How To Always Get Higher Quality Videos From YouTube
Now that YouTube is offering videos in different qualities and choosing for you automatically the best one for your connection, you may feel like you are missing out and not getting the best version every time. Turns out there’s a new preference option under Account > Video Playback Quality that lets you tell YouTube to always play higher quality videos, never do it, or keep deciding what’s best for you. Use this new power with great care, young one.
Google Sky Makes It Into Google Maps
Google Sky, a pretty cool but almost forgotten feature in Google Earth, where users could see the constellations and multiple star layers in Earth, is now available in your web browser. Just head to sky.google.com and you’ll get a tricked out version of Google Maps with much of the features of Sky in Google Earth, though I just can’t figure out if the cool time slider is there. While this pales in comparison to Microsoft’s in-development WorldWide Telescope project, it’s light and easy and available now, so check it out.
Google Book Search Gets API Google has released an API for Google Book Search, letting application developers query Book Search and return if a book is available in Book Search and if it has a scanned copy. Using this, some interesting mashups can be created, like a site that shows you if a book is available in your library, available to read online at Google, or showing you how to purchase it at Amazon.
MapQuest Offers Unlimited API
While MapQuest, purely on name and longevity alone, is still in some areas the number one mapping site on the net, it is certainly losing the battle among power users and critics to newer services like Google Maps and the like. One way MapQuest could distinguish itself and show off the abilities of recent upgrades would be to get mashup developers to start using its API, and a recent announcement may help. MapQuest is now letting API developers have unlimited free use of the API.
While Google and its ilk limit use of their API to certain number of views or users per day, MapQuest’s API is both without limits and without costs, making it in some ways the only option now available for super-popular mashups. MapQuest’s API comes with many popular or unique features, including aerial/hybrid views, smooth zoom transitions, a Google Earth-like Globe View, speed and friction settings (possibly perfect for iPhone flicking), and advanced shape overlays. If, in order to avoid API key errors, enough mashups make the switch, users could start noticing that MapQuest is getting a lot better these days.
As always, Google search is the big boy, with Google Images the only other vertical that performs spectacularly. However, strong growth in Google Maps and Gmail mean that the two have a shot of breaking out of the pack and joining those two.
In the third tier are Google News and Google Video, one growing slightly, one sinking slightly. Guess moving around Video and changing its focus every few months hurt Video, though not as much as you’d expect. The fourth tier has Books, Earth and Groups, which enjoyed moderate growth, Scholar, which sank 32% due to neglect, and iGoogle, which exploded and grew over 250%. iGoogle is Google’s success story for the year, which is great news for the struggling personalized homepage product category and Google’s Gadget developer ecosystem.
There are the also-rans at the bottom, including Blog Search, the Google Directory (shockingly still popular than many of the others), Google Talk (most neglected product of the year), Calendar and Finance. Google Product Search is Google’s biggest failure, losing 73% of its users from when it was Froogle. A year ago, Froogle had a good ten million unique visitors and a nice brand name, now it has maybe two million and two generic names. Google killed Froogle, and hurt itself badly with this one.
Missing from this list is another Google success story, Google Reader. This suggests that Reader, while disrupting the RSS market, is too small to make the list, or that comScore screwed up (since we know Reader had a ton of growth). Also: No Google Apps or Google Docs, no Blogger or YouTube or SketchUp or Desktop.
It’s important to note that, of the 17 Google products listed, the only ones being monetized are Web Search (#1), Gmail (#3), Google Maps (#4) and Product Search (to a very small extent). Not making any money are Images (#2), News (#5), Video (#6), Earth (for the most part), Groups, Books, iGoogle, Scholar, and any of the others. Google would love to monetize Images, News and Video, but the amount of content it doesn’t own in there makes it damn near impossible to do so and not get sued.
Google announced a new feature for Book Search today, a My Library feature that lets you select books in Book Search and add them to a saved library. You can share that library with others, who can view it as a simple list, or in the nice book cover view shown in the screenshot above. Another new feature shows popular quotes for a book when you look at a book’s page.
I want you to do me a favor. I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says.
I know this isn’t a typical Google thing, but Google should make a way for people to link their Amazon Associates ID to their book lists. No matter how nice Google’s Library looks, there’s a disincentive to use it as long as you can use Amazon’s system to earn a little money. It would be a simple add, and would remove that little roadblock.
According to The New York Times, Google will start charging this fall for full access to certain books, due to agreements made with certain publishers. For these in-copyright books, Google has worked with publishers to bring their full contents to Book Search, letting everyone search them and pay to read the entire book. Users will not be able to save their books or take them with them as e-books.
Google also added another new feature to Book Search: clip embedding. You can go to anywhere in any book they have scanned, select a section, and embed it in your blog (or post it straight to Blogger or Google Notebook). Sadly, this feature is only available for public domain books (and it doesn’t work in Opera). The embed comes as an image:
Or you can just ask for the raw text, if Google can recognize it. In the book above (so chosen because it was the #1 result for “betwixt”, Google can’t recognize jack. Still, it’s a cool feature that will hopefully get better, especially if they add it for all books they have an agreement for. I’d really love to be able to embed from Google Patent Search as well, and real embeds (not hotlinking images) from Google Trends.
I gotta ask: Are the ads in Google Book Search new? I don’t remember those before.
Google Earth has a new layer for Google Book Search. Turn on the layer and there will be placemarks all over the globe related to Book Search results for that area. Click on the placemark and you’ll see a snippet from the book and links to find out more. In Google’s example, a placemark will be found in Detroit for “The Writings of Thomas Jefferson”, linking to a part of the book where he discusses Detroit.
Things I learned today: You can type a blog post with your eyes closed while you are napping. Just make sure to spell check afterwards.
Publishers hate Google, for the most part, because of its arrogant opt-out position on book scanning in Google Book Search. So its no surprise that at the BookExpo America in New York a publisher decided to teach Google a lesson. He went into the Google booth and stole a laptop. Just walked off with it. They waited at a distance for an hour till someone noticed it was missing, then returned it, telling the attendees they were just treating Google the way Google treats them.
See, the publishers are mad because Google scans books without asking permission. If a publisher objects, Google will not scan a book, but without an objection Google does as it pleases. The logic behind the laptop theft goes the same way: Since Google didn’t put up a sign saying “Don’t steal these laptops”, why surely that means it was okay to steal them. After all, they didn’t opt-out!
It’s delicious irony, and if you have any sense of humor, even if you agree with Google, it was a pretty funny incident.
Remember (and I did a 30 minute preso here to explain it) Google Books proposed to scan 18,000,000 books. Of those, 16% were in the public domain, and 9% were in copyright, and in print. That means, 75% of the books Google would scan are out of print but presumptively under copyright.
The publishers and Google already have deals for the 9%. And being in the public domain, no one needs a deal for the 16%. So the only thing the publishers might be complaining about is the 75% which are out of print and presumptively under copyright.
I’m not totally convinced, but I’m getting there. Google has not been forthcoming with hard numbers stating their case, and it is their typical arrogance that is more of the problem. Assuming that Google has deals for all of the 9%, and the 75% are out of print in the sense of being old and abandoned (and not just a year or two old and not having new copies made), Google might be just misunderstood here.
And if Google is being misunderstood, that’s their fault, as usual. I’ve never seen a company that seemed to want to give people a reason to distrust it, till now.
Google has announced it is adding books it has not scanned to Google Book Search, giving them millions of books they have not yet gotten to. Here’s an example of a page featuring a book not scanned, including the cover of the book, links to buy the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookSense and Google Product Search (which is listed last), as well as web pages that talk about the book, and in some cases, other editions and Google Scholar results. In some cases, Google doesn’t have the book scanned, but Amazon does.
Well, Microsoft “respects” these copyright holders by not providing any access to their works. Google “respects” these copyright holders by providing “snippet access” — just enough to see a sentence or two around the words you’re searching for, and then links to actually get the book (either at a library, or from a book seller).
This may just be my own vanity, but I suspect that more copyright holders of books no longer in print would like Google’s kind of respect over Microsoft’s. But in any case, it is not true to say that Google could have provided “its Book Search service” in the way that “we at Microsoft are doing it.” If asking first is always required, then because of the insanely inefficient system of property that we call copyright — inefficient again because the government has designed it so that there’s no simple way to know who owns what, the very essence of a property system — 75% of books could not be within a digital view of our past.
Sorry, Mr. Lessig, but it is your own vanity. While there are many authors who care more about getting their books out there than making money, the vast majority is trying to earn a living. Those authors whose books are out of print, but still in copyright, would love an opportunity to make some money off their older books, but Google’s plan involves copying them without permission. When you make a copy of a copyrighted work, you are in essence stealing it, and even when I download music and movies, I never kid myself that what I am doing is legal.
It is one thing for a kid on Limewire to download the latest “Jesus Take The Wheel” or whatever, but its a far larger issue if a 140 billion dollar corporation scans and copies every book on the face of the earth! I think Google should scan in all these books, but only after finding a way to make it all legal. Thus far, Google has presented only vague, uneven, unproven, unprecedented reasoning for its program, been beset with threats and lawsuits, and I’ve got a bad feeling all their efforts will eventually be undone by a court decision.
The main thing, though, is the fallacy at the heart of the argument: Lessig argues that getting authors works back into the public eye, without payment or permission, shows more respect than doing absolutely nothing. Seriously? Even if all the authors want their books in Google, I’ve always felt that to respect me, you have to show respect, and that means asking me if what you are doing is okay. Don’t tell these authors what’s best for them, that shows no respect at all.
Mr. Lessig, even if you want Google to scan and index your book, even if you want the knowledge in your book spread throughout the earth, wouldn’t you want Google, a company that will make money off your book you will never see, to at least ask permission first? Unless you put up a Creative Commons license, allowing them to do this without express permission, shouldn’t they give you the damn courtesy of asking you first? Don’t they owe you some respect?
Google announced an update to Google Book Search, adding some AJAX to improve your free book searching experience. The main thing, a typical AJAX feature, is that pages don’t reload when you turn pages in the book. Pages appear one above the next, infinitely scrolling (well, until you run afoul of copyright restrictions, at least). You can choose between one page and two page views for out-of-copyright books (one page only for in-copyright), and just drag your way up and down, like you were reading it in Adobe Reader.
They’ve done a great job cleaning up the interface, with book reading pages almost entirely filled with the book (very much resembling Google Video, in fact). There’s even a full-screen mode switch to completely remove the entire interface and focus on just reading. The book contents page appears to contain even more information, including live links to chapters, related books, and highlighted pages, as well as tags.
Google Book Search is now making available PDF versions of out-of-print books in its system. As Philipp points out, the PDF files come with a mostly unobtrusive “Hosted by Google” logo in the bottom right hand corner of every page, as well as a message at the beginning:
This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project to make the world’s books discoverable online.
It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that’s often difficult to discover.
Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book’s long journey from the publisher to a library and finally to you.
Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.
We also ask that you:
+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.
+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system: If you are conducting research on machine translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.
+ Maintain attribution The Google “watermark” you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.
+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can’t offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book’s appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.
About Google Book Search
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers discover the world’s books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web at http://books.google.com/
The PDF quality looks pretty good, even if there is writing in some of the books. Students could probably print out books needed for classes, rather than having to pay for a three hundred year old book. Philipp asks the all-important question: “Does Google have the legal right to restrict usage of public domain works?” I’d have to read up on my copyright law, but Google may own the images even if they don’t own the content.
What I don’t like: Google clearly ran Optical Character Recognition on all their books, since the text is searchable in Google Book Search. So why isn’t the text of the PDF searchable? If Google had allowed you to select the text in the PDF, you could copy and paste it into Microsoft Word; as is, they are little more than pictures of text.
This is just too funny to skip. Apparently, some uncooperative books needed to be held down for scanning for Google Book Search, and the hand that held them made it into the scan as well! Philipp has a screenshot, useful for anyone who can’t see anything at this link (due to not being in the U.S.).
Irvine Googleplex and AdSense Audio
Zachary Applegate of Plumber Surplus posted at SEOmoz a first-person account of his team’s recent visit to the Google offices in Irvine, California. Besides describing the office, which has the typical Google search ticker and a new Google Earth display, he also recounts their description of the in-development AdSense Audio system. Highlights:
Most radio ad buys start at $20,000. AdSense Audio will let those with $200 to spend get in on audio advertising.
Timing is everything. If a heat wave starts, AdSense Audio may switch ads from hot foods to colder foods, for example.
AdSense Audio will target radio, IPTV and podcast markets.
Check out the interface they are currently using. It doesn’t look anything like a typical Google interface, and it looks great. Looks like a pretty cool visit. Digg it.
We do not associate any of the information that Toolbar sends with other personal information about you. However, it is possible that a URL or other page information sent to Google may itself contain personal information. For information about how some web sites embed personal information in web requests, click here.
That could be a pretty big deal. I’d like to know if things I do with the Google Toolbar are specifically associated with my Google Account, especially since Google lets you login to your Google Account with the more recent versions of the toolbar. This is the sort of thing a Scoble-type would probably try to answer for us…
Dell Using Google Earth For Tech Support The Detroit News reports that Dell is enhancing its tech support service by integrating it with Google Earth. Customers will be able to see in Earth the status of their support requests, visualized as to their location on the globe. I hope Google has good imagery in India.
All kidding aside, Dell’s customer service has been crap for a while. First off, I don’t think Google would want to be associated with the next story of a Dell customer getting angry in a very public way. Second, I’m not sure Dell wants its customers to know the extent of their support outsourcing. Third, if Dell wants to improve its service, there are other areas they need to pay attention to first. This is purely a money deal, part of their deal with Google to promote Google products.
German Lawsuit Against Google Book Search Withdrawn WBG, a German Publisher, dropped their lawsuit against Google Book Search last week, after being told by the judge that they were probably going to lose. The court said it was going to side with Google’s arguement that showing snippets from in-copyright books is no worse than showing snippets from websites in Google web search (an already accepted practice). Google would probably have been better off if the lawsuit had not been withdrawn, since that sort of ruling would have set a very useful legal precedent, one that they will have to prove all over again in the next lawsuit.
Google SketchUp: Now For Macs Google just released the first Mac version of Google SketchUp. The Mac version is for the older PowerPC systems (no Universal Binary yet) and requires OS X 10.3 and an OpenGL graphics card. It also only works with the latest version of Google Earth (version 4). SketchUp is an excellent 3D modeling program, and will do a great job extending the capabilities of your Mac. Download it here.
Larry’s Pics Left Out There Philipp found Larry Page’s Picasa Web Album. Turns out there are no real privacy settings for PicWeb, just “public” and “unlisted”, and unlisted just invites you to guess the URL. That’s not the best way of handling online photos, many of which people don’t want to share with the rest of the world.
Maybe I’ll be heading to a few people’s PicWeb collections and try seeing if there is a “xxx” or “nudity” album? Page’s photos were far more innocent, and have been removed, but hopefully this taught the Google founder that, in the future, don’t release products without some real privacy options.
The full .pdf of Philipp’s book, 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google, is now available on 55fun.com. As the book is Creative Commons licensed, you are encouraged to copy, read, share, remix, convert, quote, browse, and print the .pdf to your liking. If you do create conversions, e.g. an HTML version, please send the URL so Philipp can link to it from 55fun.com.
Reuters reports a new feature of Google, for the poetic minds amongst us:
[Google launched] a site devoted entirely to the Bard, http://www.google.com/shakespeare, that allows U.S. users to browse through the full texts of his 37 plays. Readers can even plug in words, such as “to be or not to be” from “Hamlet,” and immediately be taken to that part of the play.
The site, which was introduced in conjunction with Google’s sponsorship of New York’s “Shakespeare in the Park,” also provides links to related scholarly research, Internet groups, and even videos of theater performances of Shakespeare plays.
Google has announced a new option for publishers in the Google Book Search program: They will be able to charge for unfettered access to their books online. Basically, publishers who’ve had their books entered into into Book Search can choose to give users the option to pay and get to read the entire book online, with none of the normal restrictions.
(via Chris Gilmer)
Of course, this is very different from Google’s library scanning program, which also falls under the umbrella of Book Search, and is opt-out. Boing Boing reports that John Battelle, author of the excellent book on Google (and business manager of Boing Boing) is a little angry that because his publisher is suing Google, his book can’t get into Book Search.
In the book, there’s a copyright notice that reads:
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Considering that John wants the book scanned and online, the phrase “support of the author’s rights” is comical and insulting. I also liked the use of the word encourage. I would like to say:
I, Nathan Weinberg, do hereby encourage the scanning, uploading and distribution of the book, The Search, via the internet or any other means without any permission to do say. I encourage the flaunting and insulting of copyright law. I encourage the placing of bags of dog feces on the doorstep of copyright holders, the ringing of their doorbell, the lighting of the bag on fire, and the running away. In addition, I am sticking my tongue out right now.
Do tell me what I can and cannot encourage. And stop pissing off authors. The book industry is a crappy deal for most authors anyway, the very least they can do is try not to be asses about it.
Greg Linden also has some good stuff, and links to Google’s webcast page, which has the webcast for you to view, as well as the presentation slides in PDF format. Of particular interest is the dream of “a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power”. While I think its a great goal to shoot for, Google needs to be willing to admit it certainly hasn’t reached that level yet, and many of its services suffer as a result. Developing services with an assumption of bandwidth and computing ability that doesn’t exist is just reckless.
Speaking at a seminar on “Google and the Google Book Search Programme” organised at the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, Mr. Anand said the Google book search, a free worldwide sales and marketing system of promoting books, had successfully enabled publishers in the United States and European countries to promote their books.
“It will now be available to Indian publishers as well as those based in China, Japan and Korea,” he added.
I had dinner with Ronen of Cinemalog (and my lovely fiance’), and he gave me a very interesting perspective on Google’s seemingly random and disjointed services. He recounts the theory on the Cinemalog blog, but I’ll try to explain it as I understand (or imagine) it.
Basically, the idea is that Google isn’t just creating random crap, instead, services like Gmail are designed to disrupt and even destroy traditional online software models. Gmail is the perfect example, since it has been so excellently disruptive. While Gmail isn’t for everyone (as many of us like it, there are ten others who like email the way it is), Gmail did force Microsoft and Yahoo to increase their inbox sizes. Ever since then, email inboxes on their competitors’ systems have been growing in ways they never did, since the old tactic of deleting emails when you run out of space isn’t really necessary.
Google’s supreme strategy, it goes, isn’t to create the greatest email service, but to destroy the old email models. In the newer, larger Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, you have thousands of emails, an inbox growing every day. As the old model is replaced by the new one, a big problem emerges: search. Google is forcing its competitors to amass information (Google’s favorite toy), by creating a small, but disruptive product that is open to a tiny audience, exposing their competitors weaknesses.
In this strategy, Google’s aim is not to create a portal and compete with Yahoo/MSN on every feature, but to force Yahoo/MSN’s portals into generating massive amounts of information to compete with tiny products from the upstart Google. While Google’s products never win in their market, they force users into a situation where they need Google’s search expertise more than ever before.
And Google has the expertise. While Microsoft and Yahoo build products like the new Yahoo Mail and Windows Live Mail, Google has been hiring certified geniuses, working on conquering the search problem. Search may not be solved, but nobody has as much brainpower as Google working to solve it. MSN/Yahoo will deliver world class services, but their products will be broken without Google’s search technology to sift through the information.
In short, Google is releasing products designed to force everyone else into an information-heavy situation where they need search more than ever, while working to create search so powerful every product will need it.
Gmail forced email inboxes to untenable sizes. Google Desktop reminded everyone how hard it is to search their computer, and no one has good search relevancy on the desktop level. Google Talk could eventually present IM logs stretching back years. Google Reader is amassing an RSS database. Don’t get me started on the information contained by Google Book Search, or Base, or Froogle.
Maybe Google doesn’t care at all about their products. Maybe Google wants to make search the only thing everyone can’t live without, and maybe Google wants to make sure it’s the only company that can handle that search. Crazy idea? Maybe. But don’t hold it against the billionaire geniuses from Stanford to be this devious.
Once everyone has 15 GB of email, the only way to organize it will be with Google Search. And everyone will need it.
Every service Google offers is not trying to take over – they are simply assembling the pieces of a greater puzzle which they will, in a few years, implement. You’re seeing the crumbs of the ingredients, and maybe tasting the batter, but wait till you see what they’ve got cooking in the kitchen.