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Friday, May 17, 2013

Summary: New Maps, upgraded Google+ headline 2013 Google I/O keynote

Google didn't blow people away with its Wednesday morning keynote at the Google I/O developer conference. No new version of Android, no talk of Google Glass, no skydiving Fred Armisen (bummer). Instead, Google gave developers a host of new goodies and announced new features and services that seemed impressive, even if they didn't knock people's socks off. Get a look at the big stories to come out of this year's keynote.

A new look for Google Play

During Wednesday's keynote, engineering director Chris Yerga spoke briefly about a redesign for the Google Play Store. The most obvious change is a host of updates to the store's visual appearance, but there are also a number of improvements under the surface. Google Play will now give suggestions based on your personal preferences, chosen by Google's algorithms. It’s a quick way to get a glance of something you might like if you’re just browsing the store.
Not only that, but the top charts section will spotlight apps that are designed for tablets, a much-anticipated and much-requested addition to the store. Also, Google announced Google Play for Education, a curated version of the Play store specifically for schools and other educational institutions coming this fall. This version of the store will only feature apps handpicked by a group of editors, so unfavorable apps won’t sneak in by accident.

Location-based APIs mean new features in future apps

A massive pile of new features for Google+

Showing off changes to Google+.
Google+ has been slow to catch on, but Google hasn't given up on its social network. The company announced a total of 41 (!) new features, including a new look, automatic hashtags, a new Hangouts app, and more.
Instead of a typical reverse-chronological news feed, the new Google+ will feature a multi-column stream to present text updates, photos, and videos that doesn't look all that dissimilar from Pinterest. In the keynote, Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, likened traditional newsfeeds to a " a long list of things that have been shared with you, like a never-ending newspaper." No word on whether Gundotra has ever noticed that a newspaper uses columns of text and photos to deliver news instead of a long stream of blurbs.
Also new are automatic hashtags: Google+ will scan items you post to Google+ and try to assign relevant tags to them. In a demo, Gundotra used the example of a photo of the Eiffel Tower posted without any text description that Google+ was able to identify based on landmark recognition and metadata.
Finally, Google announced a new app for Google Hangouts that comes in versions for Android, Chrome and iOS, as well as in Web app form for Chrome OS. The app isn't just for videoconferencing, either; you can send text messages and images as well. The app is free to download and use.
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