Category Archives: internet news

Hello Mobile Payments, Goodbye Wallet

It’s not news that online shopping, mobile browsing and internet use for decision making is growing in leaps and bounds. But mobile shopping, not only searching for sales, locations and possible purchases, but making direct purchases via your mobile phone is.

The tech isn’t neww, it’s similar to Speed Pass you can use to pay for gas or convenience purchases at gas stations, but embedding the same chips into a users mobile phone containing your purchase information is a new direction for it. Mobile payments is expected to reach more than $1 trillion by 2014, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s some big names trying to get in on the action. Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, as well as Verizon AT&T and even eBay are making their bids for their slice of the mobile payment pie. On November 16, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile formed Isis, a national mobile commerce network in a future making move.

“We plan to create a mobile wallet that ultimately eliminates the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets, and transit passes..”

Michael Abbott, Isis CEO

With mobile search, mobile browsing and now mobile shopping and payments making such rapid progression, it won’t be long until we no longer need to carry an information laden wallet. Everything, who you are, what you have and what you own, will all be on a single chip carried with you embedded on your mobile device.

Apple next for Anonymous?

Is Apple the next in line for ‘Anonymous’, the Wikileaks honorary guard? Companies who’ve removed the ability for money to be sent to the organization, have all in turn been attacked with direct denial of service attacks (DDOS) basically flooding the target with website requests which bring the site to a stand still.

And most recently, Apple has dropped the Wikileaks app from the App Store. “Is it likely that Apple could become a target? Of course, anyone that distances themselves from WikiLeaks could potentially become a cyber target.” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit. In all of the interviews and known information about the DDOS crusaders, the basic idea is there is no true leadership. It’s more of a group concensus about which target is going to be flooded, and the attacks are coordinated from there. Perhaps Jobs is betting that the ‘Anonymous’ group are Apple fan boys at heart. With a demographic of no fixed size or income, it’s a stretch to make believe that’s true.

And an additional take of the darker side of search, an interesting article which was rife with blackhat truths. the column had a number of colorful quips like: “The black hat SEO is the king of offshoring. Whether it’s programmers from Russia, Latvia, the Ukraine, or content creators from the Philippines, he knows how to create leverage and do it on the cheap.” And probably my personal favorite: “What are the tactics of the black hatter? Well, if I told you I’d have to kill you. Seriously though, do you think a black hatter would actually list them all out for me to publish in an article that Googlers are going to read?”

It’s an amusing read, and offers a couple of insights into the probable targets of black hat SEO techniques. Take a look through the short list provided and take it with a grain of salt, the average time a blackhat site stays live isn’t very long, a few weeks on average, but being able to rank above them irregardless of all the tricks takes the skills and qualities of SEO experts.

Google Upgrades from 2010

During the past year, Google has made their mistakes along the way as discussed previously. They also however, made a number of upgrades and changes to the way the world searches. They’re always tweaking and changing the game, and it can play havoc with the SERPs and your clients rankings.

The largest and most dramatic of such changes took on the form of the ‘Mayday’ update. It was a fundamental algorithmic change, and affected a great many sites which focused primarily on long tail searches, most of which catalogue sites with hundreds if ‘item’ pages with little to no links or content within. While a lot of sites cried foul, it was really a culling of the SERPs and removed a great deal of fluff from the results pages. Soon after came the Caffiene upgrade to the algorithm, adding speed to the search results. The largest shift in the search game since the Mayday update, it served up a cached version of the search performed and allowed users to reach their destination a tad faster than previous visits.

The next two largest changes that were brought to the search game were Google instant, and previews. Google Instant served up instant search results, as a user typed the terms into the search box. It essentially allows the caffeine update to serve up results for searches. The Pageviews update added a small magnifying glass to the search results, and while that may not seem significant, it served up results in a small frame on the search performed. The frame detailed on the page, in a small screenshot, where the search phrase was located, further speeding up the search experience for users.

As with the mistakes made during the past year by Google, there have been a number of upgrades to the engine as well. 2011 is just a few more days away, and who knows, another Mayday may be on it’s way.

2010 The year of Google Gripes

It’s been a long and busy year all around for every business out there, but Google hit a few more potholes than most however. Here are just a couple of the hiccups the giant experienced along the way in ’10.

Wi-Fi Snatch

The biggest newsmaker for Google this year unfortunately would have to be their admission of capturing unencrypted Wi-Fi data by the Street View cars. What was it that happened? Google revealed that the Street View cars had inadvertently scooped hundreds of gigabytes of data from unsecured networks in more than 30 countries around the world since 2007. The culprit turned out to be an engineer who had written code without Google’s permission. Google has been under scrutiny since.

Google Fires Engineer for Accessing Gmail Accounts

As if the Street View cars capturing data wasn’t bad enough, one Google engineer was fired from his position for snooping on four minors Gmail accounts. After Gawker broke the story, Google retorted: “We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls. For example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly—which is why we take any breach so seriously.”

Google Investigated by the European Commission

Everyone likes to have an even playing field, and the EU’s antitrust commission is great at playing on an even field. It happened to Microsoft, it happened to Intel and now it’s happening with Google. Foundem, Ciao, ejustice, Euro-Cities and German publishers complained that Google is pumping up its own services at the expense of theirs. The Commission, after having Microsoft and Intel pay out billions to continue operations in the EU, is taking this seriously.

Add to the above the failures of a few acquisitions like Groupon and the ITA software, there were the unfortunate passing of some products as well. Both some aged in the case of Wave and Buzz, which hit it’s own privacy problems that needed to be paid out, to the promised Google TV. It’s been a tough year for the big G, here’s to the prospects of a new year.

Where the Hacktivists Are

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, chances are somewhere along the way you’ve seen the news about Wikileaks. The ‘definition’ from Wikipedia: WikiLeaks is an international new media non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous news sources and leaks. The publish news and information that’s just really difficult to obtain in simple terms.

The sites founder, Julian Assange, has had a rather interesting few weeks. He’s gone from the voice of open government and free speech, to being placed on Interpols most wanted list for the recent debacle. WikiLkeaks, is currently in the process of leaking over 250,000 documents onto the internet. A great many people have called Assange many things, terrorist, dissident, guilty of treason, the list seemingly gets added to daily. The website doesn’t earn money, it’s powered purely by donation presumably, and as a result, they have a few friends.

It now seems however, that Mastercard, PayPal and Visa have pulled the ability to donate to WikiLeaks, a few friends have been angered. A few would be putting it mildly, as there’s no confirmed number but it’s somewhere in the area of 8000 plus. A group, calling itself ‘Anonymous’ is retaliating against the payment agencies, saying they’re hindering free speech on the internet. From D-DoS attacks, to mirroring the WikiLeaks site, they’re doing their part to keep the information flowing. And seeing as at a recent tally, just over 1200 of the 250,000 cables have been produced, it’s going to be a long push with a great many people helping along the way.

If you’d like to know more about the Wiki Hacktivists, or just keep up to date on what’s being said, join the discussion! There’s lots to be done.

Search in 2010

So what was it this year that tickled your fancy? The year is always ending just when it feels like you get into the groove of things, so it’s no real surprise that you may not remember what you were interested in 11 months ago. But that’s okay, because Google has just released their Zeitgeist of search. The flow of the year, as told by the trends of the internet and it’s users.

Whether it came to being hit with a bottle, or some other claim to additional fame, Justin Bieber beat out the likes of Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Shakira and even Netflix to become the fastest rising searched person and entertainment star. At no surprise however, the iPad and iPhone4 dominated the electronics trends, although as the fastest rising search trend in general, the award goes to Chatroulette, the instant, random face to face messaging service.

The fall from grace is never enjoyable, yet Susan Boyle felt it on search this year along with the movies New Moon and Slumdog Millionaire, and the global health concern of Swine Flu. Unfortunately as well however, the tragedies which shape us can be found in the daily headlines as well. At no surprise Haiti dominated the news trends as well as being the number one search term under humanitarian aid with donate to Haiti; followed closely no doubt by donate to Pakistan.

In the end the top 10 fastest rising queries was led by chatroulette, iPad and Justin Bieber, with Twitter, Gamezer and Facebook carrying the backend. The results do need to be taken with a grain of salt of course, as just because Chatroulette enjoys the crown of fastest rising search, it had an equally fast drop off. Facebook by contrast, is enjoying a steadily rising search trend as the leader in social networks. An interactive chart of the year can be found here for the most curous.

How To Compare Search Results – Ensure Proper Context First

There’s been some talk lately about a story that the New York Times did recently about how Googles ranking algorithm didn’t work right, or isn’t, when it allowed an unscupulous business to list highly in the SERPs for multiple terms. As a bone of contention, I’ll first toss in the black hat argument, that any search can be “gamed” if the long term is unimportant. But secondly, the “SEO experts” commenting on this story are frustrating to in the way their articles have been written.

First off, SEO is not an exact science. There’s no specific do this and you get number 1 formula, as each search, each niche, each query is different for each person using Google/Bing/Yahoo etc. There is the best practices of course, which the search engines have available on their sites for your reading pleasure, but there was a string of, ‘evidence’ I’ll call it, by one of the SEOs that I need to rant about.

Search, for it’s simplicity, is a complicated beast. With Google continually tinkering with their algorithm, Bing doing their own changes and manipulations and who knows what else going on around the globe, it can seem like you’re using a firehose to put out birthday candles sometimes. And the article that irked me the most, used a string of searches to ‘prove’ their point. Using screenshots, arrows and breaking down the results page each time to prove that if only Google did it their way, search would be better for the shopping inclined. My issue with the article comes from the searches performed that were used as proof. In one shot for example they were looking for ‘mechanics in winnipeg’ and in the second they looked for ‘mechanics winnipeg’, after which you can include arrows and screenshots to show “See now if you only did it my way..” The issue is, those are two very different searches that were performed. Those weren’t the searches used of course, but being that Fresh Traffic is located in Winnipeg, I took some liberty, just as they did, to prove my point. Those two searches, return two different SERPs, and two different amount of results numbering in the thousands. When you add the ‘in’ operator to a Google search, the engine defers to it’s newer Google Places product, and tries to give results more akin to a shopping or services directory. with reviews, phone numbers, addresses and Maps pinpoints. Performing the search without the ‘in’ operator gives you a mix of organic results and Places results mixed in, more of a thrown together guess from Google of what you’re looking for.

So as for being creative on how you tried to prove your point, I guess kudos for displaying a poor SEO skillset to those who don’t know any better. But there are those of us in the industry who know better, and despite all intents and purposes your hat is a shade darker today.

Another Google Car

At what lengths do you go, to save yourself or your business some cash? Where do you decide to trim your budget. Production? Acquisition? Marketing? Development? Depending on your niche and business model there are many more to add to the list I’d wager. So when it comes right down to it and you need to find some money, where do you trim, all too often the budget cuts fall on the marketing angle. And the first place that gets the shaft, is online marketing more than not.

The argument usually heard is that it’s not tangible, you can’t track any results or gains with it. The internet is a virtual world of switches, capacitors and electrical connections, so in a touchable tangible sense it’s not “real”. The numbers however, the web is full of numbers which are very easily countable. That machine you use on your desk at the office and at home everyday is, at it’s core, an overgrown calculator. Traffic, sales, visitors and unique first time viewers are all metrics easily tracked by the software that expert SEOs use to demonstrate to clients that what we do works like gang busters.

And a question that we are asked time and time again is: “Why should I retain you on a contract if the guy down the street says he can do the same for me for only $300?” And since people keep asking, the simplest and honest to god answer is maintenance. See, the internet never sleeps, never rests and is always changing. Google, the king of search and search marketing is the same. Always changing the algorithm, making it faster, smarter and it can throw the entire results page into disarray when they make a number of changes at once. Retaining your position on the SERPs in the midst of these changes is why we’re the best. And it’s why we can command the costs required for the care we give to your online marketplace. Now, if you’re still unsatisfied that this is the case, a simple analogy for you in easy to understand terms.

Your website is a car and Google is it’s engine. The internet are the roads you travel endlessly. Knowing you need a tune up (SEO) you look for a mechanic to tend to your car, and decide to settle for the budget variety to save a few dollars and settle in for a rest. Waking up, you find out that your Google engine has decided that it doesn’t like unleaded fuel anymore and instead wants diesel. So back to your mechanic who tells you ‘Sorry, I don’t know what I need to do to work with diesel’. And instead of driving your way to the top, you’re stuck, stranded on the side of the road with a stalled site (car), and work done on your engine that no longer works.

If you need to save some budget dollars and decide to focus on marketing, then trim your budget in the old, untraceable metrics like television, radio, newspapers and billboards. Playing catch up on the web is an exponentially more difficult game the longer you wait Winnipeg, time to get a move on.

The future of the Web – Facebook Style

Lots of news came out of the Web 2.0 summit, and there was an interview hosted by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle where they spoke with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. They touched on a number of subjects, ranging from the new Facebook Messages service, to privacy and on to opinions and thoughts of “what’s next?” for the web.

Zuckerberg said that initially the idea of Messages came to him when having a conversation with a high school student who lamented that email is “too slow”. Taking the idea to the drawing board, the development team decided that they could lose certain aspects which makes email a “slow” medium of conversation. Things like the subject line, multiple paragraph letters and formal signatures. Messages aims to streamline communications between instant messaging, SMS (simple messaging service) and email.

When Zuckerberg was asked about Facebook and some of the privacy concerns, as well as the seeming mantra of “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” he deflected the conversation within a sentance or two back to the Messages service. Mark made the point that even though Facebook allows the friendship relationship to share information across wide groups, he made the point that “I don’t know that we’re 100% right about it”. Also admitting that Facebook is often in the crosshairs of privacy watchdogs because “Facebook is at the forefront of the internet privacy issue, and are trying to come up with solutions” Getting everything right, everytime isn’t a possibility for any company on the web, but it’s perhaps the two values being pressed to development teams at Facebook that keeps it in the privacy limelight; move fast, and be bold. If an idea is fleshed out, take the chances and move fast on it and let it into the social world. Change is always scary, but it’s also the quickest and surest way to grow and adapt.

A rather pointed question about competition was directed about the ad network on Facebook, in the form of being socially driven. Zuckerberg somewhat deflected this question as well, stating that he’s not sure it’s the right direction right now, and that there’s still a lot of work left to do on the web. When it came to the user base of Facebook, the metric which was given was that “50% of user accounts on Facebook are active everyday” and in the next 5 years or so, we’re going to see the internet moving into a more socially interactive model. Seeing as how Facebook is *the* social place to be online right now, the question was asked if there will be other social graphs to make an appearance and gain importance. In answer, Zuckerberg showed that a few years ago, app developers wouldn’t have contributed to the web space mainly because the user base wasn’t centralized. Now that developers can safely assume that 60% of their userbase are Facebook users and are “socially enabled” it allows companies and businesses to develop apps and services that even just 2 years ago didn’t make sense. The expectation is there will be various social graphs online, and they will all be able to work together.

One of the better questions pose was in terms of with Facebook becoming such a giant in the social space, is Facebook aiming to be the prime destination online, or is Facebook wanting to be an enabler for the web. Unexpectedly in a sense, Mark made the admittance that Facebook will be more of an enabler of the web as we move forward. There was a graphic at the summit, outlining the web in different countries in a way. At the end of the interview Zuckerberg pointed out that the image should be changed. As the graphic detailed the internet and online industry in a “zero sum” fashion, as in no room to grow or change other than taking anothers place, the image should be comprised primarily of an undetermined space. It’s the skewed view of the media, and a great many industry analysts that the web is a defined space, that leads to the headlines of “Facebook declares war on Google” and so on.

It was a good interview to listen too, and Zuckerberg had some interesting points to share on the web industry as a whole. Have a watch for yourself and see.

Practicing Safe Search

In the world of SEO, there’s the good guys and the bad guys. It’s discussed in great detail on a lot of websites, blogs and forums. So to contribute to the trend, I’ll briefly touch on the subject as well.

The big news as of late to hit the news reel is the royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it’s been in print, online, I’m certain it’s been on television and the radio by now as well. But before you run off and hit the web to find all the latest gossip about the couple, follow a few simple rules first.

1) Know full well, that with news which floods the web like this engagement, it’s a prime target for black hat SEO. What black hat is usually associated with are all of the wonderful malware infections which keep computer repairmen in business, and shady companies in cash. What happens is the black hatters pick a hot, fast rising trend, and “poison” the search results. With hundreds of millions of people using search daily, it’s easy to pull in a few unsuspecting curiousity seekers.

2) Don’t click a link, if you don’t recognize the url. When you perform a search in Google, you’ll have the blue link headline, the black description text, and a green url. If that green text is not a website you recognize easily (such as cnn.com or bbc.com for example) take a pass on the link! It doesn’t matter if the description says it has the latest on the wedding, your hard drive and OS will thank you later.

3) The easiest way to gather information via search is built right in now thankfully. All of the major search engines return relevant real time results as well as part of a search. If a topic is trending well, and people are posting about it, there’ll be social and real time search listings.

Do yourself a very big favor when it comes to search, just because the websites which rank in the top 5 say they have the dish on all of the secrets, think first and click later. Malware has larger implications than just slowing down your computer and providing nagging pop ups. It can start there, and go all the way up the ladder to identity theft, password stealing and/or keylogging.