With its market share-dominating search engine, the eggheads at Google have no doubt made it easier for new users to acclimate to the harsh tangling webs of the Internet. But Google’s not just about search. Within the laboratories of Google’s Mountain View campus, computer science wizards are busy brewing up innovative services that will enhance your Google experience. So far, they’ve given us a spam-killing email service, a collaborative work space for all of our time sensitive documents, and an image search engine that takes the time out of having to search individual pages for something as simple as a company logo. There are also plenty of functional Google Lab projects still in public beta; we pick nine of our favorites that you absolutely must give a try!
The U.S. Department of Justice officially confirmed on Thursday that it has launched a formal investigation into the settlement between Google Book Search and publishers over digital publishing rights. The primary focus of the case is antitrust concerns which allege that Google may have engaged in anticompetitive practices involving intellectual property rights and their distribution.
Google’s foray into the world of digital books has been a turbulent one, and though their troubles appeared to be coming to a close last November with a $125 million settlement, the DOJ appears to be less than satisfied. The concern is that following the settlement, Google was effectively given a monopoly over copyright on out of print works. Anyone outside of Google who wished to pursue publishing of these titles online would need to negotiate with the individual authors, many of whom are difficult, if not impossible to find.
Google’s counter argument has always been that the digital book market is still wide open. They claim that any potential competitor who wanted to enter the book scanning market could simply negotiate a deal with the Books Rights Registry. The Registry is a nonprofit organization that was established during the settlement to represent the interests of the authors. Critics argue that Google’s head start makes competing difficult, and many worry about having so much information in the hands of one company. Google continues to shrug off concerns, and likes to remind everyone that competition “is just a click away”.
Do you agree? Hit the jump to leave your thoughts, and to read the official letter from the DOJ.
Despite recently announced delays in China’s requirement to include Green Dam anti-pornography software on new PCs, the initiative is far from dead. PC makers who unanimously decried the hasty July 1st deadline managed to buy themselves an extension, but are still being told they to comply with the new requirements. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology re-affirmed its commitment to Green Dam Youth Escort on Thursday, and claims that it sees the software as being an important tool for protecting young people from pornography and violence on the internet. To further reinforce its commitment to total penetration, software publisher Jinhui has been told to write a Mac OSX version of the software, and it is currently in beta testing.
Critics of the Green Dam filtering software continue to question the motivation behind the initiative, and have accused the Ministry of using the software to further political repression. This may be a valid concern when you consider that the Ministry in charge of Green Dam’s implantation is also responsible for suppressing illegal political activity. The situation for the Chinese gets even worse when you consider that several industry tests have shown multiple security vulnerabilities in the filtering software, and it even appears to have a high occurrence of false positives in the filtering algorithm. The vulnerabilities are considered so serious in fact, that Sony is including a disclaimer with all new PCs.
Will Linux be the only safe haven for the Chinese?
In what appears to be a desperate dig for traffic, Bing has decided to add Twitter messages to their search results in an attempt to take some market share from Google.
“We’re not indexing all of Twitter at this time… just a small set of prominent and prolific Twitterers to start. We picked a few thousand people to start, based primarily on their follower count and volume of tweets. We think this is an interesting first step toward using Twitter’s public API to surface Tweets in people search,” wrote Microsoft search general manager Sean Sucher. These results will appear in a separate box alongside the normal search results within Bing.
Ultimately, it’s not too surprising to see Microsoft do this – considering how Google has already admitted defeat in the real-time information race with Twitter.
Google recently introduced another tweak to their Gmail interface, allowing users that aren’t quite at home with the labeling system to use them as folders.
With the introduction of drag and drop to Gmail, your list of labels will move from the lower left-hand corner to the upper left-hand corner, directly underneath “Inbox” and “Sent Mail.” Google hopes that this will allow users see them more like traditional folders.
Drag and drop comes into play with the use of the labels themselves. Instead of adding tags to each individual message, you’ll instead be able to drag and drop your messages into the label of your choosing.
Happy day-after-Firefox-release day. If you're one of the 3.2 million Americans to download the latest release of the browser as of this column's writing, congratulations. You, like your peers, have recognized the value of upgrading to faster and better technology products! If that sounds weird, that's the point. It should. According to Net Applications, around twenty percent of users (out of a survey sample of around 160 million people) still use an older version of a Web browser, be it Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 2, or either Safari 3.1 or 3.2. You are not among them; I salute thee.
Click the jump to access the contents of this article 35 percent faster.
"The performance gains they are touting in the press, we are not seeing in our applications. We are literally in real-time trying to figure out why that is and if there are optimizations that we can do. Otherwise, we are kind of left with current-generation technology and current-generation scale," he said during a Q&A session involving GigaOM’s founder Om Malik.
He said companies like Facebook and Amazon require their servers to be both power-efficient and affordable. Heiliger also commended Google for its server-designing prowess.
While the world has proven itself capable of misusing Google Earth in many different ways, its latest application has been to steal fish.
That’s right folks, it would appear that high end fish thieves have been employing the same software that was used to find a downed aircraft, to find valuable koi in people’s back yards. According to Police Community Support Officer Gregory, “Google Earth shows what is in your garden and you can see people’s ponds. One of the properties targeted has an eight-foot fence and is set back from the road. The pond is in the corner and can’t be seen. Unless you were standing right next to the wall, you wouldn’t be able to hear the running water.”
And, while they make a riveting point, Google stands up very well under pressure. A spokesperson of theirs replied: “Google Earth is built from information that is available worldwide from a wide range of both commercial and public sources. As such, Google Earth creates no appreciable increase in security risks, given the wide commercial availability of high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery of every country in the world. Criminals could use maps, phones and getaway cars but no one would argue that these technologies are responsible for the crime itself, that responsibility lies with the perpetrator.”
What does a search engine have to do in order to pry users away from Google? We're not sure, but maybe more people will come if they think there will be punch and pie. Building a better (arguably) search engine isn't enough, according to a new study.
In a small case study, Catalyst Group found that users preferred the design and feature-set of Microsoft's Bing over that of Google. However, those same users said they would stick with Google, citing similar search results and familiarity with the search engine's Web services as reasons why.
"Bing generates interests, but it's hard to take me away from Google because I'm so comfortable with it," the subjects who chose Google told Catalyst researchers. "The differences are very small. They're too small for me to switch to Bing."
It should also be noted that the case study only including 12 participants.
Google has confirmed that the error messages people received on Thursday when searching for details of Michael Jackson’s death, was initially perceived as an attack. Searches between 2:45 and 3:15pm were returned with "We're sorry, but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now."
The error messages lasted for about 25 minutes on Thursday, just long enough for Google to confirm what was actually going on. The search giant noted that the amount of traffic it saw on this topic was unprecedented, as millions around the world scrambled for accurate information, seemingly all at once. Yahoo has also confirmed that it hit an all-time record for unique visitors with over 16.4 million following the story. This blows away the previous record held by the Obama election day, with a paltry 15.1 million uniques.
The outpouring of sympathy online has been astonishing, and I’m sure Google will learn its lesson on this one.