In the past few days Google has launched a number of new features:
Google Hompage API
As covered earlier, this feature allows independent developers to write modules that fit into the customizable Google Hompage. Being a new API, both developers and Google are experiencing minor problems which I fully expect will be ironed out in the following few weeks.
Performing a search for a (more or less famous) musician or band will now bring up a special result at the top of the results page which links to the artist in question. The page for each artist includes links to albums they have released as well as various Google pages for the artist (news, groups, images). Google also includes links to stores where you can buy music by the artist. Although there is no obvious referrer code included in the store URLs one can’t help but wonder if Google is getting a piece of the action.
Google Mail Groups and Vacation Responder
Two features that should have been added a long time ago. Groups finally let you send emails to a number of people easily. Until now you had to enter each email address by hand. Mail Groups allow you to assign contacts to groups which can then be recipients of your mails. Vacation Responder is exactly what it sounds like, an automatic responder (think Out-Of-Office Reply from Outlook) which has some simple settings to determine who gets the automatic replies.
Google Mail Mobile
Every now and then Google releases a mobile version of an existing service. Some of these have been implemented by sending/receiving SMS messages while other use web browsers in mobile devices. Gmail mobile is a case of the latter. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get Opera Mini to access the internet on my Sony Ericsson k750i so I haven’t been able to try this service out yet. I imagine that this service will become quite popular and could be used as the poor man’s Blackberry. While receiving and sending mail directly through your mobile phone has been available for a few years now (via POP3 and SMTP) the webmail approach provides a number of benefits, including powerful server-side processing of emails (anti-spam, etc.). Now if only data transfer for mobile devices wasn’t so expensive…
Google released two extensions for Firefox 1.5 (not supporting 1.0.x was a bit surprising even though the process of writing extensions has been greatly simplified in 1.5). The Google Safe Browsing extension is a simple extension which „alerts you if a web page that you visit appears to be asking for your personal or financial information under false pretences“. The Blogger Web Comments extension is „an extension that makes it easy to see what bloggers are saying about a page you’re viewing“. Evan Williams (creator of Blogger.com) hits the nail on the head when he says: „The killerest part is the reading. How cool to be checking out a new web service, a company, or a product and instantly see if there are any web posts linking to it?“.
Google Homepage API
Google just launched their Homepage API which allows developers to write their own modules for the personalized Google Homepage. Yahoo! just released version 3.0 of Yahoo! Widgets a few days ago and from a developer’s point of view, the two offerings are quite similar. The Googlist has an interesting comparison.