Google Launches Maps Gallery

A new Google Maps Gallery was announced today, a new way for governments, businesses, and others to share and publish mapping data to Google’s Maps Engine. Maps in the Gallery are viewable in Google Earth, and and are easily discoverable via search engines, which means that branded maps – e.g. a National Geographic sponsored map that relates to a new edition of the magazine, or a map of important spots in an upcoming movie – are now possible. It’s an opportunity for third parties to utilize Google’s effective mapping system for additional, well-designed maps that plot out specific data points in a way that’s both searchable and easily accessible.  

New Google Chrome Beta Bakes In Web Payments

Google announced the release of Chrome 31 beta, with new features that include web payments. What this means, practically speaking, is that users can now fill out online forms with very little effort. Web developers can access the browser’s autocomplete information through a new function that allows the user to pick existing payment data stored within the browser itself. They can also enter new details through a browser-provided interface, such as Google Wallet. The same system exists for Android, Chrome OS, and future Mac versions. So this means that it’s very likely that we’ll see Google Wallet begin to really step up its e-commerce game as this beta is rolled out universally. 

Google Launches Chromecast

Google finally entered the streaming fray with a thumb-drive-sized product called Chromecast that promises to deliver digital content to your TV with unprecedented ease. Chromecast is a step above other streaming devices in multiple facets: it’s size makes it simple to transport, Google says that the interface is as simple as plug-and-play over any WiFi network, and it’s only $35 – cheaper than any other similar option on the market (like Roku, Boxee, Xbox, or Apple TV). Chromecast also provides for phone integration, but it’s an open interface; it won’t prevent different makes and models from connecting to the HDTV. It has native YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix apps, but you can also watch video from any streaming device you want. The real kicker, though, is the ability to open new Chrome browser tabs on the TV; there’s finally a way to stream content on an HDTV in the same way as users are used to streaming content on their laptops. So although it’s not quite as sexy as Google promises – you do have to charge the device with a cord that takes away from the sleek aesthetic – at a $35 price point, there will be plenty of willing guinea pigs.  

Google Helps Advertisers Make Viral YouTube Videos

Google announced that its video service is launching a pilot program designed to educate advertisers on their YouTube content strategies – not unlike what they’ve been doing through Next Lab for many years. The new program, though, is for brands only, and is an extension of the Brand Labs service, which was built to educate advertisers on YouTube content strategies. The goal of the program is to help brands create engaging content, independent of YouTube’s programming efforts. According to those familiar with their plans, Google even wants to go as far as to utilize its production studios in LA and the UK. The program will start in September at YouTube Space in Los Angeles. 

Google Looks To Buy Waze

According to the Israeli business publication Globes, Google will acquire the Ra’anana-based Waze for $1.3 Billion in the near future. If the deal does go through, it will knock a major mapping-data resource out of the game, as Waze’s socially oriented data-collection means that they have a social map that is unrivaled – in fact, Apple Maps used Waze when it discontinued Google Maps data in the Maps app. It seems likely that Waze will remain independent, much like Google’s 2010 acquisition ITA Software. By the same token, it seems reasonable to assume that the social functions of Waze’s app will be included in Google’s social networks, and will increase the accuracy and robustness of Google’s existing traffic-reporting systems. Either way, Apple and Facebook will certainly not have access to the data, which might have been the point of the acquisition in the first place. 

Google Note-Taking App Keep Lauches

Google yesterday announced the launch of Keep, the first note-taking app since the company scrapped Notebook in 2009 and allowed competitors like Evernote to dominate the mobile and cloud-based note-taking sector. Keep is available on the web and to Android users, and is still very basic. The default layout is a single column in an internet browser, and allows you to quickly snap pictures, create lists, add gifs, take a voice note, or jot information down quickly – but that’s it. It’s currently analogous to a souped-up sticky notes function, a place to quickly put things that we might otherwise put on a pad of paper. If, however, the app is expanded to the scope of an Evernote, it could quickly become indispensable; one can easily imagine Drive, Mail, Maps, Calendar, and Glass synchronization. For now, though, Keep might just replace those yellow sticky notes all over your desktop. 

Microsoft Outlook Attacks Gmail Over Privacy Concerns

Microsoft has been promoting its revamped Outlook email client in continued attacks on Gmail in its “Scroogled” campaign. With the tagline of “Think Google respects your privacy? Think again,” Microsoft systematically explains how Google looks through emails for keywords which translate into personalized ads. Microsoft attempted a similar takedown last year with a full page ad in newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, but this time around Microsoft is really pushing its Outlook platform while simultaneously attacking Google, rather than just lashing out at its opponent. But where is the distinction between how Outlook and Gmail tailor their ads? The Wall Street Journal claims that Outlook looks at the subject lines of emails for ad content, while Microsoft claims it doesn’t use email subject lines to target ads at users. Despite how private, or not, Outlook is in relation to Gmail, Microsoft is making privacy a prime selling point, playing on consumer fear that everything they do on the Internet is tracked and recorded.