Restaurant finder app Zomato fully revamped with new social skills and FoodFeed

Zomato has launched its fully overhauled Web and mobile apps today in a bid to increase user activity and engagement though more social interaction across the platform.

Where it was once a simple restaurant finder app, the new version brings a wholly refreshed social element into the equation. One of the key updates is FoodFeed, a scrolling list that shows updates from users you follow, as well as restaurant reviews, ratings and more. You can now also filter search results to only display recommendations from people you follow, who are, presumably, people you trust.

zomato 2 730x411 Restaurant finder app Zomato fully revamped with new social skills and FoodFeed

With the new social graces come a significant change to the way in which the app works: it’s now mandatory to log-in if you want to use it. In the past, you had the option of logging in using your Facebook or Google account, or creating a new one on Zomato using an email address, but there was also the option to skip it altogether. This is no longer possible. Reviews and restaurants can still be shared outside the app across your normal social networks, but the company has made it easier to invite friends too, clearly aiming at increasing its overall user base.

The success – and weakness – of any platform such as Zomato comes in the trustworthiness of the restaurant reviews and the results it serves up to users. To this end, there’s now has an enhanced anti-spam system to weed out any “evidently manufactured” reviews, and restaurant ratings have been normalised to prevent bias and avoid clustering too many within a certain score range.

Zomato 730x413 Restaurant finder app Zomato fully revamped with new social skills and FoodFeed

On top of adding new features and rethinking its restaurant ratings, there’s an all round revamp of the app to check out. For example, Zomato says it now takes fewer clicks to discover new restaurants and that Londoners can search for recommendation by postcode, tube station or near specific landmarks.

The update is available from today across Zomato’s Web, iOS and Android apps.

➤ Zomato | App Store | Google Play

Featured Image Credit – ANA AREVALO/AFP/Getty Images

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Omada Health Raises $23M Series B Led By Andreessen Horowitz For Digital Health That Actually Works

Omada Health, a San Francisco startup that makes digital health therapy programs for people with type 2 diabetes and other serious but potentially treatable issues, has raised $23 million in new funding.

The new investment, which is Omada’s Series B, was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasan joining the startup’s board of directors. Also participating in the round were Kaiser Permanente Ventures and previous investors U.S. Venture Partners and The Vertical Group. This brings the total investment in Omada to $28.5 million.

In an interview this week, Omada co-founder and CEO Sean Duffy told me that his company aims to bridge the gap between proven traditional offline support groups and therapies, and modern digital technology. He said:

“The behavioral science world has figured out how to help people with issues like diabetes, smoking cessation, insomnia, and the like. But it’s mostly been in face-to-face treatments, with group meetings at places like community centers and YMCAs.

We’ve looked at the elements and turned these things into digital programs, and made programmatic experiences that we validate clinically with reproducible results.”

Clinical results mean that Omada’s programs are things that insurance providers are actually willing to pay for. Omada’s flagship treatment, called Prevent, is a 16-week web-based program aimed at addressing prediabetes in adults. Because Omada has been able to provide clinical proof that its programs work just as effectively as traditional in-person therapies, they are covered by healthcare providers including Blue Shield Louisiana, Kaiser Permanente, and Stanford Hospital.

The financial reimbursement is what truly sets Omada apart from other consumer-oriented players in the health space. “In the world of digital health 1.0, people have made great products that people want to use and share with friends, but they haven’t fit with enterprise level health programs,” Duffy says. “Omada has developed consumer grade digital health products, and we also know how to get health systems to pay for them.”

In a separate interview, Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasan told me that it’s that mix of consumer approachability with clinical results that compelled his firm to invest in the company. “Omada is first thing I’ve seen which is a clinically proven way to make a medical intervention over an Internet connection. They’ve developed clinically valid, reproducible, scalable treatments that are delivered in whole or in part over the Internet,” he said. “It’s this very clever combination of things.”

As far as the competitive landscape goes, Duffy says that Omada has raised this money now to take advantage of its position at the nexus between consumer-first apps and enterprise health products. “We’ve seen companies like Fitbit and Weight Watchers increasingly eyeing the enterprise healthcare space. And big health plans like United Healthcare are creating potential competitors too,” he said. “We bridge between these two worlds, and we want to continue to grow in a way that others can’t yet.”

Omada currently has 30 full time staff, and expects to double its headcount by the end of the year.

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HTC Goes “Blah Blah Blah” In The First HTC One M8 Ad

Frankly, the only way this ad could be more effective is if it was a “let me google that for you” link. HTC is right here. Dead right.

In the first video ad for the new HTC One, Gary Oldman advises viewers to turn to the Internet to learn about the new phone. It simply doesn’t matter what Gary or Robert Downey Jr. tells viewers about the phone. It’s all marketing speak. Worthless. But great SEO is priceless.

HTC’s new flagship phone is the predecessor to the universally adored HTC One. It’s hard to find a bad review of the original One, which is seemingly the case of the new One as well. Google it as HTC suggests and the results will be filled with articles praising the phone. Everything else is “blah”.

HTC, quietly clever.

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New research claims that Microsoft’s Bing censors heavily within China, even more so than Baidu

Chinese Web monitoring service GreatFire is once again raising objections to the way Microsoft’s Bing operates in China — this time round claiming that it censors heavily within the country, even more so than domestic search engine Baidu.

Last month, Bing came under fire for censoring China-related information not only within the country’s boundaries but worldwide. Subsequently, Microsoft said changes to China-related Bing searches done globally were an error, not censorship. Bing responded to the allegations by saying that the only time it adjusts search results is to “comply with local law or for quality or safety reasons such as child abuse or malware.” It insisted that Bing search results outside of China would not be modified in any way to accommodate Chinese law.

GreatFire’s latest allegations, however, zoom in on Bing’s domestic censorship. The organization cites an independent comprehensive audit that examined Bing’s search engine results page for over 30,000 sensitive and non-sensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. It says that “comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing’s China filtering practices.”

In particular, it says the Chinese version of Bing has a list of 139 forbidden terms which it doesn’t display any results for, a blacklist of 329 websites that it never shows to China users, as well as a “huge” blacklist of URLs exceeding more than 1,500.

GreatFire notes that Bing blocked all results from five foreign language editions of Wikipedia: Japanese, French, German, Dutch and Swedish. However, the organization says these bans have been lifted after it approached Microsoft about the issue.

In particular, GreatFire compares Bing’s censorship to domestic Internet giant Baidu, with the example of the site owned by Professor He Weifang, a prominent pro-democracy legal scholar at Peking University. GreatFire notes: “His blog is not censored by the domestic blogging site, which is operated by NetEase, a major Chinese internet company. This website is not censored by Baidu either, but is being censored entirely by Bing in China.”

GreatFire is demanding that Microsoft explain why Bing censors so much content, “including domestic content that is not even censored by China-based web properties like Baidu.” It is urging Microsoft to follow the action taken with regards to the five Wikipedia sites by removing other “inappropriate” filtering rules on Bing for Chinese users, and to disclose the internal processes and approval mechanisms in place every time Microsoft gets a request to censor domestic content.

We have reached out to Microsoft and will update with any response provided.

Headline image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Google Adds Full Restaurant Menus To Its Search Results Pages

Here is a small but nifty update to Google Search: if you ask it to find a restaurant menu for you, it will now often just show you the menu right on the search results page. Try this for a search like “show me the menu for fogo de chao” and the menu will be right there.


As far as I can see, this doesn’t work for every restaurant yet and it’s unclear where Google is getting this data from. Right now, the number of supported restaurants also seems to be limited. Most of my attempts to trigger the menu listings were actually unsuccessful, so your mileage may vary. The searches that did work tended to be for restaurants that are also listed on, so chances are this is where Google is getting its data from.

The only way to trigger this feature right now is to type (or speak) “show me the menu for [restaurant name].” Just typing “menu [restaurant name]” doesn’t seem to do anything right now.

This feature was first spotted earlier by Search Engine Land earlier this month, which also suspects as the source for the data. At the time, Google said it was just one of its many tests. Today, however, it made it official with a post on its Google+ page.

Given that restaurant websites are often quite antiquated (and many still have an annoying Flash intro), having the information you need right on the search results page is pretty cool (when it works). I don’t know how sites that specialize in showing you restaurant menus feel about this addition, but once Google adds more restaurants, I’m pretty sure I’ll use this feature pretty regularly.

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Keen On… Hacking Gender: How Women In Silicon Valley Can Become Jane Bond

Despite incremental improvements, the gender bias issue in Silicon Valley remains an important one. Last month, in response to the furor over an interview about female hackers, Paul Graham announced a conference dedicated to female founders. But I beat Graham to it, producing a sold-out event last week at the San Francisco office of BloombergBETA entitled Hacking Gender.

One my panelists was the very successful writer, social media guru and public speaker Nilofer Merchant whose email signature line says: “Sent. By. Bond. Jane Bond, that is”. So I asked Merchant how all women in the Valley can, like her, become Jane Bond and overcome bias.

“Have grit,” she advises. And “perseverance”. What women (and men) need to understand, she says, is that “bias exists.” It’s ingrained in Silicon Valley and results in women not being seen by men. And so they don’t get jobs or investments or leadership roles.

But Merchant does see things improving. While she thinks that Graham needs to admit he’s biased, she is much more positive about Marc Andreessen’s recent confession on Twitter that only 11% of his followers are women. That’s how you hack gender, Merchant says, by acknowledging the problem, talking about it publicly and then trying to fix it.

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Google Search for desktop gets new Knowledge Graph option to see more information about websites in results

Google today announced a new Google Search feature that surfaces more information about certain websites. The description will be available when a site is “widely recognized as notable online, when there is enough information to show or when the content may be handy for you,” according to the company. All you have to do is click on the name next to the link, and voilà:

site cred blog post photo civil war battlefields zoomx2 Google Search for desktop gets new Knowledge Graph option to see more information about websites in results

This extra information, provided by Google’s Knowledge Graph, is shown directly on the search results page, but it’s only available on the desktop site for now. The company wouldn’t say when it expects to bring this feature to its mobile site and apps, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it became available sometime later this year.

See also – Google’s Knowledge Graph expands to cars with facts, specifications, and pricing for different configurations and Google now includes medications directly in search results, including brand names and side effects

Image Credit: Johannes Eisele/Getty Images

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An in-depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

As soon as my fingers leave the keyboard and hunt for a mouse or trackpad to select an app, link or file on my computer, I feel like I’m slowing down. Speed and efficiency is incredibly important to me and dragging a pointer back and forth across the screen just doesn’t cut it anymore.

On a Mac, I boost my productivity with a customisable launcher app called Alfred, which can handle almost any basic task with a few pithy keywords. There are a few alternatives to consider, including LaunchBarQuicksilver and Butler, but Alfred is the one that best fits my personal workflow and preferences.

App launchers can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated, so if you’re curious to try Alfred but unsure where to start, this in-depth guide is for you.

Master your apps

On any given day, I use at least a dozen different apps on my Mac. Google Chrome, TweetDeck, Fantastical, Evernote and Byword are the usual suspects, but I almost always end up opening and closing a handful of other, less frequently used apps too.

Instead of dragging my cursor onto Launchpad, the dock or my application folder, I use Alfred to launch, hide and quit apps when needed. It might take a few days to train your brain so that it uses these commands instinctively, but trust me – it’ll be time well spent in the long run.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.23.58 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

Once you’ve installed Alfred on your Mac, open it with your chosen keyboard combo and begin typing the name of the app that you need. Alfred will show a list of results instantaneously – oftentimes a single character will be enough to surface your intended app. Hit return for the first option, or Command and the listed number key for any of Alfred’s other suggestions. It’s similar to Spotlight, although Alfred’s numbered shortcuts are quicker than the arrow keys needed to hit secondary items in Apple’s built-in search tool.

When you’re finished with a piece of software, you can close it down with the “quit” keyword, followed by the name of the app. It’s also possible to make programs invisible, while retaining their window positions by using the “hide” keyword. Furthermore, Alfred gives you the ability to shut down every app running on your Mac with the phrase “quitall”, or force software that has become unresponsive to close with the keyword “forcequit”.

Search the Web

Although Alfred is often described as an app launcher, its capabilities go far beyond the native software installed on your Mac. Instead of jumping across to your chosen browser and searching with your preferred search engine, you can do all of this and more with Alfred.

If you type “Google” into Alfred’s search bar, you can easily follow it up with your chosen keywords and then have the corresponding results page appear instantly in your browser. If you want to search with Google Images, or look up a place on Google Maps, this is also supported with the keywords “images” and “maps” in Alfred, side-stepping what would have been additional steps or clicks in the browser.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.26.27 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

As Alfred learns your preferences, you’ll notice that it takes fewer characters to execute common tasks. For instance, I only need to type in “G”, followed by a keyword or query, for Alfred to offer me a Google Search results page by default.

Alfred goes even further by offering shortcuts to some of the most popular sites and services on the Web. If you type a query into Alfred without any keywords whatsoever, the launcher will let you search via Google, Amazon or Wikipedia by default. For the latter, Alfred will often send you to the exact Wikipedia entry too, rather than a page of compatible search results.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.28.20 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

The launcher supports a range of other sites too, although you’ll need to type in their name first to trigger a search query. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr can all be triggered this way – for a full list of options, hit the Web Search tab in Alfred’s Preferences menu.

Gmail and Google Drive

If you’re invested in Google’s expansive suite of products and services, you probably use Gmail and Google Drive on a regular basis. Both are supported in Alfred, although in Gmail’s case search results are limited to its Web incarnation, rather than any third-party email client you may be accessing it from on your Mac.

By typing “gmail” into Alfred, you can instantly jump to your inbox or begin searching for a specific message. It’s a sublime tool, as it gives you an immediate shortcut into your messages, regardless of what apps or windows you currently have open. Google Drive works the same way, bringing up text files, images and spreadsheets with just the word “drive” and a keyword.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.31.04 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

I imagine Gmail is a more widely adopted service than Google Drive, but to my surprise, the integration with Alfred has made me use Google’s online storage service even more. Together, they actually make Google Drive more useful than some of the alternatives on the market, such as Dropbox or SkyDrive, because it’s now so much easier to look up the files that I need.

Custom Web searches

We all have a favorite corner of the Web, such as Reddit, Hacker News, NeoGaf, and of course, TNW. If you’re prepared to dig a little deeper into Alfred’s settings, you can accelerate your workflow even further with custom shortcuts and searches for all of your most frequently visited sites.

First, open the preferences window for Alfred by clicking on the menu bar icon, followed by the Web Search tab on the left-hand side of the screen. Select the Add Custom Search button in the bottom right-hand corner and then paste the URL for your chosen site or webpage into the first field, titled Search URL.

alfred1 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

For now, just try a homepage for a basic site (TNW is a good place to start). Add a title that will show in Alfred’s search results, as well as the keyword that you want to use as a shortcut. You can also submit an icon here for some visual clarity and test it using the Validation field. Once you’re done, just hit Save.

Custom searches are a little trickier. You’ll need to find the search URL, which will be displayed in your browser after you’ve submitted a query on your chosen site. When I search for Vine on TNW, for instance, I get the following URL: “”

alfred2 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

In Alfred, you need to take this URL and replace the term with {query}, before adding its to the Search URL field. For TNW, it would look like this: “{query}”. If you’re unsure, it’s worth using the test function in Alfred before committing to the new shortcut.

Next: Workflows, clipboards, snippets and more…

Files, folders and images

While the bulk of my work is now stored online, I still like to keep some of my most important and valuable files backed up on a local drive. With Alfred, you can quickly find your files by typing them directly into the search field – no keywords required. Adding the keyword “open” will launch the specified file, while “find” will show its location in finder.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.41.45 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

Furthermore, you can look for files that contain a specific term by prefacing it with “in”. This is particularly useful when you need to find a document with specific contents, but can’t remember the name or location of the file.

You can unlock additional functionality with the File Search tab, located in the preferences menu for Alfred. Under the Navigation section, you’ll find a couple of check boxes which allow you to go deeper or higher in the folder hierarchy. It essentially negates the need for Finder, keeping all of your efforts and commands locked to Alfred – and perhaps more importantly, away from your mouse or trackpad.

Clipboards and snippets

Copy and paste has a massive flaw. As soon as you store a new piece of text, everything that you had copied previously is inaccessible. That leads to frustration when you realize that you need a piece of text that you copied earlier in the day. You need to backtrack to the original source, or wherever you pasted it last, copy it again and drop it in the new location.

That’s just not very productive.

Thankfully, Alfred stores everything in your clipboard history automatically, while giving you an effortless means of finding and selecting text that you had copied previously. It’s accessed with a unique hotkey (⌥⌘C is set by default) which you can customize at any using the in-app preferences.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.49.59 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

When you launch the Clipper, you’ll be given a search box just like the normal version of Alfred. Regardless of when you copied a piece of text, you can submit any number and combination of words to find it again. Alternatively, Alfred shows all of the text that you’ve copied in chronological order; you can either scroll down with the directional arrows on your keyboard to review them, or use the numbered shortcuts to grab one straight away.

alfred5 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

Snippets, meanwhile, give you the ability to paste pieces of text with an abbreviation or keyword. These are set up from the Clipboard tab in the preferences menu, and can be used for almost anything that you type regularly. That could be a common email response, a closing paragraph for a report, or even a shortcut for a link that you use regularly. Just give it a name, a keyword and the full snippet that you want to grab a hold of.


Common tasks often involve a number of different apps and steps to execute. If you do them often enough, they quickly feel laborious and a poor use of your time. In the style of IFTTT, Alfred also supports workflows, which let you string together multiple tasks and execute them with a single command.

This is by far the most complicated feature in Alfred, and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. Once you’ve selected the Workflows header in the preferences menu, it’s worth starting with one of the Alfred’s pre-generated examples. “Should I watch this movie?” is a good place to start, as it reveals the input – the name of a film – and the corresponding actions, which in this case is three simultaneous search queries on YouTube, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.

alfred3 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

With the plus icon in the top-right hand corner, you can set how the workflow is activated – a keyboard combo, when you discover a file or contact within Alfred, or a search term that doesn’t match an app, file or folder stored on your Mac. You’ll then need an input, such as a specific keyword, followed by the actions that you want to be carried out. These can include a combination of Web searches, URLs, system commands, scripts and iTunes commands – whatever you need to improve your workflow and stay productive.

…and the rest

Alfred has a number of other search types and features that you can trigger, but they’re not as useful or impactful in my opinion. Among them are dictionary references, which can be activated with the “define” and “spell” keywords, as well as a calculator by starting with “=”.

Alfred can also be used to control iTunes via a slick little mini player and some straight-forward keywords (play, pause, next, previous, random, etc.)

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 16.57.28 An in depth guide to Alfred, the incredible productivity and launcher app for Mac

My favorite peripheral shortcuts are for system commands, however, including “restart” and “shutdown” – which should be self-explanatory – “eject” to pull out removable media safely and “emptytrash” to ditch everything that’s piling up in your digital waste paper basket.

If you’re an avid Alfred fan it’s also worth tinkering with some of the launcher app’s aesthetics. From the Appearance header in the preferences menu, you can pick a theme or create your own from scratch, dictate where the Alfred search box appears on-screen, hide the menu bar icon and more. For design aficionados in particular, this is a godsend.

Wrap up

That’s it for our in-depth guide to Alfred! It’s a sublime productivity and launcher app with an impressive selection of features and customization options. The app is free to download, but you’ll need to purchase the optional PowerPack to access some of the more advanced features, including workflows, the iTunes Mini Player and your clipboard history. We highly recommend forking out the extra £17 (roughly $28 USD) to access these tools.

Alfred | Mac App Store

Image Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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Facebook posts will soon appear more prominently in Russian Internet giant Yandex’s search results

Russian Internet giant Yandex announced today that it has teamed up with Facebook to gain access to public content from the social network’s users in Russia and other Eastern European markets , as the company seeks to boost its search results with popular topics that are circulating on Facebook.

“The intensity of discussion on any subject in social media is proof of the topic’s relevance, or ‘hotness’ if you will. A search engine has to take this into consideration,” Yandex notes in its blog post.

Facebook has granted Yandex full access to its “firehose” of public data, which means Yandex can search for people and company pages on Facebook, as well as for content marked ‘public’ from users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey. It notes that anything users mark as ‘private’ will remain off-limits.

Currently, Facebook posts from users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan only show up under the Blogs part of Yandex Search. With the partnership, however, these will be added to its main Search page. Along with the targeted search results, Yandex will also display current articles and videos which have spread among Facebook users. When ranking its search results, the popularity of content on Facebook will also be considered.

Yandex is already working with Twitter in a similar way, and it indexes status updates in blogs including LiveJournal, as well as Russian social network VK, among others. 

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Beauty Army Goes From Subscription Samples To A Full E-Commerce Shop For All Your Beauty Needs

E-commerce startup Beauty Army is moving beyond its subscription commerce offering and opening up a full-fledged store for health and beauty products. And it’s doing so in a big way, with more than 200 brands and 20,000 products available for sale through its online catalog.

Beauty Army launched two years ago (on January 1st!) with a Birchbox-like subscription commerce platform for beauty products. But unlike Birchbox, which generally sends many of the same samples to its users, Beauty Army was built to give its users personalized recommendations for the products that they received.

It does that thanks to a huge data set on the back end that enables users to easily find products that are suited to their skin color and their personal style. When you first sign up for Beauty Army, you take a survey and create a profile that matches you up with products enjoyed by other users like you.

When Beauty Army was mainly doing this as a subscription commerce offering, the website would offer up a choice of nine products each month, of which users would pick six. It then used the data collected to better refine results over time. Now that it has all that data, it will be applying what it knows to full-sized products that can be ordered from its site.

When logging into Beauty Army, you still need to create a profile to get started, but once that’s done, you’re no longer limited to a certain number of sample items each month. Instead you can choose from any number of products available on the site.

But to get there, it still asks you a series of questions to help you find just the right product. Customers choose which category of product they’re looking for — either makeup, skin care, hair care, nail care, or fragrance — and then follow a series of questions to narrow down the results and provide a group of products that fits their preferences.

CEO Lindsey Guest compared that level of personalization to what you might find on other e-commerce sites, where it’s more or less impossible to find what you’re looking for — at least from a health and beauty standpoint. (Try shopping for ‘red lipstick on, for instance.) While there’s a bit more work involved in getting to a refined search page on Beauty Army, the company thinks the results that come in will be a lot better overall.

From a business standpoint, the e-commerce platform also makes a bit of sense in that it will open up a much bigger opportunity for Beauty Army. The platform was built by partnering with major online retailers, which actually hold the inventory and handle fulfillment.

In that way, Beauty Army doesn’t have to work directly with brands, and it carries none of the inventory risk of other e-commerce providers. The startup will continue to offer subscriptions for those who like that sort of thing, but with a full-fledged story, Beauty Army customers are no longer limited to six samples a month.

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