Why I’m Watching Deep Linking In Mobile

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The post Why I’m Watching Deep Linking In Mobile appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

first web page

The first ever web page, created by Sir Tim Berners Lee to explain, naturally, the WWW.

We are at a turning point in the mobile app ecosystem where deeplinking is becoming a priority and not just a feature.URX blog

This week marks the beginning of a journey I’m taking to understand “deep linking” in mobile. I’ve kept one eye on the space for some time, but it’s clearly heating up. Last Spring three major mobile players – Facebook, Google, and Apple – all announced significant developments in deep linking. Twitter has also fortified its deep linking capabilities of late, as has Yahoo.

Most of these major players are supporting deep linking for commercial reasons – their business is driven by advertising, and a huge cut of mobile advertising revenues are in turn driven by app installs. Marketers want to be able to link directly to specific places inside their apps, so they can drive qualified leads to convert (and measure effectiveness/optimize campaigns). To be clear, these are the ads that show up inside apps on your mobile phone encouraging you to download a free game or service. These install ads make up a huge percentage of mobile advertising revenue, though it’s hard to find hard figures for exactly what percentage. Current estimates range between 30 and 50% - either way, that makes them the largest category of mobile advertising, period.

This all reminds me of how search played out on the desktop Web – search was a huge percentage of overall “online advertising” revenues in the early days, but it took a while before analysts started breaking search out as a category independent of “online advertising.” Twenty years into search, that category still represents more than 40% of all online ad revenues. So yep, I’m watching deep linking, because I think there’s a big there there.

But there’s a funny hitch to the evolution of linking inside our mobile ecosystem. On the Web, the link is pretty much the atomic unit of value – from the get go, *anyone* could create a link from one web page to another. The web was built on links, and in the early days those links were built, for the most part, by *users* of the web – people like you and me. We built link-heavy websites, we blogged and linked profusely, we emailed links around, and in doing so we connected static web pages one to another, all in the name of navigation, discovery, and ease of use. It was only later, as search rose to prominence and people started to realize the commercial value of links, that the SEO industry became a commercial monster. In short, linking behavior predated commercial exploitation.

But in the mobile web, commercial exploitation is driving linking behavior, and I find that fascinating. Certainly there’s any number of reasons for this, from Apple’s early iOS design decisions to the fact that apps are, for the most part, personalized experiences that are not driven by the early web’s model of static pages meant for consumption by any and all comers. Regardless, I’ve got a hunch about deep linking - I’m hoping it’s the seedbed for a major shift in how we experience mobile computing. For now, mobile deep linking is the purview of developers and savvy mobile marketers. But I think in time this may change. I wrote a bit about that hunch here:

…while developer-driven deep links are great, the next step in mobile won’t really take off until average folks like you and I can easily create and share our own links within apps. Once the “consumers” start creating links, mobile will finally break out of this ridiculous pre-web phase it’s been stuck in for the past seven or so years, and we’ll see a mobile web worthy of its potential.

I imagine a time when applications encourage their users to share links from inside apps, and everyone finds that sharing behavior will create a positive feedback loop similar to the one that drove the rise of the original Web. From there, any number of innovations will arise, speculating on what those might be is worthy of several future posts.

For now, I’ve come across a crop of startups focusing on deep linking as well various industry efforts in the field (I have Semil Shah and Roy Bahat, among others, to thank for my early lessons in the space). In the coming weeks, I’m meeting with many of them, including URX, Kahuna, DeeplinkAppboy and several stealth startups, and of course larger players like Twitter. As I get smart, and if I find interesting stuff, I’ll report back here. In the meantime, if you’ve got any suggestions for me, please leave them in comments or ping me on Twitter. Thanks!

The post Why I’m Watching Deep Linking In Mobile appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

August 19th 2014 Android, apple, Facebook, Google

Offline Android Games

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Google Play Store has a collection of games that work offline. It’s a hand-picked list of free and paid games like Despicable Me, Asphalt 8, Dots, Minecraft, Riptide GP, Temple Run 2 and more.

“Whether you’re in airplane mode or stuck with zero bars, all these games require is your thumb. Now you can play your heart out from anywhere with our selection of off-line games,” says Google.

Maybe Google should allow users to create their own collections they could share with other people. A Google search reveals a lot of Google Play collections: Get Things Done, Essential Games, Abstract Puzzlers, MMORPGs, Hidden Gems, Mood Boosters, Picture Taking, For The Power User and more. There are also music collections, movie collections, books collections, Newsstand collections.

August 3rd 2014 Android

How Many Android Apps You’ve Installed?

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You can find a list of all the Android apps you’ve ever installed from the Play Store using your current Google account in both the Google Play Store app (My Apps > All) and the Play Store site. For some reason, the site doesn’t use pagination and doesn’t load content as you scroll, so you need to wait until Google displays a long list of apps.

Google doesn’t offer a way to filter the list of apps you’ve installed or downloaded, but you can use your browser’s find-in-page feature (Ctrl+F or Cmd+F for Mac). The list is sorted alphabetically in the Play Store site, while the Play Store app displays recently installed apps first.

Google Play doesn’t even show the number of Play Store apps you’ve installed on your Android devices over the years. If you’re curious to find the actual number, go to Google Dashboard and scroll to Play Store.

The Play Store app lets you remove apps from the list, but the Dashboard number is still accurate.

August 3rd 2014 Android

Google Audio History

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A recent update to the Google Search app for Android added enhanced support for the “OK Google” hotword. If you go to the settings, tap “Voice”, then “OK Google Detection”, you can enable “from any screen” and “from lock screen”. This way, you can say “OK Google” to start a voice search or action when the screen is on or the device is charging and even from the lock screen. Right now, this feature is limited to English/US and requires Android KitKat.

When you enable these features, Google asks you to say “OK Google” 3 times to train the speech recognition software and it also enables Audio History. “When you use voice activation commands such as ‘OK Google’ or touching a microphone icon, a recording of the next thing you say, plus a few seconds before, may be used and stored by Google and associated with your Google Account to help recognize your voice and improve speech recognition.”

Your recordings are available online at the Google Audio History page. “Only you can see your history. Some items may take up to an hour to display,” informs Google. You can delete the recordings, play them or click the Google search links. Click the “gear” drop-down menu, click “delete” and you can pick from “past hour”, “past day”, “past week”, “last 4 weeks”, “the beginning of time” (the same options that are used by Chrome’s “clear browsing data” feature).

You can disable Google Audio History from the Android app’s settings, but this also disables “OK Google” detection from any screen or from the lock screen. “When Audio History is off, voice searches will be stored using anonymous identifiers and won’t be saved to your Audio History, even if you’re signed in to your Google Account,” informs Google.

“Google uses your Audio History to: learn the sound of your voice, learn how you pronounce words and phrases, recognize when you say ‘Ok Google’ and improve speech recognition across Google products that use your voice.”

The new Audio History feature seems to replace Personalized Voice Recognition, an opt-in setting added back in 2010. “If you opt into personalized recognition, we begin to associate the recordings of the words that you ask us to recognize with your Google account. We then automatically use these words to build a speech model specifically for you. This speech model enables us to deliver greater recognition accuracy,” explained Google back then.

While it makes sense for Google to improve the voice search history and build personalized voice models, I can’t find any connection between the improved “OK Google” detection, which works offline, and the Audio History online service. It’s probably an artificial requirement, just like the Google Now feature, which requires enabling location services in iOS, but not when using Android.

July 11th 2014 Android

Connected TV Market Crosses 1B Devices As Google Pins Its Hopes On Android TV

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atv-framed A new report from Strategy Analytics puts the global market for connected TV devices at over 1 billion currently installed units, which include smart TVs, set-top boxes like the Apple TV, game consoles, connected Blu-ray players and more. The market is predicted to double in size between now and 2018, reaching the 2 billion mark, with smart TVs carrying embedded platforms as the main segment… Read More

July 10th 2014 Android, Google

Chromecast Adds Support for Android Screen Mirroring

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As previously announced at Google I/O, Chromecast is about to become a lot more functional. The latest version of the Chromecast app for Android (that’s version 1.7) adds support for screen mirroring. The feature is still in beta and it’s limited to a few high-end Android phones and tablets running Android KitKat 4.4.1+: Nexus 4, 5, 7 (second generation only) and 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, Note 3 and 10, HTC One M7, LG G2, G3 and G Pro 2. Google promises to add more devices to the list.

“To start mirroring, simply select ‘Cast Screen’ from the navigation drawer in the Chromecast app and select your Chromecast device. On Nexus devices, this feature is also available through the quick settings menu,” explains Google.

Hopefully, Android L will add native support for screen mirroring, so you’ll no longer have to use the Chromecast app.

This screenshot shows screen casting in action. Obviously, the entire screen is mirrored, including the on-screen navigation buttons, if your device has them.

July 10th 2014 Android

Facebook Tests Android L-Style Lock Screen Notifications

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fb-notifications A new update for the test group of Facebook for Android users briefly enabled lockscreen notifications, at least for new message activity, before a later update today seems to have disabled the feature. The notifications looked very similar to the lock screen notifications Google showed off at I/O this year, one of the new upcoming features of Android L, the next major update for… Read More

July 9th 2014 Android, Facebook, Mobile

From Google TV to Android TV

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I was curios to find how Google plans to restart the Google TV project, so I checked the developer sites for Google TV and Android TV to find some differences. Android TV seems to be a simplified Google TV built along the lines of Apple TV.

Android TV

Google TV

1. Navigation: from keyboards and mice to remote controls

“Google TV devices always include a keyboard and a pointing device that controls the cursor. Many users will have these next to them as they view TV. The two may be combined into a single physical device, and this device may also include a mouse controller.” Android TV has a more limited scope: “On a TV device, users navigate with controls on a remote control device, using either a directional pad (D-pad) or arrow keys.” While keyboards are still supported, they’re no longer that useful.

2. Avoiding text input

While Google TV devices included keyboards, Android TV recommends developers to avoid text input. “Avoid making users enter text whenever possible, and use voice interfaces when you require text input.”

3. Avoiding text altogether

Google TV’s dev pages suggested to “limit each paragraph to no more than 90 words and break text into small chunks that users can quickly scan”. Android TV’s guidelines tell developers to “avoid using on-screen text to convey information and purpose. Tell your story with pictures and sound.”

4. From computing to content consumption

Google TV included a browser with Flash support and encouraged developers to optimize their sites for the platform. Android TV tells a different story: “The TV is an entertainment interface, not a computer or mobile device. Optimize for activities that put content at the center: from the casual posture of movie-watching, to immersive gameplay, to hanging out with friends in a living room.” And another thing: “We discourage including web browsing in games for Android TV. The television set is not well-suited for browsing, either in terms of display or control scheme.”

5. Simplicity

One of the main issues with Google TV was that it was complicated to use. “Android TV is simple and magical. It’s all about finding and enjoying content and apps with the least amount of friction.”

Google TV’s goal was to bring the Web to the TV. That didn’t work well: content providers blocked Google TV, input devices were clunky and people didn’t like browsing the Web on their TVs. So now Android TV tries to bring the Android ecosystem to the TV: the focus is on content, immersive interfaces and simple navigation.

Here’s the 2010 introduction video to Google TV:

July 7th 2014 Android

Samsung Gear Live Review: Samsung’s Smartwatch First Mover Advantage Helps Its Android Wear Effort

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IMG_9828 Samsung is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch, and the company arguably has a head start since it’s been making its own smartwatches since last year. The Gear Live owes much to its predecessors, which have run both a modified version of Android and Samsung’s own Tizen, but it manages to feel like much more than an older sibling’s hand-me-downs.… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile

LG G Watch Review: This Early Android Wear Watch Could Use A Bit More Time To Bake

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IMG_9834 LG is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch. Their hardware runs on Google’s smartwatch platform, which is pretty locked down in terms of what kind of customizations Google allows OEM to make. But there’s still plenty of room to shine – and fall short – when it comes to hardware design. LG’s watch seems to have missed the mark in some key… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile