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In a surprise announcement Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, has confirmed that they will be dropping Unity 8 from the next long term release and that Ubuntu is ending its smartphone ambitions. Ubuntu and Canonical will end all investment in Unity 8, Mir and their phone/tablet based OS. Instead tbe 18.04 LTS will use GNOME as its default desktop environment.

While Mr Shuttleworth has confirmed that Unity 8 will be dropped he reaffirmed his “ongoing passion for, investment in, and commitment to, the Ubuntu desktop that millions rely upon” as well as confirming that Ubuntu will continue to provide support for their existing  LTS that use Unity 7 by default.

The move seems to be financially motivated as Canonical seeks to shift its resources into productive areas. Shuttleworth explains that they invested in Ubuntu phone because they felt that there was “substantial” frustration with the existing closed options open to manufacturers. As such they took the view that if “convergence” was the future that disillusioned manufacturers and smartphone users would welcome a free open source alternative with open arms. Unfortunately the industry seemed to think differently, preferring to rely on existing software or produce their own. As such, despite being “beautiful, usable and solid” Unity8 will not see the light of day

So, Ubuntu and Canonical have cut support for unity 8 and their smartphone ambitions. Where do they want to shift these now uncommitted funds? It looks like they want to focus on areas that are already growing.  Particularly; their cloud infrastructure projects, Ubuntu for the Internet of things and of course the Ubuntu desktop itself.

The move signals a shift away from the long-term strategy of convergence that Ubuntu has been following and a shift towards more focused development. Sadly, the Ubuntu phone is a casualty  in this priority-shift. Those of us who are tired of being forced to use Apple, Google or Microsoft will have to wait a little longer for a way out it seems.

 

You'll find me wandering around the Science sections mostly, excitedly waving my arms around while jumping up and down about the latest science and tech news. I am also occasionally found in the gaming section, trying to convince everyone else that linux is the future of the computer gaming.

Android

Google Chrome now has a ‘picture-in-picture’ feature

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Google is getting ready to make a big change to how its Chrome browser works. This is because new browsers from startups like Arc are making the market more competitive. The company said on Wednesday that it will be adding a new feature called “Minimized Custom Tabs” that will let users tap to switch between a native app and their web content. When you do this, the Custom Tab turns into a small window that floats above the content of the native app.

The new feature is all about using Custom Tabs, which is a feature in Android browsers that lets app developers make their own browser experience right in their app. Users don’t have to open their browser or a WebView, which doesn’t support all of the web platform’s features. Custom tabs let users stay in their app while browsing. Custom tabs can help developers keep users in their apps longer and keep them from leaving and never coming back.

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If you make the Custom Tab into a picture-in-picture window, switching to the web view might feel more natural, like you’re still in the native app. People who send their customers to a website to sign up for accounts or subscriptions might also find this change useful, since it makes it easier for users to switch between the website and the native app.

After being shrunk down to the picture-in-picture window, the Custom Tab can be pushed to the side of the screen. Users can tap on a down arrow to bring the page back to the picture-in-picture window when it is full screen.

The new web experience comes at a time when Google is making it easier for Android users to connect to the web. People can find their way to the web with AI-powered features like Circle to Search and other integrations that let them do things like circle or highlight items.

The change is coming to the newest version of Chrome (M124), and developers who already use Chrome’s Custom Tabs will see it automatically. Google says that the change only affects Chrome browsers, but it hopes that other browser makers will add changes like these.

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Apps

Threads finally starts its own program to check facts

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Meta’s latest social network, Threads, is launching its own fact-checking initiative after leveraging Instagram and Facebook’s networks for a brief period.

Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, stated that the company has recently implemented a feature that allows fact-checkers to assess and label false content on threads. Nevertheless, Mosseri refrained from providing specific information regarding the exact timing of the program’s implementation and whether it was restricted to certain geographical regions.

The fact-checking partners for Threads—which organizations are affiliated with Meta—are not clearly specified. We have requested additional information from the company and will revise the story accordingly upon receiving a response.

The upcoming U.S. elections appear to be the main driving force behind the decision. India is currently in the midst of its general elections. However, it is improbable that a social network would implement a fact-checking program specifically during an election cycle rather than initiating the project prior to the elections.

In December, Meta announced its intention to implement the fact-checking program on Threads.

“At present, we align the fact-check ratings from Facebook or Instagram with Threads. However, our objective is to empower fact-checking partners to evaluate and assign ratings to misinformation on the application,” Mosseri stated in a post during that period.

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Software

Google developed several pioneering social applications for Android, such as Twitter and various others

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Here is a lesser-known piece of startup history that may not be widely known outside of the technology companies themselves: Google itself developed the initial iterations of well-known Android applications, such as Twitter. The revelation was made during a recent podcast featuring Sara Beykpour, the former senior director of product management at Twitter and current co-founder of the AI news startup Particle.

Beykpour discusses her involvement in Twitter’s past in a podcast with Lightspeed partner Michael Mignano. She details her employment at Twitter in 2009, where she started as a tools engineer, during a time when the company had a workforce of approximately 75 individuals. Subsequently, Beykpour transitioned to working on mobile applications at Twitter during a period when third-party applications were gaining traction on different platforms, such as BlackBerry and iOS. Twitter bought one of those applications, called Loren Brichter’s Tweetie, and used it as the basis for its initial official iOS app.

Beykpour stated that Twitter’s Android app originated from Google.

The Twitter for Android client was a prototype app that Google created and gave to them, according to her statement on the podcast. “During that period, Google developed all the popular social apps such as Foursquare and Twitter, resulting in a similar appearance among them.”

Mignano interrupted, requesting clarification on the matter. Did Google develop applications in order to encourage companies to adopt Android?

“Yes, precisely,” Beykpour replied.

Following that, Twitter took over control of the Google-developed Android app and started to improve its features. According to her, Beykpour was the company’s second Android engineer.

Google documented its efforts on the Android Twitter client in a blog post in 2010. However, the media coverage during that time failed to acknowledge Google’s contribution, resulting in this aspect of internet history being overlooked. Google’s post details the integration of early Android best practices into the Twitter app. Beykpour informed TechCrunch that Virgil Dobjanschi, the post’s author, held the primary role of software engineer.

“We were expected to direct any inquiries to him,” she recalls.

Beykpour also recounted additional anecdotes regarding Twitter’s early stages. As an example, she was involved in the development of Vine, Twitter’s video app, after returning to Twitter from working at Secret. She faced pressure to release Vine on Android before Instagram launched its own video product. According to her, she managed to meet the deadline by introducing Vine approximately two weeks prior to the release of Instagram Video.

The latter had a significant impact on Vine’s metrics, and according to Beykpour, it was the main factor that caused the downfall of the popular app.

She claimed that, even though it took several years for Vine to finally shut down, “that was the day when the signs of its demise became evident.”

At Twitter, Beykpour spearheaded the discontinuation of Vine’s product—an application that remains highly popular, to the extent that even Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter/X, continues to playfully hint at its potential revival. However, Beykpour believes that Twitter made a sound decision regarding Vine, as he acknowledges that the app was not experiencing growth and was costly to maintain. She concedes that others may have a different perspective, possibly contending that Vine lacked sufficient resources or support from leadership. However, the ultimate reason for the closure was Vine’s effect on Twitter’s financial performance.

Beykpour also recounted a captivating anecdote regarding his experience working on Periscope. She left Secret and joined the startup just as Twitter purchased it. She recalls the necessity of rejoining Twitter using an alias in order to maintain secrecy about the acquisition for a period of time.

During her presentation on Twitter, she also discussed the challenges associated with acquiring the necessary resources to create and enhance products and features specifically designed for power users, such as journalists.

“Twitter faced difficulties in defining its user,” she stated, as it “relied heavily on conventional OKRs and metrics.” However, it was a reality that only a small proportion of individuals engage in tweeting, and within this subset, only a portion of them are responsible for creating the content that is truly desired by everyone. Beykpour acknowledges that quantifying this subset was a challenging task.

Currently at Particle, her expertise in developing Twitter is influencing the approach for the AI news application, which aims to facilitate the connection between individuals and the news that is relevant to their interests and happening in their vicinity.

“Particle represents a new approach to consuming your daily news,” Beykpour states in the podcast. The objective of the app is to offer a comprehensive and diverse outlook on news while also granting users access to journalism of exceptional quality. The startup is seeking alternative methods to generate revenue from reporting, in addition to advertisements, subscriptions, or micropayments. Nevertheless, the precise details of Particle’s approach are still under deliberation. The startup is presently engaging in discussions with potential publisher partners regarding the remuneration for their contributions.

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