Google had announced that it would be flying over parts of Australia on Australia Day, last week Friday, in order to take photos for Google Earth and Google Maps (Microsoft was doing it, too). Australians were excites, with people planning to build giant signs and write words on the ground, or just wave at the sky, in order to live on for a while in Google’s maps of the country. Now, reports are coming in that things didn’t go as well as planned.
One guy had hoped Google’s flyover would help him convince his wife to come back to him. She had moved out a few weeks ago after their marriage fell apart, and he figured she’d see his giant message of love in Google and come running back, but it was not meant to be.
Google’s plans fell apart due to no-fly zone restrictions due to air safety on low-flying planes. Google’s plane was too low for the government, which did not let it fly over Sydney, although some of the other areas were photographed. Microsoft’s plane was fine, since its photographic equipment allowed it to fly higher, but many who had planned to be seen by Google were out of luck.
Among those missing out on the photo opportunity of a lifetime was a company that had spent $10,000-plus on a sign, an environmental group which organised 200 supporters to form themselves into a slogan on Bondi Beach and a man who drove from Wollongong to Sydney with a message that he hoped would help win back his estranged wife.
Among those missing out on the photo opportunity of a lifetime was Sydney software consultant Adam Cogan.
He had spent $10,000 on a 50-metre sign featuring his company’s logo and website address and had organised 30 of his employees to come along to Queens Park in Waverley on Friday morning and help assemble the installation.
Google advised those at Queens Park to be ready around 8.45am-9.15am. Mr Cogan waited at Queens Park for the flyover until about 4.30pm before giving up.
“Google have over-promised and under-delivered,” Mr Cogan said. “They should have sorted this out before creating the expectation.”
Google has sued copyright moron Leo Stoller, who trademarks words and then sues those who use them (words like “Stealth”, “Ambush” and “Annihilator”). Stoller had tried to lay claim to the word “Google”, and Google finally sued his ass to make him pay for dragging them through years of frivolous litigation.
Google is asking college students to create 3D representations of their university campuses and upload them to Google Earth and SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, with the best ones getting a free trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The judges are from companies like Apple and Electronic Arts, and I’d assume the winner would have a good shot at a job at Google. Let’s just hope the college students aren’t running Windows Vista, since SketchUp still won’t run on Microsoft’s new OS.
Google has topped Brand Channel’s list of the top brand worldwide of 2006, by impact, beating out Apple. Third place belongs to Google’s YouTube, too, giving Google a cool hold on the top of the list. Their list of top brands in North America, though, puts Apple at #1, with Google dropping to third, and YouTube in second.
Somebody runs a goof video blog on YouTube called Inifinite Solutions, a pitch-perfect spoof of self-help shows, complete with public access graphics and a host that just lies to you. Their latest episode revealed how to get into the new beta of “Google TV”, which doesn’t exist. Judging by comments on several blogs and Digg, there were a lot of people logging in and out of their Gmail accounts in a desperate attempt to get an invite to a service that doesn’t exist.
Nielsen//Netratings has released their search engine market share numbers for December 2006, and their year-over-year gains show that Yahoo, while having just under half the market share of Google, is growing faster than Google is. They show Google with 3.035 billion searches in December, up 22.6% from the year before, and Yahoo with 1.412 billion searches, up 30.1% from December 2005. This is kind of shocking, given that conventional wisdom is that Google is outpacing Yahoo, as the Y! slowly falls behind.
The whole chart:
Top 10 Search Providers for December 2006,
Ranked by Searches (U.S.)
|MSN/Windows Live Search
|My Way Search
Looking at the numbers for December 2004, December 2005, and December 2006, all reveals some interesting results.
December 2004: 1,414,778
December 2005: 2,475,895
December 2006: 3,035,617
December 2004: 711,857
December 2005: 1,085,918
December 2006: 1,412,904
You can clearly see that, although Google gained 560 million users in the last year (down from 1.06 billion the year before), and Yahoo gained 330 million (down from 370 million the year before), Yahoo gained a higher percentage over the previous year than Google did. Google had roughly double the market share of Yahoo in 12/04, then 2.4 times the market share in 12/05, and is now back to double the market share in 12/06. In a sense, Yahoo has erased recent losses, getting itself at least back to where it was two years ago, while Google’s growth has slowed.
If things continue at this very specific pace, this is what the next few years will look like:
Google: 3.495 billion
Yahoo: 1.802 billion
Google: 3.855 billion
Yahoo: 2.052 billion
Google: 4.155 billion
Yahoo: 2.262 billion
Google: 4.315 billion
Yahoo: 2.432 billion
Google: 4.375 billion
Yahoo: 2.562 billion
Google: 4.335 billion
Yahoo: 2.652 billion
Google: 4.195 billion
Yahoo: 2.702 billion
Google: 3.955 billion
Yahoo: 2.712 billion
Now, these are awfully imprecise numbers, assuming that the trend of the last two years will continue exactly the same over the following eight years, but it does give you a better idea of how things have trended the last two years. Don’t assume any of these numbers are precise in any way, but if Yahoo outpaces Google 30% to 22% every year, Yahoo can’t be counted out of the game any more. Things are tough at Yahoo, for sure, but there might be a few positive signs to look at.
Google has done a terribly unpopular thing, redesigning Google Images so that it presents no new information, no new features, just increases the white space. It could be one of the worst redesigns I’ve ever seen.
The new Google Images is identical to the old one, except all the text that used to appear on the page, save the title of the image, is hidden, and only appears when your mouse is near the image. The redesign does not make for more space on the page, or larger images, or a cooler new look, it just removes info that was always there. If you want to find out what website an image was from, or how big it is, you have to work for it, and there is no way to compare the images against each other.
There’s no real explanation why Google did this. We know Google is obsessed with white space, but this is overkill, actually removing features by painting over them white. This would be the equivelant of Gmail only showing you who sent you an email, and forcing you to mouse over to see what the email was about, or Google Video showing you a thumbnail, with no video title, description, or length information. If Google wants to convince users to stop using Google services, they can start by doing this to all of them.
It certainly seems like Google is ripping off Windows Live Images, and if they are, this is a real crappy way of doing it. Windows Live Image Search shows only thumbnails on an all-white page, but they also let you resize them to show more on the page, the page scrolls into infinity (instead of showing a mere 20, then forcing you to click Next, over and over), and you get a scratchpad which lets you compare images regardless of where they show up.
So, Google has ripped off Microsoft, but did it by removing features it already had and lacking features Microsoft has had for months. Way to show leadership in the industry.
The part that pisses me off is that Google Images (and most of the competition) handles searching for images of similar sizes in a pretty broken way. All of them let you choose between all, large, medium and small (Windows Live adds images equal to your current screen resolution, Yahoo adds “wallpaper”, and Ask adds a buddy icon size), vague ways of distinguishing between them. I have no idea what a “medium” image is, and neither does Google as far as I can tell.
When I’m looking for an interesting image that fits a specific need, Google is always giving me images that are way too small, even when searching under medium (and large is way too big and limited, often). Now, Google doesn’t even show me the image sizes, so I have to guess? Screw that!
In the meantime, I’m going to be paying close attention to Ask X, and see how their image search measures up. I’m getting the feeling Google is determined to fall behind and make mistakes with their search interfaces, and I’d better keep my options open if I need to switch one day.
Yahoo reported fourth quarter earnings this week, announcing an increase in revenues to $1.7 billion, up 13% from $1.5 billion a year earlier. They also announced net income of $269 million, or 19 cents a share, a huge 61% drop from the $683 million (or 46 cents/share) the year before. For all of 2006, revenue was up 22% to $6.43 billion, while net income was down to $751 million from $1.9 billion a year prior.
While the numbers themselves aren’t pretty, as any company that earned less money this year than the year before is having difficulties. the announcement was still considered a plus, seeing as analysts were expecting them to do worse. In fact, the 19 cents a share was a decent amount higher than the predicted 13 cents a share. There’s a lot of discussion about this at TechMeme.
The biggest problem is going to be that Yahoo isn’t forecasting a great 2007. For 2007, Yahoo forecasts sales between $4.95 billion and $5.45 billion after TAC, compared with $4.6 billion after TAC this year. Advertisers are complaining that Yahoo is farming out their ads to poorly converting and click fraud-heavy sites, with no way to opt-out.
Despite that, a general negative feeling towards Yahoo seems to mean that Wall Street is willing to look at anything not disastrous as a good thing. Shares of Yahoo are up about two dollars since the earnings announcement.
Google has announced a speaker series to be hosted at their New York City offices, bringing some cool talks at the Google offices for everyone to enjoy. The first talk is this Monday, with Adam Bosworth talking about “Physics, Speed, and Imprecision: What Works and What Doesn’t in Software, and Why”. The event is already full, but you can sign up for the wait list, and to be notified about future events.
Normally, I’d ask someone to get me in, either as a favor or media, but this coincides with way too much Windows Vista launch events mayhem. I’ll eagerly await event two, though. Google New York is a really cool place to be, and I’ve enjoyed it both times I’ve been there. I’m convinced I could go there one night a week for five years and still not cover half the offices.
I really want to take home something cool from the offices, but they didn’t have Google-branded paper or pens in the press room the first time I was there, and the Razor scooters and big rubber balls are too big to sneak out. Any suggestions?
Oh, and two other things:
- Don’t drink the coffee! Too damn hot, burned my tongue on the first sip.
- It was me that spilled beer on the carpet about two months back. Twice. Sorry ’bout that.
Here’s a shocker: Wikipedia isn’t the only major site that uses “nofollow” on outgoing user-generated links; YouTube does it too. I looked at the source code on a typical YouTube video page and discovered 137 rel=”nofollow” tags!
The strange thing is, YouTube doesn’t reserve the nofollow for outgoing links, they even slap it on links to other parts of YouTube. For example, the Related videos box in the sidebar, as well as the links to user’s profiles, all receive nofollows, even though those links present no search spam value.
If you do want to link from your YouTube video to your own website and keep the PageRank, fret not. Turns out, if you paste a link into the video description (the full link, including http://), YouTube will automatically turn it into a link, and won’t slap on a nofollow tag. Take advantage of this loophole, and be sure to link to your blog post when posting a video.
Google should be concerned about this, since sites that make heavy use of nofollow can skew the accuracy of search results. The technology behind Google is built on a certain philosophy, one that breaks down if one of the top ten sites on the internet does not follow. YouTube’s use of nofollow, by itself, is mostly harmless, but as a Google property, it sends a bad message on misuse of nofollow, and is an example Wikipedia can point to for its more complicated policy decision.
Eventually, nofollow, if used significantly by major sites, could break down the accuracy of Google and other search engines, forcing us to find a new method of determining search relevancy. Every legitimate link that gets a nofollow tilts the balance in the spammers favor by one more link. Big websites should only use it when absolutely necessary, and websites owned by search engines should be much smarter than this.
Oh, and Yahoo’s del.icio.us does it, too.
Google has added a stats page for its custom search engines, letting those who have created and maintain one of their CSEs see what sort of usage the search engine is getting. The new feature shows the number of queries over certain time periods and the most popular search terms.
This is the sixth place you can see statistics in a Google product, after Google Trends, Google Music Trends, Google Search History, Google Reader and Google Analytics, and the differences between the offerings, interfaces and features are maddening. Perhaps Google should consider creating a centralized stats application (might I suggest repurposing Google Trends for this?) that can tap into an API output by Google services?
That would lessen the confusion, as well as create an app other web developers can use for showing off trends for their applications (and thus give Google access to data from all sort of valuable sources). The biggest benefit would be that if someone at Google coded a new feature into Trends or a better graphing system, all the services sending in their data would immediately benefit. I think this is one case where integration is easier than building the same damn product over and over.
Google has announced a second limited test run of its music video/AdSense program, distributing videos from Sony BMG and Warner Music that contain ads. The program, which is only offered to specific AdSense publishers, pays those publishers (with Google getting its cut) on a CPM basis for embedding the videos on their websites, as rich alternative to traditional display ads as well as a way of combining advertising and content.
This is the second time Google has done this program, the first with Viacom last year. The four-week test is already underway, and publishers can’t request to jump in. There’s no doubt lots of AdSense publishers would love to be able to use the ads, finding cool ways to turn the music videos into relevant content, so the rest of us can only hope the pilot program is a success.
In other ad news, the AdWords blog announced that the AdWords site exclusion list is now unlimited, letting AdWords publishers say no to running their ads on as many sites as they’d like. That has got to make AdSense publishers jealous, as they’d love such an option ads that don’t perform, as well as those that point to Made For AdSense sites.
Some funny Google Maps sightings in the last day or so:
First off, a bug in the directions system in Google Maps sent drivers into a tail-spin, with Google instructing them to make well over 200 u-turns. Yikes!
A screenshot of the first 28 steps in the process, courtesy of Kandarp:
Don’t worry, Google’s already fixed it, but I heard there was a major traffic incident in New Jersey yesterday involving 8,500 dizzy drivers. Just kidding, but I’m glad Google isn’t doing GPS car navigation just yet.
In the other story, participants to Foo Camp last fall were told by Google’s Chris DiBona that Google would be doing a flyover, and invited them to make large decorations that would be seen in Google Maps and Google Earth. Those involved made a giant Space Invaders tribute, as well as a “Cylon raider” from Battlestar Galactica (geeks forever!), as well as lying down on the ground and waving at the camer.
The imagery should go live on Google Maps/Earth next month, but Chris gave Tom Coates this image showing what it will look like in the end:
(click to view full-size in Flickr)
You can also sorta view it in Google Maps now, thanks to an overlay by GEarthBlog, which coincidentally helps let you know where the imagery will appear eventually (just un-check the check box sometime mid-February).
(via Boing Boing)
Darren Barefoot has put together a cool survey site, asking people why it is that they blog. Since I’m interested in what sort of results he gets (plus, he’s giving fifty bucks to someone who links to it, as well as two people who fill it out), I’m recommending any of my readers who are also bloggers, head down and take a minute to answer the short survey. The survey will help Darren give a talk at Northern Voice in February, so I hope he posts online the speech, so the people who helped create it get to see it.
If you’ve ever stopped blogging for a long period of time, or abandonded a blog, why did you?
I got married.
Wikipedia has adopted the “nofollow” tag on all of its outgoing links, in an effort to combat SEOs that have been using it as part of an SEO contest. The contest, Globalwarming Awareness2007, saw its contestants listing themselves on a Wikipedia page about the contest, knowing it would help them win the contest (which involves achieving a high rank on Google for a particular search term), and that pissed off some Wikipedians. So, for the second time, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has dropped the hammer and made all outgoing links “nofollow”.
Wikipedia is doing this to discourage spammers, but I think they should be worried it will discourage bloggers. Lots of people link to Wikipedia, feeling that since it is an impartial and non-commercial source, it’s a good way to point readers when you write a term that they might not recognize. After this change, Wikipedia is still all that, if not more, but some people could feel jealous about the way Wikipedia is acting.
See, the way Google (and thusly, most search engines) works, is that a site gets power from the more links that point to it. Wikipedia, being popular, has a ton of links, and thus a lot of link power. Now, a site like mine, which has considerably less links, wants to get links from some mighty powerful places, like Wikipedia, since Wikipedia’s outgoing links gets power from all their incoming links.
Of course, if Wikipedia uses “nofollow”, its outgoing links have no power at all. Nofollow is a tag, added to a link but invisible to the average web server, that acts like a barrier, telling search engines not to count that link. It’s supposed to be used when linking to evil websites and commonly spammed areas, to ensure those sites don’t get better rankings in Google just because you pointed at them.
Google recommends using “nofollow” on user-submitted content, which sites cannot control well, and Wikipedia is certainly that. However, Wikipedia is also highly edited, a real controlled environment, and that means that bad links should be removed in due process, and instead of relying on its user/editors, Wikipedia is just lumping every single link in the “bad” pile.
Luckily, it looks like this could be a temporary measure, but then again, it might not, and that has raised some strong opinions. Andy Beal says:
So, in response, any future links to Wikipedia from us, will include a NOFOLLOW. Maybe if we all take that approach, Wikipedia will lose its PageRank and won’t have to worry about link-spam any longer.
He’s somewhat joking, but he’s also right. Every time I link to Wikipedia, I’m giving it a “link contribution”, helping it do better in search engines. While it isn’t as valuable as an actual donation, I would expect Wikipedia to do the same for me, linking to me as appropriate, and giving me a “contribution” the same way I give them. I consider a link from Wikipedia to be a pretty cool thing for anything I write, and I want Google to know what Wikipedia thinks of me.
Philipp puts this really well:
What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance – normal links, not “nofollow” links; this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well – but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). That’s why I find Wikipedia’s move very disappointing.
TechMeme has a lot of discussion on this as well. There are a lot of pros and cons, so I’ll give a completely different perspective:
24 days ago, I added a link to Wikipedia. It was a legitimate edit, adding completely new information to an article, and linking to one of my blogs as the source of the information, since it was the source. Now, while I’d like the link juice, if it remains “nofollow” (it currently is), I still have something else to gain:
In the 24 days since I added the link, I have had 136 referrals from that page. On average, I get 5.66 new visitors per day. That isn’t a lot, but if I made adding links to Wikipedia a part of my regular SEO strategy (and keep in mind, I only do this when it adds new information, since that’s the only way I can be sure no one will remove my link), I’d get an additional 2068 visitors a day (plus some new subscribers, as a matter of course), if I added a new link every day for a year. Having a huge amount of links from Wikipedia can make a dent, if you do it consistently and legitimately.
So, there you go. A new SEO strategy that works with Wikipedia, even if the links don’t carry any juice. Plus, if I make Wikipedia link to my sites hundreds of times year, then I change the balance, with Wikipedia giving me a hell of a lot more than I ever give to it. And that’s not so bad.
Take a look at this photo by Niall Kennedy, highlighted by Valleywag:
So, not only does Google have a fake space ship, now they’ve got a fake (and very angry-looking) dinosaur. What’s next? My guess: A replica of the Titanic.
There’s been an interesting discussion on Digg about how the color of webpages affects the amount of power consumed, with the discussion centering on just how much power would be saved if Google switched to an all-black layout. The theory goes that black webpages use 59 watts of power, 15 watts less than a white webpage does, and calculating that with 200 million queries a day, you get 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day, or 3 gigawatts (Marty!) per year, all of which means Black Google saves $300,000 per year.
Of course, the theory doesn’t hold up under more advanced analysis. Turns out that this only really applies to CRT monitors, and with LCDs cheap and popular, and installed in all laptops (which make up over 50% of computers sold every year), the Black Google theory may only be true for a quarter, or less of all computer monitors in the United States. Or, as this guy says:
The US alone generates 4,100,000,000 Megawatt hours per year. 3,000 Megawatt hours amount to about 0.00007% of US energy consumption. Reduce that number by 75% (because it only applies to CRTs), and we’re talking about 0.00001% of the US energy generation for a year.
Still, it’s a pretty cool idea, at the very least it makes me think about how we can conserve energy by doing little things. I’m moving to a new place this week, and I’m going to make sure it’s easy for me to unplug my TV when I’m not watching it. And if you have a CRT and want to do a little to help (and drop your monthly bill, here’s a Black Google you can bookmark, and I’m sure there’s a Greasemonkey script that can make it even better.
Quote: “The personal finance section will include tips and tools for household budgeting, tax planning, careers, real estate and debt management. Most of the content will be provided by other sources, including The Wall Street Journal, The Motley Fool, Co
Download Squad’s Jordan Running took upon the task of discovering which stores, beyond the 15 listed on the promo page, are participating in Google Checkout’s deal that gives ten dollars off the first purchase a new Google Checkout user makes. Turns out there are a ton of them, 234 in all! I had no idea Google Checkout had so many partners, all of which makes me wonder if the service might be reaching further than I thought.
All I know is, I am going to have to find a decent way to track stores signing up with and dumping Google Checkout. Right now, the most interesting stores on the full list of Google Checkout stores are:
- Toys R’ Us
- Sports Authority
- Ace Hardware
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Linens N’ Things
- Starbucks Store
- Timberland (not in $10 promo)
- GNC (not in $10 promo)
- GameFly (not in $10 promo)
- uBid (not in $10 promo)
What’s the most reliable way of comparing changes in a webpage so I can track this?
Here’s a cool development: Google changed the program policies for AdSense this past week, with the most significant change being that you can now run different contextual ad programs on the same page. The old policy said that you can’t run competing contextually targeted ads on the same page as Google AdSense, now you can, but you can’t run ads that look similar on the same website. That means that, as far as AdSense is concerned, you can use any ad program you damn well please, so long as the other programs use different colors.
What’s available now: Yahoo Publisher Network, Amazon contextual product boxes, and Chitika contextual eMiniMall ads.
Oh, scratch the Yahoo part. Yahoo has the same rule Google used to have, so even though Google’s being super-promiscuous, Yahoo doesn’t want to be a good sport and jump under the covers. Luckily, Yahoo’s considering relaxing the same rule, mostly because it doesn’t want to lose any of it’s hard-fought gains on publisher websites.
Hmm… Is anyone running hard figures on how many websites use Google or Yahoo? Inquiring minds want to know!
In other ad news, Google has added Google AdWords to your search history. Kewl! Now you can go back and see which ads you’ve clicked on while searching Google. Turns out since they added this feature, my account has clicked on exactly one ad, and it was my wife’s finger doing the clicking. “Find local daycare”? Is she trying to send me a message?