This week in web news, Facebook is giving a thumbs-up to empathy, and a sad face emoji to the highly demanded dislike button. Apple's iOS 9 users have been quick to block unwanted content with ad blocker apps… and another sad face emoji for publishers and advertisers. Electric and hybrid Ford drivers can use their smartwatches to connect with their cars. And if you think 2-day shipping is quick and convenient, then check out Amazon’s Prime Now, expanding and delivering at warp speed. Also, Spotify is helping runners who use Android to keep up in the race with iOS users. Last, you can turn all your speakers into streaming players with a new Chromecast dongle.
No thumbs down on Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg announced that a response to the often requested, and even petitioned for, ‘dislike’ button is finally on the way. Many jumped to the conclusion that this meant there would be a simple thumbs-down option. People seemed either excited about the option to dislike, or distressed about the negativity and bullying that thumb wars could cultivate. As it turns out, Facebook will be more complex and empathetic than that. The yet unseen alternative to ‘liking’ a post will allow people to “express that they understand and that they relate to you.” One idea about what this could look like is a small group of emojis showing a range of feelings, similar to Path. In 2013, Facebook patented a bar of emoji reaction buttons to accompany status updates, which might be a clue to what is coming. So, when you do not want to ‘like’ that your friend’s cat has cancer and do not wish to take the time to acknowledge it with a heartfelt comment either; Facebook will soon provide you a new way to express your empathy.
To block or not to block?
Apple's iOS 9 is the first mobile operating system that gives you the choice to block ads, scripts, trackers, and other junk that slows down your browsing. These annoyances waste your data and reduce your battery life. Content blocking is not built-in to iOS 9, but you can download apps, such as AdBlock Plus, Crystal, Purify, and Blockr. After the app is downloaded and installed, you must go into iOS settings and enable the blocker. iOS 9 has been out for only a few days, and content blockers have rocketed to the top of many categories of popular apps, indicating that users are eager and happy to have this feature. While it may feel like a win for us as users of the internet, it is a major blow to publishers and advertisers, and to rival Google who gets 90% of their funds from online advertising. Ads fund nearly all the content that we do want to access. If we don't want to pay subscription fees, then publishers have to pay their bills through ads. A leading ad blocker, Peace, was even removed from the Apple Store by its creator, who decided it was unfair to independent publishers. Online advertising will evolve and find new ways to reach us, but in the meantime, will you block content to make your experience faster and more pleasant? Or will you pay for your content by putting up with the ads and trackers?
Forgot where you parked?
Ford unveiled a smartwatch app for use with their hybrid and electric vehicles. The MyFord app, available for Apple Watch and Android Wear, enables you to lock and unlock you car doors, remotely start your climate control, and look at mileage and battery charge status from the comfort of your wrist. It will also evaluate your driving efficiency by calculating your miles per gallon, and giving you a grade on how efficiently you accelerate and decelerate. And if your brain does not retain where you last left your vehicle, the app will guide you back to your car. Now if my car could just tell me where I left my smartwatch…
I need that prime now.
Amazon’s Prime Now service is going well enough that they expanded into their 13th location this week. For an additional $99 per year, Los Angeles and Orange County Amazon Prime members can have their online purchases delivered to their doorsteps in 2 hours with no additional delivery fee, or within 1 hour for an extra $7.99. Amazon offers tens of thousands of products through this service, including perishable and frozen groceries, household goods, gifts, and electronics. They are also offering delivery of goods from local businesses, such as Sprouts Farmers Markets, Sprinkles Cupcakes, and 99 Ranch Market. Delivery progress can even be tracked via GPS on the Prime Now app. If Amazon makes good on these delivery times, and reviews do seem to be positive so far, and then the value and speed are impressive. It would be a challenge for many people to make it to the grocery or electronics store and back in under an hour. And it could be an amazing convenience for customers who are permanently or temporarily homebound. Imagine the possibilities when combined with the Amazon Dash button… that toilet paper re-order button could be mounted next to the commode, and if you completely ran out, you would only have to sit and wait for an hour!
Android runners matter.
Get ready to run to the beat of your own drum. Released on iOS earlier this year, Spotify Running was finally released for Android this week. From the Spotify app, start the running mode feature and start running. The app will detect your pace using your phone’s motion sensors, and play music with a tempo to match it. Songs are chosen based on your listening history and playlists. Original running mix compositions are available that automatically adjust to your speed, in themes like Burn, Epic, and Blissed Out. Or, there are curated running playlists of various moods and genres for which the beats per minutes can be manually adjusted to your goal pace. Run free! It is free, with advertisements for non-subscribers.
Streaming your house in sync.
Google is getting ready to reveal new hardware at the end of this month, and one of the rumored new products is a Chromecast dongle made to wi-fi enable your speakers. Designed specifically for streaming music, it has been dubbed the “Hendrix” or Chromecast Audio. The device will connect to speakers using a standard 3.5mm audio cable plugged into a headphone socket. It will have multi-room support, meaning you will be able to hook-up more than one Chromecast Audio unit to speakers throughout your home or office, and music will play in sync throughout your space. Streaming services compatible with the new device will include Google Play Music, Rdio, Pandora, and Spotify. The device is very similar to Motorola’s Bluetooth Moto Stream released last year.
Any other interesting news we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below!