Google Letting Apps Run On Their Cloud Google has announced a new service, Google App Engine, which lets web developers build their internet applications on top of Google’s technology. Developers will be able to use the Google File System and the Bigtable distributed data storage system in their applications, resulting in a strong backbone to compete with Amazon’s S3 service.
It’s free during the preview period, but the number of accepted applications and available resources are limited in the beginning. Let’s hope Google doesn’t leave it in a beta limbo for four years and make things impossible for some budding Web 2.0 companies.
Ex-Googler Bret Taylor has a very interesting article about opening up data sources so application developers can better take advantage of them, and so they can be free for innovation. Google could make App Engine a no-brainer for app developers if it has access to data source normal Web 2.0 companies normally go through hell to get access to.
Google Selling DoubleClick Performics Google has made a very popular decision, announcing it will be selling off the SEO business of Performics, a business of DoubleClick it received in the recently completed acquisition. Performics handled SEO and affiliate management for its clients, and a search engine doing SEO would have created a giant conflict of interest. The reaction has been almost nothing but positive, as many are glad to see Google eliminated this before it becomes a problem. However, Performics affiliate business will remain at Google, possibly creating a new area of the market for Google to dominate.
A much bigger move than a chef changing jobs is that of Douglass Merrill, Google Chief Information Officer. He’s leaving for music giant EMI, becoming their new president. Now, leaving from a major exec position at a top Silicon Vallley company to become president of a big music company is almost certainly a step up, but given the music industry’s woes, you’d think Google could have had more to offer him than a top company in a failing industry could.
New Version of Google Talk in Testing
Google has finally remembered it has an IM client, releasing a Labs test of a new version of Google Talk. The first version of Google Talk was released over 2 and a half years ago, but Google has barely updated it at all in the meantime. The new version, dissapointingly, drops the calling feature, implying that Google has abandoned the original intent of the “Talk” name, but it does add tabbed browsing. I still use Talk every day, but I have no faith at this point in Google actually maintaining the software like it should.
Google Finance Adds Stock Screener
Google Finance now has something called a stock screener, essentially a type of sort/search site for the stock market, letting you narrow down through criteria to find stocks with specific attributes. For example, you can specify stocks within a range of market caps, dividend sizes, 52-week gains or losses, and others, and combine the criteria to discover the perfect stock. This being Google Finance, it’s all accomplished with fancy AJAX sliders.
I used it to discover that there is only one company on the market bigger than Google that also does not pay off a dividend: Berkshire Hathaway. Good company to be in, but Google hasn’t been as good at the market as Buffet in many months.
Google Starts DoubleClick Layoffs 300 people lost their jobs today, as Google laid off 300 employees, or about 25%, of DoubleClick, the advertising firm it bought for $3.1 billion. The layoffs were expected and even warned about by Google, but it’s always sad to see people lose their job, especially in a recession. Hopefully recruiters are excited at the idea of hiring all these people, and they won’t spend too much time on unemployment.
If you can hire a DoubleClicker, or are a DoubleClicker looking for a new job, send me a message. I’ll try to connect the two sides.
Valleywag has been covering the layoffs heavily, saying that:
YouTube Starts Tagging Copyrighted Videos YouTube has started identifying music videos by the artists in them, tagging the video with “Contains Content From” and a link to the artist’s YouTube account. Artists in the program get to choose to put advertising on the video’s page and earn money from it, or they can block the videos from being viewed. Alternatively, they can elect to just receive tracking stats on their videos and see how popular they are, or link to where the music can be bought on AmazonMP3.
Google Grants Gave Out $273 Million In Free Ads Google’s blog noted the five year anniversary of Google Grants, which gives free AdWords advertising to non-profits. They said that in the history of the program, 4,000 grantees have received a stunning $273.3 million in free ads, all out of the kindness of Google’s heart*. 1,000 Googlers have volunteered their time and effort to keep the program running and help it roll out in new countries (fifteen so far).
* - okay, and a tiny bit because, in an auction pricing system, unfilled inventory actually lowers earnings on paid inventory
AdSense Ads All Scrolling Now?
Google ran a test of a modification to AdSense ads last December that added scroll up/down buttons to ad units, letting users click to switch in a new set of text ads. Looks like they really liked the performance of the ads, since many people are reporting spotting the scrolling buttons on all ad units. I can confirm seeing them on all my ad units, so it could very well be the new default.
Ionut notes that Google is already running April Fools “jokes” around the world. In Japan, there’s something about a joke regarding words that are similarly pronounced. In China, the company blog says they’re launching a human-powered search engine (watch out, Mahalo). In Australia, they’re letting you search the future. And in the United States, they’re possibly firing hundreds of hard-working advertising people — wait, that’s not funny!
But seriously, on the one hand, I’m hoping Google’s April Fools joke is good, on the other I’d rather see all those DoubleClickers keep their job. The “other hand” is weighing a lot more on my conscience than the humor hand, but I suspect that among those writing the pink slips, Google “hilarious” joke will be the only thing they really care about tomorrow.
Google Earth Getting Street View? Webware reports that they’re hearing Google will add Street View, its popular novelty feature in Google Maps that lets you see street-level photographs of businesses, making it available in the Google Earth desktop software. Their source is very non-specific, but the rumor does sound very believable, since there’s no good reason for Google Earth users to lag behind Maps users for this long. Webware says the addition could come in the next few weeks.
Barack Obama Rendered in Google SketchUp
Someone used SketchUp, Google’s 3D modeling software, to create this model of Barack Obama’s head. The whole thing is 400 polygons of rendered facial features, and I gotta say, it creeps me out. At least Obama’s a decent looking guy; I can’t imagine how creepy a 3D rendering of Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton (with giant eyes!) would look.
Sync Google Talk With Twitter Timothy Broder wrote a script that takes your latest Twitter message and makes it your Google Talk/Gmail Chat status message. It’s a simple thing, perfectly useful and good, just like a baby angel.
Crack Deal in Google Maps?
Is this really what this Digger thinks it is? Well, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to conduct a business transaction through your car window with a guy standing in the street. I think.
Does Google Chief’s $1 Salary Mean Anything?
For another year, Google’s head honchos will be taking a $1 salary, supposedly putting the interests of the business ahead of money. It’s a simple token gesture, offset by the fact that the guys taking the pledge, founders Page and Brin and CEO Schmidt, are billionaires, though it, in theory, would make them more focused on the health of the stock price. All three lost billions of dollars in the last few months as the once high flying stock tanked, though you won’t see them sweating it.
The salary/publicity stunt has been criticized as meaningless, and Valleywag has pointed out it means the super-rich taking the salary are contributing six cents to help Social Security and one penny for Medicare, meaning that none of their mega-riches are going to help those served by important government programs.
Google To Layoff DoubleClickers Tuesday Valleywag reports that Google intends to hold its first round of layoffs of DoubleClick employees, trimming headcount at its acquisition to get the most value out of the buy. The layoffs should start this Tuesday, the first day of the second financial quarter of the year.
Of course, that day is also April 1, the day Google usually publishes a funny prank to amuse web surfers. If Google tries to be funny while firing hundreds, if not thousands of good people, laying them off in the middle of a recession when the job market isn’t going anywhere, I don’t think I’ll be laughing a whole lot.
Barry Diller Wins IAC Trial
In the case for control of IAC and the right to decide the company’s future, Barry Diller has defeated John Malone and won the right to break up the company into five seperate firms. Considering the hard work Diller has put into screwing up Ask.com the last few months, his victory is everyone else’s loss.
Google Israel Goes Black for Earth Hour
Google’s website in Israel turned its background black Thursday, marking off Earth Hour, some sort of awareness campaign where people turn off their lights for an hour to save the planet. While the message was nice, it was still strange to see Google ignoring its own research that clearly showed a black Google wastes more energy than a lit Google.
YouTube Showing Advanced Video Stats YouTube has launched a new feature, called Insight, which shows you more advanced stats for your own uploaded videos. It features a Google Finance-type graph that shows viewing over time, so you can see which days viewing spiked, that sort of thing. Click About This Video on your videos page, or add “http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_insight?v=” before any video ID (it won’t work if it isn’t your video).
Video Ads Make it Into Google Search Google has started showing video ads in its search results, adding a “watch commercial” or “watch demonstration” or “watch testimonial” link beneath AdWords ads. Click the link, and a video expands and plays right there in the sidebar. The video is tiny (160×140) and is about 30 seconds long, and the advertiser pays if the user watches the video, not if they click the link to go to the ad’s landing page. I saw one of the ads in action, and if they don’t cost too much more than regular ads, they seem like a good deal.
Google Documents Revamps Interface
Google Docs’ word processor application has changed its interface, adding drop-down menus and getting rid of the old tabbed toolbar interface. The old interface was a poorly implemented middle ground between the old interface paradigm common in document apps like the older versions of Microsoft Office, and the new Ribbon used in Office 2007, and Google finally wised up and junked the confusing system.
The new interface is pretty familiar to anyone who has been using Microsoft Word since the Windows 3.1 days, with drop down menus and a simple toolbar. The new menus do include a list of the keyboard shortcuts, making it easier to use those timesavers, but the changes don’t bring anything new to the table. Guess this is one area where Microsoft can claim to be bolder and more innovative.
Blogoscoped also found this, an Easter Egg (or possible prep for April Fools Day), making fun of the old Microsoft Office feature, Clippy. It’s funny, but Clippy is a remnant of Office’s past, and Docs is looking more and more like Office used to, so maybe the joke’s on Google.
Google Japan Parametron Doodle Google ran this Doodle logo in Japan last week, honoring the anniversary of some Japanese computer:
YouTube Releases API for Customizing Player YouTube released an API for customizing its embeddable player, letting you change the look of it to match the look of your website. You can write completely customizable video player, changing any element and putting together anything your mind/code can come up with.
Googler is Convicted Hacker Valleywag has an article about Christophe Bisciglia, a senior software engineer at Google who is also a convicted former hacker. Bisciglia got in a dispute with his boss about a decade ago at the age of 17, and decided to take revenge by flooding the system with emails, sending email to the company’s customers, and defacing their website. Obviously he’s matured since then, but lets hope the next time he loses his temper the results don’t show in your Gmail account.
Spring Google Doodle
Google ran this Doodle logo to mark the beginning of Spring:
Google Loses FCC Auction The final results in the FCC’s spectrum auction are in, and the winners of major blocks of the 700 MHz spectrum are Verizon, winner of most of the coveted and somewhat open C block with Vodaphone (along with parts of A and B block), and AT&T, winner of most of B block. In total, the auction raised over $19 billion, much more than was expected, none of it from Google.
NBC and News Corp finally launchedHulu.com, its YouTube competitor video site, to the general public last week. Early reports are that, despite a lot of criticism from the press a year ago, the site has developed into a strong, high quality platform with a decent amount of good content. Hulu has a bunch of TV shows and full-length movies, and doesn’t charge anything to show them, just inserting ads. As long as the content is there, there’s absolutely no reason Hulu won’t be a hit.
Google Completes Purchase of DoubleClick
With the European regulators finally signing off on the deal, Google completed its megabillion dollar deal to buy DoubleClick. The acquisition met with a lot of opposition from Google’s competitors, who complained that it would create a monopoly in online advertising, but both U.S. and EU officials determined that DoubleClick’s business was sufficiently different enough from Google’s core search ad business, plus a possible Yahoo/Microsoft combo would be competitive enough.
The final acquisition cost was $3.24 billion, according to Google, about $140 million than originally planned. That’s either due to inflation, unexpected costs, slight changes in the deal, or includes the cost of getting the acquisition improved in the first place. SEJournal has the text of an email Google sent to all of DoubleClick’s clients with some FAQs.
Yahoo Buzz Driving Massive Traffic
I completely recant my earlier criticism of Yahoo Buzz, Yahoo’s Digg competitor. The main difference between Buzz and Digg is that it only allows in publishers who use a Yahoo advertising program, and the top stories from Buzz make their way onto the Yahoo homepage, the most popular webpage on the planet. Publishers in the program are reporting all-time traffic records, even really popular sites like Salon and TechCrunch, making Buzz a huge incentive for publishers to use Yahoo for their ads. Yahoo should have thought of this years ago.
YouTube Integrated Into Spore
The much anticipated Spore, arriving later this year from Maxis and gaming legend Will Wright this September, will include integration with Google’s YouTube. Players will be able to upload videos of their Spore creatures to YouTube while playing the game, and an official Spore channel on YouTube will feature the best contributions from the community. I got to sit down with an EA rep at a recent games preview event, and I was shocked at how well-thought out and integral the community aspect was for Spore, and the YouTube integration represents yet another great addition.
AOL Buys Bebo AOL bought Bebo, a mega popular (in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand) social networking site for $850 million. While the acquisition price has been widely panned as too expensive, it does underscore the importance of social sites being popular in countries other than the United States, and how MySpace and Facebook are not the only real players.
While Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick looks a little smaller next to Microsoft’s holycrap offer for Yahoo, it is still a major change in the online advertising market, and it is still in the process of being approved. Hopefully, the deal could get final approval from the European Commission this month, according to a research report released yesterday. Google announced the deal ten months ago, the U.S. approved it six weeks ago, and if Europe finally budges, we can all move on with our lives.
Google’s $3.1 billion mega-acquisition of ad serving company DoubleClick has passed Federal Trade Commission approval over the objections of everyone who doesn’t want Google to be successful. Despite Microsoft and other companies crying “antitrust!” and “monopoly!”, The FTC approved the deal with no conditions attached. The FTC determined that Google and DoubleClick are not competitors but rather companies that do business in different areas of the same industry.
The FTC also made an important distinction, reaffirming that privacy laws must be handled on an industry-wide basis, not be created for a single company. In other words, hopefully in the future, if there are concerns about privacy, a company like Google will not be singled out, but rather the entire industry will have to face the same regulations.
Valleywag notes that of the five commissioners who voted on the case, three of those who voted in favor of Google attended a Progress and Freedom Foundation Aspen Summit, funded partially by Google, over the past two years. Not to say that there’s major conflict, but rather that Google is really learning how to play the game. Still, besides those three commissioners, the vote was just one for, one against.
So, now that the FTC has approved it, all that’s left is for the European regulators to give the okay. Assuming they don’t horribly drag their feet, maybe this thing will even be done before the one year anniversary of announcing the deal. Then, Google just has to go through the long process of integrating DoubleClick into Google. Boy, this is just a thrill-a-minute, ain’t it?
“DoubleClick is one piece of it,” said Tim Armstrong, Google’s president of advertising and commerce in North America. “We think the deal should close. We think our competitors have been able to close their deals.”
Google’s playing both sides of the story. If the deal fails, they’re running pre-emptive damage control to protect the stock price, as well as lining up deals to make up for some of what it loses without DoubleClick. If everything goes well, then they’re helping DoubleClick line up more clients, which might be necessary since this protracted approval process has probably distracted DoubleClick from concentrating on its core business.
The European Commission, the same out-of-touch government agency that has been wasting Microsoft’s time and money for years, refused Tuesday to approve Google’s mega-billion dollar deal to buy DoubleClick, putting the entire deal on hold, possibly till March. The Commission is ordering a further review of the deal’s impact on the online advertising business, which will delay the $3.1 billion deal entirely until it is done, at the least.
Meanwhile, I keep getting PR emails from Performics, the SEO arm of DoubleClick that would be part of Google if this deal ever completed. They send me one press release about buying trends they’ve identified around the holiday shopping season, showing that the “Cyber Monday” crap we hear every year about the Monday after Thanksgiving is just inaccurate, with successive Mondays having far more shopping activity than “Cyber Monday”.
Apparently, the Mondays between Thanksgiving and Christmas are important, but successive Mondays are bigger than the first one. This year is a perfect storm, with an early Thanksgiving and Tuesday Christmas translating to five Mondays between the two holidays, more than we ever usually see, which could mean increased activity for online retailers above what is normally expected.
Performics also announced 52 new affiliate advertising clients in the third quarter, showing that Performics is growing strongly. I doubt Google would want to unload Performics once the deal is done, seeing how well it’s doing.
I know the Google/DoubleClick deal has just been assumed as an eventuality, but what if Microsoft actually succeeded at blocking it? What would be next for Google, and would DoubleClick survive all the upheaval intact? Right now, we’re mostly looking at sparring between the two companies, but if Microsoft f’s up Google’s megabillion dollar deal, it could be war.
UPDATE: Here’s Google’s David Drummond talking to Congress:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, a regulator of competition in the country, said that it is beginning an informal inquiry into Google’s purchase of DoubleClick. The Commission is asking those in the industry to submit comments on how the move would affect the advertising industry in the country, specifically if it would lead to higher prices.
The inquiry will end on October 16 with a decision, though Google continues to face problems closing this deal in the United States. The ACCC is also investigating claims that Google’s search ads amount to misleading and deceptive conduct, by allowing advertising to appear as search results.
IAC has dumped DoubleClick as the ad provider for many of its web properties, like CitySearch, Evite and Match.com. The future Google subsidiary was replaced by future Microsoft subsidiary Atlas, itself a division of aQuantive, the ad firm Microsoft is in the process of acquiring for a bajillion dollars. As Erick Schonfeld says, Barry Diller picked his poison, deciding that if they had to use a competitor, they should help Microsoft and not market juggernaut Google.
Seriously, IAC should buy a major online ad firm. Google did, Microsoft did, Yahoo did, and IAC could stand to do the same.
Catching up: I had a crazy week, with me and my wife going on a short wedding anniversary vacation, one of my best friends getting married, and my aunt and her family moving forever to another continent. There’s a lot of stuff filling up the queue, so we’re going to go through it double time
Google Acquires Aerial Image Firm, ImageAmerica
Google bought another company, this time ImageAmerica, an aerial imagery company. ImageAmerica provided the high-res imagery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and can be used to provide high quality imagery of any area in a hurry, an excellent boon for Google Earth/Maps. They’ve got a “Beech Starship” aircraft that can get into an area quickly, get high, fly fast and with great stability, and get great images for Google to use.
Google Maps Now Shows Popular Searches
Google Maps has a new feature that shows the popular searches for a particular area. Search for a city, town, state, or whatever, and you’ll find out what people are searching for in that area. For example, I know that in my area, people are looking for:
new york hall of science: administration
st johns university
flushing meadow park
While popular searches in Manhattan are:
madison square garden
YouTube Antipiracy Tool Coming This September
Google is expected to finally release YouTube’s antipiracy system this September, 10 months after buying the company, and many months after getting sued by Viacom and watching competitors take similar major measures at stopping the widespread uploading of copyrighted material. The technology will fingerprint videos so it can recognize when a previously deemed infringing video is uploaded again, and will allow copyright holders to embed a digital fingerprint in videos so the system will never let them be uploaded.
This couldn’t come a moment too soon. Google Video, which shares some of the same infrastructure as YouTube (when watching YouTube videos, I’ve seen them streaming from video.google.com) and presumably will share the same antipiracy system, is a hotbed of piracy. My wife and I have gotten some movies still in theaters from Google Video, something we normally never bother with, because it’s too damn easy to find.
Google Using Community To Grow Indian Maps
Google has decided that the best way to get good maps of India is to ask the locals for help. They’ve sent out GPS kits to some Indians, asking for their assistance in creating more accurate maps of the area, comparing the multiple data points for verification. The program has done 50 cities, complete with driving directions, using the GPS and special software that allows users to literally draw the roads on top of the satellite imagery.
DoubleClick Running Illegal AdWords Ads
Looks like future Google unit DoubleClick has been running some AdWords campaigns that break the terms of service. DoubleClick is running ads on Google search targeted to the term “AdBrite”, a competing web advertising company, actually using the competitor’s trademarked term in the ad copy. While Google has been embroiled in lawsuits protecting the advertiser’s right to target trademarked terms, it clearly bans the use of those terms in the ad itself. Someone should tell DoubleClick.
The New York Times has an article about how Google’s New York offices are in the same building as DoubleClick’s, resulting in a lot of DoubleClick employees who are very well aware that they could have coworkers on another floor. More importantly, those coworkers have free food, and they aren’t going to wait for Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick to be approved to enjoy it.
At least three times so far, Google security has escorted DoubleClick employees up the back stairs, this despite Google normally having a policy against “pre-merger snacking”. The DoubleClickers load up on a week’s worth of desserts and enjoy the view, and wait for their next visit to do it all over again. They’re even re-arranging their schedules, moving pizza day away from Google day, so they don’t have any distractions.
The Federal Trade Commission said last week it is conducting an antitrust review of Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick. The FTC’s decision no doubt was spurred by “concerned” competitors of Google, who are worried that the deal will make it very hard for them to compete. Google’s senior corporate counsel Don Harrison brushed it off, saying that such an inquiry is just routine, though no is investigating Microsoft purchase of aQuantive for almost twice as much.