Google Wave standalone dies, its innovative parts live on

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on August 5th, 2010

Due to a low adoption rate, Google has decided to pull the switch on their ”community collaboration” tool called Google Wave.  Wave entered the scene with great intentions.  It boasted such advanced features that a standard web browser had never housed before.  They include character-by-character live typing, the ability to drag-and-drop files from the desktop, sharing images and other media in real time; improving spell-checking by understanding not just an individual word, but also the context of each word, and so on.  Though Wave promised so much, it fell flat in executing all of these things because none of it made sense to an everyday user.  Wave tried to pack too much into a jumbled user interface that was difficult to comprehend from the get-go.  Here were all these new and exciting features, but one could not understand how they all meshed together and why it was so important to learn all of them.  There’s Gmail, Google Calendar, Contacts, etc.  My question is, why did Wave exist at all?  The most appropriate step forward would have been to incorporate Wave’s features into Google’s other respective (and already wildly popular) services.  With news of Wave’s anticipated death, it’s as if my prayers have been answered.  Says Urs Hölzle, Google Senior Vice President:

Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.

Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science. We are excited about what they will develop next as we continue to create innovations with the potential to advance technology and the wider web.

Google Wave, though your icky UI won’t be missed, the innovations you introduced and cultivated are welcome with open arms into the products we have come to know and use with ease.

[Via GoogleBlog]

Google I/O 2010: WebM, Android 2.2, Google TV & more

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on May 21st, 2010

This week thousands of developers gathered at Google I/O 2010 in San Fransisco to find out what Google’s got up their sleeve for the next year (and beyond) and how their contributions can make things better for the end user.  At this year’s event Google introduced a new video standard, demoed their latest software revision of Android, and pulled the veil off their latest foray into a whole new market–television.

WebM: Flash, HTML5, h.264–these are all video codecs that power different types of video players on the Internet.  WebM is a new video codec developed by Google.  The plan for the WebM format is to make it open-source and royalty-free from the get-go.  WebM is packaged into three parts: VP8, a high-quality video codec under a royalty-free license; Vorbis, an already open source and broadly implemented audio codec; and a container format based on a subset of the Matroska media container.  According to Google, “VP8′s efficient bandwidth usage will mean lower serving costs for content publishers and high quality video for end-users.  The codec’s relative simplicity makes it easy to integrate into existing environments and requires less manual tuning to produce high quality results.”  So far, the following companies are backing the new WebM standard in their browsers: Google (duh), Mozilla, Opera, and Adobe.  (Mozilla already updated their Firefox to support it, Opera says their browsers will support it “soon”, Adobe will inject VP8 support into Flash too, and Chrome support comes on on May 24.)  Google will also implement it in the YouTube player (HTML5 & WebM, sittin’ in a tree…).  WebM also has a list of hardware supporters including AMD, ARM, Broadcom, NVIDIA, Skype, and T.I.  But the big question is if Microsoft and Apple will adopt it.  At this point, there’s no word if Apple will jump on the bandwagon (big surprise there), and Microsoft has stated it will support WebM in Internet Explorer 9 (but users will be required to install the VP8 codec themselves).  If there’s any tech company out there who can develop and push out a new open source video codec it’s Google.  With the on-going battle for dominance between the aging Flash and up-and-coming HTML5, it will certainly be interesting to see if Google can emerge out victorious with WebM.

(Click here for more…)

Google knows how to celebrate April Fools like no other

Posted in Hilarity,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 1st, 2010

As I am sure many of you noticed today, Google changed its name to Topeka.  But why, you ask?  Well because the town of Topeka, Kansas changed its name to Google for the month of April.  Topeka, Kansas is one of many communities that have entered a pool of contestents to vie for a fiber-based 1 gigabit broadband network to be provided by Google sometime in the near future.  To get Google’s attention, Topeka Google’s Mayor Bill Bunten changed the town’s name and this is how Google pays it forward.  Though it’s quite a gesture of gratitude, Google has this to say: “We want to be clear that this initiative is a one-shot deal that will have no bearing on which municipalities are chosen to participate in our experimental ultra-high-speed broadband project, to which Google, Kansas has been just one of many communities to apply.”  And that’s why you see Topeka at www.google.com today.

“Google Translate for Animals” does just what you think an app with that name would do.  Check it out in action in the video above.

The latest addition to YouTube is TEXTp, a text-only mode way of watching (most) YouTube videos.  Once you flip the switch (found in the same place to select SD/HD modes) the YouTube video will playback in ASCII code, or a dumbed down jumble of letters and numbers.  It’s pretty neat!  The Lego Matrix stop motion video was made to be dressed in ASCII code, and Trololo (the Creepy La-La-La Guy) looks downright funky.

Google on the new addition: “TEXTp is the result of months of intense transcoding efforts by our engineers, who toiled for weeks to ensure that a large chunk of videos on the platform could be reduced to their most basic elements.”  “For every person who selects TEXTp and keeps it on while you watch a video, you save YouTube $1 a second, resulting in potentially billions of dollars of savings for us.”

Head over to YouTube to check out your favorites in TEXTp mode, or add append &textp=fool to the end of any video URL to enable the feature.  This better not be a one-day deal, Google!

And lastly there’s the new Google Wave wave notifications.  They’re real time, real life notifications from a human male in a lab coat who literally waves at you when your Wave account receives a new message.  To enable the new notification system, access the the drop down menu that appears in the Inbox Navigation panel.  There you can choose from four levels of loudness: Silent, Medium, Loud or Vibrate.  Now see what it’s all about in the video above.

[Via Google, here, here & here]

Waving Goodbye to 2009

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 1st, 2010

Yeah, it’s totally lame that we can’t all use Google’s comprehensive social cohesion service called Wave yet.  Whirled Interactive were lucky enough to snag an invite and made the most of it by creating these very inventive year in review.  It emphasizes a ton of Wave’s built-in features in a quick manner, highlighting many of this year’s top stories along the way.  As much as I enjoy this, it’s still a glaring reminder that some people are enjoying Google Wave while I sit here and impatiently wait.  (FYI the music is “Fader” by The Temper Trap.)