store including more than 30 top 100 U.S. Games in Apple’s App Store.
The new financing will be used to grow GameSalad’s technical and product teams and further develop its game creation technology. We hear the company, which is currently based in Austin, is also planning a move to San Francisco in the next few months.

Opera Mini Returns To GetJar’s Mobile App Marketplace


A few weeks ago, after the debut of the Opera App Store, app marketplace GetJar banned Opera’s mobile browsing app Opera Mini from its own mobile app marketplace. The reasoning: Opera’s App Store was available in the app and competes directly with GetJar’s marketplace. Today, it appears a truce has been made, as Opera Mini 6 is now backin the GetJar store.
GetJar remains committed to offering consumers the best possible content regardless of category, phone or platform, said Patrick Mork, CMO of GetJar. Opera Mini has been a great partner and one of our top apps for many years and our users will be happy to have a bigger and better version of Opera Mini back in our store.
It’s unclear how Opera and GetJar resolved their differences. When GetJar first banned Opera Mini from its app marketplace, Mork wrote that the company “spent many months negotiating with Opera to avoid this scenario and are disappointed that GetJar consumers will no longer have access to Opera Mini.” It appears that GetJar was blindsided by the fact that Opera opened up its own app store. A reader had suggested previously the possibility that GetJar bid for Opera’s inclusion of its app store in its mobile browser products but lost out to Appia, who is powering Opera’s app store.
The whole brouhaha does bring up an interesting point when it comes to competition and the flux of app marketplaces. At what point do competing app marketplaces and developers draw the line?
Well, all’s well that ends well.

Google’s Music Search Engine Quietly Vanishes From The Web


At the end of October 2009, my colleague Jason Kincaid traveled all the way to Hollywood, Los Angeles, for the official unveiling of Google’s new music search initiative by the Internet giant and its partners, Lala, Rhapsody, imeem and MySpace Music / iLike. He interviewedjust about everyone involved about the news, and Mike Arrington followed up with a post basically calling out Facebook and Ticketmaster for not acquiring iLike instead of MySpace.
In a blog post, Google said that, going forward, a simple Google web search would enable users to “search and more easily discover millions of songs”. Queries for songs, artists or albums would return search results including links to an audio preview of those songs provided by its music search partners, at least in the United States – for starters.
People were invited to learn more about the exciting new feature on a special landing page.
Fast forward to today: the landing page linked above now redirects to a list of regular Google search features, Apple has acquired and killed Lala, MySpace acquired both imeem andiLike and already killed the former (and is pretty much on life support itself, too).
(On a sidenote, isn’t it sad that neither lala.com or imeem.com lead anywhere anymore?)
In addition, one of the key people behind Google Music Search, Director of Product Management R.J. Pittmandefected to Apple about a year ago.
From what I can gather, searches for popular artists, songs and albums no longer yield search results that come with audio previews even in the United States, as evidenced by a series of spot tests done by some TechCrunchers stateside. Here’s how it used to work:
A tipster pointed out the disappearance of the old Google Music Search landing page to us, which doesn’t necessarily mean it vanished recently, but I’ve searched everywhere for mentions of Google officially or unofficially retiring the service and have been unable to find any reports about it. I wonder if simply nobody noticed it was gone, or that my search skills or simply not what they used to be.
The last update I can find it when SearchEngineLand’s Danny Sullivan spoke with Google spokesperson Jason Freidenfelds about the future of the service and was told that it was firmly tied in with Google’s search group, and that people would continue to develop it even after Apple shut down Lala. That conversation dates back to April 2010, so obviously things have changed somewhere along the way.
One more reason I think things have changed rather recently is because Google linked to its own blog post announcing Music Search back in December 2010.
Now, as I’m sure you’re well aware, Google has bigger plans when it comes to digital music than mere search, so perhaps the Google.com/music link to the former Music Search product landing page was quietly removed to make way for another, more appropriate landing page? Or did someone just quietly pull the plug hoping no one would notice?
I’ve asked Google for comment and will update when I hear back.
Meanwhile, according to Cnet’s Greg Sandoval, Google has begun testing internally its much-anticipated music locker and subscription service , which will simply be named Google Music.
Google had hoped that the service would launch to the public in 2010, but it has failed to sign licensing agreements with copyright holders fast enough to launch a digital music download store and cloud-based locker service for that to happen.
Google may, however, unveil Google Music at its I/O conference in May. As for its loudly-trumpeted-upon-launch music search engine: rest in peace, I guess.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Pah! The iPhone game you play with your mouth.



Have you ever been sittin’ there, playin’ an iPhone game, thinking to yourself, “Man! This is a cool game and all, but I really wish I didn’t have to use my hands so much. If only I could play using nothing but my mouth!”
No? Yeah, me neither. But hey, go with it.
Pah! is a classic sidescroller for iOS, with one big ol’ twist: it’s played entirely with your mouth. From the start screen on down, you play via a series of “Pah! Pah! Pah!”s and “AaaaAAAAaahs”. Shouting “Pah!” fires your ship’s guns, while the pitch of your “Aaah” determines how high you fly.
Don’t expect it to rock your world with mind-blowing graphics or an epic narrative — but at just 99 cents [iTunes Link], it’s worth checking out for the laughs alone. Check out a video of the game after the jump.


Video: Would You Use Samsung’s Crazy (And Arguably Brilliant) New Webpage Zooming System?


Yowza. It’s been a while since Samsung has done anything on the software side that was particularly original — but this… this is friggin’ awesome.
The idea: as an alternative to multitouch zooming, you place your thumbs on the screen and then move the device closer to or further from your face. By pulling data from the too-oft-unutilized accelerometer inside the phone, Samsung’s able to zoom the page accordingly.
It’s a damned fancy demo — but would you use it? Is it any better than just multi-touch zooming to the precise point you’re looking for? Weigh in down in the comments! Let your voice be heard! Rabble rabble!

OMG/JK: A Kiss For iPad 2, A Slap For Xoom


It’s war!
This week, I went to the unveiling of the iPad 2 and got some hands-on time with the device afterwards. Meanwhile, Jason bought a Xoom and has been extensively testing it out. The consensus? iPad 2: Good. Xoom: Bad. At least for now. I haven’t extensively played with iPad 2 yet, and Google is undoubtedly going to patch the Xoom. But still, first impressions are key.
Jason and I discuss these two products in depth in this week’s episode of OMG/JK, and we also dive into the upcoming group messaging war that is likely to break out at SXSW next week. Now that Facebook has bought Beluga and really kicked everything into a frenzy, the ultimate winners are far from clear.
Watch the episode above and check out some of the links below for more details on what we talk about.

In Amazon’s Android Appstore, Fat-Fingering Will Cost You — Literally


A couple days ago, in writing up some thoughts on Amazon’s new Android Appstore, I noted that the app buying process may be a little too easy. You see, just scrolling through the feed of apps, I accidentally clicked a buy button. That immediately triggered a transaction. And guess what I found out today? There are no refunds.
You might not think this is a big deal because while the Android Market gives you 15 minutes to get a refund (down from 24 hours) Apple’s App Store also technically doesn’t have an app refund process (though you can get one if you jump through some hoops). But there’s a big-little difference between the App Store and the Appstore (besides the tiny name difference, that is): an entire click.
In the App Store, it’s actually two clicks to buy an app. You first click click on the price, and then the button turns into the bright green “Buy Now” button. It’s only after this second click that the transaction happens. This more or less stops mis-clicks. Further, if you haven’t been browsing the store in a while, they’ll prompt you to re-enter your password before you complete a purchase.
In the Appstore (again, Amazon’s version), it is literally one click. If you touch the screen in the wrong place — whoops — you just bought an app. Of course, this is assuming you have one-click purchasing turned on. But if you do on the web, you will in the Appstore. That’s what happened to me. It’s super-convenient when it works. And super-annoying when you make a mistake.
On Amazon’s website, one-click is great because it greatly speeds up the buying process. But since most of the things you buy on the website are tangible things that have to be shipped, it’s relatively easy to cancel a mis-click. Not so in the Appstore where there is nothing to ship.
And it wouldn’t be a huge deal except for the fact that Amazon isn’t offering app refunds. How do I know? Because after some digging on Amazon’s website to figure out how to possibly get a refund, I had to send an email about my erroneous charge. (For the record, they did erase my charge, but indicated that they were making a one-time exception in doing so.)
Long story short, if you’re prone to mis-clicking on touchscreen, make sure one-click purchases are turned off on Amazon. Otherwise it will cost you — literally.

Dear Apple, Please Copy This Notification System For The iPhone Immediately


As you’re aware, I tend to take Apple’s side on almost all matters iPhone versus Android. Having tried over a dozen Android devices ranging from the G1 to the Nexus S, I simply still prefer iOS. And it’s not really close. But there is one argument I absolutely cannot make on Apple’s side: the notification system. On Android devices, it’s good. On the iPhone, it’s awful.
It’s not like I’m saying anything sacrilegious here. Everyone knows it sucks. And that undoubtedly includes Apple, as they have made moves in the past year indicating as such. Moves like hiring Rich Dellinger, the guy who designed the great notification system for Palm’s webOS. And they have been sniffing around some of the Push Notification apps in recent months as possible acquisition targets. But today we bring them all they really need: the idea for how it should work. Please Apple — please — copy this system.
Now, mock-ups of how the notification system should work on iOS are nothing new. But the system Shawn Hickman has mocked up on his site today looks damn near perfect given how I use the iPhone. Gone are the lame, text-message like Push Notification pop-ups. They’re replaced by a new notification bar that appears at the bottom of the screen when a new notification comes in.
Okay, you might think: the last thing the iPhone needs is a #dickbar. But it’s much more than that — and it actually contains useful information, unlike the #dickbar. While bottom notification alert gives the latest notification coming in, the real key is the new left-most screen, where all of the recent notifications are held for you to go through. Yes, Hickman’s idea is to replace the Spotlight Search area with in iOS this new Notifications area. “Spotlight is a cool feature that I rarely use. That space can be used much more effectively,” Hickman writes. I totally agree.
And actually, he doesn’t kill off Spotlight, he just makes it a secondary option on the same screen. And he even has come up with a nifty way of highlighting when you have a new notification without the slide-up notification: a red dot indicator in the tiny dot area above the dock on iOS to let you know where you are in the navigation.
On this new Notifications screen, you’ll see all your messages sorted by app (see: screenshot). It’s brilliant. It’s like the excellent Boxcar app, but more organized and with a more native iOS look and feel.
Why put the slide-up notifications at the bottom, rather than the top like on Android? Two reasons: “The bottom of the screen is the best place to have a notification come up. It’s non-intrusive and doesn’t interrupt what I’m doing.” And: “Pulling a notifications tray from the top of the screen is not the easiest thing to do, unless you have large hands. Managing one on the bottom of the screen is super easy, regardless of hand size.”
I completely agree with that as well. While Android’s notification system is good, it’s far from perfect. Being at the top of the screen does make it tricky to get to at times.
That said, I’m not sure Hickman’s system wouldn’t be even a little bit better if it pushed the apps up rather than overlaid on the dock (such a #dickbar thing to do). Currently, iOS services like Personal Hotspot have the bar that pushes apps down in a similar manner, only from the top.
Hickman says he didn’t want to add another icon to the menu bar as it’s already too crowded. And presumably, another stand-alone app would work, but again, that would just be Boxcar — Apple’s system should feel more natively built in.
Boxcar is perhaps now my most-used app on the iPhone and iPad. I’m constantly checking it to get my updates. Apple badly needs to fix their system. And this is the most straightforward and simple implementation of how it could work that I’ve seen yet. Please Apple, copy it.

Take A Deep Breath Google, Facebook Isn’t Doing Search Just Yet


I can imagine this post, titled “Facebook Testing Web Search Box At Top Of Site” was flying around Google’s cubicles today. Probably with a few expletives attached as commentary.
This certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. They targeted Microsoft years ago with their online Office competitor, and Microsoft fired back with Bing and seems to be quite willing to invest billions of dollars for as long as it takes to grab search share from Google. Now Google is targeting Facebook with their social efforts. There’s no reason at all why Facebook wouldn’t go into search. For us users, it’s all good. Competition brings better products to the market at lower prices. And Google needs more competition in search.
But…phew! The screenshot that All Facebook got is a fake, or the result of third party software messing with a user’s browser (my guess is photoshop is the culprit). So take it down to DEFCON 2, Google, Facebook isn’t launching search just yet.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. A deal with Microsoft Bing could bring in billions, if that absurd MySpace deal from a few years ago is any guide and Facebook doesn’t make the same monumentally stupid decision that Yahoo did to not demand guarantees. At the time MySpace had around 100 million user profiles. Facebook has many times that right now. And the combination of Bing search (or Google, for that matter) with Facebook’s social signals may make for quite a search engine someday.

Google’s Robotic Recipe Search Favors SEO Over Good Food



Editor’s note: Guest writer Amanda Hesser is a cookbook author, co-founder of cooking community site Food52, and a food columnist for the New York Times.
The entity with the greatest influence on what Americans cook is not Costco or Trader Joe’s. It’s not the Food Network or The New York Times. It’s Google. Every month about a billion of its searches are for recipes. The dishes that its search engine turns up, particularly those on the first page of results, have a huge impact on what Americans cook. Which is why, with a recent change in its recipe search, Google has, in effect, taken sides in the food war. Unfortunately, it’s taken the wrong one.
In late February, when Google announced that it was adding a new kind of search,specifically for recipes, it seemed like good news for a site devoted to cooking—at last Google was shining its searchlight on content we deeply care about. But then came the bad news: once you get your new recipe results, you can refine the results in just 3 ways: by ingredient, by cooking time and by calories. While Google was just trying to improve its algorithm, thereby making the path to recipes easier and more efficient, it inadvertently stepped into the middle of the battle between the quick-and-easy faction and the cooking-matters group.
Before these new changes, Google recipe results favored sites with lots of content and good S.E.O. – e.g. AllRecipes and Food. Now, recipe results favor these sites, but also those with lots of additional metadata, such as ratings, calories, cooking times, and photos. Google is using this data in an honest attempt to find better recipes.
The problem is that this new search effectively prevents the thousands of excellent cooking sites and blogs from ever seeing the light of day. More importantly, those smaller sites and blogs are where much of the best work in food is happening online. Google recipe search now fails to deliver their promise of producing the most relevant results—because in recipes, the most relevant result is the best recipe.
Instead, its search engine gives vast advantage to the largest recipe websites with the resources to input all this metadata, and particularly those who home in on “quick and easy” and low calorie dishes. In so doing, Google unwittingly—but damagingly—promotes a cooking culture focused on speed and diets.
Take, for instance, a recent search for “cassoulet.” The top search result is a promising recipe from Epicurious, one of the larger and better sites. But if you refine by time, your choices are “less than 15 min,” “less than 30 min,” or “less than 60 min.” There is no option for more than 60 minutes. In truth, a classic cassoulet takes at least 4 hours to make, if not several days (the Epicurious recipe takes 4 hours and 30 minutes); yet there in the results are recipes under each of these three time classes. One from Tablespoon goes so far as to claim to take just 1 minute. (It’s made with kidney beans, canned mushrooms, and beef, so it’s not long on authenticity.)
If you refine by calories, you can even find two cassoulets that are purportedly fewer than 100 calories per person: the Lamb Shank Cassoulet from Good To Know contains a full lamb shank and sausage link per serving, yet is supposed to weigh in at just 77 calories a serving. No such dish exists unless the serving size is a pinch.
For something more mundane like fried chicken, a refinement of “less than 15 min” takes you to a recipe on Food that claims the total prep and cooking time is six minutes, even though the recipe itself tells you to bake it for 1 hour. Even if you do find a recipe that accurately claims a fast cooking time, how will you know it’s a good recipe? Refining recipe search by time doesn’t result in better recipes rising to the top; rather, the new winners are recipes packaged for the American eating and cooking disorder.
Google’s new approach is misguided even if sites don’t try to game it. What does cooking time really mean, anyway? What happens when you must marinate a dish for 24 hours? Do you count that as prep time or cooking time? The tradition of prep times began creeping into our cooking culture about 30 years ago with the rise of quick-cooking columns. They’ve long acted more as a marketing tool than as helpful information. The proliferation of cooking times has not only put pressure on writers to fudge times, but has encouraged editors to stop running recipes that take longer than an hour. Lost in the rankings will be such slow-build classics as paella and layer cakes.
Google must surely know that recipes are anything but precise formulas: they’re descriptive guides, and quality cannot be quantified in calories or time. The search engine’s real opportunity lies in understanding the metrics that actually reflect great quality. A simple place to start is by tracking the number of comments relative to pageviews, the number of Facebook likes a recipe has garnered, or how often a recipe has been shared. A recipe with 74 comments is almost certainly better than one that takes 8 minutes to make. (And at some point, Google should create its own system for calculating calories.)
I’m glad Google put effort into improving its recipe search, but their solution feels robotic rather than thoughtful. If they don’t change their current approach, I fear to contemplate the future of American cooking. As it stands, Google’s recipe search gives undue advantage to the “quick & easy” recipe sites, encourages dishonesty, and sets up people to be dissuaded from cooking, as they will soon learn that recipes always end up taking more time than they expected. Alas, the search algorithm fundamentally misunderstands what recipe searchers are really looking for: great recipes.

Facebook Relaunches Questions: No Threat To Quora, More Emphasis On Friends


Last July, after months of rumors and leaked screenshots, Facebook launched a Q&A product called Questions. At the time, I said it had the potential to be “massive”: with 500 million (now 600 million) users, the site had the chance to take on Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers, which can be a huge source of traffic. And it was also directly taking on Quora, the buzzed-about startup that has a contentious relationship with Facebook, in part because it was founded by former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo and engineer/manager Charlie Cheever.
But Questions never took off. Facebook has limited access to the product to a small percentage of users, and over the last few months we’ve gotten several tips that the product wasn’t really getting traction. Today comes news that seems to confirm those rumors: Facebook has just announced a revamped version of Questions that has very little in common with the original product. And it’s no longer any threat to Quora.
The new version of Questions is less ambitious — you’re no longer directing questions to the entire Facebook community. Instead, it’s much more in line with Facebook’s ‘social’ bread and butter: you ask a question, it shows up as a structured poll in your friends’ News Feeds, and they can vote on the various answer choices or add a new one of their own. In fact, my first reaction to the product was that it might be more appropriate to call it ‘Facebook Polls’.
So, as an example, I might ask my friends what their favorite restaurant in San Francisco is. I might pre-populate it with choices like “In-N-Out Burger” and “Tony’s Pizza” — which my friends could vote on — but if someone wanted to add a recommendation that wasn’t already listed they could. Whenever one of my friends votes in one of these questions, my question then shows up in the News Feeds of their friends. In other words, the questions you ask can go viral. The responses from your friends will always be highlighted (you’ll see their faces as small thumbnails) but if you ask a question that resonates with a lot of people, you could wind up with plenty of responses from strangers, too.
Unlike the old version of Questions, you can no longer browse by Topic — the only questions you’ll see are the ones that pop up organically in your News Feed (you can also see questions that have been asked by friends, and only friends, in a Dashboard). This is a big change, and it means that Facebook Questions is no longer setting out to become a vast database of knowledge the way Quora is. It just wants to make it easier to get recommendations from your friends.
Product Manager Adrian Graham says that the change reflects the way people were using the original version of Questions. Oftentimes people would ask things that they were mostly directly toward friends (What movie should I watch?, What’s your favorite restaurant?, and so on). But then strangers would respond with lengthy answers, which would intimidate the user’s friends to the point that they might not respond at all. The new version looks to lower this friction by emphasizing polls.
Facebook seems more confident this will take off with users. Unlike the old version of Questions, which never saw a broad rollout, Facebook will be more aggressively deploying this. It’s also letting anyone who wants immediate access opt-in now by going toFacebook.com/questions.