Morning News Update, November 4 2010

  • Google released an Apache module that auto tunes performance
    Google has announced that they are launching a module for the Apache HTTP server called mod_pagespeed, that will automatically tune several properties to optimize page load speed. I haven’t tried it out yet, but will definitely do so.
    Amongst other things, mod_pagespeed will:

    • recompress images
    • modify cache lifetime for static elements
    • make changes to pages built by CMS

    I don’t know if I’ll see a great performance on this server, as I already took care of a lot of speed improvements myself, but this module is a great way to implement common best-practices without having to dig into Apache’s configuration too much.
    Read more and download the module on the Page Speed Google Code website.

  • Facebook Mobile Announcements
    Just a short summary of what Facebook announced yesterday, there’s already tons of coverage out there:

    • Facebook for iPhone updated (as I hoped in my tweet just minutes before the event started).
    • Facebook for Android updated.
    • Single Sign-On for mobile platforms.
      So you don’t have to deal with entering your password in every app that uses Facebook connect.
    • Facebook Places API Update. Full read and write access for third parties.
    • Deals. This sounds kind of like Groupon mixed with Foursquare.
      Could be very interesting, once it reaches the critical mass of user adoption.
    • No dedicated iPad App in the near future.
      Although I’ve read about speculations of a HTML5 based website/app that could offer the same experience on multiple tablet based platforms.

YQL – Yahoo! Query Language

YQL - Yahoo! Query Language Logo

The Yahoo! Query Language is an expressive SQL-like language that lets you query, filter, and join data across Web services.

YQL’s possibilities are virtually endless, say you want to get specific Flickr Images containing a defined word in the title, or you want to geo-code some addresses on the fly. YQL makes those tasks extremely easy by just forming a simple query that gathers the data. Output can be switched between JSON and XML, so you can choose whatever fits best for your application.

The best way to go about using a YQL service is as follows:

  • Construct your query using the YQL Console and try out if it gives you the right result.
  • Copy the REST Query URL the console gives you at the bottom and insert it into your web app. There are even examples in the documentation on how to use REST queries in different programming environments.

Let me give you an example of such a query:

select * from upcoming.events where woeid in (select woeid from geo.places where text="Vienna, Austria")

This will give you an XML response listing all upcoming events in Vienna, Austria using the Yahoo! Upcoming API by calling the following REST URL:

http://query.yahooapis.com/v1/public/yql?q=select%20*%20from%20upcoming.events%20where%20woeid%20in%20(select%20woeid%20from%20geo.places%20where%20text%3D%22Vienna%2C%20Austria%22)%0A

This service makes it very easy to use different web APIs without knowing their respective syntax and it becomes extremely convenient when you start joining together different webservices to get a combined result.
I’ll give you one more example here. This gets all the Foursquare places around a particular address sorted by their distance by combining geo.placefinder and Foursquare :

USE "http://www.datatables.org/foursquare/foursquare.venues.xml" as venues;
SELECT group.venue.name, group.venue.address, group.venue.stats.herenow, group.venue.distance FROM venues WHERE (geolat, geolong) IN (SELECT latitude, longitude FROM geo.placefinder WHERE text="koenigsklostergasse 7, wien") | sort(field="group.venue.distance", descending="false");

Click here to try this query in the YQL Console.

The really neat thing is that YQL can be used commercially and there even is a fairly decent rate limit applied per IP address that should make it useful in production.

Usage Information:

  • YQL can be used for commercial purposes.
  • If we’re going to shut down YQL, we will give you at least 6 months notice with an announcement on YDN and in our forum.
  • YQL has a performance uptime target of over 99.5%.
  • YQL relies on the correct operation of the Web services and content providers it accesses.

Rate Limits:

  • Per application limit (identified by your Access Key): 100,000 calls per day.
  • Per IP limits: /v1/public/*: 1,000 calls per hour; /v1/yql/*: 10,000 calls per hour.
  • All rates are subject to change.
  • YQL rate limits are subject to the rate limits of other Yahoo! and 3rd-party Web services.

Some resources:

Google phasing out support for older browsers

I just received this email from Google and I must say I’m applauding to their decision!

Dear Google Apps admin,â??

In order to continue to improve our products and deliver more sophisticated features and performance, we are harnessing some of the latest improvements in web browser technology. This includes faster JavaScript processing and new standards like HTML5.  As a result, over the course of 2010, we will be phasing out support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 â??as well as other older browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers.

We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010.  After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.

Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.

Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser.  We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.

In 2009, the Google Apps team delivered more than 100 improvements to enhance your product experience.  We are aiming to beat that in 2010 and continue to deliver the best and most innovative collaboration products for businesses.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely,
The Google Apps team

In short Google Docs & Google Sites will only support the following browsers from March 1st, 2010 (with Google Mail & Google Calendar following later that year):

  • Internet Explorer 7.0 and above
  • Firefox 3.0 and above
  • Google Chrome 4.0 and above
  • Safari 3.0 and above

Let’s hope this move creates enough momentum to get people to stop using those shitty old browsers that always give me hours (or even days) of headache, whenever I have to make sure a site is cross-browser compatible. I might even predict that this dreaded term of “cross browser compatibility” may soon be only a distant memory from the past, as all the latest browsers pretty much agree on how to render HTML and treat the DOM (and therefore JavaScript) :)