Google and the Mobile Traffic Matter

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:

goog container 2007

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

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2016

Google: Fragmentation and the False Universal Search

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.

Several observations:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Image-Based Search Technology Gains Steam

October 10, 2016

If you need to do a bit of smartphone photos clean-up, now is a good time. More websites are integrating photo-based search technologies according to Pinterest Will Let You Snap Photos To Find Real-Life Products Online. This piece from Forbes explains camera search will be available in the coming months and will allow users to snap a photo of, for example, a purse they see someone else carrying down the street, and find similar products on Pinterest. They’re calling these products “buyable pins”. According to the article,

Users make 130 million visual searches on Pinterest per month and about 2 billion total searches. Now, more than 10 million products can be purchased without leaving Pinterest from more than 20,000 retailers, up from 2 million products when “buyable pins” launched about a year ago. When a user sees a product on Pinterest, they are two times more likely to buy it in-store. And if a merchant promotes the pin, users are five times more likely to buy the item in person, the company said.  In testing “buyable pins,” Pinterest said a third of purchases made on the web were first discovered on mobile. More than 80% of users access Pinterest on mobile devices.

Some applications for this search technology, may not be well-poised to monetize this, but according to a survey cited in the article 55 percent of respondents already consider Pinterest as e-commerce. Currently, the platform sees itself as a “bridge between inspiration and making it part of your real life.” This is essentially the role of any brick-and-mortar shop amenable to window-shopping. So, while it may work, we certainly can’t say the strategy is new.

Megan Feil, October 10, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Business Intelligence Take on the Direction of Media

October 7, 2016

The article on Business Insider titled The Top 7 Predictions For the Future of Media offers a long gaze into the crystal ball. With significant research over the past six years including interviews with key industry players, the article posits that the future is clear for those willing to sit through the IGNITION Conference presentation put together by BI’s co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget. The article sums up the current state of uncertainty in media,

Users are moving away from desktop and toward mobile. Social media referrals are overtaking search. Consumers are cutting their cords and saying goodbye to traditional pay-TV. Messaging apps are threatening email. And smart devices are starting to connect everything around us. These changes in trends can disrupt our businesses, our portfolios, and even our lives. But they don’t have to…Those who are well informed and well prepared don’t see innovation as a threat; they see it as an opportunity.

The article overviews some of the major takeaways from the presentation such as: Newspapers will soon be joined by TV networks in their frustrating battle for relevance. The article also mentions that the much-discussed ad blocking crisis will “resolve itself,” with the caustic note that we should all be “careful what [we] wish for.” Not much interest in finding information however. The full report is available through BI for free after signing up.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 7, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Googley Spin-Offs Underwhelm

September 29, 2016

One might think that starting out as a derivative of one of the most successful companies in the world would be a sure path to profits. Apparently one would be wrong. The Telegraph reports, “Alphabet’s Spin-Offs are Struggling to Repeat the Google Success Story.” Readers will recall that Alphabet was created last year as the holding company for Google and its derivatives, like Calico, Google Capital, Nest, Google Ventures, Verily, and X. Writer James Titcomb explains the logic behind the move:

The theory behind Alphabet, when Page laid it out in August, made sense. Google had become more than just an internet services and advertising company, even though the main internet business still made all the money. Google had set up units such as Calico, a life sciences division trying to eradicate death; Project Loon, which is trying to beam the internet to rural Asia with gigantic space balloons; and Boston Dynamics, which is trying to build humanoid robots.

These ‘moonshots’ weren’t able to realize their potential within the confines of a company focused on selling pay-per-click internet advertising, so they were separated from it. Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s two co-founders, left the everyday running of the internet business to their trusted lieutenant, Sundar Pichai, who had been effectively doing it anyway.

Being liberated from Google, the moonshots were supposed to thrive under the Alphabet umbrella. Have they? The early signs are not good.

The article concedes that Alphabet expected to lose money on some of these derivative projects, but notes that the loss has been more than expected—to the tune of some $3.6 billion. Titcomb examines Nest, Google’s smart-thermostat initiative, as an example; its once-bright future is not looking up at the moment. Meanwhile, we’re reminded, Apple is finding much success with its services division. See the article for more details on each company.

Will Alphabet continue to use Google Search’s stellar profits to prop up its pet projects? Consider that, from the beginning, one of the companies’ winning strategies has been to try anything and run with what proves successful; repeated failure as a path to success. I predict Alphabet will never relinquish its experimental streak.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Mobile Data May Help Fight Disease

September 14, 2016

Data from smartphones and other mobile devices may give us a new tool in the fight against communicable diseases.  Pen State News reports, “Walking and Talking Behaviors May Help Predict Epidemics and Trends.” A recent study, completed by an impressive roster of academics at several institutions, reveals a strong connection between our movements and our communications. So strong, in fact, that a dataset on one can pretty accurately predict the other. The article cites one participant, researcher Dashun Wang of Penn State:

[Wang] added that because movement and communication are connected, researchers may only need one type of data to make predictions about the other phenomenon. For instance, communication data could reveal information about how people move. …

The equation could better forecast, among other things, how a virus might spread, according to the researchers, who report their findings today (June 6) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, they tested the equation on a simulated epidemic and found that either location or communication datasets could be used to reliably predict the movement of the disease.

Perhaps not as dramatic but still useful, the same process could be used to predict the spread of trends and ideas. The research was performed on three databases full of messages from users in Portugal and another (mysteriously unidentified) country and on four years of Rwandan mobile-phone data. These data sets document who contacted whom, when, and where.

Containing epidemics is a vital cause, and the potential to boost its success is worth celebrating. However, let us take note of who is funding this study: The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the James S. McDonnell Foundation’s program, Studying Complex Systems. Note the first three organizations in the list; it will be interesting to learn what other capabilities derive from this research (once they are unclassified, of course).

Cynthia Murrell, September 14, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link:

Verizon Strategizes to Get Paid for Installing Big Brand Apps That You Will Probably Never Open

September 5, 2016

The article titled Verizon Offered to Install Marketers’ Apps Directly on Subscribers’ Phones on AdAge discusses the next phase in Verizon’s marketing strategy, a seeming inheritance of product placement: automatic installations for big brands onto your phone. Next time you notice an app that you didn’t download on your phone, look no further. Verizon has been in talks with both retail and finance brands about charging between $1 and $2 per device, which sounds small until you multiply it by 75 million Verizon smartphone subscribers. The article discusses some of the potential drawbacks.

Verizon has stoked some user frustration in the past with “bloatware,” as have many carriers and phone manufacturers. Bloatware comprises the often irrelevant apps that arrive pre-installed on phones, though they’re less often major brands’ apps and more often small, proprietary services from the carriers and manufacturers…There is no guarantee, however, that Verizon subscribers open the apps they find pre-installed on their phones. “If a user is not interested, they just delete it without activating.

Sara Choi, COO of AirFox, is quoted in the article making a great point about the importance to carriers to innovate new strategies for profit growth. Ultimately, the best use for this marketing technique is a huge number of immediate downloads. How to engage users once you have gotten into their phones is the next question. If this goes through, there will be no need to search to get an ad, which could mean bad news for online ad search.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 5, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link:

Google vs. Europe Becomes Three-Front War

September 2, 2016

The article titled European Commission Files Third Antitrust Charge Against Google on The Guardian discusses the most recent accusation against Google by the European Commission. This time, they took aim at AdSense advertising. The antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced that Google is preventing the visibility of competitors and favoring its own shopping service as well. The article states,

The EU regulator accuses Alphabet’s Google of abusing its dominance in search to benefit its own advertising business, which has historically been the company’s main revenue stream. The EC also reinforced its existing charge against Google’s shopping service…The EU’s concerns around Google’s adverts relate to the company’s AdSense for Search platform, in which Google acts as an intermediary for websites such as those of online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers, with searches producing results that include search ads.

Alphabet’s Google has been given 10 weeks to answer the commission’s statement of objections. If the company is found guilty, its fines will consist of up to 10% of its global turnover. While Google works on its response to the charges, another investigation by the EU continues. The latter involves Google’s preferential treatment of its own products such as Google Chrome through its Android system.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 2, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

These Emojis Are Logical

August 9, 2016

Emojis are a secondary language for many people, especially the younger sect, and whole messages can be conveyed within a few images.  Someone needs to write an algorithm to translate emoji only messages, but machine learning has not yet reached the point where it can understand all the intricacies associated with emojis.  Or has it?  TechCrunch shares that “Dango Mind-Melds With Emoji Using Deeping Learning And Suggests Them While They Type.”

Dango is an emoji suggestion chatbot.  Unlike the Microsoft chatbot that became anti-Semitic and misogynist in a matter of hour, Dango just wants to give you emoji suggestions to pep up your messages:

“Okay, so Dango is one of those virtual assistants that lives in your chat apps, and this one is based on a neural network that has been trained with millions of examples to understand what emoji mean. So not only can it suggest an appropriate one, but it can translate entire sentences. Its icon is a weird piece of cute cake, which sits above your keyboard watching you type. It’s free for Android right now, with an iOS version coming out eventually.”

Aww, it’s a little cake icon that sits above your keyboard.  Is it not tempting already to download it make Dango your friend?  The cute factor comes after the deep machine learning took place.

The Dango programmers used a recurrent neural network to teach Dango how to decipher the meaning of emoji.  It would guess, then check against real world examples, then adjust its parameters when it was wrong.  The guesses were assembled in a “semantic space” that relates the emojis to concepts (check the article for the visualization).

Dango is constantly updating itself to be on top of the latest slang and memes, including the negative aspects of the language.  Dango is still learning, especially when it comes to translating entire sentences to pictures.  Before you say that the written language cannot be replicated in little images, it was done eons ago by Egyptians, Sumerians, Phoenicians, and still by the Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures.



Whitney Grace, August 9, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link:

Amazon: Not the Corner Store? Big Insight

July 21, 2016

I love Amazon almost as much as I love Google. I would have a tough time deciding which of these services warrants more of my affection, trust, and respect. I said to myself “Bummer” when I read “Amazon’s Dominance Is Bad for Your Business.” I recently ordered a paperback from Amazon and noticed that the 150 page monograph was a $1,000, not $10. Anyone could have clicked the incorrect link between the correctly priced volume and the used discounted books. Amazon respected my klutziness, and I think I got my money back after I sent the $1000 paperback back to the outstanding merchant. This firm obviously valued its paperback more highly than the half dozen vendors selling the same paperback for $10. What more could one want? (One of my goslings asked me, “Why does Amazon list certain products at vastly inflated prices? I don’t know. I love Amazon. Love is blind.)

The write up includes a quote allegedly generated by the world’s smartest person, Jeff Bezos; to wit:

“…Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

I like that. Google’s meat eating dinosaur is, after all, dead unless the team solving death brings T Rex back to life. A cheetah is a here and now creature able to snag small, sickly, or inept prey with a batting average a major league player would covet.

The write up also states:

Amazon has done a very good job with search and discovery on mobile,” BloomReach marketing chief Joelle Kaufman said. “They are capturing the lion’s share of mobile revenue. Consumers said they start on a cellphone and they use it as a research tool. But 81 percent want to buy on that laptop/desktop.”

Google, it seems, is an also ran in the shopping search sector. But what about Amazon’s competitors and merchants who do not want to sell their products via Amazon?

The answer is, according to the write up:

There are still a plethora of avenues to make sales through, and portals to gain consumer attention. Despite Amazon’s utter dominance in the U.S. e-retail market, you can still grow your business, and become highly successful along the way. Just remember the importance of content, social media, and a great attitude. If David had submitted to Goliath’s size before the battle had begun, he never would have realized his own strength and capabilities.

This sounds like Google Adwords, Snapchat, and YouTube videos to me? Those work really well for mom and pop merchants (at least for the small number remaining in the good, old USA), small businesses, and unfunded start ups.

Is what’s good for Amazon good for us or was it “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA”? When will Amazon address the shortcomings I find in Amazon search? Maybe never. If it is not broken, why try to fix it. That’s why suggested prices are irrelevant in the Amazon jungle.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2016

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