Google celebrates Olympics with Doodle Fruit Games

Google celebrates Olympics with Doodle Fruit Games

L7VKFp8k2vcLFARyjbkDguNl6E600sW_PA900ZUhmp7Mhf_8OOLzy-IiNJQJ6oKzq9FxoQ=s2048The Olympics kick off this week and to celebrate, Google is featuring a new interactive doodle in the Google App for iOS and Android every day for the next seven days.

So if you couldn’t make it to Rio (which may be for the better, given all the issues the city currently faces) you can now guide a bunch of delicious fruits through a mock Olympic decathlon where the greatest threat is being literally steamrolled by an overly aggressive melon. Even the Fruit Games are dangerous.

Google hopes you will find these fruits as “apPEELing” as it does (yep – Google wrote that, but I’m sure it’ll make sense when you play the Apple game). From what I can see, there is a biking game (you play a coconut on a BMX bike), water polo, spider hurdle jumping, a coconut and pineapple playing tennis, and more. You can also play a cute berry that is trying to avoid getting turned into a smoothie by an overly aggressive (yet oddly happy) melon that doesn’t exactly exhibit the Olympic spirit.

Clearly, somebody at Google had a lot of fun putting all of this together.

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Source: TechCrunch

Zeta Interactive acquires Acxiom Impact for over $50M

Zeta Interactive acquires Acxiom Impact for over M

Zeta Interactive, the marketing-focused big data and analytics firm that recently acquired the CRM division of eBay Enterprise, today announced it has bought Acxiom Impact, Acxiom‘s marketing automation solution for enterprise marketers. Sources close to the companies tell me the acquisition price was just north of $50 million.

Zeta Interactive, which was co-founded by David Steinberg and former Apple and Pepsi-Cola CEO John Sculley, focuses on data-driven marketing and customer lifecycle management solutions. Acxiom Impact has a similar focus, with an emphasis on one-to-one email and cross-channel marketing tools for the enterprise.

Zeta CEO Steinberg tells me the company wants to use the acquisition to “create a ‘best of both’ marketing technology platform that builds on Zeta‘s core strengths of flexibility, scalability and omni-channel orchestration,” as well as a “best in class”‘ professional services organization.

As part of this acquisition, Zeta and Acxiom also entered into a long-term partnership agreement. Steinberg tells me the company hopes to be able to capitalize on this partnership to enhance its offerings.

“Zeta has a long-standing relationship with Acxiom at the operating unit and corporate levels,” Steinberg told me when I asked about how the acquisition came about. “Zeta had identified Acxiom Impact as an asset that we believed we could operate more effectively than the existing parent company (similar to how we viewed e-Dialog when it was part of eBay). As Acxiom was evaluating its corporate strategy, an opportunity to acquire this business arose. Zeta moved quickly.”

For now, Acxiom Impact will become part of Zeta’s CRM divisions and will continue to operate as it does today. Over time, though, Zeta plans to integrate the two products into a single platform “to provide clients with an even stronger solution that helps them win in an increasingly complex marketing ecosystem.”

This marks Zeta’s tenth acquisition since it was founded in 2007. Last July, the company raised $125 million from Blackstone Group. That was on top of the $70 million it raised back in 2012. The company currently has about 1,300 employees.

Source: TechCrunch

Google to surface critic reviews and best-of list inclusions for bars and restaurants

Google to surface critic reviews and best-of list inclusions for bars and restaurants

Google announced an interesting little tweak to its search results today that will highlight reviews from reputable critics and best-of list inclusions for bars and restaurants when you search in the Google app.

Say you are looking for a fancy place to eat in New York. Google already gives you plenty of information about any given restaurant, including when it’s the busiest and what other eaters thought about it.

Now, however, instead of having to rely on amateurs, you will also see reviews from Michelin, Zagat, and other reputable publishers (I guess Zagat’s reviews are also crowdsourced, though its reviewers tend to be somewhat self-selected).

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In addition, you’ll also see if a certain place is on a best-of list. Google is getting this data from the likes of Serious Eats, Eater and others.

For now, this new feature is only available in the Google app for Android and iOS. It would be nice to also see this information on the desktop, too, but it’s likely only a matter of time before it’ll be available there.

While there is plenty of value in using crowdsourced reviews, it’s also hard to beat the likes of Pete Wells and the Michelin Guide when it comes to deciding where to spent your hard-earned money on a that $400 prix fixe dinner.

Featured Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft’s Excel API, which lets developers access data stored in spreadsheets, hits general availability

Microsoft’s Excel API, which lets developers access data stored in spreadsheets, hits general availability

After a relatively short beta, Microsoft today announced that the Excel API — a way for developers to programmatically use Excel for Office 365 for doing calculations, building dashboards and more — is now generally available.

Microsoft first announced the API last November and then at its Build conference in March detailed its plans for turning Office 365 into more of a platform for developers. Like all of Microsoft’s Office 365 APIs, the new Excel one will be available through the Microsoft Graph, the company’s unified API endpoint for all of its cloud services.

Implicitly, the Excel API acknowledges that most businesses use (and abuse) Excel to store lots of data. Using the service, developers will be able to perform calculations based on this data — and data from their apps outside of Office 365. They can also call on data and calculations from Excel sheets for building reports and dashboards.

Microsoft has partnered with two third-party services to make accessing this API easier. Zapier users, for example, can now build integrations with Excel for Office 365, and Sage, which offers business management service for small and medium businesses, is integrating it with its accounting solution.

Featured Image: Microsoft Sweden/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Panoply.io raises $7M Series A for its data analytics and warehousing platform

Panoply.io raises M Series A for its data analytics and warehousing platform

Panoply.io, a startup that wants to make setting up a data warehousing and analytics infrastructure as easy as spinning up an AWS server, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by Intel Capital, with participation from previous investor Blumberg Capital. This follows Panoply’s $1.3 million seed round from late last year.

“It’s remarkable that what once required teams of engineers can now be accomplished with a click,” said Yaniv Leven, Panoply’s co-founder and CEO in today’s announcement. “With Panoply.io, complex tasks like schema building and altering, data mining, complex modelling, scaling, performance tuning, security, backup and more are all handled by an array of machine learning algorithms.”

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The Tel Aviv- and San Francisco-based company says setting up a full-stack analytics infrastructure using technologies like Kafa, Spark and Amazon Redshift should take less than 15 minutes. Indeed, one of Panoply’s differentiators, in what is becoming an increasingly crowded field, is that the team is putting a strong emphasis on ease of use. There’s nothing easy about setting up a full data warehousing and analytics service, after all, so Panoply handles the modeling and scaling for its operators. In addition, the service can also handle data transformations and other common tasks.

The service is currently in closed beta, though, but the team expects to open up the service for a wider beta by the end of the summer.

“Apart from our SF presence, the funding will allow us to significantly invest in our BI and data integration partnerships, as well as offer Panoply.io across other major cloud providers like Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and more,” said Leven. “It’s all about solving the labor-and-time-intensive issues for engineers who really need to focus on more important things.”

Source: TechCrunch

Anybody can now buy Microsoft’s $3,000 HoloLens

Anybody can now buy Microsoft’s ,000 HoloLens

You can now buy Microsoft’s HoloLens Development Edition, the company’s futuristic augmented reality helmet, without having to go through an application process. Until now, Microsoft only made HoloLenses available to developers who put in an application. Now, if you have $3,000 to spare and you are in the U.S. or Canada, you can simply buy up to five units directly from Microsoft.

At $3,000, HoloLens is still pretty expensive, so I don’t expect that too many people will just spontaneously want to buy one, but at least if you want one, you can now have it. Officially, Microsoft says HoloLens is available to developers and business customers (this is still the “Development Edition,” after all), but even if you’re not one of those, it will still happily sell you one. All you need to buy one, after all, is an address in the U.S. or Canada, a Microsoft account and enough money.

Microsoft notes that its retail stores do not have HoloLens inventory.

In addition to making HoloLens more widely available, Microsoft also today launched the HoloLens Commercial Suite, which includes the hardware and additional enterprise security and device management features.

As part of this enterprise suite, HoloLens is getting a Kiosk Mode so you can limit which apps run on the device, support for identity management, device management, BitLocker support for data encryption and more.

This update clearly shows that Microsoft wants to get HoloLens into the enterprise market — a market Microsoft knows better than virtually any other player out there.

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Microsoft started shipping HoloLens to select developers in March. That fact that it is opening up this program so quickly means that it feels pretty confident in the hardware (and that it can produce it at scale), but also that a wider consumer launch probably isn’t that far off.

Source: TechCrunch

Google’s AMP project expands beyond news

Google’s AMP project expands beyond news

pasted image 0Six months after launching AMP for news stories in its mobile search results, Google today announced the next step for the project: moving AMP beyond news and bringing it to other mobile sites, too.

AmpBlueLinksDemo_v3_garciarobertJust like with the rollout of AMP pages for news sites, Google is launching a demo site today that will allow you to test what this experience is like and give developers the opportunity to fine-tune AMP support for their sites before it rolls this feature out to all users.

Rudy Galfi, a product manager on the AMP team, told me that the team believes that after the successful rollout of AMP for news sites, it is now “ready for more.”

There are already over 150 million AMP documents from over 650,000 domains in Google’s index and as Galfi told me, the company has seen a lot of non-news sites adopt the format, too, even though these pages weren’t easily available to users yet.

Back in June, Google partnered with eBay to bring AMP support to that company’s mobile pages, but the new demo site features AMP pages from the likes of Squarespace, Reddit, Flipkart, TripAdvisor, Disney, Genius, Food Network, Instructables, Drugs.com, the NFL and others. So if you search for ‘card tricks‘ on the demo site, for example, you will probably see a few instant-loading results from Instructables with the standard AMP lightning bolt symbol next to them. The same goes for lyrics, recipes and other content.

While a lot of the early work on AMP focused on news sites, the format itself also works well for other kinds of content as well. Still, the team is working on better support for e-commerce sites and how to better handle forms, for example.

The average AMP page currently loads four times faster than non-AMP pages. Median load times are under one second. Galfi stressed that there is no ranking change here, so having AMP pages available shouldn’t change a page’s ranking on the search results page. As a user, though, I’m far more inclined to tap on an AMP page when I see one in my search results than on a non-AMP page. At this point, after all, most mobile sites are cluttered with slow-loading ads (and maybe even roadblock ads). While AMP features support for ads (and paywalls), those ads load significantly faster and don’t really interrupt the browsing experience.

A Google spokesperson told me that AMP support for non-news sites in Google’s mobile search results should roll out beyond the preview site in the coming months, but there is no clear time frame yet. If you want to give the preview a try, head over to g.co/ampdemo on a mobile device and search for some Taylor Swift lyrics.

Source: TechCrunch

Attic Labs raises $8.1M and launches its new decentralized database

Attic Labs raises .1M and launches its new decentralized database

San Francisco-based Attic Labs is launching Noms today, a new decentralized database that takes it cues from projects like Git, Camlistore, ipfs, bup and others. As the company also announced today, Attic Labs has raised a $8.1 million Series A round led by Greylock that will allow it to continue to work on Nom and other projects. Harrison Metal and a number of angel investors also participated in this round.

While you may not have heard of Attic Labs before, I can almost guarantee that you’ve used one of the other projects the team was involved in. Co-founder Aaron Boodman, for example, created Greasemonkey and was a technical lead on Google Chrome. His co-founder Rafael Weinstein also worked on Chrome, among many other things, and the rest of the team also worked on projects like Chrome and Chrome OS, as well as ECMAScript (the basis for JavaScript).

So what sets Noms apart from all the other database systems that are already available today? The team argues that in most of today’s databases, “data is modeled as a single point-in-time,” meaning that when a field is updates, the previous state of the database is overwritten and it’s hard to reconstruct any previous state. The team also notes that while modern databases may be distributed, they still present themselves to other applications as a single master copy of the data.

As Boodman writes in today’s announcement, it’s probably easiest to understand Noms by comparing it to Git. Like Git, Noms lets you replicate data and edit it offline on multiple machines and edits are then synchronized again (Boodman and Weinstein also previously worked at AvantGo and other sync-based systems). Noms also focuses on versioning and edits are not destructive. Unlike Git, though, Noms focuses on storing structured data (not text files) and is designed to support very large data sets.

Because of this, Noms should work particularly well for importing lots of data (and it automatically dedupes duplicate entries), as well as for use cases where you need to combine data from multiple sources (it can easily handle transformations) and where syncing large data sets is paramount.

“Git took over the software world virtually overnight because its decentralized nature enabled source code to move fluidly between computers, organizations, and people; and because this in turn directly enabled much richer collaboration,” Boodman writes today. “We think that the world needs a way to fluidly share and collaborate on data. We think that a content-addressed, decentralized, synchronizing database is the natural, inevitable way to do this.”

As part of today’s investment Greylock’s Jerry Chen will join Attic Labs’ board.

Source: TechCrunch

Google says 97% of connections to YouTube are now encrypted

Google says 97% of connections to YouTube are now encrypted

Earlier this year, Google launched a new section to its Transparency Report that highlighted the use of HTTPS to encrypt connections between its users’ devices and its servers. At the time, the report only showed data for Google Drive, Finance, Gmail, Maps, News and the company’s advertising products. Today, Google added data for YouTube and Google Calendar as well.

For YouTube, HTTPS now accounts for 97 percent of all connections to the site. For Calendar, that number is 93 percent.2016-08-01_1028

Given its massive scale, YouTube obviously presents some extra challenges for Google. But the company argues that its Global Cache content delivery network is able to handle encrypted connections relatively easily, in large parts because hardware acceleration for AES, the algorithm at the core of the HTTPS protocol, is now ubiquitous.

Google also argues that using HTTPS connections has improved the user experience on YouTube. “You watch YouTube videos on everything from flip phones to smart TVs,” the team writes today. “We A/B tested HTTPS on every device to ensure that users would not be negatively impacted. We found that HTTPS improved quality of experience on most clients: by ensuring content integrity, we virtually eliminated many types of streaming errors.”

Still, because YouTube is being used on so many different devices, YouTube isn’t quite able to hit 100 percent yet. Over time, though, Google will phase out insecure connections to YouTube, just like it has done with Gmail. As a Google spokesperson told me, though, the company doesn’t currently have a timeline for when that will happen, but it’s likely still a long way out.

Featured Image: Bill Diodato/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Facebook tries a new way to release open-source projects

Facebook tries a new way to release open-source projects

Last week, Facebook launched Create React App, a new project that helps React developers get started with their new projects. Turns out, that was only part of the story. Create React App was also the first project to enter the Facebook Incubator on GitHub.

The Facebook Incubator is the company’s new process for releasing open-source projects and ensuring that they do well in the long run. The best way to think of it is as a beta stage or proving ground for new open source projects from Facebook.

As Facebook’s head of open source James Pearce told me, the idea here is to better manage the life cycle of these projects. He notes that Facebook has now open-sourced almost 400 projects and has hundreds of thousands of followers on GitHub. “We want to make sure we are managing this program at scale in the most effective way we can,” he said. To do that, Facebook decided that it would push most new projects through this program first to see how the community reacts to them and what the adoption is like.

Pearce stressed that all of the projects in the Incubator — just like in Facebook’s top-level repository — are projects the company also uses internally and that have teams actively working on them. You shouldn’t think of projects in the Incubator as a repository for weaker projects, he noted.

To graduate from the Incubator, projects will of course have to demonstrate traction in the community, but Pearce told me that the company will also look at other surrounding aspects. Is the project being used by others? Does it have good documentation? How hard is it to integrate the project with other tools? How engaged can Facebook be with the community?

“If we see there is resonance in the industry, it’s a good sign that it’ll graduate,” he said.

Pearce did stress documentation is an important factor at various times during our conversation, and that’s definitely an aspect of open source that is often neglected. He told me that Facebook has a dedicated team of tech writers who work on this for its projects (with engineers helping out as well) and that the company is also looking at the new Stack Overflow Documentation service for potentially hosting some of its documentation projects, as well.

While the Incubator is clearly meant to help get projects started on the right foot, Pearce argued that it’s not just about optimizing for the launch and growth phases but also about managing the life cycle of a project in the long run.

Not every project turns out to be a success, after all, and occasionally Facebook ends up sunsetting some of the tools it open-sourced. That will still happen now that the Incubator system is in place, but the team obviously hopes it will be able to correct some of the issues with a project before it moves to the main repository.

Pearce told me that Create React App is a good example for a project in the Incubator because Facebook wasn’t sure what the community would think about it, but he also noted that there will still be some projects that will skip the Incubator project.

“Had we launched React Native now, we probably would’ve skipped the Incubator,” he said. The same goes for projects that Facebook is donating to larger organizations like the Open Compute Project.

Pearce tells me that the Incubator isn’t going through its own incubation phase (“that’s too meta for me”), so we can probably expect this new system of releasing open-source software from Facebook to stay in place for the foreseeable future.

Featured Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch