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25 Dec 12 Google in 2012: Android soars, battles with regulators and a tricky new role

Google is also facing questions from antitrust regulators in Europe and the United States over its advertising and search practices. The company was said to be near a deal with the FTC early in December, but those talks have since shown signs of fraying, according to The Washington Post.

Critics said the FTC was not being aggressive enough by passing over accusations that Google is prioritizing search results from its products over its competitors. The announcement of an agreement — once expected by the end of year — has now been pushed back to at least January, The Post reported.

Google+: Google’s play for the social space had an interesting year as the company continued to report that Google+ was growing. Google’s latest update on the site revealed that the year-old network has 135 active million users — up from 100 million in September. With the inclusion of people who use the company’s video hangouts feature, “+1” button and other elements of the network, that number jumps to 235 million. The company has continued to add features such as Google+ Communities, an answer to the Groups feature on Facebook.

Hardware pushes: Google has made some notable steps into the hardware space this year, launching branded smartphones and tablets meant to act as flagships for its Android mobile operating system. So far, Google hasn’t had any runaway hits, but its Nexus 7 tablet was a popular item on many people’s holiday wish list this year.

Other hardware experiments have been less successful: Google introduced and, within a few months, stopped production of a streaming-music device, the Nexus Q. The company is said to be working on a new phone through its Motorola Mobility unit next year. The Wall Street Journal reported that the new device, an iPhone competitor, is being called the “X Phone” within the company.

Meanwhile, the company continued to back its Android partners, many of whom were embroiled in legal battles with Apple over intellectual property. Page reportedly even met with Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to discuss patent matters.

Android: Google continued to see strong growth in its Android system. The system enjoyed its fourth birthday with news from the IDC research group that 75 percent of all phones that shipped in the third quarter of 2012 were running Android. With partners such as Samsung, LG, HTC and its own Motorola unit, Google continues to go after all tiers of the smartphone market.

The company released a new version of Android, Jelly Bean, at its annual developers conference over the summer. The new system introduced features including a new form of typing, a better camera interface and a more unified system between smartphones and tablets.

Free speech: The company also increasingly had to act in a new role in 2012 as it navigated global attitudes toward free speech. As The Washington Post reported, the company was embroiled in numerous incidents around the world where it had to decide whether to remove content from its YouTube video site.

In some cases, Google cited its own community guidelines — which clearly advocate for freedom of speech — while it deferred to local laws in other cases.

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05 Jun 12 Instapaper releases Android app

Instapaper, yet another app that’s been missing from Android, makes its debut, again minus some features available for iPhones and iPads. Like Instagram, Instapaper doesn’t have all the bells and whistles the iOS app does.

“We’re working hard to add additional features to Instapaper for Android,” according to a company blog post. “We believe that we’ve captured the core Instapaper experience but can’t wait to make the app even better.”

The Android app, which allows you to save Web pages for offline reading later, does include adjustable fonts, Dark Mode for reading in low light, folders, rotation lock and native Android sharing. The app also syncs between multiple devices, so you can pick up where you left off. 

And, like the iOS app, you can download up to 500 articles at a time. 

While it is missing some features for now, the app does support the various flavors of Android, including for 7-inch tablets such as Kindle Fire and Nook and big, honking 10-inchers such as the Xoom and Galaxy. The company said that all updates to come are free for customers who buy the app, regardless of which Android store it’s from.

The app goes for $2.99 and runs on Android 2.2 and beyond.

Instapaper for Android is available now on Google Play and is expected to be available soon for Barnes Noble’s Nook and on Amazon’s Appstore.



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20 Dec 11 Better Facebook Privacy with fPrivacy Chrome Extension

The fPrivacy Chrome extension gives users more control by disallowing specific app permissions.

Who Gets In, Who Stays Out

A new Chrome plugin, fPrivacy, created by Chad Selph, allows users to choose which permissions to grant apps. When a user allows a new app access to his or her Facebook profile, check boxes at the top of the window appear, which allow the user to control permission access.

Select permissions to allow.
Or lock down some information on your account.

Privacy Concerns

In November, we reported that Facebook was proposing an “opt-in” privacy settlement with the FTC. The previous Facebook policy took an “opt-out” approach in which users had to stay on top of the changing privacy policies and then change their profile settings accordingly.

Earlier in the year, Facebook was sued over cookies that were tracking users after they logged out of the social networking service. Facebook saw the “frictionless sharing” as a hassle-free sharing service, whereas many Facebook users saw it as a huge invasion of privacy.

As we reported in September, Facebook announced the new Timeline feature at the Facebook f8 conference. Timeline is rolling out to all Facebook users later this month, which also poses new privacy concerns:

But more than users showcasing relevant points in their life, Timeline is more of a platform that apps can use to mine data stored throughout a user’s history. Apps can showcase data from a user’s profile and that of their friends, such as music preferences, places visited, recipes cooked and a lot of other information in a time-bound format.”

So far, Timeline is being met with mixed reviews by users who have voluntarily moved to the new format in advance of the general roll out.

With all of these privacy concerns, add-ons like fPrivacy are timely. fPrivacy is available from the Chrome webstore. Simply download the app, give it access to your Facebook (ironic, no?) page, and then it’s ready to go when you try installing your next Facebook app.

Are there other Facebook privacy plugins and add-ons you recommend? Let us know in the comments.


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