Google Redesign Backs Social Effort

 by Clint Boulton

The Google search pages have been tidied up, and it’s designed to boost the use of the Google+ social tools, says Clint Boulton

A redesign of Google’s user interface would normally be big news, but this week a fairly major change has been swamped by the hype regarding Google’s move into social media.

This week, Google announced changes to the homepage, Google Search and Google Maps, but they have been largely overlooked with the arrival of Google+, a software suite aimed at raising Google’s credibility in social media – by providing a more private, controlled social experience than Facebook currently provides.

Ironically, Google+ has a huge impact on Google’s Web services, but so far it will be limited to the users who have been invited to participate in the field test.

Shifting the furniture around

The new Google homepage sports a smaller logo, with links for the Web, images, maps and other search options moved to the top, and links for advertising, business partners and company information pushed to the bottom edges of the browser.

Google hopes this redesign provides a cleaner look. What the vast majority of Google Web services users can’t see – and people on the Google+ trial can see – is that Google+ has ostensibly taken over the top toolbar in the browser.

Those who are currently involved in the trial see their Google+ profile name as the first link in the top left toolbar when they are signed into their Google accounts. Search Engine Land has screen shots.

Moreover, to the far right of this toolbar is the user’s Google+ profile picture, a drop-down navigation bar to access their profile, Google+ contacts and account settings, a notification button and a share button.

Much like Facebook’s vaunted status update capability, the share button lets users post Web links, photos, videos and their location.

Making Google+ convenient

This move, which is clean and simple enough to anyone fluent in social software, is clearly aimed at making the Google+ social tool convenient to access for participating users, though this isn’t yet addressed in the redesign blog posts.

Clean yet elegant design is also core to Google Search, which also sports some changes this week. For example, the results page will soon feature a gray bar and a blue search button to highlight the search box.

The left-hand panel of search tools, which Google made a major upgrade to in 2010, now has muted colors, with bolder colors used to highlight action buttons, tools and filters.

The URL has also been relocated directly beneath the headline for each search result, bumping the search snippets lower.

Google Maps is also getting some new design tweaks, though these may be less discernible to anyone other than Maps power users. Check out the streamlining in this search for “oysters Portland maine”  before and after the changes.

Google News

IPv6 Day Is Hailed As A Qualified Success

 by Eric Doyle

World IPv6 Day passed by quietly, so the new protocol works, but there were still low traffic volumes

Donn is glad the Internet didn’t break today.

These were the sign-off words at the end of World IPv6 Day from Donn Lee, senior network engineer for Facebook’s Network Engineering Team.

Earlier yesterday, like over 400 of his peers, Lee located the red button, closed his eyes in silent prayer to Saint Vint (Cerf) the patron saint of mobile bits and bytes, and, with a single finger, symbolically pushed the world into a new era of networking.

Without the dramatic licence, June 8 was the day the world went IPv6 for the 24 hours, between 00:00 and 23:59 GMT.

Small Tremor, Not Many Injured

It was less of a gamble than Lee makes out because months of testing assured network managers that it would work, but there was a collective intake of breath nonetheless.

“We’re pleased that we did not see any increase in the number of users seeking help from our Help Centre. The estimated 0.03 percent of users who may have been affected would have experienced slow page loads during the test,” noted Lee.

The same glorious anticlimax was echoed across the Web as the new hexadecimal IP addresses held strong. The accepted figure for those who would experience problems is 0.05 percent which equates to just over a million users. Many of these would have experienced extended wait times or complete failure to load a Web page.

Since many adversely affected users will not report the fault or may not have been online during the 24-hour period, the figure has to be accepted on trust. The test participants, however, did seem satisfied with their results.

“We carried about 65 percent more IPv6 traffic than usual, saw no significant issues and did not have to disable IPv6 access for any networks or services,” observed Google’s Lorenzo Colitti, network engineer and ‘IPv6 Samurai’. “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working together with the other participants to analyse the data we’ve collected but, at least on the surface, the first global test of IPv6 passed without incident.”

The Waiting Game Continues

This was just a test. A significant test but the reality in the UK is that few ISPs support the protocol. Entanet is one of the few who do. In a blog the ISP commissioned from Iain Shaw, managing director of leading UK buying group Brigantia, he explained the reasoning:

“The ISPs complain that hardware manufacturers have not yet developed enough supporting hardware to accommodate demand and therefore justify their investment in moving to IPv6, whilst the hardware manufacturers argue that they shouldn’t be developing the hardware until the networks can support it.”

It is a classic standoff, as ISPs and manufacturers watch and wait till one of them blinks – but fortunately, the hardware-makers have global interests so the UK market could be drip-fed products produced for the growing world market for IPv6 routers. Then it will be up to the ISPs to bite the bullet and decide how to upgrade their customers.

With IPv4 addresses running dry and none being available on the open Regional Internet Registry (RIR) market, time is running out. Version 4 and version 6 are incompatible so, for a while, dual stacks will be used to cater for the parallel systems but there is a danger that the end-users will suffer before any action is taken.

Is No News Good News?

For the time being the pain threshold is a long way off and the big news for World IPv6 Day is that there is no news – which means that the test was passed with flying colours.

“As we watched the various test sites and dashboards move to ‘green’ status for IPv6, sighs of relief were heard, followed by a sense of great satisfaction among everyone involved. twenty-four hours later, no major issues have been reported,” blogged Mark Townsley, a Cisco distinguished engineer with responsibility for the company’s IP switch-over. “All in all, World IPv6 Day seems to have gone off without a hitch.”

As a footnote, the IPv6 traffic accounted for around 0.3 percent of Internet traffic. According to Cisco’s recent Visual Networking Index, that means three petabytes of traffic from the estimated one exabyte of traffic per day – so the test was hardly exhaustive.

At Facebook, Lee reckoned that a million of the sites 250 million daily visitors (0.4 percent) connected via IPv6.