Brian Retkin, a 48-year old British man, is suing Google, claiming the search engine is somehow responsible for the accuracy and defamatory nature of everything written on the internet. Retkin is accused of profiting from the September 11 attacks by offering up domain names in some sort of solidarity promotion with the U.S.. Even assuming the allegations are false, Retkin spent three years trying to convince Google to remove the information, rather than suing the individuals who published it.
I don’t know if Mr. Retkin is a scammer, but he is a moron. International law is clear that service providers are not responsible for the actions of their users in these sort of regards, and the pages indexed by Google have even less of a relationshop than that. Google has no responsibility for the entire internet, rather the persons writing the libelous material bear full and sole responsibility. Retkin is in for a rude awakening when the court tells him to go to hell, as it should and most likely will.
Retkin spoke to WebProNews, saying that Google has already removed close to 15,000 pages from its index, yet he is still suing them. What Retkin doesn’t explain (and he doesn’t seem to have been asked) is why there are so many websites publishing these claims of him harvesting email addresses and spamming them with exclusive offers for .USA domains. Why has he not tried to get them to retract their claims, if they are so false and libelous?
Basically, Retkin’s DotWorlds offers domains with made-up top level domains, like jesus.christ or world.earth, but no one can actually access your domains without a browser plugin, since they don’t resolve to the DNS system like normal domains. I’m shocked that anyone would accuse them of being scammers, what with that brilliant innovation.
Google has significantly improved its referral program for AdSense, calling the new version Referrals 2.0. They say that the new version has thousands of products to choose from, category and keyword targeting to suggest the best products for your site, and a “Pick best performing ads” option which automatically displays ads expected to perform best. The new interface is pictured behind that link.
I found at least one referral product I liked in there, for
, which makes these amazing protection shields for iPods, cellphones, and other portable devices. I’ve got two, one for my touchscreen phone, and I swear by these things.
See how well that referral link blended in my post? Would you believe it required a WordPress plugin! Yes, Google insists that referrals, which cannot really suffer from click fraud, be placed using SCRIPT tags, which means many blogging software won’t allow it. I have to create the referral code in a WordPress plugin, then use an HTML comment to insert it into my post. Worse, RSS visitors don’t ever see the referral. Google needs to consider letting you just link the damn thing for better ease of use.
In the meantime, Microsoft’s affiliate program lets me use standard text links and images all I want, and edit as necessary. Sure, they don’t have much to offer, but I can at least tell you to download a 90 day free trial of Windows Live Onecare without jumping through hoops.
Google Russia has launched a new site called Google Вопросы и ответы, or Google Questions and Answers. Google closed Google answers, its service where users answered questions for money, back in November, and Google Russia has apparently decided to create a new version. The interface is completely different from the old Answers, with some neat AJAX tricks and obvious community sidebars.
The Google Russia blog says that it isn’t like the old Answers, that no money is needed to ask questions, users get points for answers and more points for better answers, users can tag questions, and that Russia is the first country where this is being rolled out. Considering the excellent interface design, and the fact that Yahoo Answers hasn’t conquered every single country, expect this service to spread, though it may not reach the U.S..
Google Maps has a wonderful new feature that lets you create and edit driving directions with the mouse. Here’s who it works:
Right-click anywhere and click “Directions from here”:
Then do it again at your destination, clicking “Directions to here”:
You can add another waypoint by doing that again, but even better, you can pick any point in middle of the route and drag it, and watch the route recalculate as you drag:
When you let go of the mouse, a new waypoint will have been added in the middle of your route, and the directions for all your stops will be there. You can keep adding new waypoints, dragging between waypoints to add new stops, going all kinds of crazy:
This is a really, really useful feature that makes complicated driving directions obscenely easy. If there’s a problem, its that the map doesn’t scroll if you drag to the edge of the map. If you try to drag to create a waypoint off screen, it just doesn’t scroll, so you have to either hold down the cursor keys and watch it move real slow, or you can delete the waypoint, reposition and re-zoom the map, and try again. That’s an annoyance they should fix in the next update.
Google’s stock might be finally hitting a sunny patch, having risen $70 in the last six weeks and reaching a new all-time high. The stock, which used to be talked about as a high-flying stock, has suffered since January of last year, having trouble rising as recently as mid-April, but is now going up in value. The stock hit a new all-time high of $534.99 around 1 pm on Monday, currently enjoying a market cap higher than $164 billion.
Could Google be recovering? Is GOOG finally a good buy? Is it too early to be talking about $600, as this guy is? Seems like the Wall Street consensus is $600 in the next twelve months, which would mean 2007 could actually be an up year for Google’s stock, unlike 2006.
Google is teaming with Universal Pictures to run a contest relating to the Matt Damon movie “The Bourne Ultimatum” called The Ultimate Search For Bourne. The contest, like the Da Vinci Code contest of last year, will require fans to use a variety of Google tools to “track” Jason Bourne, Damon’s character, across three continents. The contest starts July 16 and is a partnership with Volkswagen and MasterCard. If past experience is any indication, the contest will be run from an iGoogle Gadget.
Come back here on July 16. If the game seems exciting, expect full coverage, hints and tips.
UPDATE: Here are links to our coverage of the game, including help on solving the daily missions:
Andy Beal has done a study of the 2008 U.S. presidential election in search engines, seeing how 18 announced candidates appear to searchers on Yahoo and Google. Andy examined the top 20 results for each name and tabulated the number of positive, negative, and neutral websites listed in the search engines.
Of all candidates, Ron Paul had the highest percentage of positive pages, no doubt due to a rabid internet fanbase that has been skewing internet polls for months. Of all mainstream candidates (those receiving 10% of the vote in any recent major poll), only Hillary Clinton has over 50% positive results. The most positive, in order, are:
Clinton’s strong internet presence has significantly helped her campaign rank well in the search engines, while McCain and Edwards have their work cut out for them. While no candidate has a significant number of negative results, a lack of positive results indicates poor online outreach that will hurt that candidate in the long and short term.
Curiously, Andy left out Fred Thompson, who figures high in Republican polls. I’ve taken the liberty of tabulating the top 20 for “Fred Thompson”
Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg has a review of Ask.com’s new Ask3D search engine interface, and he seems to be a fan. Mossberg, who wields a lot of influence with his Personal Technology column, says Ask3D is a “bolder and better advance” and “more effective” than Google’s universal search. He likes how Ask differentiates different types of results on a single page, better than Google’s approach of mixing different types together.
Google deserves credit for universal search, which I’m sure will get better. But Ask’s new design is much more compelling and well worth a try.
Google’s universal search is executed in a way that might confuse users, whereas Ask’s, while more complicated, is clearer and easier for users to grasp. I feel like Ask’s approach is likely to grab anyone no longer satisfied with their search engine, while Google’s approach doesn’t increase its appeal, and only hurts Google’s ability to grab users from more traditional search engines. While Google is doing fine, even more than fine, they could do better on the interface side of things.
Yahoo’s partnership with PayPal deepens, with Yahoo Publisher Network (their contextual advertising program) publishers receiving their monthly check, if they choose, deposited right into their PayPal account. The best part about the new system: PayPal isn’t taking its usual commission off your earnings (almost certainly part of Yahoo’s deal with them), so you get to keep 100% of what you make, and put it in a useful place.
I wonder, is there a way to receive PayPal payments via credit card without being subject to commissions? I have a friend who he and his wife are looking to adopt, and would like to help them raise money to pay for it, but I don’t want 3.2% of every donation being wasted on PayPal fees. Got any ideas?
eBay ended its Google boycott earlier this week after just under two weeks of deciding not to buy AdWords ads. The boycott, which was started as a protest to a Google party designed to steal eBay’s customers from under their noses, taught eBay an important lesson: They didn’t need those ads as much as they thought they did. eBay resumed their ad buys, but at a lower rate, after seeing that the millions of dollars they were giving Google could be better spent elsewhere.
Hani Durzy, a spokesman for San Jose, California-based eBay, said his company later on Friday would begin advertising on Google, but at reduced levels than previously. eBay had been buying tens of millions of keyword ads on Google each year.
“I will tell you it will be in a much more limited way than it was before,” Durzy told Reuters. “What we found is that we were not as dependent on AdWords as some people thought.”
Chalk this up to more money Google Checkout has cost Google. Google loses money on Checkout every day, since it has to process credit cards and collects zero fees, and also gives away free money in many promotions. Now, it has cost Google a good portion of one of its biggest advertiser accounts. How much money does Google need to lose in the pursuit of Checkout before it gives up and tries to find a better business to get into?
I had no idea, but apparently Facebook’s walled garden has a public directory. I had just assumed that everything in Facebook was behind a login prompt, but I found out via a FaceReviews post that a large number of Facebook users, depending on their privacy settings, have public profile pages, and have had so for the last six months. Here’s what one looks like:
(apologies to Rachel for using her page, but it was the first one listed in Google, which I guess is some sort of honor)
Search engine visitors get to see your profile pic, five of your friends (and a convenient link to see five more at a time), and whether you post a lot of pictures, notes, join a lot of groups, and have a lot of people posting on your wall. Clicking anything on the page (except to refresh friends) results in a registration prompt, so that’s all there is to it.
So, really, this is a message to everyone on Facebook that you need to understand how important it is that you know your profile might be in Google. If you don’t like it, you can go into your settings and change who can find you in search engines to something more limiting. If you don’t take yourself out of the search engines, then you might want to change that picture of you and the beer bong at that wild party from being your profile picture.
In the meantime, we can be happy to know that Steve Rubel’s got a public profile, as does Robert Scoble. If you’d like to add me as a friend on Facebook, click here (but you’ll need to be signed in).
Eager to grow the Google Gadget ecosystem, Google has announced a Google Gadget Ventures program aimed at funding Gadget developers. Google says it will issue grants of $5000 to developers who have build Gadgets with at least 250,000 pageviews per week.
On the larger end, Google is offering $100,000 seed investment to Gadget developers with good proposals to build a business around their Gadgets (and have already received the grant). Google will take equity in developers who are given seed investments. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply, but you must be able to start a U.S. company.
Google intends to make 20 to 40 grants per year, and 2 to 5 seed investments per year.
This is a smart move by Google, helping along the development of the Gadget ecosystem, since Facebook’s applications have stolen a lot of the thunder in this segment. Google may not have the explosive growth of Facebook applications, but at least it can claim that it’s developers make actual money.
Not an authorized product from the Google Store, this Google Onesie (technically, a Goo Goo onesie) is perfect for stuffing your toddler into. While it is based on an older version of the Google interface (ugh, only a Google geek would say that), it does seem to have a button that reads “I’m Feeling Silly”. Currently out of stock (I bet it’s real popular, having been featured in Parents Magazine), you’ll be able to get it for $26 once they get a few more.
Google has handed over production of the Google Search Appliance, its only real hardware product, to Dell. The Search Appliance, which attaches to corporate networks to enable Google-powered internal search, has been a pretty good product for Google, but didn’t fit with the fact that the company had little experience with hardware, and was too expensive compared with similar products (including free software from Yahoo).
With Dell taking over, a company with more expertise in manufacturing can handle that end, while Google does what it does best, and handle the software side of things. Dell can market the search appliance along with its server products, which probably makes it a better sale than from Google’s own website. Google could use the help, since by its own admission, its only sold 9,000 of them.
Yahoo has hoped for a while to buy popular social networking site Facebook, making several offers, but never offering enough as the price kept going up. Facebook would be a perfect fit for Yahoo in several ways, tying together many of Yahoo’s community sites and making everything more popular by association, as well as giving Yahoo some cred with a younger generation that seems to be moving past its services.
Well, it might be time to give up hope on that one. A report at Valleywag says that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has complete ownership of the site, has no interest in selling. The new comany line is that Facebook has decided to remain independent, because Zuckerberg wants to remain faithful to the community to keep things going as well as they have.
That doesn’t mean necessarilly that Facebook won’t sell, but rather that it is sending a message that it doesn’t want to sell. Not only will that force potential suitors to think about offering even more money for the site, but it sends a strict message to Yahoo: Leave us alone, we’re not interested.
The second round of voting on your favorite entries in the YouTube Sketchies sketch comedy contest is upon us. The voting only runs through tomorrow, so hurry up and rank your favorites.
Here are all ten Round 2 finalists, in the order in which I like them. Most of them are pretty decent, especially the first two, and I wouldn’t waste my time on the last two. Let me know which ones you liked.