Google

Google's Mobile Search Results Now Include Videos Of Celebrities Answering Your Questions (techcrunch.com) 63

Google is testing a new feature that will allow celebrities and other notable figures to answer users' search queries directly in the form of "selfie" videos posted in the Google Search results. From a report: The company says this program is initially being piloted on mobile with a handful of people for now, including Priyanka Chopra, Will Ferrell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gina Rodriguez, Kenan Thompson, Allison Williams, Nick Jonas, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Seth MacFarlane, Jonathan Yeo and Dominique Ansel. Of course, the celebs aren't answering users' queries in real-time. Instead, Google has had them pre-record their videos in response to what it already knows are some of fans' most-asked questions typed into the Google search box.
Firefox

Yahoo Sues Mozilla For Breach of Contract -- So Mozilla Counter Sues Yahoo (betanews.com) 112

Mark Wilson writes: Mozilla and Yahoo have started a legal spat about the deal that existed between the two companies regarding the use of the Yahoo search engine in the Firefox browser. On December 1, Yahoo fired the first shot filing a complaint that alleges Mozilla breached a contract that existed between the two companies by terminating the arrangement early. In a counter complaint, Mozilla says that it was not only justified in terminating the contract early, but that Yahoo Holdings and Oath still have a bill that needs to be settled.
Google

Google Seeks To Defuse Row With Russia Over Website Rankings (reuters.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google does not change its search algorithm to re-rank individual websites, it said in a letter to Russia's communications watchdog, after Moscow expressed concerns the search engine might discriminate against Russian media. The Roskomnadzor watchdog said earlier this month it would seek clarification from Google over whether it intentionally placed articles from Russian news websites Sputnik and Russia Today lower in search results. Responding to a question about Sputnik articles at a conference earlier in November, Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Google was working to give less prominence to "those kinds of websites" as opposed to delisting them.
Businesses

Russia To Act Against Google if Sputnik, RT Get Lower Search Rankings (reuters.com) 192

Paresh Dave and Jack Stubbs, reporting for Reuters: The Kremlin will take action against Alphabet's Google if articles from Russian news websites Sputnik and Russia Today are placed lower in search results, the Interfax news service cited Russia's chief media regulator as saying on Tuesday. Alexander Zharov, head of media regulator Roskomnadzor, said his agency sent a letter to Google on Tuesday requesting clarification on comments Saturday by Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt about how the Russian websites would be treated in search, according to Interfax. "We will receive an answer and understand what to do next," Interfax quoted Zharov as saying. "We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won't have to resort to more serious" retaliatory measures.
OS X

New Windows Search Interface Borrows Heavily From MacOS (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Press clover-space on a Mac (aka apple-space or command-space to Apple users) and you get a search box slap bang in the middle of the screen; type things into it and it'll show you all the things it can find that match. On Windows, you can do the same kind of thing -- hit the Windows key and then start typing -- but the results are shown in the bottom left of your screen, in the Start menu or Cortana pane. The latest insider build of Windows, build 17040 from last week, has a secret new search interface that looks a lot more Mac-like. Discovered by Italian blog Aggiornamenti Lumia, set a particular registry key and the search box appears in the middle of the screen. The registry key calls it "ImmersiveSearch" -- hit the dedicated key, and it shows a simple Fluent-designed search box and results. This solution looks and feels a lot like Spotlight on macOS.
Google

Google Returns As Default Search Engine In Firefox (techcrunch.com) 136

Mozilla today launched Firefox Quantum, which the company is calling "the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004." It brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign. It also sets Google as the default search engine again if you live in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. TechCrunch reports: In 2014, Mozilla struck a deal with Yahoo to make it the default search engine provider for users in the U.S., with Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and others as options. While it was a small change, it was part of a number of moves that turned users against Firefox because it didn't always feel as if Mozilla had the user's best interests in mind. Firefox Quantum (aka, Firefox 57), is the company's effort to correct its mistakes and it's good to see that Google is back in the default slot. When Mozilla announced the Yahoo deal in 2014, it said that this was a five-year deal. Those five years are obviously not up yet. We asked Mozilla for a bit more information about what happened here.

"We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what's best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users. We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search," Mozilla Chief Business and Legal Officer Denelle Dixon said in a statement. "As part of our focus on user experience and performance in Firefox Quantum, Google will also become our new default search provider in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With over 60 search providers pre-installed as defaults or secondary options across more than 90 language versions, Firefox has more choice in search providers than any other browser."

Google

Google To Add Restaurant Wait Times To Google Search, Maps (techcrunch.com) 59

Google Search and Maps already show you the peak traffic times for your favorite restaurants, but it will soon show you the wait times as well. Google says the feature begins rolling out today, and will eventually expand to include grocery stores. TechCrunch reports: Google's new restaurant wait times also comes from the aggregated and anonymized data from users who opted in to Google Location History -- the same data that powers popular times, wait times and visit duration. In the case of restaurants, Google will now include a pop-up box that appears when you click on a time frame in the popular times' chart. The box shows the live or historical data labeled as "busy," "usually busy," "usually not busy," etc., along with the wait time. Below the popular times chart, there's also a section that helps users plan their visit by offering info on the peak wait times and duration. (e.g. "People typically spend 45 mins to 2 hr here.") The new wait time feature will be supported on nearly a million sit-down restaurant listings worldwide, initially in Google Search.
Google

Google Wins Ruling to Block Global Censorship Order (fortune.com) 89

A U.S. judge has partially blocked a recent decision by Canada's Supreme Court that requires Google to delete search results not just in Canada, but in every other country too. From a report: Citing the violation of American laws as well as a threat to speech, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila agreed to grant Google a temporary injunction, which means the company can show the search results in the United States. The search results in question are part of an intellectual property dispute between a Canadian industrial firm called Equustek and a rival company that is reportedly misusing Equustek's trademarks to poach its business. In response, Equustek obtained an injunction in Canada that treated Google as a defendant even though it had no direct relationship with either company. In a controversial decision in June, Canada's highest court agreed by a 7-2 margin to leave the injunction in place.
Google

Google Has a New Plan for China (and It's Not About Search) (bloomberg.com) 59

An anonymous reader shares a report: More than seven years after exiting China, Google is taking the boldest steps yet to come back. And it's not with a search engine. Instead, Google's ingress is centered around artificial intelligence. The internet giant is actively promoting TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build AI systems, as a way to forge business ties in the world's largest online market, according to people familiar with the company's plans. It's a wide pitch targeting China's academics and tech titans. At the same time, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is adding more personnel to scour Chinese companies for potential AI investments, these people said. "China is a tremendous opportunity for any company because it is by far the single largest homogeneous market," said Kai Fu Lee, who headed Google's China operations before the company left in 2010. The market dwarfs any other, given how many Chinese people are online, and data from that "can be used to advance products, especially those relating to artificial intelligence," he added.
Google

The Meaning of AMP (adactio.com) 95

Last week, Ethan Marcotte, an independent web designer, shared how Google describes AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). People at Google says AMP "isn't a 'proprietary format'; it's an open standard that anyone can contribute to." But that definition, Marcotte argues, isn't necessarily an honest one. He writes: On the face of it, this statement's true. AMP's markup isn't proprietary as such: rather, all those odd-looking amp- tags are custom elements, part of the HTML standard. And the specification's published, edited, and distributed on GitHub, under one of the more permissive licenses available. So, yes. The HTML standard does allow for the creation of custom elements, it's true, and AMP's license is quite liberal. But spend a bit of time with the rules that outline AMP's governance. Significant features and changes require the approval of AMP's Technical Lead and one Core Committer -- and if you peruse the list of AMP's Core Committers, that list seems exclusively staffed and led by Google employees. Now, there's nothing wrong with this. After all, AMP is a Google-backed project, and they're free to establish any governance model they deem appropriate. But when I hear AMP described as an open, community-led project, it strikes me as incredibly problematic, and more than a little troubling. AMP is, I think, best described as nominally open-source. It's a corporate-led product initiative built with, and distributed on, open web technologies. Jeremy Keith, a web developer, further adds: If AMP were actually the product of working web developers, this justification would make sense. As it is, we've got one team at Google citing the preference of another team at Google but representing it as the will of the people. This is just one example of AMP's sneaky marketing where some finely-shaved semantics allows them to appear far more reasonable than they actually are. At AMP Conf, the Google Search team were at pains to repeat over and over that AMP pages wouldn't get any preferential treatment in search results ... but they appear in a carousel above the search results. Now, if you were to ask any right-thinking person whether they think having their page appear right at the top of a list of search results would be considered preferential treatment, I think they would say hell, yes! This is the only reason why The Guardian, for instance, even have AMP versions of their content -- it's not for the performance benefits (their non-AMP pages are faster); it's for that prime real estate in the carousel. The same semantic nit-picking can be found in their defence of caching. See, they've even got me calling it caching! It's hosting. If I click on a search result, and I am taken to page that has a URL beginning with https://www.google.com/amp/s/... then that page is being hosted on the domain google.com. That is literally what hosting means. Now, you might argue that the original version was hosted on a different domain, but the version that the user gets sent to is the Google copy. You can call it caching if you like, but you can't tell me that Google aren't hosting AMP pages. That's a particularly low blow, because it's such a bait'n'switch.
Google

Google Paid $7.2 Billion Last Year To Partners, Including Apple, To Prominently Showcase Its Search Engine and Apps on Smartphones (bloomberg.com) 57

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.
Google

Google Scraps Controversial Policy That Gave Free Access To Paywalled Articles Through Search (theverge.com) 97

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.
Google

Apple Replaces Bing With Google as Search Engine For Siri and Spotlight (geekwire.com) 54

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.
Data Storage

Google, Bing, Yahoo Data Retention Doesn't Improve Search Quality, Study Claims (theregister.co.uk) 38

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.
Businesses

Google Rival Yelp Claims Search Giant Broke Promise Made to Regulators (wsj.com) 61

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.

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