Category Archives: internet news

Facebook Monday

So the big day has come and gone, Facebook talked about it’s new messaging service, and the web has been a cacophony of “Gmail killer” and other wild statements to that effect. And one of the funniest points I picked from all of the coverage of the day, was that Schmidt and Zuckerberg were almost playing nice, to a point. With their statements coming out generally like Schmidts “I’m glad they’re launching a service” And Zuckerbergs “Gmail and Gchat is an amazing service”, it’s almost like an unofficial truce of sorts.

I did however, come across a post detailing the top reasons why the new Facebook service will be “Facebook E-Mail Is Google`s Biggest Threat” and I had a really hard time making it past the second item on their list. I’m only going to share the headings of the points they’ve come up with, as the text that followed was almost uncomfortable to read. So headfirst we go:

Gmail means a lot – Okay great, Gmail means a lot. The text which followed that they used to back up their claim, was based on the idea that without Gmail, people wouldn’t use Google. And when I hit that sentance, I had to stop.

Search capabilities are there – And then unfortunately, I came to their second point. I had a hard time trying to wrap my mind around their claim that while Facebook’s search features are “primitive”; non-existant is a more accurate term, to think that they could come close, in the game that Google essentially owns, was ludicrous to read for me.

It’s where the users are – Granted now, Facebook is starting with a userbase of 500 million, definitely not a small number. But, if all you want to count are users, then if you want to include actual numbers, you’d need to include the average user base of Google to compare the two services. The point that made me chuckle here, was the assertion thatusers “spend over 700 billion minutes per month” on Facebook. That’s a whole lot of Farmville! And Googles aim? Speed up the web and it’s usage, not tie you in place.

Video – 500 million users, compared to Youtubes userbase, and the point was Facebook between June and July, Facebook saw unique viewers increase by three million, and total videos watched by 22 million. Funny thing is, all the videos I happened to see were hosted on Youtube..

Ads, ads, ads – I honestly can’t even go here.

The world, and especially the web are constantly growing and changing. It’s when things stay the same that they lose their appeal and die. Schmidt even made the point that it’s not that Google and Facebook have ever openly competed, but the media loves to drum it up that when any company launches any service, they’re competing with someone. When in fact what really ends up happening, is we all get the better end of the deal, new services, new ideas and most importantly, a choice as to which you’ll use. Me, I’ll stick with my Google and my Gmail.

Facebook Email Soon?

There’s been a great deal of speculation about the Facebook media event on Monday. As many are expecting Facebook to announce the launch of it’s very own Facebook email client. It’s not a terribly surprising step for the social media giant, however seeing the terms “Gmail killer” in news headlines is over reaching.

Being mired in their own personal sea of privacy concerns, the idea that every single Facebook user, around the 500 million mark, would use the service as their email client of choice is somewhat laughable. One of the better comments I’ve personally seen about the idea was summed up as “Facebook is going the way of AOL, making the web dumber to use”. But personal opinions aside, a Facebook email client just isn’t attractive to use.

The major strengths of the feature were listed around the “potential” strength of inbox control, seeing as Facebook would intrinsicly know who you contact the most. Funny thing is, if you’ve used email for more than a month or two, you know how to setup sorting and labelling in your client anyways. No need to have a service do it for you. So that more or less equals out, also deemed to be a strength is the Facebook webmail client could be used to display information from all of the messages you receive from your friends via games, or payments of Facebook credits. Seeing as how you already login to Facebook with an email address, and you receive notice (by default) of all of these events anyways, again they equal themselves out.

The biggest positive I can see about having a Facebook email address myself? It’s a great way to keep all of the Facebook spam in one central place, and out of my normal email provider.

The Next Evolution of Search

The larger a company gets, the more you can always find to read about it. Good information, bad information, skeptics, paranoid people, the bigger the target, the more shooters so to speak. So it’s really no surprise that Google has a great many people always supporting them, digging at them, or making some interesting claims.

Googles latest news happens to be centric to the Instant feature they rolled out last month, it’s previews which have been added. A small magnifying glass which will basically give you a site preview before you visit it. Nay sayers and the Bing users and/or supporters may huff and say “We already do that”. All fine and good to fluff, but Google’s roll out has actually added test data into the mix, in saying that by using Previews, searches occured 5% faster and people were more satisfied with their search.

When you complete you search, which is instant for you now should you have it enabled, you’ll soon start to see a magnifying glass next to your results. Clicking it, you’ll see a screenshot of the page where the result was found, giving you a glimpse as to whether or not it is what you’re actually looking for. The big thing is that you’re seeing the location and context of your search without having to navigate from your results list.

Ben Gomez, engineer:

“This is the next evolution of finding a result on a search engine results page”

So to the Bing’ers and other search engine users out there, I say great that you enjoy different, most times inferior results, more power too you. But Google has just taken the idea of search previews, added it to their already successful mix, and made search better on the whole.

Privacy Online – Remove Information from Google

The internet is a daily portion of nearly everyone’s modern workday. Email, video, web content creation, surfing as a distraction, Facebooking.. the list is nearly endless to what you can do online. And then when you’re reading the news, all of those little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Another story about Facebook privacy issues, Google data collections privacy cries. How much does Google know about you as a user? How much of your personal browsing and search history is obtainable to those who know?

Thankfully, there are steps to deal with your fears and alleviate concerns. Google as a base company is really quite basic and infantile in nature, it just indexes the web and everything on it. No inhibitions, no bias, just indexing. And as a general rule, Google doesn’t like to remove that information, namely because it’s helped them build the index that the world has come to get used too. There are some hoops however, that you can jump through if you’re genuinely bothered about data collection.

The best starting point of course, is if you have information you want to be private, make sure it’s set as such so that Google and other search engines don’t find it in the first place. Take Facebook for instance, you wouldn’t want the world to know that you’re going on a month long trip and that there’s no one taking care of your home, that’s just an open invitation to be alleviated of your materialistic burdens. Pointing your browser through the following Facebook settings : “Account > Privacy Settings” you can then customize the settings from different aspects of your account, such as photos of you and your address. “Friends only” keeps them from being indexed by search engines.

Now that only works on the largest social network out there at the moment, but what if you’ve slipped up already and your information is “out there”? Your first choice is to ask the website owner to remove your information and then try the following:

Access Google’s public removal tool
Choose “New removal request”
Enter the URL of the page you’d like removed from Google.

Additionally, if the information is of an extremely sensitive and personal nature, it’s highly likely that it’ll be dealt with swiftly as privacy has become a very large concern.

Out of any Google owned products thankfully, being removed from the service is typically just a link and an email away. After a few days of waiting, your name and personal information will be removed from services like Maps, Blogger, Youtube and Street View. Privacy is a huge concern for many people now a days, however he was received I do believe Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said it best, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it (publicly) in the first place.” View the internet as the largest glass house ever constructed, and conduct yourself accordingly.

Disappearing streets, Hacking Google

So Google was given a bit of a tap on the wrist after the whole Street view debacle. It’s ended up seeming like the agencies in charge of investigating the search giant on the privacy charges have taken them at their word when they say “We’re sorry, we didn’t mean it.”

Taken a step further yet, it’s surfaced that while you can opt out of having your home, face or anything else blurred or removed, you don’t even technically need to have a stake in the location. If you search an address on Google Maps, use the street view option, on the bottom of the page there’s a tiny grey text link stating simply “Report a problem”. Now clicking this link, will open a new page for you, where in you can describe the problem you’ve encountered in a neat little form. It could be a privacy issue, an inappropriate picture or the ubiquitous “other”. Upon filling out the few fields of informations, selecting the image you have a “problem” with, Google sends you a confirmation email and that’s that. In a few days, the site disappears; interestingly enough, there’s no corroboration as to whether or not you have any claim on the image you report. Possibilities abound.

More from Google and privacy? Okay! Anyone remember Google Buzz? Wouldn’t surprise anyone really I think if there wasn’t much mention of it, it was rather short lived in the social media sector. When Google flipped the switch on Buzz, they made a life ending (for Buzz) mistake; they exposed peoples Gmail contact lists. It didn’t take them long to fix it, but in the instant it was discovered, it doomed the idea. And because we all have something to hide, a class action was brought against the company stating in essence that “..Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent.”

The courts have reached a resolution in the matter, and in the end US based Gmail users get nothing. In their email to users Google stated: “The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be. Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011.”

And to put a final twist on the Google of today, they want you to hack them! From their security blog posting “Today, we are announcing an experimental new vulnerability reward program that applies to Google web properties. We already enjoy working with an array of researchers to improve Google security, and some individuals who have provided high caliber reports are listed on our credits page. As well as enabling us to thank regular contributors in a new way, we hope our new program will attract new researchers and the types of reports that help make our users safer.”

As was evidenced by all of the closed testing they could muster (Buzz), nothing can substitute for opening up the gates to the world and saying “Break it if you can so we can fix it!” It’s all laid out in their post here, and who knows, if you’re good enough you may receive their top pay of $3,133.7.. those who know, know.

How to Blekko? To Blek?

The term “Google it” has grown in such wide spread popularity it’s not a strange phrase to hear anymore on a day to day basis. It may be in an ad, a conversation with a colleague or something you catch in a story online. The search engine and company, Google, has grown in such a way it’s actually a verb. Not too bad for a string of letters and numbers whose conceptual purpose was to bring order to chaos of sorts.

There’s been a host of contenders in the search space, Live search now Bing, Yahoo which is now powered by Bing, as well as some who fell by the wayside and were either forgotten, or scooped up to be made part of a larger whole. Fast, Jellyfish.com, Powerset, Cuil and Wolfram Alpha. But none have been able to reliably hold a card to the power that Google commands of the web. Bing has it’s share and niche, and there are users who are comfortable with the new and sometimes bothersome Facebook integration; who still needs to learn the difference between opt-in and opt-out.

The newest kid on the block, is Blekko.com, whose choice to serve the the search audience with vertical, more specific searches, as opposed to horizontal encompassing search results. Founded by Rich Skrenta, Blekko aims to improve search results by leveraging the supposed wisdom of the crowd.

“We realized we could make Web tools that let users sign up and help make the search engine better. If we opened up the process, we could not only get orders of magnitude more people involved than we could ever hope to employ, we could also create an open, accountable process around the search engine relevance data.”

In short, by signing up you can create what Blekko calls slashtags, which work similar to Twitters hashtags to categorize tweets. The end result being search results which ignore irrelevant results or farm content.

The downside noticed with the engine so far, is that the key which makes it unique (the slashtags), also allows it to be manipulated. Blekko seeks to create highly relevant results with this method based on human user input as to what is deemed important. The big problem with people of course, is we’re fallible. What’s important on a topic to me and you, isn’t neccisarily important to anyone else on the same subject. It’s an interesting search engine, it delivers hazy results at present, but it does sport the word “beta” on it’s page, so what the tech will shape up to be is yet to be seen.

Google gets closer

Google has rolled out another new feature to search, and this time they’re getting to your roots. Currently dubbed Place Search, the idea is that all of the local information of Google Maps and listings are being turned into a searchable interface.

Couple in Google Instant, and the search page changes to show you their prediction as to what you’re looking for. Restaurants, appliance sales and repair or what ever else might tickle your fancy, if it’s local, it will have a new search results page. What you’ll find when the page comes up is phone numbers, address, a brief description of the ad as well as reviews if you happen to make a choice and click on a link.

Jackie Bavaro – Place Search’s product manager:

“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go…”
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”

She added:

“In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”

Local search just took a huge leap for Google, in a way it’s their answer to FourSquare local reporting and listing power. If you’re not being found now on Place Search, it’s the next step in the powerful world of SEO, and there’s only two places in the race for the top. Page one, or page none. Where are you?

SEO is Dead!? Again?

In the not so new news, the death of SEO is being cried again. The cause this time is the Facebook and Bing partnership. I’ve read about the social search changes that have been incorporated, and just as Google shrugged it off, I’m inclined to do the same.

The changes that Bing and Facebook bring together is definitely interesting, no doubt. However, the idea that the entire industry of search marketing, search engine optimization and search engine rankings being dealt a deathblow by this partnership is laughable. If anything, the new partnership relies on SEO and SEM to function appropriately.

For another perspective, imagine going into a hardware store, and seeing all of the isles and rows numbered and having short labels for the contents of each row. Makes your shopping trip quick and efficient to know that you can find power drills and skill saws in the power tools isle. This would be a very basic example of SEO. Now applying the new Facebook/Bing method, you’re in that same hardware store, nothing is labelled or itemized (because it’s killed SEO remember) but you know there’s a power drill in there that your friend likes and owns. Great to know that your buddy has a favorite tool that you were thinking about, but how do you go about finding it?

Two very basic examples, but they illustrate the interpretation of the new personalized search Bing and Facebook are rolling out. Social Media Optimization (SMO) isn’t a new idea, it’s not revolutionary, it’s adwords on a more personal level. It displays information relative and relavant to your account and what it knows about you, not for your searchs. One last point to consider and digest, without search engine optimization, social media optimization wouldn’t exist, and without SEO, SMO will disappear.

Google’s Private Mistake

Google and their Street View cars and maps have had their fair share of troubles the last while. What with capturing unssecured Wi-Fi connections data and all. The idea that someone could drive down the road and capture all of your data just floating in the air is rather disturbing. Since getting their hands slapped with the mis-step, Google has been working hard to clean up the gathered data to each countries specification. It was thought for a while that they only captured fragmented data, but a recent blog post says somewhat to the contrary.

“It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords,”

wrote Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research.

The post of course wasn’t so short as to say “Whoops we made a bigger mistake than we thought” he went on to say that they’re under way to destroying the information to everyone’s satisfaction.

In the end, Google has made some steps forward as well to increase security and privacy protection policies are adhered to, for all staff. From prorgammer to exec. In addition, compliance will also be tightened, including a provision that all engineering project leaders maintain a privacy design document for each project they’re working on. “This document will record how user data is handled and will be reviewed regularly by managers, as well as by an independent internal audit team,” Eustace wrote.

Apple vs Google soon?

Apple announced really impressive earnings over the last while, a billion here, a few million there. And Jobs had a short monologue prepared to address some of the players in the industry; and focused most of his time on the Google problem.

Apple has a history of “not playing well with others”, but Jobs even went so far as to justify dismissingly (to himself really) RIM/Blackbery, and Android. He spent only a few lines on RIM, he feels that they’re not a contender in their arena of handheld media. He did however, focus a good 5+ minutes on Google and their open software platform, Android. Citing that because of there being so many versions of Android out in the wild, that it makes it troublesome to develop reliable apps across all of the versions. The creator of Android itself, Andy Rubin, defended the platform via Twitter with a single line of code; illustrating what open software allows. And in almost storybook form, the creators of Tweetdeck, a third party program used to access Twitter, also came to the rescue of Android. Jobs’ argument was there are so many versions available it makes it difficult to develop apps, and the Tweetdeck creators fired back.

Iain Dodsworth, CEO of TweetDeck “Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn’t. It wasn’t. We only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is.”

It’s not an uncommon sight to see fear take hold when someone is beginning to encroach on territory. But Jobs using an impressive earnings release to try and undermine some of the strong following that Android has garnered can only leave you to wonder if it’s his confidence talking, or if he’s scrambling in the midst of a threat he never expected.