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ProgrammableWeb

Google Spurns Chrome Extensions Developers with Deprecation of Web Store Payments API

In January of 2020, Google discovered a wave of fraudulent transactions that were taking place on the Chrome Web Store. As a result of these actions, Google suspended the ability to publish or update any commercial Chrome extensions and later suspended use of the platform’s payment API while their security teams looked for a solution. On Monday Google surprised everyone by announcing the deprecation of the Chrome Web Store API.

The Chrome Web Store API is used by Chrome extensions publishers to allow for them to process subscription payments and one-time fees. By removing access to this API, developers will need to transition to third-party payment services to process these transactions. Sadly, for extension publishers, the hassle of switching payment processors is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is no way for publishers to migrate their userbase to a new payment system, and Google doesn’t provide access to user email addresses. This means that developers will have to find a way to notify their users of the change and hope that they sign up again for the same level of service.

Google provided a timeline for the changes:

Developers are now officially on the clock, with January 2021 looming as the time when all payments will be disabled via the API. 

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">KevinSundstrom</a>

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ProgrammableWeb

Shopify API Updates Focus on Merchandising and Order Fulfillment

Shopify has published its January 2020 API features roundup. These API features roundups are used by the company to help developers understand changes and updates to the latest Shopify API releases. The latest roundup focuses on merchandising and order fulfillment.

The latest API release improved fulfillment services through the FulfillmentOrders resource. The resource represents either an item or a group of items in an order that are fulfilled at the same location. Through the resource, apps can retrieve a list of fulfillment orders, retrieve a specific fulfillment order, cancel a fulfillment order, mark a fulfillment order as incomplete or move a fulfillment order to a new location. The resource is a vast improvement over the fulfillment_create webhook used in previous API releases.

Additionally, the latest release includes an Order Editing API. Developers have long asked for this feature. Through the API, edits can be made to line items within an order. The edits are made through the GraphQL API and use a begin/edit/commit pattern. To introduce developers to the new API, Shopify published a reference guide.

Shopify also introduced a new Smart Collections endpoint. The new endpoint, /collection/:id/products.json, prevents developers from needing to page through collects to uncover with products are associated with a specific Smart Collection. A single hit to this new endpoint will uncover all products in a given Smart Collection.

Further, Shopify is upping its product media capabilities. Traditionally, merchants were only able to show static pictures of their products. Now, merchants can display videos, 3D models, and augmented reality experiences when showing products to buyers in storefronts. To accommodate these new media types, Products in GraphQL now have a media connection, with mediaContenttypes including image, video, external video, and model3D.

Finally, the Discounts GraphQL API now supports automatic discounts. When an order hits a predetermined threshold, the applicable discount is automatically applied. To introduce developers to this feature, Shopify published a reference guide. Check out the roundup for more details.

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">ecarter</a>

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ProgrammableWeb

Walmart Introduces API-Driven Advertising Platform

On January 3rd, 2020, Walmart announced the Walmart Advertising Partners program, which is accompanied by a new advertising API and four initial advertising partners. The announcement of an API-driven platform moves Walmart away from a managed service approach and provides advertisers’ more direct access to their campaigns.

The announcement highlighted four initial API partners: Flywheel Digital, Kenshoo, Pacvue, and Teikametrics. Walmart is leaning on these partners to help meet the needs of a broader set of advertisers. The announcement of the platform noted that initial partnerships were based partially on experience in deep search. Walmart is hoping that through this new API the company’s partners will be able to “maximize campaigns with rich data insights – based on both in-store and online data – at scale.”

AdExchanger recently interviewed Lex Josephs, VP of sales and media partnerships at Walmart Media Group (WMG) about the new advertising platform. Josephs noted that Walmart views this announcement to be the “first pillar” of the companies new advertising strategy. So although this new API is currently limited to select partners, it will be interesting to follow the growth of the platform over the next several years. 

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">KevinSundstrom</a>

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IEEE Spectrum

Back To The Elusive Future

In the January issue, Spectrum’s editors make every effort to bring the coming year’s important technologies to your attention. Some we get right, others less so. Twelve years ago, IEEE Fellow, Marconi Prize winner, and beloved Spectrum columnist Robert W. Lucky wrote about the difficulty of predicting the technological future. We’ve reprinted his wise words here.

Why are we engineers so bad at making predictions?

In countless panel discussions on the future of technology, I’m not sure I ever got anything right. As I look back on technological progress, I experience first retrospective surprise, then surprise that I’m surprised, because it all crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. How can something like Google feel so inevitable and yet be impossible to predict?

I’m filled with wonder at all that we engineers have accomplished, and I take great communal pride in how we’ve changed the world in so many ways. Decades ago I never dreamed we would have satellite navigation, computers in our pockets, the Internet, cellphones, or robots that would explore Mars. How did all this happen, and what are we doing for our next trick?

The software pioneer Alan Kay has said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and that’s what we’ve been busy doing. The public understands that we’re creating the future, but they think that we know what we’re doing and that there’s a master plan in there somewhere. However, the world evolves haphazardly, bumbling along in unforeseen directions. Some seemingly great inventions just don’t take hold, while overlooked innovations proliferate, and still others are used in unpredicted ways.

When I joined Bell Labs, so many years ago, there were two great development projects under way that together were to shape the future—the Picturephone and the millimeter waveguide. The waveguide was an empty pipe, about 5 centimeters in diameter, that would carry across the country the 6-megahertz analog signals from those ubiquitous Picturephones.

Needless to say, this was an alternative future that never happened. Our technological landscape is littered with such failed bets. For decades engineers would say that the future of communications was video telephony. Now that we can have it for free, not many people even want it.

The millimeter waveguide never happened either. Out of the blue, optical fiber came along, and that was that. Oh, and analog didn’t last. Gordon Moore made his observation about integrated-circuit progress in the midst of this period, but of course we had a hard time believing it.

Analog switching overstayed its tenure because engineers didn’t quite believe the irresistible economics of Moore’s Law. Most engineers used the Internet in the early years and knew it was growing at an exponential rate. But, no, it would never grow up to be a big, reliable, commercial network.

The irony at Bell Labs is that we had some of the finest engineers in the world then, working on things like the integrated circuit and the Internet—in other words, engineers who were responsible for many of the innovations that upset the very future they and their associates had been working on. This is the way the future often evolves: Looking back, you say, “We should have known” or “We knew, but we didn’t believe.” And at the same time we were ignoring the exponential trends that were all around us, we hyped glamorous technologies like artificial intelligence and neural networks.

Yogi Berra, who should probably be in the National Academy of Sciences as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame, once said, “It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future.” We aren’t even good at making predictions about the present, let alone the future.

Journalists are sometimes better than engineers about seeing the latent future embedded in the present. I often read articles telling me that there is a trend where a lot of people are doing this or that. I raise my eyebrows in mild surprise. I didn’t realize a lot of people were doing this or that. Perhaps something is afoot, and an amorphous social network is unconsciously shaping the future of technology.

Well, we’ve made a lot of misguided predictions in the past. But we’ve learned from those mistakes. Now we know. The future lies in quantum computers. And electronics will be a thing of the past, since we’ll be using optical processing. All this is just right around the corner. 

Reprinted from IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 45, September 2008.

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IEEE Spectrum

The Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame: Apple iPhone

In 2007 Apple introduced its first cellular handset with the advertising slogan “Apple reinvents the phone.” Unlike most such slogans, this one was not a ridiculous exaggeration. It was a statement of fact. Though the iPhone incorporated a lot of features that had already been pioneered by other phone manufacturers, it was still a paragon of functionality, coupled with a user interface that was innovative for its simplicity and elegance. Crucially, the phone fit comfortably into Apple’s nearly seamless environment of products and complementary services, notably iTunes and the App Store.

From Apple’s inception, cofounder Steve Jobs had been intent on changing the way people used electronics. The first Macintosh computers famously incorporated the most cutting-edge user interface technology available. Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, but after a 12-year exile he returned and began to apply the same philosophy of user-interface simplicity to a series of consumer electronics items that would include the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. That imperative basically took the form of minimizing the number of hardware buttons and also relying on the user’s index finger as a pointing and input tool.

As for buttons, Jobs wanted just one of them—if Apple engineers could figure out how to pull it off. There had to be at least one, if for no other reason than to turn the darn thing on and off.

The iPhone wasn’t developed from scratch but rather began with the iPod MP3 music player, the first generation of which was introduced in 2001. Apple engineers had devised a click wheel for the iPod, a big step toward a one-button user interface. The click wheel wasn’t a single button, but it sort of resembled one, at least from a distance. It had a central button within a ring that had four more buttons embedded within it, one at each of the cardinal points.

As for finger input—that was a tougher nut to crack. Touch-sensitive screens had been around for decades, but for a long time they were seldom used because they were sluggish and imprecise. To make them more responsive, the display industry developed screens in the 1990s that would work with specialized electronic pens. One of the pioneering instances of stylus input was Apple’s own Newton personal digital assistant, introduced in 1993 and discontinued in 1998. By the early 2000s, several companies were making headway with triple-layer capacitive multitouch touch-screen technology, which held out the promise, at least, of precise input. But at the end of 2004, when work on the iPhone began, that technology was just barely on the verge of being ready for commercialization.

If you had responsive finger-based input, you wouldn’t need multiple physical buttons. Put a virtual keyboard on the screen and there would be no reason to have a physical keyboard, which many smartphones had in those days. Such an arrangement would also mean that the screen could occupy almost all of the face of the phone. For Apple, specifically, use of a good, responsive touch screen meant the click wheel could finally be reduced to Jobs’s vision of a single-button device. He decided the first iPhone would have such a screen, as would the next version of the iPod. To make that happen, in 2005, Apple bought FingerWorks, one of the companies working on triple-layer capacitive touch screens.

The original device, introduced in 2007, was built around a 620-megahertz Arm microprocessor. Some of the supporting chips came from Skyworks Solutions and Marvell Technology Group. The touch screen measured 3.5 inches on the diagonal, and it had a resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. Connectivity options included GSM/EDGE (basically 2G wireless), Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, and Bluetooth. There was a music player and a 2-megapixel camera, which was pretty good in those days. Not long after it was introduced, the iPhone also began incorporating some other features that had already been introduced by other phone manufacturers, including support for games, apps, and the Multimedia Messaging Service (a form of text messaging).

Apple also included a headphone jack in the original iPhone that was so deeply recessed into the upper edge of the phone that it forced customers to purchase new headphones or an adapter for their old ones. It was a harbinger. With almost every new generation of iPhone, Apple has made one thing or another obsolete, forcing its famously loyal customers to buy some additional new thing—headphones, an adapter, a power cord. Although no one could have guessed it at the time, the original iPhone with its clunky headphone jack set the tone for Apple’s future reputation in smartphones: at once boldly trailblazing and bafflingly irritating.

Apple was not the first smartphone maker to introduce a touch screen. That distinction went to LG, which publicly announced it would have a phone with a capacitive touch screen early in 2007. The phone, called the Prada, was created with the Italian luxury designer. Jobs announced the iPhone shortly after; he likened it to an iPod that was also a telephone with Internet connectivity. LG got the Prada to market in May 2007, edging out Apple by just a few weeks. The iPhone version with 4 gigabytes of storage sold for US $499; the 8-GB version was $599. (The iPod Touch music player, also sporting a touch screen and a nearly identical appearance to the iPhone but with no telephone, followed shortly after in September.)

Reviewers and customers agreed: Apple had indeed reinvented the phone. It was simple, it was attractive, it was elegant. It was the little black dress of consumer electronics. Music was easy to enjoy and purchase through the iTunes app, which had already been a hit with the iPod. There were many, many more apps to come. Smartphones, essentially pocket-size computers, were becoming favored platforms for applications developers, especially game designers. Apple made it easy to develop, sell, and download apps with its App Store. The iPhone wasn’t just a product; it was an experience.

Still, the original iPhone sold a total of only 6.1 million units. One problem was that it worked only with 2G networks, and in 2007 2G was already giving way to 3G. The original model was replaced just a year later, in 2008, with a 3G version. From that point on, Apple retroactively referred to the original iPhone as the iPhone 2G.

Apple has never been the sales leader in smartphones. In recent years that’s been Samsung, which sells something over 3 hundred million smartphones a year. Apple’s emphasis has always been on prestige products. Its legendarily loyal devotees pay more for them because of Apple’s reputation for exceptional quality and superior product design. And it’s not that sales were unimpressive—quite the contrary. The iPhone 6 and 6+ together sold roughly 220 million units, behind only the Nokia 1100 (250 million units) as the best-selling cellphone model of all time. By early 2019, Apple had achieved cumulative iPhone sales in the neighborhood of 1.6 billion (an exact figure is unavailable because Apple stopped announcing iPhone sales figures in 2018).

Jony Ive became one of the most prominent industrial designers in the world for his work on the iPhone, iMac, iPod, iPad, and MacBook; he was even knighted in his native England. He made worldwide headlines in the spring of 2019 when he announced he was leaving Apple.