Facebook

It has all come down to this – (NASDAQFB) – the ticker symbol for Facebook that made its debut this morning. Today marks the initial public offering (IPO) for Facebook that was started by Mark Zuckerberg back in February 4, 2004, with his Harvard buddies Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. At first, only Harvard students could access Facebook. Eventually,  colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University gained access. Facebook was not open to the general public until September 26, 2006, to everyone of age 13 and older with a valid email address.

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a fan of Facebook. However, I’m not a hater, I do have an account but I only created it to keep in touch with my family that I don’t see very often. Facebook allows me to share moments of my life that otherwise my family would never know about. They’ve been able to watch my five year old daughter grow and see pictures of our first home.

 

The biggest downside to Facebook would have to be the privacy concerns. My account is pretty locked down and I intend to keep it that way. I don’t play Farmville or any of the crazy time consuming games that I used to get invites to. I’m one of those people that post in their timeline to not send me anything game related. Anything third party related that requests access to any part of your account is only trying to data mine you. Simple and plain, I don’t allow anything access to my account outside of say the iPhone Facebook app access, which by the way sucks terribly and their designers need to take design cues from the newly updated Google + app. Facebook settled FTC charges that it deceived consumers by failing to keep privacy promises which occurred on November 29, 2011. Mashable just announced that Facebook was hit With $15 Billion user tracking lawsuit. That’s not a good way to start life as a publicly traded company.

 

Facebook seriously needs to work hard on improving their stance on privacy concerns or it could tarnish the company for years to come. I’d be quite nervous if I was one of the people who was buying Facebook stocks today. The social connectivity comes with a price and that seems to be our individual privacy. Mark Zuckerberg was famously quoted as  saying The Age of Privacy is Over which didn’t sit well with many. I don’t feel like we should have to trade our anonymity on the internet to be tracking by the likes of Facebook or Twitter. At the end of the day it’s big business for them to data mine all of us to know our shopping habits and how to target advertising which is the primary source of income for their sites. I’d honestly pay to use Twitter as long as they promised me 100% that my activities weren’t being tracked. I could never see Facebook owning up to such a promise.

 

I’m curious to what direction Facebook will take now that they’re a publicly traded company. They now have to answer to shareholders and don’t have as much rope to hang themselves with as they did before. The overall public internet view of Facebook has seemed to shift a great deal to a more negative stance. With competitors such as Google + hanging around and gaining traction, Facebook should tread lightly with the public because all it takes is one big blow up on the internet and the next thing Facebook will be Myspace.

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Google Chrome

Google released their web browser Chrome as a beta for Windows on September 2, 2008. Initially, I downloaded the installer and checked it out and it seemed to be a decent browser. At the time I was a heavy Mozilla Firefox user so I had little use for a secondary web browser so at first Google Chrome got no love from me. Thanks to Microsoft’s dominance majority desktops and laptops with Windows operating systems come pre-installed with Internet Explorer, so unfortunately for a while it was the web browser of choice for many. Gone for me were the days of Microsoft’s horrible offerings of Internet Explorer with exception of using it at work which I’m still totally reluctant to do. A little while passed after the launch of Google Chrome and my wonderful Mozilla Firefox started to quickly fall apart. Over and over the browser crashes occurred only to continue with more frequency and frustration. Then Mozilla Firefox started to have constant issues with Adobe Flash and after sometime fighting this I grew tired of it and decided to revisit Google Chrome. It only took me a little while to take a look around and get used to things and unlearn my habits from Mozilla Firefox and apply them to Google Chrome. After about a week of continuous use I eventually got the feel and hang of Google Chrome and I loved it. It felt a lot more lightweight than Mozilla Firefox did at the time so I never looked back. Page load time is a major item that I could tell a big difference in from Mozilla Firefox. I was quite happy to ditch Mozilla Firefox and it’s constant crashing. Now please understand this was with the 3.0 versions of Mozilla Firefox and they’ve appeared to resolve the issue in the newer releases and I still feel that Mozilla Firefox is a much more solid web browser than Microsoft Internet Explorer ever will be.

Screenshot of the last version of Chrome to display the original Chrome logo. Google decided to simplify the Chrome logo and here’s why they said they did it. Many of you who currently use Chromium or the Chrome early Channels have probably noticed that the logo is getting a makeover. Today, Google is talking about the change in an effort to “make the web quicker, lighter, and easier for all”. That’s evident in the new-look logo that you can see is more simplified than the previous version.

Currently, I’m running the 14.0.835.186.beta-m of Chrome for Windows. After seeing this post http://goo.gl/9jilu by Louis Gray who is the Product Marketing Manager on Google+ I had to grab the 16.0.887.0.canary build for Chrome and run it along side the beta.

Here’s a screen shot of the 16.0.887.0.canary build of Chrome. With the Google Chrome canary build I’ve learned that Twitter experiences a few problems and likes to freeze and then lead the page. Other than that bug it’s been quite useful to have a second flavor of Google Chrome to run alongside of the Google Chrome beta I use as my day to day web browser. I run the Google Chrome beta because I enjoy staying on the bleeding edge of improvements and adjustments that are made to Google Chrome.

Above is a screenshot for the download page for the regular Google Chrome release. If you’re looking to improve your experience on the internet then I suggest you head over to http://www.google.com/chrome and try it for yourself today!

Be sure to checkout the Chrome Web Store in order to grab a whole bunch of goodies for your browser. Here’s a list of some of the extensions I utilize… 1-Click Weather for Chrome by The Weather Channel, Adblock Plus for Google Chrome (Beta), Amazon Cloud Player, AVG Safe Search, Clock – Version 1.5, Google Calendar Checker (by Google), Klout (beta), Screen Capture (by Google), and TweetDeck.

– Incognito mode – if you click on the

and select New incognito window you’ll see the following…

You can hack the target for the shortcut where you launch Google Chrome from to automatically launch Chrome as an Incognito window each time you open it like shown in the example below. C:\Users\Profile\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe -incognito Simply add -incognito to the end of the executable you can launch an incognito window every time. I only use Google Chrome as incognito mode once I found out about this. If you need a rock solid web browser that can do just about anything you can think of, strongly consider Google Chrome because I can promise you will not regret your decision.

Gmail

April 1, 2004 marked the end of email dominance for AOL and Yahoo. That is the date when Gmail was launched as an invitation-only Beta. Like many others I had a Yahoo and Hotmail email account at the time and I was quite curious to find out what the all chatter was in regards to Google’s entry into the email race.

I eventually scored an invite and set up my Gmail acct on July 1st 2004. The first email I sent was to all my friends and family telling them all that I had switched over to Gmail from my Hotmail/Yahoo accounts and this change was for good. Here we are seven years later and I’m still using the same account and I don’t regret the change one bit. I was sick to death of all the spam emails that I was receiving through my Hotmail/Yahoo accounts and Gmail’s ability to screen out all the spam garbage won me over immediately.

Classic view in Gmail The ease of sign up and use, 1 GB of space (at that time), and the lack of spam made Gmail a runaway success. I’m amazed at how Gmail how grown in storage space (7GB +) and functionality due in part to the Google Labs and are tested and sometimes they eventually graduate into a full fledged new feature for Gmail. If you’ve not done this, go into your Gmail account settings and click on Labs and checkout all the available experimental stuff that Gmail can do. One feature I was extremely happy to see integration of was pictures in the body of Gmail because for the longest time you had to attached all of your images. The undo send feature is a lifesaver sometimes if you happen to click send by accident and it allows you the ability to stop the email from sending. Signature tweaks was another great addition because like Outlook, it allowed you to create an email signature so you didn’t have to type out this information for each email you sent.

With the additions of Google Documents, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Buzz, Google +, Gmail has grown to become even more useful on a daily basis and began to gently nudge users towards for integration to running everything they do on their laptops in the cloud. Already Google has completely redesigned the Gmail, Google Documents, Google Calendar interfaces in an attempt to get them to match up to the newly launched Google + interface. Preview (Dense) view in Gmail

I enjoy the mobile versions of Gmail on my iPod touch and iPad. I’ve used the iPod touch version of Gmail mobile since November of 2007 and I love it. I bought my iPad December 2010 and I’ve used it an enormous amount on it as well. I’m really looking forward to using Gmail when I upgrade to my new iPhone sometime next year. I didn’t realize at the time when I signed up for my Gmail account that I was also establishing my Google account that would unlock the door to everything else that Google would eventually have to offer, all for free. If you are looking for a stable email with 7 GB of storage you should seriously consider switching over to Gmail. Google also offers Gmail to businesses and universities for a fee. The next ten years should be quite interesting to see the direction that Google takes Gmail.

Google +

 

Google +

* Disclaimer – I didn’t receive any compensation to endorse Google or Google + I only wanted to give my insight and honest opinion.*

Not long ago critics were giving Google a fits about the social media flops of Google Buzz and Google Wave. I purchased my first desktop in February of 2002 and ever since I’ve been been a Google user. I remember grabbing a Gmail invite off ebay back in July of 2004 and I was hooked. When Google Wave launched September 2009 I received an invite and the next I know I got everyone I work signed up on it. We used Wave as an internal collaborative tool for new server launches and upgrades so we were all bummed to see Google say good-bye to Wave. When Google Buzz launched in February of last year I thought that Google had overcome their social media jinx and were on their way. I was totally wrong especially when things fell apart so early for Google when the privacy issue arose and people abandoned ship immediately.

Fast forward to July 2011 and Google + is the craze for many on the web. I’ve watched the news feeds as the total number of users climbed to 20 million. After the news of the number of Google + users reaching 18 million a report came back saying the traffic measured last week was only 1.5 million. Google had a huge advantage over Twitter and Facebook because they already had such a large database of Google account users already. The growth numbers are impressive to a point yet they don’t prove anything other than Google + is the new cool kid on the social media block.

I was never a fan of Facebook even though I have an account. I only signed up to be able to keep in contact with family in other states. When I first gained access to Google + I was pleased to see the clean not clutter user interface. Facebook is absolutely miserable with all the garbage they throw at you. I’ve probably blocked just about every non-essential part of Facebook. I know millions of people love to waste their day on Facebook but I never once logged in with the intention of playing Farmville. I’ve read where it leaked out that Google intends to insert some games into Google +. I really hope Google keeps it low key and doesn’t flood the user’s account and gives them the chance to block it all.

Google + Circles are great because I enjoy being able to lump my contacts from both online and in the real world in their own little … well circles, lol. One example of my online contacts circled is I already followed Lee Williams of Hoptopia fame on Twitter so I linked up with him on Google +. The number of people ( Google + users of course ) I’ve been able to converse with about craft beer through Lee’s connection is amazing. I’ve been using Facebook for a few years and I’ve never once had that type of interaction with a specific group of users. My family circle on the other hand, which are all Facebook users have been quite slow to adapt to Google +. I honestly believe that majority of them have just started to figure the whole Facebook thing out and they aren’t particularly in a hurry to have to learn something else.

I recently experimented with the Google + Hangout with my friend and we had a great time using it. We both have Kindergarten age daughters and they particularly enjoyed using the Hangout function of Google +. Like everyone else I’ve used Skype plenty of times but I enjoyed that I could easily access Hangout right inside of Google + without having to go log into another program. I will admit the day I tested Hangout an update was apparently released that required a plug-in and it annoyed the heck out of me because it seemed no matter how many times I installed the plug-in that Hangout didn’t want to display my video on my Windows 7 (64bit) machine. I eventually had to fire up my Windows XP netbook and log into Hangout. I learned that Google has since resolved the issue because I tested Hangout tonight and it worked just fine. I recently read about where someone has a Google + Hangout marathon going on and there’s no idea how long they intend to keep it running for. I intend to keep up on their progress and keep tabs on them via their Livestream feed.

So far I’ve enjoyed Google + Photos and how I can click on photos from my circles, photos from my phone, photos of me, and my albums. The recent release of Facebook’s facial recognition software seemed to creep a lot of users out. Google + Photos is easy to use and does essentially the same things Facebook’s Photos does but I like the way it manages them much better. Like Facebook, you can tag people in your photos and manipulate your photos how you want to. I have a friend who informed me this past Friday that he was able to purge every photo/album he’s ever posted on Facebook and put them all on his Google + account. I’ve not yet learned this trick but I intend to check it out very soon.

Google + users all have a messy long profile url so I discovered Google + Nick (they’re not associated with Google) to resolve this little issue. The site manages to chop your Google + profile down from https://plus.google.com/u/0/108503230261783742377/posts to http://gplus.to/jasonr so it’s a lot easier to share.

Google is receiving a fair amount of criticism over their account deletions of corporate accounts. This is due to Google wanting all user based accounts to display your real name and not your internet handle. Complaints are being reported around the web. Google is working quickly to roll out the corporate accounts and Ford Motor Company appeared as a test account recently.

Only time will tell whether the Google + user base will totally abandon Facebook for good or use both platforms. If I can convince at least 90% of my contacts to join and use Google + I would delete my Facebook account. Given the amount of products Google already has I can easily see the continued growth of Google + to skyrocket so Facebook should something way more than Skype integration to entice their user base to stay around. I see a battle of the giants shaping up between Facebook vs. Google + and it will only benefit the end users after it’s all said and done.