Here’s some good news: One blogger reports that the AdSense logos appearing with his Google ads are actually matching the colors of the ads themselves, resulting in ads that blend and don’t look like crap. Google has been experimenting with putting the Google logo in the “Ads by Google” line in AdSense ads, but publishers have hated it, due to the crap look of the logos, and it looks like Google is listening. The ads screenshotted at Chaos Laboratory have the same colors as the ad units they are part of, meaning Google is finding a way to dynamically serve the images in different colors.
Thank god. Can you imagine if we were all stuck with the old system?
Google has had a rash of missteps in the last few day, leaving a negative feeling going into the new year.
First off: Google accidently deleted the inboxes of some 60 Gmail users, leaving them with none of their stored email (and, surprisingly, Google’s vaunted server architecture didn’t have any backups either). Google says it tried to salvage what it could, but was left with helping users figure out how to restore the data themselves. There’s been a belief that Google keeps multiple copies of everything, so this has to leave a lot of people with a little less trust in keeping their data on Google’s systems. At least when I blow my hard drive, it’s my fault.
Also, Orkut, which was Google’s surprise mini-success story of the year, went down for 22 hours on Friday and Saturday. It won’t tank Orkut, but Orkut used to suffer massive uptime and server problems, and the last thing anyone wants is for Orkut to lose the trust it has gained from its users.
Om Malik says Google has just reached the point that happens with every high-flying startup, the part where market disillusionment catches up with the company, and everything goes downhill from there. Michael Arrington talks of a “tipping point”. The fact is, Google is as high as an internet company can get, and it is hard to go anywhere but down from here. I think the easiest prediction for 2007 is this:
By the end of next year, no one will like Google as much as they do today.
Maybe we’ll hate Google, maybe they just won’t be as loved, and they won’t be the darlings of the net, but there is no way things will ever be as good as they are now. I’m sorry, Google, but it looks like you peaked. Don’t worry, it isn’t all bad from here, but the magic is going to fade, you can be sure of it.
All this means that not only does Google have the most inventory, but they are squeezing the most money out of that inventory, a lethal combination Yahoo just can’t meet. Yahoo’s new Panama system is designed to get a higher amount per search, but without the market share, its doubtful Yahoo has any means of catching Google soon.
In other news, Google’s Blogsearch has topped Technorati, pulling in 25% of the blog search market. The reason: positioning the link in the “More” box on the Google homepage and search tabs. This means one interesting thing: Google users have noticed the “More” link and tried it out, more so than I would have expected. The “More” box is a good bit of positioning and product promotion, a sort of secondary level of promotion for a company desperate to promote a lot of failing services.
We can only hope Google uses it wisely, not filling the box with too many links to be useful to users.
Also, TechCrunch posts about Google’s Zeitgeist, and Google’s statement explaining the confusion. As they and GigaOm note, Google’s methodology renders the results meaningless, making Google’s Zeitgeist quite the opposite of a “sign of the times”.
Also (I swear, it’s the last one!), news is coming in that Comscore and Nielsen plan to add YouTube to the official metrics of Google websites early next year, which will represent the unofficial coronation of Google as king of traffic on the internet. Combined with YouTube, Google will have more visitors than any other web company, and you know someone at Google is trying to figure out how to beat the age-old “nowhere to go but down” problem. Put enough PhDs on it, you’ll find a solution. Maybe.
On December 27, PayPal announced a “virtual debit card”, letting you make online purchases everywhere MasterCard is accepted. One little problem: Christmas was a few days earlier, meaning the online financial service missed the holiday shopping season for some stupid reason.
PayPal’s move was a smart one, devaluing “exclusive” arrangements like the one Google Checkout has with online merchants (in fact, you could use PayPal and Google Checkout on the same purchase, thanks to this). However, PayPal’s timing was so poor, missing the most important and valuable shopping season of the year, that you have to question their management intelligence, or lack thereof. PayPal, and parent company eBay, makes so many bad decisions, that as stupid as some of Google’s moves have been, you have to wonder if this is not a game of who fights the hardest, but who lakes the least dumb moves.
Google Notebook has a new search feature, and it is exposing the fact that on the internet, some people are just morons. By default, everything in Notebook is set to private, and you have to specifically turn on the feature that makes your Notebook public and exposes your information to others. So, my question is, why they hell would a person put in their social security number and other personal information, and then click to make it public?
I don’t know, but some Diggers had fun ferreting out the idiots. Surprisingly, Google very quickly removed those Notebooks. I’m not surprised that Google did it, although it is rare that they correct for the lack of intelligence of some of their users, but I am surprised that Google did it so quickly. Digg as tech support? Crazier things have happened.
I got a little surprise last night: A Google search for “dreamcast” featured a number of links to more specific video game topics, the type you’d see in a Google Co-Op search engine. Apparently, Google is letting the GameSpy, GameStats, GamePro, GamerHelp, AskMen, Games.net, IGN, CheatCodesGuides, and TeamXbox websites create a collaborative Co-Op search engine, and showing refinements for it on many video game searches.
These refinements show up on searches for “xbox”, “playstation”, “wii”, “super nintendo, “dreamcast”, “sega genesis”, “nintendo entertainment system”, “gameboy”, “nintendo ds”, “psp”, “gamecube”, “halo”, “gears of war”, “grand theft auto”, “metal gear”, “mario bros”, “final fantasy”, “god of war”, and tons of other video game related searches.
What Google has done is give a bunch of video game websites access to mess with its search results, presumably for free. Luckily, the engine thus far seems to be fair and balanced, not promoting any of its own “partners” over other, legitimate websites. For example, the top 10 for “halo more:screenshots” has:
Bungie - the manufacturer of the game
IGN - a partner in the search engine
Gamespot - a competitor of the partners, owned by Cnet
TeamXbox - a partner, also owned by IGN
Gamespy - a partner, also owned by IGN
GamePro - a partner, owned by IDG
FiringSquad - a competitor of the partners
3DGamers - a subsidiary of IGN
Games.net - a partner, also owned by IDG
SoftPedia - a download site, independant of the others
So, out of the the top ten, five are partners/creators of the search engine, one is a subsidiary, and the others are the competition. Not terrible, not great, but completely justifiable based on the popularity of those websites. The placement of these search refinements is more valuable than advertising, since it appears part of the Google Search UI, and appears to have no means to opt-out, so if the creators of the engine used it for promotion of their own properties, that would be a major coup.
So far, the results seem mostly legitimate and beneficial, but I’d watch out for abuse in the system. Letting popular websites edit your search engine and receive top placement in the search results is enormously risky, and Google should consider whether this is safe, or even fair. Either way, they’ve given a good arguement for the upcoming wiki search engine. If Wikiasari lets the people edit the search engine, while Google lets companies edit it, there isn’t even a question of whom the average person would trust.
Google has launched an alternate version of the Google Maps interface, one designed to work better than the regular Maps with screen reading software, and to be mostly usable on older and non-graphical systems. It features full-screen driving directions, a smaller, simpler map, and is very to-the-point. I’m guessing it works well with screen readers, and might even be pretty handy for mobile phones.
Google Enterprise VP David Girouard spoke to InternetNews, and he dropped a lot of interesting info. Chief among them: Google Talk “will be beefed up to integrate with traditional phone systems as well as VoIP offerings from other vendors”. That seems to be saying that Talk will be able to make phone calls, but certainly isn’t specific enough to be absolutely sure. The discussion centers around taking Talk from the consumer space into becoming a viable enterprise client, which could refer more to integration as a means of free calling among Talk users as part of integration, but without actually adding VoiP to Google Talk.
Girouard also said that one problem companies have with using Google Docs and Spreadsheets is offline access to their data, an issue Google plans to resolve. Google strategy, according to the VP, is:
Girouard explained that Google plans to access the enterprise market by riding in on the shoulders of people like you and me who already use their applications for fun.
“Our focus is, and really ought to be, with applications that have a place in the consumer world and port them over to the enterprise and take advantage of the big Google that everybody knows,” he told internetnews.com.
Interesting idea. Of course, for it to work, Google needs to get its products to actually be popular in the consumer world, something they haven’t had a terrible amount of luck with so far. For now, a better way to get the foot in the door is probably through Gmail (which is why you see that link bar in the top-left of the Gmail interface).
(via Ionut. Alex > Findory)
Steve Rubel reports that Google News Mobile now lets you personalize the layout of the page, and even add custom sections. Now you can create a Google News page to view on your cell phone or other mobile device and get just the news you want. Visit it on your device at this address, or try it out live embedded in the page below:
Comscore released their stats for November, showing Google slightly edging out Yahoo for second place, 475.5 million visitors to 475.2 million (out of a total internet population of 736 million). Microsoft continued to hold first place, with 501.7 million visitors. This accounting combines all websites owned or maintained by the various companies, except YouTube, which is still counted seperately. Since YouTube has 107.9 million visitors, when its visitors are added to Google’s, Google may catch up to Microsoft, or even beat it, depending on how many of YouTube’s visitors are uniquely different from Google’s.
Sage TV, the digital video recorder software for Windows and Linux, introduced version 6 this week, and it features a front-end for Google Video. Within the Sage interface, you can search Google Video and watch the videos on your TV or PC. Sage TV is just 80 bucks, and upgrades are free for current 5.0 users.
(via Download Squad, including the screenshot)