Weekend news round-up: Obama saves the bees, Google kills Direct Connect

23 Jun 2014

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, sprinkled with a bit of science, US President Brack Obama creates a taskforce to protect bees and other crucial pollinators, the Apple HomeKit may already be in your home via your Apple TV, and Google quietly kills its + Direct Connect feature.

Google kills the + Direct Connect feature

In another ominous sign that Google is revising its focus on its Google+ social networking engine, Google has quietly killed off the + Direct Connect feature that helped you find a page by using the + symbol and typing a few words, according to Search Engine Land.

“When Direct Connect launched, Google promised that people could go directly to popular pages on Google+ by beginning their searches with a + sign followed by a few characters of the page’s name.

“Today, if you try the same thing, you no longer get a suggestion. In fact, if you type in the entire string to reach a known page — such as +youtube – that won’t even take you to the page.”

Save the bees, save our planet

If the bees die off, so too does the human race. With this in mind US President Barack Obama is planning a new taskforce to investigate the effects of insecticides on bees and other pollinators, The Verge reports.

“The Obama administration is taking steps to save bees from extinction. In a memorandum released on Friday, the White House is seeking to create a new taskforce to investigate the effects of new insecticides on bees and other crucial pollinators. The group will have 180 days to produce a strategy to curb the rapid die-off scientists have observed in the last decade.

“The memorandum directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to research how neonicotinoids, a special class of insecticide, is linked to bee colony collapse. The USDA has already reported that 31pc of commercial US bee colonies died off or disappeared in 2012, and the trend has continued since then, causing alarm among food producers who depend on bees to pollinate their crops. While the decline has so far been linked to disease and the destruction of habitats, a recent Harvard study did indicate that exposure to two kinds of neonicotinoids caused bees to leave their hives and die.”

Yahoo! wants to increase stickiness with Tumblr magazines

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is planning to boost daily readership and ad hits by creating new Tumblr-inspired daily magazines, according to The New York Times.

“The internet pioneer still attracts a huge audience, but advertising, its prime source of revenue, is steadily declining. Marissa Mayer, the chief executive, has decided that one way to reverse that decline is to turn the company into a media empire with a constellation of what it calls digital magazines on topics like food, technology, movies and travel.

“Ms Mayer says that she wants to make Yahoo! a ‘daily habit’ for its 800m users. But she doesn’t want people to come to Yahoo! just to read email, post photographs on Flickr or get the latest sports scores. She also wants Yahoo! to be a place where they curl up and spend some time, whether they are into haute couture, the latest gadgets or tabloid gossip.”

Stories overtake snaps on Snapchat

Not one to miss an emerging trend, app Snapchat has just released a new Stories product called ‘Our Story’ and already it has become more popular than snaps, according to The Verge.

“Snapchat says that its most popular feature is now its most public, least ephemeral one: Stories. Snapchat says more Stories are now viewed per day than snaps. One billion Stories are viewed per day, the company says, up from 500m just two months ago. If you’re not familiar, Snapchat’s Stories feature launched late last year and lets users create compilations of snaps that last 24 hours. Stories are only viewable by friends, unless you change a setting to let anyone who adds you view your Stories.”

HomeKit may already be in your home

Apple’s HomeKit technology may already be in your household insofar as owners of Apple TV entertainment hubs are concerned. According to Macworld, your Apple TV could be the hub for controlling devices throughout your home.

“And it sounds great. Imagine your garage door automatically swinging open and your back door unlocking as your car approaches, or a fireplace fwooming into action and lights dimming as you near the front door with your date.

“But imagine this, as well: You’re halfway across the country on a business trip and your kid calls and asks if you can flip on the lights downstairs because he’s afraid of the dark. Or a massive heat wave hits at the same time and you want to crank up the air conditioning to preserve the Old Master hanging over a piano sensitive to humidity. Or – anticipating that hot date – you’d like to crank up the fridge to chill the champagne just a bit more before you get home in an hour. How are you going to communicate with all the devices in your home from such remote locations?”

Bumble bees image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years