Posts tagged google

Google didn’t decide to drop mobile Flash

John Gruber on the lack of Flash in Chrome for Android:

Remember when Android’s (and the BlackBerry Playbook’s, and WebOS’s) support for Flash was supposed to be a competitive advantage against iOS?

I was called out by multiple people when I defended Apple's move to not include Flash, and made the case that mobile Flash made no sense. I'm sure it was the same for John; after all, we're just fanboys!

Still, while it's tempting to engage in a little schadenfreude, the pertitent detail is Adobe ceased support for the mobile version of Flash, it wasn't Google's decision. They don't deserve ire, or praise, as a result.


Google has merged their TOS… so?

The Ghan train line from Adelaide to Darwin

I've touched on the whole New Google thing a few times, but only in reference to other people's comments. Here are some of my own. Get it? TRACKING!? :D

Inevitability

In the same way Microsoft and Lotus standardised the disparate applications that made up their office suites, on the surface Google is attempting to simplify things for their users and engineers by making things look and work similar. Leaving aside questions of effectiveness, one need only look at the user interface changes in Gmail, Google Reader, Analytics and Google+ to see this new line of thinking in action.

In that vein, a unified Terms of Service for all their products makes nothing but sense. Instead of a different one for each service, their users can now ignore and click accept under just one.

Still, while everyone seems worried with the tracking (more on that below), I'm more concerned that a unified Terms of Service will lead to the same lowest common denominator problem that is plaguing their new UIs. Some services naturally need more and different information than others, but a blanket TOS would (logically, perhaps?) need to include all of these. The result is services that don't need certain personal information to operate now have legal access (well, as legal as a TOS can be, as I sort of wrote about way back in 2006).

It didn't entirely wash with me, and it seems even US lawmakers are having a hard time believing it too.

Tracking

The tech world is all a dither about the potential tracking problems this new TOS introduces. For one thing, all their services will now be sharing data with each other, and worse still you won't be able to opt-out of this sharing. The end of the world… right?

Firstly, anyone who banked on having their YouTube history insulated from their Google profiles, Gmail history and so on need a cold glass of reality. I've been told they've always been doing this, so presumably they've merely become public about it recently. In either case, wake up guys!

Secondly, not being able to opt-out is also not unusual behavior from Google. While other advertising companies were issuing statements saying they'd respect the Do Not Track headers that Mozilla, Apple and even Microsoft had implemented into their browsers, Google was tellingly silent. Under increasing public pressure, they eventually released an optional extension for Chrome. If you want some fun, try opting out of DoubleClick's tracking as well. On every browser on every device you own. Individually.

I'm not entirely defending Google here, I'm just pointing out they're doing what they've always done. They're an internet advertising company.

Conclusions

As I've repeatedly said here, it's impossible to have complete privacy online, and cloud computing will only continue to grow. The key isn't to stop using the Internet, it's to use it intelligently. There's still a place for Google (indeed, any cloud company), provided you take the right precautions and weigh up the utility you derive from them with what you're giving up.


Scared of Google? You won’t be of Microsoft!

Eager to capitalise on the concerns we share regarding Google's decision to "officially" drop Do No Evil, Frank X. Shaw from Microsoft has responded with a posting on the TechNet blog. Seriously!

I had an MSDN subscription in high school

During the last week or so, there has been a fair amount of discussion about how Google is making some unpopular changes to some of its most popular products. You can see some of the concerns and worries about lack of choice and so on in these links.

I no longer link to Gawker or Murdoch publications on principle; but otherwise that was the introduction. You have my attention Mr Shaw!

When we read the coverage last week, it was clear people were honestly wrestling with the choices that had been made for them and were looking for options or alternatives.

This is definitely true. I can only speak from my elitist circle of snobby tech nerds on Twitter and newsgroups, but the number of threads and tweets concerning Google alternatives has been exploding of late. There's even evidence average folk are paying a little more attention; I've overheard several conversations in coffee shops and trains saying their "tech friends" or "smart people" have told them to look elsewhere.

But enough about my thoughts, lets wrap up Mr Shaw's comments.

The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information.

That's it in a nutshell. Mmm, nuts.

Icon by the Wikimedia Foundation Icon by the Wikimedia Foundation

Now for our alternatives

From then on, Mr Shaw goes on about how we should be using Hotmail, Bing, Office 365 and Internet Explorer, and how Microsoft wants "to give [us] control over [our] data". A little ironic given they were once the poster child for vendor lock-in, and that Office still has sketchy support for their own ISO standards. It also doesn't help that I can't try IE because I'm not on Windows on my production machines ;).

Still, under the IE subheading Shaw points out something:

The world’s most popular browser, now with Tracking Protection, offering controls over your privacy as you browse.

Previously their "implementation" of tracking protection seemed needlessly different given the world had standardised on DNT headers, but according to Microsoft they've included this starting with IE9. I would still advice people not to use it, but nice to know those who have no choice have this feature.

And to help remind people of these alternatives, we’re placing a series of ads in some major newspapers this week.

Them fighting words. I expect there's going to be a heated debate in Google PR over this, in which case I find myself thanking Microsoft. It hasn't been the first time lately; I praised their progressive stance on same sex marriage, and gave kudus to the Windows Phone team for developing their own UI rather than just robotically copying the iPhone, if you will.

Hell is freezing over, I tell you! Well, kinda.


That Focus on the User Google thing

Regardless of where you stand on the Google+ integration into Google search results, this site is an eye opener for what it returns, and who's behind it.

Complete with an Orwellian name!

From the page:

How much better would social search be if Google surfaced results from all across the web? The results speak for themselves. We created a tool that uses Google’s own relevance measure—the ranking of their organic search results—to determine what social content should appear in the areas where Google+ results are currently hardcoded.

Now in Google's defence, they claimed on Google+ that they couldn't perform the same (or similar) thing themselves because Twitter (and presumably Facebook, etc) had closed access to their silos. Right?

All of the information in this demo comes from Google itself, and all of the ranking decisions are made by Google’s own algorithms. No other services or APIs are accessed.

Ouch

Now I don't see Google+ as being a credible threat. I also still don't trust Facebook, and feel like they're playing politics here by capitalising on the stumbling of an opponent. As a service Google singled out to make an example of, you can bet the folks at Twitter also relished the opportunity to design the service.

Despite all these caveats, the results speak for themselves. Google could implement this, no question.

What's most breathtaking about this is Google did something that Facebook, Twitter and the like couldn't do: unite them. Seemingly Google didn't get the divide and conquer memo.

Not to pound a dead horse here, but I keep coming back to my theory that marketers and managers now run Google, not its otherwise talented engineers. This is clearly not a technical issue, it's a matter of PR and priorities.


Probably not Google AntiTrust+

So Google is integrating Google+ into Google. I suppose I should be worried about this, but I'm not!

I’m surprised that others are

When the news first broke, and the subsequent juvenile shouting match ensued, I'll admit I was more surprised that some people were surprised, rather than being surprised about the news itself. That sentence, plus my introduction claiming Google is integrating Google+ into Google borders on Inception.

To even any casual observer, it should have been obvious that Google would inform their search results with Google+ at some point. Sarcasm aside, why else would an internet advertising company launch such a service? Ditto the +1 button.

The problem for Google is more and more information is being found through people rather than algorithms, and traditionally their strength has overwhelmingly been in the latter. Facebook is arguably leading this charge (go figure), and Twitter is not too far behind. In Japan, they're ahead.

Google figures they can merge Google+ and searches together, and deliver personalised search results. They've been tailoring results to people who don't opt out of their non-DNT respecting tracking for some time now, but this just takes it to the next level.

Of course, this introduces some serious anti-trust questions, which Eric Schmidt has either dismissed or pointed to Twitter's rel="nofollow" stance; the former of which is a little disturbing and the latter is misdirection, as far as I'm concerned. Danny Sullivan and MG Siegler would seem to agree. Apparently the blinkers are firmly installed on enough people though, read Google's response on Google+ for the comments… if you dare!

Google Buzz

Don’t worry, be happy!

Bascically, there are three reasons why I'm not [so] concerned.

People are already spelling the end of other social networks because Google+ has unfair placement, like most Google products as Ben Endelman painstakingly points out. I'm a little optimistic that they'll see the error in their ways, realise what a PR mess they've created and reverse course. They've done this many times, Google Buzz's privacy fiacso probably being the most well known example.

Secondly, as to the anti-trust whatnot specifically, I'm also not too concerned. If Internet Explorer couldn't compel an overwhelming share of the English speaking world to Bing, Soapbox and the like, I doubt people will start leaving their Facebook accounts in droves just because they see some extra stuff in their Google sidebar.

Finally, it's often said the main thing protecting us from government abuses isn't oversight, but incompetence on their part. I don't think Google is incompetent, but for now the utter irrelevance of Google+ for anyone other than the Robert Scobles of the net will keep this problem at bay.


Google profits more from legitimate ads

Another story the mainstream media have blown out of proportion? Who'd have thought? ;)

Google profits from illegal advertising !1!!1!eleventy!

From that now infamous BBC News article by Adrian Goldberg:

Google is profiting from ads for illegal products generated by its flagship automated advertising system, the BBC has found.

The ads include unofficial London 2012 Olympics ticket resellers, as well as cannabis and fake ID card sellers.

Fortunately however, Adrian concedes:

These ads were promptly removed by Google after the BBC brought them to the company’s attention. [..] Google has also taken down links to illegal Olympic ticket resellers following requests from the police.

Hey, wait a minute…

Isn't it interesting that the same people who blast Apple for their uphill battle screening software for the App Store are often the ones who rush to Google's defence for not catching all fraudulent advertising? It's not double standards though, because they don't call it that, and because It's Not Apple So It's Okay™.

I'm free to empathise with Google's position, because I empathise with Apple's. It's impossible for them to catch all illegal advertisements; the sheer volume ensures abuses will get through and the system will be gamed from time to time. The best Google can do is make a sincere effort, and gather feedback. I'm satisfied they're doing this, department store chains notwithstanding.

I also worry any attempts at legislating such behavour would be overbearing, miss the point and/or would end up making things worse. I suppose that's a sliver of libertarian thinking slipping through, wish I were cool and alternative enough to be fully libertarian.


TheyLikeCamelCaseAtGmail

Thousands of online accounts are hijacked every day. If you re-use yourGmail [sic] password on other websites, change it now.

Not to mention thousands of users access their Gmail accounts every day, so you'd think Google engineers would proof read their comments before posting them ;).

I'd never be caughtMaking such an obvious mistake.


Voting for a non-JavaScript Google +1 method

The open feature request is listed as an enhancement which is a bit of a misnomer, but feel free to add your voice and vote on the Google Plus Platform list if you agree.

Throwing my support behind a non-JS solution for accessibility and speed.

A simple, elegant GET request based system would be wonderful, I already use it for Twitter and Delicious, should be trivial for Google engineers to implement.

Of course, it's intuitively obvious why an advertising company doesn't want a JavaScript alternative, but we can still dream. I'd implement it in a heartbeat here if they did.


Google_nomap?

MikroTik RouterBoard RBSXT

Peter Fleischer on the Official Google Blog on Monday:

We’re introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server. To opt out, visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with "_nomap." For example, if your SSID is "Network," you‘d need to change it to "Network_nomap."

This has got to be a hoax.

UPDATE: @Sebasu_tan of A Lonely September has brought to my attention a video statement about the issue.


Google Sidewiki

Promotional art for Google Sidewiki

Some ideas sound great in theory, but when they’re executed they’re somewhat less than spectacular. Some services don’t even sound great in theory.

Yes, in a decision they rarely has to take (that throat clearing noise was entirely unintentional), Google have announced the termination of their Sidewiki service. From the web developers and owners of sites to the general internet using public, I don’t think anybody will be sad to see it go.

Much like their Knol effort, Sidewiki seemed more like a play by Google to take control of something. Unlike Microsoft of the 1990s however, their plans are usually far more subtle. By steering conversations away from a site and into a Google silo, they could own them and define their structure, rather than trying to parse bits returned by their spiders. I assume this would have helped inform their search algorithms, or let them stuff ads between comments.

The whole thing didn’t make sense for a company that bills itself as “open”. Surely the open web approach—where people include comment streams on their own pages—is vastly superior than one service run by one company?

Fortunately, for the site owners who didn’t want intrusive, unmoderated comments attached to their pages, there’s little evidence Sidewiki was really used. A quick polling of my relatively IT savvy family here showed none of them even knew what it was.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time Google tries something like this.


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