Category Archives: Google

A Censored Internet on the horizon?

If you think of the internet as the wild west, then it’s safe to make the correlation of there being good guys, bad guys and everyone else.

Using this basis of comparison, who fits into what category is a completely arbitrary decision that changes between people and organizations. The search engines for example, Bing, Google, Yahoo etc, are they the good guys because of the services they provide? Or are they the bad guys because they can provide you with a basicly clear window to the internet? What about the RIAA, FCC and those of the same ilk. Are they good or bad because they want to be able to monitor online content, filter it according to rights and punish all who may dare to break their rules.

It’s a new age of content creation, distribution and monitoring, so I find it a little strange that the policy makers are pointing fingers at the big guy, Google. Their claim as a part of the proposed Web Censoship bill, is that Google (in a nutshell) is responsible for policing the internet and what their searches turn up. A spokesman for Google, Kent Walker was plain in his answer in saying that if this bill were to pass, then private companies will have a tremendous amount of power over Google and it’s behaviour. He also pointed out that there are flaws in any system, and that the bad eggs are out there specifically working on gaming the system and that just because a website has a link to content which may not be hosted by them, they shouldn’t be punished.

Because let’s be honest, as any web designer can tell you, a site can be created in about 20 minutes and uploaded and active online in 30 total. That site will then be crawled and placed in the index as appropriately as possible. Now the people trying to game the censorship system, all they have to do is create site after site, after site. The pages will be up and indexed faster than they could ever be taken down, any one with even half of an idea as to how the web works knows this.

If the bill should pass, it will mean new stringent guidelines to be adhered to and that god forbid you post something that becomes unliked by someone in power because you may just find yourself invisible in search no matter what you do. It’s an authoritorian rule, managed by those with the most power. And Scarface said it best:

In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.

For further information and reading, you can find both sides of the argument at ArsTechnica. Both sides of the argument are discussed, those for the bill, and those against the bill.

The Internet Told Me..

The internet is an amazing place, it has pretty much anything you could possibly want on it. It has examples of every facet of humanity and culture, it will be somewhat a wonder what it’s going to look like in the next 15 years considering the leaps and bounds it has changed in the first 15 of becoming widely accessible.

You can find essentially anything online. Recipes, songs, programs, services, information, the list is inhibited only by your own imagination. But does that make what you find true? A court in Italy has recently decided that just in case it is, Google needs to filter and censor their auto complete data.

A little bit of background is probably in order. Basically someone searched for themselves on Google, and the autocomplete feature offered suggestions such as con man and fraud.

Defamation and slander will always exist in some form or another in the open world. Auto complete within Google searches is a relatively new feature, so when I read of the decision that was upheld in the Court of Milan I somewhat echoed Googles disappointed response.

It’s not up to the search engine service to censor the entirety of the internet, after all the pages which the terms were a part of still exist, are indexed and can be found when you look. This is where brand and image management come into play, if someone messes with your online image, it’s dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Perhaps this is just another strong example for anyone with prospective web ideas. Always go with the option to opt-in as opposed to opt-out. The web is experiencing it’s own version of growing pains, when you’re ready to make your tracks online just be sure you have the search experts on your side.

The Unending Search Game

Sometimes a discussion crops up about how the search game is dead, or about how the next amazing search engine will change the way the world searches. It’s a great idea, and one that should be pushed continually to it’s limits, it’s competition which develops innovation after all. In the end however, there are some elements of the game which just won’t change. At least not for the fore seeable future.

As a metphor, think of a wheel. Round, helps carry a vehicle of sorts to it’s destination. There are core elements which make up the ‘whole’ of the wheel. It’s shape, it’s internal to external strengthening in the manner of spokes of some kind and connected to a point to which it can spin. If you change any of those variables, then what you’ve created is no longer a wheel right?

The same core intricacies exist in the world of search. Google helped define what those core principles are, and while some of the players make their own additions or variations to them, they’re still part of the whole. Just like 1+1 will always equal 2, when you boil down the search algorithm used by the search engines out there, they all break down to the same basic structure.

When a user types their query, check the database. Do we have a match? Display the list. 

From there is where it gets complicated, that’s where the refining comes in, the positive and negative values associated to all sorts of terms. Gambling, sex, government, medical etc.

The core of the game has never changed and won’t be changing for the immediate future. I don’t have a crystal ball in my possession, but until a company can come forward with a faster, more complete, and intuitive version of a search engine, the game will always be as it has always been.

We’ve Reached the Cloud

So in a bit of a twist of the online nature, it’s a decidedly different change in the race to the cloud so to speak. It wasn’t Google to do it, it wasn’t Microsoft, it looks like the crown for first will be going to Amazon.

Last week the online mega-sales site launched it’s Android app store, and just yesterday made an unexpected offering, Amazong Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. Interesting note, it is not iFriendly. Now it’s not the full service cloud solution that some people may be looking at exploring, but if the player and storage are stable under heavy load, it speaks well for Amazons future forays into the cloud. It starts off fairly basic, with 5GB of storage for your music enjoyment, but you’re upgraded to 20 GB of storage for the purchase of one MP3 album. Now just because it’s a cloud based music player, doesn’t mean it’s restricted, your storage space can be used for essentially anything, music, documents, photos etc.

This comes on the heels of a report that last week Google (whom many though to be the cloud leader) began testing it’s own online music services. The introduction of the Amazon player however isn’t so much a thorn in Googles side, as it is a boon to it’s Android software. Music has been an issue for the devices, and now with Amazon offering their own storage and player, and a strong relationship with Android app marketplace already, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find Google and Amazon shaking hands to make some ends meet.

Italy Shoots the Messengers Google, Bing and Yahoo

The implements which are used by a trade expert or even a novice user to reach the end goal, the tools of the trade are most often key to the process of creation or discovery. It’s extremely rare when a person gets in trouble for using their tools to do their job, and it’s even rarer when they’re penalized heavily for it.

And yet, that’s exactly what an Italian court has decided to do, well sort of. Their first ruling this year was in regards to Youtube and their decision that the website is effectively a television station and as such needs to follow the same rules on them. Pinning the responsibility on Google to monitor the content being delivered to the country. Okay, so a couple of ip filters (very basic example) and they’d be good to go with Youtube maybe.

The Italian court however, has recently handed down a verdict on the realm of search. In one case in particular, Yahoo was found guilty for containing links which the court determined allowed copyright infringement. The same case however, was not brought up to Googles legal team, so that’s a little odd there. Also somewhat interesting, Yahoo doesn’t power it’s organic search anymore, it’s handled by Microsoft Bing. So if Yahoo (rightfully) passes the responsibilities to Microsoft, and they don’t take care of it, then does Yahoo get left out in the rain? Too broad a decision at best and leaves too much interpretation to the imagination. But then, things really get strange.. you didn’t think it stopped there did you?

Back to my tools to do the job analogy, Google, Yahoo and Bing all share near identical traits. The greatest of which is being a search tool for users to find their destination. Whether it’s a purchase, research, gaming or what have you. Search engines don’t create websites, they don’t create videos or publish webpages, they gatherm collate, and provide information as it’s requested by it’s users.

On to the weird stuff. This same court decided that users of AdWords platforms, could not be held liable for bidding on copyrighted terms for their ad spaces. Paid search advertising will not be held accountable for the terms used to place in search. Clear as mud then. Organic search results however, can be penalized under this new ruling. It’s not like Google, Bing and Yahoo are hiring massive development teams to create pages full of trademarked or copyrighted terms just to screw up the results and businesses. By this Italian court ruling however, they’re saying essentially that. Personally, I’ll be surprised if the ruling on search holds any water for more than a few days at most, it’s almost like the court has never used search to understand that it’s just a tool, not a content creator.

Google Goes Gaga

Some interesting points in the news for the day, a game of copycat, a story about stories and a trending term late in the day, GaGa going Google.

When it comes to playing copycat, the internet made it almost second nature to find an idea, make a change or two and launch it as your very own. And almost never have the world know better. But this version has to do with Yahoo and it’s own iteration of the Google Instant search tool. It’s not a revolutionary shift in the way search will be conducted on the web, but for the users of the Yahoo search portal it fits into their mantra of search by click. As you type your search into their search box, it’ll give you the drop down list of anticipated searches. It’s limitation however, dwells within being tied to the Yahoo engine, the anticipated searches are limited to Yahoo categories.

A story about stories that has made the rounds has to do with Google as well today. A judge has essentially told Google that no, you can not digitize the worlds books. The search giant had reached an agreement with publishers and authors late last year with a payment to reimburse the creators of the works. Federal judge Denny Chin was quoted as saying of the idea: “..would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without the permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the Amended Settlement Agreement would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.” Where this will be going in the near future is completely up in the air for the moment, as is the future and longevity of untold amounts of orphaned pieces literature.

As for Gaga going to Google, she answered some fan questions, cracked some jokes and had a generally good time. You can find her video on Youtube, it’s an interesting view of the most searched artist who leveraged the power of the web, social media and online marketing to become a music sensation.

StreetView Verdicts Appearing

In what’s sure to be a precedent utilized around the world, Google and their Street View product has been absolved of any wrong doing. Well, in Germany that is for the time being.

A court in Berlin has rendered the verdict of basically not guilty of infringing on personal privacy because the pictures from the cars are taken from the street and not the sidewalk. A number of the claimants used the fact that the cameras were mounted so high up on the cars they could see over privacy fences and the court told them in short, to just opt out as 240,000 other Germans already had.

The way which German courts are laid out, this is a final decision in thhe matter for Germany, but it hasn’t affected global matters as of yet. Perhaps for the moment, all eyes will turn to France and their courts as news of the German verdict was handed out, French courts levied a fine of $141,000 against Google.

Keyword Rich Domains Out?

Since it’s inception and it’s growth to become the go to search engine for the majority of internet users, Google has tweaked, modified, upgraded and changed the way you search continually. Under the hood that is, the algorithm has been tweaked so many times it barely resembles that innocent little spiderbot that began it’s journey 10+ years ago.

Every time that they make a change in the coding, or an indexing priority change it effects the search results page and it’s relevance for the users. Last year for example in order to speed up the experience of search, Google implemented the Caffeine update which indexed and cached pages faster than ever before. Doubling the experience with Google Instant they brought the average search down to less than 10 seconds for the average user. The most recent major change was the Panda or Farmer update which was put into play to try and exlude major content farms and spammy websites from search results.

And a new shift which is underway, which only Google knows will take place, Google is currently reevaluating the relevancy weight that’s given to keyword rich domain names. In a short video blog, Matt Cutts discusses a few differences between domains in that you can go differing ways in search. With a brandable name, or with a keyword rich domain. And while there’s something to be said for having a keyword rich domain, it also needs to be pointed out that more often than not, brandable urls and company names prevail online. Take Twitter for example, you wouldn’t search for twitter by using social micro blogging site, you’d type twitter in the search bar, or even just directly into the address bar.

So just to be a little more clear in what Google has admitted they’re currently working on. They’re analysing the relevance of keyword rich urls to ensure they’re delivering proper results. And they’re going to be adjusting the level of relevance they give to keyword rich domains. Bear this in mind when the next SEO “expert” you speak to, who’s working from his basement or garage urges to you that you need to have a url with your keywords in it. Because after all is said and done, what’s in a name?

Microsoft versus Google versus Mozilla

And the winner is? Mozilla and Chrome browsers at last weeks Pwn2Own web security conference. Internet Explorer 8 as well as Safari web browser were hacked within the first few days of the contest which tests browsers and internet security. Neither the Chrome browser nor the Mozilla Firefox browser were breached as teams who signed up to tackle the browsers withdrew as they failed to come up with a technique to exploit them. It’s Firefoxs first “win” at the event and Chromes third year of survival.

Both surviving browsers: open source, have bounty programs, have embedded security teams, better at faster fixes. Co-incidence?
via Chris Evans Twitter, a Chrome security engineer

Mobile browsers were also targeted and all fell to the exploits which researchers found, Google however was the first to offer a fix for the exploit which was addressed.

The contest doesn’t mean that you’re completely unsecured using IE 8 as your dedicated browser, or that by using Chrome and Firefox you’re completely protected from malicious attempts at snagging your data. The researchers at the Pwn2own event dedicate a fair amount of time and resources into breaking or hacking a specific browser, all with the intent of passing on their methods and thinking to the manufacturer so they can be patched.