1PlusV are claiming that Google is using their market dominance to stifle competition. The niche search engine is suing for €295 million (£265million) on basis that Google has both hindered the company in making niche search engines (such as ejustice.com for legal documents) and that Google has blacklisted dozens of the vertical search engines they have created.
It could be first in a series of cases where Google comes under fire for its ranking system. A recent overhaul of how sites are ranked has hit some sites hard and the search engine could be liable for their losses.
Relations between Google and China have seen better days. Now the technology group has been accused of acting with a political agenda, as Google had dared suggest the Chinese government may have had something to do with a recent hacker attack on Gmail.
The attack on Gmail meant data belonging to hundreds of users were put at risk, and Google said this was the work of a phishing group it believed to be based in China's Shandong province.
Google then suggested the attackers may have had connections to the Chinese government. This then resulted in Google facing accusations of it having acting as a "political tool" to make the Chinese government look bad.
"Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives," said Chinese government spokesman Hong Lei in a statement.
It is clear not all is well in the land of Chinese-American cyber relations. A stronger statement can be found in the People's Daily, the main Communist Party newspaper. It wrote in its editorial that Google was "deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China", and that "Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention".
We have been warned.
PayPal claims Google played dirty in developing Google Wallet, its new electronic payment system. The payments group has now filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the tech giant poached key PayPal staff in order to get access to PayPal's business secrets.
PayPal executive Osama Bedier jumped ship earlier this year after nine years at PayPal, and is now working at Google as vice president of payments. In the lawsuit, PayPal claims Bedier "misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers".
PayPal and Google had been working closely with each other for the past three years, however Bedier is accused of having secretly interviewed for a job at Google while at the same time being in negotiations for PayPal to handle sales Google app sales on Android phones. This could have been a conflict of interest.
Google has yet to respond to the claims.
The Google Wallet, which has just launched in New York, operates on NCF (near field technology) to allow users to pay for goods by swiping their handsets across shop payment terminals. Users can access the wallet app free of charge, and the system uses a PIN code for security. Details of the payment will remain within the handset, where it will be encrypted, but all details pertaining to payments can be erased if the handset is stolen. Google also assures that customers will not be held liable for losses in case of theft.
You know the way when you type a search term into Google it comes up with relevant search results?
Wacko.com does the opposite - it comes up with irrelevant search results.
Errr. So it's the brainchild of Loyaltynet Ltd, a company which specialises in "devising novel web sites". However the results aren't purely random - they're drawn from a list of "fun" sites that they thinks that the average web browser will enjoy discovering. That seems to include - for some reason - a site that collects American driver license pictures and graphjam (which is, we admit, fun.)
Philip Thomson Managing Director at Loyaltynet says, "Internet search engines attempt to guide us with laser accuracy to specific subjects. Wacko Search turns the idea of accurate searches on its head."
It's a one-trick pony. And not, I have to say, something that you'd go back to more than once. It's the search engine equivalent of those "joke" lighters that give you electric shocks or spoons that bend when you try to put them in the sugar bowl.
Google expects online display advertising will zoom up from being a $24bn industry currently to a $200bn+ industry by 2015, said the Google VP Neal Mohan.
Note - it's far from just display ads though - another area expected to boom is video advertisements pasted in before editorial video - especially as internet and TV converge - and mobile advertising is expected to grow significantly as well.
One Google tool that could revolutionize online advertising is the automated ad-buying machine they have been demo-ing out. Called Double Click Ad Exchange, it's like a stock market for advertising and allows publishers to sell ads to publishers at super-short notice. Using an algorithm to factor in prices and budgets it matches adverts to publishers depending on the time of day and the content being viewed.
It cuts the cost of ad selling significantly - from 28 cents in each dollar spent to 2 cents, said Neal Mohan. That, in theory leaves more for the publishers - Google said they saw a 188 per cent lift in revenue as a result of participating in its ad exchange.
Obviously it's a very different model to traditional media ad-buying - and could have a serious impact on the model of how publishers make money in the next five years.
Three simple reasons.
1) Competition for Adverting Dollars
First things first - money. Google makes its money off Google Ads - advertisers buy space on its search results pages. So a certain brand of hairdryer will turn up in the sponsored box when you search for "hairdryer".
So far, fine but - Facebook makes money out of ads too. And it's trying to suck the online advertising dollar away from Google. It has one trump card to offer to advertisers - very deep information about their consumers. What age they are, where they live, what other stuff they like. That's very valuable.
Advertisers could spend on both of course, but more money spent on Facebook means less for Google and Facebook is more suited to big dollar branding campaigns than Google is.
2) They operate on different conceptions of the web
-Google supports an open web - with Google at the heart of it, indexing it.
-Facebook works on a private web basis - where what you can see is limited.
Facebook won't let Google index their private pages. That takes away from Google's reach over the internet.
3) Both want to be news power-brokers and your portal to the internet
Google wants to stay at the heart of the internet. It wants to be the first place you go when a news story breaks or if you want to find out about a certain area. Facebook is challenging its centrality. It's dangerous for Google.
Facebook increasingly wants to be the centre of your internet experience. With the new Pages function and the wooing of media organisations, it's no longer just about where you see stuff about your friends - it's where you see posts from your favourite news sites and blogs - and shopping brands. It's personalised to you because you've chosen what will feature in your news feed.
That's a problem for Google.
Have just been alerted to a new little hack called plasmoo.com, a search engine that takes over your browser - Chrome or Firefox and replaces your settings making itself your default search engine.
Anecdotal evidence and a rash of forum postings suggest that the hack is quite recent: there's a Google Chrome post and a Firefox help question from the end of April, and a Yahoo question from 3rd May..
A quick WhoIs search reveals the Plasmoo.com site is registered by GoDaddy.com and was created on 22 Sep 2009, and updated on 16 March 2011. Quarkbase says it is hosted on Amazon.com (they rent out server space to small companies). Judging by some text that comes up, it's probably Russian, otherwise there's not much info about it, just a lot of complaints.
What does it do?
It seems to insinuate itself into your browser and replaces your default settings - particularly your search engine with itself and it's tricky to get it out of your system.
Deleting and reinstalling your browser doesn't seem to work for example.
How harmful is it?
We don't know for sure. That Russian text doesn't look good. It could be that it just gets money by diverting you through its site and gaining page impressions off your captive browser, or it could be something more sinister about collecting private browsing information.
The name isn't a good sign either. Looks like the name Plasmoo is related some kind of tentacle porn name/character/scenario - which I guess would fit with the way it tangles itself up with your browser.
Doesn't sound very nice whatever else is going on.
Give your computer a quick scan with your virus software after getting it out of your browser.
Google is throwing its hat in the ring on the music streaming front, with today's launch of Music Beta by Google. Users will now be able to upload their music to a web server, and listen to it using Android phones, tablets and computers.
Amazon did something similar back in March, but Google will as usual differentiate itself by doing it bigger - users get lots more space to store music. Google doesn't have permission from music groups to sell songs or let users share music though, so in that respect the service is the same as from Amazon. It had been expected Google would try and remedy this before the launch, but it seems the task proved harder than expected and the service was launched without this addition.
This is all well and good, but still it's not ideal - what we really want is to be able to access any music at any time, using any device. We expect this will come in time, but this requires permissions so it's still one for the legal teams. Google and Amazon claim the act of uploading your own music means they don't need permissions - a technicality maybe, but it seems to be holding water for now.
The Google service won't be available from places without internet connection, but the device will keep a buffer of recently played tracks to tide you over.
Music Beta by Google is available by invitation only at first - once everything's up and running go to music.google.com. The service will let you store 20,000 songs without charge.
The Android app store brings in less money than the Blackberry app store, and is millions of dollars behind iTunes in the profit it makes, reports the BBC. Open philosophy is killing Android say the BBC.
But Google isn't just in mobile for the cash.
While complaints about spam apps and the unwieldy interface on the Marketplace could and should be addressed, Android is still doing exactly what Google intended it to do.
And that wasn't to make loads of money: just to be really popular.
Even though the money passing through Android MarketPlace last year - £62million was 17 times less than Apple's App store turnover of £1.1billion and Blackberry's £100million - the grim profit figures from Android apps doesn't really matter to Google. Not just because they're filthy rich and can afford a coaster or two, but because that's not really the purpose of Android.
Where Google makes a lot of money is selling search terms. The more people search with Google the more money Google makes. WIth Bing Microsoft has started to encroach on that.
Currently the default search engine on all Apple devices is set to Google, but Google and Apple are bitter enemies, so if Apple switched to Bing or if just created their own search engines for their web devices, it would deal a massive blow to Google and they would lose shedloads of mobile traffic. On Firefox, on Internet Explorer, and shortly on all Nokia phones, Bing is be the default search engine.
On Android phones - as in Chrome browsers, Google is enshrined as the default search engine - and it always will be.
TechCrunch called this Google's moats and castle strategy - with search as the economic castle protected by moats.
Google's interest with Android is just to make it really successful and widely adopted. That's what they've done. Android phones make up 38% of the UK smartphone market, compared to 23% for iPhones, and they hold 54.7% of the market in the US to Apple's 27.2% share.
It's winningly attractive to both handset-makers, who get to use Android's software for free, for Android users who get many more free and cheap apps than are available on other app stores, and for developers - getting a license to develop for Android only costs $25.
They might want to look at monetising Android a little better in future... but in the meantime, it is serving its purpose. Though, certainly, they could do a bit better in filtering the scam apps out of Marketplace.
South Korean police raided Google's South Korean HQ in Seoul after worries that Google had been collecting mobile phone users' location details without their consent.
The allegations centre around AdMob - Google's mobile phone advertising service.
According to the NYT: Google confirmed that the police had visited its Seoul office and said the company was cooperating with the investigation.
It's the cyber-crime division of the Korean police that are investigating Google. Jang Byung-duk, who is in charge of cybercrime investigation at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said, "We suspect AdMob collected personal location information without consent or approval from the Korean Communication Commission."
Home to Samsung and LG electronics, South Korea is an important part of the Asian tech market. Android phones have a growing foothold there, especially as local companies make Android their OS of choice. Getting investigated for a cyber-crime there could be serious news there.
It's only weeks after revelations about how Apple iPhones track us - The Big Brother Phone: How the iPhone tracks your movements - but South Korean police are the only governmental organisation to actually take direct action.
It already flags if you've included the word "attached" in the email without having actually added an attachment - very handy indeed. But now it seems Gmail is taking the task of protecting us from ourselves to the next level.
'Don't forget Bob' is the new feature which will offer suggestions of missing people if you are sending a group email. If you usually email Bob alongside Lucy and Jane, Gmail will remind you if you forget.
'Got the wrong Bob?' is the second new feature - as Gmail will suggest all matches as you type in a name, it will now also alert you if it think you have opted for the wrong one. Especially handy if your boss and boyfriend have the same name, this one.
The new features are set to be rolled out within a day or two, according to Techradar.
Pub Quizzes have been killed by the smartphone. Those trivia questions about boxing champions in the 70s are now just a search term and a click away and though you can ban competitors from checking their iPhones you can't really stalk around a pub ripping them out of the hands of your clients...
So, Google have invented their own trivia quiz - where you have to use Google. Trivia is not dead, it's just got way harder and it's about how well you can search rather than how much random shit you can remember. You just have to be smart about using them and think laterally with the search terms.
That's my kind of quiz. Google are posting a question a day for a week on GoogleADay.com. They're artifically altering search results so that spoilers from other users don't come up.
Get cracking! The questions will get more difficult as the week wears on - try out this one for today though:
Two future presidents signed me. Two didn't because they were abroad. Despite my importance, modern viewers seem to think I have a glaring spelling error. What is it?
[via Google Blog]
Google is taking on Facebook with a Like button of its own. The plusone button launched yesterday will be rolled out across all Google search results and will allow your friends
1) It's a little button with a +1 on it that pops up next to search results. Click on it to recommend something you like.
2) Yes, it is like a Facebook Like button. It provides social context to stuff on the web -say your friend Tom +1s a search engine result for a hotel in Barcelona, you'll see his recommendation when you search for hotels in Barcelona.
3) It uses your Google identity to work out a) your name, b) your friends. Your friends are the same as your contacts in Gmail's G-chat. You will need to be signed into Gmail or Youtube for this to work. But lets face it - you probably already are.
4) The +1 button might do better than the Facebook Like button because it's lower impact. My friends will only get my opinions on Spanish hotels when they are searching for Spanish hotels, therefore I'll be more likely to recommend more things because it will only pop up when it's useful to them.
5) Third party websites will be able to embed the button - which will encourage a rapid adoption. Just like the Facebook Like button, this is going to be key for blogs, news sites, online shops in getting their pages and products out there. There is a strong incentive for commercial sites to adopt this and work themselves into the user's social context. More +1 recommendations will also improve the SEO rating of a site. It's a no-brainer for site owners to introduce this..
Google explain on TheGoogleBlog
Google has announced an update to Blogger that should bring it up to scratch with top performing competitors Wordpress and Tumblr.
They are smartening up the back-end of the site - making it easier to see what you're doing, and giving users a more intuitive preview of their work.
There are tweaks to search, improved tags and inbuilt Google Analytics.
Time to consider blogger again?
[via Google Blog]
My photos are on Facebook, my music is on Spotify and my docs are on Gmail. Faced with the option of buying Microsoft Office recently, I demured, reasoning that I had Notepad, Paint and well, didn't really need it.
Sure - this week with the Google Gmail blip that accidentally wiped the accounts of 100,000 users (story here) keeping your virtual property in the cloud looks like riskier policy than it has done for years.
What if oo, say, all your email contacts, documents and spreadsheets disappeared for a week or so because there was a blip at the GooglePlex? A chilling thought.
Still though Google may have blips - so do hard drives. If you've never tried restoring a back-up of a Windows Vista hard drive to a Windows 7 machine - don't. You'll end up gnawing through the USB cables. And not for the fun of it.
And at least Google backs everything up on off-line tapes as we discovered this week, so full data will be restored to the affected Gmail users after a painstaking process of rebooting.
There has been much debate over whether Google Apps will ever manage to make a dent in Microsoft Office's sales - an area where Microsoft have been so dominant for so long. Really, though this blip has caused a reassessment of that, it's also reminded people how much we do depend on Google Apps, how great they are, and the fact that they are free - and constantly updated.
Of course Office gets updated too but you have to pay for the new versions.
There's also the fact that I can log into any computer with internet anywhere and edit one of my documents and that I can get Spotify on my phone etc etc. When I get a tablet, as I undoutedly will - I'm sure google apps will be at the heart of that as well.
Hell, I quite like having a clean hard-drive and there's not much I miss about either Office or the bulk of my pictures.
How do you guys feel about moving to the Cloud? Have you done it already?
Google is adding a "Recipe" section to its search options, alongside "Images", "Videos" and "News".
If that seems a bit of a trivial category to you - just consider the Wall Blog's stats on the matter - 1% of Google searches on any given day are for recipes. Which works out at 100,000 a day.
Google are proud of their new search tool, which also lets users search for particular things within recipes like low-calorie meals or ones with or without particular ingredients. It's all about their shift to intelligent structured search tools instead of random word association..
Little information is available about the issue which Google says affects 0.08% of its users. Just writing about it makes me feel a cold clench of fear in my stomach.
All Google have said is posted on AppStatus:
"Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.
"This issue affects less than 0.08% of the Google Mail userbase. Google engineers are working to restore full access. Affected users will be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts."
Users are posting for help in forums with desperate names like "I have lost ALL on my emails/folders etc. from gmail. Why would this happen? How can I restore everything?" here.
It comes just after a Google Calendar flaw last week when a bunch of people found their future appointments has been deleted from the Google database..
>> What's going on Google?
Has anyone here been affected?
Most of the time the effect is so subtle that we don't notice, but Google is constantly tweaking our search results. This time the effect is a little stronger than usual, with precisely 11.8% of searches being affected by the latest change: the rejection of content farms.
You've probably come across these during searches: you click on a result and find yourself looking at a random collection of links to other sites, and usually not very relevant ones. Google somewhat euphemistically calls these "low-quality sites: sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful".
Going for quality
So the great Google has decided to shove these content farms as far away from the front page as possible, something it has achieved by tweaking the search algorithm. While not much more was said about the technical aspects, Google Fellow Amit Singhal writes on the official Google blog that it "will provide better rankings for high-quality sites: sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."
The change is now being rolled out in the US first, with other geographies to follow later. Singhal says feedback from the new 'personal blocklist' Chrome extension was compared with the sites identified as content farm by Google's technology: "We were very pleased that the preferences our users expressed by using the extension are well represented. If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84% of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits."
The message is clear: Google doesn't want any nonsense. It wants to deliver "perfect" search results every time, something which is also increasingly demanded by its users. And it has to be said: Google is good at what it does. In the earlier days of the internet, searching was a much less exact science, but now I rarely have to type in more than one or two search terms before I find what I'm looking for. Interestingly I'm getting sloppier with my search terms too - it's no longer necessary to be overly specific or detailed, because Google works out what I'm getting at. There's probably a host of algorithms at the core of this, but for the user it translates as pure intuition.
While there isn't a monopoly on internet search, the fact that 'to google' has become a verb goes a long way to show the solidity of its position as the market leader. The fact that Google can, and will, tweak search results could be perceived as somewhat unsettling; the conspiracy minds amongst us must surely take issue with this sort of meddling. But while there is much to be said for openness and impartiality, the internet is becoming too vast to manoeuvre without some sort of filter.
As discussed in this article over at sister site TechDigest, social networks fill an important role in helping us filter down our internet experience to a more manageable mass. Google's crack-down on content farms is another example of internet volume control. When this is done right, it becomes quality control - this is why we are likely to see more of these sorts of measures in the future. There is a fine line here though, and you don't have to be a conspiracy nutter to see how this could go too far. But for now it looks like Google has yet again changed our internet experience for the better.