Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

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