Spring Is Here (Part 1)

8/11/2013 11:20:38 AM

Since we last met, some of the biggest players on web have made major changes to their biggest services. Others closed down services, news that was received with either indifference, or much outrage. Read on to get a low-down on the most important changes to the web

Facebook’s Redesigned Timeline and News Feed

Facebook has announced it will be rolling out improvements to Timeline in a bid to make it easier for users to express what they find important to them. Users can now see their latest posts on the right side of the Timeline, while photos, music, and other activities on the left panel.

“We heard from you that the current timeline layout is sometimes hard to read. Starting today, all posts are on the right side of your timeline, with photos, music and other recent activity on the left,” says Facebook about the new layout.

Facebook Timeline update hasn’t caused a stir among fans

Facebook Timeline update hasn’t caused a stir among fans

Users can now add other apps to share more things on the site. For an example, users can include Instagram photo stream as a section on their timeline. Users can remove the app from their About page, using the Activity Log.

Facebook’s new News Feed design is aimed at preventing user fatigue, and also attracting new advertisers to the network. The focus is on minimalism in design, and greater visibility for shared media – photos and videos. The new design is being rolled out for the desktop version, as well as the mobile version. The company wants a uniform look of the network, no matter what the device or the platform.

The News Feed, which provides a running list of updates from a user’s network, will serve as a “personalized newspaper” for Facebook’s 1 billion users, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said. He mentioned that this is another step in the “evolving face” of the social network. He said that he wants Facebook to be “the best personalized newspaper in the world”.

Instagram Hits 100 Million Active User Milestone

In other Facebook-related news, the social networking giant announced its acquisition, Instagram, now has 100 million active users. Facebook, despite owning it, calls it a formidable competitor, in a testament to the network’s popularity. “One of the services that is, I think, a quite formidable competitor is Instagram,” David Ebersman, Facebook chief financial officer, told investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference. This is a huge testament to Instagram’s own place in the social networking services business.

Instagram 100 Million user celebrations were colorful

Instagram 100 Million user celebrations were colorful

Google Reader Axed

Google in March announced through an official blog post that Reader, the popular RSS reader would be shut down this year. Google said that the shutdown was part of the second round of its ‘spring cleaning,’ a process that was started back in 2011 to close down services in order for Google to ‘focus’ on its more popular services.

Google’s announcement has led to a tremendous outcry on social network services, some of which, ironically, led to the falling popularity of the RSS reader. Some users have already started online petitions to force Google to change its mind while others have posted elegiac stories for the beloved RSS reader.

For a service as popular as Reader, Google has been unusually curt in explaining its reasoning behind the shutdown. Instead of announcing the decision in a separate blog post, Google hid the Reader announcement right in the middle of its spring cleaning post where it announced the closure of seven other services as well.

In the post, Google’s Urs Holzle writes, “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader”. But there’s no more information beyond that. While it’s true that the number of Reader users has been steadily dropping, the outcry proves that there are still plenty out there (this article’s author included) who use Reader regularly.

Zopfli: Google’s Cloud Zip

Google has introduced a new data compression algorithm, which the company believes will make the Internet faster for all users. According to Google, the new algorithm is named after a Swiss bread recipe and is implementation of the Deflate algorithm, which is used in the popular ZIP archive format, as well as in gzip file compression.

Google’s Zopfli seems cool

Google’s Zopfli seems cool

“Due to the amount of CPU time required 2 to 3 orders of magnitude more than zlib at maximum quality – Zopfli is best suited for applications where data is compressed once and sent over a network many times, for example, static content for the web. By open sourcing Zopfli, thus allowing webmasters to better optimize the size of frequently accessed static content, we hope to make the Internet a bit faster for all of us,” Google concludes in the blog post.

Google further explains in its blog that the output generated by Zopfli is about 3-8 percent smaller as compared to zlib at the maximum compression. Zopfli has been written in C and is a compression-only library. Zopfli is bit-stream compatible with compression used in gzip, Zip, PNG, HTTP requests, and others.

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