Google Amps Ads to New Annoying Levels

August 17, 2017

Today, Google is synonymous with search, as they’ve worked very hard to ensure. But search has changed, and not always for the good. One of Google’s hallmark principles at the beginning of their existence was to provide an unbiased search engine with any additions only being to enhance the user experience. Nowadays, though, it seems like Google looks like every other search engine, littered with Ads and flashing videos.

Not impressed with these changes, Wired recently called the search giant out on their recent addition of automatically-playing movie trailers, saying ‘enough is enough’.

Showing a few ads in the image search system isn’t a bad thing. But it shows just how much Google’s thinking has changed. Google’s not a scrappy startup anymore. It’s the world’s most valuable company, and its investors want results. And without much serious competition, the risk of customers bolting for another search engine is pretty low.

Wired is spot on, of course, but what if customers did start trickling out to other search engines that adhere to Google’s original principles and ideologies?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 17, 2017

Chinese Sogou to Invade American Search

August 16, 2017

Having more than its fair share of the world’s population, China doesn’t do anything in small numbers. Search is no exception. It was recently announced that one of China’s most popular search engines has set its scope on the US.

According to TechNode,

Sogou, established in 2004, is the developer of China’s most popular Chinese input method service Sogou Pinin which takes more than 60% share in the mobile market. It’s also the operator of China’s top search engine, behind market leader Baidu, providing search service for Tencent’s WeChat social media platform as well as Microsoft’ Bing for English search in China. Company CEO Wang Xiaochuan disclosed in a recent speech that the firm is pivoting its focus to AI-driven search and navigation in the future.

The company has filed for a US IPO and is now just waiting for the all clear. What will this mean for current US search engines? With their increased focus on AI, Sogou is certainly poised to go head to head with the best the US has to offer, but will it be enough to win the hearts of Americans?

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 16, 2017

You Have Been Warned, Fear Google!

August 14, 2017

It is hard not to subscribe to Google’s free services, such as their email, office suite, web analytics, Google Home, the Nest tool, and, of course, the search engine.  Google promised not to use their services and powers for evil, but Big Brother looms over Alphabet Inc. like an ominous, dark shadow.  Google and other search engines, except for DuckDuckGo, collect information about you.  It is frightening how much information Google actually knows about a person, especially because it is freely given.  TopTenz shares “10 Reasons You Should Fear Google,” listing why Google is more alarming than Big Brother.

CEO Eric Schmidt rubs shoulders with the political elite and has donated money to people in both the Republican and Democratic parties.  His unknown power reminds us of Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, and Jeffery Katzenberg.  Google can influence foreign governments more than we think, the list shares incidents with China’s totalitarian law and urged on the Iranian revolution.  Google is looking to harvest the finances that are emerging in new, democratized countries:

The piece would go on to argue that the technology provided by the private sector would be the driving force in “democratizing” hostile and third world nations, thus making them ripe for private investment.

 

Soon after, the social media revolutions of Tunisia and then Egypt would excite many in the West, particularly in the government sector, giving companies like Google even more sway in the highest circles. Although many internet based companies tried to carve out a niche in the newfound space, Google had already established themselves as major players.

Perhaps the most dangerous of all is that Google can shape the way people consume and retrieve information.  Google could choose and select the type of information its user’s access, meaning it could hide the truth, push a political agenda, and further aggravate the amount of fake news plaguing the Internet.

Some of this is true and some of this is fake.  Google is as profit driven as any company, but at the same time, they are working on projects that would benefit humanity.  Adding more competition to the market is one way to curb Google’s “evil” intentions.

Whitney Grace, August 14, 2017

 

The EU Takes on Google in Landmark Case

July 31, 2017

It seems like Google is everyone’s favorite punching back, especially when it comes to anti-trust and monopolizing. Recently the EU has decided to take on the behemoth with a series of crushing fines.

One allegation is that Google is preferring its own shopping service when users search for products. The EU claims this violates antitrust laws although no such case has ever been tried.

Fortune.com explains why this is such a momentous case:

The legal battles will also provide helpful markers for the fast-moving tech industry and regulators struggling to impose old rules on new markets and dominant social platforms, said economist, Georgios Petropoulos. ‘We need some decisions on what is good and what is bad. All these will provide more clarity on how this market works,’ said Collyer Bristow lawyer, Stephen Critchley.

Surely, the US and others are keeping a close eye on how these cases unfold. Could Google, as it is known today, be forced to drastically change how they operate? What might this mean for other search engines?

Catherine Lamsfuss, July 31, 2017

Google: Ethics, Algorithms and Pirates, Oh My!

July 28, 2017

That search engines have changed the way the world looks for information, no one will argue, but for as much good as Google and other major search engines have done at promoting the free sharing of all types of information, it has also allowed and, at the time, encouraged the illegal sharing of private property. Namely, search engines are encouraging, even if absently, piracy of music and video.

Recently, despite vowing the contrary, Google has been called out for pirate sites being found not only in the coveted ‘top 10’ of search results, but even highlighted by Google.

The findings aren’t going to help Google’s already contentious relationship with the music and video industries, both of which have spent years accusing Google of doing too little to prevent piracy. They’ve routinely argued that Google should outright remove pirate sites from its results, not just demote them…

Google claims the algorithm is to blame – it is too good at finding the results people want. This puts Google in yet another tough spot. Should they continue to let the algorithm rule, come what may, or tinker with it to punish pirates? If the latter is to be, what does this say for other controversial sites?

Catherine Lamsfuss, July 28, 2017

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Wield Meta Search for Good

July 6, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg’s and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic project, aptly named the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), is beginning its mission with a compelling step—it has acquired Meta, a search engine built specifically for scientific research. TechCrunch examines the acquisition in, “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Acquires, and Will Free Up, Science Search Engine Meta.”

Researchers face a uniquely mind-boggling amount of data in their work. The article notes, for example, that between 2,000 and 4,000 scientific papers are published daily in the field of biomedicine alone. The article includes a helpful one-and-a-half minute video explaining the platform’s capabilities. Reporter Josh Constine emphasizes:

What’s special about Meta is that its AI recognizes authors and citations between papers so it can surface the most important research instead of just what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources. …

 

Meta, formerly known as Sciencescape, indexes entire repositories of papers like PubMed and crawls the web, identifying and building profiles for the authors while analyzing who cites or links to what. It’s effectively Google PageRank for science, making it simple to discover relevant papers and prioritize which to read. It even adapts to provide feeds of updates on newly published research related to your previous searches.

The price CZI paid for the startup was not disclosed. Though Meta has charged some users in the past (for subscriptions or customizations), CEO Sam Molyneux promises the platform will be available for free once the transition is complete; he assures us:

Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.

Molyneux posted a heartfelt letter detailing his company’s history and his hopes for the future, so the curious should take a gander. He and his sister Amy founded Meta in Toronto in 2010. Not surprisingly, they are currently hiring.

Cynthia Murrell, July 6, 2017

Qwant Makes a Bold Prediction

June 29, 2017

Is there any platform that can rival Google at Internet search? Qwant believes it can, we learn from the article, “Qwant, a French Search Engine, Thinks it Can Take on Google—Here’s Why” at Search Engine Journal. Writer Matt Southern points to a Motherboard article to support his assertion, and relates:

Like search engine DuckDuckGo, Qwant’s competitive advantage is privacy. It protects users’ privacy by not tracking what they’re doing or searching for online. Qwant doesn’t use cookies, collect browsing data, or do any kind of data profiling.

 

So, other than privacy, what does Qwant do that sets itself apart from Google? Or even DuckDuckGo for that matter? For one, it currently has over 31 different search categories. In addition to the standard news, images, and video categories, Qwant offers categories such as: social media, music, jobs, cars, health, and more.

 

The company also has a unique philosophy that artificial intelligence and digital assistants can be educated without having to collect data on users. That’s a completely different philosophy than what is shared by Google, which collects every bit of information it can about users to fuel things like Google Home and Google Allo.

Naturally, Qwant needs to earn money, and it currently does so through click-throughs;  the company also has plans to work with TripAdvisor and eBay down the line. Currently, users can make Qwant their default search engine within Firefox, and they hope to expand that to other browsers. Qwant backs up its privacy commitment by providing its source code to third-party data protection agencies.  Launched in 2013, the company is based in Paris.

Cynthia Murrell, June 29, 2017

Alexa Is Deaf to Vocal Skill Search

June 29, 2017

Here is a surprising fact: Amazon does not have a vocal search for Alexa skills.  Amazon prides itself on being on being a top technology developer and retailer, but it fails to allow Alexa users to search for a specific skill.  Sure, it will list the top skills or the newest ones, but it does not allow you to ask for any specifics.  Tech Crunch has the news story: “Amazon Rejects AI2’s Alexa Skill Voice-Search Engine.  Will It Build One?

The Allen Institute For Artificial Intelligence decided to take the task on themselves and built “Skill Search.”  Skill Search works very simply: users state what they want and then Skill Search will list other skills that can fulfill the request.  When AI2 submitted the Skill Search to Amazon it was rejected on the grounds that Amazon does not want “skills to recommend other skills.”  This is a pretty common business practice for companies and Amazon did state on its policy page that skills of this nature were barred.  Still, Amazon is missing an opportunity:

It would seem that having this kind of skill search engine would be advantageous to Amazon. It provides a discovery opportunity for skill developers looking to get more users, and highlighting the breadth of skills could make Alexa look more attractive compared to alternatives like Google Home that don’t have as well established of an ecosystem.

Amazon probably has a vocal search skill on their projects list and does not have enough information about it to share yet.  Opening vocal search gives Amazon another revenue stream for Alexa.  They are probably working on perfecting the skill’s language comprehension skills.  Hey Amazon, maybe you should consider Bitext’s language offerings for an Alexa skills search?

Whitney Grace, June 29, 2017

Legal Media Search Site Baits Pirates with Keywords

June 26, 2017

How do you attract a (media) pirate? Apparently, with targeted keywords. Torrent Freak reports, “Film Industry’s Latest Search Engine Draws Traffic with ‘Pirate’ Keywords.” Interesting tactic. Apparently a Dutch answer to Hollywood’s legal-content-finder WhereToWatch, the search engine Film.nl returns legal content. However, they’ve peppered their descriptions with keywords associated with pirated content. For example, “Don’t Wrestle With Nasty Torrents. Ignore the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story torrent.” Intriguing tactic. Reporter Ernesto writes:

Those who scroll down long enough will notice that each page has a targeted message for pirates as well. The descriptions come in a few variations but all mention prominent keywords such as ‘torrents’ and reference ‘illegal downloading’ and unauthorized streaming. …

 

While the piracy related messaging is unusual, it’s actually quite clever. Since a lot of people are searching for ‘torrent,’ ‘streaming’ and ‘download’ related terms combined with movie and TV-show titles, it helps to keep search traffic away from pirate sites. In other words, it’s a smart search engine optimization trick, helping it to directly compete with pirate sites on this front. The big question is whether people who search for ‘Movie X torrent’ will be satisfied with the results Film.nl offers. That said, from a movie industry perspective, it definitely beats doing nothing at all.

Does it? When prospective viewers learn their desired content is not yet legally available, we suspect most will simply navigate away to more shady destinations. Will a significant number be persuaded to wait for the legal version by Film.nl’s combination of keyword bait and moralizing? I doubt it. But it is an interesting play to note.

Cynthia Murrell, June 26, 2017

Russia Demands Google Register or Leave

June 19, 2017

Say, this could be good news for Yandex, the Russian search giant. RT News reports, “Google News Given 3 Mths to Comply with New Law to Stay in Russia.” The article explains:

According to the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor, major news sites with traffic exceeding a million visitors per day will be put on a special register in 2017. ‘At the moment, only large and popular aggregators such as Yandex, Google, Mail.ru, and others have such a high level of traffic,’ Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky told Izvestia daily.

Foreign news aggregators will have three months from January 1 to register their legal entities, thus allowing them to operate in Russia. Currently, there are two major news aggregators owned by foreign companies in Russia – Google and Bing. Bing belongs to Microsoft which already has a Russian subsidiary called Microsoft Rus.

If Google fails to register, it could be fined and, eventually, blocked within Russia’s borders. A quote from Sergey Kopylov, representative of the Russian National Internet Domain, seems to indicate advertising will be against the new rules. We know Google makes most of its money through AdWords, so how will the company respond to this demand?

Cynthia Murrell, June 19, 2017

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