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Take your daily dose of (only) relevant news, useful tips and tricks and valuable how to's on using the latest web technologies shaping the digital landscape. We're here to do all the necessary information sifting for you, so you don't have to, to provide you with content that will help you anticipate the emerging trends about to influence the web.

Google’s Springboard: Main Reasons Why You’d Want to Use It
  Your very own digital assistant Google offers two new services for its enterprise customers, the most notable being Google Springboard – your very own digital assistant especially designed for enterprise companies which use Google’s services for business purposes. Springboard has been in testing with a small number of customers until now but it’s been finally released so you can enjoy more power at your fingertips. Google Springboard features a single search interface which uses artificial intelligence to gather and sort information from Google’s other products such as Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive and more. Prabhakar Raghavan, VP of Engineering for Google Apps states „the average knowledge worker [currently] spends the equivalent of one full day a week searching for and gathering information.” Apart from its improved search capabilities, Springboard also provides users with “useful and actionable information and recommendations” which they can use to solve tasks and assignments throughout their day. Google Sites gets better as well Google Sites also boasts a new design as well as a few interesting features. Google Sites is Google’s information portal used to house internal company information such as newsletters, reports and so on. Google Sites users can now use the improved drag and drop interface for easier use and editing can be done in real time by different parties. Google Sites also became friendlier towards different kinds of screen – now it can support any screen from a 30 inch monitor to a smart phone or laptop. Conclusions It will be interesting to see the users’ reaction to these new apps. It remains to be seen if Google’s Springboard can fully replace a personal assistant, but I guess we’ll see the answer to that in the future – Google plans to expand and improve Springboard with more useful features.       ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 14'2016
Microsoft Detects Cancer Clues in Search Queries
Microsoft scientists have demonstrated that by analyzing large samples of search engine queries they may in some cases be able to identify internet users who are suffering from pancreatic cancer, even before they have received a diagnosis of the disease. The scientists said they hoped their work could lead to early detection of cancer. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we heard the whispers of people online, would it provide strong evidence or a clue that something’s going on?’” Dr. Horvitz said. The researchers focused on searches conducted on Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, that indicated someone had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. From there, they worked backward, looking for earlier queries that could have shown that the Bing user was experiencing symptoms before the diagnosis. Those early searches, they believe, can be warning flags. While five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer are extremely low, early detection of the disease can prolong life in a very small percentage of cases. The study suggests that early screening can increase the five-year survival rate of pancreatic patients to 5 to 7 percent, from just 3 percent. The researchers reported that they could identify from 5 to 15 percent of pancreatic cases with false positive rates of as low as one in 100,000. The researchers noted that false positives could lead to raised medical costs or create significant anxiety for people who later found out they were not sick. The data used by the researchers was anonymized, meaning it did not carry identifying markers like a user name, so the individuals conducting the searches could not be contacted. A logical next step would be to figure out what to do with that search information. One possibility would be some sort of health service where users could allow their searches to be collected, allowing scientists to monitor for questions that indicate warning flag symptoms. “The question, ‘What might we do? Might there be a Cortana for health some day?’” said Dr. Horvitz, in a reference to the company’s speech-oriented online personal assistant software service. Although the researchers declined to offer specific details, Dr. White is now the chief technology officer of health intelligence in a recently created Health & Wellness division at Microsoft. They acknowledged that health-related data generated from web search histories was still new territory for the medical profession. “I think the mainstream medical literature has been resistant to these kinds of studies and this kind of data,” Dr. Horvitz said. “We’re hoping that this stimulates quite a bit of interesting conversation.” The new research is based on the ability of the Microsoft team to accurately distinguish between web searches that are casual or based on anxiety and those that are genuine searches for specific medical symptoms by people who are experiencing them, he noted. Both a computer scientist and a medical doctor by training, Dr. Horvitz said he had been exploring this area in part because of a phone conversation with a close friend who had described symptoms. Based on their conversation, Dr. Horvitz advised him to contact his doctor. He received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and died several months later. The availability of vast sets of behavior data based on individual web queries using the search engines offered by companies like Google and Microsoft has for a number of years been seen as a potential indicator of health-related information. In 2009, Google published a research paper that explored the potential of early detection of flu epidemics based on statistical analysis of web search logs, though the results of that effort ultimately fell short of what had been hoped. More recently, Microsoft researchers have had significant success in finding early evidence of adverse drug reactions from patterns observed in web logs. In 2013, they detected unreported side effects of prescription drugs before they were found by the Food and Drug Administration’s warning system. The researchers are exploring evidence related to a range of devastating diseases. They also said that unlike the drug interaction data, which would be of direct value to the F.D.A. as an early alert, it was possible that symptom alert data might be made available as part of a broader online health service that a company like Microsoft might offer. Source: http://www.nytimes.com ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 10'2016
Introducing Google’s New Layout: A Rich Cards-Based One
Card based design is growing more and more popular and now Google wants to get in on the action as well. Google wants to switch its mobile search results to a new design called „rich cards”. The new design is a direct successor to Google’s already popular rich snippets feature. But the makeover doesn’t stop there – Google’s planning to redesign desktop search results with a completely new layout. Google Search Gets a Makeover Rich snippets are search results composed from a preview of the page’s text as well as small pictures. Google doesn’t intend to replace rich snippets but only complement and build on them in order to improve user experience.   Rich cards will be displayed in a carousel format which is easy to navigate by simply swiping right or left. The carousel can show cards from different sites or the same site.   Webmasters are excited about Google’s makeover since it allows them to stand out in the search results and market their products more effectively. This new design based on rich cards can also improve organic traffic in some cases. Currently, Google is implementing the new layout for just two content categories: movies and recipes. Content Categories Based on Visuals Will Experience The Change First  These two content categories are perfect for this change – the visual nature of these categories will increase organic traffic for websites. Food site owners can create rich previews of their website’s content by featuring appealing images for each dish or recipe. The same applies to movie sites with graphics and posters. The main difference between the original snippets and Google’s upgraded rich card snippets is simply the number of images which webmasters can features. Rich snippets were released 6 years ago and could feature just one image in search results. Nowadays webmasters will be able to feature a series of images with the carousel system.   Before you go mobile to check out Google’s new layout keep in mind that right now only people using the English mobile version of Google can see the rich cards layout. The new layout will also experience multiple changes and improvements as Google is experimenting with new ways of providing richer previews in their search results and it’s only a matter of time before other types of content will benefit from rich card snippets. Google Webmaster Tools Gets Upgraded Google also offers integration with the Google Search Console, also known as Google Webmaster Tools – site owners will be able to see data related to their rich cards. This will help them monitor search performance more closely. If you want to check out how the rich cards work in Search just head on to Google’s Search Gallery and see screenshots of mark-up type samples and cards.   Another interesting change is Google’s Knowledge Graph – this is the system that collects information about people, things and places in order to understand how they are all connected. Knowledge Graph cards will be placed inline, effectively prioritizing them over competing website. This leads to a more cleaner and simplified look for Google’s search results.   The new desktop search design has practical features as well – now users have to scroll down to see more results – Knowledge Graph cards for locations can take up a lot of space. Here is the list of changes for Desktop Search Results: Wider tabs for News, Images and All tabs Sub-links will show up under the main result, in a group with the same cards Stories from the „in the news” list will appear in the same card The „people also search for” list will show up at the bottom of the search results page and not in the sidebar Google’s new experimental layout will surely help site owners get noticed much easier in mobile search results and receive more organic traffic. It’s likely that the carrousels will replace written text more and more and the movement towards rich, image-based snippets as opposed to simple text content is obvious. ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 09'2016
A Look into the Future of Technology: WebGL Will Soon Replace Flash
Back in the day projects featuring crazy sound effects, animations and interactions were all the rage. These effects created intense user experiences hence is why they became so popular – most of these projects were built using Adobe Flash. Flash is close to death and the era of rich multimedia platforms has come to an end but there’s good news – a fresher successor will replace Flash. Three.js and WebGL technologies are growing very fast, allowing developers to create projects similar to those built in Flash but without any security issues. The Three.js and WebGL combo is one of the most powerful tools you can use to create immersive UX. WebGL and Three.js WebGL is the foundation that provides developers with ways to manipulate interactive 2D and 3D graphic elements. It allows users to mix elements with HTML and combine them with other constituents of the background or page. On the other hand, Three.js is a Javascript library with a long list of features which allow developers to operate with geometry, lights, cameras, scenes and more. Three.js helps unlock WebGL’s true potential by adding extra functionality options. With these two in place, it’s very easy to create 3D animations accelerated through GPU without needing any browser plugins. Compatibility issues   When different technologies get combined, dilemmas appear – should you create a “one size fits all” project that can run on different devices and offer consistent experience or risk it all and impress the audience you can reach. When working with Three.js and WebGL it’s the same. Most mobile browsers can be a real hassle especially since many users are stuck with legacy browsers – full compatibility can be tricky to achieve. The good news is that support is growing and the technologies are developing fast – as long as you don’t use Three.js and WebGL for any critical part of your project, you should be fine. ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 06'2016
Meet WebGazer: The Free Technology that Turns Your Webcam into an Eye Tracker
Eye tracking technology has been in the research phase for quite a while now but the good news is that this new software opens the door to it for anyone with a website. Just about any website owner can use Webgazer to optimize their content and graphics.   WebGazer – where it all began WebGazer.js was developed by the scientists at Brown University – it’s very easy to implement and can be added to any site in just a couple of minutes with a few lines of code. The software runs on the website visitor’s browser, effectively turning the webcam into an eye tracker which can see where the visitor is looking on the page. The idea behind this is to help developers make websites more user friendly by optimizing content. Once the software is embedded onto a website, WebGazer will ask users for permission to access their webcams – once permission is given, WebGazer will use face detection software to locate the user’s eyes and face. The program will then convert the image to black and white in order to clearly distinguish the user’s eyes and iris. Once the iris is located, the system uses a statistical model which is calibrated via the user’s cursor movements and clicks. This model works by assuming that a visitor looks at the spot where they just clicked and each click tells the model where the eye looks when it’s viewing a part of the page. Reasonable calibration is achieved in around three clicks and after that WebGazer can accurately guess the viewer’s gaze in real time. Alexandra Papoutsaki, a graduate student from Brown University states: “We see this as a democratization of eye-tracking. Anyone can add WebGazer to their site and get a much richer set of analytics compared to just tracking clicks or cursor movements.”   Privacy and experiments There’s no need to worry about privacy when using WebGazer as no video is shared through the software – only the user’s gaze is reported back to the website. Alexandra P. performed a few experiments in order to properly test and evaluate the system – results show that it can infer gaze location in 100-200 screen pixels. While this may not be as accurate as commercial eye tracking software, it’s still a good estimation of where your users are looking. WebGazer could help developers optimize their pages, create more eye catching content or plan their prices space accordingly. Not only that but in the future we might see WebGazer being used for accessibility reasons or eye controlled gaming. WebGazer’s code is currently available for free use by anyone interested.  It will be fascinating to see how WebGazer will evolve and change the way we view the web. ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 03'2016
Speed And Mobile Testing Just Got Easier
Google recently launched a new tool which aims to help business owners determine their website speed and mobile friendliness on tablets and smartphones.Mobile searches recently surpassed desktop searches and since more and more people surf the internet through mobile devices it’s critical for webmasters to check if their website is performant, functional, accessible and mobile friendly. Google’s New ToolGoogle’s new website testing tool is very simple and user friendly – you don’t have to be a technical person to try it out. Just type in your website’s address and the tool will analyse your site, scoring it according to certain requirements. The tool offers more detailed reports as well as suggestions on how to fix things – you can then use this information yourself or pass it along to your webmaster.Google offers plenty of testing tools for sites, including the Mobile Friendly Test, PageSpeed Insights and PageSpeed Tools but most of these tools are aimed at users with some technical knowledge – the new testing tool is aimed at business owners and non-technical users simply through its ease of use. Faster resultsThe tool shows scores in green for good, yellow for fair and red for poor. The user interface is greatly simplified as well. That being said, the new tool is powered by PageSpeed Insights – the idea is to get a fast overview of your website’s speed, mobile friendliness and performance at a glance.Google has increased its effort on mobile web where it created new technologies such as Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP – these pages load much faster than web pages and use much less data. Google’s search algorithm has also been updated and having a mobile friendly website is more important than ever. More and more users shift to mobile devices and Google is paving the way to a more pleasurable user experience for all parties involved.... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Jun 02'2016
Introducing Hyperdev: A New Tool for Building Full-Stack Web Applications
Fog Creek Software is a New York based company best known for Trello and Stack Overflow. They recently announced the release of HyperDev, an online playground used for developing and deploying web apps. The open beta service is currently available to anyone willing to try it out. HyperDev is in Open Beta Previously users had to ask Fog Creek for permission to access HyperDev’s private beta. HyperDev is interesting because it can handle many of the steps necessary to get a Web app live and update it. Simply go on to HyperDev’s website and you can get your app live and complete with a proper URL as well as an environment for editing server and client side code. You can also invite other people to work on the code with you and if your project is worth implementing, you can save the code to your GitHub account.   Hyperdev automatically makes all changes to your app – there is no “deploy” button. You can see any code your team members are adding live just like in Google Docs. If a user is looking at the app through the URL, they will see it change live without needing to refresh. The Google Docs of App Development Fog Creek co-founder Joel Spolsky states “Literally as you type each keystroke, it can be rebooting, the whole server gets deployed,” - “We hope to get it down to like 100 milliseconds, ultimately.”   Keep in mind that HyperDev is not a full flexible cloud infrastructure or a standalone platform as a service or PaaS. This means that it won’t be the ideal hosting for every application but it will be ideal if you want to try small bits of code to see if they work properly. HyperDev is currently free for publically visible projects. In time the service will most likely offer a service to keep projects private for a fee, just like GitHub. JSFiddle is a service very similar to HyperDev – it allows users to edit and deploy code. Other similar services also include Stack Snippet. But neither of these services allow users to run live websites.   HyperDev only works with JavaScript in its current build. Python support as well as other languages will be added in the future. Fog Creek co-founder Joel Spolsky is a software development wizard but he’s not above googling for bits and pieces of code. Recently he built a podcast feed during a 5 hour plane trip from New York to San Francisco – the project was built in HyperDev. The for-loop portion in the app “was the most cut-and-pastey code I had ever done in my life,” Spolsky said. HyperDev is perfect for this type of quick programming.     ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / May 30'2016
Our Favorite Thing About Brave Browser? It Blocks Ads and Trackers... by Default
Brendan Eich is one of Firefox’s key figures and a web pioneer, but that’s not all he’s known for – he is the man behind a new start-up called Brave Software. Brave Software recently released a beta version of the Brave browser – this new software can work on OS X, Windows, Android or iOS. The idea behind this browser is to shield users from intrusive ads, effectively allowing it to run much faster than its rivals. Brendan Eich is known for bold and exciting ideas – He invented the JavaScript programming language and co-founded Mozilla which built the Firefox browser – one of the most popular browsers in the world. He left Mozilla in 2014 and started working from his new start-up, Brave Software with a team of 10, hand-picked specialists. The San Francisco-based company wants to rid the world of intrusive ads or harmful advertising all together.   The idea behind it Brendan Eich states: "We have to disconnect the bad system, I talk about putting chlorine in the pool”. Apart from the huge speed boost Eich promises privacy protection as well. The new browser should load pages two to four times faster than rival smartphone browsers and 1.4 times faster than PC browsers. But it’s not all smooth sailing - the Brave browser faces huge challenges such as gaining publishers support and convincing users to change their browsers. If Eich succeeds in his bold move, it could mean the end of ad blockers and improved privacy for consumers. Currently, online ads support a huge number of free services such as Yahoo mail, Facebook and Google searches but this situation creates a problem since publishers have reasons to intrude in your personal life – their ads sell much better when publishers know details about you – or as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook states “When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product”. The Brave browser strips out ads and in the future it plans to allow a certain ads with a limited amount of personal data shared with advertisers. The browser also removes online tracking elements which slow down browsing speed. In the end, the Brave browser wants to achieve a balance between fast browsing speed and keeping a handful of actually useful ads.   How is that possible? It sounds like a good idea but how can it be done? The browser uses your history to see what you’re interested in and shares industry standard categories with publishers which in turn can place appropriate ads without knowing any personal information about you. Brave Software states it doesn’t want to know any information from its users. Currently the Brave browser is ads free, with a few empty patches where ads will be placed in the future. Once it has a large number of people using it, publishers will start supplying ads based on the information Brave shares. This will be Brave’s revenue source for the time being – "We're going to have to prove ourselves to get that payment," Eich says.   Get some profit as well Once the Brave browser has over 10 million clients, Brave Software plans to offer its consumers some revenue in return for using the product. The revenue can be used for subscriptions to pay publishers in order to remove certain or all ads. Eich and his team built their browser in Chromium – the base of Google Chrome, meaning all the security support and development will be done by Google. But why not use Firefox as a base for the Brave browser? Eich explains "Chromium is the safe bet for us," – Chrome is much more popular among developers who want to test websites, it’s a better tested and safer choice. It remains to be seen if the Brave browser becomes a big player like Firefox and Chrome. Currently it seems that it has all the assets necessary to do so and the revenue sharing scheme is brilliant. ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / May 25'2016
Breaking News: Microsoft’s Planning on Storing Data on DNA
Just one single gram of DNA can store 1.000.000.000 Terabytes of data for over a thousand years. Microsoft has purchased 10 million strands of synthetic DNA – these DNA molecules are called Oligonucleotides. The biology-focused company Twist supplied the strands of synthetic DNA and researchers from the University of Washington started exploring the idea of using DNA for data storage. If Microsoft’s plan works, it will revolutionize data storage technology as we know it today. The current rate and volume of data being stored and produced every day is so fast that hard drives and servers are having a hard time coping with it – they need periodical replacement or upgrades and this in turn increases the risk of data loss or corruption. Statistics show that by 2015, 5.4 zettabytes or 4.4 trillion gigabytes of digital data has been created and this number’s set to increase tenfold by 2020. How are we going to store 10 times the amount of data in the next 4 years? This is the question that Microsoft is planning to answer. Microsoft wants to store data on DNA DNA offers an enormously higher data storage density than conventional hard drives or systems – one gram of DNA can store up to 1 billion terabytes of data. DNA is also very robust meaning that any data stored on it can be readable or intact for up to 10.000 years. - That’s a bit more than your average hard drive’s life expectancy. Twist states that all the data that exists today can be stored on as little as 20 grams of DNA. Although this may sound great, the technology is far from being ready to support our daily data and storage needs. Initial tests have gotten great results – one test demonstrated that all of the data encoded on DNA can be recovered with ease. The American Chemical Society also recently released a statement that supports Microsoft’s finds – Data stored on DNA molecules could last up to 2000 years without being deteriorated in any way. ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / May 19'2016