Category Archives: internet news

Another Facebook Privacy Issue

It’s been a busy few days in the search world. Last week Bing and Facebook announced their joint partnership in delivering fully personalized search results to people using Bing as their engine. Google responded with an unenthusiastic “Ok, and? Our mobile made oodles of dollars.” and as of this Monday, Facebook is still making news.

The Facebook/Bing partnership is an interesting twist in the “World of Mouth” direction of the web. Using Bing as your search engine, you will see your results with social search automatically enabled for you; Facebooks rather famous “opt-out instead of in” ideology. You’ll be able to peruse what your friends and family on Facebook felt about the subject you’ve decided to search on. It adds that familiar ” Likes this” to your SERPs. A module built into Bing which you can disable, but with a forward looking future, able to deliver more dynamic personalized results.

Jump to Monday afternoon, and Facebook finally admits that yes, their app developers may have had a privacy problem. Engineer Mike Vernal said they believe devs were unintentionally sharing Facebook user id’s, but that it was a violation of the site wide privacy policy regardless. “Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit user consent,” he claimed.

“Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all applications are in compliance with our policy.”

It’s estimated that millions of apps users are affected by the programming error, and that the top ten most popular apps all had the issue. Farmville, Mafia Wars and other Zynga titles were all sharing unique, private Facebook User ID’s. A blatant breach of privacy, to add to the list of concerns already with the social networking giant. And if that isn’t enough to make you stop harvesting crops on Farmville, or knocking over a bank in Mafia Wars, Facebook doesn’t even know how to fix the privacy problem.

Why does this relate in anyway, other than name, to the Facebook/Bing social search partnership? It bears mentioning that if the module works the way it’s described, it accesses your personal information on your computer in order to build your personalized results. Imagine all of the cookies the average Facebook user has in their browser history for that module to munch on; and share.

The New Social Search – BingBook?

There was the big conference today from Microsoft Bing and Facebook, and from the sounds of things they’re trying to give the world of search a stiff shake. The partnership idea that’s been rolled out (very small snippet) is when you search for an item or topic on Bing, your socially relevant searches would appear first. Your friends likes/dislikes on a subject or topic that you’ve plugged in. Some good questions have been asked from the conference, items of privacy of course what with Facebooks infamous history thus far, and of course someone asked about the money incentive (no answer on that last one). The far reaching goal is that your search is tailored exclusively for you. It’s personalization of the SERPs for *everyone* who uses Bing.

About the privacy factor, the social search angle is functioning like a module within Bing. A module, which can be turned off should you choose to shut it.

Zuckerberg stated : “We have this idea. 500 million people can look you up on Facebook. We think why shouldn’t applications be able to do this to?”

Because everyone is searchable on Facebook, set to private or not, the train of thought is to allow applications the same level of trust. Bascially you’re allowing Bing, to see all of your informationg you’ve made public on Facebook, and makes that information searchable to your friends list.

The social search angle isn’t meant to completely remove the traditional SERPs page you’re accustomed to seeing, it’s being added to help personalize your queries and provide you with unique results, relevant to you. It’s an updated twist on the personalized search results you start to see within Google for example, minus the cookie saving sessions. The negative side I personally see at this juncture, would be the fact that you need to Opt-out of the service should you choose not to use it. Some would think Facebook learned their opt-in, opt-out lessons by now. Only time now will be the determining factor on this new idea.

Google Instant and Google Snapshot?

Google Instant is now fully rolled out to search users, and while the jury seems to be split on it’s usefulness, it’s here to stay. It’s simple enough to turn off, and does a reasonably good job of returning relevant results to a search in progress. Over the past week, they’ve added an additional, if somewhat unubtrusive, addition to the Instant results. A small blue arrow began appearing next to the first search result of the search in progress. Additionally, holding down the enter key after completely your query, you’ll be brought directly to the first result, somewhat like a Google Instant version of “I’m feeling lucky!” button. You can also reposition the tiny selector if you use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it to a different result. Interesting some, but useful? That, just like the usefulness of Instant, is yet to be seen.

Additional noise has been cropping up as well, that Google has been offering mouse over previews of sites displayed in the results. It’s not a new technology per say, as Bing uses the same idea to deliver a snapshot of a potential website to a searcher. It’s a relatively new twist on the idea, as the snapshots that have been appearing, seem to be realtime views of the results. Questions to Google have gone largely unanswered, except for the one phrase: “At any given time there are 50-200 experiments being run” Who knows what may be coming from the search giant, no one can really tell.

Online Spending Increased 25% – Stats Can

All of the talk about people moving their purchasing power to the internet, isn’t complete hogwash. According to StatsCans newest numbers, Canadians online expenditures have increased to $15 billion (2009) from $12 billion (2007).

The total was broken down into 95 million transactions, at an average of $1,420. You might be thinking that doesn’t sounds so huge, but if you factor in the population of our country is only around the 34 million mark, it’s a fair amount of money per person. As for some contrast, in 2007 Candians only spent $12 billion on line over 69 million transactions. One of the more interesting figures is the expenditures per person in 2007 was $1,520 as opposed to the $1,420 of 2009.

That difference is coming from the increased consumer base. As the internet and the web become more accessible, and online shopping becomes a more and more trusted means of acquisition, while the average may drop per person, overall spending will continue to increase.

And if you carry inventory in store, there’s no need to worry. StatsCan also reported that over half of Canadians online, would “window shop”, researching their purchases prior to buying them. Ensuring that you have a quality website, backed with service and sales in store is a great way to drive people to your site, and your address.

The chances grow daily that as someone is researching a purchase idea, they’re asking their friends, families and connections on Facebook, twitter or other social media about their thoughts and experiences. The web has become an incredibly powerful marketing tool when used correctly, and the proof is in the numbers.

The World of Facebook

So all of the news lately is about 1 thing, maybe 2 if you want to be specific. Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has been in the news because of it’s crashes/outings/downtime (choose your own term), and Zuck because of the $100 million donation he’s made.

The Facebook crashes led to some hilarious Twitter posts, my favorite being “American business reports an astounding 480% increase in productivity”. And of course some news outlets and activists used the outage, and the outcry over it, to try and drive home the point that Facebook(ing) is addictive and a time goblin. It’s a strong term to say that Facebook is an addiction, because Facebook at it’s core, is really just a database of names. It’s the plugins that have made it a destination, homepage and yes, even a hobby for some people. What Zuckerberg did right, was making the format adaptable to virtually any idea out there, much the same as Jobs did with Apple and the iProducts.

The largest difference between Jobs and Zuckerberg, I can see is cost. It doesn’t cost you anything to be able to use any of the Facebook apps/plugins/games, where as to own an Apple product, you’re going to be spending a minimum of $100 in most cases. It really should have been no surprise then, when it was mentioned that Mark Zuckerberg, has a larger personal worth than Steve Jobs.

In a way, it’s almost like the story in Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. And they did.. in the millions.

Tweeting Gone Wild

Twitter.com made it’s own set of headlines recently two fold. First, they roll out their new design, and then they managed to be taken advantage of. Through a clever use of the onmouseover tag of javascripting, a worm was running amok on the micro blogging service. It was self-replicating, affecting all users who were directly using Twitter.com. Tweetdeck and other Twitter apps, were unaffected. Drive by attacks aren’t just in the real world anymore it seems.

Can you Facebook?

It may seem intuitive to be able to use Facebook and it’s services. Maybe the problem was a comprehension issue then. A 14 year old English girl learned the hard way to always double check before you submit an event on Facebook. With her upcoming 15th birthday party, she’d decided that Facebooking the event would be the surest way to invite all of her friends to attend, neglecting however to privatise the affair. Instead of only having those she wished to attend, there were 21,000 attendees confirmed for the (now) gala event. Alas, the girls parents decided that perhaps having that many people at their house wouldn’t work, and called off the party, and even so the local police are ready for any surprise events.

That the girl made a simple enough mistake in not privatising her party to her invitees only, it opened the door that Facebooks privacy settings are too difficult to administer. To think, that all she had to do was actually read the page she was using to post the event, and uncheck the box labelled: Anyone can view and RSVP (public event) Accountability it seems, is never a personal responsibility.

Time to be Found – Google Instant

So the big news so far this week would most definitely have to go to the newest change in Google search, Google Instant.

Google Instant is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.

In a nutshell, Google is completetly your searches for you as you type, so no need to hit that enter button. They broke down the search time in a basic format. It takes about 9 seconds to type a query, 1 second to return results, and on average, 15 seconds to select your best choice. The idea, is that Instant will reduce search times by as much as 5 seconds!

Unless your a professional racer of some sorts, 5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it can mean the difference between an ad impression, click through, or new visitor to your site. As a business owner, you need to decide and realize what your time, product and online presence are worth to you. Google Instant isn’t available widely, and can be shut off by users who dislike the service. But, what are you worth? Is your competitors site optimized better? Is your nearest rival perhaps in a better search position on the “normal” SERPs? With the looming introduction of permanent Instant, how much is your online brand worth to you? A difference of 5 seconds could mean the difference between a new contract, or being on the receiving end of a dusty unused website.

Microsoft Spider Hacked?

Google, Bing and all of the other search engines out there use bots to crawl the web to build their index. They’re programmed to crawl the web, review what they find and change or update as they find new pages. Recently, there’s been some concern with activity by the Microsoft spider bot.

Web masters who are diligent about visitor stats on their sites have noticed some errant bot activity from Microsofts end of the web. The activity that’s been found strange? The Microsoft web crawler, appears to be coming into websites cloaked. It’s something that’s happened before, that they were able to rectify, but this time calls to correct the problem have gone un-answered. A point which has raised the tiny hairs on webmasters necks, the bot isn’t just bouncing on a site once or twice over the course of a day or two. Some are reporting activity in the 10+ times per day range.

The silence about the activity, the cloaked visits and the multiple pings per day are all very erroneous activity from any spider bot. Let alone a bot owned and controlled by such a large internet property. Some webmasters, are even speculating.. has it perhaps been hacked?

Googles Search Cap

If acquisitions are feathers in a companies hat, Google has quite the chapeau just from 2010. THeir most recent purchase of Angstro, is another plume for them. Angstro is a type of “personal professional search engine”, but perhaps they say it best.

Angstro represents the ability to hone in on highly focused, relevant news across professional networks. Where search engines such as Google and other news aggregator services have immense infrastructures that return a huge array of random results, Ångströ analyses a wide breadth of information from multiple data sources to deliver very few, yet very intelligent results.

Now any search engine isn’t entirely random, there’s relative results for any query you pose. With the shift in the change of Google’s SERPs, and the Bing/Yahoo marriage finalized, perhaps the addition of Anstro it affords another avenue.

So at last count, the potential social side of Google would comprise of such services as Orkut, Buzz, Latitude, GMail, Maps, Contacts, Calendar, iGoogle, YouTube, Vevo, Google Talk, Google Reader, Picasa, Profile, Docs, (the now abandoned Wave) and as well, their upcoming music service and reported Zynga investment.

They’re not looking to re-invent the wheel ala Facebook style, but at a conference a little back, they did have a slide representing online social time breakdown. Fifty percent of the time spent online, was spent on Zynga games Farmville and MafiaWars. When it comes to the web, and Google, there are no coincidences.

Search Market Share – July 2010

Bing and Yahoo have officially come together, with the results on the Yahoo SERPs being fully “Powered by Bing”. The process began 6+ weeks ago, with it finally being completed this past week.

Slowly and surely, Bing has replaced Yahoos results page with their own, so maybe it’s just me but, the recent market share numbers posted by Nielsen stats don’t make a difference in the search engine world. Google was sitting at 64% market share, while Yahoo and Bing have a combined 27% share. Sensationalizing results, is a method of the press, and what better way to grab attention than to say ‘BING UP 50%!!”

Now, Nielsen has Bing sitting at 13.6% market share on it’s own merit. This time, last year Bing (a repacked, remarketd Live search) was in it’s infancy at 2 months old, which at the time, Bing had 9% of the search market share. Here’s the sensationalizing part, 9% increased to 13.6%, is 4.6%, yay math. But since 4.6 is just a hair over half of 9, that means Bing grew by 51%!

In the end, the numbers don’t lie. Yahoo’s “market share” will essentially decrease over time until it’s just finally lumped in with Bing, and we’ll end up with Google on top, YaBing in second, and everyone else coming in respectively after the two major players. Online PC based search is slowing down a tad as well, with the advent of more intelligent and handy smart phones, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.