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theEweekly Wrap: Spotify apps, bars and e-books

Google erases the bar Google has announced that its redesign of the search engine interface is about to enter its second phase. The official blog post on Tuesday revealed: “Instead of the horizontal black bar at the top of the page, you’ll now find links to your services in a new drop-down Google menu nested under the Google logo”. This means links to Maps, Images, Gmail, News and so on will in effect be hidden in the drop-down, leaving just a basic search bar that Google calls “beautifully simple and intuitive”.

The only feature that will become more prominent in the new design will be Google+. The user’s profile picture, notifications and a big Share button are the only things on the bar apart from the search box, while Google+ is the first link in the drop-down menu, underlining Google’s current emphasis on the new social layer. It has been a mere six months since the last redesign – introducing the black navigation bar at the top of the homepage – was rolled out. The news comes hot on the heels of changes to the Google navigation that were noticed by forum users in November; it was unclear at the time whether it was a bug or an experiment.

Spotify gets apps Music streaming service Spotify has launched the Spotify Platform. This allows third party developers to build and distribute apps that will work within the Spotify desktop music player. The announcement on Wednesday said the Platform “opens up a new world of possibilities”, and will “add many more layers of music enjoyment”. The launch was celebrated with a press conference in New York, where the company has just set up new headquarters.

Some of the 16 free Spotify apps launched so far include reviews and playlists curated by publications such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, recommendations from Last.fm, TuneWiki for real-time scrolling song lyrics, and Songkick’s gig finder app. The Guardian has also launched an app where you can listen to an album or single while reading a review of it, add your own star rating and share it. This is part of the Guardian’s ‘digital first’ strategy launched in June, which has seen the introduction of a Twitter tag bot and the Guardian Facebook app – which, it was announced this week, has been installed by 4 million users and is generating a million extra page impressions per day.

Books they can’t burn One of the e-book’s most vehement critics has allowed his novel to be published in the format this week. Ray Bradbury wrote Farenheit 451 in 1953, portraying a future where books are sprayed with fuel and burned to preserve the ignorance of the general population. The 91-year-old author had previously stated that e-books and e-readers “smell like burned fuel”. In 2010, he told Yahoo to “go to hell” when the company asked to publish a digital version of the novel, while his opinion of modern technology in general is equally negative: “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines.”

However, as his publishing contract with Simon & Schuster had to be renegotiated, Bradbury’s agent Michael Congdon realised digital publication was the only option: “We explained the situation to him that a new contract wouldn’t be possible without e-book rights […] He understood and gave us the right to go ahead.” The e-book costs $9.99 for the Kindle or Nook in the US, while the UK publisher HarperCollins is still ‘in talks’ with Congdon. Whatever reservations Bradbury may have, many are pointing out that digitising books could prevent the dystopian future he envisaged ever coming to pass.

Written by Rachel Hand

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