A reader shares a Bloomberg report: There's a $19 billion black box inside Google. That's the yearly amount Google pays to companies that help generate its advertising sales, from the websites lined with Google-served ads to Apple and others that plant Google's search box or apps in prominent spots. Investors are obsessed with this money, called traffic acquisition costs, and they're particularly worried about the growing slice of those payments going to Apple and Google's Android allies. That chunk of fees now amounts to 11 percent of revenue for Google's internet properties. The figure was 7 percent in 2012. These Google traffic fees are the result of contractual arrangements parent company Alphabet makes to ensure its dominance. The company pays Apple to make Google the built-in option for web searches on Apple's Safari browsers for Mac computers, iPhones and other places. Google also pays companies that make Android smartphones and the phone companies that sell those phones to make sure its search box is front and center and to ensure its apps such as YouTube and Chrome are included in smartphones. In the last year, Google has paid these partners $7.2 billion, more than three times the comparable cost in 2012.
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For years, Google has provided a nifty trick to get around subscriptions for newspapers and magazines. But the company is now doing away with it. From a report: Google is ending its controversial First Click Free (FCF) policy that publishers loathed because it required them to allow Google search results access to news articles hidden behind a paywall. The company is replacing the decade-old FCF with Flexible Sampling, which allows publishers instead to decide how many (if any) articles they want to allow potential subscribers to access. Google says it's also working on a suite of new tools to help publishers reach new audiences and grow revenue. Via FCF, users could access an article for free but would be prompted to log-in or subscribe if they clicked anywhere else on the page. Publishers were required to allow three free articles per day which Google indexed so that they appeared in searches for a particular topic or keyword. Opting out of the FCF feature was detrimental because it demoted a publisher's ranking on Google Search and Google News.
Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac. From a report: TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools. For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing. Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine. In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that "we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Google is reportedly paying Apple $3 billion this year to remain as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.
A new paper released on Monday via the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that retaining search log data doesn't do much for search quality. "Data retention has implications in the debate over Europe's right to be forgotten, the authors suggest, because retained data undermines that right," reports The Register. "It's also relevant to U.S. policy discussions about privacy regulations." From the report: To determine whether retention policies affected the accuracy of search results, Chiou and Tucker used data from metrics biz Hitwise to assess web traffic being driven by search sites. They looked at Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! Search during a period when Bing changed its search data retention period from 18 months to 6 months and when Yahoo! changed its retention period from 13 months to 3 months, as well as when Yahoo! had second thoughts and shifted to an 18-month retention period. According to Chiou and Tucker, data retention periods didn't affect the flow of traffic from search engines to downstream websites. "Our findings suggest that long periods of data storage do not confer advantages in search quality, which is an often-cited benefit of data retention by companies," their paper states. Chiou and Tucker observe that the supposed cost of privacy laws to consumers and to companies may be lower than perceived. They also contend that their findings weaken the claim that data retention affects search market dominance, which could make data retention less relevant in antitrust discussions of Google.
Online-reviews firm Yelp alleged that Google is breaking a promise it made as part of a 2012 regulatory settlement to not scrape content from certain third-party sites including Yelp, escalating its yearslong battle against the search giant. Yelp said in a letter late Sunday to Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen that Google is using Yelp photos for local-business listings in its search results, despite Yelp's formal request that Google not pull such content from its site. From a report: As part of a December 2012 settlement to end an FTC investigation into Google, the tech giant agreed to not use content, including photos and user reviews, from third-party sites that opted out of such scraping. Google's commitment lasts through 2017 and applies to a variety of its products, including its local-business listings. "This is a flagrant violation of Google's promises to the FTC, and the FTC should reopen the Google case immediately," said Luther Lowe, Yelp's public-policy chief. Yelp has emerged as a leading critic of Google because the site believes the search giant unfairly uses its influence to stifle competitors.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Mozilla will drop an iconic section of its UI -- the search bar -- and will use one singular input bar atop the browser, similar to the approach of most Chromium browsers. This change will go live in Firefox 57, scheduled for release on November 14, and will be part of Photon -- the codename used to describe Firefox's new user interface (UI) -- also scheduled for a public release in v57. Mozilla engineers aren't removing the search bar altogether, but Firefox will hide this UI element by default. Users can still re-enable it by going to "Preferences -> Search -> Search Bar" and choosing the second option. The current Firefox search bar is redundant since most of its features can be performed by the URL address bar.
In the wake of claims that Google got a think-tank research team sacked for criticizing the company, a respected journalist is alleging other abuses by the search giant. Kashmir Hill, a reporter at Gizmodo, is claiming that when she worked for Forbes six years ago, Google told the the magazine's staff that if publishers didn't add the "+" Google Plus social network button at the bottom of stories, those articles would come up lower in search results. From her report: I published a story headlined, "Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers," that included bits of conversation from the meeting. (An internet marketing group scraped the story after it was published and a version can still be found here.) Google promptly flipped out. This was in 2011, around the same time that a congressional antitrust committee was looking into whether the company was abusing its powers. Google never challenged the accuracy of the reporting. Instead, a Google spokesperson told me that I needed to unpublish the story because the meeting had been confidential, and the information discussed there had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement between Google and Forbes. (I had signed no such agreement, hadn't been told the meeting was confidential, and had identified myself as a journalist.) It escalated quickly from there. I was told by my higher-ups at Forbes that Google representatives called them saying that the article was problematic and had to come down. The implication was that it might have consequences for Forbes, a troubling possibility given how much traffic came through Google searches and Google News. [...] Given that I'd gone to the Google PR team before publishing, and it was already out in the world, I felt it made more sense to keep the story up. Ultimately, though, after continued pressure from my bosses, I took the piece down -- a decision I will always regret. Forbes declined comment about this. But the most disturbing part of the experience was what came next: Somehow, very quickly, search results stopped showing the original story at all. As I recall it -- and although it has been six years, this episode was seared into my memory -- a cached version remained shortly after the post was unpublished, but it was soon scrubbed from Google search results. That was unusual; websites captured by Google's crawler did not tend to vanish that quickly.
Google will now invite U.S. users to "check if you're clinically depressed" by using a clinically-validated screening questionnaire. "The move announced on Wednesday comes out of work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and represents the first time that the search giant has promoted a mental health self-assessment tool in search results," reports Financial Times. From the report: The intervention by the world's most popular search engine comes as people increasingly seek medical advice online: Google says one in 20 searches are health-related, although it will not disclose what proportion are about depression. It is also the latest public move by a technology business to take greater responsibility for content that users see on its platform, after criticism that companies such as Facebook and Google failed to help people distinguish verified from false information. A box of verified information about symptoms and treatments for clinical depression already tops U.S. Google search results for "depression" or queries such as "do I have depression." Google does this for other common conditions, including flu and tonsillitis, and symptoms such as headaches, using information provided by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical organization. But for depression it has added a link inviting users to "check if you're clinically depressed." This takes searchers to a questionnaire widely used by doctors to measure levels of depressive symptoms. People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.
Microsoft said this week that Bing is "bigger than you think" and provided some numbers that could be a surprise to many. The company claims that fully one-third of searches in the US are powered by Bing, either directly or through Yahoo or AOL (both of which provide results generated by Microsoft). From a report: With 9% market share worldwide and 12 billion monthly searches, almost half of that (5 billion) comes from the United States where Bing has 33% market share.
In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."
Ann-Derrick Gaillot, a writer at The Outline, shares thoughts on listicles about best products in a genre. From the article: National websites with armies of writers are churning out best lists left and right, motivated by affiliate advertising more than the desire to share an opinion. Thanks to them all, I've gotten to try all the bests: just-ok restaurants, ineffective beauty products, slippers I guard with my life. [...] Articles claiming that something is the "best" should be rare, eyed with suspicion by the ever suspicious consumer. But they're not. I would have probably been alarmed to not find at least one article telling me where to find the best desk (wherever it still is). But with the race to find the best at the heart of so much media we consume today, such articles can only be trusted if they come from an established outlet with legitimacy, the same institutions that are slow and struggle to add marginalized people to their ranks.
Google is talking to several publishers about a technology that's similar to Snapchat, according to a Friday report in The Wall Street Journal. From the report: The technology, dubbed "Stamp," could be revealed as soon as next week and contain content from Vox Media, CNN, Mic, the Washington Post and Time, the Journal reported. Stamp is a word play on Google's faster-loading "AMP" articles (the news stories that appear at the top of the page after a Google search), and the "st" in "stories." Snapchat's disappearing publisher content is in a section of the app called "Discover." The ephemeral feature of Snapchat is something Facebook has also mimicked with a feature called "Stories." The report comes on the heels of another report on Business Insider earlier this week which claimed that Google has been trying to acquire Snapchat for sometime. The company, according to a report, offered Snapchat $30 billion.
For a select group of individuals, Google has enabled autoplay videos in Search. "We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users, but have no plans to announce [the feature] at this time," a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have similar features that were introduced fairly recently. If you find automatic videos to be a nuisance, now is the time to let Google know how you feel about this "feature."
YouTube will return anti-terrorist playlists when users search for hateful content on the site using certain keywords pertaining to terrorism. Tubefilter.com reports: The new feature, dubbed The Redirect Method, is part of a four-prong strategy announced by Google last month to quash extremist ideologies across its platforms. The Redirect Method was developed by Jigsaw -- an Alphabet subsidiary whose mission is to counter extremism, censorship, and cyber attacks -- alongside another tech company called Moonshot CVE (which stands for "Countering Violent Extremism"). Jigsaw and Moonshot CVE developed the tech after studying, over several years, how terrorist factions like ISIS leverage technology to spread their messaging and recruit new followers. In coming weeks, YouTube says it intends to incorporate The Redirect Method into a wider set of search queries in languages beyond English, use machine learning to dynamically update search terms, work with partner NGOs to develop new anti-extremist content, and roll out the Method to Europe.
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is adding a personalised Facebook-style news feed to its homepage -- Google.com -- to show users content they may be interested in before they search. It will display news stories, features, videos and music chosen on the basis of previous searches by the same user. Users will also be able to click a "follow" button on search results to add topics of interest to their feed. One analyst said the move would help Google compete with rivals. "Google has a strong incentive to make search as useful as possible," said Mattia Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis. "Facebook's news feed is one of its main rivals. It is competing with other ways of accessing content."