Category: Search Engines

A sad day for Internet freedoms in China

If this were any other country you wouldn’t believe it but the Great Firewall of China has started re-directing traffic from the three major search engines (Yahoo!, and Google) to the Chinese owned search engine!

Other sites such as and Google’s BlogSearch are reportedly also being re-directed.

China has previously blocked sites like but this is the first report of it re-directing to a Chinese competitor.

I’ll bet the guys in Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft who bent over backwards to facilitate the Chinese governments censorship of Chinese Internet traffic (even to the point of Yahoo!’s handing over evidence which imprisoned a Chinese reporter for 10 years) are feeling pretty dumb now. If they don’t, they should.

This end result for people living in China is that their choice of search engine has now disappeared and the Chinese government only has to worry about controlling the results one search engine displays. A sad day for Internet freedoms in China.

Of course, it will also hit the income stream for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! but given that they lay down with the Chinese government, I have a real hard time feeling sorry for them.

UPDATE – conflicting reports are emerging about this story, some are reporting that the story is untrue however, search engine expert Danny Sullivan has received confirmation from Google that there are problems with some of their services in China.

Yahoo!stopping Irish signups

Yahoo! signup error

I was trying to convince a client to set up a Flickr account yesterday however, they rang me to report that they were unable to get an account. Why? Because Yahoo! requires a postcode as part of the signup process and there are no postcodes for the majority of Ireland (there are postcodes for Dublin but Yahoo!’s signup process flags those as invalid!).

Trying other options like 00000 or 021 or 4 all failed with the same “The postal code is not located in the country you selected” error.

Leaving the field blank is not an option either – the page requires an entry in the Postal Code field.

I managed to get my client an account by finding a valid UK post code and having him change his country choice to United Kingdom.

Dear Yahoo!, just so you know, Ireland has been an independent state since 1921. We have our own government and flag and everything (however, we don’t have postcodes). Any chance you’d let us in now?

Foxmarks to launch next great search engine?

Google had a great idea. Order your search results based on the number of times a site is linked to. Brilliant! A link to a site is counted as a vote of confidence in the site’s quality/veracity. And it works because people generally only link to interesting sites.

Foxmarks is a nifty little Firefox plugin which uploads your Firefox bookmarks to a central server, so you can synchronise your bookmarks across machines. Again brilliant – if you typically use more than one computer (one at home and one at work, for example).

I read today on TechCrunch that FoxMarks is going to use the bookmark information which users of the plugin have uploaded, to create a new search engine. Privacy concerns aside, I love it!

This is the 1,157th blog post on this site. I don’t have any numbers on the amount of outward links I have created in those posts but I imagine two per post would be a conservative estimate. So I have created, in the order of 2,300 links on this blog. And I write in and contribute to other blogs as well. Let’s say I have created (again conservatively) a total of 2,500 links.

Now how many sites have I bookmarked? About 160. Therefore, any site I go to the trouble of bookmarking, must be significantly more important than one I simply link to.

Foxmarks are taking the Google model of a link as a vote of confidence and replacing it with the bookmark as a vote of confidence. Will it work? Well, according to Mike Arrington, who got a demo recently:

it definitely has a “wow” factor. Searches for most things ended up with incredible results.

Foxmarks also shows if the results appear on Google and Yahoo, and on what page in the results they appear. For many of the queries, the top result on Foxmarks was quite obviously the perfect result – but it appeared, if at all, deep on the result set for Google and Yahoo. Terms that are likely to have a lot of SEO pollution (ecommerce in particular), the results were strikingly better on Foxmarks v. Google.

Having said all that, Google have their Google Browser Sync application which has similar functionality to Foxmarks currently, so fine tuning their search results with bookmark info should be trivial for them.

I hope they do because getting 1,210,000 results for the search term “Microsoft Hotmail deletes email” is just ridiculous, even considering how bad Hotmail is!

Google launches phishing blacklist api

I see on the Google Security Blog that Google have launched a Safe Browsing api.  In other words, Google are making available its dynamic blacklist of phishing and malware sites so ISPs and web app coders can check against it.

This should help ensure unwitting users are notified before they browse to to unsafe sites and submit their confidential information.

Google are actively encouraging 3rd party participation –

Sign up for a key and let us know how we can make the API better. We fully expect to iterate on the design and improve the data behind the API, and we’ll be paying close attention to your feedback as we do that. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Great idea guys.

Technorati resurrects the Marquee tag…

Technorati have overhauled their site completely. Some of the changes are great and some we could do without, frankly!

The best change is that they have drastically sped up the site. I dunno did they add more servers or simply optimise their queries (I suspect the latter) but the site and particularly searches are now running a whole lot faster.

The next great change is that they have moved the blog searches to a page of its own. You can now find blog searches at The searches return relevant results and make subscribing to searches a whole lot easier than heretofore.

On the downside, on the main Technorati page they have a scrolling bar of tags along the top – make it stop! I thought we had killed of the Marquee tag people!!!

New Technorati homepage

Overall, the new design seems to be getting the thumbs up from most reviewers. This can only be good as with the rollout of Google’s excellent Blogsearch tool, reasons for using Technorati were becoming fewer and fewer.

Can Google Reader scale the Great Firewall of China?

Jeremiah Owyang is on a trip to China at the moment. He put up a post on his blog the other day saying he couldn’t access Robert Scoble’s blog from inside China – it seems to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China for some reason. I don’t know if this applies to all accounts or just Robert’s.

In any case, it occurred to me this morning that if I Shared all of Robert’s posts from within my Google Reader account and sent Jeremiah the links to my Google Reader Shared items, he should be able to read Robert’s posts within China.

Of course if Google Reader had a way to allow you to select multiple posts to share (or even allowed you to share a full feed) then this would make it easier for me to keep Jeremiah up to date!

Until China starts blocking Google Reader!

Collaborative software gets hotter!

A lot has already been written about Jotspot’s announcement that they were acquired by Google yesterday – congratulations to Joe Kraus and the team.

JotSpot is a wiki application with builtin functions for adding calendars, spreadsheets, blogs, photos, etc.

JotSpot wiki interface

This was a predictable enough move on Google’s part as they had no wiki software in their arsenal of Live web applications.

This acquisition by Google gives Google access to wiki software for its enterprise play. The list of Google’s applications in this space is becoming unassailable and their acquisitions strategy is extremely smart – they are buying proven applications with intact and enthusiastic customers already in place.

Interestingly, I see Jeff Nolan and Zoli Erdos are pointing out that JotSpot’s two main competitors, SocialText and Atlassian, are offering free migration for JotSpot customers to their respective platforms!

This acquisition only goes to further prove that collaborative software is here to stay.

I loved Dan Farber’s throwaway:

I doubt that JotSpot will be renamed Gspot

Sometimes it pays to listen

I wrote, shortly after Google bought YouTube, that this purchase was a potential windfall for YouTube copyright claimants however recent happenings are proving me wrong (imagine that!).
Prof Tim Wu (Professor of Law at Columbia) wrote recently in an article in Slate that YouTube (or GooTube as people are now taking to calling it):

is in much better legal shape than anyone seems to want to accept. The site enjoys a strong legal “safe harbor,” a law largely respected by the television and film industries for the choices it gives them.

Prof Wu went on to say:

if Jon Stewart notices an infringing copy of The Daily Show on YouTube, Comedy Central can write a letter to YouTube and demand it be taken down. Then, so long as YouTube acts “expeditiously” and so long as YouTube wasn’t already aware that the material was there, YouTube is in the clear.

This comment was very prescient because Boing Boing has posted news that YouTube has taken down all copies of the Daily Show!

ComedyCentral have their own online video site where people can view the Daily Show but as the blog An Unreasonable Man said of Comedy Central:

the YouTube video player works. Your video player? Not so much… Here’s why:

1. You have tiny little videos that can’t be resized. It’s like watching TV from the next room through the keyhole of a closed door.
2. You use javascript to launch a popup window. Therefore, I can’t send a link to my friends or put a link on my blog to direct people to the video highlight I want them to see.
3. Your popup window can’t be opened in a tab or resized. Give me control of my browser back.
4. Your popup window has an obnoxious background that I’m afraid is going to give me a seizure.
5. Next to your video, there’s an ad that’s bigger than the video. Firefox blocks it, but I can’t decide which is worse: the hole that remains in the background, or the background.
6. When I open a YouTube page, the video starts to play. Isn’t that cool? On your page, I sit and think about how much you suck while the video buffers. The video plays for about 3 seconds until it over-runs and starts buffering again. …and that’s with DSL. It must be completely useless at slower connection speeds.
7. With YouTube, I can embed the videos in my own website. When I visit a site I’m more likely to watch a video if its right there and I can just push play. You’re at least five years away from developing that technology.
8. YouTube’s search feature also works, conveniently allowing me to find what I’m looking for. At your site I end up looking through a list of videos.

If ComedyCentral are no longer going to allow YouTube to distribute the Daily Show, they should at least have a credible alternative in place. If they don’t, people will go elsewhere for their entertainment. In the era of the Long Tail, it isn’t as if we are stuck for choice.

Sometimes your users know better than you – sometimes it pays to listen.

Google get asinine

I see Google are now telling us when we can and when we can’t use the word Google in our everyday speech!

we do have a brand to protect, so we’d like to make clear that you should please only use “Google” when you’re actually referring to Google Inc. and our services

I actually think they are serious too – if this were April 1st, I’d understand why the post was put out there but as it is not, I am bemused by the company’s trying to stop people using its name (use of its name, even as a verb, instead of a noun, by definition increases its brand awareness).