Category Archives: internet news

Google+ Is Not Dead

The numbers are becoming more and more visible, and since it’s launch in late June, Google+ has attracted 25 million users in about a month. Facebook, in contrast, took about three years to reach those levels , while Twitter took just over 30 months. According to ComScore. Google+ has since hit the 50 million users mark.

So how could it be that people are calling Google+ dead in the water so soon? You could blame it in part on Googles checkered social history, or even on the privacy gaffs they experienced their first time out with Buzz. Some bloggers have recently used the terms “Google is dead” and “Google+ is worse than a ghost town” to describe their Google+ accounts and activity. The strongest language would have to be a Forbes commentator saying “Google+ is a failure no matter what the numbers say”. Harsh descriptions for what has been described as an alternative social network with the Hangouts and the strong security options built in.

Even with all of these doom callers, there are just as many reminding users out there to give it time. The internet wasn’t built in a day, Facebook didn’t reach social dominance overnight and Google+ will need some nurturing time despite explosive growth early on. A strong point to consider, just like SEO didn’t exist 10 years ago, the idea of a social network didn’t exist just 4 years ago.

The measure that’s been decided of success for a social network is the level of activity on the site. When you hold up the measuring stick of “700,000 pieces of sharing per minute” to *any* social network it’s going to look like a failure. Something that also needs to be kept in mind, if you’re experiencing a dead or slow social network, that is a result of the people you’re following and your own level of sharing. If you don’t share any information within your circles then why should you receive any feedback or activity into your account?

To say Google+ is already dead, is premature speculation at this point. Time will tell just how successful the search giant can be in the social arena, but with the recent addition of the games panel, the named hangouts and the collaboration which is possible with your circles on Google+. Giving Google the time to mature their social product is necessary before calling it dead.

Google Sweetens the G+ Pot

There’s been a shift lately in the Google+ world, it’s not longer set as invite only status. Just in case you haven’t noticed, just visit Google and you can sign up for your G+ account. That said, there’s been a number of changes and improvements to the social site, all of which to improve your experience on the site.

One of the biggest differences initially between Facebook and G+ were the Hangouts which were offered on Google+. Being able to invite groups of your friends to literally video chat to each other and, well hangout together. This past week there have been some upgrades to the service.

Hangout via Cellphone
Taking a cue from Skype, Google+ now offers live hangout streaming on your mobile phone. It is however, currently only supported on Android 2.3+ phones with front facing cameras.

Broadcast Hangouts
Speaking to a large audience just got a little bit easier. The recent launch of Hangouts On Air allows you to interact with a large group of your Google+ buds, or just view as a spectator. There’s even an option to record your session. The addition of this option in particular promotes training, and webinars.

To tie in to the idea of being able to reach a wide audience at once, Google+ has also added the ability to share each others screens (if enabled) and a sketchpad almost like using a white board to instruct.

Google has added integration with your existing Google docs with the Hangout feature as well. Share a document with a co-worker, link up together in a hangout and you can work together in real time to complete your projects in time.

Have a need to talk to others in a particular industry or with similar interests? Look for a public hangout about that topic and connect. Or create your own. This is a great opportunity for an up and coming designer looking to reach out to fashion bloggers, other designers, or to collaborate on designs to do so no matter where they are in the world.

Use these hangouts to meet up with a support group and invite others to join in on the conversation as well. Hold an online networking event and connect with prospective customers too. The possibilities are endless.

And two of the biggest ideas that have been added would have to be the access to the Hangout API to allow programmers to begin work on real time apps. And the one you would have expected, but wasn’t actually a part of Google+ until recently, was integration with search. Relevant content and connections will show up in addition to relevant posts. Easily sort through and find content related to what you’re looking for.

This isn’t all of the updates the giant has planned for their social site of course, it’s merely a beginning, but they’re great out of the gate. Hopefully they can continue the trend.

The Negative Bing

Some would think it foolish to continually bail out a sinking ship, as it springs more and more holes the longer it’s in the water. Yet as strange as a metaphor as that may be, that’s exactly what Microsoft has been doing for the last 4+ years with it’s search engine, first Live and now known as Bing.

Realistically you may initially think that it can’t really be that bad, search is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, Bing and search powered by Bing has about a third of the market so how bad could it really be. Bing search share has been growing slowly, abeit steadily since they rebranded themselves and growth and change has been positive. So how bad is it really? Since 2009, Bing has lost $5.5 billion dollars for Microsoft.

The image itself should put into stark contrast the amount of money that’s been lost in the search game. But Microsoft isn’t without tricks or ideas, and in an interview they hinted at some upcoming surprises.

Microsoft President of Online Services Qi Lu gave an impassioned speech about how Bing would improve search by “reorganizing the Web.” To do that, Microsoft plans to leverage its network of products and partnerships to gain a better understanding of what the user is after when they enter a query into a Bing search box.

And as if to emphasize that Microsoft has recognized the necessity for radical change, Lu also said in the same interview:

Microsoft could not and would not try to “out-Google” Google. Instead, it must “change the game fundamentally.”

If Bing stays the course, even the money analysts are predicting positive cash flow in the next 3-4 years, provided of course Bing continually earns search share from Google. Lu’s statement however, sounds as if Bing is being poised to be sent in a new direction.

Time To Be A Google Engineer

It’s the beginning of the ‘social’ part of the Google+ platform. Google has released the first public APIs for Google+ so that external developers can start working with the fledgling social networking site and planning applications for it.

This first batch of APIs lets developers fetch only public data from profiles in a read-only manner, and access is limited to what Google calls a “courtesy usage quota” for now. Google sees this initial API release as the first step in building a more powerful developer platform.

“For all of you developers who have been asking for a Google+ API, this is the start. Experiment with it. Build apps on it. Give us your feedback and ideas,”

– Chris Chabot Google+ Developer Relations

Having a thriving developer community, as Twitter and Facebook have done, has proven a must for social networking sites to succeed, so a lot is riding on the Google+ platform. Twitter announced in July that some 750,000 developers have built about 1 million applications for its microblogging service.

Interestingly, Google is holding off on adopting for Google+ the OpenSocial APIs that it originally developed in 2007 and championed for years as a better alternative to proprietary tools for specific platforms like Facebook’s.

The OpenSocial technology has been adopted by a number of consumer and enterprise social networking providers and its development is managed and overseen by the nonprofit OpenSocial Foundation.

When asked about plans to let developers build Google+ applications using the OpenSocial APIs, a Google spokeswoman said via email that at this time the Google+ platform doesn’t support the OpenSocial APIs.

“However, we are using lots of the technology that was developed as part of OpenSocial, including the gadget application packaging model, and the Portable Contacts JSON schema, to power Google+ games. As we define the +Platform APIs, we are paying close attention to the future direction of the OpenSocial APIs, and converging wherever possible.”

Developers can use the OpenSocial APIs to build applications for other Google sites and services, including the Orkut social networking site and the iGoogle personalized home page service.

Google Stepping Up To The Local Plate

In the last couple of days in the world of search there’s been a bit of a rumbling about Google’s latest acquisition. Google is punching out the numbers to pick up Zagat survey, basically the first version of Yelp. Yelp if for some reason you haven’t heard, is a site which allows visitors to post and read reviews about businesses locally. Yelp has been around for the last 7 years or so while Zagat has been around for 30 years and climbing. Their chief difference? Zagat offers their reviews in print as opposed to purely an online offering.

Google places already has a minor version of a local review offering when you start drilling down into results, but nothing as in depth as Yelp was able to offer. With their picking up the tab for Zagat, it could very well give them the nudge they need to push hard into local review and advertising markets globally. Google in the past little while has garnered the ire of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor for basically scraping their reviews to have them on the Places profiles pages, so Googles current offerings have significantly waned.

Besides restaurants, Zagat also offers ratings of entertainment venues, wine and travel. The online version of the site has an established community, so there’s a social networking dimension to consider as well as the content being purchased.

Zagat co-founders Tim and Nina Zagat said that they “will continue to be active in the business as co-Chairs, however, the merger of our resources, expertise and platforms with those of Google will give us the opportunity to greatly expand.”

Google said in its blog post that “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering.” It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise or stretch to see Google pulling the Zagat ratings and reviews onto their Places profiles pages in time so as not to hurt the name brand of Zagat.

The Basis of SEO

When we have new clients which are chomping at the bit to take over the world with their website, it seems more and more often there has been some confusion just to how the SEO process works. For some reason, the idea that we as search engine optimization and online branding experts can just call Google and tell them to place you at the top of the listings, seems to be what we do. The demystifying of SEO is a somewhat difficult task at times, even more so when contacts believe you can walk on water.

With this issue fresh in mind from a recent conversation, I feel the need to reiterate some basic SEO facts for those who may hopefully read this post before jumping to conclusions. First off, optimization of your website is only a very small piece of the puzzle for your online business. Any SEO worth their salt will tell you that in order for you to be successful online not only do you need to be visible, but there needs to be a clear call to action on your landing page. It does you no good as an online store for example, to have visitors landing on your contact us or about us page. You want users to buy from you, optimizing your site to drive traffic to your catalogue is your goal.

Search engine optimization is not an over night or fly by night success. It’s been said a million times, organic optimization takes time. If you’re lucky and have a solid base to work with, it may take as little as a month or two, but the norm is closer to 12 weeks + to begin seeing consistently measurable results.

After these two basic points, then you get into the meat of the business which has been talked about at great length all across the web. You need to keep website usability in mind. You need to keep your all encompassing goal when writing new content and rehashing the old on your pages. You can completely derail an SEO campaign with as small a change as making a term into a plural as opposed to singular. Remember to keep your navigation menus clean and clear, the more accurate and simple you can make them the quicker your site can be crawled and indexed.

Just some very plain, basic facts about the SEO process (again) which just seem to keep eluding small and large business owners alike. For all of your search engine optimization and online branding success, you need only pick up the phone and give the experts a call.

Facebook Mimicking Google+ ?

Never would competitors admit they’ve made changes based on what each other implement, but it’s the oldest game of keep up that exists. Beginning today, Facebook is rolling out a whole bunch of new privacy and sharing controls which they say, have “been in the works for months”. It’s not like Google+ was tearing away tens of millions of users per day from Facebook, but the more granular and easy to use privacy controls were a big positive note for those already looking for a change in their social landscape.

Primarily, you’ll finally be given a stronger grip on your profile and how you share with your friends. Items can be public (everyone) or only shared with specific people or groups. Visibility of your profile as well will be able to be administered on a friend to friend basis if you desire. Allowing you to share the things you like with those who would appreciate them. In addition to being able to control your profile image on a deeper level, so to will you be able to control any tagging which may occur.

Tagging, the attachment of a name to a photo on Facebook, can be harmless or harmful depending on the image used. Previously if you were tagged in a photo, it would appear as part of your profile, and you would need to ask to have it removed or report the picture. The change that’s being made in this area allows you the option to remove the photo from your profile, even with your name remains tagged in your friends/colleagues picture. So now you’re able to control somewhat if someone tries to attach your name to a distasteful image.

It’s only a smattering of the privacy controls that Facebook is working on doling out to their userbase. Easier to understand and granular are the order of the day and going forward, although it does bring up a thought. If Facebook did have the changes percolating and waiting for months, why did it take the beta test of Google+ for them to finally push them out? Perhaps suddenly Facebook realized there was another game in the social arena, and considering the strength of the backer, couldn’t wait to hold anything back. There is of course another option I’m personally more inclined to believe, that Facebook liked Google+ privacy controls and used the same model.

Google’s Drug Bust

In the largest federal forfeiture of funds in US history, the largest pill pusher in the US has been held accountable. At a ‘fine’ of $500 million dollars, Google’s reign as the pill pusher is over. I guess calling Google a pill pusher is a bit of a stretch, but the way the news is coming out over the course of the day it’s almost like they were running the largest operation in US history.

The main points of the story would be, Google has AdWords, the US has expensive medications. Enter the opportunity for online pharmacies to sell the same medications for a fraction of the cost and voila! Canadian online pharmacies found that a lucrative market existed using Google’s AdWords platform to advertise to Americans who needed medication, yet lacked the funds to pay for them offered on the US side of the line. While the US government lacked the desire to pursue individuals who purchased the pills online, they focused their attack on the method by which they were advertised.

“This investigation is about the patently unsafe, unlawful, importation of prescription drugs by Canadian on-line pharmacies, with Google’s knowledge and assistance, into the United States, directly to U.S. consumers,” said Peter Neronha, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island in a written statement. “It is about holding Google responsible for its conduct by imposing a $500 million forfeiture, the kind of forfeiture that will not only get Google’s attention, but the attention of all those who contribute to America’s pill problem.”

By that statement, I guess Canada and Google are to blame for all of the pill users in the US. A little interesting point, the $500 million that Google has to pay out? Just a little over 20% of their earnings.. from the first quarter. I don’t think they’re really strapped for cash in the end. It just turned out that us Canadians were a little more clever with online marketing and Google provided the means for Americans to continue getting their meds at a reasonable price. What’s happening now is anyone’s guess.

Google + Motorola = ???

This past Monday, Google finally has tipped it’s hand to the world. To the tune of over $12 billion, the search giant bought up Motorola Mobility, best known for their quality cellular phones.

It’s common knowledge at this point in the industry, that the Google Android operating system has been devouring market share on handheld devices. By adding the Motorola feather into their cap now, Google includes both them and Android, Google voice and fibre optic service plans, as well as their internet voip phone services which are still growing and booming in usage. Providing that all of the industry watchdogs say yes to the deal, Google has bought itself a powerful arm to add to their arsenal with more than 17,000 patents in the Motorola company.

With Android being so popular on so many different handsets, they’re still all going on the record and saying the Motorola purchase doesn’t worry them in the slightest. In fact, they’ve reportedly endorsed the deal as a patent protection measure. That sounds all well and good, but paying $12 billion+ for patent protection is a stretch even for the search giant. Android is a powerful, moldable operating system which many handheld device makers have adopted, but the longer the lifetime of Android has been stretched, so do the problem tickets and the wait of a solution. By having Motorola in their stable, Google will be able to solve some hardware misunderstandings which have dogged their Android OS.

“With Motorola, Google will get a better understanding of how hardware works,” said Ramon Llamas, mobile device analyst at IDC. “They can then offer better help to guide their partners about how to develop hardware for future Android products.”

No one thought 6 months ago that Google would want to buy up a handset manufacturer — or launch a head-to-head assault on Facebook, as it did with Google+. Four months into Larry Page’s tenure as CEO, he’s already proven he’s not afraid to make high-stakes bets. Forget “don’t be evil.” Google’s new motto seems to be “expect the unexpected.”

Most Popular Internet Use

With all there is to do on the web, how do you internet? According a recent survey, despite all of the distractions and extra activities you can become tied up with, things really haven’t changed all that much. Pew Research and the American Life Project measured adults online activities for the monts of April and May 2011, and what they learned was conducting online searches and checking email were still the top activities performed.

When it came to using search engines to find information online, 92% of adults use a search engine and 59% admitted to conducting searches everyday. Not such a big surprise if you think of the multi-billion dollar a year search industry. Also 92% of adults use the internet to check their email, 61% of which do so everyday. Again, shouldn’t really be a surprise that you need to use the internet to check your email, but that both activities still rank as the top usage was.

“Perhaps the most significant change over that time is that both activities have become more habitual,” it notes. “Today, roughly six in ten online adults engage in each of these activities on a typical day; in 2002, 49 percent of online adults used email each day, while just 29 percent used a search engine daily.”

With the advent of social networking booming in recent years, it’s worth noting their usage was up to 65% of online time, just below online shopping and checking news services online. The survey was conducted with just over 2200 adults (18+) and the popularity of using “dated” technology, aka search, was as popular with the younger users as well as the older. The differences started to show however where 66% younger users used search engines for work, only 37% of older (65+) users did.