Like many of you out there, we are Gmail addicts around here. So a feature addition to Gmail is always an enjoyable event. When it solves a problem in a really simple way, it's even better. Gmail has added the ability to drag and drop images into the composition panel, and it definitely solves a problem. This is similar to the recently added ability to drag and drop attachments into messages.
In our testing it worked very well. Even dropping in large images resulted in only a slight delay before they were visible. It's just a small addition in the grand scheme of Gmail, but when combined with other new, intuitive features it really makes it feel like a more elegant experience. We assume this is accomplished with some sort of HTML5 implementations in Gmail.
Google is currently only supporting this feature in Chrome, but other browsers are coming soon. What features do you want to see in Gmail?
Google’s spending spree continues unabated with the acquisition of video hosting platform Episodic. The Episodic product and team is expected to folded into YouTube. Episodic allows users to create video libraries with ad insertion capabilities and support for credit card transactions. Google did not release the price paid for Episodic.
The Episodic player currently works on both desktop browsers and the iPhone. There is not currently support for Android, but that support is supposed to be coming soon. Though, it is unclear what form Episodic will take now that the team will be working at YouTube. Episodic is primarily for serious content producers. In addition to the advertizing and transaction tools, the service also has the ability to syndicate content to other services like Amazon, iTunes, or Hulu.
Google just recently acquired online photo editor Picnik, and Google Docs competitor DocVerse. It may be that Google is trying to strengthen their online offerings in anticipation of Chrome OS computers later this year.
Since WebGL depends on the OpenGL graphics API, it is better suited to Linux and OS X as compared to Windows. But Google has just announced a new initiative called Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine, or ANGLE, to “layer WebGL's subset of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API over DirectX 9.0c API calls.” For those not comfortable with the technical argot, ANGLE will help execute WebGL on Windows systems using DirectX 9.0, and “without having to rely on OpenGL drivers.”
According to Henry Bridge, a product manager at Google, ANGLE will also prove to be useful for those developing applications for mobile and embedded devices. “ANGLE should make it simpler to prototype these applications on Windows, and also gives developers new options for deploying production versions of their code to the desktop,” he wrote on the Chromium Blog.
Google’s newest round of acquisitions appears to be continuing unabated with the purchase of photo editing site Picnik. The announcement was just made today on the Picnik blog. The posting was upbeat saying in part, “Under the Google roof we’ll reach more people than ever before, impacting more lives and making more photos more awesome.” We bet the gobs of money Google just threw their way must be nice as well.
Picnik was started in 2005 and has grown significantly. The site recorded over 16.8 million unique visitors last month. Unlike many startups, this one appears not to have existed solely to be acquired. Their product has been evolving and enjoys a committed user base. In fact, Picnik has been profitable since last year. The company was co-founded by former Google employee Jonathan Sposato. Other recent acquisitions by the search giant, like Aardvark and AppJet, were also started by former Googlers. It is certainly an interesting pattern.
Picnik already has some integration with Google’s Picasa (among others), so we may see that connection get even tighter. According to the Picnik blog though, nothing is changing right now. You can continue to use the site as you have before. Have you used Picnik before? Like it? Image via Picnik
Facebook users know how it can be. You log in and notice you have a huge number of notifications. You find yourself dismayed as it becomes apparent that most of them are just app notification spam. You know the sort: so-and-so just answered a question about you, or what’s-his-face wants your help in Mafia Wars. Well, hopefully you won’t see quite so much of that anymore now that Facebook has ended support for the ‘notifications.send’ API.
We’re happy to see Facebook take even a small step to keep the service usable. Sure, developers may not like this so much, but Facebook did just give them the ability to request user email addresses for notification purposes. They also have the new games dashboard to play with. It is currently unclear how this will affect the newsfeed. Currently, we are still seeing a few app posts in it, and we wouldn’t mind if that went away.
Overall, this is a good move by Facebook. Even with the massive success Facebook is enjoying, they have to pay attention to the experience of users lest they become the next MySpace. Just think, that would have sounded like a good thing three or four years ago. Internet people are fickle.
At Maximum PC, computer hardware is our bread and butter. We review it, preview it, and just generally love to talk about it. Unfortunately, hardware becomes less important with each passing day, as more and more software moves onto the internet. We're not looking forward to the day that our PC's become Chrome OS-style thin client, but we have to admit, some web apps are pretty awesome.
So to help you prepare for a future in the cloud, we've put together a list of 30 of our favorite web apps and services. We've tried to keep them on the lesser-known side, but a few of the classic have snuck their way in. Check out our list, and then hit the comments and share your favorites.
Mozilla points to the frustration developers experience trying to get their applications onto multiple platforms. They hope Fennec will put an end to that by making web apps the standard. The Firefox creators are hoping to position the new browser to take advantage of the future of web apps, which they claim will win. But didn’t we hear this when the iPhone launched? Apparently Mozilla thinks it will be different this time around.
Mozilla is baking all sorts of goodies into the new mobile browser to try to get mobile users to make the switch. There will be a mobile version of the “Awesomebar” as well as extension support. Current Firefox users will also be able to have their history and tabs sync down to the mobile device. The browser will be out the N900 soon (betas are available now), and on Windows Mobile and Android early next year. The iPhone? Probably not.
Palm is changing up the development platform for its WebOS based devices. After a short private beta, the new Ares SDK is available to aspiring WebOS developers. While Palm’s Mojo SDK has been available for several months, Ares is different. The Ares SDK is entirely browser-based. That seems only fitting for a platform that relies so heavily on web technologies to create apps.
Palm’s goal here seems to be to get more web developers involved. These people may be well suited to developing for WebOS, but would never go to the trouble of downloading a SDK. Ares endeavors to keep everything one might need in a single place.
There aren’t really any other surprises beyond that. The SDK still won’t allow a lot of complexity in apps. For the most part, you still won’t see software that is as advanced as what we see on Android and iPhone.
The Khronos Group is asking for comment from web developers interested in working with the new standard. Those involved see the WebGL development moving at a rapid pace if awareness remains high. "I anticipate us moving toward a spec that is not provisional, not merely a draft, in early 2010, the first quarter," said Mozilla’s Arun Ranganathan. Building 3D support into the framework of the internet could revolutionize web applications and games. Full on 3D shooters may not be in the cards right away due to other browser constraints, but we can dream.
If this sounds intriguing, that’s just what Mozilla is banking on. Mozilla is hoping that early adoption of WebGL could give it an important edge over the still dominant Internet Explorer. Keep an eye on this one folks.
Everyone’s favorite computational knowledge engine, Wolfram|Alpha, has rolled out a new feature. Now, when entering an equation for Wolfram|Alpha to solve, users can press the “Show steps” link. It does just what it sounds like; it provides a step-by-step method for obtaining the solution. The Wolfram|Alpha blog post says, ““Show steps” feature allows you to learn basic mathematics on your own, or it can simply be a nice way to check your work!” This effectively makes it the machine we all wished we had while learning algebra in junior high school.
The option works for equations of many difficulty levels from simple algebra, all the way to complex integrals and derivatives. No more can math teachers assure honest homework by requiring students to show their work. But this is actually a very useful tool for honest students to more effectively learn mathematics. Go forth and use it wisely.