22 October 2015

Google Photos Stats

Google has some stats about Google Photos, the online photo sharing service released 5 months ago. Google Photos has 100 million monthly active users. They created more than 15 million animations and collages and their backed-up photos and videos use more than 3,720 TB of storage.

Paris is the top photographed place, followed by New York and Barcelona. Besides people, food and cars are the most photographed things. Sky, beaches and mountains are also included in the top 10 things photographed by Google users. The top 6 events in Google Photos are: wedding, concerts, Christmas, dancing, birthday and clubbing.

The most popular searches are for baby photos, but "me" is also a popular query.

Google's Play

Android started as an open platform that brought together many competing companies. iPhone's launch changed Android's development and was an important reason for Android's success. Phone manufacturers and carriers wanted an "iPhone killer" and Android was a good bet, but it still had a lot of rough edges and there were many missing features. This was a great opportunity for manufactures to fill in the gaps, create their own user interfaces and develop their own apps and widgets that brought value and differentiation.

Here's an image from Android's original SDK emulator:

Why did Google acquire Andy Rubin's company and invested in Android? One of the reasons was to make a better platform for developing mobile apps. Google already had a few mobile apps for feature phones, Symbian, Blackberry and it was very difficult to add new features and to test the applications because of the inconsistent APIs and their implementations. Android seemed like an interesting opportunity, but Google never anticipated that it will take over the world. It's obvious that Android became the dominant mobile OS because so many companies invested in Android, hoping to come up with better phones than Apple's iPhone.

While Android was open source, Google created a few proprietary apps that weren't part of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). The most important proprietary Google app was Android Market, which is now called Google Play Store, but Google developed other apps as well: Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps etc. Over time, many open source apps were replaced by proprietary Google apps: the music player became Google Play Music, the calendar app became Google Calendar, the browser became Chrome etc.

Android Market/Google Play is Google's own service and it was licensed to phone manufactures subject to confidential terms and conditions. According to the distribution agreements (MADA) revealed by companies like HTC and Motorola, Android Market was bundled with other Google apps and services, including Google Search and Network Location Provider, which had to be the default search and location services. "Devices may only be distributed if all Google Applications [listed elsewhere in the agreement] ... are pre-installed on the Device," mentions one of the distribution agreements.

The list of bundled Google apps increased over the years, as Google released more and more apps. Phone manufacturers were allowed to bundle competing apps from third-party companies and you'll find many phones that include Whatsapp and Hangouts, Microsoft Drive/Dropbox and Google Drive, Facebook and Google+. Here's a screenshot from Samsung Note 4, courtesy of Gsmarena, which shows that Samsung preinstalled Facebook and Google+, Hangouts, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Google Photos.

While many Android users complain that their phones have too much bloatware, some companies aren't happy that Google ties the Google Play Store with other Google apps and some default settings (Google = default search engine, Google Network Location Provider = default location provider).

Deutsche Telekom will file an anti-trust charge against Google, complaining that "Google uses its Android mobile operating system to unfairly promote its own products like Google Maps and online search over those of rivals". According to New York Times, "a number of large tech companies, including Oracle and Nokia, as well as small start-ups like Aptoide, a Portuguese online marketplace for smartphone applications, already have filed complaints to European officials connected to the Android investigation." The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into Google's mobile operating system and the Federal Trade Commission started a similar investigation last month.

Is it fair for Google to bundle the Play Store with other apps and to dictate its own terms and conditions? It's obvious that the Play Store is the most important Android app and few people outside of China would buy an Android device that can't access the Play Store. By now, Google Play Store and the associated Google Play Services are hard to separate from Android, even if they're not technically part of Android. This is Google's play: it's holding the keys to more than 1 million apps and dictates its own terms to phone manufacturers. Many of Google's apps are actually useful and they are hard to beat by competitors (Google Maps, Google Search, Gmail, YouTube), but some of the apps aren't the best in their category and Google uses distribution agreements to promote them (Hangouts, Keep, Play Books).

Back in 2008, Android Market was just another Android app store, but now it's the most important by far and it also comes with APIs that tie Android apps to the Google Play Store. I think it's not fair to tie Play Store licensing with bundling other Google apps and Google should use separate distribution agreements for them, just like Facebook and Microsoft.

YouTube Red

Do you remember Music Key, YouTube's subscription service that allowed you watch ad-free music videos, download them and play music videos in the background? It's now called YouTube Red and it's no longer limited to music videos.

YouTube Red is launching on October 28 in the US and it will bring the features from Music Key to all the YouTube videos. "YouTube Red lets you enjoy videos across all of YouTube without ads, while also letting you save videos to watch offline on your phone or tablet and play videos in the background, all for $9.99 a month. Your membership extends across devices and anywhere you sign into YouTube, including our recently launched Gaming app and a brand new YouTube Music app we're announcing today that will be available soon."

Just like Music Key, YouTube Red will include the Play Music subscription and Play Music subscribers will get access to YouTube Red for free. Of course, YouTube Red will need to be available in your country first.

There's another bonus feature for YouTube Red subscribers: exclusive shows and movies from some of YouTube's biggest stars. Reality shows, drama series, adventure series, scripted comedies, feature-length movies - there's something for everyone.

You can try YouTube Red for free and start a one-month trial. The service launches on October 28 in the US and Google plans to add more countries soon.

21 October 2015

How to Save Tweets for any Twitter Hashtag in a Google Sheet

Wouldn’t it be nice if Twitter had an Export button? You search for a trending #hashtag, or an old tweet, or your brand name, and all the matching tweets get saved in an Excel or Google spreadsheet. And this archive would just update itself in the background as new tweets arrive.

Meet Twitter Archiver, the simplest tool for saving tweets, forever It is a Google add-on that takes 5-minutes to setup (watch video tutorial) and will easily capture all tweets that match particular search terms in a Google Spreadsheet automatically. You can use the tool to monitor tweets around any conference hashtag, learn what people are saying about your brand, track popular search terms, save tweets from any geographic location and more.

Save all kinds of tweets with the Twitter Archiver

Save all kinds of tweets with the Twitter Archiver

How to Save Tweets in a Google Spreadsheet

To get started, install the Twitter Archiver and it will create a new Google Spreadsheet. Go to the Add-on menu, choose Twitter Archiver and select the Authorize menu. Allow the Google Sheet to access Twitter on your behalf – the app needs this permission to only fetch tweets and will never post anything to your Twitter account.

Twitter Search Rule
Once your Twitter account is authorized, go to the Twitter Archiver menu again and create a new Search Rule. If you have every used the advanced search page on Twitter, this search rule screen will be very familiar. You can create rules that mention certain search terms, look for exact phrases, find tweets by #hashtags, tweets that @mention particular Twitter users and so on.

Now that you have created your Twitter search query, click “Start Tracking” button to initialize the Twitter Archiver. Internally, the sheet will connect to Twitter and pull in the historic tweets that match your search term(s). It writes these tweets in a separate sheet inside the Google Spreadsheet. After the initial set is pulled, the archiver will poll Twitter every hour and pull in the matching tweets that have been posted since the last run.

Video Tutorial – Twitter Archiver

In addition to tweets, the Twitter Archiver app will also import other data including the tweet’s retweet & favorite count, the tweeter’s friend & followers count and whether they are verified or not. This data will help you filter out the spam Twitter users or easily surface tweets from the most influential users.

If you would like to stop archiving tweets for a particular search term, go to the Twitter Archiver menu, choose Saved Searches menu and you’ll see a list of your exisitng saved searches. Select the one you wish to delete from the dropdown and hit the Delete button.

Install Twitter Archiver

Isn’t that simple? There’s no need to create any Twitter apps nor do you have to fiddle with Google Scripts.

Twitter Archiver – Frequently Asked Questions

How can I create complex search queries?
The archiver supports all Twitter search operators. For instance, you can put min_retweets:5 in the Advanced Rule box to surface the best tweets for a search term.

Why does Twitter Archiver access to various services?
The Archiver add-on connects to an external service (Twitter API) and saves the tweets to Google Spreadsheet. Also, should a problem arise, you can email the debug logs to the developer and hence it needs permissions to send mail.

What is your Privacy Policy?
The add-on runs inside your Google Account and directly connects to Twitter. It does not share even a single byte of data with anyone, including the developer.

My Twitter Archiver is not pulling all the old tweets. Why?
The Twitter API does not provide all the historical tweets via the API. It will only return tweets that have been posted in the previous 5-7 days or last 1000 tweets. The archiver will however fetch future tweets for any terms that it is tracking.

Do I have to keep the sheet open to save the tweets?
The archiver runs on Google servers and will therefore work even while the Google Sheet is closed. You can close the sheet, turn off your computer and the archiver will continue to work.

What is the difference between free and premium editions?
The free edition of the Twitter add-on lets you track up to 2 search queries. You can track more queries in the same Google Sheet with premium. The free edition polls Twitter every hour while the premium edition pulls tweets every 15 minutes so it is more suitable for tracking terms that are generating lot of tweets (like a conference #hashtag or a live sports event).

How do I upgrade to the Premium Edition of Twitter Archiver
You can use this PayPal link to upgrade to premium. It is $39.99 one-time flat fee and you can use premium for life.

I need help. Who do I contact?
Support is only available with the premium edition. If you have gone premium, use the contact form at ctrlq.org or email amit@labnol.org with your request.

Why user Twitter Archiver when IFTTT or Zapier can also save tweets?
The Twitter Archiver save complete meta-data of the tweets in the spreadsheet, it fetches tweets at a much faster rate and you can visually create and manage search queries from inside a Google Sheet.

I am getting a message from Google saying “The service is using too much computer time for one day”
You can only make a limited number of connections to the Twitter API from your Google Account. If you are tracking too many search terms in the Google Sheet, you might get that error. However, Google will reset the limit every 24 hours so it will resume itself the next day.

How do I save my tweets in other formats like PDF?
Since the tweets are saved in a Google spreadsheet, you can easily export the search results in various formats including PDF, CSV or even publish your data set as an HTML web page (choose File -> Publish to Web inside Google Sheets). Advanced users may try this technique to create JSON or RSS Feeds from Twitter.

The story, How to Save Tweets for any Twitter Hashtag in a Google Sheet, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 21/10/2015 under Twitter, Internet.

19 October 2015

Find the Person Behind an Email Address

You have received an email from a person with whom you have never interacted earlier and thus, before you take the conversation forward, you would like to do some research on the Internet to know more about that person. How do you do this without directly asking the other person?

Google is the most obvious place for performing reverse email lookups (just Google for the email address) but if that person doesn’t have a website or if they have never used their email address on public forums, Google will be of little help.

No worries. If you only know the email address of a person and nothing more, here are some ways that may help you uncover the identity of that unknown email sender.

How to do Reverse Email Search

#1. Find the sender’s location

Location of Email Sender

Open the header of the email message and look for lines that say “Received: from” and are followed by an IP address in square brackets. If there are multiple entries, use the IP address mentioned in the last entry.

Now paste the IP address in this trace route tool and you should get a fairly good idea about the approximate location of the email sender.

#2. Reverse email search with Facebook

Facebook has a billion users and the likelihood is therefore high that the sender may also have a profile on Facebook.

Unlike LinkedIn and most other social networks, Facebook lets you search users by email address so that should make your job simpler. Just paste the email address of the person into the search box and Facebook will instantly tell you if a profile exists with that email address or not.

facebook people search

If you are able to locate that person on Facebook, download the profile picture and then upload it to Google Images (click the camera icon in the search box). This acts as a reverse image search engine so you can locate his other social profiles where he may have used the same picture.

#3. Check all the other Social Networks

You can use a service like Knowem to quickly determine if a profile with a particular username exists in any of the social networks.

If the email address of the sender is something like green_peas@hotmail.com, there’s a probability that he or she may have created accounts of some other social network using the same alias “green_peas” – put that in knowem.com to confirm.

Gmail users can install the Rapportive add-on and find the Twitter and LinkedIn profiles associated with an email address, if any of them exist. For details, see this tutorial on how to guess someone’s email address.

#4. People Search

Reverse Email Search

Finally, if none of the above tricks work, you should try a people search service like Pipl and Spokeo – both services let you perform reverse email lookups but Spokeo has a more comprehensive database than Pipl.

Other than regular web documents, Spoke also scans social networks and even the whois information of domain names to find any bit of information associated with an email address. However, some of the results returned by Spokeo are only available to subscribers.

Also see: How to check if an Email address is valid & exists

The story, Find the Person Behind an Email Address, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 16/10/2015 under Email, Internet.