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Original author: 
Peter Bright

Aurich Lawson (with apologies to Bill Watterson)

Google announced today that it is forking the WebKit rendering engine on which its Chrome browser is based. The company is naming its new engine "Blink."

The WebKit project was started by Apple in 2001, itself a fork of a rendering engine called KHTML. The project includes a core rendering engine for handling HTML and CSS (WebCore), a JavaScript engine (JavaScriptCore), and a high-level API for embedding it into browsers (WebKit).

Though known widely as "WebKit," Google Chrome has used only WebCore since its launch in late 2008. Apple's Safari originally used the WebKit wrapper and now uses its successor, WebKit2. Many other browsers use varying amounts of the WebKit project, including the Symbian S60 browser, the BlackBerry browser, the webOS browser, and the Android browser.

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Outlook.com for Android

Microsoft has just released a dedicated Android app for users of its redesigned mail service, Outlook.com, which should be good news for those with certain Android phones that are incompatible with the service's Exchange ActiveSync protocol. Unfortunately, the first impressions from the app aren't great — sure, it offers important essentials like push notifications, multiple account support, and calendar and contact sync, but its user interface is uninspired at best, and outdated at worst. Unlike the impressive, minimalist look of Outlook.com, the app looks like it belongs on Android 2.3, Gingerbread.

Beyond the new Android app, the Outlook.com team has added a few important new features to the webmail client. Gmail staples like...

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Photo

SportVision's broadcast technology, LiveLine, has just won an Emmy award for bringing real-time, on-screen sports metrics to competitive yacht racing. With cooperation from America's Cup, LiveLine has left its geostationary reference points on the ground and taken to the air using their advanced GPS and camera stabilization systems.

LiveLine faced a new challenge while developing the technology — constant motion. The process used for field sports requires geostationary reference points, while yachting is typically filmed from inside a helicopter. LiveLine combines military grade GPS receivers, high-powered radios, and gyroscopically stabilized cameras to triangulate the distance between competitors. Once this data is transmitted to the...

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CWmike writes "The internet is no stranger to crime, writes corporate investigator Brandon Gregg. From counterfeit and stolen products, to illegal drugs, stolen identities and weapons, nearly anything can be purchased online with a few clicks of the mouse. The online black market not only can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection, but the whole process of ordering illicit goods and services is alarmingly easy and anonymous, with multiple marketplaces to buy or sell anything you want. Gregg started with $1000 and a took journey into the darker side of the Internet using two tools: Bitcoin and the Tor Bundle."


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ascii art (ONETRUEFAN.COM)

Adding ASCII signatures in a site's HTML is a way to leave a personal stamp while also giving a nod to one of the most basic ways to create visuals on a computer. A practitioner himself, developer Victor Widell wanted to take a peek at what kind of text-based art other websites might be carrying. The solution? Widell created a script that would download sites from the Alexa one-million top domains list, intelligently search for ASCII art, and present the results. Widell has put together his favorite examples, and even made the code to perform the task itself available on GitHub. If you'd like to take a look, you can find the hidden gems here.

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I've been an eBay user since 1999, and I still frequent eBay as both buyer and seller. In that time, eBay has transformed from a place where geeks sell broken laser pointers to each other, into a global marketplace where businesses sell anything and everything to customers. If you're looking for strange or obscure items, things almost nobody sells new any more, or grey market items for cheap, eBay is still not a bad place to look.

At least for me, eBay still basically works, after all these years. But one thing hasn't changed: the eBay website has always been difficult to use and navigate. They've updated the website recently to remove some of the more egregious cruft, but it's still way too complicated. I guess I had kind of accepted old, complex websites as the status quo, because I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until I compared the experience on the eBay website with the experience of the eBay apps for mobile and tablet.

eBay Website

Ebay-web

eBay Mobile App

Ebay-iphone-app

eBay Tablet App

Ebay-ipad-app

Unless you're some kind of super advanced eBay user, you should probably avoid the website. The tablet and mobile eBay apps are just plain simpler, easier, and faster to use than the eBay website itself. I know this intuitively from using eBay on my devices and computers, but there's also usability studies with data to prove it, too. To be fair, eBay is struggling under the massive accumulated design debt of a website originally conceived in the late 90s, whereas their mobile and tablet app experiences are recent inventions. It's not so much that the eBay apps are great, but that the eBay website is so very, very bad.

The implied lesson here is to embrace constraints. Having a limited, fixed palette of UI controls and screen space is a strength. A strength we used to have in early Mac and Windows apps, but seem to have lost somewhere along the way as applications got more powerful and complicated. And it's endemic on the web as well, where the eBay website has been slowly accreting more and more functionality since 1999. The nearly unlimited freedom that you get in a modern web browser to build whatever UI you can dream up, and assume as large or as small a page as you like, often ends up being harmful to users. It certainly is in the case of eBay.

If you're starting from scratch, you should always design the UI first, but now that we have such great mobile and tablet device options, consider designing your site for the devices that have the strictest constraints first, too. This is the thinking that led to mobile first design strategy. It helps you stay focused on a simple and uncluttered UI that you can scale up to bigger and beefier devices. Maybe eBay is just going in the wrong direction here; design simple things that scale up; not complicated things you need to scale down.

Above all else, simplify! But why stop there? If building the mobile and tablet apps first for a web property produces a better user experience – why do we need the website, again? Do great tablet and phone applications make websites obsolete?

Why are apps better than websites?

  1. They can be faster.
    No browser overhead of CSS and HTML and JavaScript hacks, just pure native UI elements retrieving precisely the data they need to display what the user requests.
  2. They use simple, native UI controls.
    Rather than imagineering whatever UI designers and programmers can dream up, why not pick from a well understood palette of built-in UI controls on that tablet or phone, all built for optimal utility and affordance on that particular device?

  3. They make better use of screen space.
    Because designers have to fit just the important things on 4 inch diagonal mobile screens, or 10 inch diagonal tablet screens, they're less likely to fill the display up with a bunch of irrelevant noise or design flourishes (or, uh, advertisements). Just the important stuff, thanks!

  4. They work better on the go and even offline.
    In a mobile world, you can't assume that the user has a super fast, totally reliable Internet connection. So you learn to design apps that download just the data they need at the time they need to display it, and have sane strategies for loading partial content and images as they arrive. That's assuming they arrive at all. You probably also build in some sort of offline mode, too, when you're on the go and you don't have connectivity.

Why are websites better than apps?

  1. They work on any device with a browser.
    Websites are as close to universal as we may ever get in the world of software. Provided you have a HTML5 compliant browser, you can run an entire universe of "apps" on your device from day zero, just by visiting a link, exactly the same way everyone has on the Internet since 1995. You don't have to hope and pray a development community emerges and is willing to build whatever app your users need.

  2. They don't have to be installed.
    Applications, unlike websites, can't be visited. They aren't indexed by Google. Nor do applications magically appear on your device; they must be explicitly installed. Even if installation is a one-click affair, your users will have to discover the app before they can even begin to install it. And once installed, they'll have to manage all those applications like so many Pokemon.

  3. They don't have to be updated.
    Websites are always on the infinite version. But once you have an application installed on your device, how do you update it to add features or fix bugs? How do users even know if your app is out of date or needs updating? And why should they need to care in the first place?

  4. They offer a common experience.
    If your app and the website behave radically differently, you're forcing users to learn two different interfaces. How many different devices and apps do you plan to build, and how consistent will they be? You now have a community divided among many different experiences, fragmenting your user base. But with a website that has a decent mobile experience baked in, you can deliver a consistent, and hopefully consistently great, experience across all devices to all your users.

I don't think there's a clear winner, only pros and cons. But apps will always need websites, if for nothing else other than a source of data, as a mothership to phone home to, and a place to host the application downloads for various devices.

And if you're obliged to build a website, why not build it out so it offers a reasonable experience on a mobile or tablet web browser, too? I have nothing against a premium experience optimized to a particular device, but shouldn't all your users have a premium experience? eBay's problem here isn't mobile or tablets per se, but that they've let their core web experience atrophy so badly. I understand that there's a lot of inertia around legacy eBay tools and long time users, so it's easy for me to propose radical changes to the website here on the outside. Maybe the only way eBay can redesign at all is on new platforms.

Will mobile and tablet apps kill websites? A few, certainly. But only the websites stupid enough to let them.

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Kindle Fire Amazon Appstore

Mobile apps are no stranger to issues of cloning, and Amazon is trying to help developers avoid having their work copied by advising them to obfuscate their code. In a post on its developer blog, Amazon provides a quick walkthrough to show developers how to go about modifying their code so that it's difficult to reverse engineer. Using a program called Proguard it's possible to not only make code hard for a person or machine to understand, but to also both shrink and optimize it.

The process looks relatively quick and painless, though Amazon points out that certain aspects of the code can't be obfuscated, including the app store's newly implemented in-app purchasing feature. In that case, Amazon says that the code needs to be clean so...

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The teaser trailer for Warballoon Games’ Star Command has landed, giving us a glimpse into the fantastic pixel art of their upcoming spaceship-management game.

Star Command allows players to take control of a starship in humanities distant future. Players build their ship, staff and manage their crew, explore the galaxy, battle other species, discover far off worlds and attempt to control the universe.

The game is scheduled to launch this summer on iOS and Android devices, but the developers have plans for a future, “Ultimate” PC version as well, which would include “all the campaigns, all the expansions, [and] possible multiplayer.” I can not wait!

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It's a commonly held myth that to attain high rankings in your category on Google's Play Store (formerly Android Market) you need at least tens of thousands of dollars to have the slightest hope in hitting the top 10. For an indie developer self-publishing, it can seem a formidable challenge to reach those top spots. Let me assure you though -- it's possible to scale those charts without actually spending a penny on your first ...

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gomo-main-logo

DudaMobile, the DIY mobile website maker, fresh off news of its $6 million Series B, is today announcing a partnership with Google. Going forward, Google’s GoMo service, which launched last November to refer business customers to development shops that could take their website mobile, is now offering a mobile website builder that’s powered by DudaMobile.

To be clear, prior to today, the GoMo website provided a list of vendors, but never actually integrated any of their tools into the service. Now, GoMo has expanded its offering via this exclusive DudaMobile partnership, and will offer free mobile websites to businesses across the U.S. (Sorry, world.)

The new website builder, available now on Google’s Howtogomo.com, offers templates, site hosting, and even free premium features like “click-to-call” and mobile maps, all of which will remain free for a year.

DudaMobile and Google worked together previously on a GoMo-sponsored event in Mobile, Ala. which saw more than 450 local businesses build mobile-friendly sites using DudaMobile’s platform. According to DudaMobile’s Chief Marketing Officer, it was this event that opened the doors for today’s collaboration.

“The joint effort between DudaMobile and Google was a no-brainer. Google is on a mission to educate the world on how to GoMo, and DudaMobile’s platform allows businesses to go mobile literally in minutes,” Mink said of the partnership.

The startup, which started off as a white label offering, rolled out its self-serve platform in August 2011, allowing anyone to instantly create mobile websites. However, one of the company’s more unique features was its ability to keep the mobile site in sync with changes made to the desktop version. The resulting mobile version works on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices.

As of March, DudaMobile announced it broke 1.4 million websites built and hosted on its platform, and that, since the beginning of 2012, its user base has grown by more than 100,000 new users each month. The Google partnership, clearly, will help those numbers skyrocket.

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