January 12, 2017
The heavy hand of Chinese censorship has just gotten heavier. The South China Morning Post reports, “All News Stories Must Be Verified, China’s Internet Censor Decrees as it Tightens Grip on Online Media.” The censorship agency now warns websites not to publish news without “proper verification.” Of course, to hear the government tell it, they just wants to cut down on fake news and false information. Reporter Choi Chi-yuk writes:
The instruction, issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China, came only a few days after Xu Lin, formerly the deputy head of the organisation, replaced his boss, Lu Wei, as the top gatekeeper of Chinese internet affairs. Xu is regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters.
The cyberspace watchdog said online media could not report any news taken from social media websites without approval. ‘All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals [and the social media chat websites] Weibo or WeChat,’ Xinhua reported the directive as saying. ‘It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,’ it said.
We’re told the central agency has directed regional offices to aggressively monitor content and “severely” punish those who post what they consider false news. They also insist that sources be named within posts. Apparently, several popular news portals have been rebuked under the policy, including Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com.
Cynthia Murrell, January 12, 2017
January 10, 2017
It seems the dark web is now making it easier for disgruntled employees to take their revenge to the next level, we learn from the KrebsOnSecurity article, “Rise of Darknet Stokes Fear of the Insider.” The article cites Gartner analyst Avivah Litan; she reports a steep increase in calls from clients concerned about vindictive employees, current or former, who might expose sensitive information on the dark web. Not surprisingly, companies with a lot of intellectual property at stake are already working with law-enforcement or private security firms to guard against the threat.
How, exactly, is the dark web making worker retaliation easier than ever before? Writer Brian Krebs explains:
Noam Jolles, a senior intelligence expert at Diskin Advanced Technologies, studies darknet communities. I interviewed her last year in ‘Bidding for Breaches,’ a story about a secretive darknet forum called Enigma where members could be hired to launch targeted phishing attacks at companies. Some Enigma members routinely solicited bids regarding names of people at targeted corporations that could serve as insiders, as well as lists of people who might be susceptible to being recruited or extorted.
Jolles said the proliferation of darkweb communities like Enigma has lowered the barriers to entry for insiders, and provided even the least sophisticated would-be insiders with ample opportunities to betray their employer’s trust.
I’m not sure everyone is aware of how simple and practical this phenomena looks from adversary eyes and how far it is from the notion of an insider as a sophisticated disgruntled employee,’ Jolles said. ‘The damage from the insider is not necessarily due to his position, but rather to the sophistication of the threat actors that put their hands on him.
According to research by Verizon, few vengeful employees turn out to have been in management positions. Most are workers lower on the totem pole who had to be given access to sensitive information to perform their jobs. The Verizon report cheerfully advises, “At the end of the day, keep up a healthy level of suspicion toward all employees.” What fun.
See the article for more about this threat, and how organizations might go about protecting themselves.
Cynthia Murrell, January 10, 2017
December 30, 2016
Do you remember where you were or what you searched the first time you used Google? This investors.com author does and shares the story about that, in addition to the story about what may be the last time he used Google. The article entitled Google Makes An ‘Historic’ Mistake reports on the demise of a search feature on mobile. Users may no longer search published dates in a custom range. It was accessed by clicking “Search tools” followed by “Any time”. The article provides Google’s explanation for the elimination of this feature,
On a product forum page where it made this announcement, Google says:
After much thought and consideration, Google has decided to retire the Search Custom Date Range Tool on mobile. Today we are starting to gradually unlaunch this feature for all users, as we believe we can create a better experience by focusing on more highly-utilized search features that work seamlessly across both mobile and desktop. Please note that this will still be available on desktop, and all other date restriction tools (e.g., “Past hour,” “Past 24 hours,” “Past week,” “Past month,” “Past year”) will remain on mobile.
The author critiques Google, saying this move force users back to the dying desktop for this feature no longer prioritized on mobile. The point appears to be missed in this critique. The feature was not heavily utilized. With the influx of real-time data, who needs history — who needs time limits? Certainly not a Google mobile search user.
Megan Feil, December 30, 2016
December 15, 2016
The article titled How Mobile Today Is Like TV Six Decades Ago on The Atlantic explores the radical changes in advertising in the last five years. The era of advertising through newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio is effectively over, replaced by digital advertising, which is almost exclusively mobile. That mobile content is split between Facebook and Google. Those two giants account for half of all digital media advertising. The article explains what this means for news,
For newspapers, magazines, and websites, there are several paths forward. First, billionaires can rescue media organizations from the stormy seas of the mobile Internet and fund journalism that the ad market won’t support. Second, companies like Facebook may determine that it is in their own interest to preserve some news and entertainment publishers, and they will directly pay media companies, the same way cable companies pay carriage to television channels.
The article also considers a return to the subscription model, or companies shifting to event and marketing strategies for revenue. But any company that tries to ignore the seismic shifts in the news landscape is in for an abrupt and painful shock. The article preaches an optimistic approach based in the history of TV. News is here to stay, but how it is paid for and what the advertising looks like is going to change.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 15, 2016
December 13, 2016
Tor users have nil or very limited options to surf Underground Web anonymously as Android-powered phones still manage to scrape user data. The Tor Project intends to beat Google at its own game with Tor-enabled smartphone.
An article that appeared on arsTechnica and titled Tor Phone Is Antidote to Google “Hostility” Over Android, Says Developer, says:
The prototype is meant to show a possible direction for Tor on mobile. We are trying to demonstrate that it is possible to build a phone that respects user choice and freedom, vastly reduces vulnerability surface, and sets a direction for the ecosystem with respect to how to meet the needs of high-security users.
The phone is powered by custom-made CopperHead OS and can be run only on Google Nexus or Pixel hardware phones. Of course due to high technicalities involved, it is recommended only for Linux geeks.
For voice calls, according to the article:
To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal.
Google’s Android is an Open Source platform that OEMs can customize. This creates multiple security threats enabling hackers and snoopers to create backdoors. CopperHead OS, on the other hand, plugs these security holes with verified boot and also stops Google Play Store from overriding native apps. Seems the days of mobile Tor are finally here.
Vishal Ingole, December 13, 2016
December 12, 2016
If you depend on old fashioned desktop computers, life is going to difficult. The lackluster Apple desktops are one example. The miserable margins for Hewlett Packard’s desktop and laptop spin out are another. But if you are [a] Google or [b] a Web site designed for traditional Web users sitting in an office at a desk, bad news. “Mobile Is Eating the World” contains what I enjoy calling “factoids of fear.” Why fear? Revenues, gentle reader. The good old days of stuffing ads into generous screen real estate and sitting on the sidelines as the AdSense system puts money spinning ads are gone. Farewell, Oingo or Applied Semantics which contributed to the magic of the good old days of search and ad matching. It’s been swell.
Isn’t that HAL? Does my mobile phone sing “Mary had a little lamb?” Of course it does, silly goose. But doesn’t that mean HAL did not work as Dave expected? Hey, don’t fret over details like “working,” “accurate,” or “reliable”, please.
You will want to read the original post, of course. However, I noted several points which help support my notion of “factoids of fear”; that is, objective information which undermines the way life used to be.
For example: The mobile S curve is passing the PS S curve. I think this means that mobile devices are more widely used than boat anchor computers. (Let’s assume these data are spot on, okay?)
For example: GAFA (Chill. The acronym means Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) are three times the scale of Intel and Microsoft. (No problem. Let’s believe this number.) Scale means “more investment” and “more people.”
For example, Smart software is really good. Here’s a chart which “proves” that image and speech recognition are much better than in days of yore. (An error rate means only seven out of a 100 images recognized are wrong and four words out of a 100 are wonky. Close enough for horseshoes unless a “yes” becomes a “no” or the image recognized is your brother with a top secret clearance, not a bad actor.)
For example, a Yandex executive quote becomes a Google executive’s quote. But, hey, this is not a high school term paper when I learned “We will move from mobile first to AI first.”
The net net is that a new age of computing is here. The new age is “frictionless computing.” If you think in terms of search, you no longer have to use words. How antediluvian. Computers do things for you. It’s magic. Many disruptions here with more coming. But “the biggest changes are unknowable.”
I concluded that the factoids of fear translate to fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Unless one invests with a far sighted, capable, robust, and successful outfit in Silicon Valley. I usually write “Sillycon Valley” but because stability, peace, and tranquility have been decimated, I will remain serious.
What about the Alphabet Google thing? Well, revenue is likely to become a problem going forward. That’s the boat anchor business model: Big screens, mindless surfing, etc.
What about the Web sites depending on AdWords? Yikes. Move over Mary, there’s a new deck-meister in town.
Stephen E Arnold, December 12, 2016
November 23, 2016
Google’s Android OS currently powers 88% of the smartphones in the world, leaving minuscule 12.1 percent to Apple’s iOS and the remaining 0.3 percent for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS and Tizen.
IBTimes in an article titled Android Rules! 9 out of Every 10 Phones Run Google’s OS says:
Google’s Android OS dominated the world by powering 88 percent of the world’s smartphone market in the third quarter of 2016. This means 9 out of every 10 mobile phones in the world are using Android, while the rest rely on iOS or other mobile OS such as BlackBerry OS, Tizen and Windows Phone.
The growth occurred despite the fact that smartphone shipments are falling. China and Africa which were big markets have been performing poorly since last three-quarters. Android’s gain thus can be attributed to the fact that Android is an OpenSource system that can be used by any device manufacturer.
Despite being the clear leader, the mobile OS is full of bugs and other inherent problems, as the article points out:
Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place.
At present, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are the leading Android phone makers. However, Google recently unveiled Pixel, its flagship phone for the premium category. Does it mean that Google has its eyes set on the premium handset category market? Only time can tell.
November 3, 2016
This quote is a short one. The source is “Microsoft’s CEO Admits They Missed The Boat On Mobile.” Here’s the statement attributed to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella:
We clearly missed mobile. There is no question.
No kidding? Perhaps Microsoft can team with Samsung and give it the old college try.
Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2016
October 20, 2016
I read a couple of writes up about “Google May Be Stealing Your Mobile Traffic.” Quite surprisingly there was a response to these “stealing” articles by Google. You can read the explanation in a comment by Malte Ubl in the original article (link here).
I noted these comments in the response to the stealing article:
- Mr. Ubl says, ““stealing traffic” is literally the opposite of what AMP is for.”
- Mr. Ubl says, “there are audience measurement platforms that attribute traffic to publishers. They might in theory wrongly attribute AMP traffic to the AMP Cache (not Google) rather than to a publisher because they primarily use referrer information. That is why we worked with them in worldwide outreach to get this corrected (where it was a problem), so that traffic is correctly attributed to the publisher. If this is still a problem anywhere, AMP treats it as a highest priority to get it resolved.”
- Mr. Ubl says, “AMP supports over 60 ad networks (2 of them are owned by Google) with 2-3 coming on board every week and makes absolutely no change to business terms whatsoever. There is no special revenue share for AMP.”
- Mr. Ubl says, “The Android users might have already noticed that it is now scrolling out of the way and the same is coming soon for iOS (we’re just fighting a few jank issues in Safari).”
AMP is, therefore, not stealing traffic.
I went back to my 2007 monograph “Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator,” and pulled out this diagram from a decade ago:
The user interacts with the Google, not the Internet for certain types of content. The filtering is far from perfect, but it an attempt to gain control over the who, what, why, when, and where of information access and delivery. © Stephen E Arnold, 2007, All rights reserved.
I offer this diagram as a way to summarize my understanding of the architecture which Google had spelled out in its patent documents and open source technical documents. (Yep, the GOOG did pay me a small amount of money, but that is supposed to be something you cannot know.) However, my studies of Google — The Google Legacy, Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator, and Google: The Digital Gutenberg— were written with open source content only.
Now back to the diagram. My research suggested that Google, like Facebook, envisioned that it would be the “Internet” for most people. In order to reduce latency and derive maximum efficiency from its global infrastructure, users would interact with Google via services like search. The content or information would be delivered from Google’s servers. In its simplest form, there is a Google cache which serves content. The company understood the cost of passing every query back to data centers, running each query, and then serving the content. Common sense said, “Hey, let’s store this stuff and knock out unnecessary queries.” In a more sophisticated form, the inventions of Ramanathan Guha and others illustrated a system and method for creating a sliced-and-diced archive of factoids. A user query for digital cameras would be handled by pulling factoids from a semantic database. (I am simplifying here.,)
In one of my unpublished presentations, I show a mobile phone user interacting with Google’s caches in order to eliminate the need to send the user to the source of the factoid.
Perhaps I misunderstood the technical information my researchers and I analyzed.
I don’t think Google is doing anything different today. The “stealing” idea comes from a person who finally takes a look at how the Google systems maximize efficiency and control the users. In order to sell ads, Google has to know who does what, when, where, and under what circumstances.
Today’s Google is now a legacy system. I know this is heretical, but Google is not a search company. The firm is using its legacy platform to deliver revenue and maximize that revenue. Facebook (which has lots of Xooglers running around) is doing essentially the same thing but with plumbing variations.
I am probably wildly out of step with youthful Googlers and the zippy mobile AMPers. But from my vantage point, Google has been delivering a closed garden solution for a long time.
My Google trilogy is now out of print. I can provide a fair copy with some production glitches for $250. If you are interested, write my intrepid marketer, Benny Kent at email@example.com.
Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2016
October 14, 2016
I read “Within Months, Google to Divide Its Index, Giving Mobile Users Better & Fresher Content.” Let’s agree to assume that this write up is spot on. I learned that Google plans “on releasing a separate mobile search index, which will become the primary one.”
The write up states:
The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.
The news was not really news here in Harrod’s Creek. Since 2007, the utility of Google’s search system has been in decline for the type of queries the Beyond Search goslings and I typically run. On rare occasion we need to locate a pizza joint, but the bulk of our queries require old fashioned relevance ranking with results demonstration high precision and on point recall.
Time may be running out for Google Web search.
- With the volume of queries from mobile surpassing desktop queries, why would Google spend money to maintain two indexes? Perhaps Google will have a way to offer advertisers messaging targeted to mobile users and then sell ads for the old school desktop users? If the ad revenue does not justify the second index, well, why would an MBA continue to invest in desktop search? Kill it, right?
- What happens to the lucky Web sites which did not embrace AMP and other Google suggestions? My hunch is that traffic will drop and probably be difficult to regain. Sure, an advertiser can buy ads targeted at desktop users, but Google does not put much wood behind that which becomes a hassle, an annoyance, or a drag on the zippy outfit’s aspirations.
- What will the search engine optimization crowd do? Most of the experts will become instant and overnight experts in mobile search. There will be a windfall of business from Web sites addressed to business customers and others who use mobile but need an old fashioned boat anchor computing device. Then what? Answer: An opportunity to reinvent themselves. Data scientist seems like a natural fit for dispossessed SEO poobahs.
If the report is not accurate, so what? Here’s an idea. Relevance will continue to be eroded as Google tries to deal with the outflow of ad dollars to social outfits pushing grandchildren lovers and the folks who take snaps of everything.
The likelihood of a separate mobile index is high. Remember universal search? I do. Did it arrive? No. If I wanted news, I had to search Google News. Same separate index for scholar, maps, and other Google content. The promise of universal search was PR fluff.
Fragmentation is the name of the game in the world of Alphabet Google. And fragmented services have to earn their keep or get terminated with extreme prejudice. Just like Panoramio (I know. You are asking, “What’s Panoramio?), Google Web search could very well be on the digital glide way to the great beyond.
Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2016