Google Maps becomes more bike friendly

It may be cyclists The only beings on this planet that still ask others for directions. This is because there is a set of necessary bike-specific knowledge that you can only get from other cyclists. How steep is this hill? What do the bike lanes look like on this road? The app usually can’t tell you these things.

Now, Google is adding some new features to Maps that will I tell you these things. The improved view for cyclists includes more bike lane data (when available) showing where bike lanes are, how heavy vehicular traffic is, and whether your chosen path includes a steep hill. It can also warn you about stairs along the way, or tell you that you have some gravel sections to look forward to. Maps will also only provide detailed bike directions.

Cyclists will now have to find another excuse to talk to each other. Perhaps they can complain about the lack of investment in transportation infrastructure.

Google is also adding realistic 3D views of landmarks and more accurate tools for sharing your location with others. Earlier this year, the company introduced its Maps feature called Immersive View, a Street View-enhanced setting that lets you zoom in and out around the world with unprecedented freedom. Google’s new milestones aren’t exactly that, and the company hasn’t said when the feature will actually appear, but it does seem like a step in that direction.

Along with updating the maps, some changes are coming to the Google Play Store, the official repository of apps on Android devices. The updates are meant to clean up some of the Store’s hateful app practices. This includes blocking similar apps that try to trick people into downloading them, removing vaccine misinformation, and limiting full-screen ads in apps. Although the company’s changes may help make ads somewhat less annoying, Google still isn’t ready to get rid of tracking cookies entirely. Almost all Play Store updates will be published by August 31st.

Got TikTok

Obviously, no social platform is interested in staying on course anymore. While every other app is busy trying to be TikTok, the Chinese platform has been eager to turn things around on its own. The app kicked off its entry into gaming last November, when it announced a partnership with game developer Zynga. (You know, who Farmville Now, as spotted by TechCrunch, it appears that TikTok has quietly rolled out some games on its platform. They were created by a few different developers, and none of them are from Zynga – for now at least. Games are a small part of the TikTok platform, available if a user clicks on videos posted by someone who has attached a game to the upload. The game plays there “inside” the person’s video.

TikTok has not officially announced the feature or comment on whether it will be rolled out more widely. But expansion is certainly possible, even if TikTok has a history of somewhat promising experiences on shelves like the Store tab.

Yes, YouTube wants to be TikTok too

In September 2020, YouTube launched the Shorts feature, which allows users to create quick videos that can be played in an infinite swipe. It was a successful enough effort by Juggernaut for video, although it didn’t quite capture the zeitgeist like TikTok. Now, YouTube is trying to make it easier to post short films. On Thursday, YouTube posted an update on its support page that it allows users to convert parts of longer YouTube videos into 60-second clips instead of just creating a short clip on its own. Creators can include links that take viewers to the longer version of the video, keeping more eyeballs on the platform.

In other news “Everything is TokTok now”…

Instagram gets reel

Even if you don’t use Instagram much, you’ve likely heard about the controversial Reels feature. It’s a tab full of streaming videos, often from accounts you don’t follow. It’s a stark tear of TikTok, even with some of the same songs and sound effects you’ll find on the popular social platform. And now Instagram has let him know that he plans to go all the way to full-screen loop videos.

Last week, Instagram’s parent company Meta said it would change its sites’ algorithms to be more like TikTok. Now, this has been carried over to Instagram and Reels. The backlash from users was swift. The reels proved very unpopular, and even managed to piss off a Kardashian or two. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended TikTokification for their apps, telling users that the company’s usage data shows that this experience is what they really want anyway. (On an earnings call, Zuckerberg said he expects AI-powered recommendations to make up half of your Instagram feed by next year.)

Mosseri walked back some his words After only one day. In an interview with journalist Casey Newton at CurriculumMosseri said Instagram would “take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to go forward.” This doesn’t seem to translate into any major change in plan, and will likely result in the rollout being slowed slightly — just enough to give the hype time to subside.

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