Google Play Services Gets Improved Mobile Ads And Multiplayer Support, Google+ Sharing And Preview Of Drive API

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Google today started rolling out the latest version of its Google Play services for Android. Just like earlier updates, version 4.1 brings a number of incremental changes to the company’s service for integrating Google services into mobile apps. The rollout is currently in process and should land on all Android devices worldwide within the next few days.

Today’s update brings support for turn-based multiplayer games to Play services, for example. With this, developers can easily build asynchronous games with up to eight participants. Every time a player takes a turn, the data is uploaded to Google’s servers and shared with the other players. Google has integrated this service with its tools for matching players with others, too.

Also new in this update is improved support for Google+ sharing. This, the company says, will make it “even easier for users to share with the right people from your app.” As part of this update, users will be able to get auto-complete support and suggested recipients for all Gmail contacts, device contacts and people on Google+.

Developers can now also use Play services to access Google Drive through a new API that’s now in preview. With this, they can read and write files in Drive. Users will be able to work on these files offline, and changes will be synced automatically.

For developers who use Google’s ad products, this new version introduces full support for DoubleClick for Publishers, DoubleClick Ad Exchange and Search Ads for Mobile Apps. What’s most interesting for advertisers, though, is that publishers can now also use a new location API to give Google access to a user’s location when requesting ads. Location-based ads are likely to perform better than generic ads, after all, though users have generally been a bit nervous about sharing this data with advertisers given the potential privacy ramifications.

One other feature most users will likely appreciate is improved battery life. While Google isn’t sharing any details about this, the company said that anybody who has Google Location Reporting turned on should see longer battery life after this update, though whether that means less than 1 percent more (likely) or 10 percent more (very unlikely) remains to be seen.


Facebook Set to Eliminate Sponsored Stories in April

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If you want to purchase a Sponsored Story on Facebook, you'd better do it fast

The social network will retire Sponsored Story advertisements beginning April 9, according to a blog post

Sponsored stories show when a user's Facebook friend interacts with a sponsored Page, app or event. For example, if one of your Facebook friends posted about Nike's Brand Page, and Nike chose to promote that interaction, you would see it as a Sponsored Story within your News Feed

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Advertisers will be able to buy Sponsored Stories up until April 9, at which point all existing Sponsored Stories will transition into other ad formats. For example, a Sponsored Story highlighting a page Like will simply turn into a Page Like ad Read more...

More about Facebook, Facebook Ads, Sponsored Stories, Advertising, and Marketing

Google Releases Branding Guidelines For Glass™

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Do you cringe when you hear people talk about Google Glasses? So does Google, it seems. The company today released a set of branding guidelines for its developers to clarify how they can use the Glass™ icon and brand name in their products.

Update: looks like the guidelines were actually on the Glass Developer site before, but mostly went unnoticed. Google recently updated the navigation of the site (that’s how I found out about them) and made the link to the branding guidelines more obvious, likely to emphasize most of the rules we describe below.

In this document, Google stresses that “Glass” can never be part of the name of a company that produces software for Glass, for example. You can call a product “Cat Facts for Glass” but never “Glass Cat Facts.” It’s okay to use “Glass” as a descriptor (Glass optics), though.

Google also stresses that whenever you use the “for Glass” construction in your logo, “for Glass” must be a smaller size than the rest.

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Another rule states that Glass is always supposed to be capitalized and “is never plural or possessive.” This means, you aren’t supposed to say “”Wear Google Glasses” or “Swipe forward on Glass’s timeline.” I can see why the plural doesn’t make sense, given that the product name is Glass, but the only reason not to use the possessive, it seems, is that any word that ends with an ‘s’ always looks a bit off once it becomes a possessive.

One interesting guideline Google notes is that whenever users share content through Glass, developers are supposed to use the #throughglass hashtag “to categorize it for easy discoverability and aggregation” or “Sent through Glass” in emails.

Most of this is pretty straightforward (except for the odd rule around the possessive). It does show, however, that as more Glass software slowly becomes available now that the Glass Development Kit is in “Sneak Peak,” Google is starting to lay down a few more rules for developers.

Glass is a trademark of Google Inc.


Facebook Buys India Startup to Bolster Mobile Apps

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Facebook Inc. (FB) acquired a technology startup in India as the largest social-networking service seeks to bolster its presence among mobile-device users.

Facebook bought Little Eye Labs, which develops tools that Android application developers can use to analyze and enhance efficiency of mobile apps, the Bangalore, India-based company said on its website. Financial terms weren't disclosed for Facebook's first purchase in India and Carson Dalton, the India spokesman of Menlo Park, California-based company, declined to comment on the terms of the deal.

Billionaire Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is stepping up efforts to help Facebook, the top seller of online advertisements after Google Inc., generate more of the company's ad revenue from mobile. Ad spend by U.S. companies on mobile devices will account for 23% of digital-ad expense in 2013, up from 12% in the previous year, according to New York-based researcher EMarketer Inc. Read more...

More about Mobile, Facebook, Acquisitions, Business, and Startups

Tell your stories with #TwitterFiction

Though Twitter is famous for its utility in telling real-life, real-time stories, it’s also an enormously powerful tool for another kind of storytelling: fiction.

Today the Association of American Publishers (@AmericanPublish) and Penguin Random House (@PenguinRH_News), in partnership with Twitter, announced the second #TwitterFiction festival, which will take place March 12-16. A digital storytelling extravaganza, the festival’s value is twofold: it gives authors of all kinds a chance to bring fiction to life with Twitter, and gives readers a chance to experience fiction in a brand new way.

The #TwitterFiction festival offers a chance to be a featured storyteller and create 140-character blasts of fiction on Twitter alongside established and emerging authors.

Twitter is a wide-open frontier for creative experimentation, and #TwitterFiction is a wonderful way to push traditional boundaries. You can create Vine videos, develop multiple fictional accounts, use crowd-sourcing or make use of any other Twitter functionality to weave a story.

Entries for #TwitterFiction will be accepted online here until February 5, and will be judged by a panel of executives from @AmericanPublish companies.

Anyone can use #TwitterFiction in their Tweets to convey a fictional idea, narrative or visual art.

The panel will highlight select participants to create fiction on Twitter as part of the week-long, real-time digital festival. These featured authors will be a part of the official schedule, and will be chosen based on creativity, writing talent and unique use of Twitter functionality.

For more information on #TwitterFiction, visit http://twitterfictionfestival.com.

8 Outrageous Job Perks You Wish You Had

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And you were grateful for the free coffee at your office.

For tech giants such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, free meals, bring-your-pet-to-work days and office happy hours are so commonplace that they barely even register as job perks. Enterprising startups have hopped on the quirky-benefits bandwagon, too, in an effort to entice the best and brightest to their HQs.

Since competitive compensation, medical benefits and 401(k)s are mostly givens in the expanding technology job market, these companies reel in their rising stars with practical benefits such as childcare, laundry services and free meals, plus off-the-wall perks like gaming centers, on-site fitness centers and unlimited vacation days. Read more...

More about Google, Facebook, Twitter, Gallery, and Features

8 Outrageous Job Perks You Wish You Had

Google-campus
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And you were grateful for the free coffee at your office.

For tech giants such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, free meals, bring-your-pet-to-work days and office happy hours are so commonplace that they barely even register as job perks. Enterprising startups have hopped on the quirky-benefits bandwagon, too, in an effort to entice the best and brightest to their HQs.

Since competitive compensation, medical benefits and 401(k)s are mostly givens in the expanding technology job market, these companies reel in their rising stars with practical benefits such as childcare, laundry services and free meals, plus off-the-wall perks like gaming centers, on-site fitness centers and unlimited vacation days. Read more...

More about Google, Facebook, Twitter, Gallery, and Features

That Frozen Lighthouse Photo Is a Year Old; Today’s Is Even Icier

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A pretty wild photo of a frozen lighthouse is making the rounds on social media today. People are sharing it thinking the lighthouse is another victim of the polar vortex that's taken over the United States this week

But they're wrong. The picture was actually taken last year.

Holy crap. RT @maureenjohnson OH MY GOD LIGHTHOUSE MONSTER @jheil Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in Chicago today. Manpic.twitter.com/oVVkZuzqnd

— Helene Wecker (@helenewecker) January 7, 2014

That stunning frame, which shows the Saint Joseph Lighthouse in Saint Joseph, MI, was taken by photographer John McCormick in January of last year. The photo was uploaded to his Flickr page on Jan. 23, 2013 Read more...

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Football fans dive deep for the #BCS title game

With college football changing to a playoff system next year, this season’s final #BCS bowl games did not disappoint — especially last night’s thrilling national title game between @FSU_Football and @FootballAU.

The #Noles rallied back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the #Tigers 34-31 as millions of sports fans on Twitter cheered their team on, discussed top plays, viewed highlights and much more.

Since each team had been off for a month since their previous game, their rivalry had plenty of time to heat up. The Tigers rallied their fans around the hashtag #AllforAuburn:

FSU fans got a peek into the #Noles locker room before the game:


This prank by FSU alum @GrahamGano on his @Panthers teammate and Auburn alum Cam Newton had everyone laughing and ready for the showdown:

When it came time for the game itself, #FSU won a very close victory on the field and on Twitter. From the beginning of the telecast until 10 minutes after the contest ended, Florida State was mentioned more than 1.4 million times on Twitter while Auburn was mentioned over 1.2 million times.

According to Nielsen SocialGuide, the roar of the crowd comprised 4.4 million Tweets during the game. Based on SocialGuide’s analytics, the moments generating the biggest peaks of Twitter conversation (measured in Tweets per minute, or TPM) during the game:

When the game ended and Florida State won 34-31: 85,822 TPM

Jameis Winston’s 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter: 82,263 TPM

Tre Mason 37 yard TD run with 1:19 remaining in 4th quarter: 67,536 TPM

The game’s most mentioned players on Twitter during the telecast were (in order): FSU QB Jameis Winston (@Jaboowins), Auburn RB Tre Mason (@TreMason21), Auburn QB Nick Marshall, FSU KR Levonte Whitfield and FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin.

Pro athletes also turned to Twitter to share their thoughts on this classic game:





Despite the loss, #Auburn had an outstanding season that made their fans proud:

During the game, Auburn’s play cards earned some laughs:

As did these Tweets from a couple of well-known brands:


As for the telecast, @ESPN covered the game like never before with a “Megacast” that broadcast additional viewing options for fans, including #TitleTalk on ESPN 2. #TitleTalk featured a social stripe on the bottom of the screen that highlighted top Tweets from ESPN personalities, celebrities and athletes, along with Twitter polls and trends.

Video used with permission of @ESPN

What was your favorite moment from last night’s game? Tweet @TwitterSports using the hashtag #TwitterBCS.

Photos in direct messages and swipe between timelines

Every day, people come to Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world and talk about it. Today, we’re updating our mobile apps to make this even easier.

Now you can send and receive photos via direct messages and swipe back and forth between timelines.

Direct messages: Now with photos
For the first time, you can share and view photos via direct message (DM) on your mobile phone. We’ve also introduced a new tab in the navigation bar that makes it easy to access DMs –– they’re just one tap away from wherever you are on Twitter. You can also view photos in DMs on twitter.com.

Swipe to discover what’s happening
Now you can swipe from your Home timeline to the Discover timeline to find trends, popular Tweets and new accounts tailored for you, and then swipe to your Activity timeline to see Tweets and accounts that are popular among people you follow.

There are a bunch of other great updates in this release. For example, on Twitter for iOS, new in-app notifications show you when people send you a DM or favorite, retweet and reply to your Tweets. And on Twitter for Android, you can easily turn on mobile notifications for specific users by tapping the star on their profile.

Download Twitter for Android or Twitter for iPhone to check out these new features, and keep an eye on @twittermobile for more tips and updates.

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