Tag Archives: search_engines

Any questions for John Battelle?

I will be interviewing John Battelle for PodLeaders.com on Monday.

John is author of The Searchthe book on the evolution of today’s search engines, John is one of the co-founders of Wired magazine and the founder and former Chair of Standard Media International (“The Standard”), publisher of The Industry Standard and TheStandard.com. Currently John is the founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing.

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him – feel free to leave them in the comments and I will put them to him.

UPDATE:
This interview has been postponed until Tuesday 28th – so you can still get your questions in if you haven’t already.

Measure Maps swallowed whole by Google!

I see Google have bought Measure Map an online web stats application. Google already have Google Analytics as a Web Stats application so they must really like Measure Map’s technology to say they have bought it from Adaptive Path (the developers) and have taken the Measure Maps team with them.

A comment on Paul Kedrosky’s site by Simon Cast sums up the probable thinking behind this deal nicely:

This acquisition fits very neatly into the strategy of Google becoming an arbiter of attention. Its forays into radio and print are simply the company expanding into other areas of consumer attention. However, Google also needs to be able to measure attention on non-google sites which is where Google Analytics (nee Urchin) and now Measure Map come in.

These utilities will allow Google to gain attention information which can then be used to increase the price for advertising around certain topics and sites.

Michael Arrington has speculated that the price was in the region of $5-$10m.

Could podcasting get content through the Great Firewall of China?

I wrote a couple of pieces last week about Google’s Internet censorship in China and the debate continues this week.

The four largest American companies who are actively helping the Chinese government censor the Internet are Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems. These four companies have been invited to a U.S. congressional subcommittee hearing on February 15 on the subject of U.S. Internet firms operating procedures in China.

The ‘fab four’ failed to turn up for a hearing this Wednesday are were roundly berated by Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., one of the caucus leaders:

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas, and to erect a ‘Great Firewall’ to suit Beijing’s purposes,” he said. “These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.

It is thought they will attend the Feb 15th hearing!

I note see now that the BBC are reporting that MSN is considering changing its censorship policies:

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior lawyer, said it would now remove blog entries only if it gets a “legally binding notice” from the government of that nation…. He added that only people in the nation where the entry breaks local laws will be blocked from seeing the controversial comments. In all other nations access to the entry will be unrestricted.

This is a marginal improvement over MSN’s existing policy of deleting accounts of people who wrote about ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, or ‘demonstration’ but it is still shoring up the ‘great firewall‘ of China.

Interestingly, Reuters is reporting that Bill Gates has come out against censorship today:

The spread of private e-mail means online users could distribute banned news despite government injunctions, he told a news conference.

“You may be able to take a very visible Web site and say that something shouldn’t be there, but if there’s a desire by the population to know something, it’s going to get out,” he said.

However, Gates said Microsoft, the world’s biggest computer software company, had to meet legal requirements of the countries where it does business.

I have spoken to several representatives of search engines recently and they have all told me that search engines are not indexing the audio content of podcasts and don’t have technologies to do so right now.

I wonder, if podcasts are more difficult to index, is there a role for podcasts to get content through the Great Firewall?

Google founder defends censorship

David Kirkpatrick of Fortune met with Sergey Brin (one of the co-founders of Google) at the World Economic Forum at Davos and asked him about Google’s decision to censor the Internet in China (something I posted about the other day).

Sergey’s reasoning for the censorship:

We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, that it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.

In the same report, David Kirkpatrick also talks to Human Rights Watch boss Ken Roth – Ken’s attitude to this mirrors the comments I made in my post – Ken said:

the answer is only going to come through safety in numbers. And it’s going to require all of the search engines to get together and say “None of us will do this.” And China needs search engines. If it can pick them off one at a time, it wins. If it faces all of the search engines at once banding together, the search engines win.

Google censors the Internet

The New York Times published an article yesterday (and I think I heard a reference this morning on Morning Ireland) about Google’s new Google.cn site.

According to the article, the new Chinese version of the Google search engine:

will not allow users to create personal links with Google e-mail or blog sites, will comply with Chinese law and censor information deemed inappropriate or illegal by the Chinese authorities

One of the reasons Google is hobbling its own technology in China is that Google.com is losing ground in the search market in China to Baidu.com – a Chinese search engine due to government censorship on some of Google.com’s content. A pre-censored Google.cn should have no such issues.

Google will argue that it is not putting profit before human rights – it is merely complying with the law of the land it wants to make profits in (they might not use that terminology exactly!) – the same as all the other major tech suppliers working in China (Cisco, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). However, if these companies worked together, they could flout the repressive laws in China and theree would be little the Chinese Government could do against such a united front from their most important IT suppliers.

The price of doing business in China? You have to be prepared to sell your soul.

UPDATE:
I see John Battelle and Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch have pieces on this as well.

Google’s motto of “Do no Evil” should now be changed to “Do no Evil (unless it interferes with the bottom line)”, I guess!

Google News 1.0(?)

I see Google has announced that its Google News is finally out of Beta – it has been in Beta since it launched in September 2002!

Looking at the Google News site, you’d be hard pressed to see any difference but according to the announcement:

today we’re adding a way to automatically recommend stories for users with Personalized Search.

Here’s how it works: You can sign up for Personalized Search to view and manage your history of news searches and the articles you’ve read. When you’re signed in to your Google Account, you’ll receive recommended news stories based on the previous stories you’ve read. These recommendations will be highlighted just below the top news stories on the page, in a clearly marked section. You can also get a full page of recommended stories by clicking on the section. All of this is done automatically using algorithms

No ads on it so far, I’m curious what the revenue model will be?

Web 2.0 to suffer from United States Department of Justice request?

I see Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing has posted an article on how the US Department of Justice have requested a weeks worth of search data from the major US search engines. Seemingly Yahoo, AOL, and MSN simply handed over the data without any question. Google however held out and is now being taken to court by the DoJ for refusing to comply with the order.

Google’s reason for not complying? Well it wasn’t on privacy grounds, nope, Google refused on grounds that the request was too broad and burdensome!

The Department of Justice is playing the monsters under the bed children protection card:

the information it has requested, which includes one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period, is essential to its upcoming defense of the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act

Danny Sullivan over at SearchEngineWatch has a rapidly updating analysis of this story – according to Danny:

a more accurate way for the government to assess how often children might encounter porn through search engines would be to conduct their own research. Indeed, they have. Government Report Says MSN Search Adult Filter Most Effective from the SEW Blog back in June covers this report (PDF format) that the US Government Accountability Office did back in June. From what I can see, it measured how often children might encounter porn through image search. To do the assessment, no subpoenas were required.

What was interesting for me was how the other search engines caved and handed over the data. I was interviewing Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! the other night for a Podleaders.com podcast and, in the context of Yahoo! having previously provided information to the Chinese Government which resulted in a Chinese journalist being jailed for 10 years, I specifically asked him:

If this had happened in the US would Yahoo! have fought the government request in the courts?

Bradley’s response was interesting – he said:

We are bound to abide by the laws of any country in which we do business… so under a court order or a subpoena we would hand it over

In this case however, as far as I know, there was no court order or subpoena – simply a request from the Department of Justice. In fairness to Bradley he makes it clear that he is not a policy officer of Yahoo! and Yahoo! are not the only search engine which complied with the request.

However, you have to think that this request is only setting a precedent for far more reaching and specific requests to come in the future. What will this do to Web 2.0 and people’s willingnes to host their data on other companies servers, I wonder?

I see Damien Mulley has posted on this as well.

UPDATE:
John Battelle has published another post on this subject showing that the Department of Justice’s motives are far darker than previously suspected – specifically:

From the motion the DOJ filed to force Google to comply with the subpoena:

“The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing ‘[a]ll URL’s that rea available to be located through a query on your company’s search engine as of July 31 2005.”

and

“all queries that have been entered on your company’ search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005.”

God alone knows why they would want all that data from Google (and presumably the other search engines as well) – but we know it has nothing to do with seeing if children can access porn.

As John said:

No way in hell Google would give that up, given the company’s penchant for secrecy. Sure, the DOJ might guarantee that the data would not enter the public record, but, once in the DOJ’s hands, it’s out of Google’s control.