Businesses

Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends Report (recode.net) 40

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker delivered her annual rapid-fire internet trends report at Code Conference. Here's the summary: 1. Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before.
2. Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.
3. In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline.
4. Entrepreneurs are often fans of gaming, Meeker said, quoting Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg. Global interactive gaming is becoming mainstream, with 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995.
5. China remains a fascinating market, with huge growth in mobile services and payments and services like on-demand bike sharing.
6. While internet growth is slowing globally, that's not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28 percent in 2016.
7. In the U.S. in 2016, 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
8. Healthcare: Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016.

Google

2B Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast (venturebeat.com) 60

At its developer conference I/O 2017 this week, Google also shared an update on its fast-loading Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The company says that over 900,000 domains on the web have enabled AMP, and over two billion pages now load faster because of it. Taking things forward, Google says AMP access from Google Search is now twice as fast. From a report: Google first unveiled the open source AMP Project in October 2015. Since then, the company has been working hard to add new features and push AMP across not just its own products, but the larger web. Google Search only launched AMP support out of developer preview in September 2016. Eight months later, Google has already cut the time it takes to render content in half. The company explains that this is possible due to several key optimizations made to the Google AMP Cache. These include server-side rendering of AMP components and reducing bandwidth usage from images by 50 percent without affecting the perceived quality. Also helpful was the Brotli compression algorithm, which made it possible to reduce document size by an additional 10 percent in supported browsers (even Edge uses it). Google open-sourced Brotli in September 2015 and considers it a successor to the Zopfli algorithm.
Google

Google To Launch a Jobs Search Engine In the US (techcrunch.com) 27

At its I/O 2017 conference, Google announced that it's launching a jobs search engine in the U.S. that will focus on a wide variety of jobs -- from entry-level and service industry positions to high-end professional jobs. The service will also use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand how jobs are classified and related, among other things. TechCrunch reports: In a few weeks, Google will begin to recognize when U.S. users are typing job search queries into Google Search, and will then highlight jobs that match the query. However, Google is not necessarily taking on traditional job search service providers with this launch -- instead, it's partnering with them. The company said that Google for Jobs will initially partner with LinkedIn, Facebook, Careerbuilder Monster, Glassdoor, and other services. The search engine will have a number of tools that will help you find the right jobs for you. For example, you'll be able to filter jobs by location, title, category or type, date posted or whether it's full or part-time, among other things. The service will also show applicants things like commute time, to help them figure out if the job is too far away to consider. What makes the service interesting is that it's leveraging Google's machine learning smarts to understand how job titles are related and cluster them together.
Google

Google Will Soon Add Job Listings To Search Results (usatoday.com) 83

Google's mission is to steer people to the information they need in their daily lives. One crucial area the Internet giant says could use some work: Jobs. USA Today adds: So Google is launching a new feature, Google for Jobs, that collects and organizes millions of job postings from all over the web to make them easier for job seekers to find. In coming weeks, a Google search for a cashier job in Des Moines or a software engineering gig in Boise will pop up job openings at the top of search results. With Google for Jobs, job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation. Google is determined to crack the code on matching available jobs with the right candidates, CEO Sundar Pichai said during his keynote address Wednesday at Google's annual I/O conference for software developers here. "The challenge of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability is like many search challenges we've solved in the past," he said.
Google

German Publishers' Lawsuit Against Google May Backfire (npr.org) 29

jowifi writes: VG Media, a German publishing company, filed a lawsuit against Google claiming Google's use of snippets in their search results infringed the publishers' copyrights. However, the suit may backfire because the Berlin court is now reviewing the law itself to determine if it is even valid. The question arose because Germany did not submit the rule for review by the EU before enacting it, violating an EU Directive. If the law is invalidated, the decision could present problems for a proposed EU-wide directive that is similar to the German rule. Germany's rule had a rough start when it was implemented in 2014. Google refused to pay fees to publishers, instead allowing them to opt in to having snippets shown. One publisher declined to opt in, but changed their mind after traffic from Google dropped 40% and traffic from Google News dropped 80%. Handelsblatt Global explains why Germany decided not to notify the EU about the draft of this law: "While typically a formality, notification reviews of national laws by Brussels can take up to two years or more. In 2013, Germany did not submit the copyright law for notification, citing a Justice Ministry argument that the law's scope was so limited, it didn't fall under the E.U.'s notification requirement."
Google

'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956' (promarket.org) 248

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProMarket: In terms of market share and profit margins, the big digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, enjoy an astounding level of dominance. Google, in effect the world's largest media company, has an 88 percent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) controls over 70 percent of social media on mobile devices. Together, the two firms received 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising in the first quarter of 2016. Amazon has an over 70 percent share in the e-book market. Along with Apple and Microsoft, they are now the most valuable companies (in terms of market capitalization) in the world. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, not least of which on the creators of content. While the internet brought immense benefits to consumers of content, the so-called "creative class" -- authors, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, artists -- has been particularly ravaged by the digital economy. This ravaging, and its roots in the monopolization of content delivery and data in the hands of a few digital giants, are at the heart of the new book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by media scholar Jonathan Taplin. In the book, Taplin explores the way in which the internet came to be dominated by a handful of monopoly platforms, and the subsequent capturing of regulators that has since all but ensured their dominance would not be challenged in court. In an interview with ProMarket, Taplin said in response to a question: "I would say Google is as close to a natural monopoly as the Bell System was in 1956. If you came to me and said 'Hey, I want to start a company to compete with Google in search,' I would say you're out of your mind and don't waste your energy or your time or your money, there's just no way. Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened. That tells you there's something wrong."
Operating Systems

You Can't Change the Default Browser or Switch To Google Search In Windows 10 S (betanews.com) 302

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: If developers do start leveraging the Windows Store, the Windows 10 S experiment could take off, as users won't find a need to install legacy programs. This will largely depend on web browsers being available there, as many users dislike Edge. Thankfully, Microsoft is allowing third-party browser installs from the Windows Store. Unfortunately, there is a big catch -- you cannot change the default. Buried in the Windows 10 S FAQ, the following question is presented -- "Are there any defaults that I cannot change on my Windows 10 S PC?" Microsoft provides the answer: "Yes, Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S. You are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file. Additionally, the default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed."
Privacy

How To Delete Your Data From Google's 'My Activity' (vortex.com) 44

Last summer Google revealed personalized data dashboards for every Google account, letting users edit (or delete) items from their search history as well as their viewing history on YouTube. Now Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: Since posting "The Google Page That Google Haters Don't Want You to Know About" last week, I've received a bunch of messages from readers asking for help using Google's "My Activity" page to control, inspect, and/or delete their data on Google. The My Activity portal is quite comprehensive and can be used in many different ways, but to get you started I'll briefly outline how to use My Activity to delete activity data.
CNET points out you can also access the slightly-creepier "Google Maps location history" by clicking the menu icon in the upper left corner and selecting "Other Google activity." But Weinstein writes, "I have no problems with Google collecting the kinds of data that provide their advanced services, so long as I can choose when that data is collected, and I can inspect and delete it on demand. The google.com/myactivity portal provides those abilities and a lot more."
Google

Google Looks at People As it Pledges To Fight Fake News and 'Offensive' Content (betanews.com) 173

Google said today it is taking its first attempt to combat the circulation of "fake news" on its search engine. The company is offering new tools that will allow users to report misleading or offensive content, and it also pledged to improve results generated by its algorithm. From a report: While the algorithm tweaks should impact on general search results, the reporting tools have been designed for Google's Autocomplete predictions and Featured Snippets which have been problematic in recent months. Updated algorithms should help to ensure more authoritative pages receive greater prominence, while low-quality content is demoted. Vice president of engineering at Google Search, Ben Gomes, admits that people have been trying to "game" the system -- working against the spirit of the purpose of algorithms -- to push poor-quality content and fake news higher up search results. He says that the problem now is the "spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information."
Google

Google's Featured Snippets Are Damaging To Small Businesses that Depend On Search Traffic (theoutline.com) 144

The Outline tells the story of CelebrityNetWorth.com, a website launched in 2008 that tells you how much a celebrity is worth. The site was an instant success, but things have turned sore in the last two years. The creator of the website Brian Warner blames Google for it. From the article: For most of its history, Google was like a librarian. You asked a question, and it guided you to the section of the web where you might find the answer. But over the past five years, Google has been experimenting with being an oracle. Type in a question, and you might see a box at the top of the search results page with the answer in large bold type. [...] In 2014, Warner received an email from Google asking if he would be interested in giving the company access to his data in order to scrape it for Knowledge Graph, for free. He said no, as he feared the traffic would plummet. [...] In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did. "Our traffic immediately crumbled," Warner said. He acknowledged the risks in building a site that depends so heavily on Google for search traffic, and whose research can easily be reduced to a single number. But he still thinks what Google did is unfair.
Android

Google Agrees To Open Android To Other Search Engines In Russia (bgr.com) 64

Google has reached a $7.8 million antitrust settlement with Russian watchdog group FAS. According to BGR, the company will loosen restrictions on Android's built-in search engines to allow for Russian competitors to take a share of the pie. From the report: Android's heavy reliance on Google services is to be expected, but in 2015 the Russian antitrust group -- officially the Federal Antimonopoly Service -- ruled that Google was breaking the law by forcing users to lean on Google for search. The ruling was the result of a complaint filed by Yandex, a Russian competitor to Google that runs the largest search engine in the country as well as web mail, news, maps, and other services. Google's settlement of the issue comes with the condition that Android will no longer lock down the search engine to Google, and must allow users the ability to change it if they want from within the Chrome web browser. Google will also loosen its exclusivity of the default apps on Android devices sold in Russia, potentially allowing for Yandex and other regional competitors to muscle in and replace the built-in apps with their own versions, depending on user preference.
Facebook

Facebook Has Reached Its Microsoft Bing Moment -- History Shows the Results Won't Be Pretty (cnbc.com) 150

As we noted recently, Facebook continues to duplicate every core feature that rival app Snapchat adds to its service. A new report, which cites multiple Facebook employees, sheds more light into how Facebook operates. The company, the report claims, created a "Teens Team" to figure out how to grab teenagers back from Snapchat, and has been up front about its tactics within the company: The internal mantra among some groups is "don't be too proud to copy." Matt Rosoff, an editor at CNBC says this whole tactics by Facebook is nothing new in the tech industry. From the article: Flash back to the early 2000s, when Microsoft was the undisputed king of the tech industry, with two unassailable monopolies -- operating systems and productivity apps for personal computers. It faced a lot of competitors, but the one that scared it the most was Google, which was in a completely different business. Google didn't start by creating alternatives to Windows and Office, although it did so later. Instead, it created a suite of online services -- first search, followed by email and maps -- that threatened the entire purpose of a personal computer. Why rely on Microsoft software running locally when you could get so much done with web apps? Microsoft's response? Trying to build the exact same service that made Google famous -- a search engine, first known as MSN Search, later rebranded to Bing. Eleven years later, Bing is a small minority player in search, with less than 10 percent market share on the desktop and less than 1 percent in mobile.
Google

Google Tackles Fake News With Global Fact-Checking Rollout (betanews.com) 230

Google is calling on fact-checking organizations to help it bust fake news -- but it's starting in a small way. From a report: Google's Fact Check feature is not new, but today the search giant is rolling out the feature around the world. A global rollout is important if such a tool is to have any real impact. It's all well and good have reports fact-checked on one side of the world, but it's of little use if the same fake stories remain unquestioned and untested elsewhere. Google is doing its part by making the Fact Check label available in Google News everywhere, and spreading it into search results in all languages as well. The Fact Check label has been around since October, providing an at-a-glance way to determine whether or not a particular story has been verified as true. Google admits that it will not be possible to fact-check every single search result it displays, and the company points out that it is not responsible for the actual fact-checking process.
Businesses

Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains (backchannel.com) 140

Aggregators like Expedia have made us lazy -- and we may be missing out on the best deals. From a report on Backchannel: Most of us rely on metasearch engines, like Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity, which typically use dozens (sometimes as many as 200) of online travel agents, called OTAs, and aggregators to find the best deals. (A metasearch engine and an aggregator are interchangeable terms -- they both scour other sites and compile data under one roof. An OTA is an actual travel agency that actually does the booking and is the lone site responsible for everything you buy through them.) We rely on these sites because we assume they have the secret sauce -- the most powerful search engines, tweaked by superstar programmers armed with the most sophisticated algorithms -- to guide us to the cheapest options. With a single search, you can feel assured that you are paying a rock bottom price. Over time, however, the convention has flipped. As competition among the sites heated up, the hard-to-believe cheap fares required some filtering. A too-good-to-be-true fare ($99 to Europe from California) usually came with a catch (the $400, indirect, ticket home). And as the business models that on which these aggregators rely are getting tighter, the deals are getting worse. How can you be certain you're getting the lowest quote? The short answer is, you can't.
Android

Verizon To Force 'AppFlash' Spyware On Android Phones 120

saccade.com writes: Verizon is joining with the creators of a tool called "Evie Launcher" to make a new app search/launcher tool called AppFlash, which will be installed on all Verizon phones running Android. The app provides no functionality to users beyond what Google Search does. It does, however, give Verizon a steady stream of metrics on your app usage and searches. A quick glance at the AppFlash privacy policy confirms this is the real purpose behind it: "We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device. [...] AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."
Google

Google Home Gets 'Beauty & The Beast' Promo But Google Says It's Not an Ad (marketingland.com) 124

Danny Sullivan, reporting for MarketingLand: Ask Google Home what your day is like today, and it will remind you that Disney's Beauty and the Beast is opening today. Google says this isn't an ad. But it's definitely an out-of-the-ordinary cooperation with a Google Home "partner." The promotion was spotted by Bryson Meunier, whose child was definitely excited to hear the news delivered by Google Home. "This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales," a spokesperson said. The company doesn't list Disney as one of its partners on Google Home website, the report adds.
Google

Google Tells Army of 'Quality Raters' To Flag Holocaust Denial (theguardian.com) 429

Google is using a 10,000-strong army of independent contractors to flag "offensive or upsetting" content, in order to ensure that queries like "did the Holocaust happen" don't push users to misinformation, propaganda and hate speech. From a report on The Guardian: The review of search terms is being done by the company's "quality raters", a little-known corps of worldwide contractors that Google uses to assess the quality of its systems. The raters are given searches based on real queries to conduct, and are asked to score the results on whether they meet the needs of users. These contractors, introduced to the company's review process in 2013, work from a huge manual describing every potential problem they could find with a given search query: whether or not it meets the user's expectations, whether the result offered is low or high quality, and whether it's spam, porn or illegal. In a new update to the rating system, rolled out on Tuesday, Google introduced another flag raters could use: the "upsetting-offensive" mark.
EU

EU Court Sets Limit On 'Right To Be Forgotten' In Company Registers (reuters.com) 28

The European Union's top court ruled in May 2014 that people could ask search engines, such as Google or Microsoft's Bing, to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from the web results produced from searches for people's names. Today, the court is limiting the so-called "right to be forgotten" principle, ruling that individuals cannot demand that personal data be erased from company records in an official register. Reuters reports: In Thursday's ruling the European Court of Justice said that company registers needed to be public to ensure legal certainty and to protect the interests of third parties. Company registers only contained a limited amount of personal information and, as executives in companies should disclose their identity and functions, it said. This did not constitute too severe an interference in their private lives and personal data. However, the court said there might be specific situations in which access to personal data in company registers could be limited, such as a long period after a company's dissolution. But this should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Google

Google's Featured Snippets Are Worse Than Fake News (theoutline.com) 183

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Peter Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, was lecturing on the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when a student asked an odd question: Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK? Shulman was taken aback. He confessed that he was not aware of that allegation, but that Harding had been in favor of anti-lynching legislation, so it seemed unlikely. But then a second student pulled out his phone and announced that yes, Harding had been a Klan member, and so had four other presidents. It was right there on Google, clearly emphasized inside a box at the top of the page. "I understand what Google is trying to do, and it's work that perhaps requires algorithmic aid," Shulman said in an email. "But in this instance, the question its algorithm scoured the internet to answer is simply a poorly conceived one. There have been no presidents in the Klan." Google needs to invest in human experts who can judge what type of queries should produce a direct answer like this, Shulman said. "Or, at least in this case, not send an algorithm in search of an answer that isn't simply 'There is no evidence any American president has been a member of the Klan.' It'd be great if instead of highlighting a bogus answer, it provided links to accessible, peer-reviewed scholarship."
China

Mobile Search Engine Baidu Goes Dark For Nearly 20 Minutes (cnet.com) 19

Zoey Chong, writing for CNET: Baidu is China's equivalent of Google, but hundreds of millions of questions went unanswered when the mobile version of the search engine broke down for 18 minutes last night, reports SCMP. Almost two hours after service was resumed, the company behind China's largest internet search engine apologised (for the third time) on its official Weibo account. "We missed more than hundreds of millions of search requests because our mobile search service broke down tonight, and we're very sorry," the post read.

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