All posts by Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

A Simple Hack To Preview YouTube’s Upcoming Design [Video]

YouTube is probably the only Google service which hasn’t been redesigned for a while. We have recently learned that YouTube is testing another major design overhaul in the lines of Cosmic Panda, a fresh version of the 6 month old redesign experiment. No wonder the upcoming YouTube redesign is synonymous with the redesign of Gmail, Google Reader, Google Adsense and other Google services;   the sole aim being Google Plus integration.

The new homepage and design changes on YouTube haven’t been rolled out yet, but you can preview it using the following hack:

1. Open YouTube.com on Google Chrome and fire up the developers tools panel by hitting Control + Shift + J. Firefox users should use Control + Shift + K instead.

2. Click Console and enter this string as it is:

document.cookie=”VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=ST1Ti53r4fU”;

youtube-new-design-hack

3. Hit the Return key once.

5. Refresh the page by hitting F5 on your keyboard.

Done!

The page will reload and YouTube’s hidden design will be brought into light. Have a look below:

new-youtube-design

Instead of the classic 2 column layout, YouTube plans to go three column over a subtle grey background. The subscription timeline is centered while channel recommendations and related videos lay on both sides of the timeline. Video pages will remain 2 column though.

The left column has a new member in the form of G+, clicking which shows all the YouTube videos your Google Plus friends have shared recently. You can also click trending videosand currently popularon the left column to see which videos are being watched by the entire community of YouTube users across the globe.

google-plus-videos

homepage

The new design feels good to my eyes and unlike Gmail or Google Reader, this one is a little more compact and has better calls to action. Barring colors, Google Plus video stream and minor modifications on the layout, it is still the old YouTube where I spend more than an hour daily.

If you would like to take an inside peek into YouTube’s upcoming design changes, watch the following screencast:

Thanks Jatin for the tip

Evernote Clearly Combines Distraction Free Reading And Web Clipping In Google Chrome

The web is not as beautiful, as it was 10 years back.

It is certainly rich in information but no longer beautiful, thanks to all those widgets, advertisements, plugins and social media buttons plastered across each and every website you come across.

Organizing information is another big, big problem. Bookmarking is so 2007, it just doesn’t work anymore. Reading and accumulating information gets really troublesome, when you are running sort of time and hurrying through the finer details of a story.

Evernote’s Clearly changes all this.

Clearly (nice name) provides a simple way to read only the text version of a webpage, right inside Google Chrome. No advertisements, no banners, no buttons just the content, you and your browser. Following is an example of how clear a webpage becomes, once you hit the magical Clearlybutton:

evernote-clearly

 

Clearly comes with three preset themes to choose from, so if you are fond of reading articles on dark backgrounds and green text, you can always create your customized reading environment. The advantage of turning a webpage into its text only version is that you can read a lot faster, without getting distracted by nearby ads. Furthermore, it is super easy to copy excerpts, scroll, use the real meatand be done with it.

There are tons of other distraction free reading tools out there but Clearly has a unique offering. You can clip an article directly to one of your Evernote notebooks, or assign a unique tag to it. That way, the URL of the webpage is saved to your Evernote account, which can later be synched with the desktop client. The benefit here is that you can quickly bookmark important stories without getting lost among a pile of 2 dozen news items.

If you launch Clearly on a multi-page article, it will automatically turn it into a single page, so you can read the entire story at one place without having to click, click and click ….. all the way to the 10th page.

As of now, Clearly supports only Google Chrome while extensions for other browsers is a work in progress. Clearly wont let you save images or files but it is indeed a better alternative of Readability. Watch the following video to see Clearly in action:

Mark Zuckerberg: Google is Trying to Build Their Little Version Of Facebook

Without any doubt, Google Plus is heavily influenced from Facebook in every nook and cranny. I might sound rude to all Google fans, but there is no denying in the fact that every feature in Google Plus has been lifted directly from Facebook. I have this feeling that Google deliberately handpicked all the features Facebook provides so that existing socialusers can feel at home.

Unlike their previous failed attempts on getting into the social business, Google decided to go blindfold this time. There is nothing Newin Google Plus, lets do some fact checking first:

Facebook

Google Plus

In their own words Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life. Google+ aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life.
User base People People
Platform Web, Mobile Web, Mobile
Interest Generation Like Button The Plus One Button
Social Integration Sharing content from third party apps/sites: YES Partially implemented.. Work in Progress
Friend Lists Circles
News Feed Google Plus Stream
Interactive conversations, comments: YES Interactive conversations, comments: YES
Facebook video chat Google Plus Hangouts
Instant Messaging Google Plus chat with Gmail contacts
No Fancy name here but you can use Group chat in Facebook Google Plus Huddles
Facebook Fan Pages Google Plus Brand Pages
User Interface Both have similar layouts
Games Yes Not as big but Yes.

Sure there are minor differences in the layout and usability but the similarities in core features are quite striking.

In an interview to acclaimed interviewer and broadcast journalist, Charlie Rose, Mark Zuckerberg said that Google is trying to build their little version of Facebook. Here is a brief preview of the Interview from Charlie Rose’s YouTube channel:

In the next 10 years, will we witness a blatant war between major Tech companies in Silicon valley?, Charlie begins the interview session.

There are a lot of ways in which these companies act together, I don’t think that this is going to be the type of situation where there’s one company that wins all the stuff, Zuckerberg remarks.

One company that wins all the stuff.

One!

Which is that one company which has spread its empire to everyone’s life in the past decade?   Which is that one company which has a diverse range of FREEproducts, used by millions of people every single day, no matter what languages they speak, what technologies they use and which geographical region they are currently living. (I am not taking any names)

Further down the interview, Charlie says you’re already getting in each other’s businesses.

Well, you can’t really blame him. Facebook is not getting into “search” any sooner,they are still doing what they were doing 8 years ago – connecting the people.

You know, Google, I think, in some ways, is more competitive and certainly is trying to build their own little version of Facebook. When I look at Amazon and Apple and I see companies who are extremely aligned with us, right? And we have a lot of conversations with people at both companies, just trying to figure out ways that we can do more together, and there is just a lot of reception there. If you are Amazon, one of the key strategies is to sell kindles, so that you can sell more things. If you’re Apple, a big part of your strategy is to sell devices because that’s how you make money. If you’re Google, they want to get Android as widely adopted as possible.

Zuckerberg continues, Our goal is to make sure people can connect with each other, no matter what devices they are using. At this point Sheryl Sandberg intervenes We are focused on doing one thing incredibly well. If you look at other companies, they are doing lots of different things but we’re still, as we grow, doing exactly one thing.

40 Million global users within 3 months of its launch is no joke. Everyone, including Facebook, is aware of the fact that this is a numbers game. When you have all the top players on one side of the fence, the crowdwill switch in no time.

Remember MySpace? They used to be popular just like Facebook. But then, someone came, took the idea, developed it and released an advanced prototype. The social revolution, happened.

Now someone else is coming to unite the power of algorithms and the power of people, together under one umbrella. Only time will tell the outcome; we   will remain spectators of the game we are seldom a part of.

Meanwhile, the following comic makes sense?

facebook-myspace

Thank you Liz Gannes for sharing the full transcript of the above interview

Google Testing A New Sources Pane On Search Results

The right sidebar on Google search is not that useful, it is either loaded with Adwords advertisements or houses an instant preview pane. Google decides whether you should be served an advertisement, local results, maps, or the general preview” pane and it appears that one more player is joining the team soon.

SearchEngineLand reports an observation from CyrusShephard, which confirms that Google is testing a brand new right pane on search result pages. The new pane, called sources, provides more in depth information about brands, celebrities and popular figures. Here is an example:

google-sources

 

Analyzing the above query and the results on the sourcespane, we can observe a few things:

  • A brief bio, a visual identification and notable events are reported.
  • Links to popular pages like Wikipedia are referenced at the bottom.
  • No cluster of links, recent news stories or blog posts are shown on the right pane. It appears as a simple box of basic information about the query, so that the user instantly knows the person/service/company he used in his query.

It is too early to jump into conclusions, as this feature is still under testing and not available for everyone. It is interesting to note that few months back, Google did released Google Related a chrome extension which offers suggestions to content you might find interesting. While the extension is meant for just about any webpage, the sourcespane is an in-house Google feature.

Ever since Google released their latest algorithmic tweak, the search giant has been obsessing about quality of search results and sustaining user engagement. Author thumbnails on search results, redesigning every possible Google service in no time, launching another social umbrella after three failed attempts, all these signals zero in to one point let us provide answers users are badly looking for.

Cyrus Shepard, the person who took the above screenshot says that the results were a little awkward. He clicked the Twitter logo from sourcespane and arrived on a random blog post, instead of the main Twitter website. This is kinda odd, why would Google link an image to a random blog post which is only partially close to his query?

Here is another screenshot Cyrus shared on his Google Plus account:

google-sources-example

For a really simple query as Twitter, Google is showing a lot of background details e.g name of current CEO, the programming language used, headquarters and so forth. I am not sure how this content module will shape up but it surely adds up to the noise in search results.

Google search is no longer simpleas it used to be, but then, change is the only constant.

Google Offers Free Websites To Indian Small Businesses: India, Get Your Business Online

Some good news for Indian small businesses who have always wanted to create a web presence for their business but never really found the right time or resources of doing the same.

Google India and Hostgator have joined hands to get Indian businesses online   through their India Get Your Business Onlineprogram. The program offers free domain name registrations (.in TLD only) for one year and allows small businesses to launch their website, powered by Hostgator web hosting.

Google has also launched a website at Indiagetonline.in with tips, tools and resources for Indian small businesses so that they can create their websites for free and attract more customers.

Although majority of consumers look online for local products and services, small businesses do not have a website or online presence. This makes them invisible to many potential customers. India Get Your Business Online provides companies with a free website and online tools so that they can run their businesses efficiently. says Google.

To get started, head over to the Indiagetonline.in website, click the get Startedlink and complete the domain registration process. You will mandatorily need your PAN card, which acts as a national identity proof that you are an Indian citizen.

india-get-your-business-online

 

Some points to consider before you rush in and register a domain name:

  • Only 1 domain registration is possible for every unique PAN card. You can not register dozens of .in domains with different email addresses.
  • Your free .in domain will be managed by Hostgator.
  • At this moment, you cannot use existing domains with the program. To be precise, you can not claim the 1 year free web hosting without registering a domain in the first place.
  • After 1 year, you have to pay for the domain renewal fee and the web hosting fees for the coming year. You can certainly move your website to a different hosting provider anytime you may please.
  • Free tech support from Hostgator support team will be provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This is indeed a win-win situation for small businesses, Google and Hostgator. Small business owners who are clueless of all the technical details involved behind launching and maintaining a website, will get a solid platform for launching their own customized website. As a result of the Buzz, Hostgator will get tons of customers and there is a high chance that a fraction of them will convert as paid ones after the 1 year time span retires.

Google on the other hand, might crack a good deal by converting free Google Apps users to the paid edition of Google Apps for businesses. Not to forget Google Adwords, which is a one of the proven ways to promote an online business towards a targeted audience.

The Online Potential of SMB’s In Indian Market

India is a huge market for small businesses but there are two major problems in the promotion and prosperity of their online presence.

The first problem is directly related with Internet penetration and reach. Using the internetis not a second naturefor most Indian customers who want to buy something. The crowdstill hesitates to buy something online but thanks to online shopping portals e.g Flipkart, Letsbuy and eBay, the situation is improving.

The second problem is lack of proper knowledge, technical expertise and the drive within business owners. Out of 8 million small/medium businesses, only about 5% have a website. Most of these business owners   largely depend on local customers and never explore options outside the window.

I know a couple of good garment producers close to my location who don’t have any web presence at all. It is not that people don’t Google for their business. They do, but due to the lack of conversions, SMB’s are hesitant on taking the plunge and raise awareness about their business in the market.

Why would anyone from Germany be interested in buying Indian garments?says the owner of a garment factory.

Well not from Germany but people in your city are Googling for garment names, brands and they badly want to buy the latest designs

Is it? Well, then it makes sense to advertise in newspapers and billboard banners.

All right, but then the customers have to travel a hundred kilometers and buy the product themselves. You can accept the payments through your shopping cart website and courier him the product within a week. You reach a national audience in just a few mouse clicks. Makes sense, right?

That would cost us a thousand dollars to create the website in the first place. We have to hire someone to manage the website, staff people, buy computers, set up an office…it’s so cumbersome. Besides that, we are not sure whether it would click or not

Thanks to Google, small business owners now have the option to test a dry run and see if online presence helps. Here are a couple of success stories already:

Sync Open Tabs And Custom Search Engines In Google Chrome

Apart from speed and robustness, one of the best features of Google Chrome over any other browser is cloud sync. Your bookmarks, saved passwords, extensions, preferences, auto fill options and themes are automatically backed up to your Google account, so you can quickly restore them on any other computer.   If you browse the web in your office computer and make changes to bookmarks, settings or change a password, the changes will automatically reflect in your home computer.

While Google Chrome’s cloud sync is perfect, the developers have added two more options under the sync belt the ability to sync open tabs and custom search engines. Before you head over to Google Chrome’s options page to enable this feature, type chrome://flags/ in the address bar and enable syncing open tabs and syncing custom search engines in Google Chrome:

enable-sync-open-tabs

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Relaunch nowto restart Google Chrome.

Now go to the options page, navigate to Personal stuffand click Customizeunder your Google Chrome sync profile. You should get the option to sync open tabs and all your custom search engines, following is an example:

customize-sync-preferences

I tested both the features in Google Chrome’s latest stable release (15.0.874) and it worked as advertised. This feature is a lifesaver when you have more than 20 open tabs in Google Chrome and the browser crashed or your laptop ran out of power. You can always re-open the last used tabs on the same computer but there is no way you can re-open the last used tabs on another system, running Google Chrome. With open tabs sync added to chrome, no longer you have to worry about which tabs were open in your office computer and which webpages you were reading on your home computer. Personally, I would prefer the bookmark all tabsoption over open tab sync, as Google Chrome sync is not real time yet. However, if the browser crashes or your operating system goes to sleep, this little setting might just save the day.

Another feature I am loving in the latest release of Google Chrome is the experimental smooth scrolling (activate it from Chrome://flags). Gives a feeling of scrolling in a touch device, with your mouse wheel of course!

Google Improves The Display Of Authorship on Search Results, Makes it Easy to Add Authorship Support

Google introduced author markup on search results to improve the visibility of qualitysources and highlight high quality content that makes sense. Author markup in Google search helps you find useful content written by reputed authors and not just every Tom and Harry.

It is Google’s way of determining which authors are trustworthyand whether you, as a user, would derive value from the authors content. Google uses a lot of different signals to determine whether this particular user enjoys reading the posts of this particular author. This includes relevancy of the page, user’s query, social connections, mutual interests, links, engagement, return visits, previous search history and so on.

Implementing author markup in your website was a little geeky, here is the classical way to do it:

1. On your website, you have to create a dedicated author page which should link to the Google Plus profile of the author using the rel=meattribute. (see example)

2. Every post written by the author on his website must link to the author page using the rel=authorattribute. (check the author bio section of this post)

3. The Google Plus profile of the author must link back to the author page on the same domain. (My Google Plus profile links back to the author page of Techie Buzz)

When all of the above three conditions holds true, Google will re-crawl your entire website and there is a high chance that your Google Plus author thumbnail will be shown on search result pages. Here is an example:

author-thumbnails

Google has now made it easier to add author markup tags on pages which is beyond your control.   There can be situations when you might not have enough access privileges to modify internal codes, template files and add the HTML code for author markup. In such scenarios, you can use your Google Plus verified email address to implement author markup and tell Google that you wrote this content.

To do this, go to your Google Plus profile, click Editand add your email address in the new contact infotext field. Next, add this same email address along with your name on the blog post you write. This is applicable on any blog where you contribute posts, not just your own website or personal blog.

Modifications In The Display Of Author Thumbnails

Additionally, Google has slightly tweaked the display and layout of author thumbnails on search results. Previously, the thumbnails used to appear at far right but as of now, the photos are placed left aligned to the meta description of the post. Here is an example:

matt-cutts-google-plus

Some things to note:

  • Circle count: Google shows the Google Plus circle count of the author, which can be a measure of popularity and reach.
  • Name of the circle: On rare occasions, Google also pulls in the name of the circle, in case the author is already present in one of your Google Plus circles and you heavily interact with him or engage with his updates (comment, reshare, +1… you name it).Here is an example:

    add-to-circles

    I have added Barry in a circle called Searchand when I searched for [SEO eye tracking], I was shown the above listing. It is important to note that this result only appeared when I was logged into my Google Plus account and Google’s algorithm was able to gauge the connection between me, Barry, mutual connections, my search query, Barry’s blog post and his share on Google Plus.

  • Comments: Some webmasters have reported that Google also shows number of comments and comment previews directly under the Meta description of a Google Plus post. Here is an example:google-plus-post

Personally, I like things that are simple, easily discoverable and as fluid as water.

Author thumbnails helps cut the clutter but excessive integration with Google Plus is again another distraction. At the end of the day, it is an algorithm which doesn’t have human eyes so spammers are already preparing their false fronts, trying to game the system and make the maximum profit out of this.

Whether they win or lose is just a matter of time; but I have this feeling that the prying nose of a social network can sometimes cause biased results. Crowdsourcing user signals is one thing but placing your banners all over the place is like trying to win the battle by crushing your own army.

Two years back, Google search was so simple.  No background images, no YouTube crap, less ads and distractions.

Enter 2011 and we have Google maps, YouTube ads, Adwords advertisements, local results, related searches, best guess match, a left column, instant search, plus one button and so on. Google Plus integration is just adding to the noise for many.

Ask yourself   Do you use all these features on Google search result pages? I don’t, to be honest.

Winzip Debuts ZipSend And ZipShare: Sharing Large Files Made Simple Via Email And Facebook

You know what’s the biggest frustration of sharing large files with an online friend?

It’s not the technology you use but the technology used by the other person who needs your files and has never heard of services like DropBox, Windows Live Skydrive, YouSendIt and so on. There have been times when this friend of mine calls up in the middle of night saying Hey I need all those project files right this instant.

I asked him whether he has a DropBox or a Skydrive account, and he replies What’s that? I mean why don’t you email me all those files(he is not aware of the 25 MB email attachment limit and wants me to upload all files one by one, while I am dying to sleep).

Winzip is trying to solve this situation with its brand new social file sharing feature ZipSend and ZipShare (nice names).

WinZip’s ZipSend Send Files Up to 2GB Via Email

winzip-zipsend

Here is how it works.

ZipSend lets you compress multiple files and folders into a single archive, which you can email to anyone. It is basically an email plugin that marries your desktop or online email client (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo). When your files have finished uploading, ZipSend will email the recipient a download link of all the files as a new email message.

You will need a ZipSend account (Free) and have to install the WinZip Courier application on your system. The free plan of ZipSend lets you upload up to 50 MB of archived files for free, while the Pro option allows 2GB of file uploads via your ZipSend account.

So what makes ZipSend stand out from DropBox and other competing file sharing products? Nothing, except the fact that some people are over obsessed with email attachments and they are really skeptical on using third party sites for file downloads.

Send them a thousand email attachments and they feel secured and happy.

That’s where ZipSend fits in, when your target users are really basic and they want those files right in their email inbox. Otherwise, the features of ZipSend are still in its developing stages. For example; the free account of ZipSend gives you only 50 MB per file upload while the maximum number of files sent per month is restricted to 100. The Pro account sounds a little liberal at 2GB per file but then it costs $9.99 a month. Compared to Dropbox, which allows file uploads of up to 300 MB in size for free accounts, ZipSend is simply a waste of time.

ZipShare: A File Upload Container For Your Facebook Profile

Unlike ZipSend, ZipShare is completely free and lets you quickly share files with Facebook friends and groups. Not more than 20MB per file though.

Go to Zipshare.com, login with your Facebook account, upload all the files and share the download link on your wall or a Facebook group. The maximum disk space of your ZipShare account is 100 MB while the maximum file size per upload is 20 MB. Not bad!

zipshare

A word of caution here. Once the download link is posted on your Facebook wall, any of your Facebook friends can click through to see what you have just shared. ZipShare does not support Facebook friend lists yet, so there is no way to share files with only specific Facebook friends. A little awkward but if that’s fine on your half, ZipShare is the ideal choice for sharing random files with Facebook friends. Pretty quick actually!

For the curious, I don’t use Winzip. $29.95 > 7Zip

Microsoft’s Official YouTube Channel Got Hacked – Video

It looks like an unknown hacker has be-seized Microsoft’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/microsoft. The hacker has deleted all the original uploads and has uploaded a couple of brief videos, exposing the hack. A big loss!

microsoft-youtube-channel-hacked

Just the earlier week, Sesame streets YouTube channel got hacked with porn and the vulgar videos were available for 20 minutes, until YouTube took them down. In Microsoft’s case, no offensive videos have been uploaded so far. We managed to record a screencast of the entire channel, just in case you miss the hackers show while YouTube staff get their hands dirty and take the channel down eventually.

Here is the screencast:

While I was busy recording the above video, the hacker changed the YouTube channel background to a more creepy one.

microsoft-youtube-channel-compromised

The hacker has added a message on the channel that reads I DID NOTHING WRONG I SIMPLY SIGNED INTO MY ACCOUNT THAT I MADE IN 2006 :/. This is certainly not a glitch on YouTube’s part and I am rather surprised on the fact that a major Tech company’s social assets can be hacked so easily. And after hacking the channel for more than an hour, why is the hacker not uploading porn or other  embarrassing  videos, instead of silly uploads e.g “need a channel background”?. This is abnormal on both fronts.

We will update this post when we have some more information about how this mess happened.

 

Google Reader To Get A Refreshing Look And Easier Content Sharing With Google Plus Circles

After Google search, Google reader will soon get into the swag of Google Plus magic.

The search giant is preparing a complete design overhaul of Google Reader, one of the most popular online RSS reading hubs on the web. Google reader will follow the footsteps of Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger and other Google products which were recently redesigned on the idea that every Google product must work closely to push their latest gig Google Plus.

Google emphasizes on the social aspect by quoting the statement making Google reader more social in the coming days. Well, Google reader already has a semi-social feature labeled Follow peoplewhich is not used so widely. Shared items, bundles, friending other readers and following stories inside Google reader is possible but I doubt how many of us use them actually.

Google has decided to retire these features from Google reader and integrate Google Plus sharing activity right within Google Reader, so you can quickly share content with specific friends (read circles) over at Google Plus. If you don’t want to lose your starred items, likes, friends, subscriptions and shared stuff, you should export them from Google Reader settings as an OPML file. Google isn’t saying when the new Google Reader will be debuted but looking at the speed of overhauling their products, I think it should arrive within next week or so.

google-reader-redesign

One Feature In Google Reader I am Dying To See

Keyword filter.

Save me, and save those thousands of news junkies out there!

Keyword filter in Google reader is the need of the hour. The web is already exploding with huge amount of information and following news sources becomes impossible after some time, thanks to 16 Bin Laden stories being published within 30 minutes. Most bloggers and reporters re-blog the samething, there should be a way to cut through the noise and filter items that I really want to read.

Example: The other day iPhone 4S came out and my Google reader was exploding with rehashed copies of the same story. iPhone 4S getting released, press release notes, specifications and so on. I don’t want to read it at all and there is no way I can filter items surrounding iPhone 4S and mark all of them as read. There is a handy Greasemonkey script for the same but it is just a workaround and not out of the box. An option to automatically ignore stories based on keywords will save more than 30 minutes of my reading time. Every single day!

Actually, I am more than happy that they are not hammering down the product, just like other Google services.