Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Google today launched a new update to its Android and iOS app which includes feed. It uses artificial intelligence to find out what you are interested in, combining data from services like Search, Gmail, YouTube etc. It will then show relevant articles and videos in a vertical list. If you use any social network, this concept will not surprise you. But Google’s feed isn’t actually that social. It’s completely built around you.

For me, Facebook’s main problem (besides fake news) is that its newsfeed is not really relevant most of the time. One of the reasons is its non-chronological order, combined with its never-ending stream of content (although it does start repeating posts if you’re crazy enough to try). But friends are the biggest problem. As Google explains in its blog post, you don’t like everything your friends like, but Facebook shows a ton of suggested posts and pages based on their activity.

Other platforms have the same problems, but to a lesser extent. Facebook’s Instagram has had a non-chronological feed since 2016, but it won’t suggest anything else when you run out of new posts and the order doesn’t change when you refresh. Twitter still mostly is chronological, and lists — one of its most underrated features if you ask me — are a great way to separate friends and interests, for example.

With feed, Google built what could be seen as the anti-Facebook and that doesn’t sound all that bad to me. Would you rather spend your time looking at things your friends are interested in or things you are interested in? Google’s feed also might combat the filter bubble by showing multiple sources.
But possibly the best thing: you can read about your My Little Pony fascination without the fear of sharing that with people who respect your perfect social media life (no offense, by the way).

Monday, May 15, 2017

As you (hopefully) will have heard by now, starting on Friday and over the weekend over 200.000 computers in more than 150 countries were struck by a massive ransomware cyberattack called "WannaCry". The malware encrypted files on the computers and asked for $300 worth of Bitcoin for the keys to release them. Those computers were mostly running Microsoft’s Windows XP, released in 2001. Support for the OS ended in 2014, which basically means that users were left vulnerable for security holes detected after that time. So, is this all Microsoft's fault?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Do you remember a browser with a fox in its logo that is named after the red panda? You probably do. You might even use it every now and then or maybe even as your main browser. But most likely you switched to Chrome a long time ago like many others. However, Firefox once was the way to go. A great and often better alternative to default browsers like Internet Explorer and Safari. But when Google’s revolutionary Chrome browser entered the stage it couldn’t keep up.

Friday, April 28, 2017

“Another World War II game” is what gamers would have said a little less than a decade ago, had Sledgehammer Games announced Call of Duty: WWII back then. But in 2017 Call of Duty fans — and shooter fans in general — seem to be relieved.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Samsung's Galaxy S8 is (almost) here. It's a beautiful hardware package, if you ask me. And it runs Android. Google's Android. Why does such a large manufacturer still rely on software made by a different company?

Friday, January 6, 2017

There have been rumors about a new OS, Andromeda, all throughout 2016. Andromeda would be a combination of Chrome OS and Android, but Google has always denied something like this was going on. Hiroshi Lockheimer, responsible for Chrome OS, Android and Google Play told The Guardian last month that a merge of code would not be happening, “ but we are doing is to bring the best of both systems to each other.”

The Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro seem to do exactly that. For a while, select Chromebook models were able to run Android apps, but these new devices, which Samsung developed in partnership with Google, are built around this possibility. They are convertible from laptop to tablet, have a touchscreen and a built-in pen.

I wrote about Chrome OS before and I also tested Remix OS, which is essentially Android for PCs. I then thought that Android was a little limited as a full desktop OS, especially when using an app like Chrome, which doesn’t have extensions on mobile. With a device like this, you get both all your favorite Android apps + a full version of Chrome.

Actually, I think this might also be the best Android tablet, because Chrome OS is simply suited better for a larger display than Android these days. So, I’m wondering where Google takes this in 2017.

Chrome OS already was perfect for most average computer users. A lot of people buy expensive Macbooks while all they do is reading email and watching Netflix. Convertible Chromebooks might be — just like Microsoft’s Surface — a good replacement for both a tablet and a laptop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Yesterday Instagram launched live video and an option to send disappearing videos and photos to your friends. This sounds oddly familiar of course, especially combined with Stories, which launched in August.

Yes, Instagram now has most of things that make Snapchat popular (they didn’t copy lenses.. yet). But they didn’t just copy those features, they made them better. I can only speak from an Android perspective, but I know many people will agree with me when I say that Snapchat is a horrible app. It just feels slow. It doesn’t even take proper photos, but just a “screenshot” of the viewfinder. Evan Spiegel uses an iPhone and you can tell by looking at his own Android app.

In terms of UI I don’t think I have any app on my phone that’s worse than Snapchat. I do believe Snapchat wants to be an app that is as easy to use as possible and I think that might have been the case in the early days, despite its unconventional interface (not following guidelines). But Snapchat has received many new features over the years and instead of rethinking how all of those would fit in the app they just added another layer of unnatural interaction. They’ve made some improvements in the form of animations, but generally a lot of things are hidden behind swipes and there is no indication whatsoever that they exist.

left: Snapchat | right: Instagram

Take a look at the chat screen for example. Snapchat shows a mixed list of text, photo and video chats, but you’re able to initiate a text chat with all of them. Instagram splits photos/videos and text messages.

Snapchat also recently changed the way you watch stories and people hated it. It appeared they hadn’t looked into how people used the app at all.

I have yet to decide whether or not I like the changes Instagram is making. What I mean by that is that I liked Instagram the way it was as a photo sharing app. But I have to admit the new additions feel natural, because I think they’re implemented in a good way. One other important thing is that I only open Snapchat when I receive a personal snap. I check Instagram 100 times every day, because I always know there’s something new in my feed. I follow more people on Instagram and have more followers compared to friends on Snapchat. Interestingly, some people who are my Snapchat friends don’t follow me on Instagram and vice versa, but the amount of people that see my Instagram Story vs my Snapchat Story is about the same.

Instead of improving Snapchat, Snap decided to sell goofy glasses. And why wouldn't they? The whole world is using Snapchat already anyway. Maybe they get away with it, but maybe not now there is a viable competitor.

Facebook has tried to copy Snapchat many times by implementing sort-like features in Messenger and releasing it in countries where Snapchat isn’t that popular yet. Remember Slingshot? That app was launched in 2014. But now, 2 years later it finally found the right place: its hugely popular photo sharing app Instagram. And it found the right man in Kevin Weil, former VP of product at Twitter who joined in January.

It turned out Snapchat is a great concept, but the company left room for improvement. And if you do that, another company will take it and make it better. If Spiegel didn’t already know this, he does now for sure.



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