Yahoo wants to make its Web e-mail service a place you never want to--or more importantly--have to leave to get your social fix.
The company on Wednesday is releasing an overhauled version of its Yahoo Mail Beta client that it says is twice as fast as the previous version, while managing to tack on new features like an integrated Twitter client, rich media previews, and a more full-featured IM client.
Yahoo says this speed boost should be especially noticeable to users outside the U.S. with latency issues, due mostly to the new version making use of the company's … Read more
Earlier today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed FaceTime for Mac, a beta version of the FaceTime video chat app that came to iPhone 4 this past June. One of our biggest complaints about FaceTime for iPhone was that it restricted video chat participants to those who own an iPhone 4. Today's beta software exponentially opens up the FaceTime platform to include users of Mac OS X Snow Leopard--for the time being.
CNET Senior Associate Editor Scott Stein and I jumped on three phone calls. Scott used CNET's high-speed Internet and a Webcam built into his New York-based iMac. I initiated and answered calls from an iPhone 4 in San Francisco using Wi-Fi.
iPhone impressions: I had a satisfactory experience overall from the iPhone side. Video technology has not been good enough in the past on any platform (even Cisco's Umi telepresence) for me to see it as more than an aid. It's nice to have and helps forge a connection, but I wasn't surprised that the video quality piping into the iPhone left something to be desired. Even on a relatively small iPhone screen (compared with a laptop or desktop), Scott's face and background appeared washed out and indistinct.
As with video chats on many other platforms, audio was much more in sync than the video. Although my iPhone 4 dutifully recorded my own movements in a thumbnail image, Scott noted that my video feed froze a few times on his Mac. It also appeared that there was some video delay. At a certain point in the call, it appeared that sound and video weren't syncing up on the New York side. The tip-off was that Scott and CNET TV Producer Wilson Tang resorted to gesturing to make sure I understood we'd have another call once the video equipment was all set up. When you have to mime "5 minutes" and a thumbs-up, you know your video isn't seamless. And yes, we will embed the video hands-on of FaceTime on Mac and iPhone once that's been produced.
The audio timing, on the other hand, was spot on from the San Francisco/iPhone end. I didn't notice any delays, crackles, or distortions. FaceTime essentially uses the iPhone's speakerphone functions, so I did have to ratchet up the volume to make up for the externals speaker's volume loss.
Scott's experience wasn't as clear as mine in either the audio or the video departments.
Mac impressions: Mac users have already enjoyed iChat and multi-person video conferencing for years now, and those expecting a revolution with FaceTime might be sorely disappointed. The beta software release does exactly what it says it does, but not much more.… Read more
Among the three new features introduced by Facebook last week, one of the last ones to make it to the hands of users was the personal data downloader. It's also one of the most interesting of the bunch, since it effectively gives users an escape hatch to grab everything they've ever uploaded to Facebook and take it elsewhere.
The feature finally went live over the weekend, and I've had a chance to put it through its paces. The good news is that it's one of the simplest options I've ever seen for such a large amount of data. The bad news is that because it's just your information, you may find it's missing a lot of things that include you, but that were uploaded by others.
So what does the service do? It grabs every photo, video, wall post, private message, event, and scrap of profile information from your Facebook account, and puts into a tidy little zip file. In essence, it's your entire Facebook identity in just a folder.
To get this wealth of information, you have to jump through a handful of security hoops. Even if you're signed into Facebook, you need to re-enter your password to request it. Also, if you're on a computer that Facebook is unfamiliar with, it will ask you to solve a captcha. Facebook will then beginning pulling together all those files, which it does in the background, before sending you an e-mail to let you know it's done.
For me, the turnaround time from filling out my information to getting the download link was less than 10 minutes. And the size of the download? 270MB.
Once you have that file in hand, your profile is broken into folders. This includes photos and videos, though unfortunately, this works out a little better for videos than it does for photos.
Every single video I had uploaded was preserved with the exact same file I had uploaded. The photos, on the other hand, had all been run through Facebook's processing, and ran the gamut from 604 pixels wide, to the newer 720 pixel wide format--in either case, that's tiny. The good news is, going forward this won't be as much of a problem, since Facebook recently increased its photo resolution (and thus the preserved file download) to a 2048 pixels wide--an eight-fold increase.
My bigger objection to the process was that some of the original metadata--like when the photo had been taken--gets stripped in the process. Why is this important, you ask? Say you want to stick those photos into a photo management tool, you can no longer sort them by date. The good news on that front is that your collections are preserved as subfolders within the main photos folder, so you have some frame of reference. … Read more
SAN FRANCISCO--Certain apps floating around CTIA Fall 2010 are compelling enough to make it to the "download immediately" list. HeyWire is one such app, and of course, the fact that it's free certainly adds to the appeal.
The main purpose of HeyWire is to simplify real-time text communication across multiple messaging platforms and devices. It does this by gathering various modes of texting within a streamlined, easy-to-use interface, and then assigning personalized phone numbers to each user. Simply pull up the app on your device, and you can send a quick message to your phone book contacts, … Read more
Skype has appointed former Cisco Systems Senior Vice President Tony Bates as CEO, the company announced today.
Bates, who has been running Cisco's enterprise division, comes to Skype with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise solutions. The networking giant said he managed Cisco divisions totaling more than 12,500 people and generating $20 billion for the company annually. He currently holds nine patents and has served on YouTube's board of directors.
Josh Silverman, Skype's current CEO, will be leaving the company, though he said that he will work with Bates to help with the "… Read more
Google is addressing one of the biggest complaints new Gmail users have about the service: it's giving users a way to turn off threaded messages.
The company plans to start letting users toggle between Gmail's threaded "conversation" view--which groups messages with the same subject in the in-box--and an old-school in-box style in which incoming e-mails are displayed in the order they were received. The option will be provided to both regular Gmail users and corporate Google Apps users, the company plans to announce today.
Google's Wiltse Carpenter compared the frustration with threaded Gmail to the … Read more
VoIP company Fring has found yet another way to compete with Skype. Fring, which specializes in mobile VoIP-plus-chat apps, today announced FringOut, a calling service that lets you use your Fring app to place outbound calls to non-Fring users on their landline or mobile phones.
While Fring boasts calls starting at 1 cent per minute (Euros), we noticed a couple of caveats after wading through Fring's calling rates. Most FringOut calls cost significantly more than one cent per minute in any currency, and costs can spike for a number of reasons. Calls to mobile phone typically cost much more … Read more
Meebo brings a new instant messaging entrant to BlackBerry today, in the form of a beta release of Meebo for BlackBerry (download). The Web-based IM service hopes to net more users with this app, in addition to those it picked up when Meebo released its iPhone and Android apps.
For the most part, Meebo for BlackBerry beta worked and looked as expected in our tests on a Bold 9700. The app makes use of two tabs to respectively manage your buddy list and contacts. The Menu is home to settings and tools, like logging on to one of your chat … Read more
Updated at 2:00 p.m. with additional information from Google.
Google has added a new option in the labs section of Gmail that lets users pump up the quality in video chats.
The new setting, dubbed "video chat enhancements," ups not only the size of the video chat window, but its resolution too. The difference in size between the old and the new is considerable, both in the window of the person you're talking to, and the preview of your Webcam that appears in the bottom right-hand corner.
SUNNYVALE, Calif.--In the men's room outside the media briefing room here at Yahoo's headquarters, there's a dual sink with mismatched faucets: one modern hands-free sensor-activated model and a more traditional hand-operated one. It's a fitting metaphor for a company that, even when it moves in new directions, never quite manages to let go of the old.