Barry looks at the new referral products, with lots of screenshots of the interface.
THE ALGORITHM KILLED JEEVES
The reference is about Ask.com, but the question is: Who bought it? Sure, Google is the likely culprit, perhaps as a response to Ask’s “Information Revolution” campaign, but evidence is pointing in the direction of Ask buying it themselves. The evidence: A later billboard apparently reads:
THE ALGORITHM IS FROM JERSEY
Supposedly, the algorithm powering Ask’s current search was built in New Jersey, and Ask’s message is that the algorithm is so good it killed Jeeves. If it’s a pro-Ask campaign, it’s damn confusing. Hopefully this sorts itself out over the weekend.
Google is coming under criticism for rolling back satellite imagery of New Orleans, replacing the images of post-Katrina New Orleans with older, pre-hurricane photos that show the city in a much cleaner condition than is the reality. In this article by The Age, Google says it is only offering the best images it has, and that there are many factors that went into the change:
Chikai Ohazama, a Google product manager for satellite imagery, said the maps now available are the best the company can offer. He said numerous factors “go into the databases, everything from resolution, to quality, to when the actual imagery was acquired”.
In the images available today, the cranes working to fix the lethal breach of the 17th Street Canal are gone. Homes wiped off their foundations are miraculously back in place in the impoverished Lower 9th Ward. So, too, is the historic lighthouse on Lake Pontchartrain.
Scroll across the city, and across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and everything is back to normal: Marinas are filled with boats, bridges are intact and parks are filled with healthy full-bodied trees.
Residents and community activists are not pleased, quoted as saying that Google is pulling “the wool over the world’s eyes”, that the switch is “unbelievable”, and that with Google, you can “take a magic pill and go back into the past”. It seems like people in New Orleans are convinced that there is a government conspiracy to cover up the current state of New Orleans and convince the world that all is well there, and that Google may be part of the conspiracy.
So, is Google part of a conspiracy? Please. The idea that Google would be interested in a cover-up in New Orleans is kind of ridiculous. If I had to guess, Google was back-tracking on an earlier decision. See, back in September 2005, Google quickly commissioned and added overhead images of a Katrina-devastated New Orleans to Google Maps and Google Earth, in a likely expensive effort to help show its users the devastation.
While New Orleans is certainly not what it once was, it is cleaner and in much better shape than it was a month after Katrina. At some point, Google must have decided that the images of a hurricane-ravaged city were no longer accurate, and disabled them, replacing them with the regular database images which, due to the long amount of time it take sto photograph the entire planet, are a few years old, and thus, are pre-Katrina.
I don’t think that’s so bad. Yes, they aren’t accurate, any more than pre-9/11 images of lower Manhattan would be, but they are more accurate than photos of a flooded city. I wish Google’s imagery is more up-to-date, but they seem to be doing their best to make the images as little misleading as possible.
Google Managing Counsel Michael Kwun has a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post, an on-the-mark rebuttal of a Viacom op-ed from last weekend. Google paints Viacom as an author of the DMCA who is no longer satisfied with the law it had pushed, and defends the DMCA as the only legitimate way to protect copyright on sites like YouTube.
Google’s best point: If Viacom screwed up in figuring out which videos YouTube needed to remove, how the hell did it expect Google to do it, and why are they suing Google for not doing something they couldn’t get right, something that the law they drafted says is Viacom’s responsibility. Great read, and great job fighting back. I would love to see Viacom try to beat this arguement in court.
Viacom is attempting to rewrite established copyright law through a baseless lawsuit. In February, after negotiations broke down, Viacom requested that YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos. We did so immediately, working through a weekend. Viacom later withdrew some of those requests, apparently realizing that those videos were not infringing, after all. Though Viacom seems unable to determine what constitutes infringing content, its lawyers believe that we should have the responsibility and ability to do it for them. Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side.
Ionut Alex has a look at the newest revision to Google Notebook, Google’s oft-overlooked note-taking product, which has just left beta and gotten some improved design and AJAX features. He’s detailed a lot of changes, including the easy click to add a new note, auto-saving, and other things. The coolest new thing has to be the ability to create a Google Maps noting all sorts of cool places, like this one. This is a feature native to Windows Live Maps, but its nice to see the Google Notebook team giving Maps a new feature.
What is the real point of Google Notebook? In a way, it’s the Notepad to Google Docs’ Word, the lighter note-taking app for when you don’t want to load the much more involved Docs word processor. Still, this could be better solved as a subset of the Docs application, perhaps sharing a codebase and document store, and of course, branding. Even if Google does nothing to integrate Docs and Notebook, they should at least rename it Google Docs Express or Google Docs Notebook.
ComputerWorld has an article about trouble some users and organizations had accessing their Google Apps services recently. According to the article, this was the third time this month the service suffered downtime, this time on Tuesday of this week from 10:00 am to about 4 pm. There was a previous outage on March 12 for about two hours, and another on March 1 for at least 8 hours. Paid users of the Premier tier of service received an extra 15 days of free Premier service.
Premier users are guaranteed 99.9% uptime, which I have mentioned earlier translates to 43.829 minutes per month. Adding up ComputerWorld’s three reported outages, Google has had at least 16 hours of downtime in just the first month of the current version of Apps, the first to come with the uptime guarantee for paying users.
Ignoring the fact that 16 hours of downtime a month, from a service that could be used to provide corporate email, calendaring, web pages, documents and spreadsheets, is an unacceptable option for any organization with important work to do, these numbers mean Google only had uptime of 97.8096%. Every time Google exceeds that 43 minute number, it will be forced to give another free month (or 15 days for 22 minutes) to paid users, completely defeating the purpose of charging for Google Apps.
In fact, if Google can’t get their uptime under control, you could use Google Apps Premier completely for free! Obviously, this is something they have to fix, because bad uptime makes you look terrible, and it gives away your service for free, taking away any hope of profit. I’m hoping Google is finding ways to fix this, because making an uptime guarantee is a serious deal, and thus far, they’ve failed.
Two years ago this Sunday, Google introduced two gigabytes of email storage for Gmail, with the amount of storage ticking up slowly, what they called their “Infinity + 1″ system. The idea was that since the counter went up continuously, you really had near-infinite storage. It was a great idea, except for one thing: Infinity + 1 implies better than inifinity, but it’s not.
See, Yahoo has announced that, as of this May, Yahoo Mail with have infinite storage. Actual infinite storage. As long as you don’t try to use your inbox as a hard drive, Yahoo will let it grow and grow, forever. Gmail’s 2834 gigabytes look paltry by comparison. I’ve updated Google’s April 1, 2005 graphic, with the reality, not the theory, of email storage as it is now:
So, April 1 is this Sunday, and while Google did nothing for Gmail last year on that date, there is a mini-tradition of Gmail annoucements coming on April 1. Can Google top infinity? Not really, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had planned that, and Yahoo just stole their thunder. Perhaps by providing infinite storage, not just infinite email storage, Gmail can announce something bigger. As it looks now, Yahoo is sitting pretty atop the email storage mountain.
Rich Skrenta is running a series on his blog called How To Beat Google, detailing the strategies needed to defeat Google in the marketplace, and consequently, showing exactly what Google’s competitors are doing wrong. The advice includes:
- Duplicating Google is uninteresting and will have no pull
- You need to segment the market, create a new category of search
- The innovation needs to be in the index, not the interface
- Users will not do extra work
- You cannot look like Google and expect to beat Google
Personally, here’s how I would beat Google:
- Convince Google to buy a top ten website for over a billion dollars
- Sue website for a billion dollars
- Create massive competitors from the largest corporations on the planet, corporations that buy lots of advertising and own all the major media
- Hold a long battle vs. Google for control of the market the acquisition is in
- Bleed Google dry
Ionut Alex writes about Google’s newest release of their mobile search product. I tried it out, and it seems like a good improvement. Google’s added some formatting to the page, so it is more than just text on a blank screen, and they’re trying the same thing Yahoo OneSearch is trying, putting multiple search verticals on the same page, guessing based on your query what you might find helpful.
For example, I searched for “Goggles”, and I got web search results, followed by local results (you enter your zip code and it remembers) and then pictures of goggles (and dogs wearing goggles). Search for “Knicks” and get sports scores atop those results. The results seem biased towards mobile websites, which results in a poorer set of search results, like when I searched for “Microsoft” and the second result was the WAP site of Microsoft’s Philippines office.
The front page is a mini-Personalized Homepage, letting you choose a number of modules to display all the time on that page, including stocks, weather, news, movie showtimes, and a number of pre-selected feeds.
You can add any RSS feed you’d like to the homepage merely by editing this URL:
Just change the feed address and you will have added that feed to your Google mobile home page.
Re-ordering the modules on the page is a pain, since you can only send a module to the top, meaning you have to send something to the top, then the next thing on top of it, and the next thing on top of that. Oy.
There’s also a setting that turns off Google’s automatic page formatting. Google processes all links you click on, reformatting them for smaller screens. That’s a good feature, but it can be annoying, especially if you are running a browser that already does that. Now you can turn it off if it bothers you.
Go to m.google.com on your mobile phone to access it. If you’d like to try it right now in your regular browser, just click this link.
In other Google mobile news, LG has agreed to ship Google products on its mobile phones, including Google Maps, Blogger Mobile and Gmail, starting the second quarter of this year. It would be interesting if Google software ships on the LG Prada, which many are calling an iPhone-killer, especially since the iPhone will have Google Maps as well.
Ionut Alex notes the current bundling agreements, with Google and Yahoo sharing LG, Motorola and Samsung, Google bundling on Sony Ericsson, and Yahoo on Nokia. In the PC world, Google has Dell, Microsoft has Lenovo/IBM, and Yahoo has HP and Acer.
Google is holding lectures giving tips to political and advocacy group consultants, showing them how to better use all of Google’s services in managing their messages. According to the Los Angeles Times, Google packed 80 consultants into a lecture hall earlier this month, and conducted an hourlong seminar showing:
- Which types of videos resonate on YouTube
- How to improve search engine rankings
- Use Google AdWords to reach an already interested audience
- Google Alerts to stay on top of news for your candidate or topic
- Google Analytics to provide data on visitor behavior
- Get campaign materials on YouTube’s YouChoose chanel
- Read John Battelle’s The Search as a guide
- Integrate keywords into your website
Naturally, Google is hoping to gain some of those campaign advertising dollars. Online advertising in the last presidential election was practically meaningless, just $12 million out of $4 billion spent in 2004, but with that expected to double to over $8 billion in ‘08, Google is hoping to show campaigns their money is better spent online, and hopefully, on Google.
Google signs were everywhere during the two-day event this month. A Google Lounge with lava lamps and rock music offered attendees free use of half a dozen Web-connected laptops. Schrage delivered the keynote address. And at its seminar for consultants, “Making the Most of Google in 2008,” the company offered, next to the free travel coffee mugs, copies of a two-page “Google Product Guide for Politics.”
“The Google network allows you to do very interesting things with targeting, with messaging, etc., in a way that you could never pull off with a 30-second TV spot,” Derek Kuhl, who is leading a New York-based political sales team that will have three or four people, told the group.
The consultants scribbled notes as they sipped coffee, then peppered the Google employees with questions, seeking details such as the average length of videos on YouTube and the length of the approval process to buy ads on search results.
“They were out essentially selling a product: Use us,” David Haase, a consultant with Mindshare Interactive Campaigns in Washington, said afterward. “They’re trying to become the gold standard.”
We are now under two weeks away from Search Engine Strategies New York, the premier search industry event in my backyard, and boy am I excited. Search Engine Roundtable is planning a huge amount of coverage, planning to liveblog about 80% of all sessions. I’ll probably do the same for a few interesting panels, and hopefully I’ll get to run into SER’s Weinberg blogger, Tamar Weinberg. Plus, I get to show off my new long hair!
Yeah, I haven’t had a haircut since my wedding. I look ridiculous.
Anyway, SES New York takes place April 10-13 at the Hilton in Manhattan, costs like a billion dollars to attend (okay, $800-$1900), and is a ton of fun and informative. The parties should be fun, and this year I promise not to lose the paper with Yahoo’s party’s address (I felt like such a dope missing that one, especially after a cool Yahoo buy invited me). What sessions am I looking forward to?
- Video Search Optimization - Tuesday, 9-10:30 am
- Ads In A Quality Score World - 11am-12:30pm
- Keynote Conversation with Steve Berkowitz - Wednesday, 9-9:45am
- Web Analytics & Measuring Success - 10:15-11:45am
- Meet The Search Ad Networks - 1:30-2:45pm
- Earning Money From Contextual Ads - 3:15-4:30pm
- Contextual Ads & AdSense Clinic - 4:45-6pm
- Search Arbitrage Issues - Thursday, 9-10:15am
- Search & Privacy - 11am-12:15pm
- The Search Landscape - 2-3:15pm
- Wikipedia & SEO - 4-5:15pm
- Link Baiting & Viral Search Success - Friday, 10:45am-12pm
- CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 & Search Engines - 12:30-1:45
If you are going to be there, or want to suggest somewhere I should be, send me an email or call my cell phone (212.380.7127). Should be a great week!
Also, Google New York announced the next event in its speaker series. Next Thursday, Luiz Barroso will be talking about “Watts, Faults, and Other Fascinating Dirty Words Computer Architects Can No Longer Afford to Ignore”. Unless I actually pull off the BBQ I’ve been meaning to do, I’ll be there.
Some Digger realized there was a significant enough number of bored people typing out “asdf” into Google, enough for Google Trends to record its popularity over the last three years. I’ve added three more terms you might type in while bored to illustrate mostly uniform levels of bored-itude over the maximum period of time:
As you can see, uses of “asdf” enjoyed a major spike in mid-2004, but was overtaken by “i am bored” in the third quarter of 2005. “i am bored” had seen a surge in popularity through the middle of last year, but it has recently faded into the pack. It remains to be seen which boredom phrase will take the lead this year, but one thing is certain: None of this is important, and you must be bored for reading it.
The results of community voting in the first ever YouTube Awards were announced Monday, and here the winners:
- Most Creative - OKGo - Here It Goes Again - a music video of the band moving in sync on treadmills
- Best Comedy - Smosh - Smosh Short 2: Stranded - a man falls into despair at his situation, trapped on a deserted island. The punchline is pretty damn good
- Best Commentary - thewinekone - Hotness Prevails - commentary on how it’s too damn hot, I feel this one lately
- Best Series - Ask A Ninja - a ninja teaches you about a subject in an imitable and humorous style
- Best Music Video - TerraNaomi - Say It’s Possible - A young woman singing (frankly unexceptionally, but not as bad as most of the people on YouTube who think they can sing. Won likely due to the fact that she consistently uploads new songs, developing a fan following).
- Most Inspirational - PeaceOnEarth123 - Free Hugs Campaign - Man walks around, offering free hugs, some people accept. I am so dissapointed this won, given the self-importance of its “message”, the overwrought music, and the idea that this ridiculous thing somehow changed anyone’s life. Please, please, please someone make a “Free Handshakes” video
- Most Adorable - Madyeti47 - Kiwi! - Very cute, very talented computer animated video
You can see all the winners in this playlist on Splashcast, created by Ionut Alex. Chitu:
Some of these winners were in studio on the Opie and Anthony show on Monday, and they did not get a good reception. The hosts seem to think the winners were ridiculous, didn’t like the song either, and just wanted to talk to the YouTube PR guy about the Viacom lawsuit. They also said that if they heard the word “community” one more time, they’d punch somebody in the face.
Here’s the funniest thing I’ve seen on YouTube lately, a spoof of Heroes:
The Daily Show was talking about the Viacom lawsuit, and they had Demetri Martin do a killer segment on it:
TV Guide is getting ready to do what Google was supposed to do: Index video content on the web. See, Google Video only indexes Google-owned video properties, which destroys any hope of Google running a regular video search engine. So, TV Guide is going to step in and provide a TV Guide of online video, launching a test version next month of a service that will index all major video content on the web. The idea is that, since content owners are launching their own video services, TV Guide will provide a central source for finding those full-length TV shows, as well as indexing short video clips from around the web. They will index about 60 sites, including Google’s sites, AOL, ABC, Fox and others, bringing structure to the coming decentralized ecosystem, and in doing so, provide a central portal to begin unraveling YouTube’s network effect.
You can sign up for the beta here.
The CW is looking to greenlight a TV series that will broadcast the most popular viral videos. No word on how they plan to gain the rights to these videos, or distinguish themselves from VH1’s Web Junk 20. Web Junk get the rights because MTV Films bought iFilm two years ago.
YouTube is readying a mobile version of its site, coming this June (and curiously, in May in Europe) at m.youtube.com. The site will have 800 editorial picks of videos, not the entire index, presumably in order to better tailor it to phone screens. See a screenshot here.
This video has been making the rounds, of Eddie Griffin crashing a Ferrari Enzo:
Nobody’s sure if its a publicity stunt or not, but the fact that I got notified of it by a PR firm means it is certainly a possibility.
Google Spreadsheets has been updated, a minor release bumping the version number to 1.2.0i. The update fixes these issues:
- spreadsheets not loading quick enough
- spreadsheets not loading
- disconnect error messages (and if you are disconnected, you will be reconnected automatically)
- for IE users, if your spreadsheets aren’t loading, you’ll be prompted with instructions
- “press Ctrl + F5 on your keyboard”
- Now supports Tab Seperated Values (.TSV) files
- hyperlinks in spreadsheets are now active and clickable in published spreadsheets
Meanwhile, check out this demo showing exactly how Google Desktop was hacked. I’m amazed at how the attacker was able to send commands to be run on the compromised machine and get at the user’s password, all by getting the user to click on a sneaky link.
(via Peter H. Gregory > Digg)
The last time this happened, it was February:
I’m finally sorta caught up. I still have 73 tabs of stuff to do, but at least I won’t be reading Bloglines 15 hours a day. Thank god.
Valleywag posted this screenshot of a version of the Google homepage that is currently in testing:
Compare that with the current Google homepage, which, in an effort to appear spartan, has avoided redesign and resulted in inconsistent and confusing UI elements:
I hope to god Google makes this the default UI for the page, because the current one has gone too far. They keep trying to jam new features in there, and it really isn’t working. Isn’t Google the company that is supposed to care if things scale?
Next step: fix those links to the right of and below the search box. They never worked. I need a link to language tools every time I go to Google? Relegate most of this stuff to a dropdown and leave me alone.
Two recent international Google Doodle logos courtesy of Zorgloob:
The first is easy, it’s the Persian New Year:
Google’s done the Persian New Year thing before, in 2006:
The second one, according to the translation, is to celebrate the International Day of the Francophonie:
What is the International Day of the Francophonie? No, it’s not a day for French people who are disingenuous, but rather a day to celebrate people who speak French, wherever they may live. Google ran the logo in the 23 (out of 55) countries where it has a Google site, running the same logo it has on that day for the last three years.
Just drop the URL into Google Maps, instant mashup!
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