A bit of a good thing for AdSense publishers: If you see a video AdSense ad appearing on your website, you can feel free to play it. Since the ad only pays out if you click the ad, not play it, then there’s no harm, no foul, so long as you avoid the advertiser link. This means that you can watch the video and see if your visitors would actually find it useful. If you have an ad unit that is heavy on video ads (by design or luck of the contextual draw) this is the way to see what useless advertisers are targeting your visitors, so you can ban them away.
Plus, there’s a bit of panic that MyBlogLog will get AdSense publishers in trouble, since it does track which ads your visitors click on, and Google doesn’t like certain information about its ad system getting out (especially since MyBlogLog is owned by competitor Yahoo). Luckily, the MyBlogLog folks checked with Google, and all is A-O-K. There are plenty of ways to see where your visitors clicked ads, and MyBlogLog is just the one with lots of other great features. Though, on the ad-tracking side, I feel they don’t go far enough.
Google is doing something that can only be described as dishonest. Google has been showing little (and sometimes not-so-little) Google Checkout icons in ads bought by advertisers who are using the system, which is whatever, their prerogative to do to promote their own service. What I don’t like is Google now using the Checkout icon, obviously designed to draw attention to an ad (and not provide a benefit for the user) to their own house ads:
As you can see in the image above, Google put the li’l shopping cart icon next to a Google Video ad (which you can see makes no mention of selling anything anyway, making it irrelevant). Now, Google Video may or may not use Google Checkout*, but I know one service that doesn’t use it: Google Analytics. That didn’t stop Amit Agarwal from finding an ad for Analytics that contained the icon, even though Analytics is a free service. Perhaps the icon was earned by the Google Store?
I know Google’s getting desperate about making money off anything other than AdWords, but they need to stop doing stupid things like this. It’s just questionable decision after questionable decision lately with these guys.
* - The reason I’m not sure if Google Video uses Checkout? Take a look:
Yeah, Google Video’s purchase system detects your browser and OS, and if it isn’t Windows 2000/XP or Mac OS X, it refuses you. Uh, I’m running Windows Vista, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Whoops. Another thing to fix…
Someone at Google must be a little sad right about now. This guy decided to take the initiative and update the interface for Google Images a little bit, adding some stuff while retaining the same general look, and he got a very public smackdown from the community (I’m looking at you, mirror). So, after a very negative reception from users, Google has undone all that coder’s hard work, and we are left right back where we started, with the original Google Images interface.
Which is all just a roundabout way of saying that Google has brought back Google Images to the way it used to be, complete with text expanding on all the images. The redesign had removed all the text, save a snippet supposed to inform about the picture, with the rest of the info showing up if you rolled your mouse over, an inefficient method to say the least. In restoring the old version, Google has made one change: They now show only the website the image appears on, not the entire URL of the image.
I also discovered something strange and interesting about Google Images: If you resize your browser, Google reloads (AJAX-style) all the images on the page, reordering them to fit your new browser window. Google aqpparently wants the images to make a perfect grid, even to the point of showing less images per page on larger browser windows!
Take a look:
18 images, three rows of six, running full screen:
20 images, four rows of five:
20 images, five rows of four:
18 images, six rows of three:
21 images, three rows of seven (by setting browser zoom to 85%):
So, Google Images always shows between 18 and 21 images, based on the width of your browser. It doesn’t seem to care about the height. When you resize the page, all the images reload, because it isn’t the browser handling the resizing, it is Google Images. The page doesn’t reload, just the images, some good (and extremely subtle) use of AJAX.
Oddly enough, if you run Google Images large enough to get six images across, you are actually seeing less images on the page than you would with a smaller browser! It might be a good idea, if it is available to you, to run Images in a zoomed mode or smaller browser, just to get more per page. Interesting stuff.
By the way, if you are the Googler who did the redesign, don’t feel bad. Your heart was in the right place, your code pure. Next time, a shower of roses shall await you at your cubicle.
The Gmail team is finally showing other Googlers how to have fun in public; they’ve released a video showing off how Gmail can make your life easier and save your ass, complete with puppets made out of common office supplies. Hilarious stuff, take a look:
Lots of websites use Google’s redirect service as a way of linking without passing PageRank. The way the redirect works, is that it is something Google set up for its own use but never stopped others from using, a webpage that passes you onto another specified webpage. I use it here on the comments. For example, if I link to Philipp, I’ll normally link right to him:
< a href="http://blog.outer-court.com/" >I love Google Blogoscoped< /a >
But, if I was mad at Philipp, I could link like this:
< a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=D&q=http://blog.outer-court.com/" >Philipp is a tool!< /a >
Because the link goes to Google, then on to the website, the link juice counts for Google, not the site I am linking to, giving him no benefit. I use it here for the comments, so if you spam my comments, you gain nothing for your link. The change is that, while before the redirect would pause on a Google page for a moment, then take you where you were headed, while now it just stays on the Google page pictured above, inviting you to click to move on.
Ionut Alex has noticed this, too. Is it annoying? Of course. Is it necessary? Probably. some bad fellas (spammers, phishers, black hats) have been using it to fool unsuspecting web surfers into thinking they were going to a trusted website, Google, when they were really headed for evil-poker-phentermine-icephishing.com, or about to download some nasty spyware.
I can’t blame Google for making a smart change to protect its users, but it means I won’t be using the redirect anymore, and I suspect others will follow suit. If they wanted more people to adopt nofollow, this could work.
On the other hand, Google has added tags to the templates of many Blogger blogs that add “nofollow” and “noindex” instructions to that page, telling all search engine not to include those pages in their search results, and not to count any links from those pages. Google made this change without notifying the owners of those blogs, resulting in those blogs getting dropped from the major search engines, the sort of thing that can be the kiss of death for a website.
This might have been a bit of overkill, done because of the huge number of free BlogSpot blogs that are just spamming up search engines. Google should do what it can to stop spam, but it needs to do so while talking to the community. Certainly, there are better solutions, and at the very least, notifying the owners of those blogs would have been the least they could do.
If your blog has been given these tags (look in the source code for < meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW" / >), you should go in and remove them, as they only serve to hurt your blog in search engines, and they stop you from giving credit to the sites you like. You’ll need to delete < $BlogMetaData$ > or < b:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/ > from your template, and then see if you want to add back in by hand some of the other metadata that dissapears when you do that.
The Google Research blog has announced they will be holding a conference on scalable systems on June 23 in Seattle. They’re soliciting speakers and offering free food, all in an effort to spread knowledge about systems that scale in order to handle big jobs for huge amounts of people.
We care a lot about scalability at Google. An algorithm that works only on a small scale doesn’t cut it when we are talking global access, millions of people, millions of search queries. We think big and love to talk about big ideas, so we’re planning our first ever conference on scalable systems. It will take place on June 23 at our Seattle office. Our goal: to create a collegial atmosphere for participants to brainstorm different ways to build the robust systems that can handle, literally, a world of information.
Google software engineer Christophe Bisciglia has started a class at the University of Washington, a “Google 101″ that teaches students to program the way Google does, with distributed systems. You can read more at the Seattle PI, which makes mention of Google’s “10 percent” program. Is Google only allowing engineers half of the 20% time they used to have?
Google has also released data on the huge amount of hard drives it uses in its system, analyzing the failure rate of those drives and releasing lots of information on drive stability. Turns out used hard drives are no less reliable than new ones, especially for the price paid for them. Basically, if a drive is strong enough to last the first year, it should be okay, so buy used, but don’t buy barely used, if that makes any sense.
There are now two editions of Goofle Apps: the free Standard Edition and the paid Premier Edition. Both editions have Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Page Creator, and a customized start page, no limit to the number of accounts, mobile access, and administrator control panel and web-based support.
Premier Edition differs like so: For $50 per user per year, you get a 99.9% uptime guarantee for email, 10 gigabyte inboxes for all email accounts (up from 2 gigs for the free version), the option of removing advertising from Gmail, shared calendars, APIs for integrating existing infrastructure (including single sign-on, user provisioning and management, and support for an email gateway), a limited release of email migration tools, 24/7 phone support, and third party applications and services.
A note: A 99.9% uptime guarantee means your account will be down for no more than 43.829 minutes per month. Google’s getting better, but outages have happened to Gmail, and I’m sure there will be months where Google has to refund a number of customers.
There is a free trial of Google Apps Premier through the end of April. Google Apps is free for schools and other educational institutions, as well as free for families and groups, which is really just another way of saying that those people can only sign up for the free version.
Here’s the control panel:
Interestingly, according to Nielsen/Netratings via Ionut Alex, Google Docs & Spreadsheets has pretty much cornered the entire market for web-based office applications, taking 92% market share. Looks like the market was pretty much just waiting for any big player to step in, and as soon as Google did, that was that.
For a 1,000-person organization, with a good licensing contract, that could come out to $250-$300 a user, or about five times the cost of Google’s solution. If you upgrade every other Microsoft Office release, that means $250 per user per six years, putting the total cost per year at $41-50, as much as nine dollars less than Google. For less money, you get to own your software, not rely on another company’s servers, get PowerPoint, get more powerful versions of every application, get an Exchange Server (which has many powerful advantages), and get Groove, a hugely powerful collaboration system, all of which scales cheaper as your organization gets bigger.
SEO Refugee has a post poking fun at Search Engine Optimizers, in the inimitable style of Jeff Foxworthy, as in: “You might be an SEO if…”. You’ll have to go there to read them all, but here’s one:
You might be an SEO if… “You hear that someone lives in a “bad neighborhood” and make a mental note to never link to them.”
Not only did he write a funny post, he tagged a few others in the SEO community, including (one quote each) Yuri:
If “whenever you notice something interesting in your life, you immediately get a title to a post about it (or maybe even the post), while regretting you don’t have a blog in the niche to write about it”, you might be an SEO.
I’m not sure how integrated it is in Yahoo Mail and how it compares to Gmail Chat, but it’s interesting to see this becoming a trend. I wonder if Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail, which is full of advanced functionality and is on a platform known for advanced web interfaces, is planning IM integration, and if they’ve got some cool ideas on how to do it. LiveSide seems to indicate that there will be an upgrade there this summer.
Also, Google has released a cool AJAX news bar that websites can use to display news headlines and excerpts. You pick some keywords and choose a format, either a thin bar with changing headlines or a substantial sidebar chunk that changes tabs of news stories complete with excerpts, and get an easy bar, or you can heavily customize the code to do all sorts of cool things.
Google is now reporting how many of its users are subscribed to website’s feeds, by including the subscriber info in the header its Feedfetcher spider leaves when it grabs a feed. This means that if you look at the header, you’ll know how many users combined subscribe to that feed in Google Reader and the Google Personalized Homepage. With Bloglines, Yahoo and Google all reporting counts in an easy way, you can now get a really good idea at a glance how many feed subscribers you have.
Thanks to Google’s move, Feedburner users all across the web (who get the best automated and detailed feed statistics of anyone) are reporting huge jumps in subscriber counts. Yeah, turns out that Google’s Feedfetcher may very well be, in total, the biggest player in the RSS feed subscription game. Darren Rowse had 30% of his subscribers from old #1 Bloglines, now he has 39% from new number one Google and 17% from number two Bloglines.
Also, Randy Morin did a survey of blog search users, finding out that Google Blog Search is the favored blog search engine. Twice as many respondents listed Google as their favorite search over Technorati, showing how easily Google has taken over that market, just as it is muscling its way into RSS readers with a great product.
Hitwise has some info on how Google Base and Google Checkout are doing, with Checkout doing considerably better. While Google has just been burning cash to get users on Checkout, they haven’t really promoted Base at all, and a rumored replacement of Froogle with Base has still not happened. Base’s market share has actually declined over the last half-year.
Google has agreed to acquire Adscape, a company that puts ads inside of video games, for $23 million. Google had missed out on Massive, a company Microsoft picked up for $200-400 million about a year ago, and is going to have to settle for the much smaller Adscape, which it will have to build into a bigger player. Judging by Google’s great success with dMarc, I’d assume nothing at this point.
Adscape is a video game advertising company whose AdverPlay product lets developers place dynamic ads right inside the game and Real Virtual Gateway product enables two-way text, audio and video communication via SMS Text or eMail.
Also, Google has added a column in its AdWords interface that shows an ads quality score, which determines how much advertisers must pay above the minimum bid if their ad isn’t particularly good. They are also making some changes in how the quality score is calculated.
Google has also taken Webmaster Central out of betaand added comments to its Webmaster Central blog. The blog is now the first official Google blog to have comments, as far as I know, probably due to a desire to have a more official place for public feedback than Matt Cutts blog.
Also, AdSense publishers got two 1099 tax forms from Google this year due to some sort of error. Google says they will not need to worry, as the forms may have been printed twice for publishers, but they were not sent twice to the IRS. Still, I’m worried, because my 1099 had my name misspelled! How do you misspell something when the computer that spits out my monthly checks from Google knows the right spelling? Did someone type up these forms by hand?
Finally, Ask.com is doing a funny thing: If you search for yahoo.com on Google, you might see an ad by Ask advertising their search engine. Yahoo is a pretty popular search term, because some idiots use Google for typing URLs instead of the always-there address bar, and Ask is hoping to catch their attention. Craziness.
YouTube announced last week a deal with Digital Music Group to bring that company’s archive of old TV shows to YouTube. Digital owns over 40 hours of video content, including a bunch of old TV shows and movies, mostly from the 1960s, including “I Spy”, “Gumby” and “My Favorite Martian”. YouTube users will be able to watch the shows for free, as well as include music owned by the company in their own videos, in return for a portion of advertising revenue.
Here’s some other interesting stuff:
Here’s a video showing off “Google’s Master Plan”. It’s no EPIC, but still good:
Slashdot has a dust-up over a YouTube account being deleted after the user uploaded a video critical of Islam. Problem is, there is no conspiracy, just a video that uses copyrighted background music and got caught doing it. Nothing to see here.
The record labels are putting the squeeze on non-YouTube video sites, just as predicted when YouTube got bought, forcing Bolt.com to sell itself to competitor GoFish in order to pay a legal settlement to Universal Music. This isn’t the first, or the last.
Om Malik spotted this Google kiosk in a mall in western Delhi, India. Google knows there are a lot of people they want to hire in India, and they’ve figured there’s no better way to reach young, smart, potential engineers than at the mall.
I was at the mall this past weekend and spotted a Dell kiosk across from the Time Warner Cable store I was visiting. Figuring you rarely get the chance to talk to anyone from Dell outside of a trade show, I stopped by and got some really important questions answered about Windows Vista compatibility. I know it would be tough for major tech companies to put staff in the hundreds of malls across the country, but it felt real nice getting to talk to a human being from the company and get an honest answer.
Google held its company-wide ski trip last week, and the company has gotten so big that employees had to choose which of three days to visit Squaw Valley. Even dividing the company into three wasn’t enough, as they had to split each wave among three seperate hotels. According to Stanley Chen, Monday and Tuesday the slopes weren’t that great, while Wednesday saw some blizzard skiing.
Each night, they hosted a party featuring three themed rooms, including an undersea room, an ice room, where they had two chainsaw-wielding ice sculptors performing live, and a safari room, where an excellent 80’s cover band played all night, flanked on both sides of the stage by girls in tiger-print bikinis dancing in vine-draped cages. Throughout were various arcade games, the customary free food, bars (two drink tickets provided, you had to pay after that…) and some other more isolated rooms where the geekiest of Googlers could play board and card games. You get one guess where I spent most of the night.
All in all the trip was amazing. I will work at this company until they tell me to go. They spoil you rotten. They really do. Everything that you read or hear about working here is a lie cuz it’s even better. Larry and Sergey are geniuses- I can’t imagine how they came up with such a brilliant idea. “Well, we have this internet company now. Lets just feed them, throw great parties, and take them skiing… yeah, that will keep them happy and forever enslaved to us… buahahahaha!” I just hope we remain successful for a long, long time… ski trips, free food/booze, and cool young peeps as coworkers are aspects I realize are out of the ordinary and are things I am extremely lucky to experience on a regular basis. Nonetheless, it’s a lifestyle I have grown accustomed to and that I hope perpetuates for the years to come.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Googleplex. The perks are amazing and the atmosphere is fun and exciting, but I really love the intimacy and the opportunity of the Ann Arbor office. The benefits are amazing wherever you’re located, however being a part of a start-up office for the #1 company to work for in America is an environment, at least for me, that can’t be beat. And when it comes to the perks, we may not have the size of the Mountain View office, but we’re taken care of in every way possible.
Every year, the west coast offices go on a mandatory (yes, that means that to get out of going you need written approval from your director!) all expenses paid 1-day ski trip to Tahoe. The plane left at 6:35 on Tuesday morning, which meant that after leaving the afterparty at midnight, I still needed to pack, get 3 hours of sleep, and get up at 4:00 AM. Yuck! However, it’s pretty cool being on a plane that is almost entirely filled with people you know.
This week saw the European Google Ski trip. The Google Ski trips go back quite a bit and over the years have grown from a few dorky engineers on a hill to a massive invasion of some lucky ski resort. The evolution in Europe has been much the same and if anything has gone faster.
Word came out last weekend that brothers Chad and Ryan Steelberg, who founded radio advertising company dMarc and then sold it to Google, have left Google just a year after the deal. Google bought dMarc for $102 million, with as much as $1.13 billion extra coming if certain revenue targets were met. Google’s Audio Ads program didn’t even come close to getting the brothers the big payout they’d expected, so they left extremely dissapointed, with about $200 million.
What went wrong? Obviously, people at both dMarc and Google felt dMarc’s technology was capable of reaching those revenue targets, and the fact that they didn’t was a failure on someone’s part. The fact that it took most of the last year to even launch a pilot program didn’t help, and dMarc’s founders blame Google’s single-minded focus on automating everything.
In the ad business, while automating has made Google a lot of money on cheap ads, more expensive ads are typically sold by a sales force, which pitches to companies and gets them to deliver the check. dMarc believed its sales force could have been extremely successful, but Google wanted everything automated, and they never really had a chance. I guess Google’s okay with hiring thousands of people per quarter, so long as those people don’t have to do specific sales work.
Anyway, the question facing Google in the future is whether companies will be willing to deal with Google after this. It’s silly to suggest that companies will stop selling themselves to Google, since most people like money, but I bet it will be a long time before a deal is again based 90% on revenue goals. In the future, Google will have to buy companies for perceived worth, paying upfront, since no one is going to trust them to actually turn the acquisition into a success.
Don’t be surprised if most of the deals Google makes in the future are speculative deals like the YouTube deal, where the company being bought has a lot of potential and a huge price tag. Google could have bought YouTube for $100 million plus $2 billion based on revenue goals, but the YouTube guys would have been idiots to take a deal like that. After this dMarc thing, no one is going to take a deal with a lot of revenue goals, because no one thinks Google can make them.
One last thing: Is Google developing their products like Microsoft now? All of their new-medium-type ads, from radio to print to video, all are plodding along. Is their product development process already as slow and mired in indecision as Windows Vista’s was? If that is true, it basically means Google is aging more three times faster than Microsoft did, and that doesn’t bode well for the future.
Of course, if we are going to set this debate to rest anytime soon, we’ll need to see the same view in both products:
Windows Live Maps:
Windows Live Maps:
Google fares a lot better in this comparison than it did last week, with brighter (yet not cartoonish) buildings that look bold and near-perfect. However, Windows Live’s buildings look more realistic, which is both good and bad, because they come off a little too dark. Windows Live has far more buildings than Google does, especially including many smaller building Google is completely ignoring.
What also hurts Google is that there is a damn good reason Denver has all these great buildings: Sketchup, which does the 3D modeling and got bought by Google, was formed in Boulder Colorado. It’s likely that the Sketchup team, or local user groups friendly with the team, did most of these buildings, a model that doesn’t scale to the rest of the world.
I’m declaring Round Two a tie, but Microsoft is still winning and looks confident going deeper into the fight. Microsoft is spending a lot of resources on 3D buildings, and Google doesn’t seem to be dedicating the money or the infrastructure to pull even, let alone win. Microsoft is going to have a virtual 3D earth before Google does at this pace, and if the rest of the media and blogs start paying attention, Google Maps is going to lose its hold as the maps brand de jour.
UPDATE: Rob posted some pictures that show Windows Live in a “better light”, literally. He turned the camera around, showing that Windows Live’s pictures were taken at a different time of the day than Google’s. They were pretty dark from my angle, while his looks considerably better. It doesn’t affect my verdict, but it is prettier.
Microsoft should consider the angle of the sun when taking their pictures, since in some cities, the shadows on building make them impossible to photograph at certain times of the day. I imagine that’s why New York hasn’t been given the same treatment as some other cities.
Frank at the GEarthBlog makes the point that we shouldn’t underestimate the Google Earth community. Over time, they will create tons of new buildings, and have been for years adding data layer, placemarks, pointing out cool and odd things in the imagery, and finding ways to make the product better. Google’s user-generated focus is hard to control or direct, but could ultimately yield a better out-of-box experience for the typical user, and that’s the bet Google has made.
Also, Rob found out from Microsoft that there were 6,657 rendered 3D buildings in Denver, compared with about 300 for Google (Google would not give an exact number). No matter how good Google’s buildings look, if they can’t scale up, they aren’t going to have the sheer number of buildings Microsoft will, and they won’t have the smaller buildings that give a city its character.