Google Plays Catch-up with Facebook

On March 15, 2012, Mark Zuckerberg officially reported via his Facebook status the launch of the social networking site’s new data center in Lulea, northern Sweden, being the first outside the US. While Facebook experiences massive upsurge in European subscribers, this data center aims to make Facebook usage faster for European subscribers. This server hopes to provide better performance as it will serve as a node for customers closer to its physical location.

Facebook and Google at War

According to Sustainable Brands, Google aims to open three new data centers in Taiwan for a combined cost of $700 million, scheduled to go online in the second half of 2013. The new systems aspire to reduce operating costs while electricity prices start to approach soaring heights.

This is not the first time Facebook and Google are competing against each other. In late 2010, Facebook announced the introduction of “Facebook Mail” to oust Google from one of its dearest products, “GMail” while in mid 2011, Google introduced its version of Facebook, “Google+”. As data continues to attain more importance, both these players seem to realize the significance of data centers. Nonetheless, has Google been impulsive in its approach to announce three data centers on the go? Or has it been entrepreneurial?  What is up next? A beginning of a new war on the development of the cloud? Whatever it turns out to be, it surely will be interesting.

Google Plus Gets a Major Redesign

This morning, Google announced in a blog post that its social networking site Google+ has now reached a new mark with 170 million registered members and that they are also rolling out a new design over the next few days. The new Google Plus design looks simple enough and quite user friendly. The redesign of Google+ might have triggered due to the fact that users on Google+ have spent very less time in the past despite the social network having a good user base.

“We think you’ll find it easier to use and nicer to look at, but most importantly, it accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google,” says Vic Gundotra, in a post on Google+.

According to Google, the new design is more functional and flexible. One of the biggest changes to the website is the completely revamped navigation bar, which Google refers to as “dynamic ribbon.” The navigation bar is placed on the left side of the site, and contains the application buttons, including profile page link and photos. On the right, there is the Google chat box with a list of online users, and a “Start a hangout” button on top of the chat box.

Google Plus Redesign

With the navigation ribbon –

  • You can drag apps up or down to create the order you want
  • You can hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions
  • You can show or hide apps by moving them in and out of “More”

The redesign includes larger photos within a Google Plus user’s content stream, quite similar to the Facebook’s Timeline feature.  It also includes a much larger landscape photo at the top of the user’s profile page, which is called as the “cover photo”, and resembles to the cover photo feature of Facebook.

The following video uploaded by Google shows how you can customize the profile page of your Google Plus account –

There’s also a new section for Hangouts (video chats), which you can use to discover new Hangouts to join. It features popular or public Hangouts that are worth checking out, and also features an automatically updated list consisting of Hangout invitations that you can accept.

The new Google Plus design will be available to all users over the next few days. Overall, the new design looks great and I instantly fell in love with it. However, it looks like a layout copied from Facebook, but that shouldn’t be a problem. It was expected that Google Plus had around 195 million profile including 25 million inactive profiles. However, the actual numbers have now been released, and with 170 million users, Google now expects that its users would stick around to Google Plus for longer time and explore the several new features.

Check out the demonstration videos below and let us know what you think.

Mastering Business Success on Facebook

Facebook knows that eventually, most businesses worldwide will turn to Facebook to carry out some of their marketing operations. Facebook Marketing Solutions has published a whitepaper  to facilitate business users to turn around their business in merely three weeks. How does that sound?

Business Success on Facebook

Facebook’s approach has been simple. It has plotted weekly tasks for businesses to perform. If you have a new business, here’s the way to go:

Week 1: “Connect People to Your Page”

  • Gain Connections: It is crucial to realize who the connections of the business are. Connect with them!
  • If the business has a physical location, claim it!
  • Create a page and add as much information as possible. Adding photos is a must.
  • Make posts at least twice a week. Critical to have a schedule for this purpose.
  • Invite advocates to “LIKE” the page.
  • Once you have topped 25 fans, get a personalized link to the page by visiting facebook.com/username.
  • Put this personalized link on all marketing channels (business cards, receipts, email etc.) and promote to visiting customers.

Week 2: “Reach People & Their Friends”

  • Engage fans by posting pictures & videos once or twice a week. Ask questions and respond. Communicate!
  • Experiment with promotions & discounts available to fans only. Check out facebook.com/sprinkles to get an idea.
  • Create a Page Post Ad. Will increase the chance of reaching out to fans by 3-5 times.
  • Create a Facebook Ad for your page to incentivize people.
  • Experiment with different images and ad copy with the Facebook Ads. Check out which one works best.
  • Create a first Sponsor Story.
  • If People regularly check-in on your business, create a check-in Sponsor Story.
  • Create a Welcome tab on your landing page to maximize “LIKES”.

Week 3: “Insights & Optimization”

  • Review Page Insight data to get an idea of how popular your business is, what type of content is most engaging, demographics and location of fans.
  • Review Ads Manager regularly at facebook.com/ads/manage.
  • Be sure to have different campaign for different products and regions.
  • Refresh image for ads that are working well to help maintain performance. Shift budget to ads that work well.
  • Put a Facebook “LIKE” button on your webpage to create further awareness.
  • Turn fans into page leads by posting an incentive and directing them to existing lead generation forms or promotions.

Your business should be ready to make some extra dollars!

Facebook Acquires Instagram for $1 billion

Facebook has just announced that it is will be acquiring the massively popular photo-sharing app Instagram for nearly $1 billion. Instagram has gone from strength to strength since its release a couple of years back, and has already amassed nearly 30 million users. Its Android app hit the 1 million downloads milestone within just 12 hours of its release.

Instagram

Facebook has a disheartening record as far as acquisitions go. Almost all of its previous acquisitions have been talent acquisitions, and even popular products like Friendfeed stagnated under Zuckerberg’s watch. More recently, Facebook acquired Gowalla, only to shut it down a few weeks later.

Thankfully, Zuckerberg has opted to follow a different strategy with Instagram. The Instagram team will operate with autonomy within Facebook’s umbrella. While Instagram will get the opportunity to leverage Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure, Facebook might also integrate several of Instagram’s features into its own app. “We’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently”, affirmed Zuckerberg. He also vouched to retain “the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook”.

Facebook already had a massively popular photo-sharing feature. However, what it lacked was a simple app focused on just photography. If Facebook can manage to leverage Instagram’s assets without destroying its appeal, then the acquisition should prove to be immensely beneficial for both parties. The combined might of Facebook and Instagram will undoubtedly give a hard time to the Google Plus and Picasa combo.

Twitter Attempts to Shut Down Spammers, Spam Tools

Everybody is tired of Twitter spam. That includes Twitter as well. With spammers increasing day-by-day on Twitter, the micro blogging service has finally decided to take tough actions against spammers by bringing down their tools which are used to send spam tweets across the network.

The micro blogging site on Thursday filed a case against spammers to a US federal court in its latest effort to stop spammers from misusing the worldwide one-to-many text messaging service. The company has sued five spammers that make spam tools in an attempt to stop spam tweets.

“By shutting down tool providers, we will prevent other spammers from having these services at their disposal. Further, we hope the suit acts as a deterrent to other spammers, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keep them off Twitter,” Twitter wrote in a blog post.

Twitter Anti-Spam Lawsuit

The suit names five culprits: TweetAttacks, TweetAdder, TweetBuddy, James Lucero and Garland Harris, which are to be claimed as the biggest crooks behind the Twitter spam. The company also argues that they are the ones who fill the service with fake profiles and unwanted @ messages.

This is perhaps a good move by Twitter. By shutting down these tools, it will prevent spammers from bombarding the site with spam messages. Also, this suit will act as a warning to other spammers and prevent them from going ahead and spam the network.

According to Twitter, it is said that the site is growing at a record pace, with 140 million active users and more than 340 million text messages, or “tweets,” are sent daily. However, Twitter claims that the spam tweets are a small fraction of the “incredible” content that can be found on the site, yet it is trying to eradicate the small fraction of spam tweets in order to provide a spam-free service.

Twitter already has an algorithmic solution that helps in scanning for behavioral cues. The solution also helps in identifying those tweets that are sent by spam-bots. Earlier in January, Twitter acquired the security firm Dasient, a company that leads in the prevention of “malvertising.” For example, earlier this week, Twitter introduced new anti-spam measures within the site to identify and suspend a new type of @ mention spam. Additionally, the site now uses link shortener tool (t.co) to analyze whether a tweeted link leads to malware or malicious content. This way, Twitter can help prevent its users from visiting any malicious links.

For the time being, we will see no Viagra ads, virus-ridden links, or fake offers and discounts on gadgets. Peace.

Tumblr Integrates Facebook Timeline, News Feed, and Ticker

Sharing posts to Facebook via Tumblr is now a “billion times” easier as Tumblr has announced its integration with Facebook Timeline. Now, Tumblr posts will appear on your Facebook Timeline, News Feed and Ticker when you chose to “send to Facebook.” This will also include Tumblr likes and replies, which will automatically appear on Facebook as well.

The world’s fastest growing blogging platform has friended Facebook, using the social networking giant’s Open Graph API to allow for post sharing via Facebook Timeline, News Feed and Ticker.

The new options included are –

  • Toggle “Send to Facebook” when posting
  • Share Replies on your Facebook Timeline
  • Share Likes on your Facebook Timeline

Tumblr Facebook Integration

Tumblr users can start using these new options, which are available in their blog settings. Users can adjust the setting to share posts on their Facebook Timeline.  If you’ve already linked your Tumblr account with Facebook, then you’ll get a notification that says, “We’ve improved Facebook sharing. Upgrade now.”

How to Integrate Tumblr with Your Facebook Timeline Profile

  • If you were already integrated with Facebook through Tumblr’s App, then you should see an update prompt once you log in to Tumblr (We’ve improved Facebook sharing. Upgrade now).
  • If you were not yet “connected” to Facebook, Go to Blog Settings >> Check the option “Share posts on your Timeline”

How to Integrate Tumblr with Your Facebook Timeline Page

  • Go to Blog Settings >> Check Share posts on your Timeline.
  • After you log in to Facebook you will see a message that says – “Tumblr would also like permission to: Manage your pages, Tumblr may login as any of your Pages, including (a list with your Pages). Click on Allow.”Facebook Tumblr Integration
  • Now, Go Back to your Tumblr and go to Blog Settings >> Scroll Down until your find the Facebook Option. You will now see a few more options, including a drop down menu, from which you will be able to choose which page (or profile) you will send your posts to.

The integration is completely optional, so users are not forced to open up their posts to Facebook. In the meantime, this integration with Facebook means a lot to Tumblr. The integration with Facebook will result in more referral traffic for Tumblr blogs. Tumblr hopes that users will auto share their posts in order to fetch more traffic through the social networking giant. The more contents shared the better traffic Tumblr will receive.

It’s a very smart move by the two sites, especially Tumblr. Several businesses that are using Facebook’s Open Graph apps have reported that the amount of traffic brought in by Facebook is getting better day by day, giving them an insight into user engagement within the social network.

Tumblr recently achieved a 20 billion posts milestone with more than 50 million blogs. It now hopes that many new blogs will be created with many new posts, including shares from friends without messing up Facebook pages with auto-updates.

US Senators Urge Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords to be Put Under Investigation

Over the last week, Facebook has gained quite some attention and some positive karma by announcing that it will not tolerate employers asking for passwords of user accounts. This announcement has led to a mini-drama with the news world reporting that Facebook will sue any employer asking for passwords, and Facebook issuing a clarification that it does not intend to sue any employers as yet, but some legal actions can be taken nonetheless.

The recent development in this whole play has become quite the anti-climax for Facebook. US senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have urged the Attorney General, Eric Holder, to investigate into this brewing drama and unravel whatever truth is there in this matter.

Nathan Ingraham at The Verge reports this request by the senators, saying,

facebook-logo

the senators want to know if this practice would violate the Stored Communications Act (SCA) or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) — the SCA gives fourth amendment-type protection to online communications, while the CFAA prevents intentional access to information stored on a computer without authorization. Blumenthal appears particularly concerned about this issue: only a few days ago, he started drafting a bill that would prohibit such requests.

Not only this, a number of Government representatives have come out claiming that they were in the process of either drafting or introducing a bill that handles these issues. As it turns out, the US government is taking this growing practice by employers seriously, and the matter is already being taken care of by them.

 

Facebook Discards Rumors About Suing Employers

Facebook has recently stepped up its efforts to combat organizations, which have made it a practice to ask Facebook for user-account credentials as part of their recruitment strategy. This is a direct violation of the privacy of Facebook users. Moreover, the activities of a user on Facebook should in no way decide his chances of being hired into a company.

The good news is that Facebook knows this and is willing to respect the privacy of its users. In a post titled “Protecting Your Passwords and Your Privacy”, Facebook has made it clear that it will not tolerate employers asking for user-account details anymore.

facebookThe Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, Erin Egan, writes,

Facebook takes your privacy seriously.  We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges.

While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.

Now, Facebook was not exactly precise on the nature of the legal action they would take, and everyone thought it was wise to assume the worst. Seeing this publicity go the absolute wrong way, Facebook has come up with a clarification. It has now issued a second statement discarding any possibility of it suing employers. Although Facebook has decided to take necessary legal actions, suing employers is not on their list of things to do.

We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s right the thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.

Facebook Steps Forward to Stop Employers from Asking Candidates’ Passwords

FacebookFacebook has often been criticized for not taking privacy issues seriously. However, for once, it’s being proactive in defending users’ privacy. Earlier in the month, there were disturbing reports that several colleges and companies have begun demanding Facebook passwords during the interview process in the pretext of doing character check. The AP described how Rob MacLeod, a finalist for a police job, was forced to disclose his password to the interviewer. Facebook has now officially reacted to the practice, which was criticized heavily by several groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Facebook is modifying its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to explicitly forbid solicitation or sharing of passwords. Facebook’s announcement also highlights the pitfalls of requesting access to private information from candidates during the hiring process.

We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think its right the thing to do. But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, even hinted that Facebook is willing to go beyond changing its policies and issuing advisories if the need arises. “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action, including by shutting down applications that abuse their privileges”.

Facebook’s proactive approach needs to be applauded. It’s a refreshing departure from its typical casual approach towards user privacy. However, Facebook also has a lot to lose if the practice of forcing candidates to reveal their passwords catches on. Already, users are becoming more cautious about what they share publicly on Facebook. However, getting candidates to disclose their password bypasses any privacy wall that the user might erect. If it becomes commonplace enough, students and professionals, who form a big chunk of Facebook’s user base, could well be turned off from having a Facebook account.

Facebook Warns Employers Not to Demand for Passwords During Interviews

Just imagine how ridiculous it would be when you’re at a job interview and the interviewer puts a request to you to share your Facebook username and password, in order to perform a check on your Facebook profile entirely. Well, this is what had happened to Justin Bassett, a New York City statistician, when he was interviewed for a new job.

During this time of recessions, there are several number of people who are looking out for jobs and would do anything in order to get one. However, Bassett refused and withdrew his application stating that he didn’t want to work for a company which would peek into his personal life and information available on Facebook.Facebook Privacy

According to the article posted by the Associated Press –

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publically available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don’t ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

In a response to this ridiculous act by employers, Facebook has warned employers not to demand passwords from job seekers or applicants as it is a clear invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities. The social networking giant has also threatened to take legal actions against such companies.

The main motto of Facebook is that “you should never have to share your password.” If you’re a user at Facebook, you should never share your password with anyone, not even your close friends. Also, according to Facebook’s legal terms, the company has the right to close your account if you try to obtain passwords from others.

Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, posted an update on Facebook –

We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s right the thing to do.  But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating.  For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Moreover, any user with your Facebook password can not only gain access to your personal information and photos, but also your friends associated with your profile. All of your friends’ photos, messages, phone numbers, email id, and other personal information will be invaded, which eventually leads to a bigger invasion of privacy.

If in case an employer demands for your Facebook password, then you can quote Facebook’s legal terms, which clearly state that – “You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”